John Scalzi Did Not Co-Write The Forever War

A lot of folks use Twitter to track the books they are currently reading, which is nice because it lets me and other authors obsessively track when people are reading something we wrote. One of the books my name is associated with, however, is The Forever War, by Joe Haldeman. The reason for this is if you look at the Amazon listing for the Kindle edition, you’ll see that I’m listed as having written the introduction. Unfortunately, in what I assume are auto-generated tweets about books being read, that reduces to “The Forever War by Joe Haldeman and John Scalzi.”

This really really really bugs me. One, quite obviously, I did not co-write The Forever War; among other things, it was originally published when I was five. I like to think of myself as having been a precocious writer at an early age, but this would be a little ridiculous. Two, I dislike the impression, auto-generated or otherwise, that I was somehow involved in the production of Joe’s master work. I was delighted to be invited to write the introduction to the latest print edition, which in turn was used for the Kindle edition, but I don’t believe that this in any way warrants a co-ranking status with Joe in the listings at Amazon, or in Tweets and other reports about the book. Three, while I don’t think anyone versed in science fiction literature would actually believe I co-wrote The Forever War, people unfamiliar with the genre might see the reference and assume it’s correct. Small errors of fact continue to crop up (this is why I am often correcting people who assert Old Man’s War won a Hugo). It’s best to nip them in the bud.

Note that I don’t assume people tweeting about The Forever War actually think I co-wrote the novel; as I said I suspect the Tweets are auto-generated and then people add their own comments to them. But just so it’s on the record, with me saying it: I, John Scalzi, did not co-write The Forever War. It’s Joe Haldeman’s novel entirely.

And it is fantastic. You should read it. And credit it correctly when you talk, write or tweet about it. Thanks.

60 Comments on “John Scalzi Did Not Co-Write The Forever War”

  1. changterhune – Before you hear lies from Chang Terhune himself, we thought we’d tell you the truth: without us, his old action figures, he’d be nowhere. He loved science fiction from way back and began reading it at an early age, but it was through us that he acted it all out. That’s what led to the writing. He watched a lot of science fiction shows like Star Trek, U.F.O, and movies, too. But we were always there to do his bidding. And it’s like they say: you always forget about the little people on your way up. Oh, the 70’s and early 80’s with him were good times! He’d use these blocks and make all the crazy buildings for us to be in his stories. I gotta say the kid’s imagination was pretty damn fertile. Oh, he had friends, but they just weren’t into it like him. He was like the Lance Armstrong of action figures. And of science fiction. At first, when he began writing in the eighth grade, we didn’t mind. He still made time for us. And we knew that when he was holding us in his sweaty little hands and he got that far off look in his eye, he’d come back to burying us in the back yard or - god forbid! – blowing us up with firecrackers. But it was worth it for a part in one of those stories. We loved him for it. He kept us around even when we were minus a leg or two - or even a head. In that mind of his, he found a use for all of us. Then he discovered girls. October, 1986. It was like the end of the world. One day we’re standing in the middle of this building block creation he’d pretended was some marble city on a planet near Alpha Centauri and the next we were stuck in a box in the closet. Not even a “See ya later!” Nope, it was into the closet, then we heard some high-pitched girly-giggles then silence. We didn’t see him for years. We got word about him once in a while. Heard he took up writing, but it was crap like “The Breakfast Club” only with better music. We couldn’t believe it. Not Charlie. What happened to those aliens with heads he’d sculpted out of wax? Spaceships? Those complex plots? All gone. For what? You guessed it: Girls. Emotions. “Serious fiction.” I tell you, it was like hearing Elvis had left the building. During our two decade exile in the closet, we heard other things about him. He went to college. He wrote a lot, but not much he really liked. We knew it even then. It was like he didn’t dare write science fiction. Some of us had lost hope and just lay there. Others kept vigil, hoping for a day we didn’t dare speak about. Then we heard he’d stopped writing in 1996. Did he come to reclaim us? No. He took up music for ten years or so. He took up yoga. Once in a while, he’d visit us in the closet. But it was half-hearted. His mind was elsewhere. Then one day, he really did come back for us. One second we’re in the dark and the next thing we know we’re in a car headed for Massachusetts. Suddenly we got a whole shelf to ourselves out in broad daylight! Then he bought a bunch of others form some planet called Ebay. He’d just sit and stare at us with that old look. But why were we suddenly back in the picture? He had a wife now, who didn’t mind that he played with us. So what had happened? Turns out he’d never forgotten about those stories. He’d been thinking about all of us and the stories he’d made up and then remembered he’d been a writer once. From the shelf we could see him typing away. Before long he’s got a whole novel together! Then he’s working on another one. Word is there are two more in the planning stages! Some short stories, too! It’s good to see him using his imagination again. Its good to know he never abandoned us. He returned to his true love of science fiction. We hear the stories are pretty good. Someday we’ll get one of the cats to score us a copy of the manuscript. Man, it’s good to be out of the damn closet! --- I'm smarter than you I'm harder than you I'm better than you I'm just raw I'm hotter than you More popular than you More clever than you And goshdarn it, people like me I'm smarter than you I'm harder than you I'm better than you I'm just raw I'm hotter than you More popular than you More clever than you And goshdarn it, people like me

