Reader Request Week 2012: Get Your Requests In!

51 weeks a year, I write here on whatever topics I want to write about, because, hey, it’s my blog and I can do what I want. But one week a year I write here on whatever topics you want me to write about, because, hey, you read this blog, and sometimes I don’t always write about the things you’re interested in seeing me write on. I call that one week a year the Reader Request Week. Guess what? It’s going to start next Monday. This is where you get to suggest a topic for me to write about.

And what topics can you suggest? Any topic in the world — and indeed I like it when I get asked to write about topics that I don’t usually address. So ask away: Make your topic request silly or serious or sexy or obscure. Hey, you know what you want to know about better than I do. I don’t write on every request, but I do try to get a wide range of topics in over the week. So whatever you want me to write on, request it. It doesn’t hurt to ask.

With that said, let me post my usual admonitions:

One: Quality not quantity — I’d rather you request one seriously well-thought-out topic than blast out a laundry list of one-line topics. It’s not a race or contest, folks, and I’m more likely to entertain a request I think has some thought put into it.

Two: Questions on writing will not be a priority — Because, you know, I write about writing all the time. During Reader Request Week I like to address topics I wouldn’t generally think about. It’s not to say I won’t answer any writing topic request during the week, just that I’m rather less likely to, and the ones I’ll respond to aren’t going to be the basic-level stuff.

How to request a topic? I have two ways I prefer. The first is simply to drop the request in the comment thread here. That’s my favorite way, since it’s easy for me to scroll through and pick topics. The second way is through e-mail. I find that gets used by people who want to ask me questions they might not want to ask in a public comment thread (i.e., my thoughts on sex, etc), or whatever. If you send a question though e-mail, it will help me if you put “READER REQUEST WEEK” in the header.

I usually credit whomever asks a question, but on e-mailed questions people feel sensitive about I’m happy to employ a pseudonym (one may also of course use a pseudonym in the comment thread). I also prefer not to have requests sent via Twitter/Facebook/Google+, simply because the scrolly nature of their interfaces make it hard to keep track of the requests. Comment thread here or e-mail is the way to go.

Also, to help you not ask a question that’s already been answered recently, here’s the last five years of Reader Request Weeks. Yes, I’ve been doing this for a while:

From 2007:

Reader Request #1: Justifying My Life
Reader Request #2: Coffee, or Lack Thereof
Reader Request #3: BaconCat Fame
Reader Request #4: The Inevitable Blackness That Will Engulf Us All
Reader Request #5: Out of Poverty
Reader Request #6: Short Bits
Reader Request #7: Short Bits II: Electric Boogaloo

From 2008:

Reader Request #1: Homeschooling
Reader Request #2: Technological Gifts
Reader Request #3: Sex and Video Games
Reader Request #4: Where I Am Now
Reader Request #5: Professional Jealousy
Reader Request #6: Author Relations
Reader Request #7: Fame or Lack Thereof
Reader Request #8: Politics and the Olympics
Reader Request #9: Polygamy
Reader Request #10: Meeting Authors (and Me)
Reader Request #11 Athena and Whatever
Reader Request #12: Soldiers and Support
Reader Request #13: Diminishing Returns
Reader Request #14: Quick Hits, Volume I
Reader Request #15: Quick Hits, Volume II

From 2009:

Reader Request #1: SF YA These Days
Reader Request #2: OMW and Zoe’s Tale (and Angst and Pain)
Reader Request #3: Space!
Reader Request #4: Procreation
Reader Request #5: Having Been Poor
Reader Request #6: 80s Pop Music
Reader Request #7: Writing and Babies
Reader Request #8: Twitter
Reader Request #9: Can I Be Bought?
Reader Request #10: Writing Short Bits
Reader Request #11: Wrapping Up

From 2010:

Reader Request #1: Christianity and Me
Reader Request #2: Rewriting the Constitution
Reader Request #3: How I Think
Reader Request #4: Quitting Writing
Reader Request #5: Rural Ohio, Revisited
Reader Request #6: Depression
Reader Request #7: Writery Bits
Reader Request #8: Short Bits

From 2011:

Reader Request #1: Children and Faith
Reader Request #2: The End of Whatever

Reader Request #3: Middle Ages Me

Reader Request #4: Old Man’s War and the Best SF/F Novel of the Decade

Reader Request #5: Taking Compliments

Reader Request #6: Sociopathic Corporations

Reader Request #7: Unruly Fans

Reader Request #8: Short Bits ’11

Reader Request #9: Writery Bits ’11

Now: Get in your requests! I’ll start answering them next Monday. Thanks!

232 Comments on “Reader Request Week 2012: Get Your Requests In!”

  1. Also:

    The comment thread here is for topic requests only. Comments responding to other people’s topic requests, or otherwise not a topic request, will be snipped out. This is to keep it easier for me to use when looking for topics to write on.

    If there’s a specific question about the Reader Request Week you need an answer to, drop me an e-mail. Thanks.

  2. What is the airspeed velocity of a swallow ? Does the type of swallow matter ? What if it is carrying a coconut (gripping it by the husk, of course) ?

  3. Comics books: Do you read them, or if not did you used to read them? Any favourites? And would you ever think of writing some?

  4. I missed last year’s week and couldn’t ask this:

    Two of the more frecuent topics in this questions are your “Being poor” text and Athena. I wanted to combine both: How do you or would you transmit to your daughter, who is growing in your current “well to-do” household what is like being poor and how “lucky” she is?

    Apologies for my not-so-good english, hope the question is understandable.

  5. It’s December 31st 2012. The Mayans were wrong and the world didn’t end, but Rick Santorum was elected President and the Republicans have taken control of the House and the Senate. What do you think the next four years will hold for the nation?

  6. iChing (oracular device) – is that going to be the next Apple fuzzy logic prediction.

  7. Topic: The End of Times mythology including the approaching Mayan calendar snafu. Plenty of room in this topic to address some good cult issues.

  8. I’d be interested in your take on the Open Access scientific journal format. I have to imagine, that as a writer, you have a vested interest in making money, but also, you have to have an interest in maximizing your audience. The scientific community has a problem in which those that would most be interested in the science being performed is not actually able to access it. For instance, a research group pays to publish in a journal, and then a researcher has to pay to read it. And at $40 a pop, that’s a lot of money if your academic library doesn’t subscribe to that journal. The worst part about it, is that you have to pay to read your own work.

    Basically, I’m happy to pay a fair value on work that I’m going to enjoy (i.e. like your books), but I’m less so when I feel like I’m just funding an evil corporation. More so, as a scientist, I have a ‘for the better good bent to me’. I’m just curious how this looks to a person that’s associated with publishing, but not a scientist (but science friendly).

  9. Why do you think so many Americans avoid spaying and neutering their pets, even when they must know that shelters are full and have to destroy animals that don’t find homes quickly enough? More importantly, how can we best change their minds?

  10. Damn it, Andy. That didn’t even take me that long to write and you beat me to it. “deleted for off topic, please do a better job of follow direction” (see, I even wrote it for you)

  11. The only video game you play that I’ve seen you mention is Left 4 Dead, but that could just be my poor memory. As a writer, we all know you like stories, so do you play any video games with a really strong narrative like the Mass Effect series? If so, what is your favorite narrative in video game form? If not, why don’t you play these types of games?

  12. This might be a “writing” request – but I am asking it solely as a reader:
    What way of us buying your books helps you out the most? (Pays the best, provides better press, stokes the ego most. . . ) Maybe rephrased better as: How would you prefer we buy your books?

    I am on a big e-book push (my wife is super frustrated at our overflowing bookcases, and satellite bookpiles), so I’d also like to know which electronic publishing platform offers authors the best deal.

    I have asked it once or twice of writers on “Big Idea” pieces, and I have seen others ask it. Usually the answer is some variation of, “You know, I’m not sure. Pick what you like – I’m just happy you are getting it!” That is a legitimate answer, but although I have a Kindle, I have Calibre and don’t mind converting different formats – it’s a few minutes of my time and I am glad to do it if it helps an author I enjoy.

    I’m not asking for concrete numbers, or for you to discuss your entire contract, but I would love to have a better idea.

    Thanks for considering it.

  13. You have a well-earned reputation for snark and the art of the thought-out-but-blistering retort, but unlike many you usually seem to avoid crossing the line too far into personal attacks (and are even quick to mallet those who do so in comment threads). Where do you see the line between snark and ad hominem? Is it a sharp line or a fuzzy one? Other than raw talent, how do you personally maintain that balance?

  14. Your sort of situation provides you with what I would call “enormous power” in some ways. You can not only preach the One True Path – which you do very well, IMHO – but you can paint a picture of the future that can motivate people to Make It So. Clarke and Heinlein are particularly well known for having done this. What are you thinking you might do with all this power? Will you dream up a future that you want to have and then use it in a story (or series!) to motivate people toward that future using the awesome power you wield every day?

  15. If the ending of a story-driven-by-player videogame is a cop-out full of holes that breaks it’s own promises to the player, does that count as defective product? A bug in the code that breaks the game definitivly would count as deal breaker, does a bug in the story that breaks the game count too?

    Have you ever thrown a book/dvd/controller/anything at the wall in anger because while the story itself with brilliant, the end was just plain crap?

  16. Will universities have to change the way they operate in order to adapt to the needs of society in the 21st century?
    If so, how?

