Reader Request Week 2011: Get Your Requests In!

This blog is called “Whatever” for a reason: It’s about whatever I feel like writing about. But one week a year, I make the blog about whatever you want to talk about: The Reader Request Week. For 2011, that week starts next Monday — which means it’s time for you to ask me whatever questions you really want me to write about here on the site. You get answers for things you want to know what I think about, I get to think about things I wouldn’t necessarily have thought up on my own, everybody wins! And it’s nice when that happens.

What topics can you request? Why, any topic you like. And in fact I like it very much when the topics are not from my usual stable of things I talk about. Make your request serious, or make it silly, or make it risque, or making it searching — it’s up to you. I don’t pick every request, but I try to give each week a nice spread of topics. So, really: go nuts.

That said, two things for you to consider:

1. Quality over quantity: Better to craft a single interesting topic request about something you’d like to know, than to post a bunch of half-assed topic requests, shotgun-blast style. It’s not a contest or a race, after all — and more to the point I almost always gravitate to the interesting, well thought-out topic requests.

2. On writing: I get asked about writing a lot in a general sense, so during Reader Request Weeks I’m less interested in questions about writing than questions on other topics. So, one, writing questions are less likely to be considered as topic than other things, and two, the writing requests I’m likely to consider are ones that are new and interesting to me, not the basic “writing 101” questions, or even the more advanced “writing 301” questions.

How to suggest topics? The easiest way is to drop them into the comment thread here; alternately you can e-mail them to me. Don’t drop them into my Twitter feed, please; it’s active enough that they’ll end up scrolling off into oblivion. Likewise, I vastly prefer requests in this comment thread than over at Facebook, since it makes it easier for me to check just one place (and one e-mail address).

Also, to help you choose topics that have not already been recently addressed, here are the Reader Request Week Topics for the last five years:

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

From 2010:

Reader Request #1: Christianity and Me
Reader Request #2: Rewriting the Constitution
Reader Request #3: How I Think
Reader Request #4: Quitting Writing
Reader Request #5: Rural Ohio, Revisited
Reader Request #6: Depression
Reader Request #7: Writery Bits
Reader Request #8: Short Bits

So get your requests in, and I’ll start writing them up next Monday!


194 Comments on “Reader Request Week 2011: Get Your Requests In!”

  1. How has your selection process for pleasure reading changed now that you know an increasing number of authors and many people like to send you comp books?

  2. If something horrible were to happen to you, is there any writer you would feel comfortable having them finish you work? Or would you want all notes/manuscripts burned, their ashes scattered across the hills of Ohio?

  3. Non-writing suggestion: Sports salaries. Given that the three big American sports are all in or approaching CBA renegotiation periods, what’s your thought on the fairness of sport star salaries – not only what % players should get as a rule, but particularly how salaries should be distributed between stars and the mediocre players making up most of any given team.

    Writing related: Social Media and the Short Story. Do you think short story publication will transition to a social media outlet (existing or new)? We’ve already seen a lot of online Zines replace physical magazines, but will we see “twitter short stories” (or some slightly longer medium) replace those some day soon, the way YouTube has massively opened up the world of hobbyist film making?

    Hmm, sounds like I am writing essay exam questions … oh well :)

  4. Travel: What is it good for? How has moving around the country to cons and the like affected your desire (or lack thereof) to see other parts of the United States and the rest of the globe? As an extension, what about an orbital trip, assuming Virgin Galactic decides you’re the person to communicate the experience? More wanderlust or more stay at home? Does the security aspects of travel affect your decision? you may use both sides of the paper if necessary

  5. IIRC, you moved around a lot as a youngster, went to school in Chicago, lived in the Washington DC area as a young adult, and have lived in rural Ohio for quite a while now. Is there anywhere you and Kristi really want to live later in life? If so, why?

  6. To borrow a phrase from Dr. Seuss, if you “ran the circus” how would you want society operate? Who do you wish was in charge? Who do you wish were the ‘heroes’ of society? What morals and principles would be embraced? Tell us about the ideal Scalziville and how it compares to what you see in our world.

  7. As a kid, I was inspired by the science fiction/fantasy books that I read (and more than often got in trouble for reading) to actually become a scientist (Virologist). So I guess my question is: How do you deal with the science we know and the science you can make up and incorporate that into a story? Do you hope that someday something you mentioned in passing becomes something we have? (I can’t look at an iphone and not think star trek communicater, for instance). Do you have a science advisor/ do you even worry about the science being ‘right’? (I know that this probably violates all of the ‘string of questions rules’, but I feel like they all play together nicely.

  8. I’m really interested in hearing how other freelancers – writers, fellow illustrators/designers, musicians – survive the whole Taxes thing. It might seen like a boring topic, but you’re obviously doing something right, and it’d probably be awesome to hear what cleverness, misery and shenanigans Tax Season and it’s, ahem, “fun” has brought you.


  9. What is your opinion on Labor Unions, not necessarily the current anti-union activities, but more on their place in history and current relevance.

  10. I enjoy your political posts, and as much as I want to ask about your thoughts on Wisconsin, that’s just too…limited right now. I don’t think that situation is over yet, or just limited to Wisconsin, so mayhap it needs more time to percolate and capture the nation’s awareness.

    So, for my suggestion I’d like to combine your political astuteness with your Oscar’s clairvoyance and ask for your list of “Who’s Running for President?” So many names are swirling around, and a few are already muttering about exploratory committees or fund raising. We could even help make you a list of possibilities if you wish, and I’m thinking you could tell us who you think will actually run Republican or Independent, and who will just cheer-lead from the sidelines (possibly maneuvering for another top spot like VP, or SecState).

    It will be interesting over the next few months to see who buckles down and gets serious about a candidacy, and who just wants to keep their name in the press.

  11. To an educated, middle-class American parent (like me), the subject of schools is endlessly fascinating.
    How do you handle the constant pressure to inject religion into the public schools (i.e. “Intelligent Design” and the like)?
    Or the focus on standardized testing as a means to gauge the effectiveness of teachers (like “No Child Left Behind”)?

  12. I’m interested in your sense of humor. From reading your writing here, and in the books, you clearly have one, that comes across very well. (Except for in that God Engines thing- NOT A FUNNY STORY).

    When was the last time you were overcome with laughter, and what provoked it?

    Basically, what makes you laugh until you can’t laugh anymore?

  13. Thanks to Project Gutenberg, I’ve been reading a lot of old Science Fiction – and it’s thoroughly enjoyable. However, I’ve noticed the stories always seem to be the same – Handsome, strapping hero-guy has to thwart some evil villain while saving the damsel in distress (around whom, incidentally, Our Hero is very awkward and uncomfortable). At what point did Science Fiction “grow up”? Further, when did the genre actually start to use females as leading characters and protaganists?

    – Jeff

  14. 1) Do you think the use of the internet/Facebook/MySpace/Twitter/etc. is making society more or less social and outgoing? Please consider all sides, i.e. physical, mental, emotional, intellectual.

    2) Is there a word or phrase that, for some reason or another, you always type wrong; either in word choice (there vs. their) or typo?

    3) If you had to lose one side of your brain which would it be? Left or right?

  15. Why do you think people complain about sports figures and their salaries but there never seem to be any complaints about what movie stars/celebrities make? Don’t the sports stars have more actual “work” (yes I know it’s a game) for their money than movie stars? Sure movie stars might have to be on the set for twelve to fourteen hours a day, but what are they really doing during those long days? Don’t get me wrong, if someone can make $20 million for doing anything, more power to them, i’m just curious as to what your thoughts are regarding this, or if you have any thoughts about it at all.

    For fun, and you may have hit this topic already (sorry) – if you could keep only ten books, what would they be and why?

    Have a nice day!

  16. I asked this question last year and I’m hoping for better luck this year. ;-)

    If you were to pick the SF books that you most enjoyed reading, what would they be and why did you like them?

