Announcing “Unlocked”

As you all know, I wrote a novel called Lock In, which is a near future thriller, set in a time where a disease called “Haden’s Syndrome” has caused millions to be trapped in their own bodies. That novel is going to be out on August 26 (August 28 in the UK).

What you don’t know is that I also wrote a novella, “Unlocked,” that’s set in the same world. This novella is an oral history of Haden’s syndrome: How it started, how it spread, what it did to the people who contracted it and to the nation and the world as we scrambled to contain the disease and then help those afflicted.

I wrote the novella early this year, and for two reasons. One, while Haden’s syndrome is pretty well addressed in Lock In, the novel takes place in a time where the world has been living with the disease for decades, which means society has already made the changes that come with such a momentous event. I wanted to explore how we got there, and the novella let me do that. Two, I’ve been wanting to do something in the “oral history” format for years — I actually intended to do a two-book series in the format before World War Z came out and took the wind out of those particular sails — and exploring the progress of Haden’s syndrome offered a fantastic opportunity to let me finally get into that format.

So I wrote the novella, mostly for fun and my own curiosity. When it was done, I realized it would make for a great way to lead people into the world of Lock In. Tor agreed, which is why it’s releasing “Unlocked” as an eBook on May 7. All the details for that, including how to pre-order are here.

But wait! There’s more! For those of you who prefer a printed version, there will also be a limited edition signed hardcover version from Subterranean Press — more information on that (including for pre-order) to come. And if you prefer your novellas in audio, that version will be coming from Audible in the reasonably near future as well. More information on that one, too, as we go along. So, really: Whatever format you like your Scalzi, it’s going to be available for you.

I’m very excited that “Unlocked” is getting out to you. It was a blast to write and I think you’ll get caught up in how the world you know today changes into the world of Lock In. I can’t wait for you to experience it.

46 Comments on “Announcing “Unlocked””

  1. When I first saw the post (just a few minutes ago) I was all “YAY! Something to read at the doctor’s office.” Then I saw May 7th and thought “but not today’s appointment.”

  2. Very excited to read both. I greatly enjoyed the book “World War Z” – both the format and the story and am glad to see somebody else is giving that approach a try. Thanks for all your hard work in the great word mines of Ohio.

  3. I hope it’s “Haden” and not “Hayden” (as both you and Tor wrote on the blog in both forms), ’cause that’s “Haden” on the cover :)

  4. Fred:

    It’s Haden (and I fixed it on my end). The “Hayden” pops up because my editor is Patrick Nielsen Hayden. It’s not actually named for him, which would be the next, naturally occurring question.

  5. I hope that a film or TV miniseries results. Hollywood understands (Zombie and non-Zombie) Epidemics, in some sense, as with (wikipedia listed):

    Absolon (2001)
    The Andromeda Strain (1971)
    Blindness (2008)
    Carriers (2009)
    The Cassandra Crossing (1976)
    Children of Men (2006)
    Contagion (2011)
    Covert One: The Hades Factor (2006)
    Darwin’s Nightmare (2004)
    Daybreakers (2010)
    Doomsday Virus (1996)
    Ebola Syndrome (1996)
    Epidemic (1987)
    Fatal Contact: Bird Flu in America (2006)
    Flying Virus (2001)
    The Happening (2008)
    I Am Legend (2007)
    I Am Omega (2007)
    Infection: The Invasion Begins (2010)
    The Invasion (film) (2007)
    The Last Man on Earth (1964)
    Metamorphosis: The Alien Factor (1990)
    Outbreak (1995)
    Perfect Sense (2011)
    Phase 7 (2011)
    Plague (1978)
    Quarantine (2008)
    Quarantine 2: Terminal (2011)
    Smallpox 2002 (2002)
    SST: Death Flight (1977)
    Undead (2003)
    Virus (1999)
    World War Z (2013)
    World Without End (2012) (mini series)
    So easy to pitch as like them meeting My Left Foot: The Story of Christy Brown, that 1989 Irish drama film directed by Jim Sheridan and starring Daniel Day-Lewis, telling the true story of Christy Brown, an Irishman born with cerebral palsy, who could control only his left foot. But more horrible… Hoping that happens, and it’s a blockbuster!

