I’ve got people saying, “Hey, now that it’s April 2nd, are you going to tell us whether that announcement yesterday was an April Fool’s joke or not?” Well, my answer is — let’s have a poll about it, shall we?

I’m very interested in the poll results, I must say.

108 Comments on “TSWOTNDBOTDC: The Poll”

  1. Dude, you left off “It was a dark and stormy April Fool’s joke” as a choice. Which, of course, would be my choice, were it an option.

  2. Hmm, no option for “not only an April Fool joke, but one ghost written by Terry Pratchett”.

  3. Old Man’s War! Old Man’s War! Old Man’s War! Old Man’s War! Old Man’s War!

  4. What about the “I am hoping it will be adapted as a screenplay” option?

    Just imaging that first sentence being narrated by someone with a nice stiff British accent.

  5. This needs to be a series. Of course, you should start from book 2, then do book 4 and 5, and then do book 8. Because book stores never have the first book in any epic fantasy series.

  6. I hope we’ll be seeing that first line in the Bulwer-Lytton prize contest this year!

  7. In English class this week we were challenged to write the longest grammatically correct thesis statement we could. I though I did well with five lines of typed text (with multiple clauses) but now I must bow to your superior skills!

  8. I read the prolog, and dude, the minute you mentioned a badger, you gave the game away.

  9. I could do without ever having to read that first sentence over again (well played, sir), but I would totally buy a multi-book high-fantasy series by John Scalzi.


  10. I must give you props for the attention to detail on this one, even down to having the cover art completed. I’m sure you could easily do the series and people would pick it up. It is even a plausible title based on what is seen on the book store shelves today.

  11. The second funniest thing about that, after the most awesome first sentence in the history of first sentences, is the number of people asking if it was an April Fool’s joke.

  12. Seconded. Where do you submit nominations for the Purple Prose Award?

  13. I enjoyed god engines enough to give a Scalzi fantasy series a shot, however, this was clearly an April fools joke. An elaborate and well prepared April fools joke.

  14. It’s a really well done April Fool’s joke, but what I want to know is who are the three guys on the cover art supposed to be?? I feel like I should recognize them but I just can’t place them and now I am afraid I am going senile. For the sake of what little sanity I have left, please put me out of my misery.

  15. Oh, and for all those who are wishing the poll was multiple choice, it appears you can vote more than once.

  16. So I read the first paragraph and thought, oh it’s an April fool.

    Then I finished the 1st part and thought it’s very well done.

    Then I read the 2nd part and thought, this is starting to look like the real thing!!!!

  17. The saddest part, really, is that the fact that there *is* confusion as to whether this is a joke is an indicator that the genre has hit a point in its self-ghettoization where its readership can’t tell if something is a parody because the source material itself has become so caricatured.

  18. @Steve Boyett

    Actually, I think it’s because the genre accepts self-parody. This isn’t Atlanta Nights, after all, if your tastes run to “tongue firmly planted in cheek” fiction, the TSWOTNDBOTDC excerpt is well-written and a fun read.

  19. I wouldn’t put too much truck in the results since your poll ignored several survey design rules. Besides not limiting respondents to one turn, the alternatives give the answer away. I gladly volunteer to help you write the next one.

    Besides, wouldn’t it have been fun to break the answers down by demographics, age, gender, number of Scalzy books read, etc.?

  20. What about the choice:
    It is…gee that was funny. Now stay the hell away from fantasy and stick with scifi. I don’t care what scifi as long as it is scifi.

  21. I chose the “Props for epic first sentence” option, but what I really wanted was “I don’t know, but I really want it to be true”

  22. As a writer (though not of fantasy or sf), I kinda hope this is for real, John. I haven’t laughed that hard or groaned so much over a first chapter in …well, since the last Terry Pratchett novel I read. I’d definitely buy it if it continued as it started.

    “Make it so!”

  23. I would totally buy a book about Ruell and that particular night dragon, if only one hadn’t killed the other after 1317 words. Didn’t think ahead, did you?

  24. I haven’t read all of the comments, so I don’t know if anyone has put forth this theory yet, but I’m leaning towards:

    1) The fantasy project does exist.
    2) That cover painting is going to be used for it.
    3) BUT the title is something else.
    4) AND the prologue is entirely fake (duh).

