Aw, Shucks

The folks at ThinkGeek say nice things about me here.

For the record, I heart ThinkGeek, too. If I ever manage to rouse myself to make my planned BACONCAT™ line of T-shirts and accessories, I know where I want to sell them.


Sonic Cruelty Creeps In On Little, Tinkly, Piano-Laden Feet

Click this link for mp3-encoded audio horror.



You Have Been Thanked, By More Than One Person

Vera Nazarian, the writer for whom so many of you donated after reading this story, has posted a long and fulsome appreciation to all those who have helped her, and you can find it here. If you were one of the people who gave to help her out, this is directed to you.

Also directed to you: my thanks, because as of a few minutes ago, the amount I’ve collected here has just crawled over the $3,000 mark (that’s not counting the $1,000 in matching funds Subterranean Press publisher Bill Schafer already sent her way). I’ll be mailing that to her Saturday morning. Vera has publicly given me thanks for what I’ve done, but the fact of the matter is it’s your generosity that is letting her keep her house and fix her sewer line and generally making her holidays blessed ones. So whatever thanks I’ve accrued here, I’m officially passing on to you. Well done, you, and thank you again.


The Suckiest SF Movie of the Last Twelve Months

It’s Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem. In case you were wondering. I explain why in my AMC column this week, and offer you a chance to nominate your own offenders for the title in the comments. Please do!


Apropos to a Previous Post

An ur-text of certain musical genre which shall remain nameless:

Morrissey. What an amusingly miserable bastard.

Incidentally, I hated hated hated this song when it came out. Now I think it’s probably one of the ten essential tracks of the 80s. Go figure.


Books I Didn’t Know I Wrote

Dude, check out this awesome book I apparently wrote:

The title translates to “Between the Planets,” and I’m happy to say I remembered enough German from high school and college that I didn’t have to run it through Google Translate to understand it. The real question is: which book of mine is it? Because I don’t remember writing a book called Between the Planets. I suspect rather strongly this is the German title for Zoe’s Tale, since I recently sold that novel to Heyne (my German publisher), and they’ve already published everything else (Android’s Dream shows up there in January). Why change the title of Zoe’s Tale, which as it happens, translates into German as “Zoe’s Tale”? Got me. These are the same people who changed the title of Old Man’s War into “War of the Clones,” and have given all my books covers with laser beam-firing ships, whether the books actually feature laser beam-firing ships or not. Mysterious are the ways of the Germans. I sell well there, however, so I’m willing to believe they know what they’re doing.

That said, I believe I’m going to have to name an upcoming novel Between the Planets. Just to mess with my German publisher. What would be funny is if they retitled that one “Zoe’s Tale.” Just to mess with me.

(For those of you in Germany, incidentally, Zwischen den Planeten comes out in June.)


Emo: Older Than You Think

It comes as no particular surprise that my writing advice to teens occasionally irritates teenagers, many of whom do not take kindly to someone telling them their writing likely sucks and the only thing for it is to keep at it until it doesn’t suck anymore. They also occasionally get annoyed when you suggest to them (as I do in this follow-up to the original article) that the condition of being a teenager now is pretty much the same as it was 20 years ago (or 40 years ago); the trappings may change (iPods instead of Walkmans instead of transistor radios) but the basic concept is pretty much the same, so despite their feelings that ZOMG EVERYTHING IS TOTALLY DIFFERENT NOW, it’s really not so much.

This was brought to mind when a teenager, blogging on her own site (no, I’m not linking to it; I don’t think this unsuspecting teenage girl needs her site to be overrun by Whateverites, do you?) detailed the various ways she’s offended by my advice piece and how it is wrong, and in pointing out how her generation of teens is drastically different than any other, asserts (and this is an intentional paraphrase) that when people her parents’ age were in school, they didn’t have Emos skulking about in the halls.

This made me giggle. I’m old enough to be this girl’s dad (or at least her dad’s slightly younger brother) and I can assure you that 20+ years ago, we certainly did have Emos, i.e., sulky and morose teens scribbling bad poetry into notebooks and retreating into their music because no one understood them and so on. Our Emos listened British post-punk rather than American post-punk by dint of British post-punk hitting a couple decades earlier, but, otherwise, yeah, pretty much the same concept. We had Bauhaus, they have Fall Out Boy, and both bands just really want to go back in time to the Weimar Republic, what are you going to do. And I’m happy to say the emo-iest folks I knew in high school have acquitted themselves pretty well. Here’s one of them (still looking pretty emo-y, frankly); here’s another. Every picture I have of them in the 1984 yearbook is of them dramatically gazing down at their shoes through their hair. I should really dig that yearbook out. It would be instructive.

