Metatropolis Trade Paperback Out; More on Midnight Star; Reminder about Holiday Books

Headline says everything, doesn’t it?

1. But to begin, Metatropolis, the Hugo-nominated near-future anthology that I edited, has finally come to trade paperback form. And in the five years since the anthology came out in its original form (audiobook), the stories in it have only gotten more pertinent — which is to say that reality has tuned itself more to this future than it was back in 2008. I don’t know how to feel about that, personally. But I do know that the stories by Jay Lake, Toby Buckell, Elizabeth Bear and Karl Schroeder stand up excellently well (and mine is okay, too). Its arrival in trade paperback form positions it nicely for holiday gift giving, hint hint, nudge nudge. More on that in a minute.

2. For those of you interested in Midnight Star, the video game I’m working on, gaming Web site Pocket Tactics has an in-depth look at the game, the first of three installments (the second and third installments will be up later today and tomorrow). They cover some nifty ground in this interview, including play mechanics and the need to get people right into the game.

3. To back to the whole “holiday gift” thing, a reminder that I’m signing and personalizing my books for the holidays, through my local bookstore, Jay & Mary’s Book Center. So if you know someone who would love a signed book under the tree (or wherever you may place such thing), here are the details.

Now I gotta go write things. Excuse me.

Today’s Picture, 11/19/13

Sculpture at the Art Institute of Chicago, November 2013.

The Difference a Day Makes

Yesterday —

— and today.

Two Quick Things

Which are:

1. To make sure none of you are in suspense about this, the Scalzi Compound was largely unaffected by last night’s storm, other than losing power for about an hour or so. We are fine, the pets are fine, the neighbors are fine. Unfortunately not everyone in the Midwest can say the same. Keep them in your thoughts.

2. My plan to encourage people to vote for other nominees in the Goodreads Choice Awards has been apparently failing miserably, since The Human Division has made the final round. This is a great irony for anyone who believes my readers slavishly follow all my dictates. However, it is not too late, as there are nine other final nominees to vote for. So, damn it, pick one of them already. Thank you.

Today’s Picture, 11/18/13

The main quadrangle at the University of Chicago, November 2013.

Holy Crap, We’ve Got Dragons

Where I live is currently under a Severe Thunderstorm Warning; directly north of me they’ve got a Tornado Watch going on.

But the NOAA has said nothing about dragons.

I sense a conspiracy. 

A Less Than Universally Helpful Tip

If one of your cats and a stranger cat are having a catfight outside in the dark, and you want to break them up, shine a flashlight into your cat’s eyes while shooing the stranger cat away. That way your cat won’t see where the other cat is going and then attempt to follow it for a continuing beatdown.

You’re welcome.

Today’s Picture, 11/17/13

Athena and Athena, the Art Institute of Chicago, November 2013

Today’s Picture, 11/16/13

The Willis (nee Sears) Tower, Chicago, November 2013.

Quick Note About the Google Books Thing

People are pinging me about the judge throwing out the Author’s Guild class action suit against Google and my thoughts about it. The short answer is that I have a book deadline zooming up on me so I don’t have time to discuss it in depth, so I won’t right at the moment. I’ll save it for when I have brain cycles to spare.

Speaking very briefly on whether I suspect the tossing of the case will have a negative effect on me personally and my books solely: No. I really don’t.

I will suggest, however, and as I always do, that if one is determined to read my books and not pay me personally for them, that one avail one’s self of the local library. The librarians there are perfectly happy to support your habit, and I don’t mind at all.

Today’s Picture, 11/15/13

Wall text from the Art Institute of Chicago, November 2013.

Reminder: Appearance at Bradford, OH Library, Saturday, 10am

Come around and see me. And visit my tiny little hometown. You know you’ve always wanted to. I will definitely be reading from my upcoming novel Lock In, and reading something different than I read at Worldcon, so if you show up you will literally be the first humans on Earth to hear what I’ll be reading. Indeed, the first humans in the entire universe. No one will ever be able to take that from you!

Also, you can pet my Best Novel Hugo if you want, since I will be bringing it to the library. Also also, there will be books for you to buy, if you wish, and I will sign them. To you, or whomever you designate. Also also also: Snacks. Snacks, people. So there: if you live within a 50-mile radius, you now have no reason not to show up.

See you there!

Today’s Picture, 11/14/13

Gargoyle at the University of Chicago, November 2013

The Big Idea: Nicola Griffith

What do we think of when we think of history? For author Nicola Griffith, it’s a pertinent question, particularly for her latest novel Hild, which features a protagonist of no little historical import — but also no great historical record…

NICOLA GRIFFITH:

Just before I started work on Hild, I wrote “You’ve been warned,” a blog post in which I vowed that with my next novel I would run my software on your hardware. “I will control what you think and feel, put you right there, right then…give you a life you’ve never had, change the one you live. For a while, when you’re lost in my book, you will be somewhere, somewhen, someone else.”

