An Entirely Sober Note to Begin MY REIGN OF TERROR My SFWA Presidency

First, a conversation between me and my daughter yesterday afternoon:

Athena: So, at midnight, you become King of the Geeks.

Me: No, sweetheart. I was democratically elected. I become President of the Geeks.

And so it is, more or less: As of midnight, I began my tenure as President of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. I’ll be so for a year, or until the space assassins get me, whichever comes first. And they won’t get me. One, I’m moved around a lot to keep the assassins on their toes. Two, SFWA Secret Service? Klingons, man.

For those of you who missed my earlier thoughts on being elected as SFWA President, and how I plan to balance that job with my public persona as, well, me, here’s a link to that piece. If you can’t be bothered to follow the link, the gist of it is a) I’m not going to talk about current SFWA business here, b) When I’m publicly speaking online as SFWA President I will do it at the SFWA blog, c) When I say anything here, I’m saying it as John Scalzi, private individual, not John Scalzi, SFWA President. I think it’s best to keep the two things separate to avoid any confusion.

That said, I know a lot of you are wondering what sort of perks the SFWA President gets, for, you know, being SFWA President. Well, as it happens, I happen to have here in front of me the Official SFWA President Perks List. It’s extensive, and I don’t want to bore you with all the details, but here are my ten favorites.

Top Ten Perks of Being SFWA President

10. Use of the company car, a 1973 AMC Gremlin, complete with Levi’s jean interior and state of the art 8-track sound system (note: 8-track cassette of ELP’s Tarkus album permanently stuck in player; have been advised by SFWA’s mechanic that removing it will cause car to explode)

9. Season Pass to Area 51, which is actually a top secret space-themed military amusement park

8. You can fondle the Nebulas all you want

7. 24/7 access to a wookiee costume

6. The secret recipe for SFWA’s official party drink, the “Roswell Incident”

5. Keys to the SFWA nuclear bunker outside of Ogallala, Nebraska, in case those madmen at Mystery Writers of America finally push us to DefCon 1

4. All the freeze-dried ice cream you can eat, thanks to an ill-advised NASA surplus purchase during the Williamson administration

3. U.S. Military allows each SFWA President one and only one use of the High Energy Space Laser, so before you annoy me, ask yourself if any of my other enemies have been recently and mysteriously reduced to ash, and if the answer is “no,” reconsider

2. 20% off all SFWA-branded merchandise

1. Any time you’re in LA? Smoothies with Harlan

That list is entirely true. Yes, I know, you’re jealous. You should be, my friend. You should be.

94 Comments on “An Entirely Sober Note to Begin <strike>MY REIGN OF TERROR</strike> My SFWA Presidency”

  1. Harlan wouldn’t have smoothies with you before when you were just “Vanilla Scalzi”?

  2. I am jealous. Heard Ogallala is off. the. hook.

    (Also, re your latest tweet: They haven’t told you yet that it’s now your job to bring sandwiches to the President of RWA. Have they?)

  3. I don’t think anyone’s ever claimed that Area 51 was anything BUT a top secret military amusement park, even the skeptics. I mean, maybe they don’t actually CALL it that, but I’m sure that’s just part of their plausible deniability program.

    I hear the rail gun orbital launcher is a fun ride, if you can keep yourself from blacking out.

  4. Number 10 alone is all the perks anyone would need.

    Fun fact: for a while, my family actually owned a lime green ’73 Gremlin with an 8-track. I do not believe Tarkus was ever played on it; stepdad’s tastes ran more to the Ozark Mountain Daredevils and James Gang.

    Man… We all just barely got out of the early 80’s with our lives, didn’t we.

  5. @Jeff Zugale: Speak for yourself, sugarbear. Some of us were styling! My mom had a bright orange Cutlass Supreme, and when we drove around, she blasted Heart and Steely Dan from her 8 track.

    I still can’t hear Barracuda without hearing that car’s engine rev.

  6. I like perk #4… but I have had an undying love for freeze-dried ice cream ever since my first trip to Kennedy Space Center as a child…

  7. @Eridani: heh, well stepdad’s other car was a ’71 Challenger R/T with a slap shifter. A whole different kind of “survival,” there.

    But we digress. KLINGONS, man!!

  8. Now I wonder about the recipe for a Roswell Incident. It probably involves an unholy alliance of mezcal, pepper schnapps, and something blue for color. A “Tunguska Event” is probably deadlier, though. That recipe starts with Stoli and liquid nitrogen.

  9. “Smoothies With Harlan” sounds like the biography one Mr. Gaiman might eventually right.

