In addition to it being the release date of Fuzzy Nation and the start of my book tour, today also happens to be my birthday. I am now forty-two years old, which if you’re a science fiction geek is a fortuitous year, inasmuch as it’s the year of the number of the answer to life, the universe and everything. I regret to say that simply turning forty-two does not in fact give one particular insight into life, the universe and everything, or even (to the point here) give one particularly good questions with which to match with the answer. Maybe it takes a couple more hours to sink in. I will let you know.

I can say that forty-two finds me both happy and increasingly aware that time is passing. Happy because, well, life is good: I am married to a spectacular person. We have a child who continues to grow into a remarkable person. Our pets are fuzzy and amusing. We are financially comfortable and do not suffer want on any level. My career is going well. I am being of service to others. I get to do interesting things and know interesting people. I am healthy, as is my family.

Aware that time is passing, because, well, it is, mostly congenially, but with the occasional reminder that with time comes age. When I get back from my tour probably the first thing I’m going to have to do is make an eye appointment, because I’m doing that old person thing where you have to hold something out at a distance to read it; yes, presbyopia has come to the door and is asking is I want to read its literature (not too close). Bifocals, here I come. And have I told you about my arthritic hip? Come here, you whippersnapper, there’s no point shaking my cane at you if I can’t see you.

On the other hand, if the worst that the deprecations of age have thrown at me at 42 are slightly wonky eyeballs and a hip that I have to tweak impressively in order to get a twinge out of it, I’m doing fine. And in some ways I’m better off physically than I was at this same time last year: I’m about 25 pounds lighter, for one thing. So, eh. I have no reason to complain. So I’ll stop doing so right now.

The passage of time I notice in other ways. We have a new dog, to replace the old one who passed away. My daughter continues apace in her mission to be taller than me; at 12 she’s less than five inches away from her goal. I figure I have a couple of years left. The books — mine and the ones of my friends — continue to pile up agreeably. New and really impressive people keep showing up and being younger than me. This doesn’t make me feel old, exactly. It does remind me I’m not one of the new guys anymore. I’m all right with that.

And that’s pretty much my response to all of it: I’m all right with it. I’m enjoying seeing where I’m going in the world, and with my work, and with the people I get to share my life with. Birthdays remind me to make note of all of it.

So: It’s my birthday. I’m forty-two, and I’m happy. I hope you are too, on my birthday.

143 Comments on “42”

  1. I’m 41 (until next Feb, anyways). I just wanted to agree with you about this:

    New and really impressive people keep showing up and being younger than me. This doesn’t make me feel old, exactly. It does remind me I’m not one of the new guys anymore. I’m all right with that.

    True on many levels, and seeing youngsters (a.k.a anyone younger than your current age) blossom into their talent is one life’s great pleasures. Happy Birthday, and may you have many more.

  2. Happy Birthday, yo. My 42nd year was when I found the answer to everything, but you have to ask the right question!

    The eye-thing, the hip thing, and then huh, I forget…what was I saying?

    Anyway, here’s wishing you many happy returns and a great book tour, John!

  3. Congratulations on completing another lap around the sun! And in such remarkably consistent time, too! I suggest celebrating with cake and Coke Zero.

  4. Happy Birthday.

    I found that once I cracked forty it was as if my warranty had run out. The need for arm extenders is just the first symptom. Still, life is good and I’m fifty two.

  5. Happy birthday…My 42nd didn’t reveal anything of note, nor did my 52nd. (You whippersnapper!) Maybe my 62nd will reveal something more than the usual “age” ailments.

    May your cup overflow with adult beverages!

  6. Happy birthday! Thanks for sharing bits of your life with us! Enjoy your answer-to-everything birthday!

  7. Happy birthday, sir. Couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.

    I’m dealing with similar eye nuisances. My distance vision is good (good enough to pass the driver’s license eye test without correction – not terribly difficult, but still) but my up close vision bites. I’ve had prescription progressive lenses for about 10 years now but they stink for computer work because the amount of lens given to mid-distance correction is tiny. They’re essentially reading glasses for me.

    I work with a computer most of the day, so I bought a pair of OTC reading glasses and selected them to focus at about 30 inches instead of normal (book) reading distance. They cost about a tenth of what my scrip glasses cost and are ten times more useful.