    I’m always looking for good books I haven’t read, especially good SciFi books.

  17. Apocalyptic predictions. They seem to be coming fast and furious these days. With the recent natural disaster I suppose it will get worse. I hear the rapture is now scheduled for May 21. I’d be interested in a post on why this seems to comfort people, and how prognosticators seem to escape the wrath of those inevitably disappointed by their predictions.

  18. Nice seeing you last night! Thanks again for chatting and signing my books. Okay, I’ve got two topics.

    1. What do you think of travel literature and would you ever consider writing a travelogue? (This is of interest because I just took a Lit course on travel literature.)

    2. What do you think of censorship of books in school libraries and classrooms? Do you think school boards/administrators are too restrictive of what students read? (BONUS: Have any of your books ever been banned and what did you think about that decision?)

  19. I really love Athena’s name. It’s quite an unusual one from my (UK-based) perspective. Was there any particular reason for picking it (family name / particular associations) or did you just see it in a book of baby’s names and like it?

  20. Hi John,

    Thanks for this opportunity. I’d be interested to know what a professional SF writer makes of the distinction between ‘literary’ and ‘genre’ science fiction. In academic circles, quite a lot is made of certain writers (Atwood, Dick, Butler etc.) and a great deal less of others–with the latter usually including those capable of making a living from the business. Does this annoy you? I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on the matter.

  21. There are clearly too many people for the Earth to sustain a growing human population. What is the Grand Plan to solve this problem? Eugenics, planetary colonization outside of our solar system, let mother nature control the population by the inevitable plagues and/or starvation, or what?

  22. Is there a book (or books) that you go back to and reread regularly? For instance, there’s one book that I usually go back and read every couple years, or I know there are people that will read The Lord of the Rings once a year.

  23. Since you do so much traveling, how would you design an airport?

    My original question was going to be what your ideal airport would be like, but then I realized how widely that opened the door to a fantasy airport where unicorns bring you Coke Zero in classy glass bottles, and teleporters deliver you to your destination instantaneously.

    So my question is more like, imagine that Fantasy Airport has decided that the best business model for them is to try to be the most pleasant airport for passengers. They feel that will attract more passengers and thus more flights. They’ve come to you as a frequent traveler for advice about what you would want in an airport, aside from obvious things like “planes that leave on time.” What suggestions would you give them?

  24. Is there anything that you believe Man Was Not Meant To Know? Or, if you think that knowledge in itself isn’t harmful, is there anything you believe humanity should not experiment with, or try to create?

  25. You’ve written a book about astronomy, and the characters in your books have been known to notice the constellations. Do you spend any time behind a telescope yourself? (In rural Ohio, you might even have halfway-decent skies for it.)

  26. I have been working on my family geneology for 30 plus years now and I love to imagine what my ancestors were like and how they lived their lives.

    Where do your ancestors come from and have you looked into your family tree? Anything interesting shake out of the branches?

  27. Novel writing is notoriously difficult and confidence sapping. If you hadn’t persevered down that route, which other outlets for your create muse might you have triedat in order to find some kind of validation for your writing? Online serials? Computer games? Comics? And what do you think about these non-novel creative writing formats?


    (Yes this is entirely a Mary Sue question. I’m not ashamed to admit it…….I’m not proud of it either…hehe)

  28. In light of your recent post regarding Athena and Lent, I’m curious to read whatever you have to say about parenting (and/or education). To whatever extent you’re comfortable with it, I’m especially interested in (1) your parenting teamwork with Krissy and how that’s evolved and (2) to what extent your parenting style(s) have been influenced by both of your parents, both in the examples they set while you were growing up and any advice they’ve given you.

    Related to all that, please comment on the following observation of a friend of mine: “The hardest thing about raising children to think for themselves is when it works.”

  29. Illinois just abolished the death penalty. Can you provide a reasonable arguments for either side. I don’t mean this in the sense of “debate pro and con”. Rather, what is it that makes the death penalty so important that we are one of the few countries that use it? And what, in the face of heartfelt justification for it, is a good reason to abolish it?


  30. Probably not really a Big Enough Idea™ to be request week-worthy, but…

    (Perhaps more a Series of Little Ideas™):

    You recently mentioned about The New Novel having a working title which is likely to change because it’s “spoilery” (and thus you didn’t want to mention it here). That got me wondering about related tidbits…

    What are some of the serious working titles you’ve had for your other novels? Have you ever found yourself changing the working title more than a couple/few times as you go? If so, why? What are some of the typical thought processes?

    I would imagine you may have had some wacky working titles for self-amusement purposes only… Any you’d care to share?

    I wouldn’t think it would necessarily be all that important to even have a working title, especially in the early stages before the creative juices start really juicing all over the place and getting things all moist… Is it? If so, why?

    If the publisher comes up with a title, how much say do you get in the approval/rejection of it? Is there much back-and-forth discussion with both you and the pub tossing out possibilities? How forcefully can you (or any author) put his foot down regarding a title (pro or con)? Has that changed much over the years? (I’m thinking of some classic golden age stories originally serialized/published under one title, only to later become better known under another, probably the author’s original preferred title.)

    Any other little tales you can tell—light, serious, in between—regarding title issues of your books/stories?

    Slightly off-topic from the titling issues (though maybe not too far off), but does the book title ever affect potential cover art? Or vice versa?

    Obviously, it’s up to you whether you feel there’s anything of enough interest in that vein to even be worth sharing, be it as a topic for request week (though again, I doubt it), just a mundane regular post at some point, or even just a short reply comment whenever.

    Of course, ignoring it altogether is yet another perfectly valid option.


  31. Last April Asimov’s started allowing electronic submissions — which I found out about via the Whatever. Now Analog has followed suit — which I found out via Ansible. With two of the Big Three SF print magazines doing e-subs, will the printerless John Scalzi be submitting to them? Or is it just not a big deal any more?

    Dr. Phil

  32. No delete or edit function???

    I meant to de-emphasize my emphasis on “have” and apparently messed it up. But it doesn’t really affect my meaning. Folks’ll just have to mentally un-italicize at that point. But youse is smart peoples, I’m sure youse’ll manage.

    …Sorry ’bout that.

  33. @#32 Womyn2me:

    Scalzi has mentioned on this site a few times before (and I believe it is on his Wikipedia page) that he is distantly related to John Wilkes Booth. I’d wager that not a lot of people are related to presidential assassins

  34. I just read Among Other’s by Jo Walton, and I’m part way through George RR Martin’s Dreamsongs, and the really cool thing about both of these is that the authors are talking about the books they read as kids, and I’m finding it fascinating. So, when did you first encounter SF&F, and what stuff did you read?

  35. For you, what is the hardest part of the book-writing process, and how do you overcome it? Also, do you outline, or is memory memory so good that you can just keep it in your head until you actually start writing?

    Not related to writing, what do you think of the Republican party’s renewed attacks against the rights of minorities, women, and the working class? Do you think this will cause the Democrats to finally grow some balls?

  36. Re-Request from last year!

    Faster than light Travel in sci-fi – once your story leaves the solar system you gotta deal with it. OMW briefly discussed it in terms of parallel universe theory (similar to Anathem). Some sci-fi pulls FTL travel from exotic materials (the ‘spice’ in Dune, Deuterium in Star Trek). I don’t even know how it is supposed to work in Star Wars. Do you put much thought into it, or consider it a distraction from the stories you try to tell?

  37. John, you’ve been an advisor for Stargate, and obviously had tremendous fun doing so, so my question is: If the phone went one day and it was your agent saying there was a new Star Trek tv show and they wanted to you come on board as a writer, would you? And also, if the phone went and this time it was the BBC wanting you to write a Doctor Who script, whould you want to do that either (and if you did would you use the Daleks)?

    I know these are writing questions, sorry.

    A non-writing question would be, if you were placed n charge of a new experimental undersea city (and assuming the engineering stuff is no-problems due to magic tek), what would you have it be like?

