Reader Request Week 2013: Get Your Requests In!
Posted on April 4, 2013 Posted by John Scalzi 249 Comments
This blog is called Whatever because I write whatever I want to write about — but once a year I turn the topics over to you, the readers, for Reader Request Week. Because, hey, sometimes I don’t get around to talking about what you want me to talk about, and why should you be denied? You should not! I’m all about the giving, you see. Also, it means one week out of the year I don’t have to think about what to write on. Everyone wins!
So, tell me what you you want me to write about. It can be any topic — life, politics, children, faith, sex, music, vegetables, sustainable energy (just as examples). The only common denominator has to be your interest in me blathering on about them in type. You make the suggestions, and I pick the ones I’ll write about and post them next week, starting Monday, April 8.
That said, allow me to make a couple of suggestions:
1. Choose quality, not quantity. Which is to say, don’t unload a whole bunch topics that are really generic or overbroad, because those won’t interest me and I won’t write about them. One really excellent topic is more likely to catch my eye. As an example, don’t ask me “could you write about cats?” because that’s too general and kind of boring. Asking something like “You have three cats — how do their personalities differ and what does that mean for how you relate to them?”, on the other hand, would pique my interest. I think you can see what I’m getting at here.
2. Questions on writing will not be a priority for selection. Because, dudes, I write about writing all the time. I’m not saying you can’t ask questions about writing, or that I won’t answer some, I’m just saying that I’ll be looking for topics that aren’t about writing first, and the ones I do answer (in a nod to point one above) will be stuff that’s specific and interesting.
3. Don’t request a topic I’ve answered recently. To help you eliminate these topics, you’ll find the last five years of Reader Request Week topics below.
How to submit requests? First option: put the requests in the comment thread here, which is the easiest thing for me, and which I prefer. But if you have a reason not to want to make your request public, the other option is to send me e-mail (put “Reader Request Week” in the subject head so I don’t have to hunt for it). Please don’t send requests via Twitter/Facebook/Google+, since I don’t always see those. I credit those whose topics I write on, but feel free to use a pseudonym if you’re asking something you’d prefer not to have attached to your real name.
Thanks, and I’m looking forward to your requests!
Here are those previous Reader Request Week topics:
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
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
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
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
Reader Request Week 2012 #1: Snark and Insult
Reader Request Week 2012 #2: Would I Lie to You?
Reader Request Week 2012 #3: Why I’m Glad I’m Male
Reader Request Week 2012 #4: Future Doorknobs or Lack Thereof
Reader Request Week 2012 #5: Them Crazies What Live in the Woods
Reader Request Week 2012 #6: The Cool Kids Hanging Out
Reader Request Week 2012 #7: My Complete Lack of Shame
Reader Request Week 2012 #8: Short Bits
Reader Request Week 2012 #9: Writery Short Bits
Now: What do you want me to write about next?
Folks, before you begin, a couple of rules:
1. This thread is for requests only; I’ll snip out comments that try to discuss the requests or try to do any other thing but make a topic request.
2. As this may be an issue this year, if I believe your request is indistinguishable from trolling, I’ll just go ahead and snip it out.
Also, remember that whole “quality over quantity” thing — I’m more likely to respond to a single well-crafted topic than to a laundry list of perfunctory requests. Please help me, I’m easily bored.
Other than that, feel free to request any topic you like — don’t be shy, the worst that will happen is me going, “yeah, I think I’ll write about something else.”
Movie Genres: types of movies that don’t get made any more, but should, versus types of movies that do get made, but shouldn’t.
If you were given less than a year to live, what would you change in your public/working life? Would you still keep up Whatever and your dialogue with fans? Write more books? Sorry if this is a raw question after Iain Banks’ announcement.
I’d like to hear your thoughts on CISPA.
(For those not in the know: http://mashable.com/2013/03/19/reddit-craigslist-cispa/ .)
In 2009 you wrote about sex in videogames. But there’s been a lot of disturbing developments regarding sexISM in videogames. Particularly the treatment of Anita Sarkesian is illustrative of how bad it could be.
What is your opinion about whether there is sexism in videogames, how prevalent it is, and what could be done about it?
What do you think about Artificial Intelligence?
If historians from the year Whenever were to dig up the time capsule from Whatever, what would they find in it and why would you choose those items?
Several times in your film column you mentioned your desire for a Buckaroo Banzai sequel. I share this desire, and I’m curious: a.) what would yours be like? b.) what is your response to the people (I assume you’ve encountered them; I’ve met them more than once) who tell you that Big Trouble in Little China is an unofficial sequel?
I’d be interested in your thoughts on ‘slutshaming’ and gender based sexual insults etc, especially in regards to their use online.
Comes up a lot online (social media, blogs, anonymous trolls, reddit, facebook etc.), and the thoughts of a writer than happens to be a pretty interesting thinker on broader issues would interest me. For instance can you ever use such terms ‘accurately’ because the person you are discussing is what they denote, free from the connotations screwing things up? Is it more OK to use similar terms about guys (if such terms exist?) because they contribute to some lesser social evil? Just chucking out ideas, takle it any way that takes your interest.
A writers perspective of all the aspects of the ongoing evolution of ebooks. I know you’ve written about these things seperately in the past. But, it is an evolving topic and i’d like to read your thoughts about where ebooks are now, and where you see them going. So many people out there seem to need to calm down and stop making sweeping unsubstantiated pronouncements. The main thing i like about following this site is your level headed reasonablness even if i don’t always agree with you.
I’d like to see your take on where technology will be in 50 years. You write enough about the future, but where do you think the real world will be in 50 years. If you want something more specific, the likelihood of actual space colonization.
Can you write something like “U.S. politics for dummies” for your foreign readers. A lot of your posts have some relationship to that topic (which continues to baffle me ). Over the years i collected myself a pretty selection of impressions and prejudices of which at least some need disspelling ;-).
I’d be fascinated to hear your views about fanfiction in general and slash in particular, in relation to any fandom and not just cause of 50 Shades!
A topic that will likely soon be of great interest to you: the rising cost and poor return on investment of college and post-graduate education.
How do you feel about the validity or non-validity of intuition?
If you and they would be comfortable with it — and I can absolutely understand why you and/or they might not be — I’d be interested in seeing a guest post and/or an interview with Krissy and/or Athena.
Tourist destinations in Ohio that people in Ohio don’t know about. Where do you visit for fun?
What are your opinions on using 3D Printing technology, specifically for the production of firearms? Is there an additional safety risk, should it be tightly regulated or could it be regulated?
Heinlein famously wrote a letter to Theodore Sturgeon, encouraging Sturgeon to write and suggesting ideas for stories. If you were to write such a letter, what might you put in it?
The war on drugs or didn’t we learn anything from prohibition?
Seems to me that prohibition developed organized crime and the war on drugs produced much more violent and dangerous organized crime that spreads way past our borders.
Shouldn’t all recreational drug use be a medical issue?
I would love to hear your take on this.
With pricing models, DRM, formats, and hardware all over the place lately in what had previously been a (let’s just say it) relatively technologically stagnant industry, how do you see publishing (and reading) changing over the next decade or so?
What are your thoughts on assisted suicide?
How close are we to the deus ex machina? Are the smart-phones/i-pads/tablets becoming our new objects of worship?
Any relationship between video game violence and gun violence?
Whether having alpha males on an asteroid spaceship would doom the trip to disaster. I am thinking that alphas would outbreed gammas and up the liklihood of a violent uprising.
How do you prep for your tour appearances and readings? What do you enjoy about tour appearances? What makes you cringe about tour appearances. What do you expect from the fans who show up at your appearances?
actually, this is a follow-up to a follow-up. A couple of years ago, you wrote a nice piece about your move to Bradford and your life there. But I’m wondering: It’s been 12 years now, and what, if anything has changed in Bradford? Not the changes in your life, but the changes in the town and its culture that you’ve observed. I was born in Troy and raised in Dayton, and after much time out east moved back to Kent, OH at the same time you moved to Bradford. And in my experience, there’s been a lot of changes in Ohio over that time. Political changes, cultural (and culture-war) changes, religious changes, economic changes. What’s the internet done to Bradford?
My late father was born in Dayton about 10 years after the Wright brothers first flew. by the time he died, he’d flown in a passenger jets to China and Africa and many other places. He’d used a personal computer. He was used to getting money from an ATM. Can you imagine how incredible that must have seemed to someone in, say, 1920? Stick a card in a thingie built into a wall and it gives you money! And in the last 12 years we’ve had the rise and fall of digital cameras, the introduction and preponderance of smart phones, and tablet computers all over the place.
So what’s changed where you are?
I’d love to hear more about your time at the University of Chicago — how specific experiences there have shaped your personal and professional life; what it means to you now, over twenty years later; and what you think you did right/wrong in terms of opportunities taken and ignored. In case it’s not obvious, I have some vested interest in this topic.
