The Other One

Hi, Whateverites. (Whateverians? I know a group of lions is a pride and a group of wolves is a pack. What does one call a large group of Whatever readers?) I’m the other one. Well, not necessarily The Other One, but certainly an other one. One of your other guest bloggers here for the next six weeks, my name is Mykal Burns.

Tangent alert! My mind works in a somewhat non-linear fashion, so I often drift off on tangential spurs in the middle of a conversation (or blog post.) I do always try, sometimes successfully, to bring it back around to the subject I began with. In this case, I’m thinking about science fiction character names. Do you know what I like best about John Perry and Jane Sagan from Scalzi’s Old Man’s War universe? I can easily read and pronounce their names. Many science fiction authors think that because their characters come from other worlds, they need names like Zapldrk Nuumsphoqx. My problem is that every single time I read a name like that, I will try to pronounce it correctly in my mind. Every time, throughout the book. It breaks the rhythm of my reading and really slows me down. A note to sf/f authors: why you gotta make it so hard? Anyway, the point is, while my name is spelled Mykal, it is pronounced like “Michael.” Don’t let the weird spelling slow you down. Besides, many people just call me “Burns.”

Annnd…we’re back. By way of introduction, here’s a bit about me:

First, I have to tell you something that I know will cause some of you great consternation; you may be tempted to stop reading anything that I post here altogether. Fight that urge. My admission? I don’t have a cat.

Even now, I hear many of you grumbling toward your computers. Why would Scalzi choose a guest blogger without even the possibility of adorable kitteh pics? I want you to know that I understand your feelings. There are certain expectations when one comes to the Whatever, and it would seem that I’ve let you down on this one, even before I’ve begun. There is hope, though. I have friends with cats; maybe you’ll get pictures of them. I also occasionally shoot photos of other amusing subjects, so I’ll do my best to fill this gap that I have unwittingly created.

I like to follow bad news with good, so on the upside, I suspect that I am the guest blogger who has known Scalzi the longest. I saw a comment in one of the other threads asking for embarrassing secrets, and if anyone is going to have those, it’ll be me. John and I met sometime around 10 or 11 years old, so I’ve even got stories from the awkward teenage years. I try to maintain a fair level of confidentiality, but if I get stuck for material (or if I’m properly bribed) I may have to bring some of those stories to light.

In keeping with local custom, I expect to spend the next six weeks writing about Whatever strikes me as blog worthy. I’ve got fairly varied interests, so I hope there will be at least a little something for everyone. Though I usually lurk, I’ve spent a good bit of time over the years reading the comment forums here, and I’ve always been impressed by the level of discourse amongst Whatever readers. It’s a sharp bunch here, and I hope to keep you all engaged and somewhat entertained. I also look forward to an opportunity to take a more active role in the conversation.

Thanks for having me and the other guest bloggers. I am honored to be in their distinguished company, and to have a chance to hang out here with you. Now let’s have some fun.

66 Comments on “The Other One”

  1. Welcome, sir!

    It’s okay to not have a cat because then we see you as someone we have to convert. We’ll tempt you endlessly with fluffy little homeless kittens with big blue eyes who neeeeed you.

    See? It’s all good.

  2. Scalzi left some cat pictures for you post, right? Just to keep the pitchforking and torching of buildings to a minimum.

  3. While cats are great, dogs are better. I’ll be plenty happy with pictures of your puppy. :P

    On another note, I look forward to hearing stories from another Burns :)

  4. Clearly you need a cat. If you give us a city, or region we will immediately set about the task of finding you an appropriate companion.

    Feel free to be picky, its an important decision. We will take your inclinations into consideration before we leave one on the doorstep. Well, we might…

    Ok. maybe we won’t. But you will like a cat. Trust me.

  5. I thought we were John Scalzi’s army of howling monkeys or something.

    Aren’t we? *looks confused*

  6. Well, cats are really only half the reason we come to the Whatever. As long as you can provide bacon-related posts instead, you’re good.

  7. Is there a precedent for starting to read a blog because of a guest blogger? I mean, I suspect I should be a Whateverite anyway. I’ve seen enough posts shared on Google Reader to know it’s good stuff. But I was trying so hard not to start reading any more blogs by authors I don’t know personally. And I know Mykal! I have shot his pistol (not a euphemism).

