“Redshirts” Auction to Benefit the Bradford, Ohio Public Library

The short version:

I have recently delivered to my publisher my latest novel Redshirts: A Novel With Three Codas and am offering a special pre-publication bound manuscript version of the novel to auction to benefit the Bradford, Ohio public library. This is an exclusive and extremely rare version of this novel (only four other copies of this edition currently exist; no more than ten will ever exist) and all other copies will be given to personal friends and family. This will be the only way for a member of the general public to read the novel prior to its official publication in June, 2012. To encourage bidding, as specific bidding levels are reached, other very rare pre-pub manuscripts and/or chapbooks will be added to the pot. All money raised by this auction will go to the Bradford, Ohio public library. Bidding details are below. READ THEM BEFORE BIDDING. Bidding is open until 11:59:59 Eastern, Monday, September 19, 2011. Opening bid is $100.

The long version:

Who am I?
I’m John Scalzi. I am a New York Times bestselling author of science fiction, nominated eight times for the Hugo Award (including three times for Best Novel, for Old Man’s War, The Last Colony and Zoe’s Tale). My novel Old Man’s War is currently optioned by Paramount Pictures; Wolfgang Petersen is attached to direct. I was Creative Consultant for the television show Stargate: Universe. I also write non-fiction (including the Hugo-winning Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded), and keep a personal blog, Whatever (which you are reading now).

What is Redshirts?
It is my latest novel (which to be clear is not a Star Trek novel), which combines classic space opera action with humor, snappy dialogue and, as the title suggests, lots of gratuitous, ensign-level death. Actor Wil Wheaton, who has read the novel, describes it as “F**KING AMAZEBALLS HILARIOUS AND AWESOME” (all caps his), and who are you to doubt him? The novel comes with three codas: Short stories relating to, but independent of, the novel itself.

What should we know about this edition of the novel?
That it is not a final version of the novel. It is a bound edition of the final manuscript — which means it hasn’t been copy edited. All the author’s idiot spelling and grammar errors are still in there (sorry), and there may be a slight variance textually from this edition and the final published edition (the plot details, however, will not change).

In exchange for putting up with these pre-production flaws, however, you will have a chance to read the book long before even the critics and booksellers do. Moreover, only five copies of this edition of the bound manuscript exist currently and no more than five additional will be made. One copy I’m keeping; the rest go to family and those to whom the book is dedicated. For collectors, this is a rare opportunity to have something literally no one else can get.

(As such I will also be asking you to refrain from sharing outside your own household until the official ARCs of the novel come out later in 2011. I suspect this will not be a problem).

Will it be signed?
Yes, I will be happy to sign it and (if requested) personalize it to you or whomever you designate.

Why donate the proceeds to the Bradford Public Library?
One, because I am a big believer in libraries and their role in our cities and towns. Two, because it and many other Ohio libraries have been hard hit in the last few years with budget cuts that have resulted in reductions of service just when their patrons have needed them most. Three, because it’s my library, and I’d like for them to know I appreciate everything they do for my town. Four, because the librarians there are lovely people and it will be fun to surprise them (I haven’t told them I’m doing this yet. So if you’re a librarian at the Bradford Public Library: Surprise!).

What’s this about extras?
To encourage you all to bid silly amounts of money, I’ll be adding new cool stuff to the pot at $1,000 (and then larger) increments. What extras? Well:
$1,000: Your choice of either Questions for a Soldier or How I Proposed to My Wife: An Alien Sex Story, two very rare short story chapbooks of mine from Subterranean Press.
$2,000: A very rare (one of six) pre-pub bound manuscript edition of Utere Nihil Non Extra Quiritationem Suis, my novella from the METAtropolis anthology.
$3,000: Both short story chapbooks will now be yours.
$4,000: A recording of me, playing on the ukulele, a song of your choice.
$5,000: A very rare (one of five) pre-pub bound manuscript edition of Fuzzy Nation, entitled That Super-Secret Project That I Cannot Tell You About.
$6,000: A Subterranean Press hardcover edition of Agent to the Stars, with cover artwork by Penny Arcade’s Mike Krahulik. Rare and difficult to find.
$7,000: I will bake you a schadenfreude pie.
$8,000: Your name, or the name you choose* will be inserted into my next major project.
$9,000: I will write a story, of no less than 2,000 words, in which you (or whomever you choose) will be the hero.
$10,000: I will commission a large black velvet painting of the two of us, fighting space aliens WITH LASERS.
$17,500: I will dedicate my next book to you**
$25,000: A special, one-of-a-kind “sneak preview” edition of my next novel, whenever that is (it will be reasonably soon; I have to eat, you know).
$50,000: I will travel to any place in the continental United States, present you (or whomever you choose) with the complete, signed John Scalzi collection, take you/them to dinner***and at the end of the evening read you/them a bedtime story written especially for you/them and then play you/them a lullaby on the ukelele. Travel dates to be decided between us but in probably in the next 12 months.

