Reader Request Week 2014: Get Your Requests In!
Posted on March 13, 2014 Posted by John Scalzi 259 Comments
Huh. Looking at my schedule for the next couple of months, it appears that next week is the only week through mid-June that I am not going somewhere or coming back from somewhere, and it’s the only week where I don’t have a batch of Big Idea pieces scheduled. Which makes it the perfect week to do my annual Reader Request Week.
And just what is Reader Request Week? Why it is what it says: Once a year, I let you, the readers of Whatever, offer up the topics I will write about for an entire week. Always wanted me to answer a question? Frustrated that I never write about what you want me to write about? Wish I would write more about a specific topic you can never get enough of? Now’s your chance! Submit your request, I’ll go through and select topics, and I will start writing them up, beginning March 17.
And what topics should you request? Anything you want. Politics, sex, religion, cats, entertainment, favorite talcum powders, advice for living, technology — honestly, whatever topic it is, if you wanted my opinion on it, this is where to ask.
With that said, some suggestions:
1. Choose quality, not quantity. 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. I note this every year, and yet every year about half of the questions are about writing. Be different this year!
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. If you see your intended topic there, it’s very unlikely I will answer it again this year (and by “very unlikely” I mean “I won’t”).
How do you submit requests? The simplest way to do it (and the way I prefer, incidentally) is to put them in the comment thread attached to this entry. But if you have a reason not to want to have your request out in 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.
Reader Request Week is one of my favorite weeks of the year, and I’m looking forward to what you want to have me write about this year. Make me dance like a monkey, people! Get your requests in now!
Here are the Reader Request Week topics for the last fives years (click through to see the full articles):
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
Reader Request Week 2013 #1: Further Thoughts on Fame and Success
Reader Request Week 2013 #2: Regrets
Reader Request Week 2013 #3: Guilty Pleasures
Reader Request Week 2013 #4: College Education (And Costs Therein)
Reader Request Week 2013 #5: How to Be a Good Fan
Reader Request Week 2013 #6: Intuition
Reader Request Week 2013 #7: Books and My Kid
Reader Request Week 2013 #8: Whatever Topics and Comments
Reader Request Week 2013 #9: Women and Geekdom
Reader Request Week 2013 #10: Short Bits
So: What do you want to know now?
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. Please note that if I believe your request is indistinguishable from trolling, I’ll just go ahead and snip it out.
Also, please please please 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.
Also (this just came to me): If you see someone else ask a very general topic, don’t feel that the topic is now off-topic to you; you can second it or (more preferable to me, and which will make me more likely to address your question) make a more specific request within that general topic.
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.”
Gaming. Preferably, favourite boardgame(s) and their attractions; if that’s not something you indulge in, computer games would also be of interest. Thanks :).
The powers that be decide to turn “Night Dragons” into a short film to warm audiences up for a feature presentation. What studio do you want to produce it, and what talent is attached. What format does it take? Any movies in the pipeline that you are aware of that could use the “Night Dragons” boost? Or does this just end up playing on Colbert on April 1st?
How can the GOP win the Presidency in 2016, and do you think they will?
When you look for movies, just as a casual viewer not a writer or critic, do you look more for the gritty and realistic superhero movies, the fun and campy ones, or something else entirely? I ask because it seems the bright and campy vs the grim and gritty seems to be an all consuming movie debate.
Also, and much more frivolously but the world simply must know, lava-lamps; are they great or are they awesome?
The Ukraine Situation: Russian Imperialism or NATO Expansionism? Or a little of both? Or something else altogether?
What was/is your relation to the pure sciences? Mostly mathematics, with her younger sisters theoretical physics and theoretical computer science.
Some SF writers have a deep sympathy with the work of the pure research scientist: my favorite example being Ursula K. Le Guin, as evident both in the main character of The Dispossessed and in her introduction to The Left Hand of Darkness, where she compares the creativity of a mathematician and a writer.
Asimov was naturally closer to applied science, possibly due to the nature of his own background in chemistry, and Heinlein seems geared towards engineering.
Where are you in this continuum?
Fuckin’ magnets. How do they work?
What are the distinguishing rites/rituals/vestments/regalia of The Orthodox Church of Scalzi?
Specifics regarding how you came to the ethical values you hold now, and if/how you change/adapt these values over time.
What webcomics have sucked away hours of your time? Hopefully pleasurably.
I find many people binge on webcomics or certain eras of their life are full of webcomics and then it fades away for years/decades until something draws you back. Is that the case for you? If so, what periods of your life were most full of webcomics and which ones?
Music. Hopefully commentary on the resurgence of acoustic (folk, bluegrass, Americana, etc…) and guitars and other stringed things in general.
How do you respectfully disagree with and debate someone who is clearly working from a totally different set of premises? How do you point out that the apparent topic at hand isn’t really the source of the disagreement, just one of its symptoms? I’ve never had much luck in trying to shift the conversation this way, even with relatively nice, rational opponents.
How would you use a scene from a Science Fiction film or book to enhance a Science lesson to 10 to 13 year olds. For example, I have used several scenes from 2001, a Space Odyssey and a couple of Clangers programs to show gravitational pull, orbits and orbital velocity. (If you have never seen The Clangers and get on to Youtube to watch them. This, for example: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OTyjBUoCnKM, is wasted on kids!) If you can make it a hands-on practical lesson you get bonus points. And how about asking Athena? She might have some great ideas.
What do YOU think the deal is with the Boeing 777 which “vanished” as it cruised over the South China Sea? I’ll lurk and not state my own thoughts, as someone who cost the American taxpayer a million bucks per year (mostly to 7 levels of management, not me) and my U.S. Air Force and NASA Contracts. Really, if YOU were writing the story “based on actual events…”
When are we going to get “season 2” of the Human Division? You kind of left things half-done, plot-wise… Related: are you and Tor going to repeat that awesome serial format, or just publish it as a traditional novel?
How much do you think the cover of a book influences how people (especially you) judge it?
I mean this “literally” – in both senses of that word.
I refer to many things here: the cover art, the font of the title and author, the position of the author’s name above or below title, the name of the publisher, blurbs written by other authors, the SizE of the pages, how the pages are cut/ripped, etc…
Also, I think electronically published books would get their own discussion here. (Audio books, too.)
You just hit the lottery big time – say $200M after taxes. You can now write exactly what you want for the rest of your life. What will you write? What will you not write? How much time will you spend writing (vs. goofing off, vs. managing the charitable foundation I suspect you’d set up…)?
What are some of things that you went through later in life that were substantially different from what you expected as a younger man? What surprised you when you got older?
1. You’ve said that 2000 words is basically your sweet spot for writing fiction. What about other kinds of writing you do? More, less, about the same?
2. If you weren’t being a good father and had to get up to get Athena off to school and a good husband who gets up and sees his wife off to work, what would you schedule look like. Put more briefly, lark or night owl?
In the arts, if you could write one song, paint one picture, sculpt one statue or sculptor, or give one speech that would be remembered for generations which would you choose? If you noticed I didnt include writing because we all, as fans, already know Old Man’s War will be around for generations. :D But other than writing, what other aspect if you could do anything once that would impact generations of people, would you do? And it doesn’t have to be anything that has already done…If you can think of an idea (like a sculptor of your definition of true love that leaves people tearing up when they see it) then that’s fine also.
Isaac Asimov, when asked what he’d do if he learned he had just one year to live, said “Learn to type faster.” I know that writing isn’t your whole life, so — any thoughts?
You’ve obviously developed a lot of research skills over the years. How do you approach researching a topic (be it for a non-fiction work, novel, blog post, personal interest, whatever)? Do you have one general strategy or are there certain sources you turn to for particular areas?
(Just to be clear, this is not a “help me do my research homework” question. I’m a professional academic already; I’m interested in your approach since you’ve obviously got a very different point of view to start from.)
Robots. I don’t recall them playing much part in your writing, automated cargo carts excepted. Looking ahead to the next ten-twenty years, what do you think is going to happen with robots? (Yes, this is a thinly disguised “am I gonna get a robot before I die?” question.)
What “big idea” that is currently being played with in SF is most likely to positively influence contemporary action related to that issue?
Have you ever looked at a picture of a place (on Earth) and had that moment of “Wow, I have to go there”? If so, what types of places? What draws you to them? And have you gone?
What is your reaction to the recently announced upcoming remake of “Something Wicked This Way Comes”? If you were in charge of it, who would you cast as Halloway and Dark?
Given the demographic, social, and economic trends of the last fifty years, do you think USA will see some states (like California/Pacific northwest, or New York/Atlantic northeast, or deep conservative south) secede and become independent?
Good parenting “The geek way” by John Scalzi.
You seem happy and well balanced. You have a great daughter and although I don’t know much about your wife you speak well of her. You are fairly consistent on you blog and don’t seem to have much angst about the times you can’t be here. How to you maintain your equilibrium , sense of humor and kindness when you must get really warn out with everything you do?
Do you have any interesting observations about working with/in Hollywood? Are the people of Hollywood more or less grounded in reality than people who work in other areas, such as politics or publishing?
(P.S. It was nice chatting with you on the cruise, and I haven’t told a soul about your secret.)
Tell us about your first kiss.
In this day and age, what constitutes ‘heroism’?
I’ve noticed a recent trend among the SF/F writers I follow on twitter in which they question their abilities as writers.
As a very successful writer who seems pretty self-confident, do you have moments of doubt in your ability? What do you think drives it, both in yourself and in the profession as a whole? Assuming you have these periods, what gets you past them?
Sports. Do you follow any professional or collegiate sport? Did you play sports growing up? What are your thoughts on the culture of professional sports and the money athletes and networks make from it?