  10. Do the smoothies come with a side order of chocolate coated manhole covers?

  11. Congratulations, John. As long as Worf isn’t on your SFWA Secret Service detail, you ought to be okay.

  12. @ #4 –

    What, you DON’T like Giles Habibula Greengage Plum? Legion of Space Fluorescent Lemon-Lime? What is WRONG with you?

  13. I really think there should have been an investiture ceremony, complete with torches, swords, and solemn oaths at midnight.

  14. In NYC, the President of SFWA can request a formal inspection tour of MacDougal Street, Flushing-Corona Park, and the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel’s ventilation building. If you’re up for it, the BBT ventilation stack is the terminus of their weird little rail line, whose cars — they’re about four feet tall and eighteen inches wide — slowly crawl along the inside face of the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel. It’s very skiffy, in a New-Wave ambiguously-dystopian kind of way.

    Unfortunately, the Tor Zeppelin is still in storage on top of the Flatiron Building. Building management “temporarily” took down the mooring mast when the new elevator system was being installed, and they’ve been dragging their feet about putting it back up again. The Tesla Coil still works, and the discharges do look pretty, especially around twilight; but without the mooring mast and the zeppelin, it’s just not the same.

  15. I’m just commenting to say, apropos of #7, that I am a total noob and I thought “RHIP” meant “Rest Harlan in Peace” so I had to Google and make sure he was still alive.

    He is.

    I also know what “RHIP” really means now.

  16. I actually liked Tarkus at the time, though I haven’t listened to it in forever. I think I’ve got it (on vinyl) around here someplace. I wonder if the turntable still works…

  17. Bravo! You’ve vindicated my vote with this post alone. Number 2 is my favorite. (And believe me, I’ll be watching myself until you push that button. :-) Enjoy your reign of terror.

  18. You’re the President of the SFWA, but Wil Wheaton is the Secretary of Geek Affairs. Who _really_ has more pull, hmm?

    Also, congrats, John.

  19. All hail el-Presidente Scalzi. May your reign of terror last till the sun is snuffed out, or the Jays win the world series again, whichever comes first.

  20. re: #10 At least it’s not a Ford Pinto. . .

    Also Mark Minasi has been described as an “Alpha Geek”. I’m not sure where that falls in the hierarchy between President of the Geeks and Secretary of Geek Affairs.

  21. I don’t know that I’d use the terms “geek affairs” and “pull” in the same sentence, but maybe that’s just me.

    John, does SFWA have a diplomatic corps? Because, you know, the U.S. isn’t the only nation whose military has energy weapons. An alliance might be great for world peace. Yeah, world peace, that’s the ticket.

  22. Hmmm. I need to poke Lawrence Block to see if the Mystery Writers of America can push it to Defcon One. I want to see this.

  23. I grew up in Nebraska and “outside of Ogallala” is anywhere within 500 square miles.

    Oh, and the landing beacon system has a top secret offset built in. If you don’t have the proper clearence, you land in Lake McConaughy.

  24. While I think one of the “big points” your administration is focusing on is awesome (a lot of folks who are eligible to join the SFWA but are not members, find out why, figure it out), I’m very curious to see what happens with two things, if anything, over the next year:

    1. self-publishing and the SFWA (this is probably the big one I’m curious about, if it’s time to really tackle this one, King–er, President–Scalzi might be the one to be able to do it?)

    2. minimum payment per word to be considered an SFWA market, any change from $0.05/word (to, say, $0.075 or something? even $0.10?) (this because of the really, really *fun* cross-blog-internets-atwitter bruhaha about “professional” vs. “make a living” vs. “etc. etc. etc.!!” rates at the end of last year/beginning of this year)

  25. I know this may sound really, really crass and needy, but… what about a new Scalzi book? I mean, I see the value of those incredible perks of SFWA presidency, but the bottom line for selfish old ME is I WANT ANOTHER BOOK! Personally, I’d be for threatening the presidency with Q (possibly the most boring evil – or would that be amoral – threat ever invented, other than that rock thing in Star Trek) unless a book is forthcoming.

    I mean, really – what’s more important? SFWA or a new Scalzi book?

    There, I said it and I’m not taking it back.

  26. The SFWA Marketing Department has an interesting spin on the definition of “perks”.

  27. Mythago @43 I was thinking the same thing. Is smoothies with Harlan a Perk or a Pennance?

  28. So are you going to wear the official uniform of metallic mesh jumpsuit and plexiglass globe hat only while executing your duties of office, or will you submit to the sweet temptation and wear it all the time?