(* The name has to be something non-profane, please, as my next major project will be meant to sell to lots of people; also, if you choose the name of someone who is alive, get permission from them, please.)
(** It may also be co-dedicated to someone else, but no more than one other person.)
(*** Dinner site within a 100-mile radius of where you live, please. Invite whomever you’d like to come but the cost of dinner is not to exceed $1,000, because I am not made of money, I am sorry to say.)

Needless to say, each bid plateau will include everything else below it, so if you bid $50k, wow, you’ll get a lot of stuff. But you’ll have earned it, I say.

How will the auction work?
You must enter a verifiable e-mail address to bid.
1. Bid here on the site. Bidding begins at $100. Each new bid must increase the former bid by at least $5. If two bids are made at the same level, the first bid offered is the official bid. You may not increase your bid until someone else bids higher.
2. Until $1,000, bidding must be in increments of no more than $25 (this is to discourage trolls and fake bidders). From $1,000 to $5,000, bidding may be in increments of no more than $100. From $5,000 to $10,000, bidding may be in increments of $250. From $10,000 forward increments of $1,000 are acceptable.
3. However, if any point I am contacted privately by a bidder who wishes to jump the bidding to a specific prize plateau (say, she’d like me to bake her a schadenfreude pie), if I am convinced it’s a serious bid, I’ll go into the thread and raise the bidding to that level. This is the only way to jump ahead.
4. I reserve the right to disqualify any bids if I do not feel they are legitimate. If I do, I will pop into the thread, note the disqualification, ban the bidder if necessary and reset the bidding at what I believe was the last legitimate bid level. If it appears to me the bid thread is being swamped with fake bids I may halt all bidding while I figure out the way to deal with it. I reserve the right to cancel the auction entirely.
5. After the auction ends I will contact the winner via e-mail (this is why you need a verifiable address). You will need to respond to that e-mail within 24 hours or I will assume you were not a serious bidder and contact the next highest bidder. So please be looking for my e-mail!

How and when will you donate the money from the auction?
I won’t; you will. I will forward you the information you’ll need to make the donation to the Bradford Public Library directly. You will need to send the money within three business days or be disqualified. When the check has arrived and is deposited by the library into its bank account, I will mail out all the goodies (you will have to authorize the library to tell me that the check has cleared, etc). This way you’ll also get any applicable tax deductions.

How will the item(s) get to me?
I will ship it/them to you, worldwide, without charge (if you’ve won the pie and you live internationally we may have to figure something out). When I ship it I will provide you with the tracking number so you will know where it is and when it’s going to get to you.

Can I tell others about this auction?
I hope you will! Please, feel free to tell anyone you’d like.

If you have any questions, please let me know through e-mail (john@scalzi.com) — I want to keep the comment thread open for bids only.

Quick Takes on Two Things of Passing Literary Interest

As they have been of interest to folks:

The YAGay Thing: Which is, briefly, two authors shopping a YA novel were offered a deal by and agent if they swapped the sexuality of a character from gay to straight; they refused and wrote about it here. My particular take on it is that the authors did the right thing by saying “thanks, no,” and that in general there should be gay characters in YA because a) surprise, there are gay folks everywhere and b) in my opinion as a father, there’s not a damn thing wrong with my child encountering gay folks in her literature, because see point a).