  17. What are your thought on romantic love ? What kind of love do you think lasts the longuest ?

  18. Do you believe money = speech? Or more specifically, do you believe freedom to spend money in any way you choose should be protected in the same was as speech, even if it clearly skews politics?

  19. Hi John — I’d love to hear your thoughts about investing. I’m not looking for tips (though, if you have any, maybe others would like to hear them) or generic advice, per se. What I mean is, as someone who doesn’t have a finance background and is presumably fairly well off given the success of your books, how do you approach investing/saving for the future? Do you have somebody else primarily invest for you, or are you directly involved in your portfolio? How do you research either the investments you make, or the people who make the investments for you?

    Would also like to hear any other thoughts on the financial aspect of being a writer as well, including but not limited to taxes (practically speaking about paying them, not philosophical arguments for or against), insurance, charitable donations, etc.

    Thanks for your consideration.

  20. Oh yes, I agree with Tim. A topic with how to deal with procastination would be grand, especially when it’s a little bit more than “Just do it, you dolt!”

  21. Translations

    Being a well-translated author (Hungarian edition of OMW is coming soon! Finally!), what is your stance on foreign (genre) works translated to English?
    How do they affect your reading? Do you seek them out, give them the same chance as English books or you don’t bother much with translations?
    Also, in a general sense, how do you see the relationship of English and non-English science fiction? (One-way cultural export, living conversation or something else?)

  22. You have an excellent writing style for making convincing arguments. You can eloquently state your position and support it with well reasoned arguments that are entertaining as well as enlightening. I’d like to see you put these skills to work on a topic you don’t support in real life and that is possibly unsupportable at all.

    So, Please tell me why Newt Gingrich will make the best President this country will ever have.

  23. the importance of a post- high school education. (what I think is still called a “liberal” education where a B.S. or B.A. from a LA&S College is earned- in addition to one’s “major” education in philosophy, science, culture etc. is mandated)

  24. Since books pay the mortgage etc. Have you ever wished social networking had never taken off? No twitter, Facebook etc? Would you be happier in a garden shed miles from distractions quietly turning out masterpieces?

  25. John
    I am currently putting together a symposium (a sort of written conference over a topic) for an ACM publication called Ubiquity ( The call will go out this week to select academics and writers – but perhaps I could jump-start the process by taking advantage of your annual write bet/fest.

    So, here is the topic: Will computers outcompete us all? The notion of a technical Singularity – computers smarter than humans, developing personalities etc. has been put forward by Ray Kurzweill and others – and people believe it or not, mostly based on gut feeling rather than real debate. Recently, however, concerns about computers replacing people in more and more jobs thought un-automatable just a few years ago (i.e., Google automatic cars replacing drivers, IBM Watson winning Jeopardy), as well as concerns that computer systems have become too complex to understand (viz. the financial crisis, robotrades now outnumbering human trades, concerns over privacy etc) have refueled this debate (see Brynjolfsson and MacAfee’s excellent The Race Against the Machine for a great discussion).

    So (since I want to expand this debate beyond the technical and academic circles – what do you think? Will computers outcompete us all – and if so, how should we deal with it.

    (I have a more detailed statement I could send you if you are interested, of course – but given your background and writing prowess, you surely must have thought about this issue before.)

    Espen Andersen

  26. What type of social injustice do you dwell on and rail against the most in your thoughts? Poverty? Human trafficking? Inaccessibility of the court system to poor people? Non-owner digital locks? Lack of jetpacks on our day and age? People who never mow their lawn? Artificial flavouring in everything? Misuse of the phrase “that begs the question”?

    Alright, so I got a little off track there in the list of examples. But the question stands — what social injustice eats away at you the most?

  27. John,

    The biggest aggrevation in American Society is the voice given to wilfull ignorance. What is your biggest aggrevation and, perhaps more importantly, how do you deal with it?

    Thanks and all the best,

  28. Travel back in time a moment to the 8th-grade you. A hotdog falls to the floor and you decide that five-second rule or no, you’re not going to eat it. Maybe it rolled under the cabinets a little bit and it’s been a couple days since anyone swept in the kitchen. (No offense to your family’s household cleanliness; this is all hypothetical.) However, in a parallel reality, the 8th-grade you shrugs and decides to brush it off and eat it any way (let’s say it’s a really good hot dog, a Vienna Beef). How would parallel reality John Scalzi differ from the John Scalzi the world knows today?

  29. Guns. Do you shoot them? What would be your preferred weapon in the coming Zombie Apocalypse?

  30. “The only video game you play that I’ve seen you mention is Left 4 Dead, but that could just be my poor memory. As a writer, we all know you like stories, so do you play any video games with a really strong narrative like the Mass Effect series? If so, what is your favorite narrative in video game form? If not, why don’t you play these types of games?”

    Fishtailing off of kaellinn18, I’m particularly interested in how you view video game fandom and fanbases in general. Particularly interesting to me is the recent internet hubbub where a petition circulated to change the ending of Mass Effect 3. As someone who plots out stories, how would you feel about a portion of your fans asking that you change the ending to Zoe’s Tale or The God Engine?

  31. What do you think are the chances of human interstellar settlement happening before humans become extinct or become an unimaginably different culture? And the same question for interplanetary settlement.

  32. I recently read The Complete Polyphonic Spree, a collection of articles on books by Nick Hornby. In one of them, he decided to “challenge his boundaries” and try a genre he had never read: science fiction. The book he tried and failed to read was Excession by Iain M. Banks, because he had heard praise of Banks as a literary author. It seems to me a poor choice, because a) it’s mid-series, and b) it’s the kind of modern SF which pre-supposes a familiarity with the common ideas of the genre. The SF which got me into the genre (Asimov’s Luck Starr novels, Heinlein’s YA stories, and Arthur C. Clarke) would probably seem old fashioned to a reader today. So: what would you recommend as an introduction to SF for an adult, and why?

  33. You’ve mentioned before certain things you like but which are culturally less-than-acceptable. (Your love for Journey, for example.) What about the opposite – what do you dislike despite social and cultural pressures in their favor? (Personal example: “U2’s The Joshua Tree is a horribly overrated album, and whenever I hear it I want to smack Bono.”)

  34. It’s been a number of years since you had a “regular” job and I’m curious how you handle vacations when you’re regularly working from home and on the go. Do you find yourself taking fewer vacations? And what exactly do you consider a vacation?

  35. Your 70 year plan for the removal of large scale inequality, uninformed views, bigotry, illiteracy, corruption, tyranny and poverty in every country around the world. Modify this list if your plan would focus on other goals, but it must include a plan for every country or region of countries with similar cultures.

  36. I recently read an article about all these successful people who had experimented with drugs and in many cases contributed a portion of that success to taking drugs (hallucinogens).

    Do you think drugs help creativity? Have you tried?

  37. Hey John,

    I’d like to hear you talk about names – the importance of names, specifically how your wife felt about changing her name, and how you choose names for members of your household. Also: I know you’ve done a few things about naming pets. I’m thinking more about people names, though – not names in fiction.

  38. How do you deal with the, “So only one kid? Hoping to have more?” from friends or family?

  39. I would like to read your take (as a science-fiction writer) on public science funding in a political environment that is dominated by cutting spending. Especially in the case of basic and fundamental research where there are no immediate or foreseeable gains to society, but where the long-term (tens of years) benefits outweighs the public investment by far (e.g. the transistor, various network technologies, medicine, etc.).

    I also second the idea by Geeka earlier in the thread on open access science journals.

  40. Any thoughts on the book of Job? I’m agnostic now, but I first fully turned away from Christianity when I read the book of Job as a teenager. I found the idea of God torturing Job to win a bet with the devil to be incredibly distasteful, but many people don’t have that interpretation of Job.

  41. What would you change in our copyright/trademark/patent regime to make it sane and useful to society, while still protecting producers?

  42. You seem to be a person that is comfortable with himself and doesn’t really give a rat’s ass about what someone else thinks of him. I picture you being that guy that goes on the dance floor/karaoke stage etc. without a second thought as to what someone will think. I find that awesome and something I’m not able to do without copious amounts of alcohol. I’m curious as to how you got to be that comfortable. Was it your upbringing? Was it something you had to work on? Or have you just always been that way?

  43. Both Piers Anthony and (I’m pretty sure) Charles Stross use Linux. Would you ever consider trying a distribution of Linux out for several days – for everything other than games – and discussing how it works or doesn’t work for you as a writer?

  44. Assume the Mayans were correct, and the world really is going to end in December. What would you do with the time remaining? Would you drastically change the way you live or would it be business as usual?

  45. Out of curiosity, how is your non-rivalry going with Brandon Sanderson? Still looking forward to the day you are confronted with Scalzibane?

  46. Could you write a serious, careful review of Coke Zero? Especially comparing it to similar competitors (Diet Coke, Pepsi Max, Diet Pepsi, assorted value brands, etc.). I think it would be quite interesting, as I feel soft drinks often get overlooked for serious criticism.

  47. Does the fact that we in American have only 2 parties make for a bigger mess than countries with many parties? Are parties themselves an outdated way of identifying candidates and should they instead be forced to specify what they actually stand for without hiding under a platform? Can changes to the law help any of this?