Sometimes it seems that the prediction that SF would be about Alt-History and military SF has largely become the reality. We’re living in an increasingly cyberpunk world, but cyberpunk is so passe it’s almost retro. With a very few exceptions, science fiction has abandoned the future except when there’s a war on.
Here’s my question: if you wanted to SF readers and writers interested in the future again, especially in the deep future beyond the next few decades or even the next century, how would you go about doing it?
What are your thoughts on the latest discoveries occurring in science: The almost certain discovery of the Higgs Boson via results from the LHC in Cern, The recent results from the ISS on Dark Matter via the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer
I’d like to know your thoughts on how to be a good fan. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately; how do you manage your social networks to be a connection to your fans, without getting bogged down by it? As a fan, I’m ultimately a consumer of your stuff, but is the relationship (from your perspective) more than that?
Which of the commercially available polyhedral dice is your favorite?
If offered a spot, would you move Whatever to FreeThought blogs. if possible explain your choice.
1) Do you think human civilization will progress to the point where, say 200 years from now, the first world problems we mockingly reference would sound genuinely unbearable? Put differently, is it possible our lives are more difficult than we realize because our only point of comparison are past and present time periods, rather than the future?
2) What is your projected life expectancy for healthy kids born in 2013? Do they break though the 100+ mark?
“Future Trends of Science Fiction”. Yes, like every other medium Science Fiction has trends, certain topics or ideas that are being explored. Examples are: The Allegory of the Cave/computer interface ideas of “The Matrix”, “Do intelligent machines have a soul?” ideas of the reboot of “Battlestar Galactica” (along with a Frankenstein-like idea of Human Hubris), wormholes, time travel etc.
But all those are former (or present) trends.
So what does John Scalzi, a science fiction author of some note ( I kid ), see as the future trends?
Something I’ve been wondering for a couple of years now…
You write about Krissy and Athena. You don’t write all that much and you don’t go into much detail, but still. How do you negotiate it? Ask them for permission? Let them OK posts before you publish them? Are there topics that are absolutely verboten? (I suppose that may be, by its nature, an unanswerable question.) Especially as Athena is growing in personhood (and presumably interested in defining her own identity), are you changing what/how you write about? As the readership here has grown and grown, have you become more selective about what you say?
Is there any way to heal the present partisan hatred before it destroys the country?
Snobbery Against the Genre.
There are many, well-known authors who would NEVER allow their ‘masterpiece’ be shelved next to such ‘trash’ as Old Man’s War, Ender’s Game, etc. What is your opinion on this, where does this snobbery come from, how can it be combated? Or is it snobbery at all? Am I misinterpreting what an author sees as self-preservation (since some readers, too, would NEVER read a novel from the ghetto of SF/F/Horror/etc)?
What kinds of books do you personally like to read (for what reasons), and are there any particular authors whose works are inspiration for you?
Your thoughts as outgoing president of the SFWA. What you did, didn’t do, hoped to do. Also advice for the incoming president.
Your experience with serial publishing and whether or not you’d do it again for another project.
the end of door holding, girls playing boys sports, the death of chivalry and rise of feminism ideals?
Futher to @Andrew Peterson’s thoughts: If some geek in the future says, “Oh, I invented it because I read John Scalzi’s (insert book name here).” What technology would you like to see invented?
Your thoughts on big physics questions, for instance: what is dark matter and/or dark energy? Do we live in a multiverse? Will the Standard Model and Gravity unite in a TOE? Why is universal expansion accelerating?
I think you shoud revisit some of your older reader requests and update as applicable. Does Athena still scare you? Now that you have 2 women in the house, have you changed your view on polyandry (emotionally, not physcially)? If you could do a sentence or para on each where your views have modified, We could see how you have matured. But given some of your antics, I doubt you have matured much.
You travel a lot; what’s been your best/worst experiences? Favourite/most hated airport? Favourite destination? Destination you’d go if money and time were no object?
I always wondered how authors chose their characters names. Of especial interest to me re: you as my maiden name is Robin Baker.
Please write about the last SF novel that you read and loved.
Was it always the plan to have just one kid, or did it just work out that way? Do you ever wish Athena had siblings? Are there times when you’re really glad she’s an only child?
Before I read Gaiman’s Sandman saga I thought there were limits on what you could do with comics in terms of story telling. Afterwards: not sure there are. Some books/writers are easier to rework into comics than others. For instance, Shakespeare is more about language than plot and should probably be left to the world of classic prose and theatre.
My suggestion for a post: what are your thoughts on this ‘translation’ from prose (or movies, TV shows, plays, poems – Eliot’s The Wasteland…! – or whatever) to comics, what famous/neglected works do you think would do well in such a remake and, obviously, which, if any, of your works would you like to see in this form and, if you had any say in the execution, which artists would you love to let loose on your various worlds?
Comics. Ive asked this for a couple of years now and please please write something :) What are your relationship to them, likes/dislikes and such.
Will space opera novels trump novels about vampire romance and zombie apocalypse in terms of popularity and/or overall sales?
What do you think is the outer edge of comedy? A lot of your works involve humour and your Twitter feed is evidence you have a lively sense of the absurdity of life, so what to you constitutes funny and what is beyond that and into the realms of sexism, bullying, and such? How do you decide what is funny?
What do you think about Amazon buying up Goodreads? The community there is a tad up in arms about it, especially since there have been rumours of topics discussing the acquisition being pruned.
Future of Sci-Fi genre, and how writers and film makers will adapt.
How current do you keep on science developments? What sources do you use to keep current? Which sort of science, if you don’t randomly come across things (my current method, largely influences by IFLS, which led to both StarTalk type things and Evolution type things)? And what would you recommend on the non-fiction side for science-related entertaining information?
There’s gotta be even more good stuff that I’m missing. Would love to know what you follow or don’t, or if it’s even a particular interest of yours.
As a trendsetter in the world of food, what’s the next big lunheralded or little known snack and/or foodstuff that will soon be sweeping the Interwebs?
Do you have any thoughts on first word healthcare models?
As a parent, a “self-employed” individual, a writer?
Where do you think they are going, where should they be going?
Have you taken a book away from Athena? What guides your parental choices on book selection for reading.
I’d like to hear your thoughts on fanfiction. I know some authors hate it with a vengance yet others seem not to mind having fans dabble in their worlds.
Do you frequent any writers’ forums (like AbsoluteWrite) if so, what do you get out of them? If not, why not?
I’d like to read a post on “friendship:” why it’s important, why it’s important to you, how real friendships can be nurtured – or even begun – via online connections, etc.
It seems that you (and lots of other prominent online geeks) find such value in true friendships. It’s a wonderful thing to observe (especially since the richness of friendships is very much my own experience) – I’d like to hear your thoughts on this.
Thanks for asking!
John, I’m a fan of science fiction, and a fan of RuPaul’s Drag Race, so in your final act as President of the SWFA, you decide to publicize the group by forcing the award-winning authors (including yourself) to participate in a Drag Race Showdown.
What are the drag persona of these authors, and how does the in-fighting break out in the Interior Illusions Lounge?
Iain M. Banks’ illness got me thinking about the Culture…if you could choose to change your gender at will with no ill effects or irreversible consequences, would you? What do you think that would do for gender relations, if people were free to choose and change at any time?
Iain Banks has ME thinking about my mortality. His personal statement deeply impacted me. Would you consider writing about Preparing for / Dealing with Death?
Sorry for the morbidity.
If you were given a chance to live in any fictional Universe, taking along Krissy, Athena, and anyone else you would never willingly be separated from; would you? Assuming you did, which Universe would you pick and why?
Also the viability of college alternatives
The role of liberal education vs. career directed education
What should be the goal of college education?
How did your official U of C coursework help you compared to other stuff you participated in at school?
When I read OMW a few years ago, I was struck by the trademark notice when John Perry’s BrainPal is first booting up, and the idea that one’s own thoughts might some day not really belong to you but you’re only thinking them via some sort of license. I note that what I perceive as related themes (the intersection between intellectual property, sentience, and technology) are touched on in other in-universe books, especially (without spoiling I hope) “The Human Division.”
Can you lay out your thoughts on this subject, as they relate to our world as opposed to the world of OMW?
Folks, remember that I’d love to see some topics NOT about writing/publishing as well.
As the mother of a daughter just a few months behind Athena, and another who is eleven, I’m curious about her interest in scifi, and your writing, and whether she serves as part of your thinking about future projects. I’ve always enjoyed your female characters, but I’m wondering if there is anything in particular that you want to bring out in your fiction or blogging to appeal to her? Or just, you know, is having a teen different from what you once imagined?
