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Reader Request Week 2010: Get Your Requests In!

As you know, Whatever is all about me: Whatever I feel like writing about, whenever I feel like writing about it. But once a year, I like to make it about the readers, by which I mean I like to give my brain a break and make all y’all choose the topics I write about. For a whole week! I call it Reader Request Week, and 2010’s will start this next Monday. Between now and then I’m soliciting topics for consideration.

So: Is there a topic you’ve always wanted me to write on, which I haven’t? Something about me you’ve always wanted to know? Or do you just wish to see me dance like a monkey for your pleasure? Or some combination of any or all of the above? This is the time! This is the place! No subject is taboo, and no subject is too serious or too silly. I can’t answer every topic request, but I do try to get an interesting mix in there.

While you are brewing up your questions, allow me to make two suggestions:

1. Pick quality over quantity: A single, well thought-out topic question is always more interesting to me than one that says lists out very bland, general topics, i.e., “can you talk about writing? And politics? And about your cats?” Yes, I can do that, but I already do do that. Ask me something interesting.

2. Specifically on the subject of writing, I get asked about writing a lot, and one of the reasons I do the Reader Request Week is to write on something else besides writing. So while you’re free to ask writing questions, be aware that unless  find it a really interesting question, I’m likely to go for another topic entirely.

Once the requests start coming in, I’ll go through them and pick the ones I find the most interesting and start writing them up on Monday. To help you avoid asking the same questions I’ve recently answered, here’s an index of the last five years worth of Reader Request Weeks:

From 2005:

Reader Request #1: Creative Commons and FanFic
Reader Request #2: Peak Oil
Reader Request #3: Beatles, Batman and They
Reader Request #4: Pot!
Reader Request #5: Odds and Ends

From 2006:

Reader Request #1: SF Novels and Films
Reader Request #2: 10 Childhood Nuggets
Reader Request #3: Writers and Technology
Reader Request #4: The Nintendo Revolution
Reader Request #5: A Political Judiciary
Reader Request #6: Paranoid Parents
Reader Request #7: Writing About Writing

From 2007:

Reader Request #1: Justifying My Life
Reader Request #2: Coffee, or Lack Thereof
Reader Request #3: BaconCat Fame
Reader Request #4: The Inevitable Blackness That Will Engulf Us All
Reader Request #5: Out of Poverty
Reader Request #6: Short Bits
Reader Request #7: Short Bits II: Electric Boogaloo

From 2008:

Reader Request #1: Homeschooling
Reader Request #2: Technological Gifts
Reader Request #3: Sex and Video Games
Reader Request #4: Where I Am Now
Reader Request #5: Professional Jealousy
Reader Request #6: Author Relations
Reader Request #7: Fame or Lack Thereof
Reader Request #8: Politics and the Olympics
Reader Request #9: Polygamy
Reader Request #10: Meeting Authors (and Me)
Reader Request #11 Athena and Whatever
Reader Request #12: Soldiers and Support
Reader Request #13: Diminishing Returns
Reader Request #14: Quick Hits, Volume I
Reader Request #15: Quick Hits, Volume II

From 2009:

Reader Request #1: SF YA These Days
Reader Request #2: OMW and Zoe’s Tale (and Angst and Pain)
Reader Request #3: Space!
Reader Request #4: Procreation
Reader Request #5: Having Been Poor
Reader Request #6: 80s Pop Music
Reader Request #7: Writing and Babies
Reader Request #8: Twitter
Reader Request #9: Can I Be Bought?
Reader Request #10: Writing Short Bits
Reader Request #11: Wrapping Up

There you have it.

So: Questions! Topics! Subjects! You have them! I want them! Put them in the comment thread, and starting Monday, I’ll start writing about them.

By John Scalzi

I enjoy pie.

193 replies on “Reader Request Week 2010: Get Your Requests In!”

Could you explain those really weird episodes of Hammy the Hamster (like when he tried on all the hats and became different evil personalities each time or when his simple balloon trip suddenly took him into hyperspace)? From a SF angle, I mean, of course. Alternatively, you could talk about all the weird fashion choices you would make if the world weren’t so cruel and unforgiving to people like yourself? Or just a lot of pictures of you and the cats in funny hats. Not the dog, though, she has a natural dignity and more capacity to give you a serious injury if you offend it.

I always find your monkey-dance amusing, but since I don’t stream videos at work that’s probably not a good topic ;-)

How about the recent announcement of the cancellation of NASA’s Constellation program? Good, bad, indifferent? (Personally I’ve always thought it important to define our goals in space – explore vs. exploit are different things.)

Maybe you could talk a little about the mental and cultural transitions you had to go through moving to a rural(ish) small town after growing up in the suburbs of LA. I’d like to know how it’s changed the way you look at things in general and SoCal specifically. I’ve gone through something pretty similar and I’d love to see where things are similar and where they differ in our experiences.

What is your general feeling about disorder in your workspace? Judging from your pictures, it tends to get pretty disorderly, but does it bother you particularly? And would your acceptance of it be changed by, say, discovering silverfish in your books, roaches in the computer, or carpet beetles in the furniture?

My question would be similar to that of Antongarou. I would like to read your thoughts on food. While watching “Lost,” I saw a commercial for a program called “Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution,” in which it seems Oliver will encourage Americans to give up processed foods in favor of meals made from scratch.

It would be interesting to hear your thoughts on organic vs. non-organic, the “real food” movement, vegetarianism/veganism vs. omnivorism. Judging from the number of television channels, cookbooks, restaurants, etc…we Americans are passionate about our food. What’s your take on the subject?

From the posts where you veer into politics, I know you’re a big fan of the US Constitution. So;

Early next year a previously unknown addendum to the Constitution is discovered, and the legal repercussions mean that the entire document must be rewritten, or the US of A will become a département of France. You, John Scalzi, have been selected as the person upon whom sole responsibility shall lie to recreate the guiding document of the nation.

Given this opportunity, how would you rewrite the Constitution?

Premise: You are invited to be a visiting author at a nearby university. You will have to teach one senior seminar on “Science Fiction / Speculative Fiction” (14 week semester, 1 class a week).

Question(s): How would you define “science/speculative fiction” for the course. What would be the earliest work of science fiction you taught? What would be some “must reads” that would definitely go on the syllabus. What’s a solid secondary source on science fiction you’d add to the reading list.

Part B: How would you dress on seminar day? Academic casual (slacks, shirt, coat, no tie), jeans + button down, or futuristic shimmery unitard?

OK, given that the universe is infinite and that God also is infinite … would you like some toast?