    Oh man, after that parenthetical I forget where I was going with this.


  8. I’ve never been here before. So I would not have been disappointed in the exclusion of cats. Except that now that’s you’ve told me there SHOULD be cats, I am, in fact, a little disappointed. Because I like cats, Mykal. Durn you, Burns!

  9. froonium beat me to the punch. Dang.

    We could invent a new term for a large group of Whatever readers. Let’s call it a Scalzi, as in “There was a whole scalzi’s worth of readers on the site today.”

    Mykal, I feel your pain on the whole name thing. My first name is relatively common, but my parents in their wisdom decided to spell it with a K instead of a CH, so now I’m constantly correcting people when they go to spell it.

  10. a group of whatever readers is a murder. or, if not, definitely should be.

    and you need a cat. or a corgi. yes, definitely a corgi. a lovely corgi who will keep you grounded and let you know in a hundred small ways that while she loves and adores you, you are, without question, the least important thing in the universe. the difference between a corgi and a cat you ask? a cat would NEVER let you know that he loves and adores you.

  11. I think that a proper group name is “Eh”

    as in:

    “After being honest about his lack of cat, an Eh of Whatever descended on the guest blogger & he woke up with bacon taped to him & a cat mask on.”

  12. What?!?!? No cat? Dog? Tell me you have a dog. Better yet show me a picture appropriately photoshopped.
    As for what to call us I thought we were minions. I am not sure what arrangement you guests have as far as minion control goes. Although we are in fact mercenary minions because cake is generally offered as payment. I would suggest caution in the use of minions because like wishes from a genie they generally backfire due to deliberate misinterpretation of orders.

  13. Ok, I thought John was 40. If you’ve known him 10 or 11 years, that means he was a teenager in his late 20’s. That would explain a lot…

  14. “Whateverians? I know a group of lions is a pride and a group of wolves is a pack. What does one call a large group of Whatever readers?”

    Good looking and erudite. Bah-DUM-bum. No, um, an individual board denizen is a minion and a group of minions is a conspiracy.

    Welcome, welcome, and thanks for being here. I don’t have a cat either – it’s okay.

  15. Oh, bribery!

    I can send cookies. :) Just won Best-in-Show at the local county fair.

    They’re yummy…

  16. Hey cuz! Look at you….a guest blogger:) ok, it must be genetic, I feel the same about the scrabble names used by some sf writers. I also repeatedly try in my mind to find the correct pronunciation driving myself mad until the book finally ends.
    I also don’t have a cat!

  17. I am definitely going to have trouble keeping up with all of the comments. Just know that even if I don’t respond in text form, I am saying my responses to each of your comments out loud toward my monitor. Also, thanks for making me feel welcome.

    @#5 Yancy: Don’t tell anyone else here, but on the dog-cat continuum, I do lean toward the canine end.

    @#6 Sara: Why do you think I’m keeping my whereabouts a secret for the time being? I’m afraid to wake up tomorrow to a passel of kittens.

    @#7 Nikitta: You’ve just sparked another topic. Coming soon…my Unified Monkey Theory.

    @#9 Kevin: Everything is better with bacon. I’ll do my best.

    @#10 Annika: Thanks for coming. And you’ve reminded me again that it’s been too long; it must be time to schedule “Bloggers Go Boom II.”

    @#11 Maureen: See what I did there? You didn’t even know what you were missing. My work here is done.

  18. Hi and welcome Burns!!

    I do find your post intersting and also think and write non-linear sooo… I shall look forward to your posts!! Ohhh… coffee…. oh wait.. that’s not what I was talking about… WELCOME!!

    I look forward to at least one bribe free funny John story.


  19. Rembrant@16: “Although we are in fact mercenary minions because cake is generally offered as payment.”

    The cake is a prevarication!

    (Yeah, I know, that’s not how it goes. But you know how fussy John can be about copyrights.)

    Anyway, Mr. B, welcome to the fray. It doesn’t bother me that you don’t have a cat. That just leaves more for me.

    Since you’ve known John since he was a child, maybe you can tell us how he got that scar?

  20. I think “Minions” is a most appropriate term although Rabble rousers works as well.

    Any story you tell about John has to exceed the statute of limitations for said act. Otherwise, the poor boy may have trouble returning from OZ. Border patrol and TSA being a rather humorless bunch these days.