What influences, entertainers, medium or style do you credit for developing your sense of humor? Also, do laugh tracks annoy you when watching sit-coms?
The Space Elevator: we’re about to build a real one, why doesn’t the SF community think so?
Sure, you had one in OMW, but yours was held up by magic, not physics; you said so at some length. I did find it strange that the magic beanstalk was 18 feet in diameter, while the real one will be about a meter wide and the thickness of Saran Wrap.
We are VERY close to the SE being a practical possibility – a decade at most. Why aren’t there SEs sticking up all around the equator of every planet in every SF tale? They have rockets (and Rockets Are Wrong) but no SE. Note that we’re not dependent on the US Congress here; the SE will be within the capabilities of medium-sized countries, large corporations, and quite a few rich individuals. Elon Musk could probably manage it.
Would you ever have any interest in running for political office?
I have a friend who, through a somewhat meandering path, has found a niche writing Urban Fantasy. This friend recently lamented the fact that Urban Fantasy rarely wins awards, and is in general treated as the red-headed step-child of the SF/F genre (that’s my summation, at any rate). This friend also said that while Urban Fantasy might eventually win Hugos, it’ll probably never win Nebulas, since it’s not “serious literature advancing the genre.”
Do you feel this summation is correct? Will Urban Fantasy ever be fully accepted as a “legitimate” (whatever that means) subgenre of Speculative Fiction? Are we just waiting for greybeards and grognards to age out on this one, or is there something else going on?
What’s your stance on abortion? Should it be legal, illegal? When does life begin? What do you think of the current local framework regarding abortion in the US? Is there a country which laws on abortion you prefer.
Contraceptions for teens. Moral or Immoral? What about Plan B? Should access to it limited beginnig with a certain age?
I would totally understand if you want to skip this one.
What are your thoughts regarding euthanasia & whether individuals should have the right to choose when they die?
Which places outside the US did you visit? What did you like about them? What was not so great? Which countries/places do you want to see before you die? And why?
What must be included in the WWW Bill of Rights – Sir Tim Berners-Lee is looking for input.
Some of your funniest life moments.
You’ve talked about having enough story ideas that you don’t need additional ones from other people. Are there any REALLY COOL story ideas that you aren’t going to write that you’d like to throw open to the world?
Speculate on the continuation of individual or merged human consciousness after physical death.
What are your, say, top five living contemporary authors? What do you like them? Which books of them would you recommend as introduction.
What are your thoughts on fixing ‘bad’ literature? Either by rebooting it, re-writing it with a different author, re-editing it, or whatever your take on the subject is.
Oh, and how do you feel self-published/online novel blogs will change publishing?
What does it take to turn one of your books into something on the big screen / TV.. compare and contrast OMW to Redshirts, what involvement you have in each project post-deal, what typical hangups/development hell you’ve experienced. Plus an update on the progress of both projects.
And maybe the chance that if OMW is in development hell, could it be transitioned into a good TV series now that TV is much better and takes more chances these days. (I myself think it would be a better medium for OMW, and if done well like Game of Thrones.. you’re writing future seasons as they will go.
We haven’t seen anything of your clones in the past few years. Care to provide a short photo essay catching us up with them?
It seemed like a good idea at the time…
I’m interested in patent medicines from the beginning of the 20th century, which started me thinking about questionable medicines from my childhood (e.g. mecuricome). What hazards and delights lurk in your own childhood? Did you ever shatter a pair of clackers? Sneak too much orange flavored baby aspirin? Try to fly from your roof? Patent medicine to patently dumb, I leave the choice to you.
Alright, This is pretty cool!
My question is, How do you deal with negativity in your life? Not meaning depression or anything like that but just general negativity. From people being angry at you (Whether it’s someone you’re close to or not) to simple things that just make your life harder than it needs to be. How much to your emotions play into dealing with the situation? And how do you keep for going crazy when it seems the whole world is after you?
It has been my perception that you rarely provide a physical description for the various alien species that you have roaming around the OMW universe; at most you might make a passing comparison to some terrestrial critter (insects, lizards, or, in the case of the Obin, a cross between spiders and giraffes.) Is this an intentional choice, and if so, what lead you to make that choice? Do you have clear pictures in your head for your various characters and species?
A while ago, you mentioned that you thought Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie was representative of the current state of the art in science fiction.
What do you think is the current state of the art in science fiction, and why does that book represent it?
This question came up as part of the discussion of Nelson Mandela’s passing, but I thought it was interesting on its own. So, when did the definition of a Great Man begin to connote perfection? In the Classical world, heroes were often arrogant, murderous, selfish, and the like; however, in contemporary terms, we often hesitate to call someone “great” if they have even the slightest grey smear upon their character or if they commit even one bad act. Thus, I’m curious as to when you think the shift occurred, and what might have caused it.
You have mentioned that you are a big fan of “Winter’s Tale” by Mark Helprin how well did they do making it into a movie? Would you have picked this as a story that belonged on the big screen?
Do you think the country is on the verge of making a big progressive shift, or will we continue to slowly take two steps forward and one step back?
What do you think of Ohio’s attempts to restrict voting in the next election, and of those in Ohio fighting these attempts? Same question applies to many other states, mostly to those currently dominated by Republican politicians.
As both a writer and someone who has been a critic, how do you handle what Hitchcock called “refrigerator logic?” Are there instances where something’s implausibility takes you right out of what you’re reading/watching? Is that a set threshold? And have there been times you had an idea you thought readers might balk at, but pushed ahead anyway in hopes they’d go with it?
Tone! When is it important to keep a polite tone, and when is it okay to just let loose? When is it acceptable to critique someone else’s tone? What is the line between ‘setting boundaries’ and ‘silencing others’?
Typical e-readers (Kindle, Nook) may vary in battery lifetime, screen contrast, etc., but they don’t fundamentally change the way one reads a book. Are there any software/functional changes you’d like to see that might change the reading experience? As a simple functional example, I’d like when reading fantasy books with maps to be able to quickly hit a “Map” button that would pop up the map (rather than opening the Table of Contents, scrolling through the index, finding the map, and repeating to go back to my place in the book).
Why don’t you travel more? Not conventions or business travel or even cruises, but real honest to goodness “pack the family up every summer and spend 3 weeks driving around France or the Grand Canyon or wherever” travel with no work involved? At least from what I’ve seen (could be wrong), it’s not something you’ve ever gone in for–just wondering why.
You’ve included space elevators in your books. Do you follow the period discussions of building one in real life and the ongoing research that goes into that?
Also, do you feel that facial hair makes you a better writer?
If I could choose just one topic I’d love for you to cover, I guess it would be philosophical/rhetorical consistency in in writing novels. I love the blog, but I also really like your books, and you manage to allow the reader to come away from each book having gone through a pretty specific emotional journey (at least if my own reading experiences are any barometer of that). How can you keep an idea in your head and write toward that for so long? It’s exhausting to me, and I’ve been trying and trying for years.
Does and should humanity have top-down planning for the species? What should the plan be?
You’ve commented on various state- and national-level political activities, but what about the great unspoken of Municipal Politics? What do you think of your local municipality? What communities do you admire and/or envy? What communities make you shudder with despair?
So many ideas… death penalty? (its been done to… a lot)
which foreign country would you live in if kicked out of America? (Bora Bora makes the answer too obvious)
How about a back 10/next 10 post? Looking back at some of the things that have changed the most in the last 10 years, say telephones, the republican party, price of tea in Indiana… what do you think has been the most impressive and what do you predict will be the biggest change in 10 years in the future?
What do you think of the current state of scientific research and education in the US (and worldwide)? As someone currently mired in the university system, the combination of recent funding decreases and the lack of accessibility that seems to be inherent doesn’t leave me feeling overly optimistic.
The future of robots: Three Laws Safe? Ubuntu Linux Gone Mad? Or something else?
Specific examples include self-driving cars. The uber-cool cars of “I, Robot” (except when they try to kill Will Smith) or the “Johnny Cab” of the original “Total Recall” (which makes you so mad you rip robot Johnny out of his seat and drive yourself.)
As the father of two young daughters (both under five), I’ve been trying to read books and share other media with my girls to impart both a love of reading and an interest in sci fi and fantasy fare. I’m curious to know what books and media you shared with Athena when she was younger?
Knowing your background related to poverty, and the experiences about it through your entire life, have you ever wonder to write a scifi novel about the topics of poverty and being poor, social classes and social struggles, war, colonialism, imperialism and such topics?
women in the media, how we’re socialized *BY* said media… you sort of talk around this subject? especially when it comes to women in FANDOM [esp with that latest Mary Kowel… thing that happened], but the way we’re treated really honestly seems to start with how we’re portrayed. like… most two year olds could care LESS about whether thing x is “girly” or if doing it would make them seem weak or too butch or WHATEVER.
is that too broad?
I know that you have a sister and I think Krissy also has siblings. Athena appears to be an only child. I’d love to hear your opinions on brothers, sisters, (steps? halfs?) vs. being an only.
I’d like to hear about your experience with libraries. How they work, how they don’t work, but maybe you’d like to *see* them work, what a library of the future might look like in your opinion. Notable librarians you’ve met or worked with.
Also the fact that I am a librarian has nothing to do with this request. (NOTHING.)
Figured I would throw out a few…
How come SFWA writers can’t get along? Liberals and conservatives get along all the time. Have you considered that it might just be that many of you have personality issues and not just the people you don’t like?
Do you follow sports at all? You never post about it (other than your boycott of Sochi)
Where do all the dead pigeons go in New York City? (Saying Chinese Restaurants is lame).
Have you or anyone you know ever been abducted by aliens, visited by ghosts, and or seen bizarre supernatural things?
