Heads Up on The Forever War

I’ll make mention of this again in a couple of weeks, on the actual release date, but I wanted to put it on your radar now: There’s a new edition of The Forever War coming out on the 17th of this month, and the reason I’m mentioning it to you, aside from the fact that the novel is one of the few that is absolutely required reading in the genre, is that I have the distinct honor of having written the introduction to this latest edition. The editor sent me an e-mail and said “would you be willing to do this?” and I wrote back “Dude, just try to stop me.” I would have been  happy just to have been on the list people they thought of for an intro, you know?

So, if you haven’t picked up a version of The Forever War yet, or you have a copy but it’s falling apart from being read so much, or was stolen by one of your less reputable science fiction-loving friends, or whatever, you can pre-order this one online or at your bookstore and there it will be on the 17th, ready for you. And as noted earlier, I’ll remind you on the day as well.

45 Comments on “Heads Up on The Forever War”

  1. Actually, I’ve written intros to several books recently, and I’ll be writing an intro to an upcoming version of Stranger in a Strange Land, which I think is seriously cool. However, it will be a German edition, so unless you read German, you’ll be out of luck.

  2. Apropos of nothing in particular, when did the world decide that the idiom in this post’s headline is spelled “head’s up”? I’ve been seeing that everywhere for about a month.

    It’s not short for “head is up”. And it doesn’t refer to some kind of upness owned by, or associated with, a particular head. It’s a plural: heads up.

  3. Y’know, I’ve read it, and have no interest in reading it again. Cynical, wise-cracking teenagers carrying on clique battles aren’t–

    Oh, sorry. I thought you wrote “The What-EVER War.” Never mind.

  4. PNH:

    Rather than being part of a trend, it’s possible it’s also just a grammatical error on the part of the headline writer, now fixed. Previous uses of “heads up” on the site suggest he knows the correct usage.

    Jess Nevins:

    E-mail me your mailing address, please? I need to send you a thank you gift.

  5. A new version is coming out… that must explain why I can’t find any copies of it in bookstores anywhere. I guess I’ll just have to settle for reading Ender’s Game until the 17th…

  6. For crying out loud, Scalzi, I already own half a dozen copies of The Forever War, now I gotta go buy another one?

    It better be a damned good introduction.

    Say, when are you doing the intro for the updated release of Starship Troopers? Because, dude, you know you want to.

  7. What other books would you consider absolute must reads in the genre. Lately I’ve been thinking of classics that I haven’t read, but can’t seems to find a great list. I’d like an actual authors opinion.

  8. No, not really.

    To be honest, I was really looking for what a ball park intro will win you. Is it flat cash or is there some small royalty involved?

    I’m not asking how much they paid you for this particular intro, but what a typical range/structure would be.

  9. What is up with the cover art? All of the battles – save one – were fought on airless rocks orbiting black holes.

    Okay, Forever War is a metaphor for Vietnam. And Vietnam had lots of shrubbery. Got it.

    But I think the book is well read today because it transcends the Vietnam-thing: it’s a good story, period.

  10. John, will you be sharing some of your thoughts on Stranger here? (Admittedly, this might be as good a reason as any to start learning German.) I am interested to know what you approach will be: placing it in the context of SF at the time, placing it in the context of Heinlein’s other writings, applying your writer’s experience to analyze the originally published version vs. the now-published pre-edited version, how a writer develops such a rich work from a minor one (Red Planet) after 12 years…

  11. I assume the cover art is some kind of reference to the Vietnam War (and am glad that they didn’t decide to use an image that would echo the Iraq or Afghan campaigns.) Maybe it’s the “light at the end of the tunnel” thing.

    I hope they reprint the two (yes, it had sequels), too.

    SiaSL in German? How many volumes? ;) More seriously, the as-originally-published version, or the extended version?

  12. as far as friends stealing books go…

    i see it as an honor not to get a book back, usually that means said friend fell in love with it, and more than likely will lend it out again. 9 times out of 10 when I loan some one a book now a days I tell them not to give it back, instead I ask them to read it and pass it on to someone else who they think would enjoy it with the same instructions… I only have 4 books currently that I refuse to lend out, making me slightly hypocritical…

    1) the complete dramatic works of Samuel Beckett
    2) the complete works of e.e. cummings
    3) the MOMA book of Joan Miro
    4) M John Harrison’s “Nova Swing”

    sorry you’re not on the list John…

    what about the rest of you? Do you have any books you refuse to lend out?

  13. xore @7: That’s exactly right. I went to a signing Haldeman did before Christmas and was looking for, among other things, a copy of THE FOREVER WAR for my dad, and Gay (his wife) said that stocks were low because the new edition was coming out in February. She seemed understandably annoyed by this. I ended up buying a nice used copy online via Amazon. Given that I nevertheless bought a couple other Haldeman books while I was there, they didn’t seem to mind. :-)

    PNH @3: I attribute this to people using the idiom without knowing how it expands, and therefore having trouble punctuating it correctly. I assume it comes from the military, ie. I picture an officer saying to soldiers in trenches or foxholes, “get your heads up (ie. wake up), we’ve got incoming enemy fighters” or whatever, but I don’t actually know.

  14. I notice the publisher is St. Martin’s, which means there’s not a chance in hell of an eBook edition. :(

  15. Talk about impulse buying… This post just made me inaugurate my newly issued credit card: I ordered 30 seconds ago the British omnibus containing Forever War, Forever Peace and Forever Free (even if it doesn’t flaunt your introduction, at just 9.49€ it was more convenient than this new edition, sorry).

