A Last Look at the Sun, 2014

And there it goes. Farewell, 2014.


My Own 2014

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.


Pet Pictures 2014 (Plus Bonus Ghlaghghee Update)

Here’s Ghlaghghee resting in a papasan chair in the basement, which has, post congestive heart failure, become her favorite place to hang out. I’m fine with this because it’s only a few steps from the litter box, and given that the medicine we feed to her twice daily is a diuretic, this means that the incidence of Randomly Appearing Cat Pee is greatly lessened. Plus, she’s all comfy and cosy, and I like that. Sick kitty needs to be happy.

The good news is she’s still with us, which I would not have counted on a couple of weeks ago. The less good news is that for the rest of her life I’ll be shoving medicine down her throat twice a day, which means that two times daily she is very intensely pissed off at me for several seconds. Which is sad for both of us, but not as sad as, you know, her not being here. And so it goes.

With that said, it was a fine year for pet pictures here at the Scalzi Compound. Here are some of my favorites, including a couple of pets who aren’t ours but who happened to find their way into my camera’s sights this year. Enjoy.




Today’s Best Twitter Correspondence

As annoyed as I was with the trackpad, I can appreciate a wry reply from the company’s Twitter folk.



Hell Yes, I’m a Feminist

A couple of years ago, I wrote a piece on my personal feminism, in which I noted that while I can be considered a feminist on the fundamental level of “women are entitled to the same rights and privileges as men, with everything that implies in terms of access to education, economic opportunity and personal liberty,” I usually didn’t call myself one, for various and what I thought at the time were perfectly reasonable reasons.

Then 2014 happened, and those reasonable reasons now kind of feel like careful, rationalizing bullshit to me.

So, as an update to my thoughts on my personal feminism:

Hell yes, I’m a feminist.

Mind you, I don’t think this declaration comes as much of a surprise. I think people are aware of my general feelings on feminism, and I’ve not been shy about the topic before, when it’s suited me.

Here’s the thing about that — I was passive about it. When people said, positively, that I was a feminist, I took the compliment. When people said, negatively, that I was a feminist, I mocked them for thinking being called so was an insult. But I let them put the label on me; I didn’t choose it for myself. Which of course is a choice, and one that said something about me.

So this is what I want to say about me:

Hell yes, I’m a feminist.

Not a perfect feminist, or even, depending who you are, a particularly good one. I don’t expect declaring myself a feminist means I will be granted a +5 Ally Shield of Immunity From Criticism, with a side of cookies. I come to feminism carrying the same baggage any 45-year-old well-off straight white man does. I show my ass from time to time. I expect to be called on it when I do. I’ll try to learn from it when it happens.

That said:

Hell yes, I’m a feminist.

I don’t think feminism has been waiting for me. It doesn’t need me as a spokesperson or a leading voice. I don’t believe any woman has been wanting for me to be her “white knight.” As I’ve said before, it’s white knighting to assume women can’t defend themselves; it’s not white knighting to stand with them against the shit thrown their way.

But: I do think it’s important to let women know you do stand with them. I think it’s useful for other men to see it being done. To the extent that I have influence and notability, I’d like to use it standing with, and for, women. At the very least, 2014 showed me that it’s where I want to be standing, and to the extent that it’s useful, be seen standing.

So, for as much as it matters, and can matter:

Hell yes, I’m a feminist.

Sorry it took me so long just to come right out and say it.


Subscription Model Squabbles

So, authors, you’ll all remember when, in the middle of the Amazon-Hachette spit-fight, I noted that Amazon isn’t your friend, it’s a business entity with its own goals, which may only tangentially align with yours (and the same goes for Hachette)?


Authors are upset with Amazon. Again.

For much of the last year, mainstream novelists were furious that Amazon was discouraging the sale of some titles in its confrontation with the publisher Hachette over e­books.

Now self­-published writers, who owe much of their audience to the retailer’s publishing platform, are unhappy.

One problem is too much competition. But a new complaint is about Kindle Unlimited, a new Amazon subscription service that offers access to 700,000 books — both self­published and traditionally published — for $9.99 a month.

It may bring in readers, but the writers say they earn less. And in interviews and online forums, they have voiced their complaints.