    Forever War is pretty amazing. Old Man’s War is also amazing. And written by two different people. Who knew?

  2. Yes, they’re autogenerated. And it isn’t just this book. A non-fiction book that I finished and tweeted about did the same thing, giving the introduction writer equal billing.

  3. Yeah, I’m an avid Kindle reader and the tweets are an option on the last page. Content is auto-generated. I’m of two minds. It’s fun to have the info out there, but it’s a big old ad for the Kindle, as opposed to the book. I dunno.

    Also, Mr. Scalzi, I got this when trying to sign up for a WordPress account to post this comment.

    “This webpage is not available
    The webpage at might be temporarily down or it may have moved permanently to a new web address.
    Error 501 (net::ERR_INSECURE_RESPONSE): Unknown error.”

  4. I’d never read it, and this post made me finally decide to go get it…here’s the listing on the search page when you put in “forever war” on amazon:

    “The Forever War by Joe Haldeman and John Scalzi (Kindle Edition – Jul 6, 2011) – Kindle eBook ”

    –Are you SURE you didn’t write it?

  5. I’ve had a similar problem with an intro I wrote for a French edition of Heinlein’s _Sixth Column_.
    Funny thing is that, while I’ve written many laudative articles about RAH’s works, this was one of the very few times where I happened to be more reluctant, admitting that _Sixth Column_ was maybe his poorest novel…

  6. John I know you had nothing to do with the writing of THE FOREVER WAR. I read this novel in 1981 or 1982. It along with HAMMER SLAMMERS turn me to military SCI-FI. I have always read SF/F, but this was my turning point.

  7. crotchetyoldfan – The Crotchety Old Fan is Steve Davidson, also know as Rimworlder on many SF forums. Steve maintains the Rim Worlds Concordance project which is devoted to the works of A. Bertram Chandler and his most enduring character - Commodore John Grimes of the Rim Worlds Naval Reserve. Grimes is science fiction’s original ‘Horatio Hornblower of Space’. More information about Chandler, Grimes and the Rim Worlds can be found at Steve also maintains a visual index of volume 1, number 1 pulp science fiction magazines on the same website and is a devoted collector of the same. ‘I’m an ‘old’ SF fan, which you can take whichever way you like, as I love the old masters (Heinlein, Clarke, Asimov, E.F. Russell, Piper, Cordwainer Smith) and I’m well beyond the age you’re not supposed to trust anymore’. This blog is devoted to an investigation of the growing divide between ‘old’ - or ‘classic’ science fiction and the moderan literary genre that is currently sold under the same name. Steve has also begun writing reviews for, expects to be doing the same for, and is contributing various non-fiction pieces to various other websites, all of them concerned with science fiction of one stripe or another. Early in 2008 he became completely disappointed with the SciFi Channel and created The Classic Science Fiction Channel website that gathers links to public domain radio, television, film and literary properties. Steve had a successful non-fiction writing career - writing articles and books dealing primarily with the paintball industry (Four books and several hundred articles including editorializing, product reviews, sports reporting, educational and more) - which he has since given up in favor of blogging and fiction. (Leaving the paintball industry after 25 years.) One final book on this subjected is scheduled to be released in early 2009 (A Parent's Guide To Paintball). Current work on fiction includes several completed novellettes/novellas curently in submission hell and various chapters of three novels. Freely distributed current work - including several chapters of a science fiction/paintball novel and a pulp/comic book/fairy tale mashup can be found on his website.
    steve davidson

    Please, please, please get together with Joe and co-author an introduction/foreward for a new edition of Heinlein’s Starship Troopers.

