14 Years of Whatever, Plus Book Announcement

September 13, 1998 was the day I sat down to write the first Whatever entry, motivated by a desire to keep my column-writing skills sharp and also, let’s be honest about these things, to give myself a way to keep myself busy when my newly-launched freelance writing career hit its inevitable lulls.

I had the vague hope that the writing I put on Whatever would lead to other things; I didn’t — and really in 1998 couldn’t — know how Whatever would become its own thing. But it has. It has become the column I was keeping my column skills sharp to write, and also the launching point for my forays into other media, and a place of enough significance in its own right that I can lend it to other writers to talk about their own new work.

And its audience keeps growing — by the end of the week, in fact, as many people will have visited Whatever this year as visited it in all of 2011 (5.4 million officially, not counting RSS and other feeds, and remember my caveats about stats), and we still have three and a half months to go in the year. Considering how the buzz in the last year has been that blogs are dying as a format, I feel especially good about that.

There are times, in fact, when I wonder if, at the end of the day, and to the extent that I will be notable at all to future humans (or, hey, whatever follows humans — I’m not picky! Hello, intelligent roaches!), Whatever will be considered my actual life’s work, not the science fiction, or the non-fiction books, or the journalism that I did prior to any of that. There are reasons to suspect it’s possible. One, I’ve been doing it longer than I’ve been doing any one other thing in my life, save for breathing and being married. Two, it’s a record of life in the United States roughly contiguous with the rise of the Internet as a social force, and a constant commentary on the culture that’s grown up and around that particular force. Three, it is actually me — or a reader-friendly, public performance-oriented tuning of me — in a way that my other writing simply is not. In a very real sense, this is my autobiography and my collected letters, all the stuff that any poor bastard hoping to get a master’s degree off a study of my life will have to pore through (and if you are that poor bastard — dude, you got a lot to wade through. Hope you made a pot of coffee).

To be clear, I would be perfectly fine with being remembered primarily as the author of Whatever; when it comes down to it, given how quickly the evidence of our lives slide under the waves of history, it’d nice to be remembered for anything, now, wouldn’t it (well, not for being a serial killer or snuffing Presidents or such. You know what I mean). If one were to resurrect Samuel Pepys, he might be surprised that he was rather more famous for his diary than his turn as a minister of parliament or for his tenure at the admiralty; he might be surprised that he was remembered at all. You don’t get to pick how people remember you, should they bother to make the effort in the first place.

At least no one knows about the place in the basement where I render kittens down for felt. I’d hate to be remembered for that.

Hey, forget about that last paragraph, would you? Thank you.

Given our base-10 predilections as humans, the 14th anniversary of anything is not one that most of would consider particularly notable. Be that as it may, this 14th anniversary is still an important day for me, and I would like to do something special to commemorate it. For that reason, I’d like to use the occasion of the 14th anniversary of Whatever to announce that on the 15th anniversary of Whatever, September 13, 2013, Subterranean Press will release the second official collection of Whatever entries, entitled The Mallet of Loving Correction: Selected Writings from Whatever, 2008 – 2012. This collection will naturally include all the big hit entries of the last four years, plus a personal selection of favorites that I think are worth official enshrinement in the Library of Congress. Some of these might not even be written yet, because we still have time left on 2012, and you never know what the future will bring. Well, except for The Mallet of Loving Correction: Selected Writings from Whatever, 2008 – 2012, on September 13, 2013. We’re pretty sure about that part.

So, yes: Hey, I sold another book off of my blog! Turns out the thing has been useful after all. And once again I can say: thank you, Whatever. My life would quite literally — because there’s a book involved! Get it? GET IT?!? — not be the same without you.

And also: Thank you, dear reader. The not-so-secret secret of Whatever is I wouldn’t write it if I thought I was only talking to myself. I’m glad you’re here, that you read what I have to say, and also occasionally comment on what I have to say, too. Yes, even those of you I have to Mallet. Because, look! I got a book title out of it! See? Everything works out perfectly.

82 Comments on “14 Years of Whatever, Plus Book Announcement”

  1. Congrats on the anniversary! Enjoyed your musings on how you will be remembered but, no offense intended, I doubt you or most anyone else will be remembered in over the span of centuries. In the long run we are pretty much all anonymous.

  2. Confession time – while I’m an avid reader of “Whatever”, I … I … I haven’t gotten around to actually reading one of your books yet. My friends go “HOW CAN YOU BE AN SF FAN AND NOT HAVE READ ‘OLD MAN’S WAR?!?” and I’m all “DUDE, I just got around to “Ender’s Game” last year, I’ve been busy raising an autistic child & shit!”