  29. Klingon bodyguards should be fine, as long as none of them are Worf. That guy got beat up so often it wasn’t funny.

    (Well, actually, yes, it was funny. In the episode I wrote [“Clues”], Worf got his ass whupped by Deanna Troi! I laughed as I typed. I couldn’t resist. I’m sorry.)

  30. “SFWA Secret Service? Klingons, man.

    Might want to see if there are any Dorsai around. They’d be a lot more inconspicuous than some guy with a ridged forehead and a Bat’leth…

  31. I see your Klingon Secret Service and raise you one trained Aliens unit.

    It turns out that Aliens will do just about anything for you if you feed them RingDings. And given they’re stuck in a pre-industrial technology level, they can’t make RingDings themselves.

    And now a moment of silence for the many Bothans who died to bring us this information

    OK! Who wants RingDings?

  32. @Bruce A. #49 – I just saw that episode a couple of weeks ago! Thank you for that fight scene – it really did stand out, and it really made me laugh.

  33. Eva Whitley:

    “You are also allowed to pinch butts, but maybe that’s just Marta Randall”

    You know, I don’t think I’m going to try to implement that particular privilege.

  34. If you decide to challenge Barrack Obama in the 2012 Democratic primary you can claim that you have more executive experience than he did when he was elected…

  35. #7 I’m sure your wife will have something to say about the use of the wookie costume.

    #6 As El Presidente I think you should *demand* that someone invent a drink called The Roswell Incident. I’ll volunteer for testing duties. Drinks that do not use dry ice should be immediately disqualified.

    #3 Man, I thought you were a hard-ass with the mallet thing. This is just over the top.

  36. Somehow, I’m thinking that #1 (smoothies with Harlan) and #6 (official SFWA party drink) lead directly to #8 (Nebula-fondling).

    And, if you’re very good (or very very bad), #7 (Wookie costume) as well.

    Be careful, Mr. Scalzi. And congratulations! I know you’ll use your power for (relative) good.

    Once the hangover wears off.

    – yeff

  37. The Klingons will be just fine if they stay with edged weapons. I’ve noticed they’re fantastic for close in fighting, suck at phaser or disruptor fire. I mean shooting at some one in a passage way in plain sight and missing 20 times… The head ridges must mess up the focal point something fierce.

  38. All this smoothie talk reminds me of when Pratchett said in the author bio for Good Omens that he liked it when fans brought him Banana Daquiris at signings – and since then, without fail, every signing of his I’ve been to, at least one Daquiri was served to Pratchett. Gaimen said he just preferred fans bring him cash, but I dunno how that worked out.

  39. All respect to Harlan Ellison (who I’d gladly take smoochies from), but I’d be angling for a breakfast with Connie Willis or a beer with Dan Simmons.

    All the best- I have no doubt that you will be a great advocate for the industry, which as a fan, I’m all in favour of. More support for authors, editors, artists, and publishers means better reading material for me.

  40. #60 JeffS

    Well, come on. *Everyone* sucks at phaser fire. The StormTroopers could barely hit the Death Star and they were inside it.

    Personally, I’d prefer to be protected from evil-doers by a couple of golden retrievers. The would be assassin would leap out, scream “Die filthy mouth breathing… awwwwwww….. lookitthepuppeeez. Whoozagoodboy?” and then I’d make my escape.

  41. one other thing… you may want to blog about what the SFWA does. I saw one blog about Cory Doctorow’s issues getting paid. Since you are all small business owners, I am not sure the SFWA does much for members.

  42. Laura Lippman’s in charge of the MWA, so Defcon 1 from that corner is highly unlikely.

    I would, however, keep a fleet of armed Predator drones on standby, however, ‘cuz you know how those flakes over at the RWA get about all that sex and stuff geeks write about.

    They would come after us for writing icky sex in crime fiction, but then how many members of the MWA do you think are also either active in law enforcement, card carrying members of the NRA, or both? Of those that aren’t, there are quite a few ex-felons in the group. We (Well, they. I’m out of the group for the time being.) are not to be messed with, since we write about guns, drugs, and violence for fun.

  43. (looking down, kicking toe in dirt) I want Klingon Bodyguards… imagine how intimidating, to sit at a poker table with those guys staring down your opponents…(sigh)

  44. Everyone’s missed the important thing about the wookie costume. It doesn’t say who’s inside it. Has anyone seen Carrie Fisher in public recently?

  45. Ogallala has a funny name, but it is a nice community, near a large man-made recreational lake. They built the dam that created that lake from 36-41. 1941? Isn’t that about when the military started using Groom Lake for “testing?” Maybe there’s a reason why the safehouse is in Ogallala????

