I’m Back, Plus: 12 Years

Ghlaghghee considers the existential horror of returning to the celebrity grind.

Hey, folks. I’m back. Yes, yes, I know. I missed you too. Let’s not get too blubbery about it, here, shall we. We’ve got stuff to do.

Now, before I get back to my usual shtick of random blatheration, a few administrative and procedural notes. Bear with me for the next several hundred words, please.

First, I want to thank, individually and severally, the guest bloggers who have kept Whatever so interesting in the last six weeks: John Anderson, Mykal Burns, N.K. Jemisin and Mary Robinette Kowal. I thought they did a wonderful job, and it was a treat for me to be able to pop over to my own site from time to time and be able to relax and just read what was being posted there. This is only the second time I’ve had guest bloggers, the first being more than five years ago, and from my point of view it couldn’t have gone better. After the first couple of days I said to myself, wow, I really don’t have to worry about anything, and then proceeded to enjoy my break.

Underpinning all of it, however, was the work of the interim site manager, Kate Baker, who managed the back end, wielded the Mallet of Loving Correction when necessary, and who popped in to add her own thoughts from time to time. This break of mine very literally couldn’t have happened without her help and effort, so my large and humble thanks go to her for all her work. She’s fab, and I recommend her for all your site managerial needs.

This six-week break was very useful for me. One, I was able to focus on a lot of work and clear the decks, as it were, of a bunch of stuff. Two, I got to vacation with family and to travel. Three, I was able to relax and not think about having to think about something interesting to say on a daily basis (which, surprise, is often harder than it looks). And fourth and finally, I was able to recharge and work up some new enthusiasm for writing here. Which is important, because as I often note, it’s not like I get paid for what I do here. When it starts being work, that’s a problem. So in all, the hiatus did for me what I hoped it would. I do love it when a plan comes together.

I’m coming back to Whatever, coincidentally enough, on the 12th anniversary of my beginning of it; I started it on this date in 1998, and did so, as I expect most of you know by now, to keep sharp in the column-writing format, having written columns for newspapers and other places before than and hoping to again at some point.

I do think if you had told me in 1998 that I’d still be doing this thing, I’d be a bit surprised (although not as surprised as I would be if you told me I’d be living in rural Ohio with a lawn the size of a New York City block, which is something which still freaks me out if I give it any sort of thought at all). A dozen years is a long time to do any one thing, and it’s especially a long time for me to write any one thing without being paid for it, mercenary as I am on that subject. But there really is more to life than just getting paid, and at this point, of course, I’ve reaped more than enough benefits from writing here that looking at Whatever as unrewarded effort would be flatly stupid and wrong. It’s been good for me psychically and career-wise, and that is its own reward. And anyway if I really wanted to be paid for what I do here, at this point I could easily put up ads. I haven’t, which I suppose says something.

Moving into year 13 and returning from a long break, it’s not unreasonable to ask whether I have any big changes planned for the site moving forward, and the answer is: no, not really. Content-wise Whatever has remained pretty constant over the years: It’s about whatever I want to write about, and I see no reason to change that. The Big Idea has settled into its own groove and while there are still plans to spin it off onto its own site one day, at this point I’ve got the process of it down well enough that I can run it here more or less indefinitely.

I am getting a little bored with the physical look of Whatever, which has looked more or less the same for three years now, and will probably fiddle with that in the near future in order to make navigating through it a bit easier. So that’s something you can look forward to. But it’s also something I have to think about a little more before I do it, in part because WordPress’ VIP set-up requires some extra hoop-jumping to make new designs work, and also because, well. I do screw up technical things, don’t I.

So the short form is that for now, I’ll just keep on doing what I’ve been doing, because it seems to work for me — and has for twelve years running now.

In any event. Hello again, again. It’s good to be back.

50 Comments on “I’m Back, Plus: 12 Years”

  1. Welcome back, and I echo your thanks to all the guest bloggers. It’s been a treat to see all their different voices on Whatever. I hope maybe they can pop in from time to time, just to keep things interesting.

  2. Glad to see you back behind the steering wheel. Thanks a lot to John Anderson, Mykal Burns, N.K. Jemisin and Mary Robinette Kowal for keeping us company while you were away ;o)

  3. Welcome back!

    Not that your tempbloggers (and tempmallet) didn’t do a great job keeping us entertained, but we missed you.

  4. It doesn’t seem like six weeks? Oh hang on. It wasn’t. I was one of those, probably faceless hordes, who had the pleasure of meeting you at Worldcon. :-)

    And it was a pleasure Mr Scalzi. Thanks.

  5. Welcome back!

    I have to admit, when a blog goes on a guest-blogger hiatus, I usually start skipping past it in my newsfeed until the regularly scheduled programming returns. But the guest-bloggers round these parts were so freaking awesome that I find myself wishing we could have both your WHATEVER and theirs.

    Which isn’t to say I’m not glad you’re back.

  6. If Scalzi changes the site to have unicorn pegasus kitten wallpaper, floating Bac-O-Bits, and tiny little MIDI files of “Feelings,” “Sometimes When We Touch,” or pictures of the cats accompanied by celesta versions of the 1812 Overture, I will laugh and laugh and laugh.

    Malfoy-the-cat will probably hawk up a hairball because that’s what he does.