QUESTION! I’ve been thinking recently about the Internet, and more specifically, the sort of take-down culture that has evolved since the advent of social media in the late ’00s. Recently, we’ve seen this play out very dramatically with prominent e-feminists like Anita Sarkeesian and Rebecca Watson. But it’s not just sexism on display here- a while back vlogger Laci Green was essentially driven off youtube by angry Tumblr feminists because she used the word “tranny” in a three-year-old video. Blogger Hugo Schwyzer has been subjected to harassment and extensive smear campaigns ever since some unpleasant facts about his past were brought to light.
I’ve come around to thinking that there is just a fundamental disconnect when communicating with another person online (see also: the Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory and its derivations). There are some obvious psychological reasons for this. But I guess I was wondering, do you have any personal experience with take-down culture? If so, in what ways have you seen this kind of dynamic play out? Have you ever found yourself getting sucked into the mob mentality?
Government: if you could go back to 1786, what changes would you make the Constitution to prevent the rot and decay of our current governmental system? Provide for more than a two-party system? Single term or lifetime appointments? Prevent the cost of elections and buying of elections? Outlaw gerrymandering? Or what gets out us out of the current downward spiral?
On the fluffier side, though some of those more serious issues above are really interesting, too…
Recently, we had TableTop Games Day — the first one, I think? — and I was wondering if you had any games of that sort which you like. (Some possible spins to take besides a simple “yes/no; next question?”: great games for family, bad games for playing with family, Gaming Anecdotes, and (sorry!) the writing-based “how board games/tabletop RPGs might bleed into writing, for good or ill.”)
Helping Choose a College for your Child
You went to a great university. Assuming you support the concept of higher education for your own child, Athena is old enough that you may have started thinking about where she might want to go, or at least, wondering if you have been saving enough for it. What are your thoughts on where to send your child to college, or allow them to attend? How much of the choice should be up to her? Should a parent try and find a way to pay or borrow for the best school to which a child is admitted and wants to attend, even if a really expensive private university like Yale, Stanford, or heck, University of Chicago? Absent scholarships of some kind, should a parent pay only for the high quality, but cheaper, and perhaps more geographically limiting, state school?
I’m curious what you think about State Rights versus Federal Rights. What laws, issues, standards should be set by the Federal Government and what should be left up to individual states?
Learning and Education – How to engender a life-long love of learning or “How I Became an Autodidact”, if you so consider yourself.
Although you did write some about this in your homeschooling post in 2008, I’ve noticed a distinct trend toward more homeschooling, particularly in Middle/Jr High School. Given this admittedly anecdotal evidence, have your own views on homeschooling and education in general evolved as Athena has progressed through the Ohio public school system?
In my own case here in California, I have one son in public elementary school and one middle-school (7th grade) son homeschooling via a public Charter School. For the elementary school son, the main reason for continuing is his own social life – friends. For the older son, middle school can best be described as a “21st century child in a 19th century institution.”
Thank you for your consideration.
The Famouse (inFamous) Scalzi Family recipe for Peppermint Flan. I MUST HAVE IT!!!111 ;)
Suppose that you had never successfully sold “Old Man’s War” (or any other fiction, for that matter). Where would you see yourself at this point in your life if that were the case–what would you be doing? Or more generally, suppose that writing as a career (in any form, not just as a novelist) was not an option at all (you suck at it, or something). Again, what could you imagine yourself doing instead? (Or finally, if you’d like to approach it from a slightly different angle, suppose you for whatever reason had to switch careers at this stage of your life–what would be the next alternative for Mr. Scalzi?)
How were you introduced to the internet (what is your history with it?) and how do you think it’s changing?
What I’d like on is actually something you just did a couple weeks ago: how science and technology is informing your science fiction. What sense are you getting of where science fiction can go now? Has our perception of science fiction changed much since, say, the 1970s? What makes science fiction now and where is the edge, so to speak?
I’ll give you two (although I am more interested in the writing one):
1. Given all you’ve had to say lately about writers, contracts and ebooks, what are your opinions on the obligations of writers to participate in, or change with, the publishing industry as a whole to ensure that the future of book publishing (in whatever form) is economically viable for all parties eg writers, publishers, agents etc.
2. Old cats and euthanasia. Until recently I have been of the opinion that an old cat with poor quality of life should be put down rather than suffer indignation after indignation of tests, pills and operations (not to mention the huge expense of keeping a pet in that unfortunate condition). Now my cat is 15, on two pills a day that she really, really doesn’t like, arthritic and skinnier than Nicol Ritchie. But she occasionally still tears around the house like a kitten when she’s in the mood. And I’m starting to waffle…
As an example to my previous post, I’m currently reading Sean Carroll’s ‘From Eternity to Here’. Fascinating stuff. Is anyone using this material in science fiction now?
Swearing. As in public swearing (blogs, facebook, and other social media), and swearing in writing.
What does joy mean to you, and what gives you joy?
Movies. Maunly what books do you think should be into celliod. And which movies shouldnt have been made
AOR music old and new which is best
Most people are either dog or cat people. You seem to be that rare breed that does not clearly hold one species in favor over the other. For those of us entrenched in one camp ot the other (dog person here), please explain how this is possible.
Food. More specifically what is your relationship with food? Do certain foods revolt you or seduce you? Are there food trends that annoy you? Does the term ‘food trend’ annoy you? Are you interested in paleo diets or vegan eating or sad about the demise of Twinkies? Any particular dishes you’d love to try but haven’t? Is there a meal from your past that you still think of (with disgust or fond remembrance)? Food.
The 10 professions of John Scalzi in alternate timelines.
I hope this isn’t too close to the “writing/publishing” themes, but an undercurrent I’ve seen in some of the recent trolling has been this idea that an audience should, to some extent, dictate how a content provider should behave. I’m curious about your thoughts on a couple of aspects of this.
Do you feel a blogger should be influenced by their audience’s past response when developing new content? Do you feel a blogger’s view ought to shift on that stance as their read bases increases in size (i.e., do you plot out content on Whatever differently now than when the site was in it’s infancy and your readership was maybe a tenth the size)
And on a different aspect, do you feel like things differ greatly between a single blogger like yourself, versus a collaborative blog like Making Light or Boing Boing, versus a full-scale content provider like the Gawker media sites?
I feel like there’s plenty of variables, from artistic vision, fostering community, increasing pageviews for popularity, or for advertising, all of which could influence how bloggers shape their content. And as someone with not only a strong background in his own evolving playground, but strong relationships with folks from similar blogging environments (like ML & BB), I would love to hear your thoughts.
Organizing your work and schedule. I’d like to know if you have any specific techniques, rituals, tools, or rules that you use to organize your schedule and manage tasks. Your thoughts on melding long-term (appearances, etc) and short-term (pop-up deadlines, etc). Bonus question: What is your biggest organization challenge as a working writer?
Over the years, Warren Ellis has shared much of his infodiet. What blogs, podcasts, or journals do you find yourself frequenting:
– to rely upon for information (of any stripe: physics to poinsettias to politics)?
– for their unique perspective
– just for fun/the hell of it?
The value (or lack thereof) of performing arts. You’re career is around the written word but you’ve made side trips into song, live readings (which I think of as theatre-ish), puppetry, stringed instruments, and you personal sense of rhythm and unique dancing style.
How do you view the rest of the world, especially those parts and people for who are not english speaking or live in the first world?
I thought about this as you have been recently nominated for awards where your books are available in translation. Especially since there are now many people reading you who could not converse with you without a translator. Does that provide a widening of your community or increase your interests in theirs?
So much of what you write on Whatever deals with distinctly first-world, and often distinctly american issues. Obviously, being an American, living in America it is easy to see why these are of greater concern to you. But that leaves the gap for this subject. I wonder about whether you regularly read books in translation? Do you watch foreign movies? I wonder what you think of the American/English Speaking bubble that most American’s don’t get beyond? Does ignorance of the wider world make us blind to all of this? How do you interact or deal with cultures that are not your own- how do you feel one should? Do you follow international news in depth? Do you think living in a Western Educated Industrialized Rich Democratic (WEIRD) country, especially as one of the privileged, effects or should effect one’s worldview in any way?
I’d love to see you talk about how you’d fix the politics of the US, if you could.
Similar to Janter, I would love to see you talk about the state of the comics market. Whether there would be any existing comic you would take on, and whether you would allow your creations to be adapted by others. Thank you.
LARPing, Boffer Combat and Reinactment Groups.
Steampunk as a culture.
Webcomics as a growing business.
You rarely write about sports. (I can only think of that excellent excoriation of the Penn State situation.) Have you ever cared about a sports team or event (High school, White Sox, Olympics, etc)? Is there anything particularly distasteful about sporting culture that turns you off? Idiot fans, idiot parents, general uselessness, corruption, steroids….
Now that you’ve had the Mini Countryman for a while, how’s it holding up? (It’s AWD, isn’t it?)
Sorry, this is a another writing question – but I need some advice and I couldn’t pass up this chance!
