I Got Nothing
Posted on April 18, 2009 Posted by John Scalzi 50 Comments
Here’s an interesting fun fact: Since I finished The God Engines last Monday, this is the first time since 2001 that I have no new book project scheduled for publication. In terms of original stuff, TGE comes out late this year or early next year, but after that, there’s not a thing of mine with an official (or even unofficial) release date. No fiction. No non-fiction. Nothing.
Don’t worry, everything’s fine. I’ve got other things to keep me busy at the moment, starting with the Stargate: Universe gig and going from there. We’re not exactly worried about how to make the next mortgage payment here, or the next one, or even the one after that. And for various reasons, when I do decide to start my next novel or book project I don’t expect I’ll have a problem getting it published. I just very simply don’t have anything in novel or book form that’s on a deadline or has a planned publication date. For the first time in eight years, I don’t have something I have to do next.
Which is at once weird and kind of exciting, because now the question is: What do I want to do next?
And the answer is: Well, lots of stuff. Here in the office, I have something which could more or less be called a “dream board,” on which I put up the projects I want to do at some point in the reasonably near future (defined as “the next couple three years”). Right now, there are four novel projects and two non-fiction projects on it — including, yes, Android’s Dream fans, The High Castle. Some of these projects are more likely than others, but any of them is possible, and the options are wide open. Which I will pick to work on next will depend on a number of factors, but primarily three: what interests me most, what’s economically feasible (both in terms of likely advance and likely sales), and what’s likely to best serve my career interests in the long run.
There’s also the option of picking none of the above and instead trying something completely new to me. After many years, and in no small part due to my involvement with SG:U, I have an interest in trying screenwriting; and it might be fun to write a practice screenplay, just as twelve years ago I wrote Agent to the Stars as a practice novel. It might be fun to write a script for a comic book or graphic novel. It might be worth it to try writing something in fiction but out of the genre. And so on. I am fortunate at this point to be in a place careerwise where I have a bit of latitude; it might be worth it to go exploring.
The only drawback to all of this is that not having something on the publishing schedule right now means that (TGE aside) even if I were to start working on my next novel book right this very second, nothing would be in the bookstores until the fall of 2010. That’s just the speed of the publishing world. This means an at least two-year gap between the hardcover publication of Zoe’s Tale and whatever comes next. Which, you know, seems like a lot.
I mentioned this to a friend of mine who noted (with, you may assume, some appreciable eye rolling at my comment) that between this blog and my prominent involvement with one of the most-anticipated science fiction TV shows of the year, I’m not exactly going to disappear down a hole between novel releases. Fair point. Be that as it may, it still feels weird. And if nothing else, It’s got me thinking about putting together some short stories, etc to fill in the gap. We’ll see.
In any event, for the moment, it’s kind of fun being in an indeterminate stage regarding what’s next. It can’t last, nor should it, since if it does I’ll just end up playing videogames and getting fat, and that’s just no good. But for the rest of the weekend, at least, I’ll enjoy the feeling.
Did The High Castle vanish down a hole? I thought Tor wanted it.
“it’s kind of fun being in an indeterminate stage regarding what’s next.”
So you’re feeling some kinship with Schrodinger’s cat? So long as we don’t look in the box, you’re in a state of quantum uncertainty regarding writing?
Actually with the Wii you could just end up buff and taking the Hoff’s place in a redo of Baywatch…
Not enough hair for that, Kendiara.
As noted, THC is still on my list, and yes, Tor still wants it. But it’s not on their production schedule and it has no deadline for completion.
Duh, you need to write a pilot. I think a Space Opera created by you would be way cool!
“But it’s not on their production schedule and it has no deadline for completion.”
Couldn’t they just offer to kill you in some creative way? That seems to get you back to work pretty quickly.
As noted, THC is still on my list
Snort. See, part of me thinks you named the novel *just* so you could say things like that. You darn hippy you.
Performance art, John. There’s a gap for that in the WorldCon schedule, and your fans are *crying* out for that from you.
Really–you can spend the next six months working on yet another novel, or coat yourself in chocolate Karen Finley-style and get paid for it. Your choice.
