“The President’s Brain is Missing” Live at Tor.com; “After the Coup” Live at eBookstores

Tor.com is celebrating its second birthday today — it’s the second most important thing that’s ever happened on July 20 — and to celebrate, it commissioned from me a new short story. This makes some sense as the site debuted two years ago with a different short story from me. See, it’s a pattern. The new story is called “The President’s Brain is Missing,” and as the title suggests, it’s what happens when the Most Powerful Man in the World loses his mind, and isn’t even aware it’s gone.

This is, by the way, a completely accurate description of the central crisis of the story, but of course the reality of that situation (in the story, that is) is not quite so simple. And that’s what makes it science fiction, don’t you know. Some of you got a sneak preview of the story last week by signing up as a member of Tor.com, but now it’s available to everyone, free for the reading, over there at Tor.com. I think it’s a fun story; I hope you do too.

Oh, and for those of you who like to be read to, here’s an audio recording of me reading the story. I’m reading at about a 35% Shatner level, which is a comment that will make more sense when you hear it. Also, for those of you from the South, I apologize in advance for the accent you’ll be hearing about halfway through the story.

Now, then, as for the first short story I had published on Tor.com, “After the Coup,”  it’s now available from B&N, Amazon, Apple and other sorts of eBook stores as a 99 cent single serving download, along with a whole basket of other stories originally published on Tor.com. Here are all the groovy details on that.

And you may ask, why should I pay a buck for a story I can read for free on Tor.com? And the answer to that: Because one day the entire Internet will fail, probably because Zombies are chewing on the tubes, and all you will have left for electronic reading is what  you’ve brought with you on your eBook reader. And then you’ll be glad that you chipped in a buck, at least until the undead come through the doors. Alternately, I don’t know, you might be away from the Internets from time to time and/or may decide that supporting good fiction with cash every now and again might not be a bad thing. Hey, it’s a buck.

In any event, enjoy either or both of these stories. Happy reading.

28 Comments on ““The President’s Brain is Missing” Live at Tor.com; “After the Coup” Live at eBookstores”

  1. changterhune – Before you hear lies from Chang Terhune himself, we thought we’d tell you the truth: without us, his old action figures, he’d be nowhere. He loved science fiction from way back and began reading it at an early age, but it was through us that he acted it all out. That’s what led to the writing. He watched a lot of science fiction shows like Star Trek, U.F.O, and movies, too. But we were always there to do his bidding. And it’s like they say: you always forget about the little people on your way up. Oh, the 70’s and early 80’s with him were good times! He’d use these blocks and make all the crazy buildings for us to be in his stories. I gotta say the kid’s imagination was pretty damn fertile. Oh, he had friends, but they just weren’t into it like him. He was like the Lance Armstrong of action figures. And of science fiction. At first, when he began writing in the eighth grade, we didn’t mind. He still made time for us. And we knew that when he was holding us in his sweaty little hands and he got that far off look in his eye, he’d come back to burying us in the back yard or - god forbid! – blowing us up with firecrackers. But it was worth it for a part in one of those stories. We loved him for it. He kept us around even when we were minus a leg or two - or even a head. In that mind of his, he found a use for all of us. Then he discovered girls. October, 1986. It was like the end of the world. One day we’re standing in the middle of this building block creation he’d pretended was some marble city on a planet near Alpha Centauri and the next we were stuck in a box in the closet. Not even a “See ya later!” Nope, it was into the closet, then we heard some high-pitched girly-giggles then silence. We didn’t see him for years. We got word about him once in a while. Heard he took up writing, but it was crap like “The Breakfast Club” only with better music. We couldn’t believe it. Not Charlie. What happened to those aliens with heads he’d sculpted out of wax? Spaceships? Those complex plots? All gone. For what? You guessed it: Girls. Emotions. “Serious fiction.” I tell you, it was like hearing Elvis had left the building. During our two decade exile in the closet, we heard other things about him. He went to college. He wrote a lot, but not much he really liked. We knew it even then. It was like he didn’t dare write science fiction. Some of us had lost hope and just lay there. Others kept vigil, hoping for a day we didn’t dare speak about. Then we heard he’d stopped writing in 1996. Did he come to reclaim us? No. He took up music for ten years or so. He took up yoga. Once in a while, he’d visit us in the closet. But it was half-hearted. His mind was elsewhere. Then one day, he really did come back for us. One second we’re in the dark and the next thing we know we’re in a car headed for Massachusetts. Suddenly we got a whole shelf to ourselves out in broad daylight! Then he bought a bunch of others form some planet called Ebay. He’d just sit and stare at us with that old look. But why were we suddenly back in the picture? He had a wife now, who didn’t mind that he played with us. So what had happened? Turns out he’d never forgotten about those stories. He’d been thinking about all of us and the stories he’d made up and then remembered he’d been a writer once. From the shelf we could see him typing away. Before long he’s got a whole novel together! Then he’s working on another one. Word is there are two more in the planning stages! Some short stories, too! It’s good to see him using his imagination again. Its good to know he never abandoned us. He returned to his true love of science fiction. We hear the stories are pretty good. Someday we’ll get one of the cats to score us a copy of the manuscript. Man, it’s good to be out of the damn closet! --- I'm smarter than you I'm harder than you I'm better than you I'm just raw I'm hotter than you More popular than you More clever than you And goshdarn it, people like me I'm smarter than you I'm harder than you I'm better than you I'm just raw I'm hotter than you More popular than you More clever than you And goshdarn it, people like me
    Chang for days

    Finally finished “Judge Sn” and i loved it. Will check this out, too.

