Because I Like Helping!

Once upon a time, about a half hour ago, this guy said to me on Twitter:

@scalzi @exjon: Remind me to never buy 1 of your books.

— Shawn Smith (@Zaklog) March 7, 2014

Well, okay!

I love being helpful!

106 Comments on “Because I Like Helping!”

  1. There’s a fine line between being snarky and being a jerk, and I think you’re pretty much there. I laughed anyway.

  2. If you continue to have a opinion different from mine, I will be forced to continue to buy your books.
    Hmmm. I can’t put my finger on it but somehow this doesn’t seem to work as intended. Back to the drawing board.

  3. George William Herbert:

    If I didn’t want to do it, I wouldn’t have done it. Also I don’t mind occasionally booting someone in the ass when they’re a jerk in my direction. Also, I had fun doing it, so.

  4. He said to remind him to never buy one of your books, but he didn’t say which one. Maybe he was just noting that the Rough Guide to Money Online is probably outdated and so you should remind him to not try to track down an old copy in a second-hand book store somewhere.

  5. dglnj: At this point Money Online is so useless I wouldn’t recommend it to my worst enemy, which this poor fellow certainly isn’t. So, uh, yeah. He should definitely not buy that one most of all.

  6. Speaking of the Rough Guides. Any chance that you’ll update The Rough Guide to the Universe? It’s a good book.

  7. You’re a much nicer person than I am (but I think we both know that anyway…)

    It was years ago, but the last time someone used that phrase on me, IIRC, I’d mentioned something or other that I tend to like to do in books, and indicated that the more common/formulaic thing was something I didn’t like. Probably one of those moments when one realizes that the reader has defined himself as a sovereign customer who is entitled to read what he wants to read, with my name on it.

    I responded with, “I just did. Are you so dumb you missed it?”

    Nowadays I might settle for the Errol Flynn line “I trust I’m not obscure.”

  8. “Shawn Smith (@Zaklog) March 7, 2014”

    You get tweets from the future? Did the Doctor “doctor” your computer with his Sonic Screwdriver again?

  9. This was churlish and almost small minded of you… and I’m glad you did it. I neither like nor trust people who don’t give in to this kind of impulse every now and then.

  10. Considering some of the violent, racist garbage that guy has spewed forth in his twitter feed, I think you let him off easy. Bravo for giving the little monster a taste of his own medicine.

  11. I think he should have been more specific. Did he want you to remind him never to buy any books you had written, or did he want you to pick a single book and remind him not to buy it?

  12. I believe the saying is that one should never engage in a battle of words with someone who wields words for a living.

  13. Wifofoo, never piss off John Scalzi. Never ever ever ever ever ever ever ever.

  14. There’s a fine line between being snarky and being a jerk, and I think you’re pretty much there. I laughed anyway.

    LOL – I think Scalzi would need to repeat this for a few more days before reaching jerk territory. Or unleash the hordes to heckle this guy.

  15. So, let me see if I got this straight: the cat in the picture in this post is not for sale, but the other cat in the picture in the immediately previous post explicitly was for scale.

    Is that right?

  16. So he doesn’t buy one. Uh, “1”. Then he could buy 2. Or 3, or a dozen. I’m an optimist.

  17. From one of his related tweets comes “OS Card.” First there was OS/2, then OS X, now there’s OS Card.

    Apparently right wing nut jobs think this operating system is a better writer than you.

  18. Both juvenile and amusing! Which should not be taken as a disparagement, everyone needs to act a little juvenile now then. Mainly so I can continue to get away with it…

    (Oh man I had to structure that second sentence carefully!)

  19. I loved it! Thank you for these moments of cheer in an otherwise not very amusing Friday…

  20. Warren Terra @ March 7, 2014 at 12:20 am

    So, let me see if I got this straight: the cat in the picture in this post is not for sale, but the other cat in the picture in the immediately previous post explicitly was for scale.

    Is that right?

    No. None of the ScalziCats(tm) work for scale. They are “independent catractors”.

    PS: Probably can’t prove their catizenships either.

  21. I just randomed my way to your ‘quick note to about-to-be-married gays and lesbians’ back in 2004, and I really loved it. I suspect that the guy who has to be reminded not to buy your books probably would not, but those are the breaks…

  22. Last night my friends assured me that Scalzi isn’t “punching down” here, and I thought eh, close enough, don’t wanna argue it. But this morning I’m still bothered. A lot of us were mad this week that the ex-Hugo host called a person stupid on twitter, and that was punching down. What’s the difference here? We like Scalzi (I do, a lot!) and the twit being mocked (very amusingly mocked, both on twitter and here for full exposure!) is clearly a jerk (very clearly; I blocked him straight off). But a jerk doesn’t an unperson make. When someone with a very loud voice so loudly and openly mocks a person with 200 followers, I’m a little disappointed that the response (from some people) is “no, this is totally fine.”