  38. Which Apocolypse scenario would you prefer to be extinguished by: invading aliens, nuclear war, zombies, pandemic, any particular mytholical one, meteors….you get my drift. We don’t have a tv so I was reduced to surfing about the Japanese earthquake and all of a sudden Supermoons, 2012, and even the Norse end of days (2011) came up….where is Dan Brown when you need him?

  39. 1: How has your understanding of military history evolved over the years? Did you have an interest in the topic before becoming a writer of military SF, or did this come with the writing of your novels? what non-fiction books have most influenced you in this regards?

  40. What interesting and ancient computers/gaming systems/other-ancient-technology did you use in your youth?

    For me:
    1) Stupid terminal with no monitor (only a physical printer) connected to the “main-frame downtown”.
    2) Super Pong
    3) Commodore 64
    4) Nintendo 2600

  41. As you are a Science Fiction writer and a lover of computer technology, what do you think computers will be like 100 years from now? 500 years from now? 10000 years from now?

  42. What were some of your influential non-sci-fi/fantasy books? You know, the classics from literature. Three Musketeers? Old Man and the sea? Baby Sitter’s Club? The lit books you maybe read in high school that turned out to be surprisingly good.

  43. If everything continues to go well in the next two weeks I’ll be a parent for a first time (wife is due 3/26). Anyone who is a long time reader knows how much involvement you have in your daughter’s life and how incredibly proud of her you are. What would you say was one of the most challenging things in being a parent that you didn’t expect (because every parent expects myconium diapers, all-night screaming jags, and 2am feedings)? What would you say is the one of the things you’ve been most pleasantly surprised by that you didn’t expect in becoming a parent?

  44. Why are novels always (or close enough to make the exception prove the rule) divided into chapters? For the convenience of the reader? The writer? Because it has “always been done that way”? Because it provides a convenient way to shift the focus or advance the timeline without having to say “Meanwhile…” or “The next day…”? John, do you tend to write chapters of the same length across all your novels?

    Weird question, but it occurred to me one day and I’ve been hoping for an opinion from a professional writer ever since.

  45. You’ve enticed me back into reading science fiction after many years away from the genre, and what sucked me in is how good you are at writing about animals and incorporating them into stories in different ways. Stuff like, Ralph in Agent to the Stars, all the different roles that animals play in The Android’s Dream, and your short story Alien Animal Encounters which is one of the few things in the world that makes me want to weep because I didn’t write it. And having just read Little Fuzzy, I can’t wait to read your version of it. I don’t remember the SF writers of my youth having such interesting takes on non-human species and using them in such varied ways.

    So, I don’t know how specific a question you want, but even if I asked a specific question I’d be just as happy if you answered a related question that you had a better answer to, so I’ll keep it general: Animals: So what’s the deal?

  46. Would you please write about the goldfish bowl, the goldfish, and the cat as well as the hound outside?

  47. Probably the topic I’d love to see you write about is the state of SF television right now and in the foreseeable future. With the cancellation of SGU, I feel that the quality SF on television right now are pretty thin. I can’t think of a single series that I am keeping up with right now because every time a new, innovative show comes along, the network doesn’t seem to know how to market it and it fails.

  48. Since you’re both a parent and a writer: tell us an education story. Did you ever have a particularly excellent teacher or educational experience? If you could grant your daughter one field trip, where would you send her?

  49. This unfortunately does (at least peripherally) get into the subject of writing, but hopefully won’t get ruled out entirely …

    My son got me hooked on the TV Tropes site about a year ago, and there’s a heck of a lot there that would make for great discussions. In particular I’d love to hear about your favorite trope-aware characters and works, and their trope-ignorant counterparts.

  50. We’ve mapped the human genome. Many diseases can now be diagnosed, or even treated, in utero. Still other diseases can be treated with “gene therapy”, where a healthy gene (and I know I’m really oversimplifiying here) can be injected into a person’s body, in hopes that the healthy gene will replace/repair the defective gene.

    Is this a good thing? Is it reasonable/ethical for a mother to abort a diseased/defective fetus? Is it reasonable/ethical/desirable to (try to) cure certain diseases with “gene therapy”? Many people see “gene therapy” as tantamount to eugenics. Many also feel that diagnosing/treating/aborting a “defective” baby is “interfering with god’s plan”.

    What’s your opinion? If you had learned during Krissy’s pregnancy that Athena was “defective”, would you still have continued the pregnancy? Would you have come to a decision together, or would the final decision have been Krissy’s?

  51. I’ve been thinking about this topic for a few “reader request” times now, and I don’t think I’ve ever phrased it quite correctly. I would be interested in your views on Science Fiction and sexism. One of the reasons I particularly enjoy your work is that women are portrayed as real, capable humans – even main characters. Older SciFi so often has a particularly misogynist bent in women’s roles and with phrases like “rape that” being used as slang.

    What are your thoughts about the progression of equality of the sexes in SciFi, and will the genre – and in particular MilSF – become a thought leader in equality, or always face an uphill battle because the dominant author and readership will remain gender-skewed towards maleness?

  52. What non-SFF books do you greatly admire or wish you’d written? What are your favorite turns of phrase from non-SFF lit?

  53. You’ve spoken about politics and I’m curious to know, assuming you were elected supreme dictator for a week, what would be the things you change about US government? Top 5, top 10, whatever. I just want to know what you think are the major things that would make our country better.

    Also, since I’m currently trying to plan my own honeymoon, give me “Scalzi’s top five honeymoon vacations in the year 2100”.

  54. Something I am working on as a folklorist.
    Tatoos. How has the cultural perception of tatoos changed over the generations, and how the symbolism is more personal than cultural. Also, how the placement is indicative of the psychological and spiritual meaning.
    Is that thought out enough for you?
    (Yes I am looking for feedback, too).

  55. I don’t know if fiction requests are allowed, but I would love to find out how/why Quaker Oats became the dominant IT/information corporation in ‘The Android’s Dream’ universe.

  56. Please comment on one of the following:

    1. The release of a “Three’s Company” motion picture will signal the official scraping the bottom of the barrel in Hollywood. The public reaction to the horrendousness of this idea will spark riots, violence, destruction, and the end of civilization as we know it.

    2. Steve Jobs is actually an android. He has uploaded his consciousness to a prototype Mac. His leaves of absence are actually android tune-ups.

  57. I’ve been reading science fiction for over 40 years now and I’ve never been to a con. What are the pluses and minuses of going to a con, and is there anything a complete newb such as myself should know?

  58. Recently, you posted some thoughts on bad reviews, with a link to Justine Larbalestier’s thoughts on bad reviews and the relationship between reviewers and authors. I’d like to know more about your views of book reviewers – what role do they play in the modern publishing world, what duty (if any) do they have to the authors they review, and to the readers of their reviews?

    Full disclosure – I write a book review blog, which I have not linked to this comment, for reasons of propriety.

  59. Other than a GoldenEye, do you think that americans can get back to having face to face interaction rather than segregating ourselves through constant use of electronics? And i get it that i am asking this through the blog of a guy i have never met, and can’t really prove exists.
    Are the leaps and bounds of electronic invention going to bring the downfall of America?

  60. I’m going to second my 3 favorite ideas above (in order)

    1. Scalzi’s top five honeymoon vacations in the year 2100 (comment #62)
    2. Apocalyptic predictions (#23 and #45 magically combined)
    3. More consulting on or writing other SciFi TV series (#44)

  61. Other than Schadenfreude pie, are there any other desserts you would recommend or provide recipes for?

  62. Which authors today are telling the best stories in the fields of science fiction and fantasy, and what makes their storytelling so compelling? I suppose that Rothfuss would be on such a list.

  63. Big, fat fantasy novels in long, long series have been very popular for quite a while now. It seems that a good chunk of books in the stores are parts of them, so someone’s making some serious dinero on them.