    Hey, can you reveal the status of High Castle yet? TBD? WIP? DOA? NWA?

  2. Second most important thing? So wait, did it beat out the first manned moon landing or the first unmanned Mars landing?

  3. Well, I really wanted to buy “After the Coup” to read on my Nook, but it is apparently not yet available at B&N. So, I bought it at Amazon, to read on every electronic device I own, except my Nook.

    As a device, I prefer the Nook to the Kindle, but B&N is missing something here.

  4. “it’s what happens when the Most Powerful Man in the World loses his mind, and isn’t even aware it’s gone.”

    The jokes write themselves. Especially regarding certain former presidents…

  5. Well, now we know where you stand on the definitional “nerd vs. geek” issue.

    Quick question, Mr. S.: did you grow up in the western half of the U.S.?

  6. Read and enjoyed both stories. Thanks for giving me something to read at work between calls. And I really don’t want to wait another two years for another story. How can we get Tor.com to put up more Scalzi? How can we turn it into the Scalzi channel, all Scalzi, all the time?


  7. Ha, that picture made me think of my grandma. She met a particularly pretty-but-vapid college boyfriend of mine and afterward said, “Well, honey, nice cage – no bird.”

  8. Aww, how sweet of you and Tor.com to give me a new story on my birthday. I’m very happy to share the day with Tor.com and the moon landing; a good day for a SF fan to be born.

  9. The nice folks at Tor.com have made it possible to download After The Coup (and all their other fiction) for free too. You just go to the story’s page on Tor.com and click “Download” from the left-hand margin. After The Coup is available in epub (suitable for Sony Readers), Mobipocket (suitable for Kindles), pdf and html. All are DRM-free.

    Oh, how I love the lovely people at Tor.com

  10. I need to come clean — I’ve been reading this blog for a while, but I’ve only read a bit of Mr. Scalzi’s fiction before. I think I read an “Old Man’s War” short story in one of the Year’s Best Sci-Fi collections, and then tried one of the novels, but it didn’t grab me, so I gave it up. However, I enjoyed this story a great deal, and as a result, I’m going to try one of the novels again as soon as I get a chance.

  11. Instead of 35% Shatner, I gotta say I’m detecting 50% Serling (as in Rod for the youngsters here).

    But maybe it’s more like some kind of freakish Shatner Serling love child…

  12. @Brian Mac – if Old Man’s War just didn’t grab you (I just don’t fathom that myself, but ok…), but this story did, you might try The Android’s Dream instead.

  13. alightningbug@15: some kind of freakish Shatner Serling love child…

    That’s just terrifying. But, of course, the way John reads his stories is fantastic, so I’m ok with it.

    John, I read President’s Brain when it was released last week and completely enjoyed it. Now I need to read it again to get characters straight. (I have a hard time when characters have normal, human names. Aliens are much easier for me to remember.) I also appreciated the Five Guys references. I think I need a burger now…

  14. “The President’s Brain Is Missing” was just the kick in the butt I needed to sign up over at tor.com last week.

    Wonderful story.

  15. pennlynn – I'm just me, and I'm also someone who has been cursed by being born with a facial difference and I struggle with this every day!! I'm hoping those who find this blog will be apart of my journey as I go though this life.

    So I went to the kindle store all excited to download “After the Coup” for $0.99 CAN’T GO WRONG right?? WORNG…. I live in Canada and appently that same story is $2.99 :(

  16. As soon as I get an e-book reader, Scalzi’s story will be the second thing I download. Right after THE ZOMBIE SURVIVAL GUIDE.

  17. Are US Apple books not available in Canada? I was gonna spend the $1.05, but “After the Coup” doesn’t seem to be available. Nor can I get B&N downloads here. Bah!

  18. wengland – Oveerland Park, KS – 20 year veteran of the UNIX wars; on the internet before Tim Berners Lee invented HTTP and the world wide web. Developing websites before you were were born. Now I'm in your phone collecting your data.

    Bought! Thanks for the pointer.

  19. You must have enough short stories kicking around now for a collection. When does your collection come out? Come on, I’m waiting…

  20. A.J.@18 By “freakish Shatner Serling love child” I mean that in a good way–not an over-exaggerated Serling imitator or a “Lucy In the Sky” Shatner. Serling was an awesome story teller. (And Shatner’s “Lucy” is highly entertaining, but not at all in the same way.)

    Great story that “President’s Brain Is Missing.” Thank you!

    And just for fun: http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-7258896287489458266#

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