Part of the issue, as I understand it, is that the payment Amazon doles out to many self-published folks who participate in Kindle Unlimited comes not from the percentage of a sale price, but from a slice of a pot of money Amazon decides to offer, called the KDP Select Global Fund. Here’s how it works, from the Amazon FAQ on the matter:

We base the calculation of your share of the KDP Select Global Fund by how often Kindle Unlimited customers choose and read more than 10% of your book, and Kindle Owners’ Lending Library customers download your book. We compare these numbers to how often all participating KDP Select titles were chosen. For example, if the monthly global fund amount is $1,000,000, all participating KDP titles were read 300,000 times, and customers read your book 1,500 times, you will earn 0.5% (1,500/300,000 = 0.5%), or $5,000 for that month.

However, as Amazon gets to select the size of the pot, and the share of the pot is contingent on performance relative to other titles, how much that cut is can fluctuate substantially, as is noted in the article. The article also notes that as the cut is the same for any read (i.e., a short story and a Rothfuss-sized epic novel are the same in the eye of the Kindle Unlimited clicker), authors are chopping up larger books into several files, or writing books as serials (looks like The Human Division was on target for that model).

Given the nature of the payment game here, this is a rational response, but it’s a short term solution at best, as it explodes the number of titles in Kindle Unlimited (and commensurately the number of titles read). As more authors catch on that particular trick, the less useful it will be for everyone. And while Amazon says it will tweak the size of the pot “to make participation in KDP Select a compelling option for authors and publishers,” inasmuch as self-published authors are already griping about how much revenue they’ve lost, the question becomes whether it will ever become a genuinely compelling option.

(Note well that these terms are as I understand it currently only for the majority of self-published authors. Publishers, who have more leverage on Amazon’s business, and certain (very few) high-profile self-published authors, are able to make deals that resemble traditional payment/royalty deals. They are not in the same payment pot as the hundreds of thousands of self-published authors, and they are not enjoined by exclusivity, as the majority of self-published authors are. Which if my understanding is correct is certainly an interesting point of data for those self-published authors.)

Does this make Amazon’s subscription scheme, or Amazon itself, evil? Nope. It does reinforce the point that Amazon has its own plans, which are not really about helping authors, per se. Its plans center on being the one single place everyone buys anything, ever. A $9.99 all-you-can-eat reading subscription plan with titles exclusive to Amazon is a fine way to lock consumers in the Amazon ecosystem. That’s Amazon’s job: to get and keep consumers’ business. It’s also the job of Oyster and Smashwords and other places that are also trying to make a go of the all-you-can-eat book subscription thing. What’s also their job: Getting the product that will enable them to reach their goals, and getting the product as cheaply as possible.

That said, the thing to actively dislike about the Kindle Unlimited “payment from a pot” plan is the fact that it and any other plan like it absolutely and unambiguously make writing and publishing a zero-sum game. In traditional publishing, your success as an author does not limit my success — the potential pool of money is so large as to be effectively unlimited, and one’s payment is independent of any other purchase a consumer might make, or what any other reader might read.

In the Kindle Unlimited scheme, the pool of money available to authors is strictly limited by a corporation whose purposes, short- and long-term, are not necessarily aligned with the authors’, and every time someone with a Kindle Unlimited account reads another author’s work, every other authors’ share of the pot  becomes that much smaller. In the traditional publishing model, it’s in my interest to encourage readers to read other authors, because people who read more buy more books — the proverbial tide lifts all boats. In the Kindle Unlimited model, the more authors you and everyone else reads, the less I can potentially earn. And ultimately, there’s a cap on how much I can earn — a cap imposed by Amazon, or whoever else is in charge of the “pot.” As an author, I won’t be able to ever earn more than Amazon wants me to (especially if Amazon requires my title to be exclusive).

So: Evil? No. Good for authors? Let’s just say I’m not entirely convinced. And neither, it seems, are these self-published authors. Good for them. I genuinely wish them the best of luck getting Amazon (and others) to pay them what the market will bear, and not just what Amazon wants to pay.


The Top Ten Whatever Entries for 2014, Plus 2014 Traffic

So, which entries on Whatever were the most popular in 2014, how was traffic to the site, and how was my general online reach? These all have interesting answers, or at least interesting to me. Let’s delve, shall we.