Would you ever consider legally smoking weed or investing in a legal medical marajuana dispensary?
If your writing career didn’t work out, what was your fall back option?
What would you do if the the zombie war came?
What would it take to get you to have the will to exercise and buff out like Stephen Boyett instead of yo-yo dieting all the time?
Do you have any conservative friends?
Do you have any desire to cameo (Stan Lee style) in any of the movies that may come from your writing?
You took Athena out of school for a week to go on JCCC. What are your thoughts on the value of cool experiences vs. formal education?
Here’s my question.
You have a lot of “internet famous” friends, i.e. everyone from the JoCo Cruise. What’s an interesting story you have about how you’ve met these different people, and do you think that if it weren’t for all of today’s social media you would have still found them and befriended them?
Yes, I read the instructions.
Copyright. For new/aspiring authors, how important is it? How much effort should be put into certifying/confirming copyright with the government?
Is it sufficient to slather a copyright notice on web-published work or self published e-books?
The mis-arrangement of carts and horses applies to me, but hopefully not to others.
I would like to hear your thoughts on liking problematic things, e.g. media with historically accurate but objectionable portrayals of gender/race/etc., media with no historical excuse for the above, media that simply ignore women and people of color, comedians/actors/writers who plant their feet firmly in their mouths way too often… It’s something I spend a fair amount of time on.
Okay so I guess I should give this a crack lol. Do you think that taking a creative writing course would be a good thing for an aspiring 18 year old, or older, novelist (such as myself) to do before trying to get a manuscript published? Or would you recommend another path, or for us to just give it a crack if we think we’re good enough or have at least gotten enough good feedback from unbiased readers?
Ninjas vs Pirates. How could pirates EVER win?
This seems like such a silly contest… ninjas train for years in how to stealthily take people out. Presumably they could stealthily sneak aboard a pirate ship and murder everyone in their sleep. On the other hand, pirates are essentially the rabble of the sea, with spotty discipline, and spotty training in combat techniques.
So my question is: how is this even a contest? What am I missing about pirates that makes this a viable battle and not a red walk in the park for the ninjas?
Do you think people everywhere are more or less the same, or that culture makes a big difference to how people are?
In particularly, have you ever been in close contact with different cultures, for example through travel? Do you think it’s something that people can learn from, perhaps especially writers? Would you like your daughter to have this kind of opportunity, for example by taking a term or a year abroad?
Aside from the occasional comment of being “pear-shaped” and exhausted from touring, you’ve never really talked about the physical and mental tolls writing exacts from you. Are there any, after a marathon writing session? How do you combat them? Are things such as carpal tunnel a concern? Does writing certain scenes get in your head and stay there longer than you’d like?
How about strategies for when your brilliant daughter’s school does something that makes you cringe, such as teaching bad science or history, enforcing unjust rules, or discouraging creativity.
On the one hand, you can’t just say the teacher or school is stupid, because she still has to get along with them. But you don’t want to say they are doing it right, either.
Do you think people are more or less the same in all times and places, or that culture makes a big difference to how people are?
In particular, have you been in close contact with different cultures, for example through travel, and if so how was the experience? Do you think it’s something people, and particularly writers, can find instructive? Would you like your daughter to have opportunities of the kind, for example by taking a term or year abroad?
I’d like to hear your thoughts on gender reversing in writing. Writing as a female character by a male author and/or writing as a male character from a female author. How does this change the emotions of a scene, how does it affect the way you connect with a character? What about romantic scenes?
Is it easier to write an alien than the opposite gender?
You travel a lot for your job (touring, conventions). You mentioned that the JCCC was fun for you despite being a cruise, which you indicated was not the sort of thing you would normally do for its own sake.
I assume that SFF people would be the sort who like to travel, because “worldbuilding” is an essential part of SFF. But I can imagine that doing a lot of travel for work might kick the wanderlust out of anyone.
Do you like to travel? You strike me as the sort of guy who would be interested in seeing different places, and would consider such experiences valuable for yourself as a writer and perhaps for your daughter as a good way to understand the size and variety of the world. Are there places you hope to get to eventually? Favorite places you’ve been? Weird adventures you’ve had in foreign countries?
Can Linux and the larger free and open source software world ever become a viable platform for content creators to be fairly compensated for their work? Is there a “middle road” where authors, musicians, and artists maintain control of distribution without platform restrictions?
Heck I will miss out on this with a few weeks vacation.
Have you ever attempted a “Choose Your Own Adventure” thread? You set parameters of a story to write, and folks would try to fill in the blanks. Heck, we could do a “Human Division” chapter! hehehe
Or how about this: pick a thread topic that shipwrecked sometime earlier, which you think hadn’t had a fair chance, and try it as a “do-over.”. Things always change and now might be the time to find some different perspective.
Wish I could be around to humor things up…
Considering the apparent number and skill of computer hackers, can on-line voting ever be reliable? Or would republican and/or democrat fanatics who believe their party is the only way to save the country make that option impossible?
Would immortality be a blessing, or a curse?
I’d love a discussion of your epic literary feud with Brandon Sanderson. Complete with epic poems, Klingon operas, the Great Pen Scalzibane, and Twitter wars.
More seriously, I’d like your thoughts on the Crimea/Ukraine/Putin mess and the election map for the midterms. A Louie Gohmert joke or three would not go amiss.
While I understand that this specific thing is not in your particular experience (except for the writing/publishing part), I am curious about your suggestions for disabled or chronically ill individuals who want to publish novels. Tips on actually writing, tips on working with agents and publishers, tips on book tours – what do you do for your own situation and how would you suggest modifying it to make it more accessible to people with specific limitations?
For example: I have problems that result in the need for a wheelchair part of the time, an inability to stand for long periods, and a need for frequent resting. Additionally, I occasionally experience joint dislocations in my fingers/wrists (among other joints), making the act of writing somewhat more difficult. I do have modifications I’ve made to my life and working environment to help with this, but I remain curious as to what you, from the other side of writing and publishing, would suggest to me and others.
The state of public education in the US has been on my mind recently. What’s your opinion on things like NCLB and Common Core (and the trend towards lots of testing/teaching to the test)? Any experience/strong feelings about charter and magnet schools – impact on neighborhood schools, fairness of application requirements/lottery process, etc?
Is Science Fiction, and the recently-acquired technology to render it so realistically in cinema, setting the bar so high that NASA (and NewSpace) can do nothing but disappoint the public?
What’s your favorite food? Is it different when writing frantically to a deadline than when living a more relaxed life? What five foods couldn’t you live without? What would you eat for your last meal if you could choose? What would you eat every day if you were stuck in the meal-planning equivalent of Groundhog Day?
When are you going to actually start one of these bands you keeping naming and renaming?
Awesome things about Gen X.
Because spring training is finally here, and I have baseball on the brain: Best baseball movie(s)? Baseball writers whose work you enjoy? Is there a team that you consider “yours”? Has that remained consistent since you were a kid? Favorite current player(s)? How do you feel about the designated hitter rule? PEDs? Hall of Fame Voting? Any other recurring baseball nerd argument I’ve forgotten?
Also, I love and heartily second Liz Argall’s webcomics questions – they’re reflective of my experiences too – and would add: Now that you’ve worked on the graphic novel, are webcomics (or any other form of serialized, sequential art) a medium you might write for in the future?
My other question would’ve been something about the way Athena reads vs the way you read (now and at her age)… but you’ve already touched on that with the Starman Jones post below!
Any current favorite TV shows? What do you like about them?
How has SF has changed over the decades? I’m thinking not so much about the writers, and all that might play into the recent schisms and snarkfests, but about the writing itself. Styles, themes, techniques….
Full disclosure: I have not read other suggestions. I have taken part in career days at UoC and so have traveled there from the western suburbs through, apparently, murder mile.
My question is this: since you were there, do you think the immediate area has improved? Will the (very) nearby presence of an American president change anything with respect to general life on the south side?
I guess that’s a couple of questions. But I think you get my drift.
On the topic of reinterpretations, remakes, and reboots:
Movies are remade regularly by directors with new technologies or techniques. A song by one band adapted and sung by another can feel like a completely new song. Comic book storylines restart regularly (how many times have we seen Batman’s origin, in how many forms?). We sometimes decry the commercialism and lack of creativity this seems to imply, but a remake well-done can provide a new perspective on an old story. New tools, new takes, and new talents can transform the familiar into the exotic with delightful impact (The first time I heard Johnny Cash sing “Hurt” by Nine Inch Nails is my go-to example for that feeling).
Assuming the required permissions, what classic or formative science fiction novels would you like to see revisited today? What older stories would you be most excited to hear in a new voice? And whose voice if you could recommend someone to take on such a task?
Profanity! How the fuck does one use it effectively?
And I mean generally, not just in a writerly way.
Judging by the bits of her life that Athena gives you permission to share, you’ve got a good relationship with your daughter and she’s a kid any parent could be proud of. Any advice for new(er) parents out there that you wish you’d taken to heart/known when you were a younger parent? Most of my friends have very young children now (3 years old or younger), and they’re constantly worrying about how they might “screw up” their kids’ lives.
[Deleted because comments that are not requests get deleted in this thread – JS]
Relating to eapache’s question; do we just perceive reality differently, or do we actually inhabit different realities?
What scientific discovery or discoveries did you find most mind-blowingly amazing or cool in the past few years?
Separation of the Art from the Artist:
I hope it would focus more on your opinions as a fan than as an artist (as I believe you have been pretty clear on that). I’m not asking you to pick a fight in your field: for example Orson Scott Card & Homophobia. There is Hitler and his paintings, and I’m sure with some more thought I could come up with others. When is boycotting good, when is it silly?