Seriously though (albeit on a tangent since Red Dwarf is one of the few exceptions); Why do you think space-opera, especially of the televised variety, is nearly universally associated with military or psuedo-military organizations and how would you, as ironic as it might seem, go about creating a non-military space-themed science fiction show? I mean assuming you want said show to succeed.

What are your thoughts on the future of writing with respect to distribution, representation, marketing and publishing? Do you see a future where J. Scalzi, Inc. handles the whole process from idea to delivery?

Should we just let Texas secede from the Union and hope they take all the Stupid with them when they go? (vis-à-vis their current efforts at removing or minimizing mention of Thomas Jefferson from the elementary curriculum because he coined “separation of church and state”).

Things that go bump in the night; what scares the hell out of people (including yourself) and why? These can be mundane things as well, for instance, I refuse to go through automated carwashs because they scare me.

I was thinking the other day that there don’t seem to be (or if I’m missing them, I’d love that to be pointed out) a lot of (American) movies or TV shows that actually parallel (American) literary horror. Most film horror tends towards the slasher/gore-fest end of the spectrum and leaves the something-subtly-wrong-and-disturbingly-incomprehensible end of the spectrum to authors.

Have you noticed this? Am I off my rocker? Do you think it is a medium constraint or effect (for either medium)?

1) You’re alone in an elevator traveling between the lobby and the 22nd floor. The walls are polished to a mirror shine and you can see yourself clearly. You are doing what you would normally do on a 5-minute trip alone in an elevator with mirrored walls when the car suddenly stops on the 18th floor and the doors open. There are people out there.
Are you embarrassed?

2) A time machine sends you back to talk to yourself when you were fifteen. What five things would you tell yourself?

I nominated for the Hugo awards for the first time this year. I found it difficult to find lists of eligible works. Do you have any suggestions for how someone might make sure they’ve at least voted for everything they’ve read and liked that’s eligible?

Since you have a kid, how do you feel about current public education? Have you heard about alternative schools and some of their cirriculums (like there’s a “video game” school in NY now that kind of makes me think Ender’s Game…)? Since she’s female do you feel the need to encourage science?

(You can answer just one of those, there are several. To give the context of said questions, I’m a female Aerospace Engineer/Game Developer, so I’m always curious if sci-fi writers themselves do anything for their kids in regards to science like sci-fi itself did for me.)

Is Science Fiction a predictor of things to come or does it more reflect the hopes/fears/desires of the current society? Reference the Golden Age of scifi, the Cyberpunk movement, and Steampunk. Discuss. Compare and contrast. Double spaced, ten pages, APA format, & have it on my desk by Monday.

…and this time don’t write it in crayon.

Do authors (SF especially) ever use any of the massive over-functionality built into modern word processors? Or would they be just as happy with a typewriter that erased words and saved files?

Or, in other words, how much has the tool changed the trade?

Or, do they ever rtfm so they know how to use the damn things?

I’ve been wondering what your beliefs are pertaining to God, the supernatural, etc.

From a few passages in “Old Man’s War” (which I love by the way… the whole series rocks!), some of the religious bits in “The Android’s Dream,” and some of your old movie reviews from the Old “Official Playstation Magazine” (i.e. the good one) I get the impression that you have more than a passing familiarity with Christianity. So I’m just wondering what your stance is and what your upbringing was because I’m nosy and curious.

Whatever your answer is I’ll probably be buying whatever books you put out anyway…cuz I love ’em that much.

How do you feel about making mistakes?

I mean don’t mean the mistakes of others, but your own messes — mistakes of any kind, in any area of your life, of any magnitude. Do you carry them around with you as wounds you haven’t gotten over? Do you forget them (and then find yourself repeating them?) Do you kick yourself for a long time? Are there any mistakes you’ve made for which you are grateful, because you learned something important? Are mistakes just a source of shame? Have you never made any and therefore can’t speak to this? (Sorry, had to cover the possibility, although I really think you are smarter than that. Also, smartassery.) Have you constructed some really magnificent mistakes?

How do you feel about your mistakes?

Do you think that American schools are doing a good job of teaching children? Is there something that they’re doing poorly (or not at all)?

I am feeling totally unoriginal today, but FWIW I second Ulysses’ second question @ 22 and Liz’s question @ 24.

(I was about to go with that hoary old “What question do you wish someone would ask you and what would be your answer?” Happily, it only took a couple of seconds to realize what a dumb question that would be in this context.)

Plants. I’m pretty sure you’re not A Plant Person — not much beyond lettuce, tomato, & onion on a hamburger, or grass & a small tree in photos of sunsets — but I’m wondering if you’re as virtually-blind to plants the way some s-f writers/readers I know are.

In a public library, do you think science fiction and fantasy should be intermixed with all of the fiction? Or should they have their own shelves?

If, in fact, you’d even put science fiction and fantasy together.

I’ve only been a reader of the blog for a couple of years, so here are my advance apologies if you’ve already covered this.

You mention that as part of your decision to become a full-time fiction writer, you needed to move someplace with a lower cost of living. You now seem happily ensconced in Ohio, and your career is thriving.

My question: aside from the economic issues, do you think your relocation has had an affect on your writing, and if so, what?

Talk about the good things about Texas. It’s easy to write about the bad parts, and common for Texans to write about the good parts. I want to hear someone who isn’t from there describe what they think is good about Texas and what it contributes to the country.

Is there any future for hard Science Fiction?

Zombies, vampires, unicorns, and other trite creativity sucking topics seem to be mostly what’s available in the SF realm these days. Yes, I know the publishers publish what sells and that seems to fantasy of the most boring variety.

Lest ye and your loyal minions fall on me with a ton of black magic, I do read fantasy (selectively).
China Mieville, Nick Harkaway, Sheri Tepper, and others are all excellent but my first love is good old space opera.

Either I can’t find it or it isn’t being published. This weekend I will take myself down to Uncle Hugo’s and throw myself on their mercy and beg for something new in hard SF.

Any comments or even a sound thrashing would be greatly appreciated.

Two ideas:

1) #GenreWarFail: why puffing up SF at the expense of “mainstream” “litfic” will only make you look stupid.

or

2) Why Death Metal is awesome

In the Google Books settlement trial, Judge Chin throws out the settlement with an unexpected ruling. He says “Class action is an inappropriate vehicle for these sweeping changes in copyright and online book access that Google and the publisher and author groups in the suit are asking for. And Congress is too paralyzed a vehicle. Seeing as I have an appointment to get to, I hereby grant John Scalzi Constitutional Super-Powers[tm] to tell the parties and Congress what to do.”

What do you tell them?