  23. Thank for starting my day with a laugh. BEST tweet ever. No one can slice and dice like you. His phone is probably bleeding.

  24. Jenphalian, I know what you mean.

    I do hope that Scalzi is the only one mocking this person, or that other mockery is of the same nature as his. But the internet is large and full of varied people. Given a target and a semblance of legitimacy, some of them are going to do pretty unpleasant things.

    So, yeah, this makes me uncomfortable too.

  25. Abi and jenphalian, I think Scalzi was within right-and-proper here, because the jerk could block him and be done. What would be wrong IMO would be for the whole Insect Army to join in and rain “reminders” on the jerk’s head. I took care to block him and his butthead friend before commenting back to Scalzi, so I wouldn’t be doing that. I exhort my fellow Insects do do likewise.

    Nor do I think Scalzi intended such a gangup, though with as many followers as he has there’s always a danger of that. Not sure if that happened, and not inclined to go to the jerk’s TL to check.

  26. Curious why this was sent specifically to you and “@exjon.” I clicked on that handle to discover it belongs to a marketing consultant (and author?) named Jon Gabriel. This seems odd and random, is there any connection between you, besides not having a book purchased by an internet troll?

  27. Well, I’m kind of notoriously oversensitive to these sorts of things.

    But if there’s a group of people on the internet who are all constitutionally incapable of dogpiling, I’m unaware of it. I’d kind of expected a comment one along the lines of, “You guys do know not to go dogpiling on this guy, right? Good.” Just because it’s so often the case that some people either don’t know, or get so caught up in the moment that they forget.

    I guess it’s that it feels like punching down if you have a kasquillion followers to every one of his, unless you make sure that that advantage is not in play.

  28. Why would it be such a bad thing if this clown was ganged up on? It is rare that someone can actually be put in their place for being a jerk on the internet.

  29. Like Abi, Jen, and our host, I take a dim view of “punching down,” but I don’t think that means that successful people with a lot of friends are obliged to eternally suffer repeated annoyances in silence, any more than anybody else is.

    John gets a shedload of “Wait, you have THOSE political beliefs? Well I’M NOT GONNA BUY YOUR BOOKS ANY MORE whaddya say to that!” comments from random internet dudes (and, I’m guessing, almost all of them are dudes). Subjecting one of them to a brief round of this kind of tomfoolery doesn’t seem out of line. It wasn’t John who started the food fight, and he’s entitled to discourage others from thinking it’s smart to engage with him like this.

    And, as we see here and we’ve seen before, John is actually pretty careful to anticipate possible occasions of on-piling by his fans and friends, and to explicitly discourage them when appropriate.

    (My own version of this is people who begin criticisms of my grammar, spelling, ethics, or cheese preferences with “I’m SHOCKED that AS AN EDITOR you…”, etc., etc.)

  30. I don’t recall saying that anyone should “eternally suffer repeated annoyances in silence”, and I’m not convinced that Jen said so either.

    I didn’t see the Twitter exchange on Twitter. I saw the post here, which does not include the bit that John mentioned above, and I worried, particularly given some of the recent events in our community. Because John is a decent fellow, who does listen to concerns, I thought it worth posting, so he could take it under advisement: this is something that some of his community worry about. This feels edgy.

    YMMobviouslyV. Clearly we come at these situations from multiple perspectives and with multiple histories.

  31. Ah, I scrolled down through the tweets and found the exchange. So troll wasn’t directing that message to both of you, as it appeared to me, but rather defending him… I guess.

  32. Keithrc:

    @exjon was copied into it because he had been intemperate to me on Twitter and I had been intemperate back, and then @zaklog responded, presumably because he followed @exjon. I have no idea who @exjon is, mind you.


    There’s definitely a larger context on Twitter. Also, this is a “sometimes” sort of activity — not something I would do all the time or for every response, but every once in a while is useful for me, for a number of reasons. Also, from his Twitter feed, this dude is a bit of a turd. I felt fine briefly giving him a bit of special attention.

    With that said, when I indulge in this sort of activity, I don’t generally encourage people to pile on. It’s not usually the appropriate thing to do, and most people I’m plinking on don’t deserve to be squashed under such a dogpile. The good news here, however, is that I think most of the people who follow me would not be inclined to dogpile on some random Twitter dude even if I told them to. I flatter myself that most of the people who follow me have brains and common sense.

  33. If there was some question about whether John Scalzi was sufficiently kind and considerate to discharge a public role for which he had been put forth, and his first response to critical remarks made directly to him on the subject was to call the critic “stupid,” yeah, that would be something else. But it’s a bit hard to imagine that scenario.