    I found you through links on Facebook. I’d friended Michael Stackpole ’cause I’m from AZ and had met him a few times in his gamer-but-pre-author days. He linked a few articles by author Laura Resnick, so I friended her (*eventually* thinking to ask “any relation?” in regards to her dad Mike). SHE eventually posted links to a couple of Whatever articles, which I signed up for email alerts from, not having an RSS reader set up yet.

    But seriously – your books ARE on my “to read” list!!! Hell, I only got around to reading some of Stackpole’s a few years ago….

  3. “The author photo has to be one of you using the Mallet just conferred on you by Chicon 7. It just has to be.”

    I second Bruce on that one.

  4. Excellent. I’ll need to put it beside my copy of Hate Mail and put a little still with the word “by” in order to get “Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded By The Mallet Of Loving Correction”.

  5. As far as record longevity, some of the longest lasting records we have are fired clay tablets. I’m planning on making a series of clay tablets with what I feel best describes me and my life (and clay avatar portrait I’ve been using), sealing them up in a ceramic container and then burying it with a few other trinkets (real ancient Greek and Roman coins, a modern bronze leaf blade sword, an original 128k Mac and 5 GB iPod) as well as a Rosetta stone with Greek/Hebrew/English/Mandarin/ASCII on it. I’d also like to include a tablet with Always Look On The Bright Side song and lyrics. Just have to figure out a way to explain musical notation and what A440 is. I’ll bury the lot in a cement box (small septic tank) with various metallic reflectors on top (old Ford 351 Windsor engine block and granite chunks arraigned in an interesting pattern). This should give some archaeology student some fun.

  6. So is this the book pitch you were tweeted the other day that is going to be followed by 101 Uses for a Live(?) Goat?

  7. While I have a read a passle of our host’s books, after more than 10 years of following David Brin’s blog, still haven’t read any of his fiction. But I have picked up several of his novels. Ah, well.

  8. I occurs to me that I’ve been following you for roughly half your blog existence (blogsistence?) Congrats on the anniversary!
    Also, goats in sci-fi. Really, it was inevitable, you’ve already gone with sheep, it was a natural progression.

  9. So honest truth here: I started reading this post and the way you were talking about Whatever made me think “oh hell, he’s about to say he’s shuttering the blog.” I had to skip ahead to reassure myself before going back and actually reading the whole post.

    Which might seem like a slightly larger emotional attachment to this blog than I ought to have, but Whatever has a special place in my heart. I started reading this blog right around the time I left for college. That was about seven years ago now. This is basically the corner of the web where internet-me ‘grew up.’ You’re like one of those cool librarians who always had cool stuff for me to read and never got annoyed at how much time I spent hanging around in the stacks.

    So thanks, Scalzi. Happy fourteenth anniversary, and may there be many, many more.

  10. As someone who only discovered the existence of this place about a month ago, I obviously have some catching up to do. I see archives going back only to 2002; are the first four years of Whatever gone for ever?

  11. John, we need a pic of you from 1998, preferably sitting at your desk.

    Also: Happy Anniv to Whatever and here’s looking forward to another 14+ years.

  12. I wish to offer a differing suggestion. The author photo should be the photoshopped one with a red face and horns, possibly wearing a judicial robe. The cover photo should be the Chicago Mallet. As large as will fit.

  13. I would be one of those folks who discovered Whatever during the last year. It has become a regular stop for me on my not-busy workdays. John, I especially love the the platform you provide to new and lesser-known authors with The Big Idea. I’ve picked up a couple of new novels from it. Thanks for everything!

  14. Congratulations, whippersnapper. My wife, a business partner at the time (now separated from us by a stroke and a divorce + remarriage) toasted each other with copious champagne before a burning fire in our North fireplace (the South Fireplace hosts a big Vietnamese ceramic elephant) and toasted the venture that we’d agreed upon.

    Magic Dragon Multimedia was this founded in very early 1995 as a subsidiary of Emerald City Publishing, a diverse high-tech publishing parent company dating to 1979 in Seattle and affiliated with the science/engineering consulting company Computer Futures, Inc..

    Three of the officers of Magic Dragon Multimedia were on the Board of Directors of a major Hollywood CD-ROM publisher in 1994 and 1995, but saw that the World Wide Web would be a more important multimedia channel than CD-ROMs — so Magic Dragon Multimedia began 1 January 1995 under the leadership of Jonathan Vos Post and Dr.Christine Carmichael.

    We went on-line at the end of February 1996 with a domain that grew to include over 1,600 web pages, for small businesses, non-profit organizations, and extensive content in certain selected areas popular with netizens. The internet is really a way of connecting people — that’s its killer app — so Magic Dragon Multimedia gets 15,000,000 hits/year.