What are your favorite scifi books? Every now and then I have some free time and I look for some good scifi books (both new and old) to read. Now that I’ve tapped out my family and friends for recommendations, I’ve been looking for recommendations online. I’ve tried searching Whatever (but, as you can guess, searching for “favorite scifi” on Whatever comes back with quite a blog posts, but few with what I’m looking for.) I’ve already read (and very much enjoyed) your books so I’m looking for scifi books you would recommend if one of your friends asked you to list a few of your favorites. Thanks!

Some writers have stories that have been influenced by their kids. Other writers don’t — they deliberately keep their home life and their writing separate. How has your daughter influenced your writing? Or do you keep that part of your life apart? Why or why not?

You got caught up in an internet war over race last year. What do you think about internet wars – are they effective in changing the readers? The world? For good or for bad?

Essentially, I think the distillation of my question is – how much is the internet affecting real world social problems?

Or, you could write about feeding the kitties tuna.

Why we have tax credits for people to buy cars and homes and appliances, but not for, say, adopting a pet from a shelter, volunteering your time, or recycling.

And why my senators and congressmen don’t write me back when I suggest such.

What does it mean to be human?

I commented about this once in a previous thread, and would love to hear your viewpoint. After reading the OWM trilogy a few friends and I had a very long debate on about Ghost Brigade soldiers. Are they human or are they a different race/species. Do you stop being human if you become a Gameran (sp?). Is human limited to biology or is it about the mind,soul, etc..

In a few years your daughter will be a teenager. What albums of yours do you hope she’ll steal er borrow?

I ask because I was delighted when my Beatles and Billie Holiday cds mysteriously disappeared for a while. ;-)

Please share your thoughts on one or more of the following:

1. The new floors: Details. Laminate or “real wood”? Why did you pick that type?. How did you go about selecting the installation company? Any specific DOs, DON’Ts, or WISH I HAD recommendations on replacing flooring?

Bonus Dance Monkey Dance Question: Have you yet, or are you planning to reenact the Tom Cruise “Old Time Rock and Roll” dance from RISKY BUSINESS on the new floor? If so, will there be video posted?

2.What do you think of the recent trend of “Don’t Stop Believing” covers by various artists (GLEE, Rock Sugar, et. al.). Is this just normal musical nostalgia (50s songs popular in 70s, 70s songs popular in 90s, etc) combined with mix culture, or some sort of plot?

Bonus Dance Monkey Dance Question: If it is your plot, is it evil or the key to our salvation? Please give your answer in the form of a sequence of Journey song titles.

3. What do you think of the cyclical generational hypothesis put forward by William Strauss and Neil Howe in their various books (GENERATIONS, THE FOURTH TURNING, etc)? Based on your own observation and experience, do you think that generations have aggregate personalities that affect their overall reactions to events and trends? If so, in what way do you think that the Millennials will be different from their most recent Heroic/Civic counterpart, the G.I. Generation? How will this impact near-future SF?

Bonus Dance Monkey Dance Question: Hari Seldon, Master Historical Manipulator or Fashion God?

I know you’re not a huge sports person, but just curious if you had any thoughts on the recent Winter Olympics – particularly if any of the ‘big stories’ or events happened to catch your eye.

Failing that, I second Chefs! In! Spaaaaaaaace!

Bicycling. Do you? Did you as a kid? Does your kid? Do you have big swarms of weekend roadies zipping down your rural country lane? Is it a reasonable form of transportation to a restaurant/school/town center for your household (or what would it take for it to be one)? Do you have a good story about being on a unicycle?

Electric vehicles, alternative fuel vehicles. The future of personal transportation. Feel free to skip the low hanging fruit that is “where’s my flying car!” Or don’t, it is fodder for funny.

Faster than light travel in Science Fiction

SF authors have come up with a lot of creative ways to deal with how to travel across the hugeness of space. We had the spice and folding space in Dune, hyperspace in Star Wars, warp speed in Star Trek, etc. Both you in OMW and Stephenson in Anathem (my 2 favorite SF authors btw) try to “keep it real” using the inifinite similar universes from quantum mechanics, and how you just skip from one universe where your space is location in spot A, and switch over to another universe that is identical except that your ship is in spot B.

I’d like to hear your thoughts on the different theories, why you chose what you did, if you think it is better to gloss over the science or to keep it plausible, etc.

1. Already mentioned above: how did you organize/choose/plan new floors etc…? Tips for dealing with contractors? Are you at all handy?

2. Most enjoyable meal ever? Best food you have ever eaten? Were they the same?

3. Health care. Why is the US the only developed nation with a system that is so patently disturbed? How to fix it, beyond ramming (partial) solutions through Congress?

4. Higher education. Are the current budget crises, particularly in public universities, just transitory? Is a new model on the way? Do states actually want, or care about, higher education?

I haven’t come across many characters in recent fiction who have an existing major religion informing their actions. If you leave out characters who are Evil, or if you look for main characters, there are even less. Why do you think that is? Seems like we’re missing a valuable opportunity to see what makes people tick.

I’ll just throw out a few ideas.

1. your favorite sf&f novels
2. difference between working on a TV show and writing a novel
3. craziest fan encounters you have had
4. sf&f authors that you and other authors can’t stand. I don’t mean writing. I am talking about their personalities.

Tell us about the rollercoaster of emotions during the novel writing process — the highs, the lows, the final “it’s done” and initial excitement, the revision process. Is it all riding high, or is it a mix of “the drudgery & the ecstacy”?

1) You have a philosophy degree. Do you think you’ve “used” it, i.e. do you think you have gotten more out of it than you put into it in college?

2) I saw this article over on CNN that says that procrastinators may actually be “incubators” – people who spend a lot of time doing things that look like goofing off, but then turn around and work like madmen right up until the deadline. Do you consider yourself A) a procrastinator B) An incubator C)Neither D) A person who thinks the whole concept is stupid?

I’ll second a couple of topics (other than my own) I found interesting:

1) the “big city kid moves to small town” concept.
2) The “I iz king of copyright – here’s how to do it, Google” idea.
3) The “worst panel at a con” idea.

Suppose tommorow someone makes a discovery that means practically unlimited lifespan extension will be affordable for most of Earth’s population within 10 years. For this question, it doesn’t matter how it works – a drug, uploading, whatever.

How would the world change?

It seems to me that this would represent a fundamental shift in the human experience, but on the other hand, I am continually surprised by how true the old saying is… “the more things change, the more they stay the same.” Given that you get paid to think about this sort of thing, I’d really be interested in your take on it.

Bonus question: What works of fiction would you recommend that explore this idea?

Have you felt yourself to be exploited in any way?

Have you ever retired a human by mistake?

You ever buy snakes from the Egyptian?

Can the maker repair what he makes?

Describe in single words only the good things that come into your mind about your mother.

Oh, eff all that, answer this one if it appeals to you: What is your idea of a good time that doesn’t involve sex, books, electronics, or an internal combustion engine?