I’m getting feedback on (what I’d hoped was) the final draft of my first novel. I’m starting to get overwhelmed trying to discern the useful suggestions and criticisms from the not-useful.
How do you find a balance between staying open to reader reactions and staying true to your author instincts?
Any thoughts on critical thinking and/or research, and how to get people to use it? I’m seeing a lot of people who wouldn’t know how to verify an Internet claim if it bit them, or care why they should. I’m also seeing a lot of kids who have no idea how to do research if it doesn’t come up on Wikipedia.
Cable networks, and even sometimes the regular networks, are doing some really good things with TV now. Since Old Man’s War has been optioned to be made into a movie, have you ever considered if it would be better served as a mini-series or show on TV? Follow up, would you want to have a small cameo role in the movie/show like Stephen King will sometimes do in adaptations of his work?
You play the ukulele, which is sort of a miniaturized guitar. Do you or would you like to play any other miniaturized instruments? Are there other instruments you feel should be miniaturized? Or how about instruments made unusually large?
Recommendations on places to hike.
I like your suggestion above about sustainable energy. If we need it, why and how do we carry it out. For example what do you believe will turn out to be the most viable renewable source in the immediate future and beyond? What is the best way to address human caused climate change?
Writing Topic: How do you write good dialog? This is one of the things I find most difficult in my own creative writing.
Non-writing topic: Name three scientific advancements you wish to see happen in your lifetime. (e.g. Mine are faster-than-light travel, terraforming, and direct mass-energy conversion.)
Non-writing topic: You pretty much single-handedly made bacon an internet meme with your infamous picture of bacon taped to your cat. (Don’t deny this.) So why bacon? And how do you feel about being the internet Lord of All Things Bacon. (This may or may not have been inspired by Kij Johnson’s bacon-themed parody of her award-winning short story “Spar.”)
I would be very curious to hear your thoughts on the current state of public education in the USA/Ohio:
Do you feel that your daughter is receiving a good education? Is her educational experience standard, or above/below what you perceive to be the national average? Do you feel that “the system” is effective or broken? If access to power/money were no object, what change(s) would you implement to effect the greatest positive change for the youth of today?
Your conflicts with “Right Wing Wackos” are legendary, but are there any specific issues in which you are far more in agreement with Conservatives/Republicans/RWWs than ‘the rest of us’? And as a kind of writing exercise, would you elucidate them in a manner that would earn you positive acclaim from the Conservative Echo Chamber, er, I mean Blogosphere…
On a totally different tack, have you noticed “Redshirts” affecting your relationship to Hollywood? Are people busting down your door for options to make it a movie, or not willing to touch it with a ten-foot boom-mic? Has anybody told you “why make THAT movie when we can just remake Galaxy Quest?” And is that having any effect on the “Old Man’s War” movie (moving it up or down the Seven Rings of Development Hell)?
(yes, these topics are almost specifically designed to get you into trouble, but a potentially different kind of trouble than you usually do…)
If you could write about your views on the current U.S. Supreme Court and it’s upcoming decisions on DOMA and Prop 8, that’d be great to read.
If you couldn’t write anymore (say your Writing Bone was permanently broken or something), what do you think you’d do for a living?
Universities / research: What is your ideal model for higher education? Should universities be optimized for cranking out undergraduates with BAs (and thus have no tenure-track folks dedicated to the research endeavor), should universities be a mix of undergraduates and graduates mentored by tenure-track professors (who do many things besides teaching), or should we create a system where research happens separately (a more German system with many self-standing institutes supported by the government and industry, not subsidized through tuition).
Possible scenarios for evaluation: where would you want your daughter to go, where would you want your neighbors to go, which would react best to an alien invasion / asteroid headed to Earth?
Desert Island question: If you where exiled to a desert island and you could bring:
Eight pieces of music
A luxury item
What would each piece of music or item be, why would you chose them, what meaning do they/did they have in your life?
“Self-Publishing is the Only Viable Future” vs. “Nobody Pays Any Attention to Self-Published (i.e., vanity) Books”
As a soon-to-be new dad who also works from home, I would love to hear about your experience raising a daughter in a similar situation. My wife is a medical resident who works long, long hours – which means I will be the primary caretaker for our daughter – a role that I gladly embrace, but also fear a little bit. I admire, echo, and try to emulate your vociferous support for the strong women in your life. You and Krissy have raised an independent, intelligent young woman. My question is: How? What advice do you have for the prospective parent – especially the prospective father? As you parented, how did you model/encourage/impart strength and confidence to your daughter?
I would.like to see your thoughts about the culture series from Ian M. Banks and its underlying message.
What are your favorite fiction/sci-fi books? What would you recommend to a friend?
I recently read George Gamow’s “Thirty Years that Shook Physics: The Story of Quantum Theory’, the play Copenhagen showed the scientists had time to do a bit more than just argue equations, do you have any thoughts about the lives and wacky adventures of the great scientists? They certainly had more than enough personality to be characters of a novel.Ever considered a historical?
If you could be assured privacy and freedom from consequences, what is the loopiest, oddest, or most ridiculous thing you would choose to do? How would you let your freak flag fly?
Given the choice between a job in the publishing industry and a more profitable job such as an engineer, in the current job market what is the incentive for people to pursue their dreams?
Being bored with a topic.
(Gay marriage? It’s all been said.
Spousal Abuse? It’s all been said.
Don’t kick the dog? ….)
But of course those topics need to be presented to those who haven’t
heard of them.
So how does one get the info out to them what need it.
How has being a father of a daughter impacted your thoughts/ideas about feminism and women’s issues? Should the world/society change to give your daughter (and her peers) better/more opportunities? If so, how?
The last twelve months seem to have been a threshold moment for the capacity of video games to tell amazing and moving stories (eg Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead; Irrational Games’ Bioshock Infinite,). I know you are currently involved in writing a game (with music from Serj Tankian!!! a wee bit excited about that…); does your experience and the current status of vg story telling inspire you to want to be more heavily involved? and more broadly, does this help VG achieve the status of Art?
“How the hell can you write convincingly about the future 40 or 50 years out when you see how it’s changed in the last 40 or 50 years without:
i, spurting out a nearly indigestible flurry of ideas that overwhelm readers (cf Accelerando, Stross) OR
ii, writing twee space opera which isn’t at all convincing”.
1) Growing your own food, especially in urban settings. Should we be growing more of our own food? What kind of food? Minneapolis recently started allowing bees and chickens in most neighborhoods. Is this wise? http://www.minneapolismn.gov/sustainability/homegrown/WCMS1P-099318 (Personally I think there’s a great short story a la “When The Yogurt Took Over” to be written about a city overrun by chickens. Or bees.)
2) Kids and the internet. Every parent struggles with deciding what access their child has and when. What did you do with Athena? Anything you wish you had done different? How old should my daughter be before she has her own blog? Do we need some intermediary level of social media for children (for example, some online games for children allow “limited chat” consistng of 40 or 50 pre-selected phrases.)?
Eating meat and animal rights: an essay by the creator of bacon cat.
I would like to read something BY Athena: How does she look at/think about the cats and the dog, who have been around such a huge percentage of her life? What’s her relationship with them, separately and together? Perhaps a Q&A if she doesn’t actually want to type it. I remember having a very different relationship with my childhood cat than my mom or dad did, so am curious.
Any thoughts about the state of being on her wacky dad, bacon, churros, or what her classmates think about their future would also be welcome, if she wants, which she probably doesn’t. Although I hope she approves of the churros.
I’m getting married next year (yay!), so wedding planning is on my brain a lot lately. One thing I’ve noticed is there is tons of things that you can do that are awesome and unique and it is hard to choose between them all. There are, however, a couple things that when push comes to shove, both me and my fiancee really want and will find the dollars to make it happen. Thinking back to your wedding, what was the one element that you really wanted? I’m thinking of things like having a certain DJ, or a certain style of food, or something unique like a photo booth. Now that you’ve been married some time, are you glad that you fought for that element in your wedding?
Hi John – I would enjoy an interview with Krissy about her favorite authors, or an interview with Athena about books she loved having her parents read to her when she was small.
I would actually love to know what board game you and your family pull out when you want to play together? If it’s more than one, what’s your favorite and why? Speaking as someone living with over 200 board games, I’m always interested in what other people like.
What are your thoughts on the Farm Bill, food security, and bees?
Alternately, what are your thoughts on Donal Logue’s Unfinished Thoughts?
You’re closing out three years as the president of SFWA. Based on that experience, plus your 40 years of prior life experience, what qualities do you think make a good leader? Which of those answers would have been different three years ago?
The importance of good Science teaching (well, I am a Science teacher and I like to think I’m good!).
Jeff Dunham: funny, or not funny? And why?