Who can we bother at Tor to enhance the chances for THC?
No one. Tor’s not holding up THC, I am. And I held up THC because it wasn’t working and needed to be retooled. It’s not Tor’s fault it’s off the schedule, it’s mine.
I understand then. Happy to wait for quality. Thanks!
If you want to write a screenplay, how about a movie version of Android’s Dream? It’s bizarre enough so that nobody else could do it right. It’s a story you already know really well. The scene in the mall with the jumpy shoes would be all sorts of fun to film, as would the workings of the tiny chemical factory. (The actual insertion of said factory is something we don’t need to see at all.)
I think this is your chance to write a rock opera scored completely with early 90s alt rock. The rich dramatic potential of “Anything, Anything” has been neglected for far too long.
On a serious note, I love the idea of the dream board. I find that whenever I am in The Long Dark Night of the Middle of the Project is when shiny, shiny new ideas come up to try and tempt me off the chosen path.
Maybe if I had a way to capture them and pin them to a board, I could keep moving forward in piece. You know, except for the sound of their piteous cries from the cork board.
I know how much you LOVE when commentor’s on your blog tell you what to do, but you should know that many of your fans (ie, me) won’t be satisfied unless you keep cranking out novels in the OMW universe UNTIL THE DAY YOU DIE. And even then, I hope you would have the decency to include a few plotlines in your will to have Athena pick up where you left off. I am thinking Piers Anthony here – what is he at now, 20 novels in Xanth? There is an excellent role model for ya. But don’t let his mediocre effort hold you back either! :)
Your post indicates that to publish THC would take until the fall of 2010. From previous posts I thought THC was at least partially completed but in need of “retooling.” I would normally think this wouldn’t take as long as writing a new novel, unless by retooling you are essentially saying a complete rewrite. Just curious.
“If you want to write a screenplay, how about a movie version of Android’s Dream?”
I would want to practice in the format first before I would try to tackle that one. Screenplay writing is an entirely different discipline of writing than novel writing, and doing TAD as a screenplay would at this point be biting off more than I could chew.
Matthew in Austin:
I’m looking forward to a cheerless future of grinding out more books in that series! In all seriousness, it’s not impossible I’ll go back to the OMW universe in novels, although I’d need to think about where it goes from here. I’m thinking of writing some more short fiction in the universe, however. I like how “After the Coup” turned out.
Inasmuch as retooling means tossing out the protagonist and starting over with a new one, yes, it’ll be a from-the-ground-up rewriting.
“it’s not impossible I’ll go back to the OMW universe “??? America passing an ammendment specifically to allow Bush to come back for a 3rd term is “not impossible”. I thought more OMW was a bit more likely.
That is kind of a bitter pill to swallow. Kind of like when I heard Studio 60 got cancelled. “Yeah, it might come back someday, but…”
Well, I have said that should OMW ever get made into a movie, the day it goes into production I’ll start writing book five so it’ll be available in hardcover the week the movie debuts. So there: Hope OMW gets made into a movie.
I have a bone to pick. I started reading OMW the other day (almost done) and now I am dangerously behind on my lab report and philosophy paper. Jerk.
On the screenwriting, a) I wrote 7 feature scripts before I felt like I understood the format well enough. However, I read Agent to the Stars, and you seem to have beginner’s luck, so no doubt your first script will be usable.
b) I would assume that your publisher owns all the secondary rights to all your novels? So shopping your own books as scripts gets stickier. But you got some great source material there…
Been seeing garage band names in everything I read lately. It all started with the phrase
Focus Group Riot.
“Hope OMW gets made into a movie.”
Do you have any kind of special discount on options for (semi)-longtime Whateverites?
(Note to self: Make more powerful friends at work.)
“b) I would assume that your publisher owns all the secondary rights to all your novels?”
Nope. In fact I own film/movie rights as well as a number of other secondary rights. There’s generally not a problem with my trying my hand turning my own novels into screenplays; I just want a bit of practice first.
Focus Group Riot, of course, with their seminal debut album We’re Not Buying That.