    I hear you can ask your optometrist for computer glasses, which expand the mid-distance lens space, but being a cheap so-and-so I never botherered.

  8. Happy Birthday, John. I appreciate the insights of someone your age, especially since my oldest son is almost exactly the same age! (6 days difference). Still shaking my head over that.

    FN arrived at 4:50 this am, just as I turned on my Tab. I’m planning to read it on the plane Thursday heading to Phoenix. I’m so pleased for you that the hardback (#362) and ebook (#496) are doing so well at Amazon. Hope to see you here in DC later this month.

  9. Happy Birthday! And may you enjoy your 43rd year of life, because your 42nd year of life is over. (I’m sure you knew this, but some readers might not have realized, unlike the common calendar, we people have a year zero.)

    On a personal level, in my 42nd year, I met the geek-girl of my dreams.
    It is now my 43rd year as well, and we are engaged.

  10. I beat you to 42, old man, by a few months. When I turned 42 I realized what the number was and decided that both Douglas Adams and I would be amused.

  11. a) Happy Birthday – I am right there with you (I turn 42 this December), last year I had to get – TRIfocals!
    b) I am about knee-deep in Fuzzy Nation now – Thanks for an enjoyable read – it makes the 1hr train ride go by pleasantly!
    c) also thanks for this website – a pleasant brief distraction at work

  12. I carry reading OTC reading glasses with me and have OTC bifocal sunglasses. Much cheaper than prescription.

  13. Yeah 42 is about when you realise you may have already gone over the hump of your life. But the hard part is getting to the top of the hump. You can coast from here and enjoy the ride. The best part of the roller coaster ride is the down hill run. Slightly scary but a whole lot of fun.
    Happy Birthday John!

  14. Happy Birthday! You are no where near old enough to sign up for The Colonial Defense Forces, and that’s a good thing, cause I think they are still working on the whole “existing in reality” thing. Maybe in a few years they will get their stuff together for you?

  15. As someone who is 41 now, and is going to have a daughter of his own before he turns 42 this December, I have to generally agree with you. (Well, except for the bit about my daughter being taller than me. :)

    Happy Birthday, John.

  16. Happy birthday, sir.

    I don’t know if I speak for others, but my life has been vastly enriched by your presence. I wish you many happy, healthy years ahead.

  17. Feliz Cumpleaños!

    I enjoyed my “answer” year very much. I hope you enjoy yours too.

    As for getting older, remember the wise words of Indian Jones: “It’s not the years, it’s the mileage.”

  18. Happy Birthday! I wish I were 42 and happy on your birthday as well. But I don’t think I can get anyone to roll back the calendar for me. Once I past 40, I started considering my birthdays to be celebrations that I actually made it this far.

  19. Ha! At twelve I was 5′ 2.5″. And today, at 38, I am 5′ 2.5″. Wishing better luck to Athena with that whole growth spurt thing. It’s entirely possible she’ll take after her Mom, but personally I really like being short, so I think it’s a win-win.

    Happy birthday. I truly hope that when I am 42, I will also find my pets to be fuzzy. It would be horrible to wake up and realize they were scaly or naked or something. ;-)

  20. Best wishes for a happy Birthday (& whole 42nd year), from someone who’s within a few months of twice your age and who isn’t bothered by the fact that you are almost certainly happier (with good reason) at 42 than he was.

  21. Happy Birthday John!

    There’s a Dutch song we sing when someone celebrates one’s birthday; I will sing/type it for you.
    Using Babelfish (hey! Douglas Adams! 42!) will probably not do much justice to the lyrics.
    Anyway, here I go (clears throat / flexes fingers):

    Er is er een jarig hoera, hoera!
    Dat kun je wel zien, dat is hij.
    Dat vinden wij allen zo prettig ja, ja
    En daarom zingen wij blij
    Hij leve lang, hoera, hoera
    Hij leve lang, hoera, hoera
    Hij leve lang, hoera, hoera
    Lang zal Scalzi leven
    Lang zal Scalzi leven
    Lang zal Scalzi leven in de Gloria
    In de Gloria, in de Gloria

    Hieperdepiep: Hoera!

  22. Happy Birthday! and Congrats on a Great Book! It kept me up late last night. Not done, but the pages turned themselves. Should skipped work to finish.