Do you think there were lessons learned and changes made post RaceFail and MammothFail and do you think we are due for another soon?
I’d love to hear your thoughts on the potential for video games to change the way we experience stories, by making us active participants in increasingly complex, immersive narratives and virtual worlds. With bestselling SF authors becoming directly involved in these games, and new technology that is increasingly responsive to the participants (e.g. Wii, kinect, biofeedback games like Erin Reynolds’ Nevermind), there seems to be a lot of exciting possibilities here.
I’d really like to learn more about Troll Academy. Yes, this Troll Academy.
(Although, that’s probably something better suited to a short story than a blog post.)
The Matrix introduced us to a different kind of robot, the ghost in the ghost in the machine, haunted by dreams of the flesh. Kurzweil announced recently that his singularity is still 20 years away. (That’s 1 Kurzweil Unit). How does a SF/F writer in 2014 write an original story, interesting to such a spoiled audience, that isn’t completely surreal acid-trip nightmares? Or, put another way, is there an originality that consists purely in how one tells the story? (e.g. The Matrix is a very old gnostic mystery religion trope, beautifully re-told). Is there merit in such wholesale borrowings when the result is so compelling? Is it the result that makes it OK to borrow so heavily from the greats of the past? Or is artistic merit in some kind of creative tension with artistic license?
Would appreciate your thoughts …
What character or psychological traits, if any, would be universal across sentient beings.
For a lot of writers, their alien characters come across as humans in rubbery costumes. Can you talk on creating believable alien characters, especially their psyche, philosophy, and emotions. Where do they differ from humans, where would they be similar.
Of all the books that haven’t been written yet, what is the plot of the book you’d most like to read? Or the movie you’d most like to see?
What do you think it would take to get Lit SF fans (and, for that matter, authors) to pay enough attention to SF & Fantasy anime and manga to a sufficient degree that works start getting nominated for awards?
There is often a difference in how people are expected to respond to abusive romantic and professional relationships (drop them like they’re on fire) vs how people are expected to respond to abusive parental relationships (“but they’re your parents! You can’t just not talk to them”). Should there be difference in expected responses and if so what should that difference be? If not, why not?
Robots (too), but especially ethics. Will we ever have sentient AIs? If so, how do we recognize when it is time to stop treating them like slaves and start treating them like sentient beings? Right now, they are our tools, but someday they might be people. How do we keep from having that realization occur after we’ve already done irreparable harm to the human-AI relationship?
Did you ever have an interest in architecture or interior design? Having recently undergone it, do you find remodeling interesting, particularly the weighing options and deciding on a new look parts of the process? If “John Scalzi, Writer” is the prime world, how unlikely a timeline would involve “John Scalzi, Architect” or engineer? Was there a moment when Architecture/Design was a path you considered–and, if so, was there an event or specific realization that drove you away from that path?
Any advice for a first time convention goer? I’ve never really gone to one, even though I have been a fan and consumer of SF for over four decades. The more I read blog adventures of the fun (or maybe not so much) experiences people have at them, the more I’m considering giving it a whirl. But how do I pick one I’d enjoy? What should I expect to do or see? What should I do to avoid the downsides? What do I look for when I get there? Basically, what do you wish someone had told you before you went to your first (or your fifth) convention?
An issue important to me – How do you feel about the skepticism movement? And folks like James Randi, Michael Shermer, and Phil Plait?
Related, how do you feel about working with people who are decidedly non-skeptic?
Recently I found the editor of an anthology I was accepted to is a self-proclaimed “Spirit Medium” who writes by collaborating with “Spirit Authors.” In other words, she claims that her work is written with the help of long-dead writers. I was so sickened that I’m considering withdrawing my work or asking to use a pseudonym.
Another editor and author, who I truly like, promoted on their blog a fundraiser to help cover medical costs for someone who’d broken a hand. I shared the post before finding out that the person with a broken hand made their living by “energy healing.” Essentially they wave their hands around and charge people money for it. They prey on the suggestible, vulnerable, and grief-stricken. Again, I considered withdrawing all my work, but in this case I really like the editor and don’t wish them anything but success.
I’m rambling, but I look forward to your rambling as well if you choose to dive in on this topic.
Several people have requested your thoughts on dealing with students and/or aspiring writers. Have you ever considered mentoring someone, or felt that at some point in your early career a mentor would have been beneficial? Do you have some ‘dos and do nots’ you would throw in as general commentary on the mentoring relationship?
Do you feel any personal responsibility for the Net’s bacon obsession? It sure seemed to come from either nowhere or a picture of a baffled cat, and then it was everywhere, for all eternity, until the Sun either dies in a supernova or from clogged arteries.
What are your thoughts on the (poor) availability of ebooks in libraries, and does it bother you that your own publisher’s policy means that your books are not available electronically to libraries? Also, ditto on the copyright question.
Why do publishers release a hardback edition first and then wait so long to release the same work as a paperback?
Do you think that anyone other than Hillary Clinton has a realistic shot at the Democratic nomination in 2016? Who do you see as the future face of the Democratic Party?
How can someone like myself who exclusively buys ebooks support their local independent bookstore? These stores can be a great source for suggestions on relatively unknown authors and books, but at the end of the day I have no desire (or room) to buy the dead-tree versions from them.
I love the pictures you post of your yard. I now live in a suburb with a postage stamp sized yard and I covet your land – I want to put in garden and orchard and hobby farm. But it looks like nothing is happening at your place. Why not?
@mtpettyp check here: http://www.indiebound.org/ebooks
Would you be interested in discussing the portrayal of women in Isaac Asimov’s work? Asimov gets criticized for writing women as 1950s housewives, but even his housewives were often fully formed people who had their own minds and acted on them. And sometimes, they were even the main character.
What is your favorite book to read in the tub?
1. When you write to write, you can adjust your future to fit the demands of your story; it doesn’t matter if you think it’s a likely future. With a nod to all the ink that other science fiction writers have spilled explaining why they’re bad at prediction, what’s your best guess about what the future is *actually* going to be like? In 10 years? In 50?
2. You’ve spent years managing a very active and successful discussion forum. Is the software you’re using to do so perfect? What would your ideal discussion forum be? If you wrote a science fiction story starring a discussion forum, what would it look like?
I would love to hear you reflect on digging out from one of the coldest, snowiest winters on record. I personally think the old “domed city” idea should be revisited. Snow really loses its “White Christmas” appeal when piled six feet high on each side of the driveway.
What’s your opinion on so-called cryptocurrencies (Bitcoin, Litecoin, Dogecoin, etc)? Do you think there’s any future in them, or are they all a load of shit?
What are your hopes and dreams for your daughter’s life, and the future world she (and her possible future children) will live in?
Somethin’ about the University of Chicago?
What is your relationship to and opinion of fanworks or derivatives works insofar as they relate to your novels? Stuff like cosplay, fan art, and fan writing.
The SF/F community has a long history of fanzines, fan conventions, fan groups and the like, but as a young person my experience around fandoms (of all media types) has mostly related to writing and drawing on platforms like Tumblr, Livejournal, and fanfiction.net/archiveofourown.com. For example, your recent novel, Redshirts, could certainly be viewed as a kind ascended fan fiction.
I know some writers, like Terry Goodkind, take a hard line against derivative/community works. I get the impression you would have a more nuanced view.
Where in this world have you not traveled to, but would like to visit someday?
Last year I heard a sci-fi author expressing his disappointment that so many stories set in the future paint a picture of a dystopian hell. His argument is that people should be excited about the things science is discovering which lead to fantastic new technologies that will make the future awesome. It seemed like the underlying message was that if we keep delivering dark, depressing pictures of the future to younger generations, they’ll have less to strive for.
I can see his point, but, I also realize we live in a cynical age full of people who enjoy cynical entertainment. Do you have any thoughts on this?
The Statue of Liberty: has she imported French rudeness into New York culture? More generally, defend the US Constitution and its amendments against alternative cultures, where politeness and conformity are enforced. pic.twitter.com/V9ZmSnKykl
One of my favorite books is Ursula K. Le Guin’s “The Lathe of Heaven”.
A) because I really enjoy the writing and
B) because it’s about dreams. Dreams that alter the reality no less…
I love my dreams and remember most of them, but would love to have so called “lucid dreams” where one can alter the reality of one’s dream
and, if properly applied, can also practice things, e.g. motion sequences for athletics or typing.
Do you remember your dreams?
Did you ever have lucid dreams and if so did they help you in any way?
If you had a similar gift as George Orr’s but could decide what to change (cue: lucid dream) and how – would you want to use it and if so for which purpose?
While I understand that you are primarily a science fiction genre writer, have you ever thought about crossing into other genres such as Steampunk, Horror, Sword & Sorcery etc. I know you’ve answered this question before years ago, but I’m curious if now that you have reached a comfortable state of financial security if the answer is the same, or if you might be willing to risk bringing you delightful sense of humor into other fields as well.
The swashbuckling negro airship captain who spies out and pirates confederate arms shipments for the north under the guise of being owned by his first mate, or the clever female duelist who trumps her misogynistic opponents by exploiting their misconceptions of her weakness all the way to becoming a champion for the arch-mage of wherever.
That kind of thing.
Under what circumstances might you move back to city living?
What are your feelings about the influence of technology on children? I have a 20 month old daughter, and I’m constantly debating on how much I should allow her to watch TV, play on the tablets, and generally play with technology. Am I creating a souless, anti-social drone? I’m just wondering your thoughts on this subject.
What non-anglo SF most interests or influences you?
You’ve occasionally commented on Aspergerians on your blog, sometimes in a slightly odd fashion(IE about Ayn Rand), so I’m curious.