    Why do I think this? Cover art doesn’t paint itself. Why not turn something already in the pipeline into an hilarious joke? Makes sense t’me.

  25. Steve Boyett @23: As with Wrenlet @24, I think you’ve missed the point. This is absolutely, without question, a joke. Whether it is an “April Fools” joke in the sense that the excerpt is all there is and the announcement of the book is a spoof, or it’s a “real” joke in the sense that it’s actually going to be carried forward at book length and published, that’s the question. I am strongly wishing it to be the latter, because I though it was a damn funny joke, and I’d like to keep laughing like that for 300 more pages. And also because I want to see if Scalzi can actually keep it going for 300 pages — and, if so, how.

    This is, of course, leaving aside the interesting question of whether, assuming that what it really is is a spoof that PNH contracted with Scalzi to write (and likewise contracted with the artist to create cover art) and paid real money for, one can really discount it as “real”.

  26. While I’d be happy to read Scalzi fantasy – I enjoyed The God Engines – I think that Scalzi *Comic* fantasy is selling your talents a bit short. Plus, that cover? Totally not comic fantasy. Get thee to Paul Kidby again!

  27. I picked the second option because otherwise you’d be a lying liar. And we all know you’re a different kind of liar.

  28. “Night had come to the city of Skalandarharia, the sort of night with such a quality of black to it that it was as if black coal had been wrapped in blackest velvet, bathed in the purple-black ink of the demon squid Drindel and flung down a black well that descended toward the deepest, blackest crevasses of Drindelthengen, the netherworld ruled by Drindel, in which the sinful were punished, the black of which was so legendarily black that when the dreaded Drindelthengenflagen, the ravenous blind black badger trolls of Drindelthengen, would feast upon the uselessly dilated eyes of damned, the abandoned would cry out in joy as the Drindelthengenflagenmorden, the feared Black Spoons of the Drindelthengenflagen, pressed against their optic nerves, giving them one last sensation of light before the most absolute blackness fell upon them, made yet even blacker by the injury sustained from a falling lump of ink-bathed, velvet-wrapped coal.”

    The whole first paragraph was one sentence, and to call it merely purple prose would be to insult the color purple (both the color and the book).
    However, as satire it was hilarious. I had to hold my hand over my mouth so that people couldn’t hear me laughing in another room.

    It was great. If it’s not an April Fools joke, I hope the rest of the book is just as funny.

  29. The people who voted that it wasn’t a joke are joking … right? I mean, maybe (I hope I hope) it’ll end up being a full-length joke, but it seems self-evidently a joke to me.

    Hell, as far as I’m concerned, the *title* gave it away.

  30. That’s almost as long-wionded as Patrick O’Brian, but if POB were involved there would be semicolons. Lots and lots of semi-colons.

  31. #39 Beapaw: Of course it’s a joke, but the poll specifically asks if it’s an April Fools joke.

  32. @Wrenlet and @Brooks Moses — If that’s the case, why has John felt compelled to put up a poll asking people to decide whether the thing was a joke entirely because so many people who read it on the Tor site weren’t sure if it was?

  33. Not only did I think it was a joke, I thought it was a joke John tried too hard at hard. He should have just put it out there and not said any more about it.

  34. It is, but I wish it was not.

    Which is not to say I yearn for book three (to say nothing of your innevitable reboot/rebrand books of the NEU DRAKONIC CYCLE coming in 2015 or so) but rather I’d love to see an epic piss-take like this in a printed, physical form. Perhaps a novella for charity through Lulu or some such? The cover and first sentence alone would get some of my money.

    But I’m sure clever-er minds area already on this.

  35. Can I go with- It was AND It was not?

    I do believe that John Scalzi was provided a contract for said work, and that he was paid for it in some way on the basis of that contract. Yet, I do not believe that this work is ever going to be a novel length book, and definitely not one that lives up to the quality of writing that this beginning has left us. I hope, regardless of whether this has fulfilled the contract or whether this is Book One in its completed form, that we can have at least a trilogy, or more preferably, a grossology (144 parts I believe) which seems to me to be appropriate. I do believe that the publication date was not left to chance.

