My Own 2014
Posted on December 31, 2014 Posted by John Scalzi 35 Comments
Well, you know. It was all right.
Career-related highlights: Lock In came out and hit the NYT and other hardcover bestseller lists, which was nice. It also sold very well in other formats, including audio, where (or so I was informed) it’s become Audible’s number one pre-ordered audiobook ever, no doubt helped by the dual narrations from Wil Wheaton and Amber Benson. It also got some of the best reviews on my career (including a starred review trifecta from Publishers Weekly, Booklist and Kirkus), and ended up on a healthy stack of end-of-the-year “best of” lists.
Unlocked, the companion novella to Lock In, did pretty well, too; the Subterranean Press signed, hardcover burned through its limited run impressively quickly, and it got pretty good reviews from Publishers Weekly and other places. Aside from those two, I placed a short story in Popular Science, which is kind of a kick. And of course The Human Division came out in paperback.
Oh, and Lock In, Redshirts and Old Man’s War were all optioned for television.
So, yeah. 2014 was pretty okay, there.
Creatively speaking, I have to say I was pleased with the general reaction to both Lock in and Unlocked. Several reviewers noted that the book was a bit of a departure for me, subject-wise. I don’t know that I think that’s entirely the case — outside the Old Man’s War universe my science fiction output is reasonably broad — but I think it’s correct I’m best known for writing the military space opera of the OMW series. I’m glad people seem happy to go along for the ride even when I’m not shooting aliens with big guns.
I’m also happy that the issues of disability politics in both Lock In and Unlocked were picked up on, acknowledged and discussed. As I’ve noted elsewhere, I don’t flatter myself to be an expert on these issues; nevertheless I hoped to offer an at least somewhat realistic presentation of how people with Haden’s, the disease in the book, would interact with the world and see their own disability (including whether they considered it a disability at all). So I pleased that it became a topic of conversation, with regard to these books.
(I was also very pleased about that other thing I did with Lock In, and how people responded to it — or didn’t, which was a thing in itself. I’ll note this thing is something that certain cranky folk in science fiction/fantasy argued was just the sort of thing that never sells and murders careers. Well, obviously, I don’t know about that. What I think on the matter is that, in fact, you can write whatever the hell you like, however the hell you like to, and you’ll very often get lots of people to come along if you’re also entertaining enough about it.
However, as at least some of the people who believe this thing murders careers also appear to believe I am at the center of a grand publishing conspiracy to overinflate the number of books I sell, possibly for nefarious, politically correct purposes, I’m not sure my counter-argument here will be particularly convincing to them. I’m okay with that. People who have to develop such infantile-yet-baroque conspiracy theories about the current state of my career deserve the angina these conspiracy theories provide them.)
Books aside, the thing that distinguishes 2014 for me is the sheer amount of travel I did in it. The travel was primarily for two purposes: One, to sustain the momentum of Redshirts, which won the Hugo in 2013, and to sell Lock In. The former took up a lot of the first half of the year; the latter, the second half. The good news is that by and large the “get your ass out there” plan worked like it was supposed to.
The less good news is that, bluntly, it’s messed with my ability to focus on writing. I announced I started writing on The End of All Things in May; this turned out to be, uh, optimistic. I’m still writing it (and what writing I did in May has largely been chucked, which means that those of you who heard me read that excerpt of the book on tour will probably be the only people to hear it, since it’s not in the book anymore). This is something I obviously need to deal with, since touring and public appearances really are key for me and yet I still have to write books. These are the proverbial high class problems — “Oh, no! Touring and appearances and being treated like a rock star make it hard to focus on my art!” — but yeah, still actual problems.
(Don’t worry, The End of All Things will still be turned in on schedule. Because if years of journalism taught me anything, it’s that you don’t miss deadlines. Also: It will be awesome. Promise.)
Moving away from career stuff and into the personal realm, and speaking very generally because there’s only so much about my personal life you get to know about — 2014 was actually really nice. Travel messed with my creative output a bit, but it meant that I got to see a lot of people I like/love/care about who I might have otherwise not seen if I had simply holed up in my office all year, including people I had not seen for a while and in some cases for decades. I wouldn’t have traded that. At home, with the exception of Ghlaghghee developing her heart condition, things are well, and I continue to be amazed that I get to be married to Krissy, and happy about how amazing a human my kid is turning out to be. I am, flatly, blessed to know and be with wonderful people, at home and in my travels.
So that was 2014. And now, onto 2015.
Sounds like a good year. My personal highlight was making it a full year without using alcohol to numb my brain enough to not be taken under by some bad past. Mind you I regularly accused the people I work with with trying to drive me back to drinking… and I’m not certain a couple of them weren’t. LOL.
2014… better than the stuff from 2011-2013. I’ll give it a passing grade :D
This is the year I’d rather forget. Since September 2013 we’ve lost two dogs (to cancer and old age), my wife had a miscarriage, and my father died of cancer.