    So, with that in mind…

    Assuming that your next novel is not the first in such a BFF series, would you seriously consider writing something like that?

    And for us fans of shorter fiction…

    Is there any chance of an anthology of Short Scalzi Fiction?

  64. Inspired by your Lenten* Coke Zero experiment, are there other practices typically connected with religions (meditation, for example) which you yourself either find useful or are curious about/interested in outside of a religious context?

  65. Have you ever considered writing a steampunk novel, or some other form of historical fiction? Perhaps something like Tim Powers does, mixing real people and events with fictitious characters and adding a small element of science fiction or fantasy? Or perhaps just a crossover story where, say, Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy meet the Scarlet Pimpernel, or Sherlock Holmes meets the Flashman or something like that? Do you have any favorite historical or literary characters you’d like to play with? The mind boggles at how much fun it would be to read something like this, by you.

  66. Am I creepy for saying that, (aside from the short story about yogurt – that was gold), my favorite blogs involve photos/stories about your life with your family? They’re always heartwarming, funny, and perfectly normal. We all complain about how the news never gives us any “good news stories” which is why I often visit your site. Who doesn’t love family?

  67. Please answer the following in the form of fan fiction:
    What is that watermelon doing there?

    Alternatively, in non fanfiction form, why is the watermelon and the contents of Vincent Vega’s briefcase (and other similar objects) better left a mystery? List your top ten “watermelons”. What makes them work? Why do some work better than others?

  68. What’s the deal with vampires? More specifically, why has contemporary fantasy become dominated by vampire stories and why does that genre seemingly outsell the rest of science fiction and fantasy combined?

    Alternatively, if you were to write an alternate history novel, I’m confident you wouldn’t choose one of the cliched points of departure (South winning Civil War, Nazis winning WWII). So what obscure historical point of departure would you select and why?

  69. Which SF book of the past would you most want to read a sequel to? Would you ever consider writing it yourself?

  70. Have you read Crooked Little Vein? What do you think in general of edgier-than-thou writers like Ellis, and do you ever wish you were British enough to be cool?

  71. I’d like to know what are the top X > 3 values that you’d really REALLY like your kid to learn prior to heading off into the uncharted woods of adulthood.

  72. What are youre relationship to comics. Do you read comics and if so what comics do you read and why. If the pay was acceptable would you ever consider to write directly for comics. What are youre genereal thoughts on them and so on.

  73. I would like to know how you think your existence would change if Zombie-ism was real… only in pigs. How many Zombie Pigs do you think would be hunting you down with their bellies and backs flayed open? Would you be damned because of your move to rurality?

  74. If (and honestly, only if) you’re aware of the growing number of claims that the US is transmogifrying from whatever it used to be more towards a ‘police state’, what are your thoughts on this, and what is your general state of agreement or disagreement?

    or instead

    When you hear the term ‘police state’ what does it mean to you? (I ask because you can be very eloquent, and I’d like to see a titan of the craft do this.) (That’s totally not smarmy flattery, geddouddahere)

  75. 3 Serious questions:

    1) Does the American educational system suffer from poor mathematics and science education? What effect do you think the new Common Core math standards will have?

    2) Is obtaining a doctorate beneficial in politics? (It seems to be true in Germany, where nearly 1/5 of the lower house holds PhDs. But does it make a difference to the quality of leadership?)

    3) What form of democracy, if any, do you think Egypt will develop?

    3 Slightly more “popcorn-y” questions:

    1) What are some best uses of bioluminescence that you can imagine?

    2) Is having your movie banned from cinemas (or a book, banned from schools/libraries) good publicity or not?

    3) Can (will) machines surpass humans in intelligence?

  76. Writing question, sorry.

    Fantasy loves its epic series. Why doesn’t Science Fiction go for these? Sure, you’ve written a few books in the same universe, but actual multi-book SF series are pretty thin on the ground (Donaldson’s Gap series is one such). Is there something about fantasy that makes it more series ready?

  77. If you had the means to choose a new job or profession – one that did not involve writing – what would it be and why?

  78. Since you have a pre-teen child, what are your thoughts on Athena reading books above her level of understanding. Are there books you can’t wait to share with her that you waiting until she is older? Generally, is it every okay to keep a child from reading book that is above a level of comprehension?

  79. What do you think might happen to the science fiction genre in a future where space travel became possible?

    And would there be a fantasy genre in a universe where magic existed?

  80. Somewhat related to AlanM @85’s question: Why is it that fantasy authors can’t seem to tell a story in under 4 volumes, with each volume being a massive 700+ page doorstop (in hardcover, at least)? Do they really need that many million words to tell a story? Or do fantasy readers demand such verbosity, seemingly more so than SF? (Yes, I know that there are SF writers, such as Neal Stephenson and others who write massive, multi-volume series, but they seem to be the exception rather than the rule. And many who write SF trilogies seem to keep each volume under 400pp., or about 120k words.)

    Don’t get me wrong. Although I am primarily an SF reader, I loves me some epic fantasy when I’m in the mood for it. And judging by the attendance at Patrick Rothfuss’s signing in Dayton last night (great to see and chat with you and Krissy, BTW) I’m hardly alone.

  81. Any advice on dating and / or relationships for the unrepentant nerd? Not a “lets debate the specifics of Federation hyperdrive systems” kind of nerd, but the kind who probably has way too many books by the average persons opinion and more than a few nerdish collectibles (of whatever variety) lying around their place prominently. And what about if said nerd has spawned nerdy offspring?

    Take it from the standpoint that the other half of the relationship isn’t a nerd him/herself and probably has little experience with dealing with nerdish behavior in general; i.e. the nerd here has somehow ended up with somebody “not of our own.”

  82. I would like to see some guest posts by Krissy over the next 40-ish days. I want her to give an objective report on how you and Athena are handling this whole Lent thing — and which one of you comes close to cracking first.

  83. And thoughts or ideas on why so many authors and other creative types seem to have issues with mental illness and / or substance abuse?

  84. Television game shows: threat or menace? And what are your favorites, past or present?

  85. Why Blog? You’ve been publishing a blog longer than just about anyone. It likely represents hundreds of thousands of words by now. It has to be a big consumption of time and it is something you seem committed to enough to post pretty much daily. It’s not likely to be financially rewarding (or are the ad dollars that much?) and I’m sure sometimes the comments induce various unsavory emotions such as hurt, disgust, and raw anger. Does it really advance your career as compared to what is published through conventional channels? Is it a desire (urge? obsession?) to spread your thoughts and opinions upon the land or is it just a conversation you enjoy?

  86. Hey, thanks for fixing my little italicizing faux pas! Mighty gentlemanly of you.

    Hmmm, I see you’ve already got the titles set for a whole new trilogy, so no need to sweat over any of those pesky titling issues I was curious about. I’m sure the words in between the dedication and “About the Author” pages will be a breeze. With those titles, the books practically write themselves…

    Hope all the current Scalzi critters get along OK with the pony. Any chance of borrowing the robot butler? I’ve got a nasty dust bunny infestation thing goin’ on…

    :^ )

  87. If you were born in the dark ages, and couldn’t be a writer, how would you earn a living? Technology related jobs are out, because remember it’s the DARK AGES. I don’t see you as the farmer type, so what would you do?

  88. Writing questions: Do protagonists (particularly SF/F protagonists) need to be critically flawed, broken, villainous, hunted and hounded by society, or some combination of the above in order to be considered ‘interesting’? Why do so many recent SF/F novels seem to have bittersweet or outright downer endings, with or without pyrrhic victories? Where is the optimism in modern SF/F, beyond ‘I hope I survive’?

    Non-writing question: What would the USA be like today if they had written a Bill of Responsibilities to go with their Bill of Rights? What would have been in it initially? What do you think the Responsibilities of today’s American citizens and/or the American government should be?