  48. I’ve had a flutter in the back of my mind, from things I’ve seen here and elsewhere, about the future of publishing. I sometimes extrapolate things in my head to the ridiculous extreme, and it seems to me there are a number of folks out there who think self publishing is the inevitable wave of the future. This concerns me, because I value professionally produced books. Now I have found a few self published gems, and I’m sure there are more out there, but I’d hate to see fiction become one giant slushpile. I have seen folks who think publishers are evil, greedy bastards, and that all books should be the price of a pack of gum. But, I don’t think that is realistic, and I know that part of the subject has been discussed to death.
    Anyway I would love to read your thoughts on where you see publishing heading now. I think your experience and insight are perfect to illuminate the subject. Even though I think I remember one chucklehead on here dismissing your professional experience as anecdotal and not real evidence, which I thought was at best really silly.

  49. Food. Not just what foods you like to eat, but some questions/issues:
    1. Do you think the way food is mass produced and distributed today is sustainable – fish, meats, grains, vegetables, fruits, etc. If not sustainable, are we looking at large scale famine at some point in the next 100 years?
    2. I have read that there is enough food already produced in the world today to feed everyone. Is that true, and if so, why are people starving and what can be done about it?
    3. What will food production and distribution look like 50, 100, 150 years from now?
    4. For fun, what are your favorite foods? For example, my favorite fruit is red grapefruit, my favorite dessert is chocoate ice cream, my favorite bread is S.F. style sourdough, my favorite meat is pork tenderloin, my favorite fish is wild caught Copper River or coho salmon, my favorite vegetable is spinach.

  50. When trying to create a better future, is it better to take an deontological or teleological (/ consequential) approach? I don’t mean this in black or white, but rather, should we, most of the time, envision the end state and do what is necessary to get there or should we focus on the current means or tactics and whether they represent right or wrong? I can seed with an example, which you can ignore. Should we build more dams, which leads us to better energy independence but may adversely affect salmon populations and require farmers to make difficult adjustments in their farming?

  51. Fandom vs fame: How has your fandom of other authors or content creators changed as your own fame has increased? Are there things you miss about obscurity as relates to your fandom? The benefits of fame may be obvious, but feel free to expound on these as well.

  52. How do you feel about bigotry and hate within the speculative fiction community? Do you believe that there is an increasing polarization between progressive authors/editors/readers and their more socially conservative counterparts? Does it feel strange to run into people at conventions and other events who you know are actively involved in advancing goals that you may personally find abhorrent?

    I don’t think that’s “about writing” per se, and it’s a pretty sour topic, so maybe it would help to throw bacon into it somehow.

  53. Why are you glad to have been born male? What do women get to do that you envy? I’ve really enjoyed your discussions of male privilege, so if you have more to say on the topic, I’d be thrilled to read it. That said, there are several ways you could address my question without touching upon privilege: peeing standing up vs. wearing skirts; freedom from menstrual cramps vs. gestating, birthing and nursing a baby, etc. etc.

  54. I don’t know how much you can talk about Stargate:Universe, but one of the most interesting things about the series (for me, obviously) was the soldiers’ use of communication stones to interact with friends and family back home. I thought it resonated in a very interesting way with the way we’re waging war in the present day, with deployed soldiers getting on video chat with the folks back home, and having to deal with the pressures of every day life (Did the mortgage get paid this month?) as well as the pressures of war. Was that parallel something that the people involved with the show were thinking/talking about?

  55. Are 3D movies here to stay this time or will we eventually consider Hugo to be as much of a gimmick as Bwana Devil and Jaws 3D?

  56. Consider the socio-economic impacts of the invention of the printing press. What do you consider them to be? Is the invention and dissemination of e* and i* devices multiplying these impacts and/or creating new ones?

  57. TL:DR the other requests, If I’m just adding a vote to the topic credit them ;)

    Question: With The Encyclopedia Britannica ending their print run officially, how do you think other print mediums will react? Are we going to see more print become electronic? Should Wikipedia be the authoritative source of information in our New Age? Will there be a Book Case Shortage to come and the lumber industry as we know it collapse?

  58. Although I find your political thoughts amazingly intelligent (since they are very close to my own) and will read anything about cats just about any time, especially if accompanied by a picture or two, it may come as no surprise that my main interest in your opinions arises from your position as a thoughtful SF professional. So I’d like for you to address the state of SF, which I consider to be pretty bad, and how to improve it.
    I’ve been in an active SF discussion group since the mid-90s. Usually 10-12 people show up at the monthly meetings. Our individual tastes vary, but as a group we do not read fantasy, although we have made one or two exceptions, and, although we do not avoid military-based SF, we want it to offer more than just battle scenes, e.g., of course, we have done Old Man’s War. And forget zombies, vampires, and werewolves.
    It is more and more difficult to find books for our group. We do, of course, eagerly look at the Hugo and Nebula nominees the Locus list, etc., and it is discouraging to find that we often select no more than one or two of them even to VOTE on, much less read. We find ourselves going back to older books or classics, but we prefer to read newer books, especially since we may find ourselves disappointed when we re-read a book and find it outdated.
    Why is there not more SF being written, and what, if anything, can we do to increase the output of more high(or even middle)-quality books? Is 12 books a year too much to ask?

  59. I have two: you studied philosophy in college. Did you pick that field *because* you wanted to be a writer, or did you change your life/career plans at some point (e.g., when you discovered philosophers don’t make any money)?

    You’ve been doing this “let us ask you” bit for a few years. What’s the question you’ve been waiting for someone to ask, that hasn’t been asked?

  60. College costs, and the utility of a college degree, are the subject of a lot of press lately. As a college grad yourself; and the father of a teen who may be racking up a $100K+ 4-year college bill towards the end of this decade, what are thoughts on the current value of a college education?

  61. As a science fiction writer you’re obviously the best expert on predicticting the future one could think of. And especially this aspect of the future… I’d like to know: What do you think of mankind’s future in space? Will commercial spaceflight take off? Will NASA stay relevant? Will people be out there mining asteroids in, let’s say, 2050? And if so, what political implications do you see? For example, will we fight wars over earth, the single habitable planet in the system?

    It’s kind of your job to just take interplanetary and even interstellar spaceflight for granted. But will we really get there?

  62. What Madeley said earlier- writing comic books. Have you thought about adapting OMW as a graphic novel series? I’d love to read that!

  63. Alhough Phil touched on the food topic above, I’d like to go in another direction.

    I have an idea about food delineating the classes in a post-industrial world, but I’m not sure there would be enough of an emotional “buy-in” from the reader.

    Is food enough of an emotional “center” to support the premise of a book? Is food really important to people (outside of the obvious)? Do we all care enough about quality, cost, biochemical impact, social impact, social status, etc. or are these concerns mainly of “foodies” and gourmands? I freely admit to ignorance on this topic because I don’t remember many books having food as a main theme (“Soylent Green” aside).

  64. It seems like you do a fair amount of driving for local speaking engagements/events, even up to several hours’ distance. Can you talk a bit about why you do it that way, and when it is and isn’t worth it to you?

  65. Almost a year ago I became a father. I knew that it would be a fulfilling and rewarding experience for me, otherwise I wouldn’t have done it, but it’s been that way in some ways I didn’t consider before my son was born. What has been the most (or several) surprising thing about being a father for you?

  66. what’s up with the lack of societal evolution in stories spanning centuries? Maybe it’s just a matter of perspective? Looking at recent history, progress over the last 100/150/200 years is stunning. However, looking at 100CE to 300CE from afar, it looks pretty similar. So spread it out from 100CE to today, and the technological advances are unimaginable.

    So why do authors create vivid worlds and universes that seem frozen in time for all eternity?

    Taking the first two that came to mind:

    Game of Thrones — if The Wall was built more than 8000 years ago, this world hasn’t progressed past a medieval technological level for at 80 centuries. And in many ways, it sounds like they’ve regressed. Sure there’ll be some backsliding and the occasional dark age…but…but 8000 years! Slap some damn motors on those boats, roll out the mechanized infantry, can that new-fangled biplane handle a juvenile dragon?

    Ender’s world traveling. Thousands of years traveling between worlds and the technology is virtually the same as when he left earth.

  67. a quick one. You’re transported 400 years in the past (with no hope of returning) and have just enough time to grab one thing to take with you. It must fit in your pants pockets.

  68. I’m curious about what it’s like to lead an organization as an elected leader. How much does the organization change the leader, versus the leader changing the organization?

  69. The biggest obstacle as I see it to Old Man’s War being a successful movie is the casting. You have an armed force consisting of experienced, world-weary individuals in the bodies of 20-something supermodels. Unfortunately, this means that you’ll need real 20-something supermodel types to convincingly act the part of senior citizens in young bodies. My question is two part: is there a good way to get around this problem other than exceptional casting? And second, assuming there is not, what would be your ideal lineup of young actors and actresses that you think could convincingly play the role of John Perry and company?

  70. What’s your take on PayPal’s recent decision to force ebook sites like Smashwords to take down certain forms of erotica. (Anything containing: rape, incest, bestiality, “pseudo-incest” ie between step-relatives, underage sex, and BDSM.) Do you think it’s censorship or do you think they’re justified in their decision?