    Besides, we all know Starship Troopers, Forever War and Old Man’s War are the same novel re-written for different eras. Elvis would be bonkers by now if he wasn’t doing something other than sitting around talking to JFK, Hitler and Morrison….

  8. Steve Davidson:

    Actually, I did write an introduction to a Heinlein novel: Stranger in a Strange Land. But I wrote it for a German edition.

  9. I’m hoping to get a chance for Joe to autograph my copy of “Robin Williams in a Funny Hat” sometime.

  10. This is why I don’t write Forewords. Amazon has had this problem for ten years… and I don’t want credit for being a co-author when I’m not.

  11. It’s kind of the reverse of those Chuck Norris (or Bruce Schneier) facts.

    John Scalzi Did Not Co-Write The Forever War.

    John Scalzi Did Not Give Frank Herbert The Idea For Spice.

    John Scalzi Did Not Terrify Thousands With His Realistic1938 Mercury Radio Theater Adaptation Of “Moby-Dick”.

  12. Ah, auto-generated metadata. This is what people in the library profession have looked forward to for years so they could get rid of those lazy, expensive catalogers. Ain’t it wonderful?

  13. I sympathize. Years ago, started listing me, Terry Hickman, as a co-author with Margaret Weis (and sometimes also Tracy Hickman) of any number of their novels. I tried everything I could (as a very low-level small press and ezine-story-selling writer) to get them to fix it; I even CALLED them, and the guy brought one of the books up on his computer and said, “Yep, that’s wrong, and we’ll fix it” – but they didn’t, for years. I even dug up Tracy Hickman’s email address and wrote an email THERE, and he said “Good luck, I’ve never had any luck getting to correct anything.” This blog post sent me over there to check, and apparently, somehow, they finally figured it out.

  14. Yeah, over at LibraryThing Amazon is rather known for generating a fair amount of bad data. Author mix-ups, wonky ISBNs, incorrect covers, you name it. But they are fairly good about correcting errors that are pointed out to them. So if someone were to alert them to this, they would in all likelihood fix it.

  15. John Scalzi Did Not Terrify Thousands With His Realistic1938 Mercury Radio Theater Adaptation Of “Moby-Dick”.

    Okay, wait, THAT one is true.

  16. steve davidson at 8:30 am:
    Besides, we all know Starship Troopers, Forever War and Old Man’s War are the same novel re-written for different eras.

    Years ago I saw someone say that the way to understand military culture was to sit down and read three books all at one sitting:

    Starship Troopers by Robert A. Heinlein and John Scalzi,

    The Forever War by Joe Haldeman and John Scalzi,

    and Bill The Galactic Hero by Harry Harrison, John Scalzi, and a colony of hyper-intelligent mutant squid.

  17. John,

    do you have any insight or comments on the upcoming theatrical depiction of the Forever War. Details I have ambiguous and sparse.

    Also, did you try to write the Heinlein intro in German? As I believe you recently discovered, Germans love it when you try to speak their language. Seriously. (The French on the other hand would prefer you just not try).

  18. Mmmm…One of the first military SF I ever read as well in the early eighties. I think “The Forever War” is also the first SF book I read where gays were treated as people. (My home town library didnt have much of a selection). Just read his Marsbound and Starbound books this weekend and hes still going strong.

  19. Amazon search hit #2 is for “The Forever War” by Dexter Filkins (a likely pseudonym for collaborations between John Scalzi and the colony of squid, but without Harry Harrison).

    It’s about the lengthy U.S. campaigns in Iraq & Afghanistan.

    I realize that books sharing titles isn’t all that rare, but I guess I find it a little sad that the publisher of this work either was unaware of the 1974 Haldeman novel or didn’t consider the possibility of confusion to be a reason to select a different title, or perhaps they were aware of the novel and were inspired to choose that title.

