Sunday at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books

A photo of me waiting in the Green Room of the Bovard Auditorium before the “Nerds Will Inherit the Earth” panel at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, which along with me featured Pamela Ribon (who took this picture), Maureen Johnson and Amber Benson.

I’m not gonna lie to you: The panel kicked ass and was easily one of the best panels I’ve ever been on, which is saying something because my previous panel of the day, “World Building,” with Lev Grossman, Frank Beddor and Charles Yu was one of the best in recent memory as well, not in the least because Lev and I got into it on the subject of whether an author’s worldbuilding counts as canonical if it doesn’t end up on the actual page, which is now in my top five panel exchanges ever. It’s rare to get two truly excellent panels in a day, each with really engaged, smart and interesting co-panelists, but today was that day.

That said, the “Nerds” panel was pants-wettingly funny to be on, and gauging from the audience reaction, it was even funnier out there than on the stage. All credit goes to Pamie, Maureen and Amber; I was along for the ride on that one.

Sadly, there was no official taping of the panel. If you missed it, you missed it. Which is a shame, really.

Other highlights of the day included hanging about with my good friend Mykal Burns, getting redshirt cookies from fans, a comically low-speed golf cart race across the USC campus, seeing fellow Webb alumnus Robert Takada briefly in my signing line, walking about with former newspaper mate (and new YA author) Arthur Salm, briefly speaking with Anne Rice, hanging out in the author lounge with Jennifer Ouellette, and then Richard Kadrey (and then Pamie, Maureen and Amber and all their friends), re-meeting Elyse Marshall, and generally just having more fun than a single person should have.

To be quite honest this entire Los Angeles trip has been fantastic start to finish. I wish I could go back in time to do it again. But instead I’m going to bed because I have to be up ridiculously early to catch a ridiculously early flight back home. Thanks to everyone who made my trip such great fun.

34 Comments on “Sunday at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books”

  1. “…gauging from the audience reaction, it was even funnier out there than on the stage.”

    It was hilarious…and I don’t use that term lightly. All four of you killed. Thanks for giving good panel!

  2. You’re the only person I know of who could talk about meeting Anne Rice as if it was just one of those things on the itinerary. Don’t mind me turning an ugly shade of green over here. Seriously, though, glad you had a ball at my alma mater. Go Trojan bookworms!

  3. “not in the least because me and Lev ”

    Jumpin jarhead Crisco on a cracker! I try desperately to get my kids to speak English and then they read this! From a published author for whom English is a first language.

    I’m quitting b4 u al Dvolve 2 jibberish

  4. It sounds like several of my fandoms collided into some kind of awesomeness singularity. Glad you had a good time!

  5. Damn those panels sounded good when you first mentioned them! Now I’m going to have to search YouTube for unofficial videos of them.

  6. I would have liked to have seen the panel on authorial authority over cannon. And the Nerds one sounds awesome too. [pulls out antique pocket watch] You’re getting verrrry sleepy, John…you want to write a post on your LATFoB panels. You want to include your loyal readers in the fun you had since they couldn’t fly across the country to attend….

    Relax, Francis. Sometimes grammar errors happen.

    Errors, indeed!

    You realize, Francis :), that the use of the He and I construction in modern Written Standard EnglishTM is the result of a historical accident that placed the only 18th Century English dialect to use it even semi-regularly (and not even consistently in courtly English of the day), namely London English, at the center of power when the first widely printed English grammar book was being penned by Robert Lowth – expanding on the work of 16th Century linguist William Bullokar and using Latin for frak’s sake to contort the grammar of a Germanic language into something Europe’s Christian intelligentsia could nod approvingly at – in a desperate effort to give English a “respectable” orthographic facelift aimed at compensating for the British Empire’s linguistic inferiority complex as it sought to compete with France and Spain as a major world power. The He and I construction serves no semantic necessity and is in fact the exception worldwide throughout which most languages prefer Me and him. Yes, I double center-embedded! It’s grammatically “legal” so you should have no trouble with it ;-)

    Also, no one likes a grammar Nazi. Especially when the “corrections” have all the logical necessity of tying a lefty school children’s “sinister” hand behind his back because the Catholic Church couldn’t keep its dead language out of our Anglophone soup lest Martin Luther let Christians actually *gasp* read the friggin’ Christian bible.