  71. America’s Future
    I always enjoy your columns of political musings, and this is in that vein. As the next set of elections near, a common element of the political rhetoric is, “if we don’t change course, America as we know it is doomed!” Now, I’m not one to get too worked up about election rhetoric, but I have several friends and coworkers of a very conservative bent that have expressed to me a concern that, well, our society is coming apart at the seams and no amount of shift towards conservative leadership at this point might save us.
    As a professional prognosticator, how do you see our country weathering the current financial crisis? Are we making headway out of the darkness, or just slowing our descent? Is the national budget our real concern? Or should it be jobs? Oil? Foreign affairs? Is the sharp division between our political parties today as bad as it seems (a near total dysfunction of government), or is Congress/the Executive plugging along at a normal pace?
    Most of the gloomiest folks I know suggest we have maybe 10-15 years left to pull ourselves out of our ‘death spiral’. So, I guess I’m asking what you think the next 15-20 years might look like given our current political/social/economic climate.

  72. Bill Langewiesche said something to the effect of: “How can you live in a time when it is possible to fly, and not fly?”

    You have financial resources, free time, and schedule flexibility. Ever wanted to go get a pilot’s license? If not, why not? If yes, what’s holding you back?

  73. Here’s one that might be fun and interesting to consider:

    If you were going to live in another country besides the US, where would it be? If you’d like, pick one where language is a concern, and another where you could magically know whichever language(s) you’d need. Explain what you you think to be the advantages/drawbacks of living in Country X instead of the US.

    The question occurred to me because my Dad is originally from Adelaide, Australia, and my whole nuclear family was recently reflecting that it really wouldn’t be such a bad thing for us to all pack up and head for Aussie. Having been there on a number of month-long trips, it has a lot to recommend it, including less political BS in general, fewer religious fanatics, and feels like less of rat race to get ahead in general. And since I know you’ve made a number of trips to other countries, I’d like to hear your take on what countries might be nice to settle down in.

  74. Why didn’t Dr. Ellie Arroway, Jodie Foster’s character from Contact, make your list of strong female science fiction characters from your AMC article last September? I think she would come in #2 after Ellen Ripley but before Sarah Connor, but there is room to argue her down as low a #4 (after Princess Leia). But not even an honorable mention? Contact wasn’t a huge box office success, but managed to grab $171 million worldwide and make a little profit. Seems worth mentioning.

  75. Hi John,

    What do you do when something you fear will happen, actually happens. And it’s so bad it messes up your life?


  76. I’d like to ask if you feel the United States is heading for a loosening of its united nature, or even a break up of the country entirely? From the outside the massive widening gulf in social issues between the states like Arizona, North Dakota, Utah, and the rest, where Evangelical Christianity has become a default institutional religion (regardless of the supposed separation) and seems to harbour a real hatred for women’s rights, gay rights, and non-white’s rights, and the more civilised states which seem to be moving to giving ever greater rights (or in cases where those groups have full equality putting in laws to guard them fiercely) to protect those groups and bring them to equality, seems to be insurmountable. The type of rhetoric coming out from the major political parties is showing less and less desire to compromise, and each is settling into a not with us, then against us mentality. How does the US continue, and what will stop that disintegration and bring its people closer together again? How can you have unity when a major political party criticises the President for apologising when members of its armed forces go on rampages or deliberately antagonise supposed allies?

  77. Toys and games – what were your favorites when you were between 7 and 12 (the prime toy years), what made them so awesome, and were they still available for you to get for Athena to enjoy (and if not, why not?)?

  78. You have a great list of potential band names. Do you think you would ever start a band? Which is your favorite band name to date?

  79. You write a lot about science fiction (and, by natural extension, fantasy). What are your top N favorite non-SF literary works, of any length, and what about them do you like?

  80. If you were the Solomon, Hammurabi or Napoleon of today, in your dream of dreams what sort of Government and basic laws would you decree? If it were Scalzi’s world, how would we all live in it?

    When it comes to these things I sort of notice you playing around the edges, and I know you are wise enough not to believe in or trust Utopias. But still the American way need not be the only or even the best for us way. Also their are many other countries that do things slightly or even very different with varying results. I want to know what you dream of when you dream of good governance.

  81. Maybe you could take a few hours to expand out of your comfort zone on A) your musical hobbies, B) your video game fixation, or both, then give us some stream of consciousness about the experience.

    For the music, I would suggest finding a place nearby that you can try out a Kala U-Bass as mentioned to you by @amandapalmer. The low end ones can run $600 depending on how deeply a music store feels like discounting them, so by no means am I suggesting you purchase one unless you get the bug (needs an amp, too, since for the lowest octave or so, even a very nice baritone uke body is not enough to get you much sound, so best to try in store). Failing that, just some garden variety electric bass guitars. You’d mentioned how you liked going from 6 strings to 4. I would wager that you’d also like simplifying from a uke’s weird re-entrant tuning while also not having to deal with the odd short interval between the 2nd and 3rd string of a guitar would make music quite a bit simpler for you.

    For video games, I’d like to suggest the new SSX game that came out for 360 and PS3. I’d love to hear what a fellow zombie killer thinks about my only other surviving video game niche interest, flying down hill as fast as possible, with very little control.

    Just like seeing what you think about things that I’m fairly knowledgeable about. You always have some very interesting angle of getting at it in writing.

  82. I’ve read somewhere that the ancient Greeks could’ve built an Edison cylinder recorder if somebody had put existing theories into practice. So: if the phonograph had been invented by somebody a couple of centuries B.C.E., and recordings preserved down to modern times, what would you personally be interested in hearing? (Doesn’t necessarily have to be music, though I’d definitely find some of that interesting — J.S. Bach live in concert, for one.)

    What effects on society would you expect if such an invention had existed since ancient times?

  83. Stephen Graham King and I had a short facebook discussion about Orson Scott Card. I had no idea that OSC was a vocal homopobe, and have been a fan of his writing. After I found out I viewed Card’s work a little differently. I still don’t feel the work itself if very homophobic, or hateful, but it started me thinking, and I remembered a conversation with another person about Lovecraft’s work and his personal racism. Anyway to cut to the chase, Stephen said he would never buy a Card book because he didn’t believe in supporting people who were so vocally homophobic. I asked back if purchasing an author’s work meant that I then supported all the author’s views. I also wanted to know if he was fine with people who were anti-gay not purchasing his books. Stephen said he was fine with reading Card’s work or borrowing it from the library but not paying for it. By paying for it, he saw it as a direct finanical contribution to Card, which then supported Card’s person and Card’s viewpoints. It seemed like a fine line, but everyone has theirs. Since you write a lot about finances for writers, is there a separation between Writer and Fiction? Have you ever face this kind of dilemma regarding an author or work you enjoyed, and how would you address it?

  84. I know this isn’t particularly philisophical, but I’d like to see you talk about -your- video gaming habits. Other than the offhand mention of some L4D and the like, you’re generally pretty quiet on it, and I’m curious whether this is because you don’t play them much these days, or for some other reason.

    Given that I originally found you via your OPM column, it’s of particular interest to me!

  85. It appears to be a near-universal assumption by science fiction writers, directors, and producers, that there exists a set of precipitating events leading to our complete abandonment of doorknob technology. Do you share this assumption? Would you be willing to speculate on the reason for this assumption, or on the nature of the developmental pathway? Do you foresee any significant downsides, should this eventuality come to pass?

    (Heh, why yes, thanks for asking. I can afford groceries. I have a nice TV. These are the types of questions that keep me awake at night.)

  86. What are your thoughts on different parenting styles? Free-range, tiger moms, overprotective parenting. Are we too child-centered and raising a generation of children with no concept of personal irresponsibility or boundaries who are still children dependent on their parents well into their twenties. Is the world so different now that letting our children have the childhood we did just not safe, or are parents who let their kids have freedom lazy and negligent? What is the cost to society and our place as world leaders?

  87. Lawence Lessig (One Way Forward) made the observation that both the Tea Party and the Occupiers are effectively citizen responses to the perceived problem of money in government. One can argue how much either movements has been co-opted by the wealthy, but I think he’s got a valid point: many Americans in a with a wide range of political beliefs agree that there’s too much money corrupting our national politics right now.

    My question to you is whether you see the silent majority of Americans getting pissed off enough to get involved in this issue, and if so, what do you think will happen?

  88. What about Crimes of Literature? Today in the Shipping/Receiving Department here at the library I work at, we received the new James Patterson novel. It comes out 3/26, but we get stuff ahead of time so we can get it to our branches by the street date, so yes that means I’ll get a sneak peak at Redshirts even if the ARC doesn’t come in to our Selectors. It’s only about a week or so ahead of time too. Don’t worry, I’ll buy it anyway, I want it for my own collection.
    Anyway, Patterson is now 3 for 3 as far as months and new books in 2012. I have not checked to see if he’s going for 12 for 12, I don’t have the strength. He used a great start to his career and phenomenal popularity to launch what I think is the biggest book scam ever. His “coauthors” do all the work, and he slaps his name first on the cover and rakes it in. Now it’s probably a mixed bag of good and bad for all the coauthor’s careers, and they certainly get their share from it. But, I think it’s horrible for his fans, many of whom probably believe he takes an active role in writing all the books that have been cranked out the last 5 years or so. Maybe this is just a pet peeve of mine, and I’m over thinking it. But are there any other less egregious yet still harmful Crimes of Literature that you know of?