  20. I’m not sure we can even blame Amazon on this one (although the Kindleness of this case makes it more probable).
    When we sold children’s books, we’d get a regular database shipment from Ingram (one of the largest book distributors, and also manages fulfillment for Amazon) that includes everything they stock and stocked (in print and not). It has multiple author/contributor fields and would list people multiple times (if they were author and illustrator, for instance), intro writers, and without much of a way to indicate what type of contributor they were. Like many databases, it’s full of alarming numbers of errors too — a large part of our catalog assembly process was weeding out their errors.

    I strongly suspect that this database is responsible for what’s alleged to be a 10-year Amazon record of over-generosity in credit.

  21. The 40 Hour Creative – I'm here to help you be creative! I've written plays and created the web series THE CANADIANS (now on Amazon Prime), among other things. Seth Godin said 'start a blog,' so we'll see how long this lasts.
    Greg M./Other Greg

    John Scalzi co-wrote The Call of Cthulhu. It is TERRIFYING.

  22. I wonder if getting your publisher and/or the publisher of The Forever War involved to give Amazon a little smack upside the head … er, tap with the Loving Mallet of Correction would get them to fix the automated tweet’s text for this particular book. They might have a little more clout than John Scalzi, listed co-author :)

  23. John, as you were writing War And Peace, did you ever consider the title “War, What is it Good For?”

  24. Um, wow. Didn’t expect to tweet about finishing a book and then have that tweet show up in my rss reader the next morning.

    Upon completion of The Forever War on my kindle, it prompted me to share that I’d finished the book on twitter (I’d previously connected the my kindle account to twitter). As I know friends looking for sci-fi book recommendations, I figured they’d appreciate it.

    The Kindle presented me with a text box auto-filled with the following:
    “finished The Forever War by Joe Haldeman and John Scalzi. #Kindle”

    I added the insightful comment “SO GOOD”, then hit share. After I looked at it on another twitter client a few minutes later, I noticed it implied that you co-wrote the book and not just the introduction, but I’d already had some replies to it, so I didn’t want to delete the original tweet.

    The only reason I even heard about The Forever War in the first place is because someone introduced my to “Agent to the Stars” in April, since which I’ve read that book, “Android’s Dream”, “Old Man’s War”, “Ghost Brigades”, “The Last Colony”, and “Zoe’s Tale”. Looking for more books you’d written, I searched for your name in the Kindle store and “The Forever War” popped up, I believe I was able to read your introduction as part of the free sample, and as a result I bought it and enjoyed it quite a lot. And as a result of the incorrect tweet I posted (though not because of it’s inaccuracy), within 15 minutes one friend bought Forever War on his kindle, and I lent my copy to another friend via kindle’s lending functionality. So amazon’s mis-labeling has gotten at least 3 more people to read “The Forever War”, which can’t be all bad.

  25. Captain Button November 1, 2011 at 11:27 am says:
    “Years ago I saw someone say that the way to understand military culture was to sit down and read three books all at one sitting:

    Starship Troopers by Robert A. Heinlein and John Scalzi,

    The Forever War by Joe Haldeman and John Scalzi,

    and Bill The Galactic Hero by Harry Harrison, John Scalzi, and a colony of hyper-intelligent mutant squid.”

    I think my experience would qualify as a suitable substitute:
    Brought up by two parents who met in the US Marines (but they were discharged before I was) and

    I have read The Forever War by Joe Haldeman (before John Scalzi co-wrote it).

  26. “Amazon search hit #2 is for “The Forever War” by Dexter Filkins”

    Mike, IIRC Filkins has read the Haldeman book and picked the title for his own book about Iraq and Afghanistan as a deliberate reference.

  27. Lets be honest; John had to take some unwarranted crap from SF hipsters who objected to the Piper reboot. The last thing he needs is people thinking he’s claiming credit for some other classic. I’d bet my bottom dollar that some indignant minor SF blogger will come up with a nasty post blaming John for his name being on other people’s works.

    Actually, I’m not certain I know what a bottom dollar is, so I might not have one available to bet if pressed on the issue.