  6. Nice! And, selfishly speaking, the timing of the release works out pretty well for me. I have a business trip planned for May 12th – the difficult part will be saving it for the plane ride…

  7. There actually is a horrifying syndrome called ‘locked in’ syndrome. Its worse than being paralized. You can’t move any part of you. Most can blink their eyes, but its very tiring. The worst part is you feel everything. So you can’t scratch an itch. you can’t tell someone you are sore or your back aches.

    There was a french reporter who ended up with this (I think he got it from a stroke). He wrote a book about it by blinking his eyes to represent letters. There was a french language film made based on it. I have not seen it.

    It seriously freaked me out when I read about this syndrome.

  8. whenever I see the name Neil Patrick Hayden, I think John has Doogie Howser for his editor.

  9. Very interesting idea, John. Too bad about WWZ catching that train before you, but if it’s good, then it’ll be good regardless. Two more additions to my iPad mini. Thanks.

  10. Jonathan Vos Post–What about King’s masterwork The Stand? It all starts with a virus that kills most of the population. How could Wikipedia leave that one off the list?

  11. Congrats, John. I’m looking forward to the Audible production already — if they do anything like a “full cast radiodrama” thing … I will be quite happy.

  12. I’d like to add that in “protest” to not being able to read the latest short story today, I bought a couple other Scalzi short stories I hand’t read yet. :)

  13. I do love my Scalzi. I’ll mostly read anything you write. Mostly.

    Because Locked-In Syndrome is my personal nightmare, the book and novella are going to be exceptions to this. Even if they’re not written as horror, they will be for me, and I avoid horror like the plague. (No, I’m not saying horror is a bad genre or that there’s anything wrong with people who write it or enjoy it. Just saying that for me it’s not on the list of things I can enjoy reading.)

    Gary Willis, I suspect it’s because the plague in The Stand is all at the beginning. It sets up the world (depopulated, but with most buildings intact), then goes away. The novel isn’t really about the plague, and the plague doesn’t (IIRC) kill anyone or infect anyone after the initial setup. There isn’t an ongoing fear of infection, as with many of those others; in fact everyone who lives to the main part of the novel is immune.

    The Stand is mostly about a few good Christian people fighting against the bad people who are aligned with the anti-Christ. (I found this dull, since the anti-Christ has no power to terrify me, and stopped reading King even before I decided horror was not for me.)

  14. Yay! I just pre-ordered an excellent day-after-my-birthday present, so thank you, John! And my fingers are crossed that the print edition of Unlocked will be available in time for Father’s Day. :)

  15. @John: Figured that…

    On the oral history thing. World War Z is the best Zombie book I ever read. This is not meant as a knock on Mira Grant (who I really like). There is another book called ‘Robocopalypse’ that did the oral history thing. It was not very good. However, I think it sold pretty well and the rights were bought to make a movie.

    Not sure why you were so concerned about doing another oral history. Your rationale would make an interesting blog post in its own right.

  16. Guess:

    I didn’t do it because the book(s) would have come out in the immediate aftermath of WWZ and it would look like I was trying to capitalize on the success of that book. It was early enough in my career that I didn’t want to be perceived as a copycat.

  17. Yeah, I think I’m with Guess and Xopher. My dad went through something similar and I just cannot take reading about more of that horror because it’s not fiction to me :/ I’ll wait for the next book instead, sorry.

  18. You know, it’s actually okay not to tell me you don’t plan to buy one of my books. I’m just going to put that out there for you all to consider.

    Also, you’ll be missing out, because both the novella and novel are pretty great, if I do say so myself. But of course, I understand.

  19. Sorry, John. I feel bad about missing one of your books, not just because of wanting to be supportive, but because I know I’ll be missing out (but still can’t deal). I’ll keep in mind for the future that you don’t need to hear about this sort of thing.

    I hope you know I wasn’t in any way saying you shouldn’t have written this book, or shouldn’t have written it in the way you did, or anything remotely like any of that.

  20. how nice of Tor to release it on my birthday. Guess I will add it to the list of me-presents, especially since I cannot wait until the sequel/follow up to Human Division.