Christian B. McGuire @ 65 I didn’t mean to imply that Star Wars invented Hyperspace! But I think it certrainly introduced the concept to a few hundred million people that hadn’t thought about it before.

With regards to your other question about media SF versus literary SF, I think the answer is self evident. Compare how many people have read the novels on that link you posted (very interesting link, btw – thanks!), versus how many people have seen the films. 2 or 3 orders of magnitude different, I would assume. So if someone wanted to make a broad statement about SF, understandable to as many casual blog readers as possible, movie reference would be far more efficient than literary. In fact, I LOVE sci-fi, and I have probably read only 3 or 4 novels on that link.

Anyway, with his OMW novels and work on Stargate Atlantis, I am pretty sure this is something Scalzi has thought about alot, so I’m interested to hear where he stands on the whole FTL thing.

Who would win – Pokémon, Hello Kitty, or Katamari Damacy? And, what was the contest that the winner won? Justify your answer. Bonus points for incorporation of at least one philosopher (dead), one heavy metal band (not necessarily dead), and a farming implement in your justification…

You have an alien race that has intelligence but no consciousness and, since it’s actually a plot point and you were a philosophy major, I’m sure it wasn’t accidental. So, oh mighty philosophy major, what is consciousness? Are philosophical zombies, such as the Obin, possible? John Searle: Annoying and Wrong or Annoying and Right?

I would like to hear your thoughts on world building – what is, to you, the greatest challenge and what do you think is often the most overlooked aspect?

Now that you’ve been working on SGU for 2 seasons, have you gone back to review SG1 or SGA at all? If so, what did you think of them?

If you have an awesome idea for an SGU episode, would you ask the writers to let you try your hand at scripting it or would you tell them your idea and let them run with it?

Ooooh, I have another question, albeit one that is a little hard for me to define. I can be understood to some small degree by the books that I own. I’m sure that music fans felt the same way about the albums that they owned and ditto for movie buffs. Now that music is almost all digital and movies and (probably) books are heading the same way, does this change us as people? Do I really feel the same way about a digital copy of Iggy and the Stooges “Raw Power” that I do about the album? The house of a music buff now doesn’t look very different from the house of someone who never listens to music. Is this sad? Will future generations collect stuff the way some of us did/do?

On which asteroid will you found the Colony of Scalzia, and to what sort of charter would potential colonists be signng up?

Enabling premise: Staying on Earth is Unacceptable – Rush Limbaugh is about to be elected Caliph-For-Life of Terra, or exponential global warming is about to turn us into the Good Ship Venus, or a Great Year bug in Windows 2095 will auto-summon Yog-Sothoth to our annoyance. Only fen, being inherently slen, see the disaster coming in time! Scorned by the common herd, they rise to the occasion, in a million makeshift rockets to found new worlds and new civilizations in the Belt. Which just happens to contain nearly as many minor planets as Arisen Fandom contains factions.

Naturally, the quick and the many-discipled amongst them get the largest and coolest ones.

I am quick, because I thought of it first; and because I am an anarchist of sorts, I modestly claim 15 Eunomia for my Vacuum Cats’ Freehold. And you, sir?

I’ve seen you make reference to anime around this site before. I’d like to hear some of your thoughts on anime in general, but maybe pick one or more of these more specific questions:

1) What’s your familiarity with anime, and what are your favorites?

2) What’s your favorite sci-fi anime? Have you seen Ghost in the Shell, Akira, Ergo Proxy, Texhnolyze? Do you think anime is a good medium for sci-fi?

3) Speaking of Akira and Ghost in the Shell, what do you think about the possible Hollywood remakes of same?

4) What are your impressions on the differences between anime and American cartoons?

5) Do you think anime will ever be accepted in the States as a mainstream adult medium, not just Disney movies and Saturday morning cartoons? There’s certainly nothing about animation that makes it inherently “kidsey,” but most Americans seem to think so.

It seems to me that everyone likes a good appcalypse. There certainly are a lot of end-of-the-world! stories and movies out there, from Revelations in Christian theology, to the prophecies of Nostradamus,to cold war fears of nuclear holocausts, to movies like Zombieland and 2012.

Do you think there will be an apocalypse in the near (or far) future? If so, what form do you think it will likely take, Four Horsemen, Life-extinguishing Asteroid, Zombie Plauge, the Second Coming, or some Other Exciting Event?

SETI turned 50 this year, which is a respectable age in anyone’s books. So far though the aliens refused to show up – they’re either deaf, not interested or still looking for an agent. Or maybe after years of listening in to our EM transmissions, they’ve decided that we’re criminally insane.

Regardless, what is your opinion about SETI? Was it worth doing it? Is is something we should continue doing? Or is it a hopelessly optimistic approach that has pretty much outlived its usefulness?

John:

The other comments seem to have covered the serious pretty well, so…

Please speak to the following enigma:

Why do you think writers almost always have pets, and why, in particular, do more writers seem to have cats instead of dogs. (As an aside…even the ones who have dogs seem to often have cats as well.) I tend to think it has something to do with independence – authors are generally independent (occasionally gregarious, perhaps, but generally they’re at least as happy on their own as with others, in my experience anyway).

So: why cats for writers?

(Any chance to reopen the good old cat v dog debate in one of your comment threads promises good reading for those of us who lurk regularly and like fireworks.)

The Keeling curve is pretty straightforward and entirely, you know, *factual*.

From a SF perspective, I don’t get it. What the hell is wrong with people who don’t believe the massive evidence of climate change? Is it because the apocalypse is going to be generational rather than blockbuster-movie-style?

What won’t you eat? Why not?

(spicy food? bitter melon? funerary cannibalism rump roast? vegetables that look like things? stuff that’s been left out of the fridge for a couple of days? bacon previously attached to cats? etc.)

I’d like to have my question answered while you dance like a monkey for our amusement. Give us a video. Dancing the Monkey (rather than dancing like a monkey) is acceptable only if you also do the Swim, the Bird and the Mashed Potatoes.

(I originally wanted to ask about writing in the self-help genre. I wanted to know how and why you started writing “The Rough Guide to Money Online,” whether you enjoyed doing that, and whether you might write in that genre again. That’s a question about writing, though, isn’t it? Nuts.)

Please to settle the debate: best platform for first-person shooter games (e.g. Quake, Half-Life, etc.), PC or console?

You could even genericize that further, and simply throw down the gauntlet: best platform for gaming, period, because I sez so is [PC or console].

I don’t know what your boundaries are in writing about your daughter, so maybe you won’t pick this question, but here it is anyway! I do a lot of writing about self-esteem and body image, and as I don’t have any kids yet, I’m especially curious about how parents raise their daughters to feel good about themselves, especially in the face of the media’s constant pressure to be perfect.