  89. The United States has an elaborate criminal justice system — really 51 justice systems, if you include those of the states — designed, broadly speaking, to hold people accountable for their criminal behavior. The final question that gets asked at the end of that process is how a given criminal should be punished.

    My question to you: what values is our society expressing through its punishment decisions? Or, put another way, what are the purposes of punishment, and what should they be?

  90. this goes along with Baoncat fame, how has Baconcat affected you as a author/writer financially and in regards to work? Speaking for myself I wouldn’t have found you if not for Baconcat.

  91. Everyone knows what happened to the dinosaurs, but what happened to the dinosaurs’ ghosts?

  92. I’d be interested in your opinion of the blogosphere as a whole, since you’ve been in it for a while… how its changed, what’s stayed the same, where you see it going. What you like,what you hope to see flourish, what makes you smolder with righteous anger.

    I read Whatever, my wife reads Dooce (also a long-timer, but very different than your own), and there’s a few others we both peruse when we think about it… but on the whole, good, interesting writers with stamina seem rare. What’re your thoughts on the lot of it?

  93. What are your thoughts on the US Monetary system? Is there really any purpose served by keeping the penny in circulation, or quite frankly any denomination less than a dollar? And for that matter should we abandon the dollar bill and replace it with a dollar coin which would last longer in circulation, and I believe be cheaper to produce?

  94. What kind of world do you think we are leaving Athena and your (eventual) grandchildren? Will technology save us or are we in (or are we even done with) the world’s Golden Age because of global warming, over population and resource depletion?

    What kind of legacy do you think our generation (gen X, the Atari/Nintendo squad) will have?

  95. I was wondering if you had any thoughts on the Mass Effect universe/games and their writing/story/plot. I am not asking you to focus on the recent controversy about ME3, although that might come up, rather I just thought that it would be something within your wheelhouse, possibly, if you have had the time to play them.

  96. “Who knows what evil lurks in your plumbing?” or, growing up in LA.

    More specifically, being on-the-spot for the linguistic froth and ferment of early 80s teen dialect in greater Los Angeles. I’m from Orange County, myself, and I remember “Valley” as a grand game of creating and re-purposing words to dazzle and delight the listener. How do you remember it?

  97. I remember a photo of Athena and you dressed up for a father/daughter dance. My granddaughter’s school has an annual father/daughter dance that she and my son go to. Personally, I find the general concept of a father/daughter dance date creepy. I would appreciate if you could provide some insight as to why they are held and what makes them fun for the participants. (I haven’t noticed that the same school holds mother/son dances that my daughter-in-law and grandson attend.)

  98. What is the name of this book and who wrote it?:
    (You might not know yourself, but maybe one of your readers does. This book haunts me still.)

    When I was eight or ten years old, in the late 1970s, I read a paperback of collected SF short stories about a mad scientist. It was already an old paperback, so I believe the book was published in the 1950s or 1960s. In each story, the scientist’s patrons would put forth a task for him, and he would produce results which were, while following the letter of the commanded task, typically 90 to 180 degrees of the desired result. (Asimov’s Azazel stories, which I more than a decade later, reminded me of this collection.) The one story that especially sticks up sharply in my memory was the military getting the scientist to breed or clone man-sized rabbits (à la Harvey) to be soldiers. The scientist was able to produce such leporine troops, and the brass are pleased, until the last paragraph where the scientist reveals that all the rabbits are female, and thus ineligible for combat duty (as I noted above this book was published prior to the late 1970s).

  99. What advice do you have for someone about to live on their own for the first time? I lived with my parents for undergrad, but now I’m moving out (and now cut off from parental funds for continuing education, which means I need to get a job + loans, though I do have some savings). The advice could be financial, about education, social stuff – anything you feel like.

  100. Following on from several entries above, concerning willful ignorance and the end of the Encyclopaedia Brittanica in print: Assuming you believe that consensus in matters of fact is a good thing, how would you attempt to preserve such a consensus in a possible near future in which no source is considered authoritative on any topic? Or are we inevitably headed for a society in which everyone has his or her own set of (mutable) facts?

  101. How do you feel about colorization of movies?
    Modern enhancement or bastardization of original art?

  102. This follows on a bit from Simon McLeish’s question: which SF writer or writers do you most enjoy rereading? And are they the same writers you would recommend to someone starting to read SF?

  103. Following up on Kimberly’s question… I’m always fascinated by your parenting discussions. As Athena ages, how do you resolve the tension between increased desire for freedom (to hang out/travel unsupervised, to drive in a few years, ride with friends who drive, etc.) and the reality that she’s still a minor and anything going amiss will be laid at your feet? Tangentially related, or alternate question if the first one is too personal: Do you agree with current US/state age limits on holding jobs, driving and/or drinking for young people? Why/why not?

  104. I’d be interested to read your take on the current conservative push back on women’s reproductive rights and freedoms. Why now? Why the extraordinary vitriol? Why has the focus moved from abortion rights, to access to birth control and to women’s imagined sexual incontinence? I’m a New Zealander, and from this part of the world, the attempts to legislate women’s sexual and medical choices look pretty damn crazy and scary.

  105. What are your thoughts regarding Colleges/Universities lowering admission standards knowing that many of those who “barely” make it in will drop out? The students then have a year or two of student loan debt added to their problems. Would you recommend a dose of reality for High School Students? IMO there seems to be a big push for higher education that is causing a fair amount of harm whilst the Colleges/Universities are profiting.

  106. If time travel were possible, and you could only choose going back in time or going forward in time, which would you do and why?

  107. If you were going to pick, say, your top 5 fantasy side jobs, what would they be? I’m thinking outlandishly fun or interesting stuff like video game tester, animal language transliterator, chocolate taste tester…

  108. Suppose you bought a second-hand time machine from the yard sale over on Baker Street, what advice would you adventure through time to give your fresh-faced eighteen-year-old self as he prepares for college?

  109. What event(s) would you most like to be around to see before you shuffle off the mortal coil?

  110. The idea of a “bucket list” or “life list” has been around a while. I remember first reading an article in Life magazine in the early 70’s about a guy who had made a list when he was a teen because he always heard adults saying, “I wish that I had…” He made a plan and had checked off quite a few of his items. So what’s on your “life list”? What items have you done that took some effort but were “doable” (for example, running a marathon) and what items have you done that you never thought you would do (being a scientific expert talking head on TV)? What items have you not done yet and are surprised that they’re still undone? What items might you be actively working on (getting a private pilot’s license)? What items do you really not think are likely but you would really, REALLY like to do (spending a week in orbit)?

  111. I always enjoy reading your take on political issues of the moment. They seem to me to be very well thought out and considered. I was curious as to how you have come to where you stand now – what do you credit as your biggest influences in your political views and how have those views and influences changed over the years.

  112. How about narrative in video games? Has there been an evolution over time? Is it limited to certain genres (Fantasy, Sci-Fi, RPG, shooters) that do it better? Further, is a video game narrative substantially different from movies/fiction, and why?

  113. where would you like to travel to that you have not yet visited? Would you bring your family? (locations on earth preferred)

  114. People you’ve met in person that have impressed you, (perhaps surprisingly so), and how and why they made such an impression.

    Also a second to Laura H’s topic of the Hunger Games.

  115. Games, the type you play with other people at a table, not some electronic device.

    Do you like them? Have any favorites? Have any that you hate? Was there ever young budding board game geek named John Scalzi?

  116. Comedy, because the world is so serious right now I could use a laugh. Who are your favorite comedians? What are your favorite funny movies? What makes you laugh? What is your favorite knock knock joke?

  117. Actually John, I made a previous request but I’d like to retract it in favor of this one:

    Why do you think Sci Fi is so dreary these days? I recently picked up Gardner Dozois’ 2012 best sci fi anthology and every story seemed to be post apocalyptic, have an ambiguous ending or both. I know I’m generalizing a bit but sci fi these days seems to be depressing and I don’t want to read that. I want Sci Fi that opens my mind and causes my imagination to soar, not stories that make me fear for the future of my children.

    Why do you think this is happening? Is my perception real or just a poor choice in a few books?


    I hope this doesn’t count as a question about writing since I interpreted that rule to mean questions about the business of writing and how you approach it.

  118. Just started reading your blog recently-very entertaining, thank you. I looked around but didn’t see anything on the blog regarding the trade off between privacy and services today, exemplified by Google. I would appreciate your thoughts on the lack of privacy today, how the younger folks today have no sense of privacy tweeting and posting to facebook everything they do, how Google has monetized our data, anything related to these topics.

  119. What were your favorite folktales, fairytales, or storybooks when you were a kid? Which of those did you make it a point to read or tell to Athena when she was little, and why?

    (Clearly I’m asking this as I examine what stories I want to tell Rosie, and when).

  120. Tolerance and pride.
    I first heard of tolerance as a dirty word in IIRC “Goblin Reservation” by Simak
    and I did a bit of thinking.

    I tolerate the smell of a heavy diaper.
    I have fingernails, and don’t care (hangnails aside*).
    Facts are what are.

    Indifference is a good goal.
    (And ‘get a non parasitic job’ is a chant that doesn’t parse.)

    *I’m not trying to be deep/philosophical about the hangnails, I mean, ouch! and
    maybe I should say toes except it hurts to buy beer when one has a broken…
    Peace. Out.
    **No hugs. Hug me once shame on you, hug me twice? Well, I’ve knees.
    Bony knees.