  21. Mykal is surrounded by cat people all the time. He’s resisted so far. But he will be assimilated.

    And I agree with the unpronounceably named characters. I don’t try to pronounce them, and the downside to that is when there are many of them, I have to flip back to remember their role in subplots. Feh.

  22. Some of us are both dog and cat people. Feel free post pictures of dogs. All your cool friends have dogs.

  23. It’s been many years, Mykal. I still have pictures of you and John as kids. Wow. That makes me old. Forget what I said. I don’t know you. Good luck with the Whateverites ~ they are a tough bunch.

  24. Why is everyone on the new guy about cats? Can none of you read? Clearly, the man is no fan of a being named Ghlaghghee.

  25. @#29 Mom: Hi! It has been years. In fact, I was trying to think of where I might have old pics of John & I, but they must be archived among tens of thousands; no idea where. Any chance you’d be able to email what you’ve got to me?

  26. @#31 Martin: Hey, wait a minute! I just don’t have any cats of my own. What are you doing telling people I’m not a fan of Ghlaghghee? You’re going to get me run out of town on a rail with talk like that.

  27. ‘Minions’ is all very well, but it doesn’t address the need for a collective noun. The suggestions so far are a murder, a conspiracy, a gaggle, a press gang, or a scalzi; also, by extension, a disturbance or an erudition. Also, possibly, a slab (as in bacon). Or a rasher, also as in bacon.

    My own favourites in that list are a press gang or a disturbance. Maybe we need a poll.

    I think a scalzi should be a specific number, along the lines of a wheaton (which, as I recall, is a unit of 500,000 Twitter followers).

  28. We are a miscellany of Whateverists.

    Also, Burns! is one of those people that I’ve heard about from TWO geek vectors (Scalzi and Wheaton) and have never really interacted with before. Hi!

  29. My dog brought a kitten home in his mouth today when he escaped. (My mother-in-law held the door open a little too long when she was bringing in bags from her shopping excursion. When she comes to Dallas, she must go shopping. Go figure.)

    My wife and son are allergic to felines, so if you want a kitten, I can FedEx her to you if I know the address.

  30. I am not alone!

    It took me years to finally finish Anna Karenina, and that only happened because I finally got the audio book! I am crap at pronouncing Russian names and every time I would start reading, Tolstoy would throw in another name to trip me up (yes, I took it that personally.)

    This is why I <3 the interwebs; we find that we are not alone in our idosyncracies! Or is it actually a sad thing because we find that we are not unique?

  31. What do you call a large group of Whatever readers?

    The Executive Committee of The Official Ghlaghghee Fan Club has answered this:

    We call them “low-brows”.

    This also applies to a small group of Whatever readers.

    The Official Ghlaghghee Fan Club

  32. @#34 Louise: I’m partial to “rasher,” as I like pretty much anything bacon-related. I’m all about democracy, though, so I nominate you as Official Whatever Minion Pollster.

    @#35 Andrew: It’s true. Though a bit stealthy myself, I am adjacent to at least two (that you know of) Top Level Internet Geeks. Hi. What took you so long?

  33. @#23 Burns: No, no, it’s a KINDLE of kittens, not a passel. But yes, you definitely need at least one.

    I just started reading this blog a short time ago, and I am impressed by the sharp wit of the folks leaving comments. Bravo! Sometimes the comments are more entertaining than the initial post.

    As for what your group name should be, I imagine that might depend upon what type of mood you’re attempting to convey. Could be a prickle [porcupines], a wisdom [wombats], an ambush [tigers], a chattering or murmuration [starlings], an unkindness [ravens], or a pandemonium [parrots].

  34. And what’s with all the names with apostrophes in them? Are we supposed to hiccup in the middle of the name, or take a breath, or what?

    p.s. I, too, do not have a cat, although I have friends who do.

  35. @39 Burns! — Without democracy, we can’t extort votes, so by all means we need some.

    Unfortunately, my Mad Hacking Skillz aren’t up to hacking this blog and posting a poll, unless I put it in a comment. Might I trouble you for some assistance? It looks as if ‘miscellany’ is a late-arriving but suitable contender.

    I’d also love to hear some suggestions as to the number of Whateverites in a scalzi. Maybe it can be based on the average number of daily visitors, or the current number of posts in the ‘why teenage writing sucks’ threads (including the overflow), or the total number of cats in rural Ohio.