Someday if I ever have a daughter I want her to be a super-smart feminist badass with good self-esteem. Athena seems awesome, and obviously Krissy is an awesome role model, so what’s the secret? Do I have to marry Krissy? Will she have me?

A long-lost relative shows up out of the blue to offer you a million dollars. The catch is that you must first spend a thousand dollars in accordance with the following rules: 1) you must spend the thousand dollars in one day, 2) you may not give any of it away, and 3) at the end of the day, there must be no tangible evidence that you spent the money. “Tangible evidence” is somewhat loosely defined — buying and eating a hamburger is allowed, buying a week’s worth of hamburger coupons is not. Answers such as “I would pay off my mortgage” are allowable, but will make your relative cranky.

How would you do it?

I’d also like to know what you think about superheroes – but a little more specifically, do you think it might be a viable genre for novels? There have been a few (most notably the excellent “Devil’s Cape” by Rob Rogers), but most are derivative rather than original (which is to say, books written in the Marvel or DC universe), or default to graphic novels/series.

What would you do if your name was Barack Obama and you were president of the United States? What would your priorities be? What changes would you try to make?

For the purposes of this question, please assume that congress was reasonably supportive of your agenda and generally didn’t act like a bunch of sniveling children, constantly bickering over unimportant minutia and that congress was actually capable of getting something done rather than just being reelected.

I remember reading some short posts about it before, but I find it fascinating that you live in the middle of nowhere. Care to talk a little more about it? I am asking in part because it is likely I will get a job offer next week in Wisconsin and am a bit apprehensive. (I am in my late twenties, single, and have spent my entire life in the Washington-Boston megalopolis corridor). The benefits (much lower costs on housing, food, etc.) seem obvious. I was hoping you could do a post on some of what you see as the downsides…

How about an intro to a sci-fi convention for a person who has never been to one. What do the demographics tend to be like (male/female, age-how many in 20s/30s/40-50s/60-70s). Also, one assumes that people who go are fairly into it (otherwise why make the time commitment) and are fairly well to do (need to be able to afford money for travel, hotel, eating out etc.)? Are those fair assumptions? Do most people stay for entire thing or come for just one event/person?

My question has to do with the different ways to tell stories. Short stories, novels, theater, movies, television, etc.

People have written, in depth, about the differences between short fiction and novels (aside from the simple fact of length), but I haven’t seen a lot of commentary regarding the differences between movies and television series. With the advent of what I think is a new golden age of television, I theorize that finally complex novel-length stories can be told completely over 13 to 21 episodes, or even over several seasons in a way that a feature-length movie cannot. (There have been notable exceptions – Gone with the Wind and To Kill A Mockingbird to name two.) Examples of books brought to the small screen include Flash Forward, Dexter and True Blood. Others that feel like they would have worked as novels include The Wire, Battlestar Galactica, and Rescue Me. I don’t see these working as movies as well as they did television series.

Since you have experience as a writer, film critic and television series contributor, I’d like to see you address this. Do you see more novels being picked up by television in the future as opposed to being optioned for feature films?

If you had the services of an architect provided and could design your dream home, what are your must haves and your never wants and your fantasy wants (bowling alley, etc.). And looking at your current house now, can any of these be accomplished if money were readily available within reason?

It looks like the once all mighty Blockbuster is flirting dangerously close with FAIL. What did they do wrong and what can they do, if anything to turn things around? What is the future of movie viewing at home? Is it simply everything on-demand over broadband?

Just a question.

In my reading of The Android’s Dream I noticed that Robin Baker was familiar with the use of hair dye. Are we to assume that her natural colour was blue? I didn’t notice any other reference to this.

After playing around on the internet a while back I came across some interesting tidbits of history. In 1930 the War Department of America came up with “The War Red Plan” a detailed plan on how to invade Canada. “Oh Wow” I said to myself how interesting! ( yes, I am Canadian) Well,I was equally surprised to find that Canada had created a similar plan in 1921! Now considering the United States long tradition of invading Canada, though not successfully, I began to wonder if perhaps it was not time for Canada to do a little invading of it’s own? But, of course, how does one go about invading such a powerful nation like the United States? Your thoughts and advice on this subject would be greatly appreciated.–Your Friendly Nighbour to the North

Roughly 15 years ago, Wired published an interesting scenario for a Reverse Time Capsule by Douglas Coupland:

Perhaps you’ve read newspaper reports regarding the exhumation of time capsules from other eras, and perhaps you’ve noticed how oddly irrelevant their contents seem to the modern eye: a poem by the mayor’s wife; fragments of shrapnel from a forgotten war; a toy train … sometimes we don’t even bother to finish the story. But what if we were to receive a time capsule not from the past, but from the future – would we pay more attention? One suspects so. In this spirit, Wired has created a reverse time capsule, not a capsule directed to the future, but rather to the citizens of 1975. What artifacts might surprise them most about the direction taken by the next 20 years?

To all you youngsters, sure, you grew up with all the things shown here, but there was a time when music meant (shudder) vinyl, when there were no VCRs, when recycling, decaf coffee, and bottled water were all jokes … a time when (get this) every single consumer item on Earth didn’t have bar codes, and when personal computers were a silly dream. No, we’re not talking about the Jazz Age or the French Revolution. We’re talking about a mere two decades ago, when all of the objects shown on this page were pretty well unthinkable. Time flies when you’re having a culture.

Herewith, a quick compendium of “now” looked at through the lens of the past.

So, updating this for today, what artifacts of today would most surprise the citizens of 1990 about the directions taken in the two decades afterward?

Ok John hold the press! A story of space exploration in search of carbon based life form without shooting aliens or military agendas. All the real biological, geological, astronomical material for an interesting drama of survivor of a crew of astronauts (of course) in a not so habitable planet. This crew will establish a refuge in order to collect samples and start a terraforming process. I mean, its like “Red Planet” without the killing robot or the god damm burning of miles of blue-green algae just! Is it possible to think of something without killing and destruction.?
Yes there is organic life in the planet, O2 ,hydrogen,nitrogen and water. But plants and animals are so different from those we know that now is man in a race for adaptation. Mutations are necessary but take time.

What is your favorite architecture? Or for another angle, what architecture has impressed you the most?

I admit, possibly to my shame, that while I probably had some vague interest in architecture and monumental design before, what really crystallized it was the pair of semi-gimmicky coffee-table books, Skyscrapers and Bridges; since then, I’ve been spending more time actively seeking out such things – making Hoover Dam the prime ‘sightseeing’ event of my visit to a friend in Vegas, treating visits to NYC and DC as opportunities to visit various monuments and skyscrapers there… what sort of things along those lines impress you? If any?