First, here are the top ten most-visited posts on Whatever in 2014, according to the WordPress stats package (caveats on that stats package to come). The entries with the asterisks are ones that were written before 2014.

  1. Straight White Male: The Lowest Difficulty Setting There Is*
  2. Being Poor*
  3. Amazon Gets Increasingly Nervous
  4. Apologies: What, When and How*
  5. The Four Levels of Discrimination (and You) (and Me, Too)
  6. An Anti-Feminist Walks Into a Bar: A Play in Five Acts
  7. 10 Things Teenage Writers Should Know About Writing*
  8. You Never Know Just How You Look Through Other People’s Eyes*
  9. How to Boycott Me, I Mean, REALLY Boycott Me
  10. An Incomplete Guide to Not Creeping*

This year’s top ten entries result is interesting to me, as I think this year is the first when the majority of the most visited posts were from previous years. “Being Poor” and “10 Things Teenage Writers Should Know” are perennially popular pieces, but most of the others are newish as repeats.

I think the particular archive pieces that made the list reflect that for internet culture generally, 2014 was a year where sexism and other bigotries were a thing. This hypothesis is augmented by the 2014-native popular entries as well, as well as reflecting my own personal writing interests this year. It also suggests that a lot of the power of Whatever, and the site in general, resides in its archives. More on this in a bit.

If I included only the pieces written in 2014, here are the six other pieces that would have made the top ten:

Again, a lot about sexism, and/or writing and publishing. It was that kind of year, it seems.

Moving along to general traffic statistics, the WordPress stats package notes that (minus the last three days and 18 hours, which have not happened yet), Whatever received 5.768 million visits, or roughly 15,971 visits a day. This is down rather a bit from 2013, in which the site got 7.572 million visits, averaging about 20,700 visits a day.

Additionally my 1&1 stats package, which tracks everything on that’s not on WordPress (including archived versions of Whatever that were on Moveable Type, etc), and which has no real overlaps with the WP stats package, recorded 4.188 million visits, which is also down from 2013, when it noted 6.13 million visits (The 1&1 stats, incidentally, are why you should take anyone else’s estimation of the traffic to this site with a fairly large grain of salt).

Some of this decrease I chalk up to me posting a bit less here this year, primarily due to travel schedules, and writing less about certain clicky subjects like politics, about which I wrote almost nothing this year at all. And some of it might be ascribed to blogs generally declining. And, of course, more specifically, maybe I’m just less popular as a blog writer than I used to be.

That said, there are other things to note here, not the least of which is that it appears that more of the reading of the content of the site is done off the site proper. A large portion of Whatever’s readership has always been through RSS, which is not noted by the WP daily reports (although if you dig you can find that information — for now, anyway, as the newly updated iteration of the WP stats package doesn’t seem to list that information anymore).

(Update: In the comments, it’s noted that Feedly, a leading RSS service, lists 8,000 Whatever subscribers. Which goes to my point nicely.)

The new WordPress stats package also notes something I didn’t know before, which is that that Whatever has (as of this moment) 12,242 WordPress followers, i.e., people for whom Whatever content is pushed to via WordPress, so they don’t have to visit the site to read it, which means they’re not recorded in the WP site stats. I also push Whatever content to Tumblr and Facebook, so people can read it there. I even have email subscribers (768 at last count).

Without discounting the decrease in visits to the site in 2014, it’s interesting to me that the decline of visits to the site does not necessarily mean that the posts themselves are not being as widely (or even more widely) read. If the decline in visits to the site proper is being compensated for by people following me via WordPress or other outposts, then I’m perfectly fine with that. I’m not like I’m pushing advertising on the site and losing money if people don’t show up there.

But it does also suggest that my Web site stats are becoming increasingly like my Bookscan stats. Bookscan, for those of you who don’t know, is a book sales monitoring service that tracks how many books get sold — but only at specific retailers, and only in specific formats. So, for example, Bookscan captured only about 20% of the total sales of Redshirts in its hardcover run. Bookscan, in other words, isn’t the whole story of a book’s sales, it just points in the direction of the whole story.

