It’s here and I feel good about it. I suspect that’s due to the fact that, in accounting for Things I Wanted to Do With My Life When I Grew Up, I’ve pretty much hit them all. If you get all your childhood hopes and dreams squared away by your 40th birthday, you really can’t complain, and if you do complain anyway, people are allowed to beat you. I don’t want to be beaten, especially on my birthday.

Truth to tell, the weirdest thing about the birthday is not the whole “dude, you’re 40” thing, but the fact it’s been rather extended this year. Last week my wife threw me a surprise birthday party, so I got a whole lot of birthday stuff taken care of then, and then yesterday, I had another birthday party of sorts at the Ohioana Book Festival closing reception, where I was given a birthday cake and a whole bunch of authors and librarians sang “Happy Birthday” to me. The interesting thing about that was the location of the reception, which was at the Ohio governor’s mansion. It’s a somewhat surreal thing to go up to the First Lady of Ohio and thank her for letting you use her house for your birthday party (she told me I was welcome).

After all of that, the actual birthday, for which we have nothing at all planned birthday-wise, is likely to be anticlimactic. And you know, I’m okay with that. I think what I actually want to do at this point is think about being 40. I don’t want to make too much of a big deal of it for myself, since in most ways birthdays are arbitrary markers, and the ones ending in “0” are even more so. That said, my 40th coincidentally falls at a point in my life where I happen to be taking a small breather — I don’t have any major projects lined up right this moment, though I suspect I will have very soon, one way or another — and so it’s a convenient day to relax, take stock, take a moment or two (or six) to be thankful for the very fortunate life I’ve had to this point, and then give a little thought about what I want to do with the rest of my life. Mind you, I don’t expect to come up with any answers, and any answers I would come up with would be highly contingent, because life has a funny way of taking your plans and setting them spinning. But just thinking about it all will be a good and useful thing.

To everyone who has already extended me birthday wishes, electronically or in person, thank you from my heart. I have a birthday wish for you too, which is that today is good and joyous day for you, that your life will be happy today, and that you’ll be with people you love and who love you back. I’m getting all those things myself today, you see; it would selfish of me not to wish them for you.

91 Comments on “40”

  1. I hear the top of the hill’s at fifty or thereabouts; you’re not even -old- yet.

    However, I do think there are still a few things you haven’t done:

    Have enough Hugos/Nebulas to make a throne out of them.

    Become CEO of a financial firm/american auto company.

    Buy or take over the world (or at least a small island somewhere).

    Watch Athena grow up, graduate, all that.


    Best wishes, John.

  2. My sister recently turned 50, and she claims that 50 is “the new 40.” If so, you’re not due for a mid-life crisis for at least 10 years. Congrats!

    I then asked my sister what women do for their mid-life crisis…men, stereotypically, buy something too small, too fast, blazing red and capable of seating only two. What do women buy? My sister promptly replied, “BREASTS…of the cosmetic surgery variety.”

  3. Happy Birthday!

    And as someone over 40…
    One of us!
    One of us!
    One of us!

  4. Congrats John.

    I just turned 30 in February. I’m glad that we got to share four months of our 30’s.

    May your body remain as young as your spirit. If it doesn’t, may someone stick your spirit in a different body.

  5. Although forty seems to be the marker for a lot of people to go ahead and have a mid-life crisis, it’s my contention that writers rarely suffer from them (I’ve no idea if that’s actually the case, but it’s a personal suspicion). Some people wake up and wonder what happened to all the plans they had when they were twenty, but the nice thing about being a writer is, as you say, waking up and realising you’re in one of the places you’d really hoped to be (and that – forgive me – you never have to wear a suit if you don’t want to).

  6. Happy Birthday. Time will really start to fly now so having a week long celebration is like a party lasting all afternoon when you’re 6:)

  7. Happy birthday! Entirely coincidental to your birthday (though that would be an amusing way to pick things to read), I’ve been having an OMW weekend – finally got to Zoe’s Tale in the Hugo packet, which lead to buying Ghost Brigades (although I can’t for the life of me remember that name) and now starting Last Colony (which in my mind is Lost Colony. I lose on remembering names).

    But yeah, if I can write a book half as good as those by the time I DIE, I’ll be happy, so I’d say you’re doing pretty good at 40.

  8. For your birthday couldn’t you have forgone that thing around your neck? Out here in the islands ties are not only optional, they’re sneered at, no matter who made them.

    Happy birthday, and take that thing off!

  9. Happy birthday!

    Inquiring minds want to know if that memo explaining the meaning of everything and the guide to life has come by yet. I’ve been expecting it every birthday since the age of 3 and it hasn’t found its way to my door yet.