  28. Erbo – Second Life Resident, EVE Online capsuleer, virtual community maven, software engineer, computer geek, SF fan, conservative, cat lover. Also, The Game.

    This is getting to be like those jokes about Phil Collins in the 80’s (“What band is Phil Collins in?” “He’s in every band!”)

    “Which books did John Scalzi co-write?” “All of them!”

  29. Hey, I wrote an introduction for the UK edition of Forever War, and Amazon never mentioned me. Is John Scalzi now taking out other authors who write cover blurbs?
    Peter F. Hamilton

  30. Steve Davidson:

    I’ll (respectfully) disagree with your statement that Starship Troopers, The Forever War, and Old Man’s War are the same novel for different eras. In my considered opinion they are, respectively, thesis, antithesis, and synthesis on the topic of state sponsored, collective, outwardly directed violence.

  31. John Scalzi wrote half of Athena Scalzi’s DNA.

    BY HAND.

    I shall now have to scrub this image out of my brain with bleach. Thank you.

  32. BY HAND.

    That’s an unusual way of doing it.

    Having worked in a bookshop and a library, the only thing worse than getting a book with crudded-up metadata is trying to find a book when the metadata is crudded up. Simple things like “what else did this guy write” turn into “surely, one of these hundreds of books must have been written by him”. Worse when the punter can’t exactly recall the name of the author, or remember anything other than “the cover was red” (something I do a lot. Penguin classics are the worst for this). So, Mr Scalsea, or Shuzli or Skuzzi or whatever your name really is, can you please change your name to something short, memorable, and easy to spell?

  33. @adelheid_p: the third book, after Starship Troopers and Forever War, should be John Steakley’s “Armor”.

    If you’ve never read this book before, a word of warning: about halfway through, there’s a pretty jarring perspective shift. Roll with it. It’ll all make sense later.

  34. D.A Lascelles – Scientist turned science teacher turned writer. Author of 'Gods of the Sea' in the 'Pirates and Swashbucklers' anthology ( and the novella Transitions, part of the Shades of Love series from Mundania Press ( due out in 2012. Does reviews for Cult Britannia and ePublish a Book and can be contacted about reviews on:
    D.A Lascelles

    Wait, you mean you aren’t THE John Scalzi who wrote To Kill a Mockingbird, Bonfire of the Vanities, The Worm Ourobouros, The Time Machine and The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes? So what did you write then? :)

    According to Amazon, I apparently wrote 2 books on Quality Management (though I just got an e-mail to say they are correcting this).

    I think we should all try to get a Twitter trend set up where we use #andJohnScalzi to claim other titles he has co-authored :)

  35. It should be mandatory by law to add a warning, whenever mentioning The Forever War, that you shouldn’t read it without having someone nearby who can hug you – because you’re going to need it. It is a wonderful book and I’ve enjoyed reading it, but it should have a warning label saying “Reading this book will cause you to need a hug. Badly”.

  36. Rose Fox – Publishers Weekly reviews editor. Freelance medical journalist. New Yorker. Married, with girlfriend. Skeptical optimist. Pragmatic hedonist.
    Rose Fox

    Ah, this is like when anthologies are listed on Amazon with all the contributors as co-authors–and no mention at all of the editor. Gotta love technology.

  37. Eric Picholle writes:
    I’ve had a similar problem with an intro I wrote for a French edition of Heinlein’s _Sixth Column_.
    Funny thing is that, while I’ve written many laudative articles about RAH’s works, this was one of the very few times where I happened to be more reluctant, admitting that _Sixth Column_ was maybe his poorest novel.

    But, Eric, it may be your best novel!

  38. Nikitta: Try reading some Harlan Ellison (if you’re not boycotting him for his IRL behavior). His collection Deathbird Stories has a warning to the effect of “don’t read too many of these at once”, and that warning is warranted.

  39. Dave, I would say that in general Ellison is the sort of thing to keep on hand in case of overdosing on anti-depressants. Definitely anti-manic.

    But then, there are any number of writers with the same trait (Aldiss! Martin!) whose IRL behavior is less reprehensible than Ellison’s. Probably better to read the Helliconia trilogy if you really have a deep need to be depressed.

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