What’s your opinion as to the value, in terms of creative expression, of writing software vs. writing fiction? If you had been of a more technical bent, might you have started out as a freelance coder instead of a freelance writer, working on various other projects in your spare time from that? And, if you had, instead of reading the Old Man’s War series, might we all be running “ScalziOS” on our computers?
In light of the recent death of Roger Ebert, and your noted regret in not sending your book (your tribute was lovely, BTW) — and coupled with your obvious pleasure in how your life has turned out at this point in time, do you have any other regrets that may influence your future?
Because of all the hoopla surrounding “big data” and your many comments on the government, I would like to ask your opinions on the collection and dissemination of statistics by the federal government. Do you think the government should be in the business of providing data about the nation? Do you think the federal statistical agencies (and the contractors that serve those agencies) serve a purpose or are they just more “government waste?” Do public data impact you? Would your opinion differ if those same statistics were collected and disseminated by a private company? By a university?
I distinguish between federal and state statistical agencies because states have been cutting their statistics departments for budgetary reasons. Consequently, states are becoming more reliant on federal agencies to provide state-level data.
In 2008 you wrote about your level of fame. Has that changed in any meaningful way? And as a follow-up: You seem to be friends with a number of semi-famous (or actually famous) people. Does it ever feel weird to see your friends being chronic topics of discussion on the Internet, on TV, etc?
There was a petition on whitehouse.gov recently to build the Death Star. Should the United States take Keynesian economics to the extreme and spur the economy with the ultimate building project? Do you agree that this would show the world we are truly serious about mutual assured destruction?
Since as Mitt Romney stated 47% of Americans do not pay income taxes and the poorest states in the union are southern Red States, do you think it would help to balance the budget if we GTFO these southern red states since they get back far more in benefits from the federal government than they pay in?
In the early days of the Clinton administration there was a short period of time where the US military looked into developing a ‘gay bomb’. This non-lethal weapon would compel people to have compulsive homosexual sex. Do you think this would be a quality non-lethal weapon? Do you think that the threat of spreading the love on the Iranian parliament might deter Iran from developing nuclear weapons? (not kidding. This really happened. Google it).
There’s currently a bit of a kerfuffle between Sheryl “Lean In” Sandberg and Anne-Marie “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All” Slaughter, about women and different ways of dealing with the work-life balance. I’ve been paying pretty close attention to the debate because I hold down a full-time job in a STEM field, which I enjoy, but I also feel a bit of regret every morning when I drop my toddler off at daycare. What are your thoughts on working women and the work-life balance faced by women who want both family and a career?
My post was not meant to be trolling. I think the questions are a bit sarcastic, but I also think they are entertaining. 2 of the 3 have a bit of a sci-fi element to them.
Bruce T mentioned the topic I’m interested in, old cats (& dogs) and euthanasia or not.
I think one of the topics coming out of this seems to be “Censorship and your children” I admit to being mildly appalled with the comment that one might stop our children from reading any book they wanted. It certainly never occurred to me and we’ve got thousands of books in the house, a few of which almost offend me.
So how far do go? Censor books? Censor movies? Censor the internet? Just what are the guidelines for being a good parent?
What kinds of music are you into, and how do you feel about the state of your favorite genre of music today?
(My question is in the same ballpark as glorins’s, above.)
Given what you know about science, history, and contemporary politics, are you optimistic or pessimistic about our ability to avoid very unpleasant climate change? And if you’re optimistic, does science fiction play any useful role in positively influencing the outcome (given that part of what we seem to need to do is to imagine a different world for ourselves which we could conceivably love enough to work towards, and that sci-fi has had some notable successes in building lovable alternative worlds)?
Do you dread Athena’s inevitable tell-all book about your life? Why (or why not)?
I’m going to be attending WorldCon this year, and it will be my first SF/F convention. I would love to hear your take on how to get the best experience out of a con, especially if one is a first timer.
Here’s a topic that’s interested me for a long time.
How do we approach mercy and proportionality in an internet age?
I love free speech. A crucial part of free speech is more speech — the principle that we should respond to ugly speech with rebuke and criticism and ridicule rather than with state power.
But in the era of Google, can response speech be out of proportion to the original bad speech, at least in any way we ought to care about?
Consider Paul Christoforo of Ocean Marketing, for a geek-culture example. He was awful. But was he infamous-on-the-internet-forever awful? What about, say, Hermon Raju? What about any idiot who says something disgusting on Twitter and becomes famous over it?
If there are any moral strictures on creating instant-internet-infamy for such people, I confess to violating them repeatedly. But — should we care? Should bloggers — people with prominent Google positions and large audiences — engage in some sort of analysis of proportionality in deciding whether to write about bad behavior?
Three words: Sex Over 40.
What do you think of Kickstarter and its ability to change the traditional model of retail sales?
Would you ever use Kickstarter to fund your own project?
Talk about the actual efficacy of current gun-control efforts; whether they are aimed at the actual reduction of violence or more to public perception, and on a broader perspective, whether the response of government to tragedy must be, as has been said in the past, to “take rights away from good people”; e.g., the Patriot Act et al.
Heroes. I keep seeing that pic of a little boy in a bane costume and it makes me so sad. With all the current fad for superheroes in the movies, am I the last parent in america to think it is not ok for our kids to aspire to be villains? And what are we teaching them about what it means to be a hero? And how can it not connect to bullying and violence in schools? Because if we all did a better job of inspiring our kids to be heroes there would be less bystanding and more standing up to stop bullying of all kinds and levels. Isn’t it a core value of our genre to inspire people to stand up for ourselves and each other?
Who do you admire and or envy (in a good way)? Who are your heros?
Limit the scope of your answer to your peers. (e.g. authors, creative persons, writers, journalists, bloggers, parents, husbands, etc). Be sure to explain how they are one of your peers.
Connie Willis is fair game (due to the whole wrtier of words on paper thing). Brad Pitt might qualify because you are peers in the area of being creative, having beautiful wives & children, and are both male sex symbols…You’d miss the mark due to the internationally recognized millionaire movie star thing. Abe Lincoln is right out. While he may be one of your heros, it might be hard to show how a guy dead a hundred years before you were born is your peer…especially given your lack of experience in the areas of being a US President, A national leader during a civil war, or freeing slaves.
Are you going to have anything to say about the whole Night Shade asset sale/bankruptcy/who knows foofaraw? Is Night Shade being entirely forthright about the negotiations? Are the authors getting screwed by the potential new contracts? Would they be in an even worse state if their contracts end up as part of a bankruptcy proceeding?
Can you please address what role(s) other than sustenance vegetables play in your life?
If you were given the option of rewriting another great book like you did with Fuzzy Nation, what would you choose and how would you change it?
Given the current state of world conflict, global warming, and socio-economic upheaval today, do you see any positive signs that our civilization (and the Earth itself) will be anything but a burned-out, dead shell by the year 2100? I mean, science fiction usually takes place sometimes in the future, but if things keep going the way they are now, will any of us really have a future?
When the presidential elections came you were out there urging people to vote. I felt that you could have also encouraged people to work at the polls. It’s a fairly simple process but it can be hard work and a long day for meh money. I work 14 hours on election days for about ten dollars an hour. The problem is its difficult to get enough people to man the polls. We also end up with a lot of elderly people some of which have trouble with the technology involved. From what I can tell just about every where has this problem so coul you encourage your fans not just to vote but sign up and work. I feel privileged to live in this country of excess and feel it is part of my job to help keep it running. To quote JFK “ask not what your country can do for you but what can you do for your country. Also those rights we have aren’t free, they come with responsibilities to this country. Staffing polling place is an important part of that.
Personally, I’d like to know what you think about Elvis Impersonators. Obviously, not a hot topic, but for some reason I think that you could just be the one to bring some new insight into this issue.
Free Range Kids – http://www.freerangekids.com
The idea and movement that says that kids should not be hovered over every moment of every day, that kids need to experience risk, danger, independence and self-reliance. And how did you raise your kids considering this context?
As your term as SFWA president comes to an end, I expect you’ll be writing a bit on the experience. I wonder about the after. Obviously you’ll have more time for family and writing, but will you be looking for something to fill the void like Miami County Dog Catcher? What lessons did being president teach you for later in life and will you be going back to a paper-less household?
I would really be interested to know how you came to be convinced that women are people (see any number of prior posts). Was your daughter’s birth a catalyst in that belief, or were you lucky enough to be raised that way?
In raising Athena is there a balance to strike between instilling a strong work ethic and wealth? Do you expect any challenges in this regard as Athena enters her teenage years?
Where will the United States stand 20 years from now as a world power? Will the USA still be the strongest military force in the world? How much will our economic situation have further deteriated or will it have improved? How should our children be prepared for this future and what are some of the things you have done to help prepare your own daughter? Obviously you can’t read the future (or maybe you can? Hmmmm…) but what would you speculate? Bonus question: What awesome science fiction technology do you see becoming common place?