You’re welcome to make such an argument to my film/tv agent. Try not to be in the same room when you do, however. I hear he throws things.
Ha! You’ve got everything. A wife you’re silly for, a job you love and are really good at. Bonus it pays good too.
If you’re going to work on a screenplay I would counter JJS’s bid for TAD with my own bid for OMW. Just play with it. I think it’s very doable. Maybe you could get some of your new friends at SGU to give you some pointers.
I would also vote for a collection of shorts.
Not that I have any clout in saying this, but going from prose writing to comic writing was enormously fun for me — and you wouldn’t have to give it up because you couldn’t find an artist.
Well dude write some stunning scifi epic involving trans gender gay poc because, you know, there isn’t enough of that kind of stuff out there.
Have you generated enough short fiction that you could put out a collection, to fill in the Scalzi-shaped gap that looms in our future reading lives?
I don’t believe so, no. I’d have to check.
You just missed Script Frenzy!!! Too bad, it’d be awesome to see if you could write a 100-page screenplay in a month.
First of all, since we’re apparently making suggestions on what our Humble Moderator should do next, I would vote for absolutely nothing. Seriously; the occasional bout of laziness is wonderful for creativity. How else does bacon get taped to cats? As a corollary, I would be willing to bet that whatever project does come next will be something entirely different from any posted on the dream board; woolgathering is an open invitation to inspiration. And, apparently, alliteration….
Trust me, I’ve been doing a lot of absolutely nothing already.
You are worried about getting fat?
I think that ship might have sailed.
I think you should start writing some columns for Playboy. They need quality columns yo. Seriously.
Dude, I’m totally not fat. My BMI is, like, 25. I just have total lack of tone. There’s a difference.
Playboy hasn’t asked me to write for them.
And I’ll bet you’re blaming the fact that they haven’t asked for nekkid pictures on that ‘tone’ thing.
At the moment, I don’t blame anyone for not asking for nekkid pictures of me.
In my own small way I can sympathize. Even short SF fiction takes forever to be published. I had a number of pending stories from 2007 showing up in 2008 and 2009. Waiting on the last of those to show up in the next issue of Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, and then there’s nothing in the waiting to be published bin. So far anyway. (grin)
The best reason to produce a short-story collection (once you have enough content) is to have a chance to write introductions to your stories. Indeed, Harlan Ellison’s story introductions are often more entertaining than the stories themselves.
One High Castle-related question: Along with the old protagonist, is the opening section that you read to audiences during your bookstore tour 2 years ago also kaput?
No. I still plan on using it somehow.
If your looking to write a non-scifi novel, I bet you could write a kick-ass snaky/witty noir detective. Its not exactly a “new idea” but your take on it could be interesting.
“Hello, Playboy Magazine here, we’re interested in some nude photos. That toneless body of yours is just what our Fetishes special issue needs…”
Just a thought…what about a collaboration with another writer who has a different political view than you? Say, John Ringo? You take one race, he takes another and see where it goes? I am sure it has been done before, but I have never read it. If someone has, please share. Love to read it.
John – try something TRULLY outside your purview:
something niether snarky nor witty. I’m sure it would be tons of fun to write, lucrative, and overall a boon to your career.
“Inasmuch as retooling means tossing out the protagonist and starting over with a new one,”
The bottom of that well must be getting crowded. ;)
The dark fantasy novella I just wrote is also notably snark-free. Because, indeed, it’s good to do stuff beyond what you know you’re already good at.
I have no ambition to co-write with anyone, actually.
Free time and the ability to do whatever your heart (and pocketbook) desires is a wonderful thing, and bravo to you for achieving that. Nothing wrong with spending a month playing video games and watching television after a few years of hard work. Enjoy it while it lasts. :-)
I read comics and am intrigued by the idea of you scripting a comic/graphic novel….
I think you should figure out a way to make Old Mans War into a video game…
come on, I know you want to.
Oh please write the Lubrication Girl comic book/graphic novel script. Please?
That’s great John. Congrats on your new-found freedom. I’m sure I will enjoy whatever you decide to do next.
Idea: more music! Write music with lyrics this time!