You’ve written very eloquently in the past about being poor and how it sucks. What I would like to read is an article about the good things about being poor. You don’t need to go all Pollyanna on us but surely there are some lessons you’re glad to have learned? Some things you wish your heirs could learn without having to really be poor?

Cars – specifically in the context of teaching your daughter to drive in the next few years. Small car or massive SUV? Automatic or manual? Training by parents or driving school? Telephone 911 or manufacturer technical support line during periods of unintended acceleration?

I’m Canadian and I love visiting the U.S., having many close friends there. So I have to ask:

Do you think the Mayans were thinking of Sarah Palin when they terminated their calendar in the year 2012, -the year of the next presidential election? And do you think that her increasing credibility might be the most convincing argument yet of an apocalyptic event that year?

I have to say that, up here, most of us are looking at this situation with shock and awe.

Tangential to what someone wrote above concerning what your daughter will eventually drive (if she decides to learn how): What is your personal automotive history? Most loved and hated cars of your past? Why do you drive what you now drive? And, of course, auto or manual?

Heirs to the Good Doctor Uncle Isaac Dept.:

In addition to your fiction, I’m also a big fan of your non-fiction, owning and enjoying The Rough Guides to The Universe and Sci-Fi Movies, which I still refer back to constantly. What other topics (fields?) intrigue you enough that we might one day enjoy a book length discourse?

Best,

JKS

Does reading speculative fiction as a kid make it more likely that you become a political liberal as an adult? It sounds a bit strange, but for me, Heinlein and Leguin were the gateway drugs, so to speak. Perhaps it prevents Future Shock?

(Note: I’m still not the same as the “Dave H” above.)

Dancing like a monkey has been so done! How about a real challenge… say, dancing like a giraffe? :-)

Failing that, how about this: We know our knowledge of fundamental physics is incomplete, if only because of that relativity/quantum gravity conflict. What “new goodies” would you expect, or hope, to come out of future research? Hyperspace? Workable quantum computers? antigravity? Tame singularities? (Note that hyperspace might be good for us, but maybe not for the universe-at-large… we are one heckuva invasive species!)

First off, as yet another person who’s moved from urban to rural life, I’d be interested in hearing your take on the subject, along with everyone else who asked.

My own question? Ummm….

You seem to have travelled reasonably widely, thanks to your work. What would you say have been the major differences between the media portrayals of the foreign countries you’ve visited and the people who live there and your own experiences? Which country are you most eager to visit again? Also, what have the stereotypes got right? Which stereotype about Americans annoys you the most? I ask this as a Brit, who’s never visited the U.S. nor is likely to in the near future. (Because I’m skint, not because I’ve got any grudges or axes to grind with America.)

This question comes out of many reviews comparing you to Heinlein, a comparison which I know is great in terms of the continuation of a legacy but one I find disconcerting, as you’ll see from my question below.

“The female characters in your work are strong – both as characterizations and as independent beings who aren’t classified by their gender – and it makes your work a real pleasure to read. As an SF reader of the female persuasion, I find I have to make an effort to read most SF written before the late 70s/early 80s, trying to get past patronizing attitudes, weird fetishism, and plain old offensive characterizations. Was SF that way because of the era? Due to the predominantly male author and audience? Was it just too futuristic to have women be equals and not objects?”

If this topic is picked I look forward to a lively discussion (and possible pillorying for any slight against the Old Master.)

Every year more and more great science fiction writers go out of print. Guys like Frederic Brown, Randall Garrett, & Wilson Tucker to name a few.

If a major publisher let you edit a line of books and you could bring back 10 to 20 of them, whose books would you try to introduce to a new generation of readers?

Photography: Which photo that you’ve taken pleases you the most? Why?

What other creative pursuits (other than writing and photography), do you spend time on, or would you spend time on, given the opportunity?

I would be interested to hear your thoughts about telling science-fiction stories in the context of video games, particularly what video games you think have managed to tell SF stories well.

Why is it that we are still not a world economy – i.e. why do I in Australia pay more for things you in America pay? (and not just added extra for frieght I mean 100% more)
Greed?
Population?
Why can’t these things be a world based price… Our dollar is near parity with the US…

If you could have instant knowledge of a craft (in the “woodwork”, “needlework”, “spinning”, “weaving” kind of sense of craft, rather than, say “writing” or “oratory) of your choice, what craft would you choose?

Obviously not all of these but here are some of the things my American girlfriend and I argue about (I am British).

The American Dream: how the disadvantaged can be influenced to vote against their own best interests.

The culture of anti-elitism: Bush got elected because people thought they would like to have a beer with him.

A country’s right to define its culture and require than residents follow certain norms (France’s banning of religious symbols vs the UAE asking that women not wear tiny shorts).

Religion and politics/legislation: how they should-shouldn’t be linked.

At what point in the future would the benefits of a global government outweigh the costs and difficulties associated.

1. What do you think is critically important, yet nobody ever talks about?

2. What are you absolutely convinced of without being able to prove it?

3. What do you think about President Obama’s plan of sponsoring commercial space exploration instead of Nasa? Will it get Mankind earlier to Mars and beyond?

1. Bacon is there anything it can not make better?

2. How do you keep punchng out all the content you do (web, twitter, novels, and so on)? Sure you may love the writing gig as tough as it but doesn’t it wear you down with all the writing you do?

What kind of laptop do you have? Have you noticed a trend in other writers and their laptops?

(I ask purely for selfish reasons. I need a new laptop primarily for writing, and I want to use what the big boys use. You could start a trend like Michael Jordan and Nike.)

So my sis and I were in B&N in the kids section last night, talking excitedly about all the books on the shelf that we remembered and liked as kids. It was a fun exercise, so I’ll bring it to you:

What are the books that you read as a kid that still make you excited when you see them on the shelf? That is, that you still remember as a good book or helped make you who you are today?

-kat

Keeping in mind that I just scrolled through the comments here without reading them all, I apologize if this has been asked before….
Back when Internet chatting was all the rage, I had a rather novel way of getting to know my fellow “chatfriends”….
So, I ask, as a way to get to know YOU better now….
“you are Jesus in the davinci last supper painting…. ( oh, the sublime in that is well calculated, trust me!)… You may invite any twelve people/charecters living or dead, real or fictional to your party…. Who do you choose???”
I enjoy this, both as a way to analyze people by their choices and also to compare and see how many match up with my own… And it’s FUN!
I look foreward to reading your answer :)

If you could live a second life, but you weren’t allowed to make any of the same choices of your first life, what would you do with your life?