It was my dagger in the table, a public challenge—to myself. You see, I’d been aiming for Hild for a long time, and I was terrified.

*

In my early twenties I was living in Hull, the rather grim city in north east England where my novel Slow River is set. One weekend I managed to get away for a few days and head north up the coast, to Whitby.

I’d read Dracula, which is set partly in Whitby, so I was expecting the 199 steps up the cliff. I was expecting the great ruined abbey against the skyline. But I didn’t expect what happened next.

When I stepped over the threshold of that ruin it felt as though history fisted up through the turf, and through me. It turned me inside out like a sock. It was like sticking your head in what looks like a perfectly ordinary wardrobe only to find yourself in Narnia. My world changed.

History, I realized, was real. Built by real people with their own dreams, disappointments, and dailyness. I could see it. I could feel it. (I probably stood there with my mouth hanging open.)

After that epiphany I went back every year, sometimes twice year. I walked the coastline. I roamed the moors. I spent hours at the abbey, sitting on the tumbled stones, reading the tourist brochures, imagining how it might have been. Even after I moved to the US I came back as often as I could. Bit by bit I learnt that the abbey was founded by a woman called Hild in the mid-seventh century. That 1350 years ago, in 664 CE, she hosted and facilitated a meeting, the Synod of Whitby, which was a major turning point in English history. She’s now revered as St. Hilda of Whitby.

But when I went looking I couldn’t find any solid information. No scholarly monograph. No saintly Life Of. Not even a novel. The only reason we know Hild existed is a mention in the Venerable Bede’s Ecclesiastical History of the English People. He tell us Hild’s mother dreamt of her in the womb–she would be the light of the world. Her father was murdered in exile. She was baptised at age 13 and when she was 33 and visiting her older sister in East Anglia, she was recruited to the church. She went on to found Whitby Abbey and hosted the Synod in which so-called Celtic Christianity was ousted in favour of the Roman kind. Oh, and she trained five bishops, was a counsellor to kings, and was instrumental in the creation of the first piece of English literature, Cædmon’s Hymn.

We don’t know what she looked like, whether she married or had children, or even where she was born. But she must have been extraordinary. Think about it. This was the time that used to be called the Dark Ages. In a heroic, occcasionally brutal and certainly illiterate culture (cue music for Xena: Warrior Princess), Hild begins life as the second daughter of a widow, homeless and hunted, yet ends as a powerful advisor to more than one king, leader of a famous centre of learning, and midwife to English literature.

So how did she do that? We don’t know. I wrote this book to find out. I decided to use the same world-building I’d used in science fiction to figure out how. I’d build the seventh century and grow Hild inside.

So I researched. I read everything I could lay my hands on about the late sixth and early seventh century: ethnography, archaeology, poetry, numismatics, jewellery, textile production, languages, food, weapons, trade patterns, even the weather. I read scholarly monographs, narrative histories, blog posts, and strange screeds. Late in the process I stumbled over a new factoid: by one estimate, Anglo-Saxon women spent 65% of their time in the production of textiles. Sixty-five percent. That’s a greater proportion of her day than sleeping, child care, and food preparation combined. Textile production was life-or-death technology for the whole community. I kept returning to it; it fascinated me.

But I didn’t want to write that kind of book. I didn’t want to write about the restrictions of gender. Domesticity makes me claustrophobic. Hearth and home are all very well, but I love an epic canvas: gold and glory, politics and plotting, people wacking each other’s heads off with swords. To avoid feeling trapped I was tempted to make Hild so singular that the restrictions didn’t apply to her. At one point I even had her learn and use a sword, although in reality any woman of that era who picked one up would most likely have been killed out of hand and tossed face-down in a ditch.

I couldn’t make it work. Remember that realisation at Whitby Abbey? History is made by real people; the rules always apply. I despaired.

But there was my dagger, quivering in the table.

In the end I did what any good Anglo-Saxon would: I got drunk, laughed in the face of fear, and charged…

…And discovered what poets have known for millennia, that constraint is freeing. I had nothing to lose, so I committed. And the words came. It felt like magic. It was Hild’s voice…

—-

Hild: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Indiebound|Powell’s

Read an excerpt. Visit the author’s blog. Follow her on Twitter.

As My Mailbox Is Filling Up About This, I Guess I Should Put This Here, Too

There, that should do it. In a general sense, as with anything related to bacon, or churros, if something is related to “red shirts” in any general way, you can assume if you’ve seen it, I’ve seen it too and/or have had news of it sent to me. No need to trouble yourself.