    But now I have not updated it in quite some time, with Facebook and LinkedIn being more useful (except for rationally discussing politics).

    That the wife of the Con Chair of Chicon 7 knew me, when I was speaking to her husband, BECAUSE she’d seen me on WHATEVER shows that I am in your debt for this great venue.

  15. Will the gorgeous Mallet of Loving Correction given to you at worldcon feature on the cover? Because I would buy that book just for the cover. And also the content, because I enjoy your content. Anyway, the point here is: mallets are awesome.

  16. Happy 14th! I just found this blog this past year, as I moved to a desk job and have time to search the internet for authors and their sites (plus way too many Solitaire games). I have been a long time fan of Old Man’s War, and love that you helped out with SGU, when they gave your book a shout out I literally yelled at the TV “RIGHT ON!” Have a great day and I look forward to the future of reading your thoughts.

  17. I have confidence that 101 Uses for a Spare Goat will be the work that you will be remembered for in 100 years. Especially if the Rush theme song works out. Because it will be 2112. And Rush did a song and album called 2112. It’s pretty good. You should check it out. Seriously.

  18. Whatever will be considered my actual life’s work, not the science fiction, or the non-fiction books, or the journalism that I did prior to any of that

    Cultural archaeologists at Rian-Southwood Orbital University have discovered evidence that Dark Age netwriter John Scalzi, best known for “Bacon Cat”, may also have written a book. Fragments of a copy of the work were discovered on the outskirts of Manchester Reclamation Zone by a field expedition led by Rian-Southwood researcher Davis Broom.
    “It’s too early to be able to reconstruct the entire work”, Broom said, “but we believe the title to have been ‘The Forever War’.”

  19. A relative newcomer here (and to your sci-fi books). It was the books that drew me, the candidness of your writing style. I like that a lot. I mean, I love CJ Cherryh tons, but I sure hope she doesn’t act like she writes (and from her blogs it seems safe to say she doesn’t). Anywho, congrats! and remember: Marcus Aurelius spent most of his reign at war with the Parthians and quite a few Germanic tribes. Yet all he passed on to posterity was a damn treatise on Stoicism. So, keep writing about the wacky universe and its odd inhabitants. I will continue to read them. As will others. The green people with cat eyes shall live on forever.

  20. Congratulations. Enduring for any length of time in this short attention span world is a remarkable achievement. Fourteen years is _inconceivable_! That being said, this years numbers are what they are for one reason: when you had a book (somewhat dissappointing and far too similar to one of my favorite movies, but that’s only my uneducated opinion) coming out, you dynamited the troll pond with sufficient enthusiasm to make the most hardened usenetter weep. Well done, there is no such thing as bad publicity.
    I do enjoy your original fiction tremendously, may your muse be with you always.

  21. I got so caught up in my lame joke that I forgot to say, “Congratulations on 14 years!”
    Wil Wheaton and the other W00tstockers led me to your tweets, which led me to Whatever, which led me to your fiction. Reading Whatever was also one of the things that prodded me to start on my own novel, so I also want to say, “Thanks.”

  22. Happy Anniversary (or Birthday?), Whatever!!

    Happily, it was your writing here that prompted me to finally start reading your books, John. Which I have greatly enjoyed thus far, by the by… so I hope to continue reading your books (and your blog!) for many years to come.

  23. John — Having enjoyed a good half hour here perusing this post and the one you linked to, I have to say that one of the main attractions for me here are the intelligent, witty, weird, and downright nerdy comments people leave. It’s too bad you won’t be able to include a lot of the comments in your new book. Or maybe you will. whatever.

  24. Happy to be here, John!

    I hope there will be a picture of the actual mallet in the book… that’s one cool piece of swag.

  25. Congratulations on the anniversary of one of my favorite blogs. I look forward to your future writings, here, in books, and wherever they may be.

  26. Happy Anniversary. Glad to be one of the MANY people who make it so that you aren’t talking to yourself.

  27. Ahhh… the memories. It seems like just yesterday you were exploring the Creation Museum.

    Congratulations on your success and many thanks for getting me through long days by checking in at Whatever. Looking forward to yet another book.

    Hugo! Hugo! Hugo! Hugo! Hugo! (chants the crowd)

  28. I don’t know how long I’ve been reading Whatever, but I have enjoyed it enormously for some time now, and I hope to continue for a very long time to come. Many happy returns of the day!

  29. (1) congrats.

    (2) mmm…. kitten-rended felt, so soft….

    (3) I am sure, in the miserable annals of the Earth, you will be duly enshrined.