What are your thoughts on Aspergerians(and high-functioning autism people in general)? Is there any advice you’d have for them, thoughts about what they do, anything in general?
How do you budget and manage your finances as a freelancer? You’ve written in passing about living below your means. And it seems like Krissy has a regular monthly paycheck type of day job, but how do you fit income that varies in amount and in arrival date into your spending plan? I’ve read horror stories of writers who knew advances and royalties were due getting their checks six months or more late. It seems like a difficult way for the non trust fund baby to live.
I just saw the new Sin City trailer, and it got me thinking about how adaptations are made for books/graphic novels, etc.. So I was thinking, which of your works would you like to see adapted into a graphic novel, which would work best in that format? Or maybe, what do you think of the Zack Synder style of moviemaking, and how it tries to interpret radically different graphic novels like 300 and watchmen. Especially since we just saw the release of a new bombastic movie about Salamis. Or even which graphic novel adaptation is your favorite? Mine is the Hedge Knight by George R.R. Martin, it has really nice art.
What do you do to center yourself/deal with strong emotions such as anger and stress?
What does your bucket list look now as opposed to 10 years ago?
I’m interested in hearing your thoughts about potential changes to Social Security in the USA.
For instance: there have been proposals in the past (both of which failed in committee, IIRC) to modify Social Security such that the benefit paid out by Social Security would vary based on whether the individuals in question had kids who were working members of society. As I understand it, the general premise was to have a base benefit for anyone paying into Social Security, but to have the adjustment in benefits serve as a partial, albeit long-term, offset to the expense of raising a productive member of society. Given that our birth rate is below replacement level in the USA, this makes some sense to me, but the administrative headaches of it appear enormous.
Personally, I favor raising the Social Security normal retirement age to age 70 (it’s currently 67 for anyone born in 1960 or later)—preferably by grading up to that in a fashion similar to the current grading between 66 and 67—and changing the taxable wage base to a benefits wage base. The change from a taxable wage base to a benefits wage base would remove the cap on Social Security taxes by individual but would maintain the limit on benefits which could be received.
Obviously, there are lots of practical and political issues for all of the above, but I’m more interested in your views on what the social impacts might be for changes of this type and what you would like to see happen with Social Security.
1. Where do you think privileged folks should draw the line when joking about bigotry that does not oppress them? Putting it another way: what’s the difference between humour about bigotry and bigoted humour?
2. At your age, what do you know about middle aged folks that you wish you’d known when you were younger? Putting it another way: what advice would you give to a young adult feeling maddened by perplexing interactions with their bosses, their parents et al?
(Note: I’d prefer to be credited by my real name, Mihir Mehta.)
(Note: I’m OK with my questions being paraphrased.)
How do you think the 2014 mid-term elections will turn out ? I’m feeling pretty certain that the Democrats will take back some seats in Congress because of a series of what, to me, are incredibly bone-headed moves by the GOP. But I’m also self-aware enough to note that this could be due to wishful thinking on my part.
On the gripping hand, I also live in a heavily conservative part of the country (Texas, not-Austin), and this tends to exacerbate my paranoia about far-rightwing political types…
I would like to reinforce the suggestion from Calli,, “What scientific discovery or discoveries did you find most mind-blowingly amazing or cool in the past few years?” It seems these discoveries tend to fuel the imaginations of SFF writers (and the rest of us) and I am wondering what we have learned lately that came as a surprise?
The Drake Equation. Where the heck is everybody?
I’m always interested in your take on parenting. You may have covered this before though.
I suspect since you are very open with Athena that you don’t have any restrictions on dating, but I am curious as to how you have talked about it with her.
What advice on dating have you given her and what advice do you have to parents of teenage daughters. For me, what advice do you have for parents of teenage sons who may be interested in your(any you, not you – John – specifically) teenage daughter.
What if over the next few years, prior to high school, Athena came home pregnant?
I have a question about money, about which you’ve already written quite a lot, both not having it (“Being Poor”) and having it (your willingness to discuss your income and such).
Without knowing much about your life story, I gather that you to have gone from a place of relative or absolute poverty to one of affluence. If this is more-or-less correct, I’m wondering if this transition (as wonderful as it was) involved any pitfalls, learning curves, mistakes, etc. I’ve read a number of accounts of lottery winners, for instance whose lives are utterly ruined by a large influx of wealth. And while the lottery is an extreme example, I can personally attest, as someone who grew up poor and is now fairly well-off, that this transition took a serious psychological adjustment and was not without stupid mistakes, both financially and socially (the difference in my economic status relative to my friends was something that took too long for me to become sensitive to, for instance). What was it like for you?
You’ve talked about your home and what you like about it, and I’ve enjoyed that. If you could live anywhere, where would it be? What are your criteria for good places to inhabit?
What specifically do you enjoy about pie? Are there any kinds of pie you don’t enjoy? What kind of crust do you like? What is your favorite kind of pie?
Mike Rowe, his foundation Mike Rowe Works and his endorsment of Wal-Mart and their commitment to investing 250 billion in U.S. manufacturing.
Poetry. What do you love and why? Why does it seem to have dropped off our current popular cultural radar?
I’d be interested to read your spin on this topic (which I found 3 jumps from a post here): http://www.exjon.com/1/post/2014/02/america-the-offended.html
I’m not familiar at all with the author and don’t have time to find out, but IMO that particular piece was thought-provoking in several ways.
I think you, John, have struck a good balance between sensitivity to, and respect for, others’ feelings –vs– not wasting time and energy on people who go out of their way to be offensive for no constructive purpose (unless, of course, it’s entertaining!).
How has Twitter affected your writing experience, particularly here on the blog. Although I’d be interested if it affects your fiction writing as well.
(Secondary question : Do you follow Ghlaghghee’s feed?)
Having seen some pretty decent books turned into amazingly bad movies I was wondering what rules you might like to apply if someone approached you with an offer for movie right to one of your novels. Would you like to be involved writing the screenplay? Could you just abandon your baby to the tender mercies of Hollywood? What wold your feelings be if they turned it into a real turd that everyone, including you, thought stunk? Who do you think would be the first to say “Scalzi sold out”?
Canada. The 51st state or the next superpower? Discuss.
As a writer, what is your opinion of used bookstores? Is there an acceptable tradeoff between making money on your work through new purchases vs recirculating dead trees in book form?
What are your thoughts on the process of traveling (the getting from point a to point b part, not the being at point b part)? What do you love about it? What do you hate about it? How could it be made better with current technological and cultural restraints? What is your dream mode of travel?
Last year you said “male geekdom is extraordinarily status sensitive” in the discussion of women and geekdom. Could you please say more about this? As a woman in geekdom, I would like to peek behind the curtain and get a glimpse of what life is like for the men.
For several years now Brandon Sanderson has considered you his “Nemesis*.”
Now, some may know and some may not that almost all of his fantasy novels are set within the same larger universe he calls his Cosmere. No one truly *needs* to know this to enjoy his books as each series/world stands alone quite well. However, and especially with his most recent series, The Stormlight Archive (“The Way of Kings” and “Words of Radiance”), some of his characters can world-hop and appear as cameos or Easter eggs in series other than their “native” ones.
While this is primarily a treat for Sanderson’s dedicated readers (guilty!), he’s publicly stated that there is an over-arching Cosmere wide meta-conflict/plot that is slowly emerging over the course of his books**. What’s more, he expects it will take 36 novels total (I could be wrong on this detail) to tell that story in full.
The implication here is that you may need to step up your game, sir. How do you intend to respond to Brandon the Upstart?
Alternatively, if my above snark is a bit too grating, if you have any thoughts about storytelling on this scale (which is certainly ambitious!), use this as a jumping off point. :)
* – Regardless of whether or not this is still the case, I’m running with it for this post.
** – This is the meat of my question. Each of Sanderson’s series and stand-alone novels so far works well on the “usual” level– they’re great stories already. In my mind he’s absolutely earned his reputation as a quality and even visionary author. But there’s already enough tidbits about the larger Cosmere in the books he’s published so far to feed a community of theorycrafters frantic enough to put the Wheel of Time crew to shame!
Were you surprised that few people seemed to recognize the huge plot hole in Redshirts? I have always assumed you put it there on purpose as part of the joke, but I’m surprised how rarely I see it discussed.
Artificial Intelligence, both current status and potential future, and ethics. Implications, rights, etc.
would you write a short story for playboy if solicited? or do you intend to pull someday some strings to make this happen?
and, on some other territory, which country/-ies have you always dreamed of visiting, but you didn’t make it there yet? who is to blame for this and what do you intend to do in order to make things right?
A very entertaining and thought-provoking book is Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline. He foresees a world in 2044 where advances in computers and sensors allow a completely immersive virtual reality network. In this network are carefully delimited sectors, and in each sector, are spectacularly detailed worlds from our favorite novels, movies, video games, and television shows. Imagine that you could visit and experience Middle Earth from the LOTR, the Star Wars Empire, the Star Trek Federation. Or Robert Heinlein’s Future History words? And not just limited to fantasy and SF. You can visit Arthur’s Britain or Laura Ingalls Wilder prairie. Two questions to you, John: what worlds would you like to visit, and do you think we are doomed as a species, a la Wall-E, once the technology creates such desirable and realistic real worlds that we no longer want to inhabit our poor reality?
You’ve commented from time to time that you’re a distractible guy with a lack of organization, but hyperfocused when on deadline. (Which sounds super familiar.) So my question is regarding ADHD and/or mental illness. How does it or might it affect a writing life? What are some work strategies that you might recommend to people who deal with a significant level of brain static on a day to day basis?