  10. Have a happy 40th, and be sure to tell a random person to get off your lawn today. Because now you can.

  11. Happy birth, er, week….

    Seems like a fine age to me, since I’m also forty, though 2/3 of a year ahead of you. I’m just as smugly self-satisfied, but a programmer rather than a writer.

    Like you, I guess I’m doing exactly what I’ve always dreamed of doing – engineering. I grew up, first on Clarke and Asimov, and then on McCullough’s Great Bridge and Path Between The Seas.

  12. Happy birthday, John – may your wishes for yourself and others you care for be fulfilled.

  13. I must say thank you to John & his birthday karma. Today has been a very good day. (and as i side note, Happy Birthday, young dude)

  14. Yuhri @17: Inquiring minds want to know if that memo explaining the meaning of everything and the guide to life has come by yet.

    That’s not due until age 42.

    Happy Birthday, John!

  15. Happy birthday! Forty is not old. When we were young, it seemed positively ancient. But as we get to each of those markers, “old” keeps getting extended farther into the future.
    I hit the big 6-0 later this year and don’t feel old at all. Old is -like- ninety or a hundred.

  16. Randy Johnson @27: Old age is always 15 years older than I am. You’re only 7 years older than I am, so you’re not old. ;-)

  17. All of which kerfuffle had been nicely distracting me from my imminent (10 days and counting) 50th. Now I’ll have to find something else…

  18. I’m a home help, so I work with old people every day, not just oh-no-I’m-not-a-teenager-anymore-“old”, but actually old – as in late 70s and upwards, not able to do everyday chores as well anymore.

    I’m “only” 34, myself, but my job has seriously affected what I define as old. Anyone who’d call 40 or even 50 “old” should try my job for a while – just to get a sense of perspective.

  19. It’s crystal clear that you’ve lived more, and accomplished more, in forty years than most folks do in eighty. It’s also crystal clear that you’ve done so not by luck, but by dint of intelligence, industry, and character.

    Happy birthday, John. Living on the same planet with you is a privilege.

  20. Happy Birthmonth John! You are now in you’re prime, and have another twenty years before you’re considered “old”.

  21. Happy Birthday, meatbag. May your amusingly superstitious celebration of the recurrence of the date of your gruesome birthing process be filled with what your species knows as “fun” and “joy”.

    (The important question: Did you wake up to find a bow-ornamented 2009 Mustang GT in the driveway?)

  22. Happy Birthday John! I am surprised that Chang (who is not Chang) has not come to explain quite patiently that your job for the indefinite future is to worship Beauteous She. It is nice to see someone happy on their 40th, rather than kvetching like many I know. And I am happy for you.

  23. Happy Birthday!

    Several years ago my friend spent her 40th birthday saying, “40! Yay!” and so far things have gone extremely well for her, unlike the previous decade.

    So, for you Mr Scalzi, “Forty! Yay!”

  24. I looked up 1969 on a Chinese astrology website. It seems that people born then are Yin Earth Roosters.

    From the website:
    Earth Rooster – comes from Yin Earth. Earth Roosters tend to be more highly organized and structured, prefers to be a worker instead of the boss, easy going and humble representative of the Earth Element.

    H’mm. Can astrology be wrong?

  25. Happy Birthday, and many more in the company of loved ones and firends.

    One of the best things that I realized after turning 40 was that I no longer gave a $*&* about what other people might think.

  26. Happy birthday! May the rest of your birthdays, and the years in between them, be as pleasant as this one. And may they be numerous.

  27. Best wishes for an equally awesome post-40 set of years! Sounds like it’s time to come up with some new hopes and dreams to keep you moving….

  28. Happy Birthday. I passed 40 a while back and I’m rapidly closing in on 42. Enjoy the day and remember, some of us have beaten down the path for you. ;-) and besides, 40 is no longer the end of the world like it seemed when we were kids huh? I still play volleyball most every day… quite a bit of it 2 on 2… and good way to beat the problems like high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes.. or so my doc says. hahaha ;-) take care and once again.. Happy Birthday!

  29. Happy Birthday (yet again)! I just hope that I’m half as happy as you about the state of my life when I follow you through that door in about a year. And the weather couldn’t be any more beautiful for your day, could it?

  30. Touching, your first birthday (’69) landed on Mother’s Day. You embiggened the poignancy!

  31. Happy Birthday! May you have many more of increasing happiness.

    Now that you’ve accomplished all the things you’ve set out to do, it’s time to start setting down new goals. Keep doing that, and you won’t get old, though you might get a little creaky as time goes on.

    And srsly, the tie. I’m a mainlander, but I’m with Linkmeister on that. One of my goals was to not have to wear a tie, except for weddings, funerals, and celebrating my friends’ and relatives’ achievements. Most writers I know feel the same way. You some kind of nonconformist?