  7. “the subject of whether an author’s worldbuilding counts as canonical if it doesn’t end up on the actual page”

    Did you guys come to a conclusion? I guess that many authors would disagree with this POV, but I think it has to be published to count. Now, I do think that grey area exceptions should be granted to the author, as in JK Rowling’s famed gay Dumbledore – because one would assume that the particular unprinted fact directly influenced the character throughout the books, and therefore vague hints could be extracted from the work.

    But when I hear fans going on about anecdotes about a character that they heard from the author at a convention – ideas that the author cut from the book, or are considering for later works – I don’t consider those to be real things that actually happened at all.

  8. I’m glad that this did not disturb your fun.

    Bomb squad finds that suspicious package at USC is harmless
    April 22, 2012 | 6:09 pm

    Students in a USC dorm and some attendees of the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books were evacuated Sunday after police received a call about a suspicious bag on the campus, authorities said.

    The suspicious bag, which was taped shut, was reported about 3:30 p.m. in the 600 block of W. 34th Street, said LAPD Officer Gary Cantu said. The area was cordoned off as the bomb squad investigated.

    The package was X-rayed and found to contain rolled up newspapers, Cantu said.

  9. @ John
    Thanks for re-adding the paragraph spacing. I know they were there when I hit post, but then it dropped them. Never done that before. Weird.

  10. Thanks for coming out, it was fun to see you again. The bomb drama wasn’t too bad, the police slowly pushed us to the exits without too much concern. They were even telling us there was a bomb threat called in.

  11. I’m pretty sure that when the linguistic barbarians smash the gates of civilization, John Scalzi won’t be riding in the van. I’m sure John only introduces an error now and then to make me feel less self conscious when I send him email.

    I have read articles that assert that some of annoying rules of English grammar are a result of an attempt to harmonize English grammar with Latin. I am unsure about how that applies here. I tried looking up “he and I construction” and discovered only that it is the name of a firm in Oklahoma. Am I correct in thinking that the problem here is one of case? One can’t say “Me and Lev walked down the street”, because one can’t say “Me walked down the street”.

    I don’t speak all of the Germanic languages. I speak two for sufficiently liberal definitions of “speak”, but I believe that in German, one also does not say “me walked down the street”, so wouldn’t this also be a grammar error in German?. I’m not sure what to say about how all of the world’s languages address this issue, because I don’t speak any non-Indo-European languages. Does this situation even have an analogue in such languages?

  12. In the interest of re-railing the conversation back to the topic of Scalzi at the Festival of Books, let me offer the observation that the image of reclining, shadowed, Scalzi, when viewed on my monitor, shows a remarkable resemblance to Wil Wheaton.

    I’m just sayin’.

    (Sorry I missed it. I’m only 50 miles away, but this was a family weekend.)

  13. I will also ask, politely, to share at least YOUR views on the issue of authorial intent vs. what actually makes it into print. It would be nice to hear Lev G.’s view too, but that sounds like a wonderful discussion.

    I’ve just finished “The Magician King” and feel that Grossman plays pretty fair with his readers. Given Julia’s story, even in the first book, it’s clear that the students at Brakebills are only being given one version of the truth about magic.

  14. “Lighten up Francis”
    Was it just me or did anyone else flashback to the scene in the movie “Stripes”

    Just me then… OK
    Jeff S.

  15. Sounds like a great time John. Wish I could have been there rather than where I actually WAS :(.

  16. Matthew — “anecdotes about a character that they heard from the author at a convention”

    Definitely agree this kind of secondhand stuff isn’t canon. (Though I don’t think that’s controversial.) If, however, it’s in print (well, dead tree or electronic I suppose) from a reputable source such as an essay by the author, verified letters, interviews, etc. it’s at least close to canon. The main thing being that these could be over-written of course by the author’s change of mind before writing the next book. (Of course, authors can revise previously released novels as well, as in Stephen King’s The Stand re-issue, etc.)

    I really hope some video emerges of the panels. These kinds of things tend to happen far too far away.

  17. “Draw me like one of your French science fiction authors.”