  16. (not to mention that it’ll be here way before February 17, even if I really have no idea when I’ll find the time to read it)

  17. The book’s all right, I guess, even if the title is wildly misleading. How can it be a Forever War if it comes to an end? Riddle me that, Haldeman.

  18. At first I only saw the title, and thought something along: “WTH is he talking about the war in Ira…..”

    I feel so, soooo utterly blond right now….

    Incidentally I just gave away my copy of the Forever War so this is highly convenient….

  19. The Forever War is great, but how about a little love for a Haldeman book that (IMHO) is even better? Mindbridge is utterly nifty.

  20. I agree that this is one of the few “must-read” books in science fiction history. It’s interesting that while both books are military related, they both draw different conclusions.

    I had the privilege of meeting Joe and Gay Haldeman at a workshop for OIF/OEF vets. Joe is a great teacher, and Gay is a fanatastic and friendly woman, and both were great people to sit at the bar with afterwards.
    Joe signed my copy of “The Forever War”, but if you’ll sign a copy of the new one for me, I’ll buy it and donate it to my local library.

  21. Romeo Vitelli @ 25, 1000 years is practically forever. Have you never done the dishes?

    Coincidently just finished reading my old 1990 Orbit edition last week.

  22. SFC SKI @ 28, I wouldn’t donate a signed edition to a local library. It will end up on Ebay or Amazon eventually. Or it will be stolen. Or unappreciated. At best it will fall to bits with overuse. Keep or sell the signed edition and donate an un-signed edition to the library.

  23. As for RAH must-reads, I’d have to suggest “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress” and “Starship Troopers” (not to be confused with the movie of the same name – they are not related in any way I can discern), rather than “Stranger in a Strange Land.” IMO, anyway.

  24. I was under the impression that several of the characters in ST:the movie had similar names to (sometimes other) characters in ST:the book.

  25. Mr. John — can you say what, if anything, is different in the new edition? I have two versions of the paperback (the one with the silly neo-Roman helmet on the cover, and the one where the second mission is aborted because of damage to the ship) — curious to see what’s in this edition.

  26. Did anyone else totally nerdrage at the sight of the nonfiction book “The Forever War” by Dexter Filkins about Afghanistan and Iraq? For all I know Mr. Filkins chose the name as a tribute to the Haldeman novel but that didn’t cross my mind at the time.

    All I could think the first time I saw it was

    “Who the **** is this clown and why the ****ing **** does he think he can steal the title of one of the classics of Science Fiction? **** this guy!”

    And, seeing as how I said that out loud in a crowded bookstore, my girlfriend wouldn’t talk to me for a day or two after that.

  27. re: the cover art:

    looks cool but, like, he’s got a gun and they didn’t have guns. they had laser finger things.

  28. I’ll have to pick this up. From comments above and subsequent googling I learned that there are different versions of the book, and that my battered paperback is the old version and is missing some sections. Had no idea.

  29. The Forever War has been published in several slightly different versions over the year. I presume this version is Haldeman’s definitive eddition.

    and I managed to pick up a copy of Haldeman’s _1968_ this weekend. So much coolness in one weekend.

  30. Coincidentally, an old friend of mine just mailed me the copy of The Forever War that he borrowed back in high school (1988; 16th printing; original, non-definitive second act).

  31. Mr. Halderman was guest speaker at the Philadelphia Science Fiction Society meeting this past friday.

    He stated that this was the “directors cut” of the book, story as he prefers it.

    Additionally, He was a great speaker and reminded me, in his language, of the young airmen on the Air Force bases I grew up on during the Vietnam era.

  32. I’m buying this. This was the best sci-fi book I have ever read (no offense, Ghost Brigades is second on that list :).

  33. Last time I heard Haldeman speak on the topic (MIT podcast about the Craft of Science Fiction) he said (in response to an audience question) he hadn’t read Old Man’s War because our host allegedly hadn’t read The Forever War.

    Did something change on that front, and I missed the memo? Have they each read the other’s classic SF war novels?

  34. For my money, and I say this as someone who hasn’t read OMW yet (Because my old man stole my copy. Fucker!) there are only three SF books about the military that are actually worth a shit: Starship Troopers, The Forever War and Bill, The Galactic Hero. I can’t stand the rest of the military SF out there because of its chickenshit, chickenhawk gunger than ho attitude about the military.

    Pick up any of the military SF loaves that Baen books incontinently pinches out and you always find bad writing, characters so bad that they make Ayn Rand’s characters in Atlas Shrugged look positively 3-dimensional and an authoritarian attitude that mindlessly glorifies the military with a degree of uniform fetishism that you can’t find anywhere outside of a leather bar on Castro street (sans good drinks and fabulous irony).

    I was a weekend warrior in the Army National Guard for 13 years, having joined when I was 17, and I’m proud of having done that and can honestly say that if I had to do it over again I would. But I have no illusions about the military, putting on a uniform does not magically ennoble you and by its very nature the organization draws more than it’s share of mindless followers and tin-pot authoritarians.

    But I like these three novels because they show the military at its best, its worst and its so goddamned stupid that its funny. And even though Starship Troopers glorifies the military it doesn’t sugarcoat it like the crap that Baen squeezes out. Joining the MI is hard work, surviving in the MI is even harder, people die all the time and sometimes everything turns to shit and the best that you can do is survive.

    I need to jack my Dad up and get my copy of OMW back from him, maybe I should steal his crutches and handicapped parking pass and not give them back until he coughs it up.

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