    The ethic of “don’t kick down” doesn’t mean “decent people have to be infinitely forbearing.” It means try to be proportionate, and to keep track of the overall compass of your behavior. I think John does a pretty good job of that.

  34. Thanks for bringing the wider context into this conversation, John. And thanks for listening to my concerns, whether or not you agree with them. I appreciate it.

  35. Just reminds me of why I hate Twitter. Took me like thirty clicks to figure out what originally went down between @Scalzi and @Exjon to prompt this and, honestly, no one comes off looking great. Just reflexive insults, snark, and cursing, which is no surprise because what else can you fit in 140 characters? (Obviously, when you’re in a mud fight, you’re better off as the dude in the mud fight who favors feeding needy kids, but you’re still in a mud fight). Anyway, I’d better stop, because I’ve written like twelve tweets worth already. #getoffmylawn

  36. When I first read this, it made me kind of uncomfortable. It seemed unusually snarky and aggressive. But then I realized that because of the @, the original tweet was sent TO John, and not just noticed by John. There is a world of difference between commenting about someone, and commenting to someone. Jumping on someone in the former case would seem a bit over the top. In the latter case, though, John was simply responding to a request.
    Responding quite diligently, even.
    And that’s perfectly fine in my book.

  37. I wonder if he actually meant that you should remind him to buy at least 2 of each of your books since it’s hard to lend one while you’re reading it.

  38. I used to read another blog which shall remain nameless here, but who regularly unleashes his horde of readers to wreak internet havoc on those deemed unworthy.

    The thing I like best about this blog is that John didn’t encourage that, and the readers DIDN’T mindlessly go forth to pile on this twit, but instead stopped to consider the ramifications.

    You guys are awesome.

  39. From my perspective, Scalzi, though in a position to punch down, did not do so, even though the jerk in question took his own can-opener to a can that might have been full of metaphorical whoopass.

    That was pretty gentle mockery, I thought. And my face hurts from grinning.

  40. I am thinking that attacking an AUTHOR with WORDS is probably not an intelligent thing to do! :) Loved the part about the cat!

  41. No time to read through the Comments now, alas, but wanted to thank our host for sharing this amusing episode because about 4-5 clicks away from the twit-links I found some really cool & thought-provoking ideas. :-)

  42. Sorry, but when you poke the bear, you shouldn’t be surprised when the bear reacts. This made me laugh. Because, well, bear poking. I would add that as far as reactions go, this one was both benign and amusing. He didn’t call the guy names, didn’t call for the internet to be brought down on his head, in fact, he just did exactly what he was asked to do.

  43. I think you got it wrong. He asked you to remind him not to buy 1 of your books. Clearly he wants your entire collection of Scalzi goodness and doesn’t want to purchase them one at a time.

    You should send him a box set.

  44. Just surfaced from an epic Brandon Sanderson marathon reading session (I’m rereading Way of Kings and reading Words of Radiance in one epic read-a-thon) to say:

    You PWN, Lord Scalzi. This is absolutely, utterly, completely hilarious, and made my day.

    Now, I have 300 more pages of epic fantasy to finish, and then I have to go back to being impatient for the Redshirts TV show.

  45. @David: Yes. It’s attacking people below your own class, social station, economic bracket, pay grade, etc. Good taste (and good sense) says you aim your shots at your equals or “betters.” Bad news pundits punch down when they deride homeless people; good stand-up comics punch up at entertainment “stars,” politicians and corporate executives. That kind of thing.

  46. Rough Guides axed its non-travel reference books.

    Perhaps someone should tell Rough Guides that many of us plan to travel the universe, and are just awaiting the opportunity to buy a ticket.

  47. Maybe he was just saying that no one should ever just buy one of your books. The only Scalzi purchase possible is buying many of them at once. I mean do you really want just one Scalzi book, that’s like a single Oreo. Plus I don’t really want to give my copy to a friend. I won’t get it back- they’ll hoard it rereading it occasionally. I couldn’t lend it out to someone else or reread it myself. The loss to me and humanity as a whole could be incalculable. Yet I still want the community of having them read it. I mean if I can’t share, we might not be really friends, and if not friends with some things in common, we might misunderstand each other and become enemies. And then what? This could be a vital linchpin to all of civilization, and we just don’t entirely realize it.

    It’s like the entire- For want of a horseshoe the war being lost sort of thing.

    I am beginning to wonder whether this guy might have bought just one Scalzi book, and now through his disregard for civil behavior is unable to recognize that the only solution to having bought one Scalzi book, is only to push on and buy more. Get past his fear, and the horrendous position that only having one Scalzi book is, Exit the darkness and buy more. It is the only cure to the nihilism of Scalzi Book Insecurity. Push on, I say buy more. Lots more. There is no turning back!

    I will definitely remind everyone never to buy ONE Scalzi book. It just won’t be enough.