    Sorry, I watched Titanic recently and strangely that’s the first thing I thought of when I saw that pic.

  18. Matthew, Dumbledore was one of Scalzi’s examples. He made the distinction between instances like Dumbledore, where the text does not refute it and there are good reasons why it wasn’t included, and say, Ray Bradbury now claiming that 451 is about television.

    Scalzi (if I remember right) was arguing that authors know stuff about their worlds that readers will never know (or may not learn until later – and be pissed off when they do) and Grossman was arguing that until it’s told to readers it’s not really canon.

    That is, when they weren’t simply shouting “you’re wrong!” “no, you are!” :p

    And yes, both panels were fun and OMG the nerds panel was the best ever. Scalzi borrowed Maureen Johnson’s hair. MJ and Amber Benson croaked from eating red shirt cookies, while Scalzi was spared bc he has spent the last few years developing an immunity to iocane powder. Also, MJ stared everyone into submission and Scalzi squeed. Several times.

  19. I can vouch for the awesomeness of the panel. Hard to pick a favorite moment, but I think it came down to: the inception of FlipperScalzi, Maureen Johnson’s demonstration of the power of her stare, or THE HORSE VIDEO CONVERSATION. *shudders* Horses…

  20. You know when you come across a book a dozen times, and keep wondering if it’s worth a look? And you finally decide to just get it because you’ve seen the dam cover so many times so it must be worth reading? Yeah, I kept thinking that every time I saw your covers… Then I coincidentally saw you on the Nerds panel. It was by far the second most entertaining panel I have seen at the LA Time Fair in the four years I’ve been going. Are you coming back to LA to do any signings in the near future? Perhaps at Mysterious Galaxy…

  21. I’m glad you had fun at the panel, it sounds like a seriously good time, but I’m really here to comment that I think, Mr. Scalzi, that the picture above is possibly the best I’ve ever seen of you. Rock star good. (Crops, Enlarges, and Prints to send to Chrissy for her private collection)

  22. @ Mike

    I tried looking up “he and I construction” and discovered only that it is the name of a firm in Oklahoma. Am I correct in thinking that the problem here is one of case? One can’t say “Me and Lev walked down the street”, because one can’t say “Me walked down the street”.

    That would be the distinction between the nominative case (subject marking) first-personal singular personal pronoun and the oblique case [object marking, (including objective and genitive cases)] and, although not strictly necessary for meaning, at least serves a specific semantic role in that it indicates whether the speaker is the subject or object. The order of the pronouns, however, is totally arbitrary and normalized only by dialectal convention.

    Interestingly, no one has taken the opportunity to correct the non-arbitrary grammar error in the last sentence of my previous reply.

    @ Jeff S.

    Was it just me or did anyone else flashback to the scene in the movie “Stripes”

    Where else would that be from? Pardon me…From where else would that be?

    I think that meme’s sufficiently ingrained that anyone who recognized the reference would do so in relation to the film.

  23. Arthur Salm? Oh he used to write movies reviews here in San Diego (trading off with a reviewer we referred to ‘David Idiot.” I Loved reading Arthur’s review of movies he didn’t like. I can see why you two would get along!

  24. Hello John! I was at both of your panels on Sunday, and thought they were hilarious. I also (unofficially and against all rules, shhhh don’t tell) recorded both panels… only to lose the recordings when my phone died yesterday. If you find that anyone else has a recording of either panel, please share a link to it… I cracked up so much at the “Nerds” panel that I missed some of the things that were said, and I want to listen to it again!

    But anyways, thank you for two really amazing panels. The world-building panel was super interesting (I was scribbling notes the entire time), and the “Nerds” panel was hands-down the best panel I’ve ever seen at a book festival! I’m going to pre-order “Redshirts” now, and perhaps make my own redshirt cookies to munch on this evening while watching creepy horse videos on YouTube.

  25. I also (unofficially and against all rules, shhhh don’t tell) recorded both panels… only to lose the recordings when my phone died yesterday.


  26. I’m sorry Gulliver! But I’ll be at Comic-con this July, so hopefully Mr. Scalzi will grace us with a repeat performance of hilarity and nerdiness, and I’ll hope my phone doesn’t die again.

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