Shorter version of the above: Remember how I always note caveats when talking about site stats here? Those caveats have become even more caveat-y. It’s clear to me that the site states don’t offer a clear picture of how things of mine get read online, or by how many people. This is something I’ve already noted this year, mind you. Whatever is the starting place for much of my online presence. It’s clearly not the ending point.

Outside of Whatever, my primary social media presence is on Twitter, and it was a pretty good year there; I started the year with 55.2k followers and ended up with 76.1k, most of them, as far as I can tell, real live humans. According to ThinkUp, a service which tracks this stuff, I tweeted roughly 22,400 times, the most popular tweet of which was this:

Which got about 216,000 impressions, that being the Twitter term for views. It should be noted that most tweets I write get seen by less than the number of people who follow me, which makes sense if you think about it, since no one is on Twitter all the time, including me, and not everyone sees everything I tweet when they are online — they might be below the scroll, as it were.

Anecdotally, and not counting the tweets in which I am replying to someone (which tend to be seen by exponentially fewer people), a typical tweet of mine tends to garner about 15,000 impressions over the course of a day, with the especially retweetable ones pulling in 25k – 50k or so, and with occasional spikes of over 100,000 impressions (this one, from the other day, got 167k). I’d need a more complete set of data then I have to get more granular about it.

All told, an interesting year for me online. Let’s see what 2015 holds.


On Being Accused of Confessing to Awful Things

(Note: Folks who get triggery about discussions of rape should tread carefully here, both in the text and the links.)

Got a concerned email this morning from someone who saw online an assertion that I was a “self-confessed rapist.” I knew before reading further this was likely to be Theodore Beale (aka “Vox Day”) continuing to do his thing, and sure enough, yesterday on his site, Beale asserted once again that I’ve confessed to being rapist, as he’s done off and on for a couple of years now. So this is one of those “post once to link people to” things I do, in case it comes up again.

1. No, I have not raped or sexually assaulted anyone. No, I have not admitted to raping or sexually assaulting anyone.

2. Two years ago, I wrote a satirical (“satirical” not being the same thing as “funny”) essay called “A Fan Letter to Certain Conservative Politicians,” in which a rapist thanks certain conservative politicians for supporting his right to control a woman’s body. I thought it was fairly obvious that the piece was written from a fictional point of view, but despite that made it clear in the first post in the comment thread that the piece was satirical.

3. Nevertheless, after the piece was posted, Beale on his site asserted that I had confessed to being a rapist, based on the piece. It was pointed out to him that the piece was fictional, but Beale continued to assert I had confessed to being a rapist, and continues to do so, apparently, to this day. He also uses the nickname “McRapey” to refer to me.

4. At the time it’s possible he had confused the piece with being a confession; he doesn’t like me much (the feeling is mutual) and this would be something he’d get excited about. Two years on, it seems unlikely he is actually unclear that the piece was satirical. I assume at this point he does it to annoy me, to confuse people, and possibly to try to get the assertion that I am a self-confessed rapist into the Google results when people search my name.

5. Indeed, it is annoying. No one likes anyone out there so obviously lying about them; no one likes being defamed. But the defamation doesn’t appear to have gained much traction outside of Beale’s own site, probably because it’s clear Beale is making the assertion off a fictional, satirical piece, and because it’s also clear Beale has a thing about me, enough so that in 2013, I used it to raise tens of thousands of dollars for RAINN and other organizations. Likewise the assertion doesn’t show up in my Google results, or at least, not high enough to be an issue.

6. Aside from writing this to clarify matters, I don’t intend to do anything about Beale continuing to assert I have confessed to being a rapist. I could bring a libel suit against him, on the idea that accusing me of confessing to rape is defamation, it’s an untrue assertion, and Beale knows it’s untrue and continues to assert it anyway, for malicious purposes (the latter being important as I am likely to be considered a public individual at this point). However, I would also need to show that Beale’s actions have caused me harm, economically and/or emotionally. Aside from annoyance, which does not rise to actionable levels, I’m not seeing the harm to me personally. Essentially, Beale escapes punishment here because he’s failed to be important enough to be harmful.