How much do you think that science fiction writers influence science? Clearly, scifi writers have to do their research to flesh out their ideas. But what about the affect that the writer’s work might have on research scientists?
And perhaps related, would there be any merit in science education to consider having more science students actually take on the task of creative writing to help them gain a better understanding of how their work and their interests might affect society at large?
Douglas MacArthur once said “Never get involved in a land war in Asia.” Was he insane or a genius?
What do you do when you’re asked to review a book, you agree to review a book, and then you really don’t like the book? How do you deal with the inner turmoil of balancing the need and desire to promote authors and novels with your desire to announce to the world that, gently, the book you just read is crap?
Should we bring back extinct animals through cloning or other scientific breakthroughs?
You’ve done (or are doing) Lent at least twice now that I know of, mostly for horizon broadening purposes for yourself and Athena. Have you ever considered trying out Ramadan?
I have enjoyed sci-fi/fantasy (more toward the fantasy side) since taking a wonderful flight to the Mushroom Planet in the 70’s. I enjoy the genres, but don’t call them home. I don’t know the names. I don’t know the off-paper drama. So, when I walk into Powell’s looking for my next book, I’m lost. Which author is going to hold my attention? Which author needs to fire her editor?
Robin Hobb kept me engaged for a time, while Brandon Sanderson filled in as I waited for the last book to publish and about the time I finished their works to date a friend in Malaysia pointed me to the blog of an author she followed called whatever and I started reading his stuff. It was well written, too, but I’m caught up on past works and don’t want to wait for his next book to drop before I read something.
Let’s assume I would like to start reading from a breadth of authors, not devouring one writer at a time, what advice would you give a person seeking a well-written sci-fi novel in a bookstore, armed with a smartphone, anonymous patrons, and/or possibly helpful employees? How can I prepare myself beforehand to increase the likelihood of purchasing a book I am going to enjoy?
You have covered before how your location helps keep you surrounded by people who have different political and other views other than yourself. How about discussing how does that impact your relations with your friends and neighbors.
I have friends on all different sides of the political and world view and I find it hard to balance sometimes. For example I have a wonderful woman I know who has the biggest heart and is incredibly political astute but is against vaccinating her kids. I just don’t know what to say. I have another friend who had dedicated his life to his family and helping veterans adapt from active duty but really believes that Obamacare will destroy this county. Did I mention he works for the VA???? I am willing to educate someone who is open but these are huge belief disagreements. One friend gives more to the homeless than me but considers being gay a sin. I am very open minded and I try to be kind but sometimes, I just shake my head and have to walk away before I flat out insult them.
How do I build good relations with nice people who are just completely against one of my core beliefs. (This is not using cartoonish bad guys but real people with positives and negatives).
Is it just me, or has the subject of gender identity gotten super complicated in the last 10-15 years (publicly at least, I realize that for people dealing with the issue personally, it’s probably been complicated for a whole lot longer)? It seems like any discussion of the subject can turn contentious at the drop of a hat. Thoughts?
There is a lot of discussion concerning the possibility of some form of immortality available to humans within fifty or so years.
A website with the URL 2045.com lays out their vision of a transhuman future.
In Brief, this is their roadmap :
“1. Avatar A
Anthropomorphic Robot Controlled Through a Brain-Computer Interface
2. Avatar B (Body B)
Support Systems for Vital Brain Functions
3. Avatar C (Rebrain)
Synthetic Carriers of Personality and Consciousness
4. Avatar D
A hologram-like avatar”
If the vision of transhumanism as postulated by the folks at 2045.com, or other organizations working towards the same vision of humanity merging with machines comes true, what will happen to our society? Family? Will love still exist if we move from a physical life form to a synthetic based life form? Will interest in god and organized religion evaporate if death is erased from the equation? What are your thoughts sir?
Do you ever worry about where your food comes from? Industrial vs local, organic vs non? Given the increase in recalls and the looming potential of failure of antibiotics, how would you go about making changes? Food banks seem to be losing resources, and small farmers seem to be having a harder and harder time. Most food is shipped in from California or Florida, if grown in the States. (I kind of ask this question because I was recently informed that our fabulous farmer’s market will not be returning this summer, and I’m bummed. They had given the food that had not sold at the end of the market to the food bank.)
When is responding to internet hate taking a stand for your rights and when is it feeding the trolls? Where do you draw the line between the two and how do you identify a situation where it’s important to engage, and where it’s important NOT to engage? Do you think the standards are different for people who are famous/internet-famous vs the rest of us? Do you think it’s different for members of the privileged class vs minorities (of any kind: gender, gender identity, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion/non-religion, etc.)
You are a vocal advocate for minorities in fandom. How did you come to the realization that it was important to defend groups of which you were not a part?
This one might be Asked and Answered, but as a relative newcomer to your blog, I have not been able to binge-read all your back entries. If there’s an existing entry, I’d love a pointer towards it.
I’d like to see you write about advocacy.
You have a history of using your extensive social outreach for advocacy of historically marginalized populations within geekdom. As far as I can tell, you do so in two primary ways:
(1) Promoting authors individually and directly, whether by lending them a space on your blog, discussing their work, or associating with them via social media.
(2) Addressing the cultural issue broadly, such as with your “Lowest Difficulty Setting” essay, highlighting the necessity for harassment policies at conventions by refusing to attend any that don’t have them, etc.
Do you see any tangible evidence of effects? For instance, have you heard back from any straight white dudes who were finally able to understand privilege, or that shifted into a greater meta-awareness of their reading habits?
If not, do you have any speculation as to what effects you, and other authors like you who are doing these same sorts of things, are having in the broader SF/F-verse?
Further, writing from privilege — well, it’s easy to come off as boneheaded, and learning the difference between lending someone your voice and stealing theirs is not always easy (at least, it isn’t for me). You’re pretty good at negotiating this. Being a straight white dude yourself, did you ever have trouble here? If you never had any difficulty with this, do you think it has something to do with growing up poor, and thus having greater capacity for empathy and understanding of marginalization due to your own experiences?
If some enterprising young (or old) inventor/engineer/physicist developed a completely pollution-free, no-cost sustainable energy source that could power every device on the planet and then some (again, at zero cost to anyone) that the power brokers of this world (whose interests are so invested in combustable forms of energy that make them very wealthy) would allow it to see the light of day? Do you think they could stop it?
Have you been exposed to (or sought) foreign fiction (books, tv, movies etc…) in the past or currently ? If yes, what genres, what media ? in what way did it grab you (or didn’t) ? I’m not asking if it influenced you in writing since you asked for no questions about that, but I’m interested in your eventual experience from the “consumer” point of view, I guess.
That’s all from me :)
Diet, two aspects in particular.
1. The bad feelings between different diet advocates ( in particular vegan vs. Paleo) seem almost religious at times and every one claims to have science backing them up. For the record, I stick with “real food” leaning toward paleo, mostly because we all feel healthy and avoid problem foods.
2. Young people ( especially girls but increasingly applicable to boys) and body image. As a thinking man who is raising a teenage daughter, do you encounter any insecurity or anger from her on the subject? My daughter (15) is quite happy with herself and recognizes that health is more important than image and is quite secure with her body, but several of her friends seem always anxious, sometimes to the point of paranoia, about whether this or that will make them fat. Young people are constantly being bombarded with messages about what they can and should or should not eat, and this diet will make you beautiful and so on. Do you think our nations obsession with dieting is damaging the mental and physical health of our youth?
Some friends of mine have serious issues with allergies – the members of their family have a number of allergies to to various things, from pollen and animal fur, to various foodstuffs, and with a seriousness that ranges from just annoying to ”Where’s the EPI pen, and call the EMTs NOW!!”
I am not sure if any of them aren’t able to get vaccines due to these allergies, but I know that there are people out there who can’t have vaccines due to their medical condition, or have not gotten them yet (e g babies, who can’t have their DPT shots until they are two months old.) They are depending on herd immunity for their protection against the diseases that the vaccines prevent.
Enter the anti-vaxxers. They clutch tightly the thoroughly debunked claim that vaccines cause autism, or that getting dieases like measles is actually good for you (it isn’t so. You can actually die of those diseases.) or that the power of prayer keeps sickness away.
What do you think of this sort of thing? And have you gotten your recommended booster shots?
What sort of amendment(s) to the US Constitution would you most like to see become law? If you like, feel free to discuss both proposals that could possibly be passed in the not too distant future and proposals that you might like but that are realistically not going to happen (at least not within the lifetimes of anyone alive today).
Do you have feelings on the whole shop local/support your independent bookstore (and/or LCBS) movement vs the very different community/personalized experience of online shopping? (I’m a recent hire at an independent bookstore, so I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately in re: my own shopping habits and what I want my community to do.)
I watch time sensitive/ topical shows (SNL, daily show, Colbert, late night) the next day on hulu, and everything else on Netflix months or years after it aired. No traditional broadcast TV. These viewership habits, which I assume are shared at least partially by much of the target redshirts demographic, seem increasingly prevalent. How does that affect expectations? Where do you see TV headed?
two more questions from me:
-are you interested in sports, do you follow some team?
-have you ever thought of writing a novel out of your confort area, like a mainstream one or in some other nice (crime, political,…)?
I know, this is sort of a writing question, but to what extent do you believe that I, as a writer, am responsible to portray three-dimensional non-cisgendered straight white people? Am a propagating so much of what is wrong with our culture if my characters are straight? Or if they’re white?
Harold “Sonny” White & affiliated topics pertaining to:
What could happen Next if his Eagleworks experiment re Alcubierre metric appears to support the math?
How do you see us (readers of this blog)?
What are we to you?
Are we a faceless mass murmuring in the background? Gargoyles on the edges of your posts cackling and shoving each other around? Or are we mice scurrying through the sea of grass that is this blog?