  89. As a story-telling medium, I believe that television series have advantages over movies. Shows taken from novels, like Flash Forward, Dexter, True Blood, and the upcoming Game of Thrones are bringing novel-length stories with deep character development and subplots to the small screen.

    You’ve now worked on a television series and have sold book rights for a movie. Which format do you feel works better to tell the story the author originally conveyed? Have you considered optioning one of your works for the small screen instead of the large screen?

  90. I’ve recently been noticing a phenomenon of long-running syndicated TV shows that I find annoying, and I was wondering if I could get your thoughts on it.

    It seems these days that with any episodic-type comedy or drama played on the networks which doesn’t have a preset endpoint — i.e. they want it to run for as long as it CAN run — the show begins with most of the attention paid to the events of that particular episode, with slow, easy character development. But at a certain point, the show becomes almost exclusively about the characters’ lives, and the actual content of the episodes begins to get shoved to the side.

    I’m thinking here particularly of House, which I’ve been a pretty big fan of. At the beginning the episodes were primarily about the case House was trying to solve. But beginning around season 5, and especially obvious now in season 7, is that the show isn’t about the medical cases anymore. It’s about the lives of the characters… in other words, it’s become a soap opera, which is not what I originally tuned in to see. I tuned in to see House be a jerk to someone while saving her/his life, not watch his relationship drama.

    One could argue that toward the end of a show the writers naturally want to give some more resolution to the characters, but I tend to think that’s not what goes on with these shows. It seems more like they really think this type of change is a good idea, and will somehow extend the life of the show. I don’t get it. And House isn’t the only example… I’ve noticed the same thing happening with CSI, although not to the same degree. It seems to be a pretty wide-spread phenomenon.

    Hmm, I guess that was sort of a writerly question, but I didn’t mean it to be.

    On a non-writing stuff note, I requested last year that you discuss anime a bit. You didn’t pick it, but I’ll throw it out there again. I like anime largely because Japan seems to do so many more diverse things with animation than we in the States do, where animation is meant solely for kiddies. I’ve watched a lot of adult-oriented shows and movies that I really love (Texhnolyze, Mushishi, Ghost in the Shell, Akira, etc.). Any thoughts on animation in general and anime in particular, or on some of the stuff you’ve seen and liked (or disliked), would be appreciated.

    Side-question: subs or dubs? (This could be a question for live-action as well, although it’s different kind of question for live-action than for animation)

  91. As the parent of an only child, but not an only child yourself, do you think only children miss out on some essential sibling life experiences, and if yes, is that OK? If it’s not apparent, I’m the parent of an only child (by my choice), but not an only child myself, and I guess I feel some lingering guilt about it. Can you absolve me with your inimitable reason and logic?

  92. This may be a sore point for some, but my feeling is that the United States boasts about having a high living standard, but the reality is that the average living standard in the US seems to be lower than many places in Europe these days. And even the high standard houses in the US seems to often be of a relatively cheap construction except for a select few – but you can’t tell from the outside if a house is well built – regardless of if you drive through a high income area or a middle income area.

    And it also looks like that the US is in decline when it comes to care for it’s own people. It’s too much about being politically correct and not enough to actually solve the problem. Banning the use of some words won’t help the black man to get a job. And a lot of energy and money is spent on going to war against unseen enemies. I often compare the war against terrorism like trying to hunt mosquitoes with a sledgehammer, you can do a lot of damage and you may finally achieve the end result with a sledgehammer but you waste a lot of energy on something that you probably could have used a mosquito trap for.

    And I’m probably being classified as a heretic for noting this – the gas prices in the US are way too low. Instead some complicated and confusing methods are used to calculate fees applied to vehicles that are to be sold – the CAFE regulations, which uses the area covered by the square between the wheels of the car to determine how much fuel the car may consume.

    Another issue I have is that I also feel that the patent system in the US seems to be abused and is actually slowing down development instead of promoting it. Too much energy is spent on lawsuits and evading lawsuits rather than developing technology and move forward. Even if research isn’t slowed much it still means that research in other countries continues at a faster pace. China seems to be on it’s way to overrun the US when it comes to developing and producing stuff using new technology – even technology that’s patented in the US, but that doesn’t stop them from selling it anywhere else. Somewhat like a race where two contenders starts to fight and suddenly they realize that they are fighting it out about second and third place – or they both end up in the ditch and the rest of the field passes. So I think that the US needs to get it’s act together before being screwed over by the rest of the world with China in lead.

    As a note – I’m not an US citizen – I’m living in Sweden, but I do have friends in the US and have spent some time there too – not only in the usual tourist traps, but along the smaller backroads in New England (OK, not representative for the whole US). Using a GPS set on the shortest route will give you an interesting trip, using fastest route will actually waste your time more when you are a tourist.

    So what are your feelings about this? Is the US losing pace? Is the US wasting a lot of energy on the wrong issues? Did I annoy you?

  93. As someone who’s been known to write ‘military SF’ are you yourself a ‘shooter’ in any capacity ?

    Anything from backyard plinking, short/long range target shooting, constantly armed concealed carry permit holder, hunter for the table, shotgun under the bed for home defense, pest control (dang those squirrels/pigeons in the flowerbeds again !) sometime mercenary sniper etc ?

    Sort of related, do you have an opinion about 2nd ammendment / gun control ?

    I write as a target shooting rifle owner living in a country whose legal system does not recognize personal or home defense as a valid reason to possess a gun (England).

  94. Online Publicity: There’s been quite a few publicity or blogging related blow-ups in the past couple years. What would your advice be to someone suddenly or unexpectedly caught up in one?

  95. OK, non writing! Do you have any handy household hints and tips you’d be willing to share? Like, is coke zero good for getting bacon grease off cats? Or perhaps a common household hint you want to warn us against trying?

    Also I second the request for a post from Krissy telling us how you’re really taking the no-coke-zero thing.

  96. What’s your favorite “Schoolhouse Rock” video/song?

    (I can STILL sing the Preamble, even after all these years. “We the people in order to form a more perfect union….”)

  97. Enough with the flying cars! When do we get the futuristic sports that science fiction has promised us? Given the size of modern mega corporation we should at least have Rollerball by now. Will we ever replace our current non-technical sports with new exciting sports with ugly fonts, trampolines and lots of lasers?

  98. I’d like to hear an author’s perspective on Harpecollins’ recent decision to limit the number of times their e-books can be borrowed and the subsequent call for a boycott of the company within the library community (More about it here:

    I know Harpercollins reasoning for the move, and I completely understand the reaction of the library community (for the sake of openness, I’m a librarian myself), but I’d like to hear a different perspective on the matter.

  99. I’d like to see you address cultural gender issues like the one surrounding the 11-year old girl in Texas. Not that I need you to address that one specifically but since you have a beautiful daughter who is growing up in this culture of ours. I’d like some insight into how you approach the biases and cultural conditioning she’ll face even with the cultural conditioning deprogramming that you and your wife already do.

    How will you ensure that Athena knows the actual game and the rules that will be played against, for or with her as she grows up?

  100. Every school year I slip a few episodes of the 1996-2000 TV show “The Pretender” into the mix for my high school students. They invariably fall in love with Jarod on the run from Miss Parker, Sydney, and Broots from The Centre in Blue Cove, Delaware, who while on the run brings emotional justice weekly to the bad guys who got away with hurting the little people. Were you a fan? And more generally, you’ve been around four decades and have seen, I speculate, a fair bit of television. What do you consider to the be the best television you have seen in your life and why? Say the top five or the top ten?

  101. Why do you think the majority of Hard SciFi shows on the SyFy channel don’t seem to make it (there are notable exceptions)? Shows like Farscape, Caprica and the latest Stargate get the ax while lighter SciFi shows like Eureka, Warehouse 13 and Sanctuary seem to thrive. Non-SciFi like Wrestling and Ghost Hunters also seem to be doing well too. I’m not saying that I dislike the lighter SciFi shows, I just want so Harder ones to make it. Yes I know there is a new BSG coming. Ideas?