  36. Was an April Fool joke, and may become reality (well, April Fool is reality, too, but more real than that.)

  37. So far as the guys on the cover go, my brain immediately decided the bald guy was Rick from the show “Pawn Stars”. Which meant that my brain decided the younger fellow in front must be a slimmed-down version of Chumlee. I can’t get this particular notion out of my head, so now I’m in a positive-feedback-loop trying to decide if the guy in back is supposed to Rick’s son, or his father minus the goofy hat. When I try to convince myself the guy in the middle is really a highly-stylized version of John Scalzi, the rest of my brain refuses this obvious attempt to divert my thinking along a new line, and I lurch back into the previously-mentioned IF…WHILE…WEND…GOTO loop.

    Someone please leave a better notion for my compulsive brain to mull, before my head explodes!

    btw, I voted twice because I couldn’t decide between “best 1st sentence evar” and “i know it’s a joke but I wish it weren’t”.

  38. When I looked at the cover art just in the original post, it seemed plausible but when I went to the Tor sight, it was hilariously obvious that it was a joke. Still, if John Scalzi were to write a satire of all the bad fantasy novels then it becomes plausible once again but I really doubt that could be sustained for more than one novel length book.

    Also, I loved the other Tor bit: “Child Unleashes Monster at End of Book” and a photo-shopped picture of Grover.

  39. And I was looking forward to playing the TSWOTNDBOTDC MMORPG. I was going to bring stew to the midnight release party.

  40. I would like to know if that first “sentence” is the longest on record? It just kept going and going and going. When I read the title, I knew something was up. I thought we’d just get a picture of bacon or one of the cats by clicking. I haven’t laughed so hard in a long time. Hey, maybe it could be a short story? A really short story.

  41. That first sentence reminded me a bit of Patrick Rothfuss’ “silence of three parts.”

  42. I’ll have to compare the length of that sentence to another long one I know of, which will require me to find my old copy of ” In which Piglet is Entirely Surrounded by Water” by A. A. Milne.

  43. In a sense, the poll IS an answer, isn’t it? You’ve generally been pretty plain and straightforward about this kind of stuff in the past. My professional Internet Citizen’s Opinion is that the presence of a poll makes a significant implication that it’s a joke.

  44. I find it completely believable that after the Tor blog post, and the discussion in the comments, John and Tor might decide to go ahead with a major extruded fantasy art product. I can see it working from both a creative and a financial point of view.

    Tor deciding to announce the project on April First? That’s taking the concept and running with it. Which is why I voted “It is not.” And soon we will all know!

  45. Well, if it was a joke, it got me good. I usually can spot the April Fool’s jokes.

    Reason I believe it? The Android’s Dream and Agent to the Stars are both at least half comedy. Even the Old Man’s War universe has its witty, comedic moments. Announcing an overblown comedic fantasy by an author known to do comedy on April’s Fools and then having it be TRUE and not a trick would be the greatest joke of all.

    And THAT is a reason to write it…just to be able to laugh while everyone says it must be a joke when it actually isn’t.

    That’s much better than even a clever, April’s fool lie.

  46. Had to go for the third option. I think it is an April Fool’s Joke, but I wish it wasn’t. The prologue was terrible, yeah, but it was hilarious and I enjoyed it something fierce. I was sad that it ended.


    The longest sentence I’ve encountered was from Roberto Balaño’s 2666. It was five pages long. Not the first line though.

  47. I honestly don’t know whether it was a joke or not. If it was just about anybody else I’d say, yes, definitely a joke. But this is John Scalzi we’re talking about — if anybody could pull off a satire with a name like Shadow War of the Night Dragons it’d be him.

    (My suspicion is that it’s a joke, though. The writing in the Tor.com sample is entertaining at that length but would get painful at book length.)

  48. You know, every logical part of me says it’s a joke.

    But. The writer part of me thinks it might not be, for one good reason: Every good writer, especially every good genre writer, has those moments where he (used as a generic, not trying to imply that the only good writers are men) wishes he could go absolutely balls to the wall on destroying every lousy cliche that keeps popping up over and over and over and over again. And knowing what I know about John’s abhorrence of lousy cliches and his twisted sense of humor, I can absolutely see him pitching this and seeing it as a chance to have some fun, make some money (like you wouldn’t buy this book in a heartbeat; I know I would) and torture the life out of those cliches.