  23. Time, and our perception of it, is really interesting. Is weird how you can flash back through memories to some things from high school or when daughter could be held like a football. And music. How is it that music can trigger such things? Is also interesting how folks my age (You, columnist Dan Kelly, carnivorous plant botanist Paul T. Riddell) are settling down and getting on with life.

    Ok, I’m 43, my eyes did the focus thing last year, my cool daughter (wants to be a roboticist or an artist) is 10 (wife wouldn’t let me name her Penelope or Minerva or Athena, so jealous of you there), and yeah, things have smoothed out and are pretty comfortable. It’s kinda’ weird feeling solid ground under my feet, even as things change and future speeds up and rushes at us faster and faster. I think this is why some old people seem confused. They were teen-agers, about to take the world by it’s throat and then they turned around and they’re old, living in a really weird world. Except for Mel Brooks. He doesn’t seem confused at all.

  24. You say it’s your birthday
    It’s my birthday too, yeah (in four days :-P)
    They say it’s your birthday
    We’re gonna have a good time
    I’m glad it’s your birthday
    Happy birthday to you

    A little Beatles on your birthday.. :)

  25. Welcome to your 42nd year on Planet Earth. But you’ll never catch me (I got a four year head start on you).

    On a brighter note, in dog’s years you’d just not be starting grade school. And on Jupiter, well, you’d be three and a half going on four.

    Enjoy your birthday and congratulations on the new novel.


  26. Happy forty-second. My forty-second was fifteen years ago, so you’re the young up-and-coming author to me. Just an aside: those reading glasses are sold by the box at the club stores. I’ve got em all over the house. Wife loves that, dontcha know.

  27. Merry birthday, birthday sharer. Hope this year is as great for you as I’m hoping mine will be.

  28. As you noted, Mr. Scalzi, if the worst you can say about getting older is that your hip bothers you a little and your vision’s getting worse…you’re doing pretty well! Congratulations on a successful career, a happy marriage, a wonderful daughter, and pets who keep you entertained. I wish you many more years of happiness and success.


    Very good, young man. I recommend the Nikon Progressive lenses, but you may want a second pair focused at reading and computer distances. 64, not that it makes any difference, and yes, she still loves me. Life is good. What was it on Oscar of Gordon’s sword? While we live, let us live!

  30. Happy Birthday and congratulations on Fuzzy Nation – it awaits on my Kindle.

  31. w00t Happy Birthday! If it works out well, maybe you can be 42 again next year!

  32. Happy Birthday, John! May your next 42 years be just as full of awesome!

  33. I remember the day, 42 years ago . . . IT HURT!!! The years since have been amazing, son. Does it suffice to say I am proud of what you have accomplished? HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!! With love from Robert and me.

  34. Happy Birthday and best wishes to you young man! My answer birthday was almost 20 years ago now and every birthday is a good time to reflect on one’s many blessings.

    I also recommend progressive lens; those no line bifocals rock. (and I personally like those modern frames that disguise the bags that appear under aging eyes. =) You may not have to worry about that for many more years.

    Also, tall daughter is tall. I was 5’6″ at 12 and then stalled out. Tall is good, you can reach stuff on top shelves.

    Here’s to another blessed year full of joy and love to you!

  35. Happy Birthday! Hope you have a wonderful day, and may the year to come surpass even your wildest dreams.

  36. Happy Birthday! Glad it’s a good one. :)

    I will add my voice to those above and highly recommend progressive lenses/lineless bifocals. They are made of awesome-sauce. Srsly. Also, get reading glasses for doing computer stuff.

  37. Happy Birthday, John! Here’s to the next 42+! I think its rather nice of you to celebrate your birthday by launching “Fuzzy Nation” to share with us! (too bad the books dont come with cake!) :)

  38. Happy Birthday, John!

    On the subject of Athena’s height: I know that girls and boys grow at somewhat different speeds, but when I was 12 I was 5’4″. Within a year and a half, or so, I had reached 6’0″. (And now at age 33, I’m almost 6’1″.) She’ll probably catch up to you faster than you think….

  39. Happy Birthday.

    I put Fuzzy Nation on my Nook at 13:30am EDT last night. I hope you got the message.

    Don’t spend it all in one place.