  30. My wife and I celebrated our 14th wedding anniversary last week, so I’m pleased to now know that if I ever can’t remember how many years I’ve been married (which happens with shocking regularity), I can just check your blog.

  31. Made your acquaintance with “Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded”, started reading the Whatever, collected all the works of Scalzi I could find, am eagerly awaiting more of same. Thanks for all the fun… and all the arguing, as well. Watching the Mallet in action is a vicarious thrill I wouldn’t miss for anything.

  32. Happy anniversary; also, a question.

    Can anybody give an estimate of how many words Whatever has been, so far? How many 300-page WotC-standard paperbacks would that be? How many hours would an average reader take to read it all? Assuming 10 000 hours of reading drives a graduate student insane, how many mad co-authors would there be for “That’s Humanity: Collected Essays on Whatever”?

  33. Thank you for your work on Whatever. Hope it will be around for the next 14 years – and beyond!

  34. Wow! Congrats on the anniversary and on the book deal, and many happy returns. Pretty sweet stuff you’ve got going on there.

    I’m afraid I’m one of *those* readers – here just about every day, comment just about never. But, just so you know, whenever you’re here alone and you think you may just be talking to yourself, we’re here, holding our breaths, silently hanging on each word. Er, in a totally non-creepy way…

  35. We’ve already moved on to 101 Uses for a Spare Goat and Goat Sherlock Holmes: Vampire Detective, but the Mallet of Loving Correction is nice too. Congratulations on your anniversary and your nimble dance moves.

  36. I have been reading Whatever for about 7 years now, and recommended it to many people. I read every day. The title of this book is perfect, since it is one thing that makes this blog worthwhile. Stupidity and bigotry simply are not allowed, making Whatever probably the best blog in cyberspace. May it continue for many more years.

  37. And it’s only been less than a year since I discovered you while trying to find ways to “procrastinate in an acceptable manner” during NaNoWriMo 2011. I picked up a copy of “You’re Not Fooling Anyone…” on my Nook. Because this is a book about writing and the business of writing, it was an “acceptable” way to procrastinate. Since then, I have read 5 of your books and am in the middle of a 6th. I have few more still downloaded to Nook that are on my “too read list.”

    BTW, Thank you again for signing my Nook in addition to signing the copy of “Redshirts” I bought for my dad at Vroman’s. The Nook completely died about two weeks after you signed it (I believe it was entirely due to Murphy’s Law). The good news: It was still under warranty and they were willing to send me a new Nook. The bad news: I had to send in my broken Nook (with your signature and note, “This Nook belongs to Donna Leonard!”) back to the factory where they would refurbish it if possible and send it out some random person ordering a refurbished Nook Color. No, they are not set up to have me send my Nook in for repairs and sent back to me. I decided to keep the signed copy.

    The Good News: My mobile phone upgrade was this month and the Nook app works just fine on my Galaxy Note! AND I still have the Nook with your signature –I can have my cake and eat it too if I only eat half the cake.

  38. Congratulations of the 14 years. First came here in the wake of buying the original hardcover of OMW and have enjoyed the time spent here. Most especially when swing the Mallet.

  39. … “a reader-friendly, public performance-oriented tuning of me” …

    Impressive self-awareness there. A lot of writers lack this, or their public selves take over their private/actual selves. Doesn’t seem to be the case with you, and I admire that.

  40. Good grief, that’s, like, 100 years internet time, isn’t it? Wow. How it flies…

    I have been meaning to ask about that little black feral cat; if you post a picture of Athena in a black felt hat I’m gonna be very suspicious.

  41. Congratulations! I’ve been dropping by for over a decade and I sincerely hope that the trolls will keep providing you with raw material for many years to come.

    I take this opportunity to recommend the Random button to any and all; do try it. It’s fun…

  42. Congratulations John.

    I suspect blogs are dying because of their content [or more accurately the lack thereof]. I found you since I read your OMW, and am now a regular on this blog. I read it because there is enjoyable content, you are a professional writer, and thus generally can manage to catch my attention. No I don’t enjoy everything, but that would be impossible anywayz. Far too many blogs whither because no one would want to read them – this does tie into your being a pro writer.

    I also read this blog because I like to know what you are working on for new books etc. I also have tried some new authors you have highlighted, that I might not otherwise have heard of yet – if they remain good authors I would hear of them eventually. So I enjoy your blog, please do not stop.



  43. @Donna Leonard — this is why you have the authors sign the Nook cover instead. If/when mine goes belly-up, I’ve still got everyone’s autograph. If it sticks around for a long time, I can always get another cover when this one fills up with signatures. George RR Martin’s autograph took up as much space as his books do.