    Having said that, John, if this is a joke, please consider turning it into something real. Because I’d love to read 300 pages of you taking a flamethrower to the crutches that bad genre writers keep using.

  49. If it is real, I feel I should be allowed to have unrealistic expectations for the release date of “Dream World of the Fire Wolf.”

  50. My actual belief isn’t an option. Just because it’s an April Fool’s joke doesn’t mean it’s not a real book.

    To repeat ehat I said at the office: either the book is fake and this is a hilarious April Fool’s pranm or (and this is where my money is) the book is real and this is thd best April Fool’s prank ever.

  51. Iain Banks can drop some long sentences on you, they just flow along:

    Picking a fight with a species as widespread, long-lived, irascible and – when it suited them – single-minded as the Dwellers too often meant that just when – or even geological ages after when – you thought that the dust had long since settled, bygones were bygones and any unfortunate disputes were all ancient history, a small planet appeared without warning in your home system, accompanied by a fleet of moons, themselves surrounded with multitudes of asteroid-sized chunks, each of those riding cocooned in a fuzzy shell made up of untold numbers of decently hefty rocks, every one of them traveling surrounded by a large landslide’s worth of still smaller rocks and pebbles, the whole ghastly collection traveling at so close to the speed of light that the amount of warning even an especially wary and observant species would have generally amounted to just about sufficient time to gasp the local equivalent of ‘What the fu—?’ before they disappeared in an impressive if wasteful blaze of radiation.

    from The Algebraist

  52. Author releases prolog of new book on April 1 …. that begins with an almost unreadably long (tho’ funny) first sentence followed by “It was a dark and stormy night.” That’s the clue right there. It’s designed to amuse an in-crowd, not a wide readership.

    There’s no way this isn’t a joke, of the April fool’s kind.

    Buf where did the cover art come from? A gift from the Night Dragons themselves, perhaps?

  53. Omitted option: “It’s real. The success of the Fuzzy Nation project has inspired Scalzi to revive the unique stylistic flourishes and storytelling panache of another unjustly neglected master, Lionel Fanthorpe.”

  54. @63, word. I would buy this in a heartbeat just to see a smart writer whose work I enjoy take a metaphorical flaming machete to every fantasy stereotype I know and love/hate. BRILLIANT. If this is a joke I hope it becomes a not-joke ASAP.

  55. I think John Scalzi is crying inside. He wanted his hangers-on to welcome his new boom with open minds. Alas, they didn’t. And now John Scalzi is going to have to rename the book, commission different cover art, and postpone the launch. His April 1st backfired on him, and he is sobbing, crying inside.

  56. Another one here for the, “Oh, wait, this is Scalzi. How many levels is this a joke on?” camp.

    Okay, when I actually read it, it became reasonably obvious (I think!) that it was a pure rite of the day. But consider, UnicornPegasusKitten Dude, that it will be long and long before anybody acquainted with your form will lightly say anything like, “Scalzi do what? Don’t be ruddy ridiculous!” again.

    The Death of Gravity: How Snark, Facetiousness, and Escapism Destroyed Western Civilization might have managed it.

  57. We need a new poll.
    New option: “Despite its origins as an elaborate April Fools’ joke, how many people would buy this in hardcover if it were to actually exist?”

    Because Jesus God, I would buy the frack out of this in hardcover. One of the funniest things I’ve read in a long time.

    John–if you’re reading this thread? Please, please, please write the whole thing… and I say this as your potential competition in the comic fantasy novel field (if Lords of Perth gets published). Because oh my god, is that hysterical.

    Serious question: how many copies of this would you have to sell to make it profitable for Tor to publish? Your site gets 40,000 readers, so if one out of every ten visitors buys it in HC, that’s 4,000 copies sold…

  58. Greg M./Other Greg (#74), I totally agree! I love comedic fantasies (or should that be fantastic comedies?) and, after reading that excerpt on Tor’s website, would totally buy this book. And I’m a little dismayed that it’ll probably turn out to be a joke, and that I’ll never get to know what happens to the night dragons!