And of course, we didn’t invent the dramatically moody young person, either. If you want to take it all the way back, I submit to you that the true Godfather of Emo is not Kurt Cobain or Robert Smith or David Bowie or even Brecht/Weill, but Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, who in 1774 unleashed The Sorrows of Young Werther upon the world, with its oh-so-artfully despairing young protagonist doing everything he could to make himself absolutely friggin’ miserable, because it was so much more interesting than being happy. The novel helped to kickstart the Sturm und Drang movement in German literature and music, and what was the Sturm und Drang movement — a movement devoted in wrenching every single possible emotion out of words and music — if not the very proto-est of proto-emo movements?

Sturm und Drang in its turn motivated the Romantic movement, giving us Shelley and Byron and all those other poetic shoe-gazers, and so on and so forth and blah blah blah blah blah until you get suddenly find yourself wedged up against the stage at a The Academy Is… concert with a bunch of sixteen year-old girls screaming their lungs out at William Beckett, who, I gotta admit, has got a whole adorable “Suburban Shelley” look going for him (Seriously; compare and contrast, people). To be clear, I’m not comparing The Sorrows of Young Werther with, say, Fast Times at Barrington High; one’s a landmark of world literature and the other’s a decent album of power pop. I’m just saying you can get from one to the other and recognize them as appealing to more or less the same audience, albeit 234 years apart. So, yeah, Emo’s been around, folks.

This is not to trivialize this girl’s experience of being a teenager, mind you. Being a teenager is powerful thing, because every single damn thing that happens to you happens to you turned up to 11, which is fundamentally different experience than being an adult, in which most things have happened to you more than once, and you’ve generally found the volume knob and cranked it down a couple of notches simply to keep yourself sane. And of course her experience of her teenage years will be different from anyone else’s not in her age cohort; she’ll have different music and movies and world events and generational issues and so on. I for one would not wish late 80s hair metal on anyone else; I’m glad no other teenagers will have to take that bullet.

But at the end of the day, and when you peel away the affects of one year or another, the teenage experience — the massive highs, the crushing lows, the frustrations and irritations and alienations and deep friendships and crushes and riotously funny moments — is what it is, and remains fairly constant. Put a sixteen-year-old from 1968 in a room with one from ’78, ’88, ’98 and today, and after everyone stops laughing at everyone else’s ridiculous clothes, I think we’d find they shared a commonality of experience and outlook. And they would all know an “emo” kid, whether they called him emo or not.


Songs You Like That You’re Pretty Sure No One Else Does

Here’s mine:

[imeem music=”7bNbfDQTVJ”]

First the good news: It’s David Bowie. Now, the bad news: It’s David Bowie in Tin Machine, the inexplicable late 80s “Bowie’s in a band with session musicians, which is kind of like him being in Toto” misstep that’s widely acknowledged as Bowie’s creative nadir, which took some doing after the Glass Spider tour. Even worse: It’s from their second album. But what can I say. This song works for me, possibly because it sounds like David Bowie is imitooting David Bowie exarctly, and that appeals to me for some mad, impetuous reason. I’ve never met anyone who likes this song as much as I do, and I don’t really expect I ever will, no matter how many of you exclaim “Thank GOD I’m not alone anymore on this” in the comment thread.

Anyway. That’s my song I like I’m pretty sure no one else does.

What’s yours?



Thanks to accidentally overwriting an .htaccess script, I’ve introduced some errors to your viewing pleasure if you’re following old links (i.e., ones at “” rather than “”). I’m working to fix it now. Sorry.

Update: Fixed. Thanks to Ryan Boren for his help extracting me from my idiocy.


Today’s Political/Chemical Question

What is in the water in Springfield, Illinois that causes its governors to get arrested and/or indicted on corruption charges?

Honestly, Illinois, what the hell? Fund, like, Brita filters for the state capitol water fountains. Or something. This is getting silly.


A Holiday Tradition Here at Whatever

Because it’s that time of year again, let’s link back to my 2002 seasonal humor piece, “The 10 Least Successful Holiday Specials of All Time.”

Those of you who have read it before will enjoy it just like you do all those Christmas specials you’ve seen dozens of times; those of you who have not read it before, well. You’re in for it now. Enjoy.


Zoe’s Tale an RT Reviewer’s Choice Award Nominee

This is a nice bit of news: Zoe’s Tale is a Romantic Times Reviewer’s Choice Award nominee, in the category of science fiction. This is the third consecutive year I’ve had a book nominated in the category (I was previously nominated for The Android’s Dream and The Last Colony), and you may recall that TLC was last year’s winner in the category. So it’s very cool to have ZT nominated as well.

