What It’s Like to Have Me For a Dad

My daughter is at ranch camp this week — which is not a camp where everything has been covered in delicious ranch dressing but rather a camp where the campers take care of their own horse for a week — and while the camp does not allow the campers to bring electronic equipment with them, it does allow parents to send e-mails, which they will then print out and deliver to the campers. Here is the e-mail I just sent my child.

Hello, sweetheart! I thought I would drop you a note to let you know we love you and are thinking about you and hope you are having fun out there with your horses and new friends and everything.

Also, we don’t want you to worry if you hear news about super intelligent zombie badgers attacking Western Ohio. It’s totally not true. Yes, there are super-intelligent badgers. Yes, they are attacking, with their evil badger guns that shoot mini-badgers that have even smaller guns that shoot even smaller badgers. BUT THEY ARE NOT ZOMBIES, and that’s really the most important thing.

We are fine, since we (as you know) have been prepared for a super-intelligent badger attack for years. Some of your friends may have been eaten, however. Well, most of them have. In fact, all of them have and the school year has been cancelled and you will instead be tutored by a robot. It will teach you calculus and in return you will teach it how to love, and also to shoot super-intelligent badgers. That’s the deal, and I think it’s a fair one.

Oh, and when you come home, don’t tell your mother I told you about the badger thing. She doesn’t want to speak of it EVER AGAIN. It makes her a little crazy, actually; she runs around the house bellowing “DIE MUSTELID DIE!” until I give her chocolate. So don’t mention badgers, unless you have chocolate. But not dark chocolate. You know she doesn’t like that.

Anyway, to recap: Hope you’re having fun, horses, super-intelligent badgers, robots learning how to love, bellowing mom, chocolate (not dark). I think that covers it.

Oh, except: I love you and miss you, and also I love you.


And that’s what it’s like to have me as a dad. In case you were wondering.

88 Comments on “What It’s Like to Have Me For a Dad”

  1. come December when i become a father i hope i live up to be one as good as you. however, on that subject my father once when i was a child showed us how to catch a small waterfall on fire by pooring certain non toxic yet flammable liquids into it.. i have pictures somewhere… however, i am not certain as to if my brothers eyebrows will ever grow back (he is 26 now)

  2. Sounds perfectly normal and responsible parenting to me. And anyway, you did equip her with a pulse rifle among her camping gear for this eventuality, right?

    Let us know her reply.

  3. It really is all about the badgers with you isn’t it?

    That’s not a bad thing.

    Looking forward to next year’s novel, Old Man’s War 2: Electric Badgerloo, which will feature zombie ROBOT badgers. “John heard them approaching with their undead titanium fangs dripping spoiled lubricating oil from their shambling, snuffling muzzles. Clickity-clack -snuffle-bzzzzt-snuffle- clickity-clack.”

  4. Geez, all my mom did when I went to camp was mail me a care package with issues of the Weekly World News in them. It was always a good year when camp coincided with a cover story featuring Bat Boy.

  5. Heh. What amuses me to think about is what it’s like having someone for a friend who has you for a dad.

    “Wait. Your dad wrote you an email about *what*?”

    I figure she either doesn’t talk about you and never has friends over to visit, or she totally brags on how weird you are. I bet it’s the latter.

  6. My takeaway from this is “Dear grod, poor Athena has a mom who doesn’t like dark chocolate? Nobody should be so disadvantaged.” My only hope is that she doesn’t like white chocolate, which in fact is not chocolate at all and the lovers of which will be first against the wall when the revolution comes.

    If the badgers don’t get them first.

  7. Next up, a vicious rumor about zombies infecting rabid badgers hits the mainstream news media. Or, possibly, “Ranch Camp Staff Terrorized by Science Fiction Author”. (it’s either that, or they pass your letter around the staff room snickering before delivering it.)

  8. Very cool. I’m writing a young-adult fantasy novel for my 9-year-old daughter (based on her idea about a girl who can make her dreams come true), and you’ve inspired me to get back to it. I’ve only written the prologue so far.

  9. You are a sweet weird Dad, the very best kind.

    (wish I’d had one just like you)

  10. You.Are.Awesome. I hope that makes her smile in between brushing and cleaning up after said horse.

    Also, you are awesome. :)

  11. When I was at camp my dad would write to me about my cat, Smokey. One time he told me that he sold Smokey to a stranger for some magic beans and another time he sent him to Kitty College to take a class called “How to Slink Without Offending Your Owner.” It’s good to have a fun dad. :)

  12. My favorite part of this is imagining the camp counselor printing this out and hand-delivering it.

  13. You said you were prepared for a super intelligent badger attack but are you prepared for an attack by badgers of extraordinary size but average intelligence?

  14. Loved it. Great work. I wonder how many people she showed this to… I could see scenarios where it was everyone in camp (my reaction) or NO ONE! (shhhh! my dad is weird).

  15. What #13 and #15 said. You get the Awesome Dad of the Week Award, for sure.

  16. When daughter was at TechGyrl robot camp earlier this summer (yes, it’s real), I just sent her pictures of space dolphins fighting TIE fighters.