Tangent: How does this sense of audience differ between your blog and novels?
There will be a new Lykke Li album this year. Are you as psyched as I am? Ok, this one is not as serious.
I would like to know your thoughts and feelings on this complex of topics: trash, garbage, junk, recycling, hoarding, waste, excess.
How work you revise the Hugo Award process, categories?
There have been discussions in this blog about whether to watch a major sports event, given the questions people had about ethics of the organizers, and whether to watch certain movies, given the questions people had about the ethics of the organizers. Is there a moral difference between financially supporting sport or art, when you have moral doubts regarding those who create the framework for the sport event or artwork to exist?
You post pictures of huge stacks of new books/ARCs all of the time – how many of them are you able to read? Is there anything you do to read through (some of) them faster, that you perhaps don’t do with other books?
Looking at the recent pile of books from Baen, it occurred to me that every book, with the possible exception of the Heinlein reprint, was part of a series. My reader question/topic – is the stand-alone F/SF novel dead? Passé? Obsolete?
It’s bad enough that the movie industry insists on re-cycling characters to death. (Yeah, we really -need- yet another Batman-Superman-Spiderman iteration.)
But novelists could be a bit more novel. I hate going through the shelves and so many books are ‘Part 4 of the blah-blah-blah cycle’. Honestly, do you only have four good characters in you?
PS, John, I don’t mean this to include follow-up novels aka the OMW books. I mean series where the author deliberately seems to write only part of the story -as a complete book-. I call BS on that, and don’t buy them.
It’s generally accepted that fiction writers have to stretch the truth in order to get an engaging story. And I’ve seen people be totally accepting of inaccuracies in one work while raking another across the coals for taking certain liberties. So my question is: when reading/viewing/listening to a work of fiction, how much leeway (if any) do you give the creator with regards to their relationship with reality?
Reflecting back on your and wife’s childhoods, what events experiences did you wish your daughter could have had? But chance and location has not let happen.
You and I are the same age. In elementary school, I had a best friend who live up the street. I could say, “Mom, I am going to Peter’s to play.” No prior phone call, just show up at the door.” My 10 year old does not have a friend close by to do that. Children do not take their bikes and bike over to a friends. That lack of spontaneity seems to have disappeared, or is it present in the rural country side?
This is an example of a larger question of how Americans interact with each other has changed over our lifetimes. How often is your family invited out to a family dinner, has it increased of decreased over your life time? What does that say about American society?
Integral Theory and Spiral Dynamics Theory (Wilber and Beck) are new ways of looking at everything from politics to economics to spirituality and religion. (It is good at distinguishing the the religion/science paradox.) The Clintons and (less publicized) Obama have expressed a strong interest in this paradigm. I find it an exciting, new way of looking at societal organization and evolution. In particular, it explains a lot about American politics. Others find it elitist. Do you have any thoughts on this?
If you were to go back to when you first started Whatever and give yourself some advice, what would it be?
I haven’t read the other requests – sorry, I have a set of essays and another of exams to grade. But I was wondering what you think of steampunk as a genre – what directions you might like to see it go, or something you think might be cool that no one has done as yet. Could you see yourself writing something in that genre? You could address this as a single question, or answer any part of it -as always, whatever you feel like saying would be interesting.
What from the world of today would impress the you of twenty or twenty five years ago?
Crowd Shaming Companies/People – specifically #SaveJosh
This past year there has been a number of instances of companies behaving badly. With twitter, Facebook, and all the other social media outlets these situations can gain a lot of visibility very quickly.
Unfortunately, the usually complex situations get boiled down to 140 characters. All of the stories seem to be one sided. Lots of times in cases like #SaveJosh companies change course.
My question is specifically on the #SaveJosh situation. A small pharmaceutical company had denied a parents attempt to receive life saving medication for their child. The family then used social media very effectively to crowd shame the company and make them change their position. What is your view on the outcome of this situation?
As soon as I saw this story I was interested in your view point. You tend to have a pretty good moral compass. This story involves a number of emotional topics, but you have a way to look at it logically and focus on the important aspects. Some of the potential issues are technology being denied to those it could save, small companies who cannot afford to “give away” their product, others whose story did not go viral and will not receive help, intellectual property rights, companies who receive government research money and their obligation to citizens, etc.
I remember the cool video you showed of Athena seeing a record for the first time. What was she like as a kid growing up in rural Ohio and seeing the Ocean for the first time. I ask because I grew up next to the sea and when I travelled to try outback in Australia being so far from the sea felt weird
I’d like to know your process for taking the initial dialogue that you write when first typing out a novel and improving it. It’s one of my biggest issues–I write dialogue that seems realistic enough, but I need to learn a little about making it more than just realistic.
There is coming a time of long space voyages. Years. Decades. Or one-way. Suppose you were asked to go as a recorder — or for sake of argument any type of specialist. Would you go to the Moon? Mars? Saturn’s moons? Alpha Centauri? as part of the first long duration mission there? Assume your family’s economic well-being is guaranteed.
I would be interested to hear what you think about the technical aspects of publishing an episodic story like The Human Division. How well do the various e-book sellers handle episodic content? Is it improving or changing? If you were all-powerful and could boss Amazon (and its competitors) around, how would you make episodic publishing work?
For context, I purchased all of the episodes of The Human Division episodes separately from BN.com for reading on my Nook.There doesn’t seem to be any way for the individual episode purchases to be combined into the final “novel” version of the book, so it takes up quite a lot of space on my virtual shelf. I’m no longer bitter about the extra story in the combined version, though it annoyed me quite a lot when I first learned about it.
I hope that for the next “season” the technical bits will be more convenient!
One more request. Can you please get Joe Hill to blog more. Always check his tumblr and JoeHillFiction.com and am usually disappointed to find no updates. Or at least nothing other than photos.
Today he came through, at least, with a post on Agents of Shield
Your comment about Baen and their predilection toward conservative sci-fi hit a note with me. I had long ago noticed that I really like most of the stuff from some imprints (Gollancz, for example) and really dislike some, and it’s obvious that various imprints have various preferences for what they like to publish. But, I’m too lazy and unknowledgeable to actually put together a categorization of such things.
So, my request: can you provide a list of current sci-fi imprints along with your description of what sort of leanings/preferences/sorts of material they like to publish? It’s free-form, categorize their stuff however you like. I think this might be helpful for a lot of readers to discover stuff they’d like.
For a new reader (me) what 4 or 5 of your blog posts would you say best represent the type of person you are. As a bonus could you please include one post you kind-of regret posting?
Desert Island Disks (see Wikipedia entry): What eight pieces of music would you take? Which book (or compilation) would you take? (& would you substitute something else for The Complete Works Of Shakespeare and the Bible?) And what would be the luxury you would take with you?
If time travel WERE possible, to what day/date would you go to & who would you hope to meet/what would you hope to see?
In the superhero comic based on your life, Gamma Rabbit, who is your arch-nemesis?
Healing the rifts in SF fandom and learning to respect each other, even as we disagree. :-/
World Travel – which countries have you visited? Which would you like to visit, and why? Which would you prefer to avoid, and why? Are there any particular tourist destinations you’d recommend or dis-recommend to others (and, of course, why/why not?)
On reaching the forties – you’re not dead, and you’re not actually old yet, but the symptoms are starting to show (for example, at 43 this year, my eyes are fine, but my arms are getting too short to hold the phone book where it’s legible). The various prosthetic aids for the ageing are presumably starting to appear on the horizon. Which of them are you dreading most, and why?
A third one, which is sparked by reading the rest of the questions leading up to these: In these questions, I’m noticing a lot of questions about your thoughts on sports – football teams and the like. So, I’d be interested in reading something from you about sport and the way various cultures use it – whether it be as a bonding mechanism, or a way of allowing tribal tensions to bubble away at a low simmer without erupting into outright warfare, etc. Do you think sport is serving an important need? Would we find something else to replace it if we had to? Pulling it around to SF, it’s interesting that very few SF novels seem to have anything equivalent to sporting competitions in them (fantasy is another matter entirely) – any thoughts on why that might be?
My son and only child is 16. Watching him grow up — with all the details that entails — has delighted me. He’s a sophomore and just recently it’s dawned on me it won’t be long before he flies the nest, as they say, to start a life that won’t include his mom as much as I’ll want it to! While I can’t wait to see the adult he becomes, I find myself more and more nostalgic. I’m wondering: also as the parents of an only child, how do you two feel about the oh-so-quick passage of time with your teenager?
I’m 48, almost 49. When people ask me what I do for a living, I answer them that I’m an independent accountant for not-for-profit organisations. When they ask me who I am, I tell them I’m a historian turned accountant. They invariably ask me what happened, and I invariably tell them I got a university degree in history but didn’t see a professional career in that. So, after much agonizing and lots of bad career choices, I finally found out that I liked turning invoices into balance sheets and balance sheets into good advice for organisations strapped for cash. But I’m still a historian at heart.
My question for you: I understand you attended the University of Chicago and studied philosophy. So what were your career prospects with a degree in that specific area, and
how did you go from there to becoming a professional writer?
Question – How do you intend to maintain editorial independence given that you are now working with one of the largest international media conglomerates, headed by a notorious right-winger billionaire?
I’ve moved a lot in my life, enough so that I get confused when people ask me where I’m “from”. After all, the idea of “home” and of a hometown can mean a lot of things. Is it where you were born? Where you grew up? Where you’ve lived the longest? Where you culturally fit in the best? Where family is? Where you currently live?
What does “home” mean to you? Where do you consider yourself “from”, in your definition of the term?