Today’s Picture, 11/13/13

Tree in my backyard, Bradford, Ohio, November 2013

RT Reviewers Choice Award Nomination + Goodreads Semifinals

This is nice: The Human Division is a nominee in the science fiction category of the RT Reviewer’s Choice Awards. You may recall I won the category last year for Redshirts. Here are the nominees in the category in full:

THE BEST OF ALL POSSIBLE WORLDS
Karen Lord, DEL REY, (February 2013)

THE MAD SCIENTIST’S GUIDE TO WORLD DOMINATION
John Joseph Adams, Editor, TOR, (February 2013)

THE HUMAN DIVISION
John Scalzi, TOR, (May 2013)

THE MELANCHOLY OF MECHAGIRL
Catherynne M. Valente, HAIKASORU/VIZ, (July 2013)

THE SEVERED TOWER
J. Barton Mitchell, ST. MARTIN’S GRIFFIN, (November 2013)

FORTUNE’S PAWN
Rachel Bach, ORBIT, (November 2013)

I will note that The Best of All Possible Worlds is also nominated for the award “Best Book” category — that’s pretty impressive. Here’s the entire list of categories and nominees for 2013.

I’m always happy to be nominated for an RT Award, and as I won last year I will be pleased to see the award go to someone else in the category. It’s nice to share.

Other folks I know who are nominated in other categories include Mary Robinette Kowal, Paul Cornell, Robin Hobb, Delilah Dawson, Diana Rowland and Mur Lafferty, among several others. I highly recommend each of them going to RT’s convention (this year in New Orleans); it’s a heck of a fun party. Congratulations to all the nominees!

Also, apparently my exhortation for people to vote for someone else in the Goodreads Choice Awards science fiction category’s first round was not well-heeded, because I have made it to the semi-final round (also for The Human Division). The good news here is that there are some new people you can vote for in the category, including Ann Leckie (for the fantastic Ancillary Justice, which I blurbed), and the aforementioned Karen Lord (again for The Best of All Possible Worlds). Again I exhort you to vote for someone other than me; if The Human Division makes it to the final round, I shall be quite put out.

Today’s Picture, 11/12/13

Jellyfish at the Shedd Aquarium, Chicago, November 2013.

How to Get Signed and Personalized Scalzi Books for the Holidays, 2013

Once again the holiday season is approaching, and once again I am teaming up with Jay & Mary’s Book Center, my local independent bookseller, to offer signed and personalized books for gift-giving. It’s a great way to get a unique gift for someone you love (even yourself!) while at the same time supporting a great local business that does a fantastic job in its community.

So: How do you get signed and personalized books from me this year? It’s simple:

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

2. Tell them which books you would like (For example, The Human Division), and what, if any, names you would like the book signed to. If there’s something specific you’d like written in the books let them know but for their sake and mine, please keep it short.

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

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

5. And that’s it! Shortly thereafter I will go to the store and sign your books for you.

If you want the books shipped for Christmas, the deadline for that is December 12. That way we can make sure everything ships to you on time. Hey, that’s a month; more than enough time for you to make your selections.

Also, this is open to US residents only. Sorry, rest of the world. It’s a cost of shipping thing.

What books are available?

CURRENT HARDCOVER: The Human Division, The Mallet of Loving Correction (The latter is already signed but I will be happy to personalize it). Also in hardcover: The 21st Century Science Fiction anthology, which contains my story “The Tale of the Wicked.” I’ll be pleased to sign the anthology for you.

CURRENT TRADE PAPERBACK: Redshirts (this year’s Hugo Award winner!), Metatropolis (out 11/19/13). There may be hardcovers of both of these still around if you ask. But both are definitely in trade paperback.

CURRENT MASS MARKET PAPERBACK: Fuzzy Nation, Old Man’s War, The Ghost Brigades, The Last Colony, Zoe’s Tale, The Android’s Dream, Agent to the Stars, The New Space Opera 2.

CURRENT NON-FICTION: Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded (essay collection, Hugo winner), Book of the Dumb, Book of the Dumb 2 (both humor books) are all still in print. The Rough Guide to the Universe, second edition (Astronomy), and The Rough Guide to Sci-Fi Movies (film) are now officially out of print but there may still be some extra copies in warehouses so they may still be able to order it.

AUDIOBOOKS: The Human Division, Redshirts, Fuzzy Nation, The God Engines, Metatropolis and Agent to the Stars are all available on CD and/or MP3 CD, and Jay & Mary’s should be able to special order them for you. Two things here: First, if you want these, you should probably call to order these ASAP. Second, and this is important, because the audiobooks come shrinkwrapped, I will have to remove the shrinkwrap in order to sign the cover. You ordering a signed audiobook means you’re okay with me doing that and with Jay & Mary’s shipping it to you out of its shrinkwrap.

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

Happy shopping and especially thanks for supporting Jay & Mary’s. They’re good people and every year they do a good job with this. I’m happy to be working with them again on this.

And thank you!

Today’s Picture, 11/11/13

At the Art Institute of Chicago, November, 2013.