  40. I turned 42 today also…didn’t know I shared my birth date with someone so distinguished. Happy Birthday to us!

  41. Well, Happy Birthday.

    I turned 45 this year. It was a little surprising to me how young that made me feel.

    I keep trying to explain to my kids how amazing the world is right now. How, yes, we do have impressive problems, but that we are also in a place where so many things are possible and could happen right this moment. My Grandfather had a horse and carriage, my parents had the car, I got the space shuttle, and my kids are going to get something even more amazing, I just know it.

  42. Happy birthday. I am also 42 but have been for about 3/4 of a year now. My awareness of the passage of time seems to have accelerated. Going to more funerals than weddings now. Within striking distance of 50. Sigh.

  43. Happy Birthday. I’m glad you got to spend it at home with your family rather than it falling during your book tour.

  44. Happy Birthday, John. For your birthday, I purchased a copy of Fuzzy Nation for my Nook. Actually it was for me and your birthday was only incidental, but, hey, win-win anyways. Happy B-Day again!

  45. Happy birthday, John. Here’s to many more, and a long and storied career. But mostly, just happiness and health for you and those you care about.

  46. Happy Birthday! 42 was a great year for me, and things look good from 46 for that matter. There’s an interesting book called The Secret Life of the Grown-Up Brain where a pop-science journalist summarizes a bunch of research about skills acquisition and neuroplasticity beyond age 40, which I found encouraging.

    Also, re: The Daughter: if ladies are going to be sharing their height anecdata here, I was 5’4″ in 5th grade, grew to 5’6″ by 7th grade, to 5’7″ by 9th grade (where I thought I was going to stop) and then grew another two inches in college. Apparently this is not unusual for women–a big pre-puberty growth spurt, then leveling off, then a final rush down the home stretch before age 21.

  47. Happy birthday! May you have many more happy, healthy years ahead of you with those you love, and may trouble stay far from your door!

    You’re the same age as my husband, who is also awesome. :)

  48. Happy Birthday! I’m looking forward to leaving work, checking the mailbox for my Amazon order, and reading Fuzzy Nation tonight.

  49. Happy Birthday!

    I turned 42 back in February. It doesn’t actually magically give us the answers (though wouldn’t that be nice?) but it is a pretty nifty thing to be when you’re a geek!

  50. 42 was a very good year for me – hope it is for you, too.

    “May the candles on your cake burn like cities in your wake, happy birthday! Happy Birthday!”

    And thanks for all the pleasure your work has given over the years.

  51. I hope this 42nd year of life treats you well. My father passed away at 42 so I truly wish you many more happy years!!

  52. May the 42 be with you John.

    BTW I bought your book today, consider it your birthday gift.

  53. “Per molts anys” which translates as “for many years to come”. This is an expresion, we use in Catalunya (southern europe) instead of your happy birthday.
    My gift for you is a gift for me: I’d just bought Fuzzy nation and the God engines this morning.

  54. Happy birthday!

    Re: bifocals: Consider monocular bifocals. My left eye lens is configured for computer screen distance while my right eye lens focuses at infinity. I’m told that some folks have trouble adapting to that, but my adaptation took all of 10 minutes and I don’t have to tilt my head to get stuff of varying distance in focus. (And no, depth perception doesn’t suffer.)

  55. Happy Birthday!

    So, do you want to talk about the ending of Universe here, or is there someplace else we should say something?

  56. Happy Birthday ! Where are the celebrating cat pictures, didn’t they get tuna instead of cake ?

  57. Blessed birthday to you, John! Too bad you couldn’t have spent #42 at Milliways, snuggling your towel and drinking a Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster while listening to Vogon poetry.

    Ah well, I hope it was a lovely day for you.

  58. Happy birthday John. Dropped by the U Bookstore today and grabbed a hardback of Fuzzy Nation and a ticket for the Seattle stop. I don’t think I”ll be alone – they have a stack of FN on the counter next to the cash register in the SF department and he wasn’t sure he had tickets left up there…

  59. Happy Birthday. I went to Jay and Mary’s to pick up a signed copy of Fuzzy Nation and walked away with a 2ft stack of signed books. That and the chocolate store at JMs will strain my eyes and my stomach.