  44. Congratulations on your blogaversary. I’ve been reading Whatever for 4 years or so; I’m one of those lurker people that SherryH references. I’ve read all your novels as well. And I still miss reading your weekly movie column at AMC/Filmcritic. I was just thinking about the alien election story because I believe that some of our current candidates are using the characters as templates for running for office.

    I expect the new book will bring wonderful “oh yeah, I remember that post, that was great” moments. Will it be illustrated? Thoughtful essays interposed with cats and sunsets would make a great coffee table book. The audiobook could include a special chapter dedicated to Paul & Storm and Jonathon Coulton. Because of course you know that random internet advice on your book composition is useful and valuable. Or not.

    Am I the only one odd enough to look ahead and note that the new book is going to be released on Friday the 13th? The movie that spawned the idea that no matter how bad you think the sequel is, the next one is always worse than you could have imagined? Is this book the antidote to bad movie sequels? Hurray!

    Ok, enough inanity from me. Back to lurking.

  45. Congratulations on your blog’s anniversary!

    I enjoy your books, but I have to say I enjoy your writing here more. Your blog and the way you manage it (and manage the comment threads) should be the touchstone against which any serious blog measures himself or herself.

  46. Never read your books (I keep meaning to, honest), been following your blog for a coupla years now. I may not always agree with you politically, but you present your views in an intelligent and cogent manner, so I respect you for that.

    I agree with what everyone upthread has said about using the Chicon mallet for the cover picture. That’d be great!

    Keep up the good work!


  47. Soon the blog will be graduating from high school, leaving home to go to college, and legally able to drink. It will enter its “experimental” cross-platform typography stage in college, then decide to stick to well-known fonts and settle down with a happy little news aggregator and start a small clan of twitter feeds based out of LA, purely to annoy Granddad who will have to fly from Ohio to visit…

  48. Congratulations, and thanks for the work and thought you put into this. Yes, I know you get something out of it. But thank you anyway, for more than once being the voice of both reason and passion.

  49. Thank you for caring about the problems others have to deal with and for standing up for what is right. Congratulations on 14 years of success in your blog and best wishes for many more. I love your writing and the warm heart I see shining through it.

  50. Thanks, John, for giving us hopeful amateur authors an idea how much work it is to write & publish. Thanks for sharing the good, the bad & the Bacon. I hope to finish writing the neverending first novel this year, and will send it to a publisher in the hopes that Someday it is shown in your stacks of incoming books. Hug your family, pet the cats & please give your dog some Frosty Paws ice cream for all of us. (it’s safe for dogs, but tastes aweful for us humans.)
    P.S. Zombie Honey Badgers will be the name for my next bluegrass band, ok?

  51. The existence of Whatever means that rather than being remembered only as “The guy that wrote that book..remember? You know?” You will be remembered as a devoted and involved father, a loyal and loving husband, a man of strong and reasonably intelligent opinions who accepts the fact that others have different ones (and that they could possibly be right) and who is at the end of it all a pretty decent man. Not a bad legacy John.

  52. Not quite sure about that whole blogs are dying thing, but I do know that my pattern of reading them has changed. I have read your blog since close to the beginning, I believe, but I also read a number of others. Over the years, it has pretty much been the same. The last few years, I have cut way back to two or three blogs that I regularly read (and, hey, Scalzi, you made the cut!).

  53. Thank you. I found this by accident a couple of years ago through a link to your interview with the Bethlehem innkeeper. I’ll be honest & say I didn’t know a thing about you before that but I wasted a perfectly good afternoon reading many more of your entries and then hot-footed it over to the library & checked out “Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded”. Since then I have read all your books and Whatever is a daily must. While the financial benefits have all been yours you earned them – I have gotten countless hours of enjoyment from all this. So, thanks!

  54. It is impressive that you have this much material. I think the vast majority of people would just run out of things to say after a while.

    Too bad the earliest blog entries are no longer on the web. It would be interesting to see what you wrote about back when you were younger.

  55. Congratulations on your blogavesary and the new book. I started reading Whatever around 2009 on and off. I bookmarked it, and insisted to a few of my friends that they reading after “A Boy’s Oen Genre or Not” appeared. (I couldn’t recall the title at first, but searching for “roller derby” brought it up. And, yes, that says something about what I took away from the article.

  56. Pray tell, how is a baker’s dozen years not a significant interval? At fourteen, your blog is two-thirds the [US] legal drinking age, and one-third of the way to becoming the answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything. I’d call either of those a milestone.

    Happy {42 / 3}th anniversary to Whatever and herits proprietor – may you both continue to rock the world!

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