Professionally I had a terrific year. I’ve landed at a great company which is profitable, does important work, and whose values are right in line with my own. I hope this is the last job I’ll ever have.
Here’s hoping 2015 is better.
That’s s good year, alright. Amirable, in fact.
My year was good overall, the highlight being the birth of our second son. I hope to find time to do more creative stuff in 2015; writing, drawing, etc.
@beej: “I hope this is the last job I’ll ever have.”
It’s like you’ve never read The Monkey’s Paw.
I had an academic book come out at the beginning of the year and so far the reviews have been pretty good. And I went to some nice conferences, including one that segued into an amazing 10 days with my wife touring around the Cape Town area. And my son got his Masters and a pretty nice job, so all in all its been a good year. On the other hand, the dog has liver disease and ‘continence issues’. Still, compared to what some friends have been going through, as well as the suffering of folk here in the UK and elsewhere, this is close to insignificantly small beer (maybe not so much from the dog’s point of view …). All the best for 2015, with more peace, less anguish for all …
@Don Yeah, every time I make a mistake I hope it won’t be my last one….
Mi dispiace non so leggere l’inglese. Buon Anno!
First HUGE SPOILER about Lock In Ahead. Turn away if you haven’t read it. (John, I trust you to use your hammer if this isn’t appropriate here.)
I don’t know if anyone else has told you this about Lock In, but I read most books with my ears. (I have a long commute to the day job and I need what otherwise might be reading time to write… so listening to books is how I get my fix.)
I started listening to Wil Wheaton’s rendition of Lock In and I think that’s why I assumed Chris was male even though I am female. Due to circumstances (Started listening with my husband and I wanted to continue on without losing our place) I changed to Amber Bensen’s narration and realized he could be a she. Very clever. And well done. I’m reccomending all friends and relations read it. (Some because they could use an eye opening…)
Also, Landed the best day job ever in 2014, so that’s good too. (As long as I have to work days it might as well me enjoyable!)
For a year that was unacceptably full of missing airliners, Ebola, Mr. Putin’s Ukrainian Vacations and whatever Iggy Azalea is, I at least read some good books and had the pleasure of dancing to some great 80’s music at DETCON with my wife and son. So, thank you for incrementally adding to the small positive things in my life and best to your family in the New Year.
I think the folks who claim your sales figures are inflated because nefarious political reasons could be more accurately described as thinking “writing that sort of stuff OUGHT to ruin a career.”
That it hasn’t in your case is, I suspect, the real cause for conspiracy theories. According to Galbraith, “Most people, when faced with changing their beliefs or proving there is no need to do so, get busy on the proof.”
When I read about the trick in Lock In, I thought “oh no, not more stunt writing”, but I was wrong because the trick doesn’t interfere with the book. The rest of the book discussion group, who hadn’t seen the announcements, had no idea. The book passed the Story First test.
Huh. I listened to Lock In, a first for me, and I never picked up on the ambiguous gender thing. I assumed Chris was defined probably by me being a male reader and the bike jumping story, which while it could have been a female child it’s something one would typically expect of a male child. I also listened to the Wil Wheaton version, and to me Wil’s characterization of Shane was male, which reinforced the assumed male gender of Shane. I wonder if those who read the book or listened to Amber Benson’s narrative reached a different conclusion, and how much reader gender informs any assumptions about Shane’s gender.
Well done as always Mr Scalzi.
Also, Happy New Year everyone
I have to admit, my reasons for wanting you to be successful are split 50:50 between enjoying your output and giggling madly at Voldeday et al concern trolling your sales figures.
I preferred Redshirts to Lock In, but I suspect Lock In could be the police procedural to replace NCIS, CSI etc. So long as Fox doesn’t get it and show it out of order, of course :)
Hope 2015 brings you continued success.
And as a Chris, I know it can be taken both ways. It was an interesting choice, but I didn’t feel it was central to the story.
Police procedural + F/SF doesn’t sell? Tell that to Pratchett or Asimov. Disabilities? Try Heinlein. If it’s a good read, people will read it.
And as for DigitalAtheist, congratulations! That’s one hell of an achievement you got there!
I’m glad it was a good 2014 for you, and a bunch of other folks. For this household, 2014 was not so good. We got to discover that my husband had stage IV kidney cancer, which came with attendant radical nephrectomy, many doctors, and now extended rounds of immunotherapy taking place two states away.
Though as we comment frequently. It could have been a worse year – we could have not found the cancer.
I am glad you’ve had a good 2014, Mr. Scalzi. I’ve certainly gotten a lot of enjoyment from your work, both here and in your hardcopy writing. I’ve also had the fun of adding to your fan-base by sharing some of your works with friends who I knew would enjoy it as much as I did.