  102. You have menitoned a few key decision points in your life that you have gone through, such as meeting and marrying your wife, buying a house shortly after being let go from the current employment and such. And i was wondering if you would tell us more about your decisions making progress. I assume you have reflected upon it and i am really curious about this.

    Also of interest would be to hear what it would take for you to change your position after a big decision has been made.

    Thanx for the blog by the way, been following it for some time now, and always enjoy reading it.

  103. There is, as my experience has been recently, a lot of people getting excited about epublishing independently. There are a growing number of success stories piling up, some boasting sales that seem intoxicating to up and coming writers. I’m not interested specifically in how, when or even if the legacy publishing industry will crash, but instead in what your thoughts are on epublishing independently and what is this new itunes style literature doing to the landscape.

    Short version: Does it behoove us writers to start standing up and selling ourselves to the readership instead of the legacy publishing giants?

  104. Circumcision.

    Is it genital mutilation? Is it relevant whether or not it is painful for the baby? What of the movement to make it illegal? Is it a violation of the First Amendment (religious freedom)? (If yes: is it also unconstitutional to outlaw polygamy or female genital mutilation? I just don’t know … either option makes me a little uncomfortable. But, that’s kind of how that amendment works, so … )

    Am I logically inconsistent by being pro-choice, anti-death penalty and anti-circumcision? Is it logically inconsistent for someone to be pro-life and pro-circumcision? Also don’t know. Please enlighten me …

  105. Inspired by an earlier comment: Let’s imagine that, much to nearly everyone’s surprise, that a Rapture *does* occur in May. And that, as a result, a large and widely distributed cross-section of both the world and the US population suddenly disappears without warning. (Exactly who and why I’ll leave up to you; it could be based on Lent* observance, for instance, or Zodiac sign, or something random or unfathomable.) Those that did not disappear are not affected– at least not directly– and it is unclear what will happen next.

    How do *you* think society would change if this suddenly happened? And how would you cope — or what advice would you leave for the rest of us to cope, if you’re no longer around to tell us yourself?

    (Hey, if we’re going to do scenario planning for winning the lottery or fending off a zombie outbreak, why not plan for this as well?)

  106. I’m not sure if this is bad form or not, but I wanted to elaborate just a bit more on the request I made in #103 regarding animation.

    I’m interested in the fact that in the States there is laregly still no market for animation targeted at adults. We’re pretty much stuck in the Disney and Saturday-morning cartoons “animation must always be kid-friendly” mentality. The fact that we have shows like South Park doesn’t show that we’re progressive about this, because the comedy is built into the very fact that cute little animated-cutouts are doing terrible things. South Park and other shows like it wouldn’t be funny if it were live-action; it’s funny because it plays against cultural expectations. Any cartoons in the States that are adult-oriented are, without exception, comedies (I challenge you to think of any that aren’t, and have any kind of large viewership!). There are never dramatic cartoons meant for adults… they’re simply not done.

    Why is that? There’s nothing inherently kidsey in animation, and yet Americans continue to construe it that way… and in the process, they write off foreign animation that doesn’t fit their own pre-conceived paradigm about what animation is supposed to be about. Show and movies like the ones I mentioned above are simply ignored. Any thoughts on why that is, or if it might ever change? Or thoughts about animation in general?

  107. At what point could you foresee ending the Whatever? When you become fabulously rich and (more) famous? When John Cusack rolls up in an airplane on your lawn and bits of the planet are splitting off? Only from your cold dead hands? (Disclaimer: None of these questions are to be taken as if I want any of this to happen.)

  108. Having recently read your blogpost entitled “Dear Writer: I’m Sorry I Don’t Have Time To CRUSH YOU” I realize my life won’t be complete until I own a STEROID SCALZI(tm) bobble-head doll. I can only imagine (why, yes I do have a vivid imagination) that others must feel the same. When will these be available for purchase?

  109. What book, not your own, would you *most* like to see made into a *quality* film? Possibly a mini-series if that format would be necessary to do the book justice.

    (My choice would be ‘Footfall’ by Niven & Pournelle, ymmv…)

  110. If a man jumped from 1910 to 2010 (how doesn’t really matter, could have stepped into a rip in the time space continuum, frozen in a glacier, rip van winkled it, whatever), besides technology, what would he consider the best and worst things about the world?

  111. Watson the computer has now won at Jeopardy. Ray Kurzweil has said: Ultimately, we will vastly extend and expand our own intelligence by merging with these tools of our own creation. It would appear that we have arrived at the point where it appears likely that the machines we make will be smarter than us. I would like to hear your thoughts on the subject. Is this true? Is it to be feared or embraced? Does it make you more optimistic or pessimistic about our future?

  112. My second request is more for my sons. One is in college and one will be going to college in a year. What is your view of college at this point in your life? Is it really useful or just an exercise in getting certified to be considered for employment? What advice would you give to a young person as to how best spend their college years – to get the most long term benefit?

  113. Food, something we all need and hopefully something we all cherish.

    You have, in blogposts past, mentioned a findness for In-N-Out burgers. What, to your mind, makes for the best burger-centred meal (the burger, assorted things on the burger, things on the side, what to drink and, for extra neatness, location to have it)?

  114. I’d be interested in hearing about your thoughts regarding nuclear power, specifically the gap between ‘scientific’ understanding of the risks and benefits associated with it versus the ‘public’ understanding (or lack thereof). This is especially given current events – nuclear power slowly starting to reenter the world picture (especially outside the US) followed by this mess in Japan and the news and rumours flying about will he, nil he as a result.

  115. You’ve talked a lot about politics, but not a great deal about political theory. I’m curious what you think is primarily the responsibility of the state, and what is the primary responsibility of the community. What responsibility do we have to each other, as opposed to the responsibility that we pay other people (through taxation) to take care of for us?

  116. A political/economic question:
    What is your opinion on megopolises? That is, two or more cities that have grown so large as to be effectively one unit (like SF/Oakland, Dallas-Ft.Worth, most of the northeastern US seaboard). In the general case, is this a good thing or a bad thing to happen to a region? In the specific case, twenty years ago, there wasn’t much but farmland between Cincinnati and Dayton, but now IKEA thinks it’s the perfect location to draw huge crowds (and they’re not wrong). Do you think Cincinnati and Dayton are likely to become a true megopolis? Is this a good thing or a bad thing for the region?

  117. In several states, it is double murder if you kill a pregnant woman; one for the woman, one for the fetus. If one believes that life truly begins at conception, why is smoking/drinking while pregnant not child abuse?


    Why do you think the democrats are so spineless overall?

    How can we justify treating multinational corporations as people, despite the fact that most of them act like clinical sociopaths in general action?

    I might come up with something else, but right now that’s what I’ve got.

  118. Have your experiences with SF Fandom been mostly positive? Negative? Some mix of the two?

    The question was prompted by my recent re-reading of Harlan Ellison’s essay _Xenogenesis_, wherein he describes some of the indignities he and other SF writers have suffered at the hands of fans. (The worst anecdote: a fan throwing a cup of vomit in Aland Dean Foster’s face). Just today I was reading some of Robert Heinlein’s letters and came across this passage in a letter to his agent in re being invited to be a guest of honor at a 1959 convention:

    “…while it is an honor of sorts and good publicity, science fiction fans in crowd lots can be pretty poisonous. I was guest of honor once before and, on that occasion, there were present a small group who specialized in whittling people down to size. There were so rude that I did not enjoy it.”

    I’ve never been to an SF convention, and, given the horror stories I’ve heard writers tell about cons, I’m pretty ambivalent about ever going to one. Just wondering what your experience has been.