When you’re working on a story, how do you know when you’re done? When it feels right? When your list of things to fix is empty? When a self-imposed clock runs down?
What’s your favorite historical period—to read about, to pop into some sort of time machine and go see, or (if you were to be cast back down the timeline by some angry deity) to live in?
I teach college. I get tired of the “oh this generation is horrible” talk that’s been going on for centuries, but as a parent of teenagers and a college teacher, I’m starting to think that there is a bit of change going on due to the overwhelming “on-lineness” of kid’s lives. I’m not entirely sure it’s bad although I do have a some knee-jerk reactions. I also seem to be seeing changes in myself for the same reason.
This is a long introduction to my question: As a parent of a teen, do you see the generation that’s growing up now approaching the world differently than we did? (Lo, these many years ago) If so, what do you see as positive or negative about it? If not, I guess it’s a pretty boring question. (I’m not putting in specifics because I’m curious to see if you come up with the same observations I have.)
Thanks for keeping up this blog. Makes me smile and makes me think – two of my favourite things.
Do you see yourself as a romanticist or classicist with regards to your writing? I tend to think of genre fiction, including all the permutations of speculative fiction, as classical in nature because genres are defined by thier distinct rules, content, and structures. Mind you, my thinking has on occasion let me down, even when I actually understand the subject at hand.
Do you do any birdwatching? I imagine in a rural area, you’d see lots of birds, especially during migration season.
(I needn’t ask if the cats do birdwatching– they probably do birdhunting, too!)
Do you find that you censor yourself here on The Whatever because Athena is reading (or at least has the access to read) your posts? I’m not talking about refraining from posting personal stories about her without her permission (that’s more of a common courtesy); this is a question of avoiding certain topics
I know I’m coming late to the game on this, but I hope my question will still be interesting enough to consider.
Having lived in large and large-ish metropolitan areas, is it now harder to live out in the “country”? I mean, I know you’re not *far* from civilization, but it does seem like you have a fairly nice buffer from it. Is that comforting? Or challenging? Either way, in what ways and why?
I ask because it seems like moving out of a major metropolitan area would be a way to save money, but I don’t think I could live so far away from city life. Yet, you seem to do just fine and I’m curious how you do that and how you feel about it. The Scalzi Compound seems nice, but it’s a long way from Chicago or L.A. (or New York, where publishers are rumored to live!). Don’t you miss the big city? And is it cheaper or easier to live out where you do?
Inquiring minds, or at least mind, want to know!
Is there anything you’ve written that is sitting in a drawer/file cabinet that will never see the light of day?
This might be a bit…. personal. ;-)
We all know of (and celebrate/mock) your love of Coke Zero as caffeine delivery system of choice. How did this come about? Did you experiment in college? Was there something you preferred, back in the day, that went off the market, and this was your next-best thing? Do you occasionally peruse other beverages out of curiosity or a sense of novelty?
In short, what’s the story of you and your soft drinks, so far?
My students and I are interested in knowing what it is like to work with an editor? Specifically, what happens when they want something and you want something else? How do you solve these kinds of issues? I would love to see some discussion of this.
This subject might be a little large. Be that as it may:
Crime and punishment. Our country spends a fair bit of money incarcerating people who have committed crimes. Aside from the fiscal question, there’s a question of human dignity that we should also consider. Does incarceration diminish us as a culture, even if some degree of it is essential? And, if it does dimish us, how do we answer questions of public safety, whether that means keeping us safe from the specific person incarcerated (rapists, murderers, etc.) or deterring others who might be considering criminal behavior (white collar crimes being an obvious example). Many people think we are incarcerating too many people, but often fail to offer any alternatives other than aspirational social goals like “reduce poverty.” Or people will point out that we incarcerate too many people for drug offenses, which is an obvious point, but only partly addresses the dramatic increase in incarceration rates.
Do you have any thoughts on this? It’s a subject that tends to generate more heat than light. But given the close link between poverty (a subject you have keen insights into) and incarceration, I’m wondering if you’ve considered what our criminal justice system does to (and for) those on the lower socio-economic rungs of our collective ladder.
Science — or reports on science — that gives you a rush. I’ve been reading (in my layman’s way) of the recent Big Bang discovery (gravity waves, polarized background radiation, etc.), and it’s given me the chills just contemplating the sheer awesomeness of the discovery and what it might mean for what this universe is all about.
What about science sends (or has sent) the adrenaline crawling up your spine, John? Discoveries, new info you just found out about yourself, even just a riveting story you read that opened your metaphorical third eye. Stuff that just cries out, “Write a book about ME!” or “Pay attention, I’m gonna blow your mind!” or just “Hey, this is cool. Bet you never thought of this before!” Then you look at the screen (or the stars, or your calendar with the deadline circled), and think, “Wow. That IS awesome…”
Last year in your post about women geeks you mention how status-conscious geekdom is. How do you think that’s a problem, how do you think it’s a feature, and what (if anything) should/could be done to fix the system?
You know those teachers whose names and faces you remember? Who said or did or assigned something in class that really made you think? reconsider the world and your place in it? set you on a path that you might not have taken otherwise? Who were those teachers in your life? I can think of four (2nd, 4th, 8th and 11th grades) that absolutely had a hand in shaping who I am today. What did they provide you? And if you could craft the ideal teacher who might have a similar influence in Athena’s life, what characteristics and qualities would that individual possess?
I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts on religion and scifi. If that’s too general, to what extent do you think scifi provides an alternative or substitute for religion, or satisfies religious needs for finding meaning in the universe? Scifi is (usually or at least often) about heavenly or otherworldly creatures with exceptional powers who help us or combat us or work out, in exemplary ways, problems similar to those we face. Superficially, it’s a lot like religion.
So: scifi as satisfying basically religious needs, or any other thoughts you have on the nexus of scifi and religion.
Your thoughts on following in your parents footsteps. How many people do you know who are in the same careers as their parents? Did you ever consider it. Would you want your kid to consider it?
I’ve noticed a trend in recent casual literature where authors write entire books where very little happens (Rothfuss’s Kingkiller and Jordan’s Wheel of Time come to mind).
Granted, many of them are enjoyably written descriptions of chess pieces being moved around the game board, but to invest 1000(+!) pages in a novel to have nothing happen seems to be a betrayal of the trust between author and reader. Have you noticed a similar trend and what’s your opinion on it?
I think you touched on this subject once or twice but I thought I’d bring it up again: What are your thoughts about self-publishing in general? Would you ever consider self-publishing? Would you ever advise anyone to self-publish?
What are your thoughts on Day of the Triffids? Were the arrival of the triffids and the green meteor storm related or coincidental?
I was watching A TV show with my grandson last night, a monsters and mysteries type of show that suggested Bigfoot is actually an alien. My 8 year old grandson was intrigued by how Bigfoot supposedly looks and by the idea of aliens. He asked me: “What would you say to an alien if you met one, Grandpa?” I told him “that’s a good question” and said a few inconsequential things to him about hopefully coming in peace and what we could learn from aliens, but it got me to thinking: “What WOULD I say if confronted with the reality of alien life here on Earth?” I’m stilling thinking about it today, so I thought I’d ask you too: What would you say to an alien about life here on Earth, presupposing you could effectively communicate with beings from another world?
Here is another one, from one of my students: What is an average day like for you when you are working on a book? In other words, how much time do you spend writing (and when) and how often do you take breaks and what are the kinds of things you do when you take breaks?
Time for some fantasy: What fictional space/time milieu created by you or your friends (or colleagues) would you most want to live in, and what would we find you doing in it?
A little late to the party here, and it’s possible this has been covered (though I don’t see it as something you’ve addressed before). What are your favorite reading or watching subjects outside of the SF/F genre? For example, I know Walter Jon Williams loves foreign martial arts movies, and Lois McMaster Bujold seems to consume a LOT of higher-quality pop science. What tends to be picked up, or tossed into the DVD player, in the Scalzi compound when you need a break from SF/F?
Do you think “The Day the Clown Cried” should be released and if so would you watch it?
What science fiction novels (besides your own) that have never been adapted for the screen do you think most cry out for a cinematic treatment?
I’d like your thoughts on Taxidermy & if you’d ever have a “stuffed” woodland creature hanging above your fireplace mantle. If so, then what would you have mounted? (deer, bear, fish, moose, etc.)
Have you thought about writing OUTSIDE the sci-fi genre? Based on the way you write dialogue, I could imagine you writing a “Nick & Nora Charles/Thin Man” style mystery.
I never see you write about sports. Are there any out there that interest you?
What are you doing, if anything, to preserve your work in an electronic format that is usable in the future? For example, my wife, who is a professor, has been using TeX since she was in high school for all of her academic (and eventually professional) writing. As a result, she has everything she ever wrote, and can still access it with available, up-to-date software. So long as she can get a copy of TeX and use it on a computer, she’ll continue to have access to her old writing.
I have nothing since a few years past college since everything I wrote, starting with an Apple //e in high school, up through college, was written in various word processors in file formats that are either extinct or difficult in the extreme to convert. I think the only stuff that might be usable without too much difficulty was written in troff. (Most of it was also lost in various computer migrations, but we’ll assume I managed to keep it all.)
This isn’t really a problem for me: I don’t write professionally. However we have several professional writer friends who began writing back in the 80s, and who either don’t have electronic copies of their original manuscripts, or who have it in formats that are difficult to convert to modern usage, or who vastly prefer to write on older copies of software (read: Microsoft Word) which doesn’t run well on modern machines.
John Scalzi says you majored in philosophy. So who is your favorite philosopher, Roger Bacon or Francis Bacon? With either, you get Bacon with your philosophy, sufficient to propel them to the top of the list, but between the two, which?