  60. Happy Birthday, Mr. Scalzi.

    I just bought your newest book, not as an attempt to butter you up, but because I remember running across the H. Beam Piper books in the local library in my teen years. I’ve listened to the Wil Wheaton 1st chapter of the audiobook, and the Paul & Storm power ballad, and, awesome though they both are (I’m a huge dorky fan of Wil, Paul & Storm,) I believe I would have purchased the book anyway. I do understand the economic power of tipping folks at the margins, so I don’t suggest changing your marketing strategy based upon my anecdotal experience.

    I’m about to turn 42 in a few months, and I have a question for you. When I do finally turn 42, will I stop being “that guy?”

    That guy moment: deprecations => depredations?

    Again, happy birthday.

  61. And a happy birthday to you, sir. May there be many, many more. Life is good, isn’t it?

    I remember we had Kris Rusch as GoH at our SF convention a long time ago and I felt really depressed that she was so accomplished and a year younger than me. *sigh* I don’t begrudge her or you the accomplishments, they just serve as a reminder to get my ass in gear.

    Much continued success and thanks for sharing your musings with us!

  62. If you, or any of your readers, are having chronic-pain problems, allow me to take a moment and sing the praises of Lidoderm (topical lidocaine) patches — you put them on whatever’s hurting, and it stops hurting. They are a godsend for those of us dealing with chronic pain problems!

  63. Happy birthday John! May you have a birthday that brings as much pleasure to you as your books bring to your readers!

  64. Happy birthday. It is some achievement in life when you can look at your online footprint and count 120 birthday wishes in less than 24 hours.

  65. A decade ago, while doing the annual physical, I explained to my doctor about the new bifocals. He looked at my chart and said, “42 — right on time.”


    Dr. Phil

  66. Happy Birthday!

    I’ve been 42 for about 4 months now, but still “no particular insight into life, the universe and everything.”

  67. Many happy returns of the day and hopefully you will enjoy many more.

    As to the glasses, I would recommend waiting for the EmPower from PixelOptics, which are electronically focusing glasses. Instant focus, which will reduce eye strain. I plan to purchase a pair when they come onto the market as these multi-focals are giving me severe headaches.

  68. Happy Birthday from a complete stranger. I finished grinding a mirror today, so I’m happy.

  69. Happy 42! Welcome to the club!

    I’m afraid that even after a month here, I haven’t found that wisdom of the universe thing. Maybe I’m not looking in the right places? Also presbyopia sucks – I’m going to have to get glasses for my needlepoint. No hip twinges for me though, I had those while I was pregnant. Now the karate keeps them away.

  70. Happy Birthday!

    42 was good. Hope yours is too!
    I go with a set of reading glasses instead. Works better than bifocals for seeing computer screens.

  71. I’m reminded of an old “BC” comic.

    Supplicant: “What is the meaning of life?”

    Old Man on the Mountain: “The sooner you get started the more time you’ve got.”

    Happy Birthday.

  72. Many happy returns, John. I just passed the same milestone myself four days ago; still waiting for someone to explain the life, the universe and everything stuff to me. Do we, like, get a note in the mail or something?

  73. John, happy birthday, this is for you:
    Puts on Raybans, picks up microphone,
    “Happy birthday, dear Scalzi,
    Happy Birthday to youuuu…..
    You inspire us slackers,
    and Wil Wheaton, toooo…..”

  74. 42? Pfft… child. hahaha… belated Happy Birthday… and just to be honest I’m 43 myself.

  75. The problem is not the answer (which probably is 42) and the problem is not the age, being 49 and 2 years into the eyeglass thing, I get that. The problem is the question, or the answer was given in base 2 and we are totally wrong.

  76. hehe that’s awesome that you are wearing your H.S. sweatshirt. Happy 42nd!

    a fellow ex-Claremont res.

  77. I’m 64, you young whippersnapper and I can confirm everything you said about the aging process. My forties were great, fifties less so and sixties are on the upswing again.

    From your age onward, you can’t rely just on moderate physical activity to stay in shape-you actually have to work at it. Lift weights, join a gym, have a plan. I took up rock climbing two years ago and it’s the best thing I could have done.

    The next 20 years will go by fast. Keep looking over your shoulder. Nothing you’re good at today will mean anything in 2031. Adapt. You’ll probably still be a writer…

    If I could pick any age to go back to, 42 wouldn’t be a bad choice. Have fun with it.

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