  121. While I see you wrote about “Sociopathic Corporations” last year, you seem to spend a lot of time talking about US politics in general. Perhaps you’d like to discuss the political framework that enables and encourages such behaviour? Do you see any particular reason that US politics is diverging from most of the rest of the world, particularly in the remarkable rate that it’s becoming socially conservative?

    Alternatively and somewhat related, why is it that increasing numbers of US voters are so inclined to vote strongly against their own interests?

  122. My mother, who is American, found it very difficult when my father died because she expected people to follow US customs. She does not live in the US, so no one followed the customs she was expecting. I also found it difficult, because I didn’t know what mother was expecting, and couldn’t help her with the culture shock.

    Can you explain in broad terms general social and cultural practices when someone dies in midwest USA? I guess there are different flavours of funeral, but do other things happen on purely religious lines? Are there social commonalities between any of the deaths you have mourned?

    I apologise if this is the wrong time to ask. I sat and thought before writing this about how I would have felt if someone had asked me this a month after dad died, and I decided I would have liked the opportunity to talk about it. But you aren’t me, and many western cultures find the subject of death rude to even mention, so please accept my apologies if this question is socially inept. (And just in case its not totally clear: I am asking about general cultural practices. There is no way I would ask, or would expect an answer for, a question on personal details.)

  123. Everyone has a vice. What’s yours? Have you ever been addicted to something? Anything? Have you quit that addiction? This seems like a lot of questions, but they’re really all one.

  124. A certain famous science fiction author, who I will not name in a (probably pointless) attempt to make this question slightly less of a hot potato for you, has spoken out frequently against LGBT rights and made bigoted statements in general about that group of individuals, though he denies being a bigot for the same reasons that Kirk Cameron no doubt denies being a bigot. You, on the other hand, have spoken out clearly and frequently in support of LGBT civil rights and are known as a friend to that community. My question to you is, do you think I’m justified in boycotting the bigot’s works, even though those works, as far as I know, are free of the author’s bigotry? Am I only hurting myself by refusing to even read said works, several of which are beloved classics of a genre that is near and dear to my heart? Should my boycott extend to the film adaptation of one of those beloved classics that is currently in full production by a major film studio and set for release next year, even though those involved in that production are unlikely to share the author’s bigoted beliefs?

  125. What are you afraid of?

    Either generalized fears about the future etc or specific phobias. And, how have your fears changed over the years? I ask because I didn’t use to be really afraid of anything but I picked up a couple of specific fears last year (earthquakes and being trapped in whitewater) as a result of rather bad experiences.

    And how do you get over old fears?

  126. John-

    What are your thoughts on the fear of mathematics among the general adult population today? As a non-mathematician (I assume), what do you think is needed among people not actively in school to improve their mathematical literacy?

    On a personal not (I am a statistician), I have a very difficult time engaging people outside of the math realm in conversations about mathematics or statistics. They shut down the conversation by saying satements such as “That is above my head” or “You are just too smart for me” but claim that mathematics are important. The really frustrating part is that they rarely seem interested in talking with me about why math is so important.

    Although, it could just be me and my conversational skills.

  127. I’d be interested in your thoughts about various fuel sources for automotive power plants (fossil fuels on one hand, electric cars on the other, hybrids on the third and if you find you have spare hands, maybe blue-sky speculations (hydrogen gas, muscle-power, in-car anti-matter bottles, …))

  128. One fine day in the middle of the night, two dead boys got up to fight. Back to back they faced each other, drew their swords and shot each other. A deaf policeman heard the noise and came and killed those two dead boys. If you do not believe this lie is true, ask the blind man; he saw it too.

    Comment on the previous paragraph’s applicability in analyzing the viability of various political systems across the globe.

  129. Not really a topic request, sorry but something that would help this thread. A ‘like’ button so we could second ideas we want to highlight (e.g. What way of us buying your books helps you out the most?) without posting ME TOO!

  130. It is known that George R.R. Martin is an avid GURPS player that has been playing for a long time with Walter Jon Williams.
    Patrick Rothfuss prefers the Hero System over Dungeons and Dragons.
    Hell, even Vin Diesel is a long time D&D player and wrote the preface to the book “Thirty Years of Adventure: A Celebration of Dungeons & Dragons”.

    What about John Scalzi?
    Have you ever been a tabletop roleplayer?
    If so, what games/campaign settings are your favorite ones.
    If not, what did you think back in college about those geeky D&D players?
    Has the RPG world influenced your writing in any way?
    Have you influenced the RPG world in any way?


  131. Have you given any thought to Athena taking the SAT as a 7th grader?

    The early testing is administrated through four colleges across the US based on where you live (Johns Hopkins, Duke, Northwestern, and the University of Denver). Most Junior High Schools don’t push this, so it’s probably not something the school will tell you about, you have to do it on your own.

    Taking the test would also get Athena into Northwestern’s Talent Search program where she could take summer and online programs through the college, from 8th grade all the way through high school (assuming it is the same as Duke’s program which my daughter participated in).

    Do you have any thoughts on these types of programs for intelligent and motivated students?

  132. As an American that is not a subject of the British monarchs thanks to the American Revolution, what do you think of the struggle for independence of other aspiring nations such as Scotland, Catalonia or the Basque Country?
    Has independence lost its relevance in the 21st century?
    Are the claims of those nations senseless in this age of globalization?


  133. A lot of people seem to think that reading a book is a more wholesome activity than watching TV or playing video games, though to me they’re just different mediums through which we gain ideas or enjoyment. What are your opinions about this?

  134. The American Political landscape is a mess. Anyone willing to sit down and read Abromoff’s Capital Punishment should be very afraid on how the leaders of this country make important decisions. It seems to me that there is too much corruption and corporate influence in politics for both the Republican and Democratic parties.
    In your opinion what is the root cause of the problem? Is it something that can be fixed? And how would you fix it?

  135. Hopefully not repeating, I’d like to see your take on being a parent of a teen in the 21st Century.

  136. I would be curious to hear your thoughts/opinions on the topic of gun-control in the US.

    Do you think that our current federal/state policies are (dis)functional, do they inflate/reduce homicide rates? As someone who fiddles with potential futures, I would love to hear how you think a major federal policy shift to either extreme (“A Gun for Every Baby” or “No Guns for Nobody”) would affect things in a broad sense.
    Does the wording of the 2nd Amendment really defend the rights of individuals to own firearms? Or, is every US citizen actually part of militia and is this amendment relevant to a country with a professionally fielded military/military-industrial-complex?
    Should the ban on purchasing automatic weapons be reinstated? (I believe this ban expired recently during the 2nd Bush administration).
    Should the average American be able to purchase automatic weapons? Handguns? Shotguns? Rifles? Where would you draw the line on which guns are appropriate to have in one’s household?
    Do you have a side in the “if we outlaw guns for citizens, criminals will still have them and then ourselves (and our law-enforcement officers) will be out-gunned by said criminals, therefore we should not restrict firearm access for anyone” argument?
    Your personal experience(s) with firearms. Do you own a gun? Do you think they are necessary for personal protection?

    Sorry for the bevy of questions, but I am super curious to hear what you think about any or all of these gun-control themed questions!

  137. It seems that humans would almost rather die than admit being wrong.

    Those church leaders would not look through Galileo’s telescope for fear of what they would see is an urban legend that continues today because it speaks to something fundamentally true about human character. Arthur Fonzerelli’s inability to say “I’m sorry” is a fictional character we can laugh at because he strikes a truth, without requiring a confession or “I’m sorry” on our part.

    And yet, being wrong can be costly and not admitting you were wrong and instead “doubling down” that the wrong approach will somehow pay off in the end, can be extremely costly.

    There never were any hidden WMD’s in Iraq. Yet in 2006, half of Americans believe Iraq had WMD’s:

    Iraq had no involvment in the 9/11 attacks, but in 2007, 41% of americans believe Iraq was directly involved in the attacks:

    Some of this can be attributed to Bush’s mininformation campaign. But some of it is likely better explained by people wanting to maintain an illusion of not being wrong. Having supported the invasion in 2003, they are unwilling to admit their support was based on lies and instead maintain that the lies are still true, and their support is still justified.

    The desire to whitewash ourselves seems to be a natural part of being human, but it also seems to be one of the biggest causes of strife in human history.

    Any thoughts, observations, or possibly suggestions on how to break through this tendancy to whitewash ourselves, to get the Fonz to say “I’m Sorry”, and to get people to speak the truth even if it means admitting they were wrong?

  138. There seem to be more and more stories nowadays on how employers are using the internet to dig deeper into the private lives of potential new hires beyond even the standard background checks that we are all familiar with. How does that trend translate over into the writing field (or creative work in general)? Would an aspiring artist or writer ever have to worry that some errant facebook post or bizzaro rant sinking their chances at getting signed by an agent or publisher, or making it in their chosen creative field? And as far as those typical background checks go, a criminal record ever preclude somebody from making it in the industry?

  139. Your thoughts on women’s reproductive rights, and the current platforms on which the GOP is standing.

  140. Looking through another Reader Request entry (BaconCat, 2007), I saw this snippet:

    Naomi: So, is bacon-cat fame better or worse than being most famous for having interviewed your coworkers about whether they’d prefer to hunt giraffes, or Newt Gingrich? And what animal they thought Newt Gingrich would taste like?