  46. Eviljwinter, who cares about the MWA’s “guns, drugs, and violence”? SFWA’s full of guys who build rockets, play with lasers, and think it’s fun to make ice cream using liquid nitrogen.

  47. Jim @ 74
    ssshhh, I was trying to misdirect people with my earlier post and now guys in black suits are hanging around. Be more careful man! This speculation draws entirely to much attention…

  48. RE #3,

    You get 2 less “free assassinations” than Lisa Simpson? Man, that sucks.

  49. 3. U.S. Military allows each SFWA President one and only one use of the High Energy Space Laser, so before you annoy me, ask yourself if any of my other enemies have been recently and mysteriously reduced to ash, and if the answer is “no,” reconsider

    Good, you got a way to correct the ideological vote you took in 2008. Kool Aid only tastes good for so long before the side effects (death) arrive.

    Might as well use the laser then.

  50. I have this vague memory of an ELP concert in which a very cheesy armadillo (or whatever the eff that was on the cover of the album) being rolled onto the stage amidst even cheesier flashing lights and noise.

    That was back in the day, when the “lightshow” consisted of fluid psychedelic images and designs projected onto a big screen. To me it always looked like a bowls-eye–view of a bad case of the trots.


  51. ymarsakar:

    “Good, you got a way to correct the ideological vote you took in 2008.”

    Alternately, I have a way to enforce it.

    Beyond that, I think we can all resist the urge to turn this into a political thread of any sort. That’s a little silly, considering the content of the entry.

  52. Your list of perks looked pretty complete, but you may have missed a couple. I remember seeing an old copy of the list that I just happened to find wrapped around a sandwich in Ray Bradbury’s brother’s lunchbox when we were working together at a DWP jobsite in 1978.

    I sort of recall that perk 8b required the security staff at WorldCon to stand at attention and sing “Hail to the Geek” whenever the SFWA president entered the huckster room, perk 7c had to do with a card from Radio Shack entitling the President to a free battery for the ceremonial lightsaber after every twelve regular battery purchases, and perk 6d referred to something about concubines (or maybe porcupines, it wasn’t really readable because of the salami grease and mustard stain).

    In any case, congratulations to one of my favorite authors and may you wield supreme executive power like there’s no tomorrow.

  53. Hmmmm.

    Wrong! Wrong! Wrong!

    And I’m not mispronouncing some Chinese guy’s name either!

    When your daughter called you “King of the Geeks” the proper answer is:

    “Like King Leonidas of Sparta baby! … This Is Scalzi!!!”


  54. what do you think about getting a link from instapundit? shouldn’t one of the natural body responses be, like, ew.

  55. dsa:

    Glenn and I have been friends for years, actually, so I am of course naturally delighted when he links to me. I link to him on occasion as well.

    More generally, I have lots of friends with whose political opinions and mine vary on one or more points. The quality of one’s friendship is not decided merely on one’s political views.

    That said, there are also one or more political points on which Glenn and I are in complete agreement, so there’s that as well.

  56. My first car was a METALLIC green early 70’s Gremlin, passed down to me when my sister went away to college and realized the car could not drive that far.

    The first thing I did was replace the rag in the gas filler tube with a new OEM cap, complete with the little Gremlin character. The cap was stolen within a week. Went back to the rag.

    I drove that car to and from my post-high-school summer job, despite the large hole in the rusted-out floorboards on the passenger side. Heck, I wasn’t sitting on that side.

    I had only one breakdown. The clutch linkage fell apart, fortunately while I was stopped at a stop sign. After I found one of my sister’s bobby pins in the crease of the back seat, I used it to replace the rusted-off cotter pin in the clutch linkage. Worked fine for the entire rest of my ownership of that wondercar, until I went off to college myself in the fall.

    I’m still pissed about the gas cap.

  57. Good luck!

    As an outsider to the organization, I must admit that I’m a bit confused about why the SFWA is going to be reincorporated in California. With the distance from the publishing houses, state regulatory hurdles, and high costs of doing business there, the decision seems a bit counter-intuitive to me.
    I’m sure that there are a number of aspects that I’m unaware of. I rather doubt a dart was thrown at a map, or that the Board was swayed by one of the Governator’s many commercials.
    Would you mind enlightening my ignorance a bit?

  58. One problem with Klingon guards. There’s that whole “promotion by killing” thing. Do any of the guards come from the Duras family?

  59. @ymarsakur: It’s nice to know that the ultra-patriotic right is so patriotic that they’ll hint at snuffing out a constitutional officer without any prompting.

    Way to go!

  60. Smoothies with Harlan would make the entire year of hard work totally worth it. Just make sure you sit out of punching distance– the dude’s got a reputation.

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