  119. With the recently announced release date for Dance With Dragons a friend and I were talking about whether we were excited or not. I said no, any chance Martin had of keeping me as a far vanished about three failed release dates ago. Which got me thinking: What, if any, OBLIGATIONS do authors have to their fans? Has there ever been anything an author did that upset you enough to stop reading their work?
    I feel that if an author sets a deadline, or a release date, then they have an obligation to meet that deadline or to at least provide a reasonable explination for why they didn’t. In Martin’s case he has an online presence and we’ve seen numerous other offerings from him, which has only served to make this long delay for the next fire and ice book so frustrating.


  120. My non writing question:

    John Scalzi on Tabletop Roleplaying Games. Have you ever been a gamer? If so, what is your favourite RPG…

    And my “bizarre writing question I hope you’ll find interesting ’cause you’ve never been asked”:

    English is not my native language, so I’m curious about what advice can you give to someone wanting to write in a foreign language. Have you ever done it professionally? If not, have your ever think about trying it? In what language?


  121. Ok, here’s a non-writing question:
    As far as i understand from your lent-related post, you are an atheist/agnostic and encourage your daughter to take an interest in religions in general and the christian faiths in particular.
    Can you explain how that came to be and by which principles (e.g. will you go to church with her? Are you open about your beliefs?) you teach her about religion?

    I ask because me and my girlfriend are on the verge of marriage and have been talking a lot about religion and atheism; I’m an atheist and she is the daughter of a protestant pastor. She fears that the question of religious education (or lack thereof) of our (as of yet potential) children could be a major source of conflict.

  122. This might be a better question for “SFWA President Reader Request Week”, but here goes…

    I just read Ian Tregellis’ blog post about the delays he’s suffered in getting his novels published ( ). Do you have any similar stories about interesting/frustrating/weird issues with getting your books published (delays or otherwise)?

  123. My request would be a discussion of the true price of our “cheaper” culture. Example would be all the jobs that got eliminated to try to drive prices down, (self check out grocery lanes, self pump gas etc)

  124. Where do you stand on stand-up comedy? Recommendations, opinions, personal experiences? (Do you count “Morning Announcements at Lucas Interspecies”?)

  125. I’m planning on driving across the country from Provo, Utah to my home on the Eastern Shore of Maryland by way of South Dakota and Mount Rushmore (I have family there we’re visiting). Is there anywhere along that route that I can’t miss that you have encountered on your extensive travels? Or, if even if not not on that route, any favorite stops (attractions, restaurants, etc.) you’ve found in these vast United States?

  126. Here’s a quick question I had:

    I just read “after the coup” on TOR; it’s available free, as are other short stories posted here/elsewhere on the web. However, if I wanted to download it for the kindle (or Iphone kindle in my case), they’re only available for a price.

    What gives? Also, what do you think about free books on the kindle system and the theory that ebooks will tend to migrate to the $0.99 price point?

  127. Having ended up showing my girlfriend the BaconCat incident today, I feel compelled to ask whether, in the interests of fairness, you could tape bacon to yourself (i think forehead would be ideal) and allow the previously mentioned cat to bathe in your reciprocal humiliation. Ideally all in a picture.

  128. I’ve been thinking about super powers lately. Not the US vs China; more long the lines of the Fantastic Four. If I could have just one super power, what would it be? Invisibility, flight, the stamina of a 16 year old? As I considered the question in depth, I realized that with just about every super power comes a downside. With the ability to heal any illness comes the question of who gets the benefit of the healing? What happens when a powerful someone tries to incarcerate you so they can keep you on permanent call? Etc, etc. What would you choose if you could have just one super power, why, and what do you see as the up and downside?

  129. What is your best explanation for the “Fermi Paradox”?

    (For those who might be unfamiliar, via wikipedia: The Fermi paradox is the apparent contradiction between high estimates of the probability of the existence of extraterrestrial civilizations and the lack of evidence for, or contact with, such civilizations.)

  130. You wanted me to go nuts, so I’m going to take you at your word.

    1. What is your favorite candy bar, and why?

    2. Which do you prefer — pantyhose or a garter belt and stockings?

  131. Off the top:

    I’m wondering if we’ll ever get the hang of online privacy in this interconnected age, when so many don’t realize that it’s not absolute, and others seem to have no problem assuming that individuals have no right to it and selling personal information to the highest bidder.

    With the cancellation of Stargate: Universe, it seems to bring to a close the era of grand TV space operas like the Star Trek franchise and Stargate franchise. Will there ever be the like again?

  132. Reading an old Reader Request Week pice on YA books got me reminiscing about my own reading material as a teen-aged girl in Canada in the 80’s, specifically Monica Hughes’ ‘Devil on my Back’. Which then got me thinking of Niven and Pournelle’s ‘Oath of Fealty’ and their vision of brain implants. Which of course got me thinking of OMW and the Brain Pals and other brain prostheses you mentioned. I don’t have a specific question but would love to hear your thoughts on the topic of brain peripherals, either in real life potential or fictional potential.


  133. I have this daydream in which a fictional character from the past truns up at my house and I have to take him or her along with me for a day and show him the marvels of the modern era (at least insofar as I’m interacting with them while doing the stiff I was going to do anyway). At the end of the day, we say goodbye and he goes off to have his own adventures in the 21st century.

    I spent a great day once with Sherlock Holmes, who tried really hard to look like he was taking it all in his stride. Another time, Tarzan went ape at the concept of drive-thru McDonalds, while I had to work hard to convince Winston Smith that he could speak freely and tell me what he really thought about the internet.

    Who would you like to join you for a day? What would you show them and talk to them about? What adventures might they then go on and have?

  134. Sorry, that was ‘turns up’ and ‘stuff I was going to be doing’. I’m not really illerate, just reluctant to check everything. (I know, so why do I check it anyway, afterwards?)

  135. What are your thoughts on interracial and/or international adoption? Should parents of these children pass on the cultural heritage of their own race/ethnicity/country/etc., or the cultural heritage of the child’s genetic makeup / land of origin?

  136. What are your thoughts on interracial and/or international adoption? Should parents of these children pass on the cultural heritage of their own race/ethnicity/country/etc., or the cultural heritage of the child’s genetic makeup / land of origin? Or both?

  137. There are three topics that you should never discuss in public:

    politics, and

    The first two come up frequently, but I cannot remember a single mention of sports on this blog. Is that because you have no interest in sports? Do you actively dislike sports? Are there any athletic activities (tee-ball, curling, lumberjack competitions) that you do have an interest in?

  138. I lived in the Cleveland/Akron area for years and I’m saddened but not surprised by the official census news that Ohio’s population has declined. I realize a lot of the the loss is centered in the Northeast part of the state and not Darke County, but I’m still curious what you think about this.
    Not just from the political standpoint of losing seats in the House (although feel free to comment on that too), but also from a cultural and developing business point of view.

  139. Non-writing question. Obviously there are a lot of pluses to raising Athena in your corner of Ohio. What are some of the minuses? I would imagine a lack of diversity is one minus. What do you do to address that?

  140. John, what do you think of the deficit reduction and tax code proposal of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform?
    It appears that President Obama (I voted for him) is reluctant to embrace his own bipartisan commission’s recommendations. It also appears the Congress wants to just sit around and nitpick, instead of getting to the business of government – this fiscal business being of the utmost importance.

  141. Any thoughts on why Japan produces so many science fiction animated / cartoon series while the US goes more for fantasy?

    Or, is there a particular cartoon series that is an Under Appreciated Jewel that you’d like us all to watch?

  142. You blogged before about Athena giving up the internet for Lent, the implication being that she uses it quite a lot. I’m curious about how and how much you monitor your daughter’s access to the internet in general given that there’s both a lot of good and a lot of bad to be found out there.

  143. I’m an aspiring writer, and my question is: how do you think SFWA and similar organizations are going to change over the next five years? We’re seeing the rise of “self-publishing,” which may simply mean that Amazon and Apple are the two biggest publishers and everyone gets to read the slush pile, or it might be one of those over-hyped diverse ecosystems where everyone from Random house to Baen to Amazon’s got something out in some form somwhere.