    My father (a fan of giraffes) still had that taped to his office door years later.

    John Scalzi: Well, that bit of fame got me my job at AOL, so I’d have to say that on a strict financial remuneration sense, Giraffe fame is better than BaconCat fame.

    Giraffe fame clearly dates from long before my first visit here, and I’m curious about the AOL connection too. Do (re)tell! Please. (I did try searching for “giraffe” but not successfully. Clearly I am not a giraffe hunter.) And would you say that is still true today?

  141. Expanding on Johnny F’s question about corporations digging into employee’s self-published “private” lives a little: do you see this increasingly working the other way too?

    Here’s one example: (IT work in Australia). I find that I’m simultaneously struggling to find work, but also more aggressively filtering potential employers based on LinkedIn and other online sources. Why bother even trying to work for someone I won’t be able to tolerate for more than a week? Or, recently, an hour into the second day.

    Is this making the death spiral stage of dying companies faster, for example? The stage where they are struggling, treating employees badly, anyone who can leave is leaving, would seem to be much more obvious these days. Which means that hiring replacement staff in an attempt to recover will be harder (viz, the more desirable potential employees are usually more able to find relevant information and thus less likely to even apply). Likewise, does that make it harder to hide the parent company? Companies with a bad name often hide behind shell companies but it’s become surprisingly easy to find out who’s behind the nominal employer.

  142. The ethics, and future practice, of designed gene therapy. Including the reality that some countries will be choosing to push the envelope, and making the money for doing so, even if we don’t. Also, why shouldn’t I get that chip in my head?!

  143. What is the most random thing that ever got you to pick up a book to read? Last year I saw the blurb “I do not wish Sam Sykes dead” and picked up Tome of the Undergates based solely off that. I was in a bookstore and waved the book around excitedly at my wife and was all like “This is the guy Scalzi doesn’t want dead!” … yeah… I get a lot of weird looks at bookstores. I did happen to thoroughly enjoy the book.

  144. I am apparently a rare breed in this world, or at least my little corner of it: someone who enjoys sci-fi, but who also is a big sports fan. I’m watching SportsCenter now, and will likely put on an old Doctor Who or Star Trek episode to fall asleep by later. I can’t talk about most sci-fi to (the vast majority of) my co-workers and associates in the sports arena, but I also have trouble finding fans of athletics in the geek part of my life. Thus at times I feel somewhat out of place in both. As a sci-fi/fantasy creator and aficionado, do you have any interest in sports, and if so which sports and why? Also, do you feel the culture of each world (maybe moreso of sports) one which makes it as hard as it seems for the two to overlap?

  145. You are representing Earth in a cooking competition before the Galactic Council. If you win, Earth joins the ranks of the civilized planets; if you lose, we’re rotated ninety degrees out of our dimension, dooming the planet. What do you prepare?

  146. Another topic just occurred to me:

    We all have a list — whether actually written down or just in our heads — of books we mean to read someday. I suspect yours is rather longer than the average person’s. But what I’m really interested in is: what are the top few “classic” books that you feel you really [i]should[/i] have read by now, the top “classics” that you’re vaguely embarrassed to admit you don’t yet have under your belt (for cultural literacy or other reasons)? Either Sci-fi/fantasy books specifically, or just any book in general.

  147. You have stated that you have been lucky, gotten a life you love, and while you have worked at it, some bits have fallen into your lap and others are at least in part the result of luck, and not totally in your control.

    Tell us of the life of an alternate universe John Scalzi, where the luck gods of the writing world have not smiled quite as brightly upon you. If you had had to follow a different path, where writing fiction didn’t end up paying the bills, where would you live and what would you be doing now, that would still leave you happy and satisfied with your life?

  148. I have a simple one for you. Which sf/f book(s) would you recommend to someone whose never read the genre before?

  149. You can reinstate any former president (alive or dead) to the White House in 2012. Who do you choose and why?

  150. Is it possible to support the troops by bringing them home without a clear victory? Or does support require they stay until they achieve victory?

  151. More and more often, life looks a lot like the Red Queen’s race from Alice in Wonderland, where one has to run as hard as possible just to stay in place, and run twice as fast as that to get anywhere. Looking at current problems in the economy and of social mobility, I’m wondering how much my little metaphor is true now, and if it’s more true now then when I was growing up in the 1970s.

  152. Wow. There are some really good questions on here. I demand answers! (product of my culture)

  153. What do you think of the prepper/survivalist/sovereign citizen movements in the US? Complete nutbags? Grains of reason, seasoned with nutty goodness? Or are they three steps behind you already? Do you have plans for various types of disasters? Which types do you now worry about? Have you ever found yourself beginning to stock up on canned goods after reading a book? Is so, which book?

  154. What are your favorite sci-fi books? Which books influenced your own writing?

  155. Some large percentage of internet discussions seem to devolved into battles over competing data sources which go something like this:

    Poster A – My data source which all rationale beings respect says “xyz” so I am obviously right.
    Poser B – your data source has no credibility whatsoever because they are widely known as un-hinged lunatics. My data source which is inherently trustworthy says “123” so I am clearly correct.

    Which raises some questions for me:

    What are (or would be) the characteristics of a trust-able data source?
    Are there data sources that are generally accepted as accurate and\or trust worthy?
    What are some data sources that you trust?

  156. It would be interesting to see your take on introverts vs. extroverts. What are the relative advantages/disadvantages of each? Which of the two do you generally think more often succeeds in life? Why? Is this a good thing or a bad thing?

  157. Maybe you have an opinion on this topic: why is the United States so quick to intervene militarily in some places, and so reluctant in others? Is it really as simple as oil and good air defenses? Is it “awareness” like the Kony people like to say?

    Can’t wait for RRW, as always!

  158. What are your thoughts on the use of the acronym “TL;DR” (too long; didn’t read)? Do you think this is a cop-out (“Oh, that’s at least a paragraph. My lips get too tired by then.”) Or do you think it necessary in order to deal with people who bury you with inanity (and insanity)?

  159. Have you read or gotten an ARC of Matt Stover’s “Caine’s Law?” How awesome is it?

  160. who are the greatest bloggers the world has never seen?
    people who would have been great bloggers if only they have had the forethought to be born in the correct time..
    I.E. :
    my choice is probably mark twain , he has the right combination writing ability , grumpiness and humor to make it big in the blogosphere ..

    bonus points for discovering what there blog name is

  161. Do you plan on getting a nicer ukelele this year, or are you happy with your current uke?

  162. Should I stop drinking beer? ;p
    Sermon time.
    It is that God hath spoken and thou shalt heed the word of God and listen
    not to the whispering, the cunning whispers of the….

  163. Are you for or against the death penalty?

    If for it then a) would you be willing to execute a felon and b) be willing to be the innocent person put to death because statistically there are innocent people on death row.

    If against it, well there are exceptions to every rule. In what circumstances would you be willing to make an exception?

  164. You frequently talk about friends and people you respect among science fiction and fantasy authors, hanging out with them at conventions, etc. You seldom/never talk about the largest-selling authors in the genre (David Weber and Misty Lackey come to mind; I could think of others.) Do you not talk about best-selling authors because (a) they don’t need the advertising, (b) you don’t respect their work, (c) you don’t like them, (d) you just don’t run in the same crowd, or (e) something else? And, for some reason I really want to know… what do you think of David Weber’s works?

  165. Who is your favorite Star Trek captain and why? Or, what are your thoughts on the prime directive?

  166. What are your thoughts about always on Internet connection required computer games? Has it changed your game playing or interest in games? Is it a necessary progression to some sort of science fictiony virtual reality?

  167. As a former film critic and current film columnist, what is your opinion on the state of film criticism in the 21st century? Do you think professional critics are “out of touch”? Do you think the Internet has destroyed – or at least, mortally wounded – print criticism? Do you think the commenters on and should be collectively banned from the Web?

    (Nevermind that last question. Of course they should.)

  168. Do you have any particular thoughts on the recent Doonesbury kerfuffle? Have you read the strips, and if so, what did you think?

  169. What defines a work as fantasy versus science fiction? The God Engines involves space travel (albeit with a not-typical-SF power source) yet is considered a fantasy novella, which never quite sat right with me. Were you actively trying to bend genres, or is it simpler than that (no rogue AI’s, virtuality, nanotech, etc., so it must be fantasy)?

  170. Do you feel you could come under the classification of a sesquipedalian author?

  171. You have made your dedication to your lovely wife (and family as a whole) crystal clear through the years, so please don’t interpret my suggestion as an effort to question that.

    That being said: Public figures often have the opportunity to be unfaithful to those they love. Do you have any thoughts about that other than the obvious (admiration is an aphrodeisac, etc)? How do you innoculate yourself against this, or if that isn’t necessary for you personally how do some of the people you know try to protect themself against it?

  172. The social aspects of the internet have proven that we no longer require the Electorate, due to the inability of voters to cast votes in person in a timely matter. How do you see the voting process changing? And how will the internet change politics as a whole?

  173. OK, mine’s sort of frivolous. But I’m from New Orleans and we’re food obsessed so I’ll ask what was the very best meal you ever had and where did you have it?