  48. I’m reminded of the words of a very wise man:

    “Don’t annoy science fiction writers. These are people who destroy entire planets before lunch. Think of what they’ll do to you.”

  49. I for one don’t really “get” the whole “I disagree with you regarding something unrelated to your body of creative work, so… I hate you and will NEVER patronize you (or anything you are associated with) again!” 1) It’s whingey to do it in public, 2) It’s immature (plenty of people work and play together despite differing political views, and 3) It’s illogical most of the time (the “taking the toys and going home” person isn’t really having an impact on anything). I know I’m mostly preaching to the choir, here, but that’s my 2 cents. Oh well, trolls can be entertaining, I guess, but mostly they just make me weep for humanity.

  50. Mike, click the timestamp of any tweet embedded like this, it normally takes you straight to that tweet and puts the conversation into context. It doesn’t always work but did for me in this case.

    I generally hate the twitter web interface and don’t use it, but it can be useful to see conversations &c. It’s a shame that any public space is ruined by shouty arseholes who can’t be bothered to be polite to people that, like John, get a lot of people talking to them constantly, what’s the point? Every time some people tweet they get a barrage of idiots replying with insults, then people stop using it or can’t actually engage in conversations.

  51. jenphalian and Abi Sutherland–

    It’s entirely possible that John did, in fact, do this Dudebro a considerable mitzvah. And I’m not cracking, here. You have to understand the Twitter dynamic, and the particular nature of the trollery that Our Respected Host attracts.

    John has (by Twitter standards) vast hordes of followers.

    Not all of them follow him because they are refreshed by his dry and nutty 140-character wit. A certain percentage of them *must* follow him, because they need to keep track of exactly what troll-fodder he’s (advertently or inadvertently) scattering at any given time.

    Now this subset of John’s followers (that word does not necessarily mean what you think it means on Twitter) are aware that @zooklag or whatever his handle is, can be inducted into their Follow Scalzi Around and Troll Him (FSATH) club.

    Which, since @zukleg or whatever has a comparatively small follower count and therefore a relatively short ‘reach’ or visibility on Twitter, might never have happened, if the blazing comet of Scalzi-ness had not briefly illumined his trollitude.

    He may now be happily sharing the text version of fart-sounds and vapid body-noise jokes with his fellow FSATH club members, assuming he got through whatever childish induction ritual they require.

    Seems likely, he appears to be right there with them on their spiritual/intellectual plane.

  52. Mat – thanks, I actually meant finding the conversation with exjon that Scalzi referred to as starting the mess. It involved a lot of scrolling and clicking on “conversation,” then more scrolling and more clicking when that excluded various replies. Which, really, isn’t that difficult and I shouldn’t be complaining. But I like complaining, and I do feel like it was more difficult than it needed to be, so I guess there’s that.

  53. As they say on tumblr, don’t tag your hate.

    Which is to say, had this dude omitted @scalzi from his mean little tweet, then yes, Mr Scalzi would have been rather out of bounds to stomp on this one mean little tweet – he’d have had to go searching for this one mean little tweet and pluck it from the thickets of twitter in order to stomp on it. That would have been… disproportionate. At best. But this dude included @scalzi, which dropped his mean little tweet into the twitter equivalent of Mr Scalzi’s inbox, where Mr Scalzi could hardly avoid it. If you insist on insulting people to their faces, you cannot take umbrage when they respond in kind.

  54. *returning to a big enough screen to read various replies to my first comment*

    I totes agree that Scalzi can/should speak as he wishes, and I see the differences between this and that other situation. But I also see some similarities. I don’t think it’s a radical notion (or a bad thing) that we tolerate more from those we like and admire, I just want to acknowledge that we do.

    I should also mention that I don’t think me being uncomfortable means it isn’t funny, or that he shouldn’t have done it, &c.

  55. Of course, John, you could remind him *individually* about each of your books, and not to buy it….. :)

    If I didn’t think it might get your account pulled, I’d suggest you could *script* this…..

  56. There’s also that the sentence was directly addressed TO Scalzi — not just in the sense of tagging him, but actually speaking to him: “Remind me never to buy one of your books.” If the sentence had been addressed to the other person it would’ve been “…of his books.” That, to me, places the exchange firmly in the court of He Had It Coming. (For values of “It” corresponding to what John actually did, not additional dogpiling etc.)

  57. I just love that you used the same level of intelligence in your reply, that he exhibited in his initial post.

  58. bohemimom

    Alternatively, you could stay in and buy one of John’s books, though not the cat.

  59. For some reason, when I read the author bio at the bottom of the post, my eyes saw “I never pee.”

    So yeah, on topic, I have an errand to run Monday, I might as well pop into the indie bookstore en route to the subway after and see if their skiffy section goes to S (it’s a tiny, tiny store)

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