I’d like to hear your thoughts on the present and future of the movie industry, particularly as it relates to Hollywood & their offerings. Too broad? I could whittle it down but would rather hear your ramblings than mine.
I have read several places about the statistics of people dead from gun-related violence in the US. I find the numbers frankly appalling. What are your thoughts on guns and gun control?
I am not an American myself, and am familiar with firearms myself, though I do not currently own one. And I personally find the idea that “the answer to gun violence is more guns” (which seems to be very popular among US citizens) frankly crazy.
If it is not too personal I’d like to hear a bit about how your life has changed given the success you have had as a novelist. You went from newspapers to online ‘reportage’ (for lack of a more accurate description) to novelist and from populated sections of California to much more rural Ohio. That is a heck of a range. To say nothing of starting off in a low income family to what has to be a bit more comfortable even if it is not ‘Vanderbilt-esk’. I’d love to hear your musing about that you miss, what you don’t miss, what you enjoy now that you didn’t imagine and how you think those experiences have changed you.
eBook lending in libraries. Do you think eBooks should follow the same model as books (a la First Sale Doctrine) and be able to be lended by libraries?
You talk a lot, here & in your books, about privilege and oppression, & I am incredibly grateful for that.
One of the absolute stand-out moments in the OMW series, for me, is the moment when Zoe rolls her eyes and tells people to just get over gender – specifically, individuals or races with gender-neutral or otherwise third-gender identities. This is far from the only place you talk about gender & sexual minorities (GSM), but it’s one that meant a huge amount to me (as a genderqueer reader; what could possibly give it away ;).
I’d be really curious to know about your personal relationship with GSM people & identities (obviously without outing anyone!) – what got you thinking about them/us? How have your positions/understanding evolved with time?
And so on. Which is not quite “why do you choose to write about us? How much work goes into doing it as well as you do, rather than making a horrible mess of it all?” – though that’s also something I’m interested in! ;)
When are they going to remake forbidden planet? What other movies and books need to be looked at for a make/remake?
Literary snobbery. Not only the type that fans (or writers) of high-brow literature exhibit against genre fiction but also the kind that fans of genre fection have against other genres, or even subcategories inside their own preferred genre. Twilight-hatedom; disrespect for romance novels; fantasy is for kids since only hard SF is worthwhile… etc.
If Disney called you up and said, “Hey, we’d like to hire you as a creative consultant for the Star Wars franchise. We’re open to your ideas! Where do you think the story should go next?” — what would you suggest to them?
How has the people in your district reacted to John Boehner’s stance on the sequester. As someone who will take a direct hit because sequester, I am curious. Cool if this does not make an interesting post.
Back when I was much younger, say 40-50 years ago, there was an interesting series of books by Poul Anderson about a Time Patrol (as well as a Technic Civilization). I’m wondering what you think of that concept and how it might play out now as well as some of the older troupes no longer in use today. How might they be updated? Or, perhaps I’ve just missed them in a newer form.
Reading is a passion and a pleasure for most all of us who visit Whatever. I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts on encouraging kids to develop that same passion when there are so many forms of media and entertainment competing for their attention.
I’d love to read something agricultural. Esp on the grassroots level… are there things like Landcare (http://www.landcareonline.com.au/?page_id=2 ) where you are? Or another local environmental&agricultural issue in your area. Be it dryland salinity, native grasses, invasive species, soil ecology, overstocking, agribusiness, monocultures or pest management.
Is there a book that, after you read it, you thought: “Man, I wish I had written that? Not necessarily because you think you could have done a better job, but that the idea or the execution were particularly noteworthy?
Have you ever wanted to learn to fly, get a private pilot’s license?
Can an author’s genre or genre’s they write in be identified by the observant bartender or bar patron based on their selection of beverages and perhaps, in what order they are consumed?
Now that you’ve written your own video game, I’d love to hear your oppinions on writing especially for video games, how it differs from novels and if the way the audience interacts with it. All in all writing in videogames seems to be a bit of a different beast, because it needs to make space for good game play.
Bonus question: What are your oppinion about the relationship between a videogame character and the audience? It seems that those gamers that go for story (especially if they can influence the characters attitude like in Mass Effect) are far more possessive of the stories than readers are. There’ve been a few fan rebellions against how stories were handled, at the very least the gamers seem more vocal. Thoughts?
Considering all that has happened in this country over the past thirty years, and the current state of… well, whatever, in Congress now, have we reached a point where the original American governmental model needs to be replaced by something else? If so, what?
You have given your cats memorable and distinctive names. You also talk about as having distinct and amusing personalities. Do you find yourself interpreting their behaviors so that they feed into your preconceptions about the cat’s predilections and opinions?
Perhaps covered elsewhere but who have you meet that made you knees quake and shiver?
Or if you meet (living person X) would make you knees quake and shiver, stand their their presence, while replacing their name with sir/mam.
Nelson Mandela, any astronaut that has walked on the moon, would do it for me.
What are your thoughts on some of the less obvious ways human culture is changing in response to the worldwide web, and what do you think are their logical progressions? A specific example of the general issue I mean might be: wide and instant dissemination of horrific news stories leading to decreased perceptions of personal safety, resulting in helicopter parenting styles which produce new adults with higher expectations of communal interaction than previous generations felt and the changes in our public culture resulting from those standards; but I would like to hear about your own observations along these general lines.
I’ve been following Whatever for a few years now, and one reason is that I enjoy your take on political, social, and ethical issues. Your views seem progressive and clearly defined without being dogmatic. Because your views are so strongly stated, I was wondering whether you’ve had any major internal ethical or philosophical conflicts that you’ve had trouble resolving over the years. As an example, I was raised Catholic and I have never fully reconciled the pro-choice/pro-life conflict in my personal moral universe. The gray areas of abortion issue will always trouble me, and I’d like to know if their are gray areas in your personal belief system, whether you’ve resolved them to your own satisfaction, and how you did so.
If you could resurrect three people from the past (before 1970), which three would you select, why and what would you expect to happen?
What’s your personal opinion on the morality of the Colonial Union?
Apropos of Roger Ebert’s passing, are video games art, John? And does it matter if they are or they aren’t?
For reference, Ebert’s argument that games can’t be art in principle: http://blogs.suntimes.com/ebert/2010/04/video_games_can_never_be_art.html
…his apology of sorts:
…and a short article pointing out that most gamers actually appreciated Ebert’s views, because he helped drive the conversation as the loyal but thoughtful opposition:
World War III – is it coming? Assuming so (because ‘no’ would make for a very short question, never mind answer), when? Near/mid future or merely a statistical likelihood at some unpredictable point in the distant future? Will it be started by terrorists, a crazy or fundamentalist national leader (like Kim Jong Un or Ahmadinejad), Cold War style brinkmanship, gradually spread out from a smaller conflict or a first strike by a developed nation? Over religion, oil, resources, space? (My own cynical, misanthropic opinion is that WWIII is inevitable, because people suck. Probably over oil/energy and I expect it in my lifetime.)
Is there a question that you keep expecting to be asked during Reader Request Week that always surprises you by its omission? Something that you *want* to be asked, but never are? Effectively, is there an *opposite* to questions about writing?
we seem to be seeing more violence committed by younger people (young adults to children), and the people committing the violence are acting against other children and the adults within their lives. do you think that this violence is becoming acceptable on some level to our society or is it just that with the continued persistence of the 24 hour news cycle we’re having it forced into our consciousness more? are we as a society failing to teach respect for others (their personal property, personal freedoms from and for, and the sanctity of their bodies) or is this a problem that rests solely in the home and with how each perpetrator is raised? on a more personal note, if you’d care to go there, do you fear for athena more than you thought you might, as she grows older and you watch the direction in which society seems to be going.
You’re a liberal from California. Chrissy was born and grew up in Ohio. Since gun culture in rural Ohio is probably pretty strong, could you describe your family’s relationship with guns and your personal opinion on them?
How to evaluate what genre a story idea should be in. For example: main character searches for killer, seeking revenge for father’s death. How do you decide whether that should be written as a solve-the-puzzle mystery or as a cat-and-mouse thriller?
I have been watching the whole controversy about the President’s comments about Kamela Harris in the news. While I agree that he should not have made the comment…One point that i feel was overlooked was the lack of “agency” given to Ms Harris. There was very little interest about how she felt about the comment or whether she even wanted an apology. If she didn’t, then the president’s apology should have been aimed toward the angered women. I find that as a minority (african american in my case, people will often try to speak for me unbidden.
On a more general point, what should the proper reaction should people have when someone well meaning does acts to correct what they feel is a moral wrong without asking?
An eccentric billionaire asks you to write a founding document for a new nonprofit organization fighting poverty in America, describing what its priorities are and how they’ll go about it. How do you advise him? (Note: If you suggest he seek out someone more qualified, he tells you who his second choice is, and you really don’t want him to go there.)