  17. I now want to watch Attack of the Killer Zombie Badgers. It’s in old, slightly grainy black and white and the special affects are awful. Too bad nobody’s made it. Yet.

  18. “Attack of the Killer Zombie Badgers” Doesn’t that have the scene at the end when the hero is rescued by a cavalry charge led by his daughter?

  19. My dad the biochemist would occasionally take us along to the lab he worked for, and would demonstrate various bits of lab equipment and supplies. Fun with liquid nitrogen was had.

  20. See, that is the advantage of having a science fiction author as a father – you just get funny stories delivered to you!
    I am godfather of a little girl, and if I hope I can be only half as awesome to her as you are to your daughter then I think I might be doing a very fine job of it. Sorry if the meaning of that sentence is not too clear – to sum it up: You are awesome.

  21. Very funny. Though I must admit, a small part of me is sad that you weren’t announcing the release of a new badger video/song.

  22. Are you “sure” they weren’t zombie badgers? Because those suckers are mean…

    You definitely get awesome dad points. :-)

  23. No offense to my dad, but if they ever invent time travel, I want to introduce you to my mom from 35 years ago.

  24. OMG – that reminds me so much of my Dad’s oddities that he did his best to pass onto his children. To this day, I still can’t tell horses and cows apart, especially if there’s a child in the car.

  25. You’re quite broken.
    In all the really good ways.
    Boring parents suck.

  26. Back in the misty ancient days when I was at summer camp, I got a letter from my dad that was typed on that miracle of modern technology, the Apple II computer, and printed on a dot matrix printer. The paragraphs alternated between him telling me how everybody was doing and the computer itself complaining about people pounding on its poor keyboard from morning to night and making snarky comments about what a doof my dad was at programming.

    Now I wish I still had a copy of it.

  27. #6: I love your mom :-)

    #8: I agree, the first thought that came to my mind when I got to that part was “Dear god, Krissy doesn’t like dark chocolate? What other kind is there? And why not?”

    Scalzi: You rock :-)

  28. This is trumping the e-mail I got from my mom’s boss my freshman year of college:

    “Dear Jen: Remember, sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll. Love, Mom.”

    badger badger badger badger ZOMBIE ZOMBIE does have a ring to it…

  29. Athena is a lucky girl. My dad tried to write funny notes sometimes, but they weren’t very good. No badgers at all.

  30. Ok, notwithstanding the fact that I’m 20 years older than you, would you adopt me? i suppose my father did the best he could, but he tended to be rather grim, when not violently angry. And I never got a letter from him; keeping in touch with the kids was my mother’s job. Athena is a lucky kid.

  31. mhm all that i love you makes me feel uncomfortable. never had that kind of overkill in our family and especially not at that age (i assume shes 12 or smth)

  32. “which is not a camp where everything has been covered in delicious ranch dressing”.

    Thank Zod for that. No seriously, Ranch dressing is the most vile condiment in the American diet.

  33. After you kill the invading horde, why not use their remains to make some delicious bread? Unless, of course, you don’t knead no stinkin’ badgers.

  34. If your daughter decides in response to mail you a crate containing a live badger I will defend to the ends of the earth her morally justified right to do so.

  35. fabulous. Around our house, we’ve got giant radioactive man-eating woodchucks to keep the zombies away.

  36. Am I really the first to say this?

    I’ll take all the dark chocolate off your hands, to save your better half from accidentally eating it, of course. I’m the kind of guy who’ll sacrifice himself for the grater good, you know.

  37. @ #48 (Greg) – I’m just wondering where, in fact, the “ends of the earth” are, considering the Earth is a round ball thing?

  38. Badger Badger Badger Badger Badger Badger Badger Badger
    Badger Badger Badger Badger Badger Badger Badger Badger
    Badger Badger Badger Badger Badger Badger Badger Badger
    Badger Badger Badger Badger Badger Badger Badger Badger

  39. This is awesome. I laughed so hard my husband had to come over here and see what the fuss was all about. I hope that whomever printed that out and delivered it to your daughter thinks you are insane and got a good laugh along with her.

  40. Why didn’t I ever think of writing something like this to my boys? This is brilliant. I did accidentally kill one of my son’s goldfish while he was away at sleep away camp. And I adopted kittens while he was away at camp. Sending him really cute pictures tipped him off. He always asks me before he goes away if I’ll adopt any more kittens this time. I think five cats are enough, so no. There’s still time though.

  41. 1. You rock.
    2. Please follow up with anything she says about it when she gets home! I’d love to know how her fellow campers reacted.
    3. You rock.
    4. For some reason my brain is insisting I comment that the name for the condition of your area is ‘mustelidosis’. If they’re robot badgers, then of course it would be ‘robomustelidosis’.
    5. You rock.
    7. You rock.