    However you see that, SFWA is limited to professional writers, but when any idiot can get published online (heck, I published something I wrote on Amazon, and I’m definitely an idiot), who do you think might be considered “professional enough,” and how will the SFWA (and its sisters) stay useful and relevant to both writers and the publishing industry?

  144. Harlan Ellison has said that when he dies, his assistant and wife are to burn his trunk of unfinished manuscripts. He does not want anyone else playing in his sandboxes after he’s gone, and I can understand that. Do you have any such compunctions/edicts about your unfinished work?

  145. If you could live in a universe designed by any science fiction or fantasy author, where would you live, and why? Is there an author you’d like to design a universe for you to live in?

  146. You are given a single day to spend with any one person alive or dead. Who is the person and what do you do with the day?

  147. I would be interested in knowing about the role of math in your life. I’ve erased dozens of sentences clarifying what I mean, but I guess I’d rather leave it open. If you feel so moved to talk about math, I would be glad to hear about it. Thanks for considering my question. Michele

  148. Which do you think is more important for writers; talent or skill? (Assuming you’d be heavily weighted towards one or the other)

    What’s the last thing Athena did that surprised you with how smart she is?

  149. The debate is hot and heavy on the hill as to whether our taxes should fund the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. There are some in congress specifically targeting anything connected with NPR, thinking the news is always slanted towards liberal ideals.
    Cutting funding would mean many small, rural public radio/TV stations would go dark.
    What are your thoughts?

  150. You just mention that your work is called Heinleinian. You also said you did not really agree, but still. What about Heinlein? I read him a lot when I was a teenager and reread and reread. Moon is harsh mistress, Stranger in a strange land. Even Friday and the quite bloated one about the more or less immortal whateverhisnamewas, I read a few times. My favourite is still the puppet masters, although it now reads rather chauvinist, with a token cardboard (red-headed, of course) woman. And I remember fondly the one about the twins separated by a space journey.

    What was your favourite Heinlein novel and what is it now? How do you feel about being called Heinleinian, is it just lazy, or do you feel influenced by his style/subject matter?


  151. I am one of the many following the mounting disasters in Japan and wondering what meaningful thing I could do to help. Last year I made a donation to Doctor’s Without Borders following the Haiti earthquake since that seemed to me to be where the need was. What are your thoughts about what would be worthwhile in this case?

  152. As an artist, do you read many reviews of your work? If you do, why? What do you take away from those reviews?

    As a reviewer, what do you try to accomplish in your review?

  153. John,

    Can you ever just accept a complement when you get one? Just a curious thought that passed through my mind when reading your answer to the poll that OMW was number one on.



    P.S. This isn’t a sarcastic comment, just a simple question as to whether you can accept a complement or will you just dissect why you received the praise to begin with.

  154. You’ve written about a number of odd aliens, and we all know about you and bacon. At what point of intelligence would it become morally wrong to eat an alien, and how could we know? I know that the notion of eating/being eaten by aliens without suspecting rational intellect isn’t new, but I’m curious where you might draw the line. More simply, would you eat space bacon if there was a chance that the alien pig was sentient?

  155. Different people have different ideas of what makes an asshole. It seems that pretty much anything we do can have us labelled as assholes. Can you list your definitions of the term?

  156. One thing I’ve seen a lot of in SF and particularly military SF is somebody “smelling ozone” at some point. Have you ever smelled ozone, and if you have, what does it smell like?

  157. How well acquainted are you with the friends of your friends? For exemple, you’ve often mentionned being friends with Scott Westerfeld and Justine Larbalestier, and they are friends with a lot of YA authors like John Green and Maureen Johnson, amond many others. How well do you know THEM?

  158. When I recommend you to friends who like SF, I often say, “I will read anything he writes.” Which authors are like that for you – you’ll read whatever they write, no matter what?

  159. I realise from your own comments that you do a wide range of writing. Is there a particular type of writing that really makes a difference to your enjoyment of what you do? I mean that creating paid copy for private clients keeps the wolf from the door quite nicely (although in my case it is usually only scant inches from the door) but, if you had the choice, is there any type of writing that you do that you would wish to be able to, if not completely forego, then at least decrease?

  160. Did you visit libraries a lot as a child? And do you (or your family) use one nowadays? Do you have any particular opinions/memories/other random interesting thoughts about libraries?

    (As someone currently studying librarianship, I’m curious.)

  161. As someone who has more reach with your words than the average person, do you feel inclined to support a cause or causes? Do you feel
    empowered to use your fame as a means to make some sort of change, or do you prefer to make personal, private contributions and keep your public life more neutral?

  162. Would it make you feel uncomfortable if a reader (who you don’t know) came up to you to say hello while you were out & about? Say, at the grocery store or in a coffee shop…provided that the reader is not interrupting what is obviously a family outing.

  163. Hi John,

    This is my first time posting on your blog. Thank you for your post from last year titled, “Find the Time or Don’t.” It’s kept me motivated to continue writing lately.

    Why do you think video games make horrible movies? Are there any films that have been adapted from games that you would consider to not be an artistic failure?

  164. Another question:

    You spend quite a lot of time on your blog discussing and recommending other novels. What books would you consider required reading – the books that you think every person has to read at some point in their life?

  165. As someone with a liberal arts degree I was wondering your thoughts on the economics of a liberal arts degree. With a declining economy and severe constraint on resources should States and taxpayers be funding liberal arts programs such as philosophy and literature. Do institutions and society have a responsibility to make sure that these students know the economic situation they are putting themselves in? The story of the day is the newly graduated philosophy major with over $100K dollars in debt unable to obtain a job at Walmart. (I heard it on NPR so it must be true!) Is there still value in a liberal arts degree or is there another more affordable option for an aspiring writer/philosopher to pursue their ambition? When I was getting my philosophy degree the running joke was to practice for our post college careers, “Yes mam fries do come with that.”

  166. I’m a fan of the Bravo Channel’s Inside The Actors Studio hosted by James Lipton.

    Do you feel like answering the same ten questions Lipton asks his guests?

    With explanations and elaborations of course – asking a writer like you to limit their answers to one word or one line would be like asking Led Zep to compose a two minute punk rock tune:)

    1. What is your favorite word?
    2. What is your least favorite word?
    3. What turns you on?
    4. What turns you off?
    5. What sound or noise do you love?
    6. What sound or noise do you hate?
    7. What is your favorite curse word?
    8. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
    9. What profession would you not like to do?
    10. If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?


  167. PS….A video recording posted online (maybe with a “guest host” to ask pou the questions) would be ideal

  168. Could you talk about cover artwork and your books, how it comes to be, how it differs with various releases and countries, what your thoughts are on it etc.. Also curious what you think will happen with E-books and Cover art.

  169. Hello,

    As a relative newcomer, I am probably asking something that you have already covered in the past, but I thought it may be worth a shot.

    As a “mother” to four adorable fur-babies (three of them rescues/strays, one the runt of a local mixed breed litter), I was hoping to know more about your brood. So, here are twenty (well, not THAT many) questions of the furry kind:

    * It would appear that all of your fur-kids are strays/rescues. Would you care to re-tell their stories in one post?
    * Is your preference generally to adopt and/or support local shelters?
    * Have you always been an animal lover and any particular reasons why?
    For example, I am a survivor of abuse at the hands of my father/other men. I found comfort without judgment in my animal companions, they have never hurt me as human beings have, and so I “pay back the compassion they gave me” by volunteering through local animal shelters. I also spoil my four rotten (aka I am just staff, they the masters).
    * Have you had any other kind of pets beyond cats and dogs?

    Thank you so much for considering my questions! Hugs to your family from mine!

  170. Ok so I am thinking about removing my website from Tumbler and get it to a WordPress site. I believe this is a wordpress site right? If it is, may I ask where you got the theme? Thanks a bunch!

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