What do you think we should do about the situation with North Korea? What do you think we will do? How long do you think it will be before China allows NK to implode (when will they withdraw food, technology & military support) and how will the fall of NK affect the East Asian region?
If you had control of a television channel (perhaps one you could buy for a song, maybe Syfy), what programs would you have on that show and why? The nitty-gritty of whom owns the rights to things aside, would you bring back shows that deserve a second chance, or do you envision a brave new channel not yet realized by modern man?
Have you ever played tabletop RPGs regularly? Have you ever been a Dungeon Master?
If so, has this helped your writing?
In any case, have you thought of licensing an official tabletop RPG for the Old Man’s War universe?
Why is there such a wide spectrum of quality in the way books are adapted to film? From gosh-awful abominations like ‘Starship Troopers’ to superior films like ‘Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Ashkaban’. (And yes, your mileage may vary!)
It isn’t simply a matter of faithfulness to the original material, that can range from good to mediocre. But how do some get to be so bad, while others actually constitute a real improvement?
As a 45 year old native of Ohio and current resident of Florida, I have now lived half my life in each state. To this day , I can tell you more about Ohio than I can Florida. More than likely the reason for this was my primary school education. Knowing that you live in an area that was inhabited by the Miami Indians and is someone who has lived in several states, have you taken the time to learn more about where you have lived? (Beyond helping Athena with her homework, that is.)
Have you ever considered running for Congress, against John Boehner?
Call this “Swimming Against the Nerd Tide.” What pop culture properties do you just not — let’s say “process” — in the same way as the rest of the herd? Examples: I find Blade Runner really boring, generally enjoy Tom Cruise movies, despise Dr. Horrible, know in my bones that A New Hope is better than Empire, and believe The Princess Bride is at least 60% waaay overrated (e.g., the “Mawwidge” stuff just makes me want to fwow up, to borrow from Dorothy Parker). You must have a few?
Related: what do you make of the rehabilitation of the reputation of Kubrick’s The Shining in the past 15 years or so? I know this has happened to many movies in the past — The Wizard of Oz and It’s a Wonderful Life were apparently not popular upon release. But this may be the most significant one that we’ve been able to watch happen in our lifetimes. I was there on opening weekend in 1980. I remember how disappointed we all were. Nicholson was comically affected. Duvall and the kid were ridiculous. The “spooky” stuff was cheesy. The plot changes were frustrating and senseless, the pace stultifying, Scatman wasted (literally). Now it’s a classic with layers or something. The hell?
If you were on NPR’s show, “Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me” as the Not My Job guest, what subject would they quiz you on?
If you read to Athena when she was younger, what was your favorite kids’ book? I’m thinking pre-chap book level. Was there one that you loved to read, or one that you seriously considered hiding behind the bookcase so you’d never have to read it again?
And a writing question (sorry): When you were writing about Hydra and its oh-so-lovely contract terms, you made a comment that I read to mean an author is better off getting an advance (over a higher royalty rate). Leaving aside exploitative contracts like Hydra’s original terms, is this true? My day job makes me decent money, and I don’t need a lump sum advance. When I bother to think about it, I’ve always thought I’d prefer a higher royalty rate if I’m ever so fortunate as to get to decide. Is this a bad idea because it leaves the publisher less motivated to sell the book, since they don’t have that sunk cost of the advance? Or a bad idea for another reason? Or did I completely misunderstand you?
Living in a rural community, do you find the quality of fresh produce a higher quality than when you were living in a major city.
In your travels about the globe, where have you found to have better food and how was it comparable to home.
Lifetime achievement awards.
In recent years you have been involved in selections for both the Science Fiction Hall of Fame and the Damon Knight Grand Master. What purpose do these have? How do the selection processes differ? and is there an unwritten rule that no one can become a grand master younger than Isaac Asimov did?
If you were choosen for a 500 day round trip to Mars and you had to choose one other person to go with, who would you choose? You can choose any person alive, dead, or fictional.
A few things to think about: you have around 100 cubic feet of space, you would like to be able to resolve any potential mechanical problems, provide stimulating conversation, and hopefully end the trip with you both alive. Remember you have a homestead to maintain while your away, so your wife is not avilabe for the trip. **all rules are subject to change by the site moderator …. After you own the mallet of loving correction.**
One more quick video-game related request.
Lately there have been a lot of reports that the next-gen X-Box will require users to be always-online in order to play games. Thoughts on the viability of this idea? Is all gaming going this way, where we’ll be licensing games rather than owning them?
Seems to me that Microsoft would be shooting themselves in the foot, especially since Sony’s next-gen console will not have this requirement, but maybe other people care less about this issue than I think they do.
Whatever is, in part, about your life. Do you think future historians will think of you as an unreliable narrator? How right would that be?
If you were an off-Earth colonist living in a place with limited resources, what would you contribute to your community? What if writing wasn’t especially valuable there?
A couple of questions:
A)Fair Trade/locavore movement (basically two sides to the same coin). What do you think about things like this, and could it potentially, in your view, help the economy?
B)There is tremendous anger and frustration and very little conversation about important issues anymore. Things are seen as very black-and-white in terms of “You are with me or against me” in terms of things like abortion, gun control, etc. There is an increased tendency to make sweeping generalizations “This is all bad, its horrible, and therefore the people supporting it must be horrible too”. I am in the middle in some things, and more liberal in others. But I don’t believe things are as cut-and-dried as they are shown to be.
C)Monsanto/Big Ag/Fuel crises/Oil usage. (This ties into A a little bit too) We have gotten so deep into letting Big Ag/Food Corporations into our economy and use so much oil in various ways (plastics/fertilizers/insecticides/toys wrapped in plastic/etc) that I wonder if we can ever extricate them and fix the problems caused by the feedlots. There are still very few options if you don’t want to buy something by the big corporations, and if you try to avoid buying plastic…that is tough! Have you tried to either go local or avoid plastic?
To the extent multiple votes have any influence on the decision-making process, I am going to second Chas C’s question about what blogs you enjoy reading.
With an OMW film “in development”.. I was wondering what the process you have had for licensing your writing for movies and TV, what other works you see as film or TV, and what the process and your involvement from licensing the property to seeing it onscreen (if you ever do)?
For example, are you involved in the screenplay? Do you have any oversight?
I think the OMW universe would be really suited to a television series on one of the bolder cable networks. Agent to the Stars would be a great flick.
“It’s nice to be able to talk to people about a topic, positive or negative, and to have them know from their own lives what you’re dealing with.”
So what are they? Do you have a stranger set of topics, than say Wil Wheaton. Or are they basically all UGH and SQUEE!
What are your thoughts/memories/etc. of Margaret Thatcher, if any?
Did you ever daydream about the near future,10-15 years out? Is this new millenium coming out the way you thought it would?
You currently have one child. Did you consider having more? Were you or Krissy only children? How do you think Athena’s family experience is different from or similar to yours?
Please let us know your thoughts on this:
Seems that writers will have to change their licensing pricing external to the US.
Aside from writing fiction, what exactly do you do with your (paid) time? You often allude to various things you have to work on, and mention when that work is related to fiction. But if I had to guess, it seems like less than, but close to, half of your work is directly related to fiction writing. What else do you get paid for? And, given how heavily you promote your fiction on Whatever, why don’t you promote that work here?
How do you introduce your daughter to genre classics? Do you try to influence the way in which she experiences them or do you let her discover them on her own terms? The big ones I have in mind are: what order to watch the Star Wars movies and whether to watch LOTR and the Hobbit before or after reading the books.
Over the last 20 years I have gone from trolling dumpsters behind fast food joints after closing for burgers, to buying my first home a few months ago. This took a certain amount of hard truth. Also a good sense of humor! Do you ever take yourself too seriously? Or have a memory creep up on you and zap you awake?
Are there any topics you’ve covered, here or elsewhere, about which you’ve completely changed your mind? Any examples of a piece you look back on and wholeheartedly disagree with? Seems like that would be frustrating, since nothing goes away on the internet.
Politics and science fiction (in America): I’ve noticed threads of libertarianism running through science fiction, from the Golden Age to the present; the subgenre of libertarian science fiction even has a Prometheus Award. I’ve also noticed that libertarians and science fiction fans seem to be over-represented online, and this also has a long history. Do you have thoughts about the intersection between computers, political ideology, and science fiction?
You mentioned that you were a philosophy major in college. Whose philosophy do you most admire?
Are you generally optimistic about humanity’s future over the next few decades (centuries?) or pessimistic? What gives you hope or gives you pause?
What are your thoughts on the ACA (Affordable Care Act) in effect and the reactions businesses and universities are having to it (cutting hours down below 30 per week on average ahead of the deadline they’d be punished for such actions)?
