Thanksgiving Advent

The Thanksgiving Advent Calendar, Day Sixteen: The Internet

And, well. This one’s sort of obvious, isn’t it. When a globe-spanning network of computers is directly responsible for much of one’s career, income, notoriety and daily life, what else should one say but “thanks”?

The Internet has been important enough in my life that it’s worth pointing out the good things in my adult life it isn’t directly or at least partially responsible for: My first job, which I got in 1991, before the Web opened up the Internet to any common schmoe; my wife, who I met because of my first job, and my non-fiction agent, who I got because of a column I wrote for the newspaper. Although the way he heard about it was that the column got e-mailed to him. Right, I owe the Internet for him as well. So: My wife and my first job. There you are.

Yeah, I owe the Internet tons.

It’s a little weird to think of it in that terms, and it does make me wonder how much differently my life would have unrolled had the public expansion of the Internet not happened when it did, how it did. Would I still be working at The Fresno Bee, the newspaper which gave me my first job? I’m not sure about that, but I think I probably would have stayed at newspapers and in print journalism rather longer than I did. Would I have published non fiction books? Possibly, but then my first non fiction book (and my first book, period) would not have been about online finance. Would I have become a novelist? Probably only if my wife decided she was going to handle mailing my work out to publishers, because I almost certainly wouldn’t have bothered — we know this because I didn’t bother in this timeline; I put my first two novels online, as much out of sheer laziness as anything other excuse I could offer. If I had published fiction, would I have been as lucky in my debut I was in this world, with my online presence helping to push sales? Who knows. Would I live in rural Ohio in a world where proximity to work mattered more than it does here? That’s a really interesting question.

In the end, in a no-Internet (or later Internet) world, I’m pretty sure I would still be a full-time professional writer, and I’m reasonably sure by this time I would have published at least a couple of books. I think I would still recognizably be me. But the details of that life — including some of the most significant, such as the job I had, the books I would write, the people I knew and even the child I had — would be changed enough as to constitute a different life. I would be me, my wife would still (hopefully) be my wife. Everything else is up for speculation.

I like my life, and it’s disconcerting to think that its course and shape has been significantly and arguably primarily defined by a system of computers originally designed to keep the country’s defense forces connected, and which now exists to (among other things) shuttle pictures of cats around at the speed of light. But then again, before the Internet, by life was being defined by an industry that wrapped words on low-grade paper around advertisements for underwear and used cars, the most popular portions of which involved comics about lasagna-loving cats. Anything humans do seems absurd if you frame it in sufficiently absurd terms, involving cats.

My life is what it is. It is what it is because the Internet exists, and I am on it, and use it, and profit from it in all manner of ways, commercial, personal and existential. Years from now, and perhaps not even before I’m dead, we’ll consider the Internet this hopelessly antiquated and ridiculous thing, and all the things on it as relics of a different and possibly silly age, which is to say we’ll have found new and even better ways of enjoying cats on a massive scale. When that day happens, I’ll say to those around me, yes, perhaps it was a little ridiculous, but it gave me so much. I’m glad it did, and I’m thankful. Now, please, stop sending me those brainwaves about bacon.


Klout CEO Joe Fernandez Responds

Received a letter this morning from Joe Fernandez, the CEO Klout. I’m posting it with his permission. Check out the link included for more from his point of view.

Hey John,

My name is Joe Fernandez and I am the founder/ceo of Klout. Saw your article yesterday and then again on cnn money today (will admit that it is kind of awesome to be called a dick on cnn). Anyway, also saw your blog post today that we most have seen your article so I figured I would reach out.

I am just a guy who is into data and started a company in my bedroom. I think you have some good points in your article how the score can cause unnecessary stress and I am reflecting a lot on the product in terms of how we present that. Goal with Klout has never been to turn the interent into high school or ruin social media. My vision has always been to help individuals understand the impact they were having on their friends and the web. I wrote a blog post about it today –

We are working hard here at Klout and I hope you’ll keep an open mind as we evolve. Happy to chat some time if you are interested.



Signed Books for the Holidays: How to Get Them From Me

The last couple of weeks people have e-mailed me, asking, “Hey, that thing you do during the holidays? Where you team up with your local bookstore to get signed copies of your books to people? Are you going to do that again? Well? Are you? Are you? ARE YOU?!?!?”

The answer: Yes. Yes, I am. And yes are they, too. Wait, that’s not right. “Yes, they are, too.” Yoda I am not.

Good People of the United States! Once again, Jay and Mary’s Book Center, my local and awesome independent bookstore, located in Troy, Ohio, will be delighted to take your order for books which I have written, that I will then sign and/or personalize, which they will then ship to you. And all you have to do is the following:

1. Call Jay and Mary’s at their 800 number (800 842 1604) and let them know you’d like to order signed copies of my books. Please call rather than send e-mail; they find it easier to keep track of things that way.

2. Tell them which books you would like (May I recommend Fuzzy Nation? It’s especially good this year!), and what, if any, names you would like the book signed to. If there’s something specific you’d like written in the books let them know but for their sake and mine, please keep it short.

3. Order any other books you might think you’d like, written by other people, because hey, you’ve already called a bookstore for books, and helping local independent bookstores is a good thing. I won’t sign these, unless for some perverse reason you want me to, in which case, sure, why not.

4. Give them your mailing address and billing information, etc.

5. Wait by the door until everything arrives. All right, you don’t have to do this one. I realize you have family and jobs and such.

If you would like your books to arrive in time for Christmas, I and the bookstore strongly recommend you get your order in by December 12. I will sign orders for books after that date — I’ll sign any order that comes in on or before  December 19 — but you run the risk of them not being able to deliver your book on time. So on or before December 12 is your target date.

Jay and Mary’s can only ship in the United States. Sorry, rest of the world. Canada, I’ll try to sign as many books as I can while I’m in you this weekend. I’ll let you know how that goes.

In case you need a recap on what of mine is available:

CURRENT HARDCOVER: Fuzzy Nation, METAtropolis, The God Engines (Note: the God Engines hardcover is going out of print, so if you want it and they have it, you better get it)

CURRENT MASS MARKET PAPERBACK: Old Man’s War, The Ghost Brigades, The Last Colony, Zoe’s Tale, The Android’s Dream, Agent to the Stars, The New Space Opera 2 (anthology; my story “The Tale of the Wicked” is in it).

CURRENT NON-FICTION: Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded (essay collection, Hugo winner), Book of the Dumb, Book of the Dumb 2 (both humor books), The Rough Guide to the Universe, second edition (Astronomy), The Rough Guide to Sci-Fi Movies (film). All my non-fiction is in Trade Paperback format.

If you have any other questions, drop them in the comment thread and I’ll try to answer them.

Happy shopping and if you do put in an order thanks for supporting my local independent bookstore. They rock, and so do you.


Nerding Out on The Thing and In Time

This week at, a look at two recent science fiction films, In Time and The Thing, and why their box office performances was not, shall we say, everything either film makers or science fiction fans could have hoped for. That’s right, I speculate wildly! As I am wont to do. I am full of such wonting. Seriously, I wont all over the place with the one. I’ll stop using the word “wont” now. Go over there, won’t you (“won’t”! not “wont”!) and if you feel moved, please leave a comment.

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