  59. Noted avant-garde artist A. A. Milne wrote some pretty long sentences, viz:

    In after-years he liked to think that he had been in Very Great Danger during the Terrible Flood, but the only danger he had really been in was in the last half-hour of his imprisonment, when Owl, who had just flown up, sat on a branch of his tree to comfort him, and told him a very long story about an aunt who had once laid a seagull’s egg by mistake, and the story went on and on, rather like this sentence, until Piglet who was listening out of his window without much hope, went to sleep quietly and naturally, slipping slowly out of the window towards the water until he was only hanging on by his toes, at which moment luckily, a sudden loud squawk from Owl, which was really part of the story, being what his aunt said, woke the Piglet up and just gave him time to jerk himself back into safety and say, “How interesting, and did she?” when– well, you can imagine his joy when at last he saw the good ship, The Brain of Pooh (Captain, C. Robin; Ist Mate, P. Bear) coming over the sea to rescue him.

  60. Yes, you can vote multiple times. We should call this the “Chicago” poll. And, yes, dead people can vote, too.

  61. I think Jeff James at #33 may have figured it out. Especially if the title is going to be changed.

  62. Wait…. the overwhelming vote is for April Fool’s Joke? Dang it, Mr. Scalzi! I was all excited that you were branching off into Scalziesque fantasy. (But hadn’t had time to click on the first chapter…. I have a feeling I’d better go click and see now.)

  63. OK– I finally got a chance to READ the prologue, and it BETTER be “not-a-joke.” Because it was hilarious, and interesting, and, well, Scalzi-esque.

    Actually, in bits, it sort of reminded me of what I love about Terry Pratchett at his finest. But with the Scalzi touch.

    PLEASE let it be real! :)

  64. Also, my husband points out that Comedic Fanatasy is a genre with a long, proud history–

    You have the Myth, inc. Books. (And Phule’s Company)
    Xanth (yes, Scalzi kicks Anthony’s butt here.)
    Terry Pratchett, who has owned the genre for ages.
    Magic Kingdom for Sale
    Diana Wynn Jones -(Howl is actually pretty light, the Dark Lord of Derkholm is hilarious)
    The Misenchanted Sword
    Ester Friesner……

    So many of the greats are dead (DWJ) or dying (TP). We NEED Scalzi to step up to the plate here.

    And for anyone who did NOT find that hilarious and want more—seriously, see a psychologist. Because if you can’t laugh at THAT, you’re seriously depressed and need help……

  65. “Xanth (yes, Scalzi kicks Anthony’s butt here.)”

    Hey now, I grew up on that stuff! Be nice.

    Anyway, I don’t think TSWOTNDBOTDC is like Xanth. The Xanth books were silly and poked fun at fantasy tropes, sure. But I think TSWOTNDBOTDC is more directly making fun of fantasy AUTHORS. I see this “novel” as Scalzi making a big L on his forehead with his thumb and pointy finger, looking over at the fantasy authors, and saying… “LOOOOOOOOSERS!!!!”

  66. The title gives it away, for me. That is to say, I had to suppress a snicker when I read it. If I’m wrong about the project being fake, may I express the opinion that the title needs work?

    But then, what do I know.

  67. Sheesh, the interpretaions herein are becoming biblical in their convolutedness. Personally the best thing about it, joke or not, besides the comedy, is squidly. Possibly the best new adjective I’ve come across in years.

  68. Going through the comments, I notice that no one seems to notice that Tor.com has been joking about a book by this title ever since they did their fan pole. So definitely a joke, and likely the last minute commission John was talking about earlier. However, I’m firmly in the “wish it wasn’t a joke” camp. I would absolutely love to see him do this kind of thing.

  69. I don’t think it’s an April Fools Joke, because in the post you made on the 1st, you put in a lot of effort to convince us that it was, in fact, an April Fools joke.

  70. I am partial to the second sentence myself. The “oft-commented-upon Moistening of Skalandarharia” could be an important part of the back story.

    And of course the answer is: it’s a traditional “April fools” joke, in which teh Interwebs announce the launch of a product which turns out not to be a product at all.

    But the joke is actually on Scalzi, because in the process of fabricating the “fake” announcement he actually created a real story, or at least the relevant part of one. (It would be as if Think Geek actually sold Canned Unicorn Meat in an effort to convince you that they had a product called Canned Unicorn Meat—um, which I guess they now do, in a manner of speaking.) Unless this meta-circle was Scalzi’s plan all along.

    In which case the joke is on Ghlaghghee, by default.

  71. First, it definitely belongs in the Bulwer-Lytton contest.

    Second, you might have called the city DIRNDLhaven.