7. I assume that for the foreseeable future, Beale will continue to lie about me confessing to be a rapist, for his own purposes. Again, annoying. On the other hand, useful. If Beale is perfectly happy to lie so baldly and obviously about this particular thing, perhaps that should be considered the baseline for the truth value of any other assertion that he might choose to make, particularly about people. Likewise, consider what sort of person you’d have to be to intentionally lie about someone confessing to rape, and to continue to offer up that lie for two years straight, despite knowing otherwise. Consider whether this person is worth your time at all, or your belief.


My Best Pun, Possibly Ever

Thank you, I will be here through December. Try the veal.


Best Longform Twitterings, 2014

I spent a lot of time on Twitter in 2014, partly because I traveled quite a lot this year, and partly because Twitter is just kinda fun. Every now and again I would go on a multitweet spree on something, or have an interesting twitter conversation, which I would then repost on Whatever for posterity, and for the amusement of the folks who don’t actually use or enjoy Twitter. Here are some of them. They range from silly to serious, i.e., pretty much like Whatever itself. Enjoy. These are in (somewhat) chronological order.

Also, in case you don’t know, you can find me on Twitter here.


The Sunsets of 2014

Merry Christmas.

And as is tradition, one from the other side of the day: your sunrise.

I hope you enjoy your day with friends and loved ones, or at least a fun video game.


Whatever Best of 2014

2014: Not exactly a vintage year in my opinion. Nevertheless, a year in which I wrote several things here worth remembering here at the end of this year’s days. This year the memorable pieces were primarily about writing, and sexism and/or discrimination, with the latter being viewed particularly through the odious nonsense of GamerGate. About US politics I wrote almost nothing because to be blunt, in general the best I could manage out this nation’s politics this last year was an exasperated eyeroll.

For this list I also trimmed out a lot of my amusing Twitter escapades; those will show up in their own compiled list. But a few of them are here, for reasons.

These posts are arranged chronologically.

We’ve got a week left, 2014. Let’s try to keep it together, shall we.


Think of This as a Bonus Holiday Tale

Athena, Neil Gaiman and I talk about a duck, Other Fathers, and buttons.




In the old days, when Athena was much younger, the only way she knew it was her birthday was when we would burst into her room first thing in the morning with a cake and candles and sing “Happy Birthday” to her. Eventually she figured out the date, but we still burst into her room with a cake because, you know. Family tradition. Our daughter seems pretty tolerant of this. Because who doesn’t like breakfast cake? No one, that’s who.

Also, as is the custom with our people, we celebrated our offspring’s sixteenth nativity by presenting her with a large inflatable duck.

Is this not the custom of your people as well? No? Hmmmm.

In any event, I wish you and yours the best for this, the 16th Athenamas. May your day be utterly fabulous. And if you should wish to wish my daughter a happy birthday, I would not look askance upon it.


Script Notes on The Birth of Jesus

Dear Matt and Luke:

We just read through your story treatment of The Birth of Jesus. We love it. Love it. Seriously, “love” is not nearly the right word for what we feel about what will almost certainly become a perennial seasonal classic. I hope the two of you have made space for awards on your mantelpieces; I think it’s about to get very crowded up there!

We’ve shared this important piece of work around, including with the marketing folks and our intern, Chad. While everyone agrees that your vision for this story is critical and elemental, we do have a few notes that we feel will help this film reach the audiences who so desperately need to hear its message, while at the same time staying true to this timeless tale. You’ll find them below.

1. We’re a little worried about the title. The Birth of Jesus has a vintage feel to it; we need something a little more four-quadrant, which will bring in audiences of all ages. How do you feel about Christ: Origins? It’s punchy and gives us a template for sequels, if we go that route (Christ: Dead Sea Rising and Christ: The Final Chapter are two titles Chad suggested). Let us know.

2. Mary and Joseph are central characters and we love that they are clearly there for each other and involved with each other, no matter what. That’s a real Notebook-like vibe that date night audiences really go for. But you don’t give them a lot of dialogue that grounds their characters into their relationship. Can you punch up their scenes, give them some banter, and maybe inject some humor into it? A pregnancy and birth offer up a lot of opportunities for zany slapstick scenarios. Chad noted that Juno rode that basic idea to a screenplay Oscar, and he has a point. Think about it.