As a writer I include gay/bi characters in my books and stories because, again, see a), and at no point have I gotten any push back about it either from my agent or from my editors, or from any of my publishers. I got the tiniest bit of push back from some readers about “An Election,” whose main character was gay and same-sex married, but my opinion about that was, they’ll just have to live with it.

But then again, I haven’t written any YA, other than Zoe’s Tale (which, from a publishing and marketing point of view is something of a special case). I’m pretty sure if I was writing YA, that I wouldn’t have a problem with adding a gay character into the mix if I thought the story needed it; I’m also pretty sure that if I got push back at any point about it, I’d tell them they’d just have to live with it, too. But I also recognize I have some weight to throw around at this point.

The Amazon Rental Thing: Amazon is apparently floating the idea of a Netflix-like book rental scheme for its Amazon Prime customers, in which (the article suggests, as a rumor) those Prime customers might be able to rent a certain number of older book titles per month.

I know nothing about this other than this very sketchy report, but as an author I’m not especially in love with the idea in principle. One, as a practical matter, readers interested in renting books (including, increasingly, e-books) can do it through their local libraries, and I would much rather have such a “rental” scheme go through that channel than through Amazon. Two, as an author, I’m not sure how cutting the legs off my backlist titles at the behest of a retailer (of all people) benefits me in the long run; Amazon would have to make a very solid argument that authors would not be financially hurt by the scheme, and I doubt they could make it.

Three, even if Amazon convinced publishers to do this, which seems doubtful, I am skeptical that publishers typically own the rights for such a rental endeavor in any event, which puts the ball back into the author’s court. In which case see point two. I suspect even the authors high on the idea of cheap e-books would take pause at the idea of free rentals, without a very clear and immediately profitable mechanism for getting authors paid.

My suspicion is that this was tossed out there by Amazon as a trial balloon, to see what the immediate reaction would be. My reaction: Yeah, thanks, but no. I see how it’s good for Amazon, and for its Prime customers (of which, I note, I am one). I don’t at all see how it’s good for me, my publishers, or the publishing industry.

13 Years of Whatever

It’s that time of year again; namely, the anniversary Whatever’s founding, on this day, September 13, 1998. Which means that today it is a teenager, a couple months older than my daughter. And, given the nature of the commenters here, rather more likely to talk back and give me attitude than she is. There are days I’m rather ambivalent about that fact, although today is not one of them.

September 13 is often a day that I am introspective the writing world and my place in it, and this year is no exception to that. Someone yesterday on Twitter congratulated me on this site being the place Google takes you when you type “Whatever” into the search bar. I don’t know how much credit I can take for that; a lot of that is just calling the blog the same thing for thirteen years and writing on it on a daily basis. On the other hand, I’m not going to be artificially coy about it either; thirteen years of doing what I’m doing has given me a pretty big footprint, which has been pretty useful for me and for what I’d like to do. I’m acutely aware how much I owe to this blog.

I do wonder how long it will last — there is some indication that the “blog moment,” as it were, has passed, and people have moved on to Facebook and Google+ and Twitter and whatever comes after those things. I don’t especially have a problem with this; I’m on all of those services and use them (although I like some more than others), and have a reasonably large footprint on them, too. But this is my home online; I’m naturally partial to it. To some extent “how long will it last” is a null question — Whatever will exist however long I choose to write it. But I also write to be read, so if everyone went away, the question would become, what then. I suppose I’ll worry about it then.

(Ironically, looking at the stats, the largest impediment to the growth of the blog is how much travel I’m doing — viewership here took a dip in May, when I was touring, and goes down when I’m off doing off-line things. Reasonable enough, since I’m not posting, or posting much less, during those times. This will be incentive, I suppose, for me to stock up on canned entries when I’m off to Germany next month.)

I’m still having fun writing here, which is ultimately the thing that matters. I like coming to the computer and blathering; I like reading the comments and commenting myself. I’m glad Whatever has become a useful place for other authors to talk about their work through the Big Idea pieces, and that it gives me an opportunity to talk about things I want to talk about, to people other than my pets. So I plan to keep doing it. We’ll see what happens in the next year. Check this space next September 13 for an update.

Also: Thanks for reading, and commenting, and being part of all of this. (Most of) You are part of why this is still fun for me.