  72. Maybe it was a combination of April’s fool and testing the waters? Making it an April’s fool joke, which could be expanded into a real book if enough people responded positively to it?

    Nah! I doubt it!

  73. I think this is an example of the future of April Fool’s Day pranks. Now that we have an Internet to verify things on (and the expectation that big stunning announcements on April 1 are not to be trusted) we now have the extra meta-layer of evidence (a SIGNED CONTRACT, people!) that is just ambiguous enough to keep people guessing all the way into the next several days. As pranks go, it hardly even matters what the outcome is, because as the multiple choice poll indicates, the joke is inevitably going to be on somebody.

  74. Definitely April Fool. The title alone was a giveaway. But still, I laughed so hard reading the prologue, I want more.

  75. It might be the literary equivalent of a ThinkGeek April Fool’s Day product. Sure, their April 1 products start as a joke, but before you know it, we’re all ordering Tauntaun sleeping bags.

    I have high hopes for the sabersicles this year. And, of course, this book.

  76. #76 by Tom Scudder
    Yes that’s the quote I was thinking of, thank’s for saving me the bother of typing it up :D

  77. I voted for violence because I’d reeeeally like a new OMW book sometime in the future, but given my hand eye motor skills are very poor, and you’re unlikely to make it to the worlds most isolated city, Perth Australia, if I did actually cut you It would probably be an accident followed by a stammering apology and then a fainting spell at the sight of blood.

  78. All I can say is, for something that began life as a laughably bad joke on equally-bad-but-less-laughable craptastic fantasy, this is pretty engaging. I would buy the whole book and read it laughing my ass off the whole time.

    Needless to say, I vote “It is, but I wish it weren’t” (FTFY). And also the one about the sentence, once I realized you can vote more than once.

    I’m pretty sure the contract was for a certain amount of parody fiction for Tor.com, but DAMN I want that book! I could use a laugh or 600 right about now.

  79. Ugh. I fucked up my last comment. I didn’t mean to say it was a bad joke. It was a really GOOD joke about really bad fiction. Sorry for any confusion. Color and consistency may vary. Not available in TX, AR, DB, or HD. Do not bounce Happy Fun Ball.

  80. Where’s the option for, “It is an April Fool’s joke, but I WILL CUT YOU IF YOU DON’T ACTUALLY WRITE IT!”

    Because that’s what I would have voted for.

  81. I’ve been agonising for a couple of days, at first I thought it was real, then I saw the Tor post about common words in titles, so, fake, then i noticed in the announcement that you said Fortunately, my editor at Tor, Patrick Nielsen Hayden, called me one day with an idea that was exactly what I needed, and at that point, well. I couldn’t not write it. so they gave you the idea and I can imagine the thoughts in the Tor offices going along the lines of “we’ve got a reasonable title that we could use here, it would probably be better as a satire – who do we have in our stable who writes satire and fantasy? John Scalzi!” so that makes it plausible. But then the Tor post for that title thing was only March 11th so you couldn’t have had the idea long enough to write much, so that means it’s fake, but might become real? I don’t know! I’m so CONFUSED!!!!!

  82. I thought this was a really fun piece of writing. At book length, it would have to eventually (as Douglas Adams said about the Hitchhiker’s Guide) settle down and tell you things you actually need to know — meaning a huge change in style. Then again, the whole opening of “Android’s Dream” is just a shaggy dog story.

    There’s still a missed opportunity, though. This is the Scalzi piece that absolutely needs Wil Wheaton’s narration.

  83. One of the longest sentences I’ve ever encountered is in Limbo by Bernard Wolfe. Runs to about five pages.

    But, regardless, a novel-length spoof of all things fantasy-cliche is definitely in order, and there’s apparently only one writer who has the chops to do it.

  84. It’s the April Fools joke that keeps on giving…

    Now that everyone’s convinced it’s a joke, it will be published.

    The release date is NEXT April 1st! Pre-order now!

  85. Old Man’s War! Old Man’s War! Old Man’s War! Old Man’s War! Old Man’s War! book.

  86. Nikitta, if you’ve any doubts about the april-fooliness of “The Shadow War of the Night Dragons Part One: the Dead City,” follow the link that Musereader posted, at #103 above.