What career would you choose knowing that you couldn’t be a writer? Where would you live? What kinds of things would you want to do or want to accomplish? Where would you travel? What company would you want to work for?

Could you make some recommendations for introducing young children to SciFi ?

I have an 8 year old, and a 6 year old, both avid readers, who read Enid Blyton/Roald Dahl/the Narnia books, and I’d like to introduce them to more SciFi oriented books.

Ok, I’m NOT trying to be snarky here or to tell people how to live THEIR lives (for all the obvious reasons) but is it becoming well, easier, for good writers (and speakers) like yourself, David Brin, Cory Doctorow (to name three off the top of my head) to make decent livings and live interesting lives by doing things OTHER than writing fiction? I’ve noticed that the options for doing other interesting things that one can make a living at increases if a person has a few good novels to their credit and I’m not sure that has always been the case.

You’ve written so much about the writing process and I’m relatively new to your work; hopefully you haven’t answered this question elsewhere:

In long-form fiction pieces, do write with or without an outline and, additionally, at what point in the writing do you find it important to have a vague (or specific) vision of the climax/ending?

It is a given that Athena progressed from helpless but cute baby to her present state in an amazingly short time. Amost certainly such speed of development will continue. Thus, it is time to give some thought to what you expect/do not expect in any future boyfriend she may bring home (or girlfriend, if things should turn out that way). So what are your expectations? And how would you handle a romantic attachment to someone who was obviously very bad for her?

Each of us has been encouraged/influenced/impacted by someone (not family member) special in our lives. Who gave you that “shot in the arm” when you really needed it, even if at the time you didn’t know that you needed it?

Just curious about:

1) Your thoughts on the state of kid’s textbooks these days. (Have you ever seen worksheets sent home with no clear instructions or examples to follow? The bane of parents everywhere.)

2) Do you watch DVD extras/commentaries on occasion? Any favorites?

Other than your own books…

What do you consider the best 5 or 10 books you have ever read and why?
OR
What books have you reread several times and why?

What age group do you write for? I’m 19, but still find your musings entertaining. Do you have a specific age group in mind when you think of topics? Do you know if you have much of a younger audience?

and a non-writing related topic…

What’s something you wish you had a natural ability for, but don’t, and are still okay with your lack of ability? Example, I’d love to be good at volleyball, but I suck at it and I’m okay with that.

Also (another writing question…I can’t help it.)

Have you ever participated in a NaNoWriMo? Do you think the “write now, edit later” method is a good way to write? Is NaNo for us not famously awesome at writing only or a fun way for the pros to let loose?

Do you write your stories in chronological order? What’s your process for taking a novel from your brain to the page?

And I’ll throw in another one that is not related to writing…

If you could tame any animal to keep as a pet, which would it be and why?

I was raised with an absence of gender (I am female, but was never given the signals most kids get about what is masculine and what is feminine). As an adult, my personality and interests tend towards what is considered “masculine” by our society: I do Mixed Martial Arts, work in law enforcement, value logic and rationality over emotion, do not desire children and like movies with explosions and fight scenes.

So, is gender-specific behavior nature? Or nurture? And to what extent are we brainwashed by out current culture about this topic?

P.S. I’m heterosexual, if it matters.

I’d be very interested to know your opinion about YA fiction areas in libraries and access to YA books being restricted by library policy. An example of what I am referring to is explained by these blog posts:

http://sarahnfisk.blogspot.com/2010/03/orlando-public-librarys-policy-on-ya.html

http://sarahnfisk.blogspot.com/2010/03/orlando-public-library-part-ii.html

As a YA author myself, I find this profoundly disturbing. The insinuation that adults who want to read YA books are somehow perverted is a serious matter, and I think it could very adversely affect our market. What do you think? What should YA authors do?

This just infuriates me. I am also a writer who often aims at the Y/A market, but the really relevant issue here is that I like to read Y/A books myself. And like Fisk, I like to browse. Why shouldn’t I? Some of the best authors in literary history have written for young people, and some of my favorites who also write adult books. Where does this library keep Tolkien, for example? The Hobbit is for children, was even published on the word of a child reader, but I suppose as an adult I would have to be satisfied with the trilogy… But I will not take up the space on your blog to point out the literary difficulties this kind of categorization brings to mind: I will just mention Gulliver’s Travels.

If there is genuine concern that pedophiles and flashers inhabit the aisles of the library, these are matters for the police, not librarians. A few undercover cops, some well-publicized arrests and some huge fines and prison time would surely discourage these criminals.

The Watts thread is closed; so I did not know where else to mention that it has been reported by some on the comment section of Rifters.com that he was found Guilty. I don’t have a transcript of the trial, but from what I gathered second hand this is not a shining moment for justice.

I see the plight of YA authors lamented here, let me say first off, if you’re Leftist/ Democrat, AND you’ve supported their efforts to foist Politically Correct leftist thinking in Universities and Gov’t places, then you are “getting what you deserve” when the PC asswipes start to eat their own and shut out your customers based on fear mongering. LOLz.

It’s a pure feminist fear-mongering fantasy that adults (specifically males) are a danger to children and the whole idea should stun anyone to pure outrage and protest. This Orwellian nightmare has been brought you to by Leftist “correct” thinking.

Congrats you dopes, you’re getting what you deserve for supporting stupid shit like saying “gender” where you mean the word “sex” (ooh, dirty, don’t write that word.)

Only active protest will save you, so get busy you dolts.

Good luck!

Oh, and Mr. Scalzi, my Reader Request is “sex with robots.” And if it pisses off any politically correct Marxist feminist’s reading this, “anal sex with uber hawt sexy robot chicks” bring it!

Ok, back to the single malt.

Seeing as how I am #174, at least at the point of writing this, I can only hope to just being read at this point. But here is my question for you John:

What do you think about Adults reading ‘Young Adult’ books, i.e. the stigma attached to adults reading YA? Furthermore, do YOU read YA books?

I pose this question because I am an avid reader and the vast majority of my book collection are young adult books. Including several books I have found in the Big Idea. (go Uglies!) However, my fiance and best friend cringe at the idea of reading YA books. Percy Jackson isn’t Palimpsest, but it’s not crap either. Where does this stigma come from?

Do you plan to ever write/adapt screenplays? Not only of your own novels, but of the many, many other excellent sci-fi novels out there?

Let’s face it, most sci-fi movies suck. And they suck mainly because of poor writing. With the vast amount of excellent source material out there, this is not only disappointing, but entirely unnecessary.

And now I feel (a bit) like an ass. Quoting you:

Joel: “What impractical foreign language would you like to be fluent in?”

Italian. Which will outrage some folks because Italian is, after all, spoken by 55 million people and it’s fairly practical for them. But here in the US, outside some very specific urban enclaves, it’s not particularly useful. I’d want to speak it because my grandfather only spoke Italian until he was five and started school, and I like the idea of sharing that language with him, because I loved him a lot.