In addition to Zoe’s Tale, the other nominees in the science fiction category are:

Dust, by Elizabeth Bear

Galaxy Blues, by Allen Steele

Saturn’s Children, by Charles Stross

Half a Crown, by Jo Walton

This is an excellent slate of nominees for the category, if you ask me — one of the great secrets of SF publishing is that Romantic Times reviews a goodly amount of science fiction and fantasy in each issue and the reviewers (mainly Natalie Luhrs for SF) have a solid grip on the genre. So I’m always honored to get on the slate because in my opinion the nominations come from people who really know their stuff.

The Romantic Times also features several fantasy oriented categories, and I’m happy to say that several fantasy authors I know are also nominees this year, including Kage Baker, Jim C. Hines, Michelle Sagara, Sharon Shinn, Brandon Sanderson, T.A. Pratt and Marjorie Liu (nominated twice!). Congratulations and best of luck to them (a couple of the fantasy award category slates are here).

The awards themselves will be announced on April 24 at the Romantic Times Booklover’s Convention in Orlando, which are, alas, inconveniently scheduled against SFWA’s Nebula Awards Ceremony in Los Angeles. Isn’t that always the way. Mind you, it’s not like I’ve ever gotten close to being nominated for a Nebula. And the Romantic Times has made me a nominee three years running. Hmmmm.


Fundraising Update

So, I put up today’s fundraising appeal + story at precisely the stroke of midnight, and here’s how much you’ve kicked in, as of 3:37pm Eastern time:


Bill Schafer of Subterranean Press promised to match the first $1,000 raised dollar for dollar — and he has. So this is how much we’ve actually managed to raise here at Whatever so far:


That is pretty damn excellent, my friends. I sincerely thank you for helping out a fellow SF writer.

There’s more good news in that aside from the amount we’ve raised here, there has been enough raised for Vera Nazarian to make the house payment that will keep the bank from foreclosing. But as it happens there are other immediate and critical expenses she has that the money we’ve raised here can go toward. For example, Ms. Nazarian’s sewer pipes need to be tended to, and the cost she was quoted was something on the order of $2,800. So congratulations, folks: Your money is going into the sewer. In the best way possible. Additional monies will go toward other medical and personal expenses, so that Ms. Nazarian will have a little wiggle room if emergencies strike again.

Remember also that there are a whole bunch of auctions of books and services going on over here, to also add to the amount raised. Check ’em out, you might see something you like.

Again, thanks for pitching in. You’re making a real difference for someone, and that’s always a good thing. And thanks again to Bill Schafer for letting me borrow the story I sold to him, and for kicking in a grand’s worth of matching funds. That earns him the “Cool Human” award for the week, if you ask me.


A Story For a Donation: Fiction to Help Save an SF Writer’s Home

Hey kids! I’m doing a holiday fundraiser! I’ll give a short explanation for those of you who can’t wait, and a longer explanation right after.

Short Explanation: Science fiction writer and publisher Vera Nazarian is about to lose her home due to various medical and legal expenses. Various folks are fund raising to help her make the payment on her home. My contribution is to offer you a free short story behind the cut below. If you like it, consider donating a small sum via PayPal, which I will send to Vera next Saturday. For the first $1000 sent to the PayPal via the address provided in this entry, Subterranean Press will match the contribution 1-for-1, effectively doubling your donation.

Longer Explanation:

Vera Nazarian is a Nebula-nominated SF writer and publisher of the small press Norilana Books. Due to a confluence of truly depressing economic issues (which are detailed here, but which include the costs of a frivilous lawsuit and her care of an elderly parent), Nazarian is far behind on her mortgage and will lose her home unless she comes up with $11,200 dollars by December 20. A number of her friends and colleagues have rallied behind her and are offering up auctions for books and other services and are helping her meet the shortfall; I decided I would try to help out too.

As it happened, I had very recently turned in a short story to Bill Schafer at Subterranean Press, for him to use at Subterranean Online, or in the Subterranean Press e-mail newsletter. When I asked him if I could use the story to help out Nazarian, he not only said yes and let me use it here (he’ll also use it again at some future point in time), but decided to pitch in himself by offering to match donations generated by me posting the story, up to $1,000. Because Bill and Subterranean Press are awesome like that, you see.

So, here’s the deal: below the cut in this entry, you’ll find my latest short story, a quick and funny Q&A on the state of super-villainy around the world. Think of it as a companion piece to “Denise Jones, Super Booker.” The story is free for you to read… but after you’ve read it, if you’ve enjoyed it, consider giving by following the donation instructions below. When you donate, your donation will go to me, and on Saturday, December 13, I will forward the entire sum raised by 6am 12/13/08 (less PayPal fees) to Vera Nazarian, to help her make her house payment, and if there is anything left, to help her address some other house issues (for example, she needs new plumbing in her home).