    Seriously – welcome back! The guests did a great job, but it’s great to see Her Baconess and her loyal minion here where they belong.

  7. One could point out that you have collected parts of Whatever into books, for which you do get paid. So that’s something.

  8. 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

    Welcome back, John! Glad you’re back!

    The interim management were great and it’s great to see that you’re fine with all the pee stains on the rug they left –


  9. Welcome back, John. Jeff VanderMeer just took over F/SF writing for the NY Times Book Review (or so the rumor goes) so perhaps we might see your name out in a newspaper or news magazine somewhere some day.

  10. Dave H – I can see Canada from my house – Aging dad, electronics nerd, embedded software developer. (I'm the guy who makes your microwave blink 12:00.)
    Dave H

    Welcome back, boss!

    (Forgive me, I’m trying to not do a “here’s how busy I was while you were away” report like I normally do when the boss comes back from vacation. But I did follow up on some stuff Mykal Burns posted.)

    I have to say your choices for subs were excellent. Any chance they might get a guest spot again some time? The same goes for Kate Baker too – I enjoyed her posts as well.

    About spinning the Big Idea off onto its own site: if I had a vote (and if my vote actually counted for something) I’d vote to keep it here on Whatever. I feel it adds to the mind-expanding properties of the blog, while the rest of your posts temper the massive flow intellectual power that a continuous stream of Ideas would become.

  11. You’re back!! Yay! I’m glad you have recharged and refreshed. The guest bloggers were made of awesome, but you were missed nonetheless. Welcome back!

  12. Yea! John’s back.

    You mentioned that lawn of yours again. Some of us out here sway towards the mechanical side of the geek spectrum and have asked a few times over the years about what kind of machine you use, etc. Please put a note aside somewhere that on a really slow day when there are no kitty or sunset pictures to post (and you might want to think about posting some of those soon) and no one to lambaste on the interwebs that a post on your lawn care machinery would be well received.

    Anywho… Great to have you back!

  13. The temps were pretty good at the interesting stuff part of Whatever, but I kind of missed the rants and smartassery. Few people do thost as well as you do.

    As for getting paid, at this point you could probably start charging a small annual fee for Whatever access. Pretty much everyone would pay it.

  14. O Great Scalzi, what an excellent picture of the Beauteous Ghlaghghee.

    It’s about time. The Executive Committee was unable to distinguish between your presence and your non-presence on the Whatever – the blasphemous lack of pictures of Her is pretty much the same either way.

    This offering is moderately acceptable. Here are some helpful criticisms:

    1. Magnificent She should be centered in the image.
    2. The chair and table legs clutter up the scene.
    3. Focus could be better.
    4. Lighting is poor, but you did capture Her Most Perfect Shimmering Radiance.
    5. Superb She is indeed considering existential horror, but it’s not of the celebrity grind… It is yet another interpretive failure on your part – when will you learn not to even try?

    The Official Ghlaghghee Fan Club

    PS – We know your Seal of Approval Award expired yesterday and this image is in hopes of earning another. Sorry, no cigar. But you may certainly enter another effort for our consideration. Say, right now would be good.

  15. Well, sure, you are back – but where are Chang and the Executive Committee? You have once more dared to impute thoughts to She, and I for one was sorely disappointed not to read a stern communique from the Committee in this thread. Yet.

  16. John, we’ve noticed a distinct lack of Chang-Not-Chang since you left. Even the vast variety of posts of Her Almightiness didn’t get him to post very often… You said you checked in a few times…

    Is it possible that you are Chang?

  17. Not Chang, you goof. You might have good taste in kittehs, but you know squat about art. Unless the point of one’s composition is symmetry, one should never place one’s subject in the center of the picture plane. Look. The image above is cropped to just about a quarter inch shy of a Golden Rectangle (1:1.618) and adheres to the Rule of Thirds (vertically, the axis from Ghlaghghee’s nose to her forepaw on the left, the table leg on the right; horizontally, the underchair hubbub at top, and at bottom the line from the paw along the tail). Also, the Ghlagh’s posture and gaze makes a nice diagonal with the tip of her tail. It is, objectively, a decently organized snap.

    “Should be centered in the image.” Sheesh.

    Oh, yeah — Welcome back, Scalzi.

  18. Thank god.

  19. Jeff @45: Thanks for this. I, too, have long been bothered by Chang≠Chang’s ignorance of basic rules of composition. Composition is not as simple as mere centering.

    Chang≠Chang’s obsession with centering also seems to not take into account Ghlaghghee’s magnificent tail, which I’m certain displeases Her to no end. Taking the tail into account, She is reasonably well centered horizontally, with some adjustment to the right for the Rule of Thirds, and the other considerations Jeff pointed out.

    So well done Scalzi. With your eye for composition and your mad Weird-Ass Photoshoppery™ skillz, you may someday win the Hugo for Best Fan Artist (something to keep in mind as you continue your run through the categories).

  20. Well, welcome back! Glad you had a good long and relaxing break from entertaining us – I’m looking forward to hearing from you again. The Replacement Scalzis were fun, but it’s good to be back to the Original.

    Chicago’s sounding awfully tempting, I’ll have to see how much I like the city while I’m there for DrupalCon next year.

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