But then there are further questions (Scalzi as a surname is surely a lead :-) ). What was the native language of your grandfather? Italian isn’t really just one language. See:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Romance_20c_en.png

But believe it or not I have somewhat similar experiences in life (especially about my grandfather).

I’d like to second #60 on different types of FTL, but with a twist: which do you think sounds most scientifically plausible, and which sounds the coolest?

And in the unlikely event that you haven’t got enough inspiration from the above: what’s your favourite Canadian province?

What is your favorite zombie movie?
And, why?
Do you prefer your zombies to be scary fast wild beasts, or do you prefer them to be slow walking idiots?
Do you like the versions where it is a complete zombie apocalypse, or just a small out break? Etc….

Thanks.

What (if anything) gives you future shock?

[For example, I constantly find myself astounded by the storage capacity of ever-smaller flash drives, particularly in comparison with the computers of my youth.]

Here is a question I would love to hear your thoughts on; it is one, I believe faced by many modern democracies. If I believe that everyone is entitled to their own beliefs, then how do I deal with someone whose belief is that everyone should have THEIR belief, and only their belief. Examples of that second group would include Christian missionaries, Muslim militants, abortion opponents, and PETA, to name just a few. How does one treat someone with respect for their outlook, when they have none for yours, especially if their outlook is such that it actively threatens yours?

John, I’m consistently impressed with how you break topical issues of the day down into their constituent parts; how you reason and make your points (and take apart others’) in your comments. I see some of the same at play in your novels; your storytelling and character building.

I’d like to know *how* you think. Were you taught something particularly useful about reasoning in school? What tools do you leverage to build your citadel of considered opinion and wily discourse?

This is your chance, man… you can school the Internet on rational thought!

I can remember days when there was a “science fiction” section and a separate “fantasy” section in bookstores. Will those days ever come back? What do we have to do? I spend hours searching through the science fiction/fantasy stacks looking for the hard sci-fi. Orson Scott Card’s observation to look for rivets on the cover art (not trees) helps. What do you think, John? Any suggestions to this very real quandry? Do we need to march in the streets?

[Sorry for this being such a late suggestion, but I was on vacation driving the million dollar highway in Colorado when you posted the blog.]

Lovely idea/offer – thanks!

I haven’t read all of your blog, but even if I had, your opinions may have changed over the years.

So … since you have some interesting perspectives and a nice fluid thinking/writing style, please educate and entertain us as you consider these topics… snide comments and bad puns are also welcome….

1- Human evolution, as in:
What are we hanging on to that’s hindering our species’ continued evolution?

2- Obesity vs.(?) size as in ’bigger is better’: In high-tech, improvements usually go hand in hand with miniaturization. And we’ve grown to accept/expect this. So, why don’t we carry this thinking/perception over to ourselves, i.e., the human condition? How to achieve this?

3- Education: Recent neuroscience studies indicate that physical fitness improves cognition at all ages. Plus, according to economists, our future economic health will depend more and more on our ability to develop (graduate) mathematicians/scientists. Your thoughts on some potential approaches …

a. Ritalin in all children’s morning multi-vitamins, THC in teen/adult bedtime multi’s to help fall asleep.
b. Math/science classes only after P.E.
c. Money is ‘cool’ … therefore increase the monetary value of math/science scholarships and jobs to be commensurate with pro sports.

4- You’re a parent so are already invested in the next generation’s education …
a. Nature’s constants and many biological/biochem relationships do not fit the base 10 model, so why do we emphasize this ‘arithmetic’ in the maths we teach our kids? What are the potential alternatives? (Ditto for non-Euclidean geometry, e.g., Paul Dirac and the positron).
c. Similarly, most elementary and high school maths emphasize commutability, i.e., the correct answer is always when the value on the left-hand side of the equal sign is the same as the value on the right-hand side. Non-commutability exists in nature. Is our collective ‘belief’ in commutability holding us back in other disciplines?

What kind of “perfect storm” of rights, permissions, or people would have to come together for you to consider making a movie out of one of your books? Are there specific actors you’d cast, or thought in your head “I bet she’d play a perfect Zoe”? Would you lean towards Hollywood big budget or perhaps a smaller reputable ‘Indie’ outfit of sorts? Tell us what you need to make a movie of one of your works happen!!!

It’s very late, so this probably won’t get in, but I’ve been pondering something recently and would welcome your input.

I recently went over to http://home.austarnet.com.au/petersykes/topscifi/lists_books_rank1.html to look over their list of the top 100 SF novels of all time. And though I might have some quibbles about the relative ranking of various books on the list, I can understand the logic of almost everything there. And essentially agree that list is a fine selection of 100 good to great novels. I don’t see a single novel I would not be willing to recommend. Almost all the writers that I consider great are represented, if not in the first 100, then in the next 100. Again, you can quibble about the rankings, and I definitely would, but this is a good distillation of high-quality and influential work over the last century.

However, when I go to http://home.austarnet.com.au/petersykes/fantasy100/lists_books.html and look at the top 100 Fantasy novels, I find a totally different situation. This list is loaded with books that I would go out of my way to warn people against. Ranked in a ludicrous order. Lord of the Rings at the top makes sense, but Harry Potter at #2? Sword of Shannara at 11, followed by Eragon, both above Earthsea? WTF!

This list includes everything from Beowolf to the Odyssey, Dante’s Inferno to The Cat in the Hat. And I’d actually agree that these are all classics, but I wouldn’t include them on a Fantasy list.

The only way this list makes sense to me is if it was totally uncurated, let anyone propose any book and let people vote. Because it kind of makes sense from a lowest-common-denominator point of view. But the web-site claims this list was created the same way the SF list was created.

So now I’m asking myself if it’s just my personal preferences here. I have forced myself to finish many books I consider awful (I don’t like to quit), but there are multiple books in that list that I just couldn’t finish. Seriously could not read another word without getting ill. I consider myself a fairly balanced reader, probably reading a bit more fantasy than SF, given how much more fantasy is currently being published. I’m not one to rave about Asimov’s deathless prose, but it was always readable.

So that’s my question – Have I just exposed my underlying bias for SF, or are the readers of fantasy unable to distinguish good writing from bad? Is there a fantasy reader who can defend that list and its ranking?

Here’s a hypothesis: Maybe SF readers have read more widely in their field, and most fantasy readers have only read one or two series. Is this is a symptom of the SF reader’s underlying desire for new ideas and change, as contrasted to the Fantasy reader’s search for comfort in the familiar and unchanging? That ought to be worth a few flaming retorts.

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