Why am I having you send the money to me rather than to Vera Nazarian directly? I need to keep track of how much money I raise because Bill Schafer and Subterranean Press have pledged to match the first $1,000 dollars we raise here. This is a fine way to make your contribution count twice as much, so even if you can only offer up a buck, it can still make a difference.

How to donate: Go to PayPal, click on the “Send Money” link, and then send money to the following address: “”. Please put “HELP VERA” somewhere in there so I can track the donations. Donate whatever you feel like.

Feel free to link to this and to let other people know about it and the other things folks are doing to help Vera Nazarian.

And now, the story, just behind the cut. Enjoy, and remember, if you like it, consider giving.


Today’s Interesting Conversational Snippet, Presented Largely Context-Free

Me: Are we ready for the zombie apocalypse?

Athena: We definitely need more guns.


What I Did This Afternoon

I signed these:

Which made me quite happy. Thanks to everyone who is ordering books through Jay & Mary’s this holiday season; it’s nice to be able to help out a local bookstore. It’s also nice to get books to all y’all.

I chatted with Jay today about how when people should get their orders in to get them to arrive by Christmas, and I think the best thing to do is make sure your order is in to them by 12/18 (i.e., a week before Christmas). I’ll still be signing after then (I’ll be signing through the end of the year) but if you order after 12/18 you should probably expect that your books will arrive after the 25th. Here’s all the details on that just in case you somehow missed me flogging this before.

Also what I did this afternoon: Saw Ian Randal Strock at Jay & Mary’s and picked up a couple copies of his book The Presidential Book of Lists, one for myself and one for a gift. Because books, you know, they’re the perfect gifts.


Guess the Exit Numbers

The LA Times notes that George Bush is getting a bit of a lame duck bump these days — his approval rating at the moment is 28%, up from a low of 24% — and suggests that our 43rd president’s approval rating may go up even futher in the next six weeks before he heads off to Texas. I can certainly believe it; I mean, now that I know he’s on the way out, he doesn’t cause me nearly as much intestinal distress as he has over the last several years. This is not exactly the same as getting my approval, mind you. But his not actively pinging the disapproval centers of my brain is an uptick.

My question for you to consider this lazy Sunday: What do you think Dubya’s final approval numbers will be? Personally I think he’ll finish up at 34% or so, which is still low enough, and in my opinion better than he deserves. But hey, I can afford to be big about these things. I have only 44 days left with the dude. I can hold my breath until then.

Your thoughts?


Don’t Worry, It’s Not You

One semi-amusing thing that happens whenever I kvetch generally about things people are doing out there that annoy me in one way or another (example: here) is that afterward I will get a batch of e-mail from various people, apologizing. They suspect I was talking about them. To which I usually respond, well, no, I wasn’t talking about you at all, at which point I get a second e-mail apologizing about apologizing in the first e-mail. After which I sometimes send an e-mail telling people to stop apologizing for things which need no apology, the answer to which is very often “you’re right, sorry.”

So, to make things easier on everyone: Unless you’ve heard from me directly about something you’ve done that has offended/annoyed/irritated me, you may assume you are not the proximate cause of my latest gripe in Whatever. As you may imagine, I don’t actually have a problem telling people when I think they’re doing some annoying thing, so if it’s you doing it, be assured I would have let you know personally before I wrote about it in a general way. If I didn’t do so, it’s probably not you who tripped my trigger. Hopefully this will save you some moments of needless self-concern and/or worries I think you’re some kind of jerk. I don’t. I think you’re swell, honest.



Back at the Day of the Dead, I mused that it was cool to have some candy skulls, so my excellent friend Meeka went ahead and sent some along, because she’s cool like that. But it took until today for us to actually get around to painting them up. Athena’s is the one on the right; the one on the left is made by a friend of hers who is visiting. Not too bad for a first try.


The Most Depressing Blog in the World

It’s the AOL People Connection Blog, because nearly every single post is about some AOL community project or another being shuttered. CircaVie? Gone. Ficlets? Gone. AOL Pictures? AOL Hometown? AOL Journals? Gone, gone, baby, gone. I worked on several of these projects in their various incarnations, and I have to say it’s just a little sad to watch AOL slowly dismantle itself like this.

As depressing as it is to read it, it must be worse to have to write it, since every post announcing the dissolution of yet another AOL project has a trail of sad, wee comments, in which the users of the projects lament their passing. Really, if I were writing this blog, I’d be ending each day with a belt of whiskey, because think about it: if your blog is all about turning off the lights on various AOL initiatives, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out where the blog’s eventually going to end up.

The worst thing is that as they close up shop on the various AOL initiatives, they encourage folks to check out their new social networking stuff… on Bebo.

Oh, AOL. You were so beautiful, once. I will try to remember you as you were.

In the meantime, a song, appropriate for the moment, and for AOL’s heyday.

[imeem music=”LyJhCKntgI”]

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