  174. You made a stand against SOPA, but I haven’t seen you mention ACTA despite that it, as far as I know, will affect Americans too. What are your thoughts on it? Is there any particular reason you didn’t mention it? Apologies if you have mentioned it and I missed it despite having searched for it.

  175. How do you perceive cultural pressures regarding how women–and, more and more it seems, young girls–are expected to look? What about how much female self-worth seems to be tied to appearance, even (especially?) in this era of greater sexual equality? How much does this issue concern you, or does it?

  176. Can you listen to Ozzy Osbourne and Lita Ford singing “Close my eyes forever” without getting shivers of pleasure down your spine? If you can, would you prefer to be deemed alien, a human whose musical taste is invalid or something else entirely?

  177. Do your dreams provide you with story ideas? If so, how do you translate and integrate them into the stories? Do you keep a dream journal of any sort? If so would you ever consider publishing an edited version?

  178. Do you proofread your posts before posting or read them over after they’re posted and go back in to edit if you notice grammatical/spelling errors? I’m curious only because I do that with mine, and I wondered whether a writer would be as particular/careful with his ‘unofficial’ writing on a blog as opposed to the writing which earns his bread and butter.

  179. You win the SuperMegaMillionsPowerBallPowerPlay lottery (with a ticket given to you by a mysterious fan) and have more money than a reasonable person could ever hope to spend. You decide to go all Bill Gates and set up a Foundation, but being a science-fictiony kind of guy, you decide that yours is going to be more of a Bread-Upon-the-Waters kind of thing. Question: What kind of Foundation do you set up, and why?

    Some examples, which you are welcome to either disdain or consider:

    1) An actual Bread-Upon-the Waters Foundation.
    2) An actual Howard Foundation.
    3) A Howard Foundation based upon the idea that the Howard Foundation should’a bred for brains instead of age.
    4) A Foundation to support indigent and superannuated pickpockets, prostitutes, panhandlers, piemen, priggers, and other unworthy poor starting with ‘P.’‟
    5) A Foundation which gives money away more or less randomly to provide society with comic relief. (E.G., the MacArthur Foundation *rimshot*)

  180. I ran into a story on Twitter today about a Hieroglyph, a Neal Stephenson project that, according to the article, intends to persuade science fiction writers to ease up on dystopias and “survivors of the zombiepocalypse” scenarios in favour of inspiring, uplifting stories about (grand) technological or societal achievements that would entice the upcoming generation of scientists and engineers to start working today on that grand vision of the future. Neal’s mantra for this project is “no hackers, no hyperspace and no holocaust” – meaning the avoidance of pessimistic views of the future, as well as “magical” technologies that cannot be reasonably be achieved given the current laws of physics.

    Given that you are a successful writer of science fiction, and military science fiction in particular, I’d love to learn your thoughts on the matter. For the sake of completion, I am including a link to the article in question:

  181. what are your feelings on split infinitives and their presumed illegitimacy? are you willing to boldy broadcast them? ;-)
    I think that yes, in a lot of cases it is a sign of sloppy wording, but there are also quite a few phrasings that lose their power when over edited…

  182. Are there any reading challenges you’ve done or think would be interesting to tackle? For example, any of those 101 books you MUST read before you die list, reading a biography of every US president, reading 50 books in a year or everything Agatha Christie ever published.

  183. If you were to start from the assumption that embryos are living human beings / people, and your other beliefs remained the same, what if anything would you do about it and why / why not.

  184. As you are a person who frequently does a great deal of charity, I’m interested to know what your thoughts are on the Kony 2012 campaign and Invisible Children organization. Especially in light of that organization’s refusal to allow the BBB’s Wise Giving Alliance to review their books.

  185. Suppose you are a brilliant scientist. Is there any technology that you would not publish, if you discovered it? Something with clear benefits, but offsetting costs?

  186. Do you have any thoughts on how to deal with crazy conservative family members? I recently asked my grandmother to stop forwarding me those emails that say crazy stuff about President Obama without any factual evidence. She “apologized,” adding that any open-minded person ought to be able to read and consider the “facts” in those emails, and said she wouldn’t send me any more. However, today she forwarded me yet another email (an obituary of the USA) and added a note at the beginning claiming Obama is a Muslim who believes in Sharia law.

    I’m getting kind of frustrated with the whole situation, and it’s becoming clearer to me that my grandmother won’t listen to anything I have to say about the situation. Obviously, she could accuse me of being narrow-minded about her views (which are straight up crazy), so I’m not sure how to deal with the situation aside from simply replying UNSUBSCRIBE to every forwarded email.

  187. Is “good reality TV show” an oxymoron? Why or why not? Is there/could there be a reality show (actual or imagined) that you would like be in, either as a judge or participant?

  188. Lot of buzz today and recently about employers who are requiring job applicants to turn over their Facebook ID and password so that they can see inside of private accounts. Did SF see these kinds of privacy issues coming, and how they intersect with problems of privilege and class? Could there be said to be a subgenre of modern SF that is “privacy dystopia”? I’m thinking of Doctorow, Stross, etc. Where haven’t such books gone yet?

  189. How do you think newly minted U of Chicago grad John Scalzi would fare today. I am aware that you attribute a great deal of success to luck, so let’s assume the same degree of luckiness. How much luckier would you have to be to get a film review column in a local paper, etc.?

    I am thinking of this because of a speech written by John R. MacAurthur, publisher of Harpers, which can be found here (in a link). It seems like a combination of realistic concerns about the state of the writing market and a zealot-like demand that the kids should get their electrons off of his lawn. The blogger in the link openly scoffs that only a Luddite would erect a pay wall. Is that a reasonable position?

  190. You write a lot in this blog about writing and the life of a writer, but you seldom tell us about the process surrounding your craft.
    What are your “tools of the trade”?
    What software do you use for writing? (and why do you prefer it to other tools).
    What workflow, if any, do you follow when writing a novel? Is it a different workflow for other type of writing?

    By workflow I mean: initial idea, planning of chapters, fleshing out characters, revision of the plot, edition… You know, the whole process from the seminal idea of a book to the final draft. (minus the actual process of writing).

  191. What benefit do you feel you get from keeping this blog? I know how much enjoyment it has brought me as a reader but it has to take some time away from other things you could be doing. What do you see as your ROI?

  192. You’re a pretty funny guy. Do you wish you were more of a comedy writer with scifi tendancies (Like say Douglas Adams) or are you happy to be where you seemingly are as a scifi writer with some funny moments (like your Agent to the Stars book)? Does one sell better than the other?

  193. Looking at the comments you get, how do you keep from growing to hate the insane ignorant lunatic unwashed masses?

  194. What are your thoughts on culture change for indigenous people (eg how the !Kung are no longer full-time hunter-gatherers, language death, increased stratification due to excess food)? Do you think, in the long run, western influence causes more harm than good? What about charitable organizations (esp. those in third world countries)?

  195. Do you feel that authors and scriptwriters writing for children or teenagers have a responsibility to their audience (e.g. to show positive role models or not to glorify violence / show sexual assault as romance, etc)? Or do you feel that as fiction the authors should explore what they wish to and that to do otherwise would be a form of censorship and a bad thing? Is there anything positive about, for example, kids reading books about characters who are not good role models?

    In the same vein, should librarians, parents, teachers, etc, deliberately try to steer kids towards books/films/etc they think will have a positive influence (I don’t mean actually ban books, simply try to encourage kids to read different ones, or to expand their reading in general)?

  196. Wil Wheaton just Tweeted Chris Hayes about Rachel Maddow. Why is it that everyone I follow on Twitter, watch on TV or read seems to know one another? Is the world really that small? Does a bit of notoriety buy you immediate acceptance from other notables? Or is there a special club you all belong to and once again, it’s me being picked last for dodgeball? Please explain.

  197. What do you think of the concept that we live in a multiverse and that beyond the known universe are just different universes, where we might all walk on our hands instead of our feet? How do you think ours would compare?

  198. Back in the early 2000s, Jon Favreau hosted a brilliant talk show called “Dinner for Five”. Just him and four Hollywood friends out for dinner, telling the kind of stories that only get shared over food and drink. If you could host your own “Dinner for Five” show, whom would you invite?

  199. As a child growing up, the Star Trek Transporter always bothered me – what happened to your soul when your body was teleported long distances? As I grew up and took a more agnostic view of spiritual matters, the issue of consciousness and continuity surrounding SF ideas like teleportation and mind upload still bothered me. I was particularly impressed with the way you handled transfer of consciousness in “Old Man’s War” and wondered what you thought of these issues – is there a soul? Does consciousness and identity arise only out of our neural structure or is there something more?

  200. Why did you chose Athena and Zeus as names for your daughter and dog? 1 Olympian name is a coincidence 2 is a pattern. I’d guess that you mentioned this at some point, but I only started reading recently, and although I tried to trace it down using the handy-dandy search option I couldn’t find it.

  201. what do you think would happen to you if you had to live offline for 1 year?
    assume that:
    – if you make money offline, someone would write you a check for the amount you made in 2011 (& you will have to do nothing for it)
    – your online audience / readers, will develop amnesia so, when you pop back 1 year later, they will think you were never gone
    – [you get the point: it will not cost you anything; you will be able to get right back in etc etc
    what i want you to discuss is how you think it would change you as an individual & how it would affect your most important relationships.

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