  42. John, John, John. Didn’t you ever hear the story of The Boy Who Cried Super-Intelligent Badgers? Didn’t you LEARN from the fate of the little boy who was slowly blown to bits by .357 hollowpoint badgers, and because he told so many lies about badgers before nobody believed him UNTIL IT WAS TOO LATE?!

  43. “The mustelid, the!”

    I’m very curious to see how your experiment of how many of the camp staff read the kids’ email turns out.

  44. My father did the exact same thing when I went to camp, except there were kangaroos in the greenhouse and elephants on the bath tub. Still told me not to tell Mom about it. :D

  45. Shame on you! How could you do that to a small, impressionable girl!

    Imagine coming home from ranch camp having CALCULUS to look forward to.

  46. Oddly, not terribly different from my dad, though he wouldn’t have had an SFnal theme (he was not an SF fan).

    One hopes that the folks at the camp know what you do for a living.

  47. # 51, in regards to the ‘ends of the earth’, Richard, I recommend the following places I have been to:Burns , Kansas; McCool Junction, Nebraska; and finally, Kamsack Saskatchewan(sic). You look out and see out to , well, there isn’t anything interesting to see.
    That’s where the super-intelligent badgers are attacking first, man, and you better hope those residents have the firepower to stop the onslaught, brother.

  48. bzzz bz
    “No, he’s always like this.”
    bzz bzz
    “No, really, all the time.”
    bzzz bzzz bz
    “He even gets paid for it. No, you don’t need to call child protective services or have him psychiatrically evaluated.”
    Bzz BZZbz
    “No, really, he gets paid for this. Well, not this. But for being that much of a nut. He’s even in charge of the professional association this year.”
    “Now you don’t believe me, either? Oh, come on, I was totally right about the giant squid in the pond. You’ll spot it if you hang out there long enough.”

  49. Something made me picture Sean Bean as Ned Stark saying “Badgers are coming.”

  50. And? What? That’s it? No mention of the nemetodal hegemonal infestation? Oh, wait, can she read this? Crap! This kind of thing should really come from a parent. Namely you (barring said infestation of course.) My bad.

  51. I think your daughter is going to be queen of the camp, if she decides to share this little gem with her friends. Kids do still get cool points for having cool parents, even at that age.

  52. As someone who eventually had to buy a horse for his daughter, I hope you carefully thought through the consequences of encouraging the horse thing. She may find she doesn’t particularly like mucking stalls, in which case this camp will be the best money you have ever spent. Or she may fall in love with horses, in which case you are looking at a high end Mercedes payment in horse expenses. Every.Single.Month.

    Although 5 acres is enough land to keep 2 horses, so you build a barn, fence in the pasture, etc.

  53. #46:

    Well… maybe Ranch Dressing is nearly that bad. But (strictly IMHO, mind you) a package (or two) or the dried Ranch Dressing Mix, several pounds of butter, a big mess of mushrooms, and a Slow Cooker results in something Marvelous.

  54. I’m betting that Athena will show the print-out of that letter to many of her new/proto-friends… and that most of them — the worthwhile ones — will respond with awe & admiration.

    But I do have to echo the point made by someone else; if Athena decides to cause you to buy a horse for her — and she’s probably capable of that if she really wants to do it — you might have to double your sold books output. Not that I’d be unhappy about that, but….

  55. I read the first line quickly and saw it as raunch camp. “Wow,” I thought, “I know John is progressive and all, but isn’t Athena a little young for raunch camp?” Then I reread the line. :-)

    You can conclude whatever you wish to about my mind from this. :-)

  56. Zombie badgers? That’s pretty good! My older brother used to send me letters while I was at camp talking about the wild herd of neutered wildebeests tromping through our living room, and, oh, what a mess that was making.

  57. Man it looks fun to be your kid.

    Also, am I the only one who fallows the thought “War with badgers!” with the thought “Cheap Shaving brushes! Yay!”

  58. I’m not Athena, so I can’t speak for her. But if I WERE Athena, I’d feel like my special letter from my dad had been cheapened by his sharing it with thousands of strangers. Here I thought he went to all that trouble just for ME, but no, he was just showing off for all those blog people again.

    Um, John, are you sure she’s okay with your doing this?

  59. You’re the one who decided to make us privy to your formerly private correspondence with your daughter, not me. I was trying to look out for Athena, since I’ve been a 12-year-old girl, and you haven’t, and there are things about it that you might not have considered.

    I think your response is awfully mean, considering that I was only trying to help. (If I were a shrink, I might suspect that you were mad because you knew I was right. :-) )

  60. I really hope that somewhere, someone is turning your sentence above (“…a camp where everything has been covered in delicious ranch dressing”) into a horror film. Am I the only one who thinks it would work? It’s sort of like a modern-day Blob. Kids and camp leaders struggling to swim away, out of the oozy ranchness. No?

  61. Scalzi’s said before that he clears everything he posts about his family first.

  62. #33 by Lawrence Person on July 26, 2011 – 4:08 pm

    You shouldn’t badger your children like that…

    Lawrence wins the thread!

    I don’t know why this thread is still going.

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