  32. Happy Birthday!

    I was re-reading The Android’s Dream last night and realized that it has made my list of “comfort reading” – and that I’ve been lurking on your blog since before you had anything published.

  33. I liked turning 40. I hadn’t actually accomplished all of those childhood goals but I was healthy and happy.

    Plus, it woke me up to that last childhood goal that was so important to me. I am now attacking that with vigor.

    Have a great 40th and thanks for all the entertainment you have brought into my life.

  34. J Reynolds @ 41: I prefer to tell my female friends that I was born in ’69, year of the cock. It always gets a chuckle, though I don’t know why…

    Again, Happy Birthday, Scalzi! May your many camels ditch their sand fleas for today!

  35. Hmmm, what did I do when I was 40? Quit my job. Sold my car. Survived a housing crash and managed to walk away almost debt free. Dealt with the unexpected deaths of two of my closest friends. Packed up everything and moved to a new country. A pretty uneventful year when all is said and done. But I’m glad I did it all, even the unpleasant parts.

  36. I turned 40 yesterday and am still dealing with the thought. I think I like it! I was at the Ohioana Book Festival, but you were not at the table when I went by. It was an enjoyable way to spend my day. I have reflected back on my first four decades. The first three were wonderful. The fourth had many ups and many downs. I would like to get back to wonderful this time. I am in the middle of a career change. Here’s to decade number five. Happy Birthday!

  37. yay for roosters!

    I was born in the next year of the rooster, 1978!

    I wonder if a blog’s readership matches up with the astrological pairings of who will get along well?

    Happy Birthday John!

  38. Happy birthday.

    (counts down the two days til my own bday now… on which I will not turn forty. this time… )

  39. Happy Birthday, Scalzi! Thanks for giving us so much entertainment and good discussion. I have a feeling you’ll navigate mid-life very well.

  40. Happy Birthday, Scalzicce!

    Happy Mother’s Day, Krissy!

    Athena, your parents rock because you’re their kid!

  41. Happy birthday!

    May all fortunes cast from a pig’s spleen be as fortunate for you as they were ultimately disastrous for the pig.

  42. Happy birthday, Scalzi.

    As a slightly random aside (but only slightly), a friend was telling me about a Japanese tradition called a yakudoshi. It’s like a coming of age celebration, but for when a man turns 40 (possibly 42, I don’t remember the exact age). The idea was that you became a man when you accomplished all the adult goals: home of your own, family, good job, etc. Just thought that was interesting after you mentioned hitting all the “Things I Wanted to Do With My Life When I Grew Up.”

  43. Happy Birthday, Mr. Scalzi!

    May you have as much enjoyment today and in the future as you have given all of us with your books’n’blog!

    Best wishes!

    pedantic peasant

  44. The 40s are nothing except for the whole bifocals thing. My advice, skip the progressive version and go for the classic split-lens.

  45. 1) i learned to ride a bicycle by 13 2) graduated high school by 27 3) completed my undergrad by 33 4) moved out of my parent’s woodshed by 34 5) moved to another woodshed in Seoul at 35 6) learned a second language by 36 7) read my first book by 37, Scalzi’s Old Man’s War 8) wrote my first novel by 38 9) read said novel by 40 10) have yet to . . .

    . . . one more to go!

    Happy birthday, Scalzi! Thanks for providing me with some cool escape time, something to daydream about perhaps.

  46. Looking sharp!

    (Also for some reason, I keep wanting to photoshop or paint you in one of those old fashioned photo vignettes where you and Krissy have your heads held by unseen vises while your slightly blurred faces look solemnly at the camera.)

  47. Happy belated happy, John. You know, having passed that millstone (sic) a while back, just because you’re now of the age the AARP puts you on their mailing list doesn’t mean you have to dress like a mortician. As a personal note, I’m very pleased that the older I get, the less formal I’ve had to dress (in both my personal and professional life). By the time I’m dead, I should be running around the retirement home naked. Or at least that’s my plan.

  48. Have a wonderful birthday!

    And thank you much for the link to After the Coup. I just read it, and loved it.

    I don’t know how your writing talents could possibly get any better, but I’m one reader who is hoping they at least remain prolific in your (now advanced *cough*) age.

  49. Sorry I’m late with this, I wasn’t on my computer over the weekend. Happy Birthday, Scalzi, thank you for the wonderful books, interesting conversations, and bacon-cat.

  50. Yesterday was my birthday, too. I’m one year behind you – 40 is next year for me. My goal is to have a completed manuscript. I was published twice this year (by free markets, but still), last year made a short film, and had a kid a couple of years ago, so the full novel is the last thing on my list.

    Happy Birthday, John. I take comfort in the fact that you’ll always be older than me.

  51. Have an autobiography coming out soon? That photo is composed like a paperback expose’ cover: “John Scalzi: Drinking the Kool-Aid”

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