In his most recent column, Orson Scott Card writes about the best thing he thinks he’s ever written, a short story called Unaccompanied Sonata. He talks about how, at the time, he was upset that he missed winning a Hugo “by a hair” and he despaired because he didn’t think he’d ever write anything as good again.
Is there anything you’ve done in life (writing or other) that you think was more deserving of attention than it received? Is there anything in your life where you look back in disappointment but also amazement at the unexpected results of what you did accomplish?
The link to his column – http://www.hatrack.com/osc/reviews/everything/2013-04-04.shtml
By now, we know about your crippling Coke Zero habit, your penchant for bacon-on-cat violence, and your belief that you should actually CHARGE people to read your silly, made-up stories. Stories, I may add, which cast doubt on the existence of our Lord and Savior, the Flying Spaghetti Monster (BLASPHEMER!).
What guilty pleasures do you have? Belting out CW McCall songs on Friday night? Watching reruns of “Mythbusters” in your bathrobe, because dressing on Saturday is too much of a hassle? Writing mildly amusing comments on a semi-famous science fiction writers blo….
Anyway, what are your guilty pleasures?
I’d love to hear your thoughts on how, in this marvelous day and age, a voracious reader can go about discovering new books and authors. There’s sooooo much available, but I’m a critical reader, and finding new books I actually enjoy is really tough. Equally, there’s a huge glut in reviews and recommendations, and it’s hard to find something persuasive enough to single one book (or ten) off the shelf. I feel like I need a literary sherpa. I’d be happy to hear any suggestions or thoughts on the subject :) Thanks!
As a science fiction author, you must think regularly on science which is fringe or emerging. So what are your thoughts on the parapsychology versus skepticism debate? It’s been said that the body of parapsychological research, especially on presentiment (unconscious precognition measured via EEG and other electrophysiological methods) and telepathy, would have already proven the phenomena had it been any other scientific field but there is still a taboo on it in academic science. Many scientists (including myself) believe the research methods are sound and statistically robust but have been afraid to discuss it openly to avoid risking career damage. When scientists disagree vehemently about the legitimacy of a topic, how do you approach it as an author or as a thinker?
If you could create a supergroup of musicians, who would make up the band and why? What genre would they most likely fit into and what would the band name be?
what is the best way to make certain you are not stealing someone else’s idea when writing? For instance, it would be wonderful to write about Laser Swords, particular transporters and mystical energy forces, but that’s stealing from obvious sources. Given the events that unfolded with the whole Space Marine business a few months back, At what point are you blatantly stealing an idea versus borrowing a plot device? I’m guessing if Light Sabers were invented tomorrow, that would make them fair game?
What’s your opinion on the current bitcoin bubble?
With regards to traveling a lot and having to leave family behind, how do you feel you have managed? Do you feel those back at home (for authors, artists, etc) get enough credit for what all they do? There is an entire network of people, working tirelessly behind the scenes to support their partner’s dreams. Do you have advice on balancing it?
You’re walking through the carnival, enjoying cotton candy, corndogs, and coke zero, when you accidentally bump into a little old woman and send her flying to the ground. She looks up to give you the stink eye, waves her hands about the air in strange gestures, and mumbles something under her breath.
You’ve just been cursed by Madame Clairvoya and you can never earn another dollar from any form of writing ever again, including money from your previous works. The curse includes careers that are secondarily related to writing, such as being a publisher, editor, agent, advisor, teacher, and so on. Working for another writer won’t earn you any money, and continually testing the boundaries of the curse will only further anger Madame Clairvoya.
What new career paths would you start looking into?
Some of our unemployment situation seems to be due to a misfit in open jobs and people who are trained to do them.
We are not helped by having lots of folks with college degrees who are unemployed because there aren’t many jobs in their fields. We seem to have a shortage of skilled craftspeople (cabinet makers, etc) and those with technical training below the BA level.
We also have a shortage of very highly educated and trained people-primary care doctors, engineers…
Who should go to college? Who should get a technical education (plumbing, electrician, computer tech…), who should get other job training, and how should our society help people obtain post High School education so that we have educated and trained workers for our job market?
I understand that sometimes it is necessary to kill off a character in your stories/novels, what is it like to do that, and how do you make that decision? I guess I am trying to get to how emotionally involved do you get with the characters you create?
Do you – or anyone in your family – have any scars? If so, what’s the story behind them?
John, you seem to be both a highly productive person, and also highly distractible. Do you have any typical strategies for motivation that help you get work done and avoid the endless temptation technology and the internet offer for the average geek?
Have the sorts of topics you write about on Whatever changed over the years since you first started your blog? And related, have you seen a change over the years in the comments you receive and your has your approach to commenters changed (especially trolls)?
Apologies if I have doubled up on a previous request above,
You have been doing these Reader Requests for 5 years (at least) and writing a blog for far longer; looking back now is there a particular request from the past that you have changed your position/mind on? Or, is there a particular position/opinion/stand you took in the past in a blog post that now you feel differently about? Basically, any interesting changes in the last 5 to 10 years on topics we might care about?
About a month(ish) ago, John Roderick wrote an article called “Punk Rock is Bullshit” for Seattle Weekly and the response was…large. He talks about a LOT of different problems with the movement (being against everything without really being for anything, the disdain and “beating down” of those who express affection or enthusiasm for things, the very fine line between being “punk rock” and being a hipster, etc). About the same time I was reading Mindy Kaling’s book and in it she brings up the popular notion that cheerful people are typically thought of as, if not exactly dumb, less than smart. Both hover around but never exactly call out that really annoying and overused notion that “if you aren’t angry, you aren’t paying attention.”
As a man who seems to be on a pretty even keel most of the time about most things (that you’ll let us see anyway) I was wondering what you thought about that whole “if you aren’t angry you aren’t paying attention” thing.
I know why you were in Fresno when you met Mrs. Scalzi. But what was a nice woman from Ohio doing there? (I say this a moderate affection for the California Central Valley, but it’s the usual place where one ends up without a reason).
I’ve been meaning to ask this for a while. I apologise if has already been brought up and I missed it.
When you write a scene in which extremely large numbers of fictional lives are wiped out, does it affect you and if so how?
As a writer, you have to put yourself into the minds of many different types of people (as well as non-humans, since you write SF). What’s your view of human nature—good, evil, lazy, loving, foolish, arrogant, etc. And has that changed over time, or as a result of your writing?
This may well count as a “writing” question, but I’ll risk it. In the OMW universe you have hundreds of aliens, many of which have very little description of what they look like beyond one or two facts, such as the ambassador in “The Observers” having eyestalks. Do you have any descriptions written down somewhere, or do you just keep track of what you’ve said and leave the rest fluid, making up new facts when you need them?
D’oh! That should have read “Do you have a list of aliens and their physical appearance written down somewhere…”
From what I gather, most male feminists start off by having a ‘red pill’ moment where they notice something off about the way women are treated, and then start seeing the patriarchy behind it and a lot of other problems they dismissed as ‘how the world is’. Did you have a moment like that, and if so what was it?
John – how do you feel about fan fiction of your work. Most specifically, if I’ve been telling friends for a little over a year now about how I figured out exactly how to do a novel length extension to “Shadow War of the Night Dragons” (in a totally non-commercial vein) how sued would I be (assuming I ever found time to write the damn thing).
The announcement of your upcoming tour to promote The Human Division got me to wondering: what is the publicity/marketing value of a book tour? Tours appear to be an expensive and time consuming proposition. The cost/benefit ration must work out because authors do book tours all the time. It just seems that a tour would get you in front of a limited number of people, many of whom are fans already. Not knocking the idea of book tours, mind you. I always enjoy meeting authors of books I love, and I’m looking forward to seeing you in Raleigh next month. Tours just don’t seem to me (admittedly ignorant about marketing) an efficient use of limited marketing resources. What are the advantages of doing a book tour vs. spending money on other forms of marketing and advertising? Thanks!
I’d like to know your thoughts on “cloud computing”. It’s on my mind because Google is pimping their Chromebooks and I’m intrigued. Do you think you could live completely “in the cloud” in relation to your computing life? (with Google or anyone else?) Would you want to – from both a technical and privacy perspective? Do you think we will reach a time when a critical mass of people can live without any local storage?
John, please share your thoughts on the case of Kermit Gosnell, who “regularly and illegally delivered live, viable babies in the third trimester of pregnancy – and then murdered these newborns by severing their spinal cords with scissors” (http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2013/04/why-dr-kermit-gosnells-trial-should-be-a-front-page-story/274944/). Media coverage has been practically zero. A friend of mine remarked that if someone had done this to puppies, the entire nation would be in an uproar. Could you also share thoughts on the loud silence surrounding this horror?
Did you do “Santa Claus” with Athena? If so how did it end?
Is it too late to add “male geekdom is extraordinarily status sensitive, which is a subject worthy of its own separate discussion” to the list?