  36. Looks like the withdrawal symptoms have started to make Chang who is not chang a little grumpier than usual. Poor Chang, it’s going to be a long six weeks for The Official Ghlaghghee Fan Club.
    I nominate “A mob of Minions” It’s got a nice ring to it.

  37. Honored temporary host:
    I agree with you about alien names. But even worse than Jrqvxyyngwr is the name that must have at least three punctuation marks. Rn’rw-s’x is not a name. It’s a cat walking on a keyboard.

  38. Folks, it looks like the scalzi has already been appropriated as a unit of author fame, clout, or success:

    To wit: “Two Scalzis is like half a Gaiman.”

    I think I’d prefer our collective noun to be a name for us, not just a bunch of us. Instead of “a bunch of marines,” they have “the Corps.” Instead of “a bunch of gun-toting cub scouts” they have Buckaroo Banzai’s “Blue Blazers.”

    I want to be a member of the few. The proud. The Whateverines.

  39. I am a minion; however not only a minion of Whatever.

    You are right, Burns, we need a collective name for those of us who comment, lurk and read Whatever (the blog).

  40. Oh, I know! A collection of Whateverians is a Whatsup! A Whatsup can also be the name for any sort of real life meeting of Whateverians – a convention, a signing, reading group, weekly SG:U viewing parties, etc.

  41. Minion. Yes. I’d be pleased to be known as a minion of Scalzi.

    And about this cat thing. Tell us more. Is it because of allergies that you don’t have cats? Because you have dogs that would eat them for breakfast? Because that much cuteness would make you implode? You KNOW we need to know.

    And welcome.

  42. Burns! ~glad to get you a couple of pics as soon as I get a scanner. Enjoy your time here @ Whatever. I look forward to sordid childhood details. :)

  43. On the name topic, I don’t have a problem reading weird names because I just see the word and don’t pronounce it in my head. The good thing is it doesn’t interrupt my reading rythmn. The problem comes when I talk to someone about a book and I realise that I don’t actually know what a character is called, I just know what the shape of their name looks like in my head. Sometimes it’s really strange to hear a name out loud because the sound is nothing like the visual image I have created.

    Weird I know, anyone else do that?

  44. Liz @55 Yes! The first time I encounter an oddly-spelled name, I do try to figure out how it sounds. But after that, I just glide over it. Heck, I do that with some names that aren’t oddly-spelled. I’m pretty sure the way French words sound in my head are absolutely NOTHING like they sound when people who know French actually speak them. LOL

  45. Scalzi, I think, learned the lesson first laid down by Heinlein (see my little essay The Heinlein Voice ) that names should be short, recognizable, and pronounceable a long time ago. I have exactly the same reaction as you do when I run into one of those odd, vowel-less, unpronounceable things: Hiccup. Stop reading while trying to figure this strange thing out. More authors should definitely heed this lesson.

  46. Thank you for bringing up the crazy-assed names thing. Bugs the hell out of me. I would really like to be able to read through a story without trying to figure out how I need to collapse my larynx to properly pronounce every name/city/pet/ship/etc.

    And you don’t have to have a cat to be embraced by the Whateverions. Just bring on some Scalzi embarrassment in his absence, and we’ll be OK.

  47. I would like to propose a new collective noun for the Whateverites. I think it should be a snark.

  48. Mykal, you have to stick to your guns in here. You opened up giving the thumbs down to unpronouncable names in SF and now you suddenly back off and clain to be a Ghlaghghee acolyte?

    If you waiver in your position or don’t think it through in the first place, these people will see the weakness, smell your fear and pounce. They were trained by the great and wonderful Ghlaghghlee, after all.

    And don’t forget, John isn’t here to protect you.

  49. @#60 Eric Martin: Clearly, you have discovered that I am a complicated man, full of contradictions. While I stand firm against unpronounceable names with too many consonants and apostrophes, Ghlaghghee was one that I learned early and quickly, so each time I see it in text my mind slips right over it and pronounces it internally as “Fluffy.”

  50. If I can’t pronounce the name of the first character introduced in a book, I won’t buy it. Thanks for validating me!

  51. A CAT! What a great Christmas present!
    You’re definitely not a cat guy, But you can at least lay claim to your “niece” Chelsea! (the dog).This is fun!

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