  21. I noticed no preorder available for Google, Is this going to eventually make it to Google Books? I’m kind of addicted to reading ebooks on my Nexus…

  22. That is absolutely fantastic news.

    Shut up and take my money!

    I only say that for anything Mass Effect and John Scalzi related. . . .

    Order Placed – Looking forward to May 7th.

  23. This version of Unlocked has my vote for favorite piece of cover art for your work. Interesting idea of an oral history – looking forward to it.

  24. Do you know if there are any plans to release an epub version? If not, I will gladly get in line for a paper copy. While like @Xopher I find Locked In Syndrome completely terrifying, I dig a good scare.

  25. I’m going to read the books precisely because they will terrify me. When my mother was a teenager, she had a bad reaction to anesthesia that left her “locked-in” for several hours – to this day, she says it was one of the most terrifying experiences in her life (and she’s survived a lot of terrifying stuff, including more than one attempted murder). The doctors said it was probably some congenital sensitivity to the particular anesthetic, and warned that she could pass it down to her children. They’ve mostly phased its use out, but she still warned all of us to let doctors know, and every time I have to get anesthetized for an operation, I fear that I’m going to experience what she did.

    I am going to read these books because it will be poking one of my biggest fears with a stick – and I think I could use a bit more of that.

  26. The best “oral history” fiction I’ve read to date is “Rant: An Oral Biography of Buster Casey” by Chuck Palahniuk… of my favorite books of all time…. John have you read it? It’s Mr. Palahniuk’s jump into sci-fi themes….but mostly him at his social commentary best…..

  27. I actually plan to read the book and the novella… I want to see John’s take on the oral history motif in particular. I actually really liked the way World War Z handled that. I think its an interesting style.

  28. Can not wait to read. Already ordered. Now staring at Kindle while wondering why time travel is not yet available for the masses.

  29. Whoosh! That was the sound of the money leaving my credit card on its way to Sub Press’ bank account. “Unlocked” will join “Hate Mail”, “Loving Mallet”, “The Sagan Diaries”, and “The God Engines” on my Scalzi shelf.

  30. Just got my pre-order in for the Sub Press version. Can’t wait for it to show up. Of course, I’ll have to buy the ebook when it’s released since there’s no way I will be able to wait until this fall to read it.

  31. Can’t wait to read this!

    And in “Today in reasons why you can’t trust Wikipedia”.. that list in #5 someone failed to mention Birdemic.

  32. You never just write “a book,” Scalzi. It’s always, “I’ve written a novel, and a novella, and a couple of short stories in the world, and there’s a graphic novel and a video game about it too, and here’s a song, sung by Wil Wheaton.” Geesh.

  33. Was this what you were referring to in part in your ‘how I sold my books’ post on “Another was a two-book series which I sold on proposal; it was shelved when another very similar book became a bestseller and I didn’t want to appear to be cashing in on that book.”

  34. Now that the World War Z excitement has subsided a bit and you have a lot more fame and credit, would you want to go back to write that two book oral history on a galactic war? Or has that moment passed?

  35. I have a friend who might be interested in these books. The stumbling block is that they’re a microbiologist with a special interest in viruses and other pathogens, and tend to get irritated with fiction that gets the science egregiously wrong.

    How much research did you do into diseases and epidemics for this setting, and how much artistic license did you take?

  36. Phil B.:

    Some. I don’t go too deeply into the medical mechanics of the disease, for the reason that it’s more interesting to let people speculate than to try to explain it too much and get things wrong.

  37. If it was a snake, it woulda bit me. One of the reasons I like to read your stuff is that your editors can unclench enough to let you do exposition. Or you’re good enough at it that you make it easy for that to happen. Or, most likely, some of both.

    So… thanks.

  38. To my past self (Jim C. @10.51 April 15) – sorry man, couldn’t wait (I tried, honest). I’ll find something else to read for the plane…

    Also – Unlocked was enjoyable (no surprise) – the preview to Lock In was a nice bonus as well.

  39. Bookmarked this a while ago, but just got to it today. Very nice read. Looking forward to Lock In.

    Nitpick: Nebraska’s legislators are “senators” not “representatives”. It’s that whole Unicameral thing. Counter-nitpick: Inmates don’t always use precise language.

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