For myself, the year came out on the positive side of the balance sheet as measured by our usual standard (weddings/christenings > funerals/wakes). I had ample opportunities to be reminded of the extent of my level of privilege, which I take as a mitzvah, and I am working hard to continue to be an ally to those who are on a higher difficulty level than I. It’s a work in process, and will be as long as I live, but then so are most worthwhile goals.
Sending hopes for peace, health, happiness, growth, silliness, and laughter to all in the year to come, leavened by just enough challenges to help us appreciate the good times.
“(Don’t worry, The End of All Things will still be turned in on schedule. Because if years of journalism taught me anything, it’s that you don’t miss deadlines. Also: It will be awesome. Promise.)”
Maybe you can hold some training at a future con on this. Invite Patrick Rothfuss and George RR Martin (tell them its something else)… runs and hides..
BTW, ‘The End of All Things’ is a killer title. It would get my attention if I had no idea who you are.
For me, 2014 was the usual mix of ugh, meh, and nice. Looking forward in hope.
(Also looking forward to ‘The End of All Things’.)
While I’m sure no one here cares about my year, I will state that I have enjoyed watching your success in your professional career (and have contributed in my own, small $ ways). I hope to go on watching your career and those parts of your personal life you choose to share continue to grow and develop in 2015, and wish you all the success and happiness in the world.
This year was better than the last couple, but with more ups & downs than I’d have liked. I had more income than in 2013, but that’s because I activated my retirement annuity several years early. Being able to put gas in the car again was good, having to replace several expensive parts less so. I’m still taking Scalzi’s novels,among others, out of the local library, but at least I get to read them.
I thought for sure that my review of Lock In on Goodreads would get mentioned in this post.
For my 2014, I published my first book ever. As editor. I sent a copy to the Scalzi compound to day so hopefully it will make an upcoming book roundup.
When I posted that link I wasn’t expecting the enormous thumbnail ad. Sorry John!
I forgot to mention that you look way too good in that mask John. Also, waiting to see what happens with Redshirts. Waiting… waiting… waiting… come on man, tell ’em to pick up the pace… but not so fast they step on their Twinkies.
Viva el Luchador!!!!
I forgot the Luchador thing completely, if I ever did know… and yet I am not at all surprised. “Scalzi wore a luchador mask at a con… yawn…”
JS, I don’t think there is a grand conspiracy to inflate the number of books you sell, but there is an industry problem with basic accounting. As an author, how do you know that you are getting paid for what was actually sold?
My agent in fact pays assiduous detail to any discrepancy with regard to royalty statements. Also, as a rule my contracts specify that I am allowed to have the publisher audited. And, when the specific royalty statements come in, I of course look at them to make sure that they generally align to sales recorded. if they check out (they generally do) then I don’t think about the specific numbers much further — although I have every single royalty statement I’ve ever received filed away for reference if I need them.
WRT ‘Lock In’ (excellent book – got it for Christmas and just finished it today), I read the lead character as gender-ambiguous because I thought “Aha, that’s exactly the kind of thing Scalzi would do!” Also, I have a few female friends who go by Chris instead of Christine / Christie / Christina which biased me somewhat. It would be interesting if Chris was played as androgynous (a la Jaye Davidson) in the inevitable movie.
I’m also a bit ashamed that I assumed that Chris was African-American when I read the bit about Chris’ father being a former NBA player – a bit of involuntary stereotyping on my part, even if the assumption was borne out in the end.
Catching up on some of the end of year blogs. I hope you have a great 2015, but can anything really top the Author Batsu at Phoenix Comicon (where the picture at the top of this came from)?
JS, do you think you’ll ever have them audited? I think any industry, especially old ones, tend have accounting issues. And the more channels and middle men, the more difficult it becomes.
It’s entirely possible, if both my agent and I think there’s a problem.
I’m concerned that trying to maintain the gender ambiguity in a dramatization of Lock In runs the risk of becoming gimmicky to the point of distraction. It’s the kind of thing that can be done with great subtlety in prose, not so much in a visual form. Do you, as you suggest, find a transgendered actor to play the part, even though Chis isn’t really trans on intersex, just of unspecified gender? Do you never show Chris’s physical body, and cast an unknown with a gender-neutral name, who does no promotion and can’t appear in public? Do you go someplace really transhumanist and have Chris’s vocal performance generated on a computer, using only stand-ins and stunt performers on on set to play Chris’s Threep? Or do you just accept what was interesting (but non-essential to thew story) on the page just isn’t going to work on screen, and make a casting decision that fixes Chris’s gender?
I think the screen adaptation of Ann Lecke’s “Ancillary” series is going to run into similar issues. The choices are: cast all the characters with women (which isn’t actually what Ann was saying and the genders of a few characters is specified); try the cast the roles as genderblind as possible while using only female forms in the script (annoying readers when you don’t cast the way they want you too while confusing non-readers); or abandoning an interesting but nonessential aspect of the books (though in this case, one that is part of what makes the book stand out).
docrocketscience, I’ve been thinking the exact same things.