3. On that note: Channing Tatum as Joseph?

4. We were worried about the logistics of having a birth scene near a manger — it’s a little downmarket for our audiences — until marketing pointed out this gives us an opportunity to create a line of stuffed animals timed to the film release. That really helps us with the 10-and-under audience.

With that in mind, please give thought to how we can incorporate into the birth scene a group of wisecracking, animatronic livestock, who comment on the action. Also think about how we can make the livestock extensible beyond plush toys. We’re talking spin-off animated series and theme park characters here.

5. Chad’s idea here: Ariana Grande as a baby lamb who is Jesus’ first pal. Or even better: Sidekick! Then we can also get her to sing the movie theme song. We’ve got Charli XCX writing that. It’s gonna be huge.

6. The angel announcing the birth of Jesus to the shepherds is a powerful scene, one that’s really going to justify the CGI and 3D conversion. The thing we were wondering is why an angel — a supremely powerful creature — announces the birth of the single most important person in the world to… shepherds. We’re just not seeing the utility there, and the shepherds don’t really do much with the information.

Then Chad had a suggestion: What if the angel is secretly a fallen angel, and the shepherds aren’t really shepherds at all, but a secret order of demon worshippers disguised as shepherds, who have been waiting for centuries, at the ready, to kidnap the savior foretold by prophecy at the moment of his birth, and the fallen angel is telling them so they can put their dark plan into action? Now, that makes sense! Even better, we can have the sheep they guard act as spies for the forces of good — the lamb played by Ariana Grande can race to the inn to tell the other livestock, who will then form a woolly shield around Jesus. I get a lump in my throat just thinking about it.

7. Video game idea — Christ: Race to the Manger. Let’s talk to Electronic Arts about that.

8. This takes us to the Three Wise Men. Frankly, we were all a little confused by these characters. They sort of come out of nowhere and their reasons for offering up very expensive gifts are sketchy at best. So marketing and Chad spitballed it and came up with a couple of things we think you’re going to love. One, the three wise men are not from The East — they’re from The Future (which they call “The East” as future slang). Two, they’ve come from the future not just to give gifts, but to act as bodyguards for the baby Jesus against the demon-worshipping hordes. They are future ninjas for Christ.

Three, their gifts have changed slightly. One of them (who we see played by Idris Elba) brings a robot, who will teach Jesus about humanity and martial arts. The second one (Sarah Jessica Parker) will be bringing the traditional fragrances, only now they’re from Chanel — marketing will work out the deal. The third (Jack Black) brings gold, because gold. The battle scene between the Awesome Jesus Ninja Triad (it’s a zippier description, much better for action figure sales) and the demon worshipping hordes is going to be spectacular; we’re already negotiating with Yuen Woo-ping for the wire-fu scenes.

9. Also, to secure Chinese financing, we’ll have to move the location of the birth from Bethlehem to Shanghai. I’m sure we can find a way to make this canonically sound.

10. The only problem with the demon worshippers vs Future Ninjas subplot is that by necessity it pushes Joseph and Mary out of the narrative frame a little more than we would like. The good news is once again our intern Chad has come up with an ingenious solution — what if Joseph isn’t really the humble carpenter he’s been portrayed as, but has also traveled even further back in time than the Awesome Jesus Ninja Triad, because he knows they were defeated by the demon-worshipping hordes, and that he is Mary and Jesus’ only hope of survival? So the visit to Bethlehem, the trip to the inn, the birth in the manger are all set-up the real story of the film: The final confrontation between Joseph, Warrior of the 37th Century, and Asphalbelub, the fallen angel — who is also revealed to be secretly from the future, not to mention a Venusian/Murderbot hybrid.

(This is important because suddenly this story, previously magical — and let’s face it, maybe a little far-fetched — is now grounded in actual science! Because time-traveling warriors and murderbot hybrids are plausible in a physical universe. This is like how George Lucas explained the Force with Midi-chlorians — and boy, that cleared up a lot of questions for everyone.)

Naturally, we need to work on the details, but according to Chad, it all ends up with Joseph defeating Asphalbelub, putting Mary and Jesus on his timechopper (cleverly disguised as the manger this whole time!) and returning to the 37th Century, where Jesus learns fighting skills and matter manipulation from his robot guru before coming back down the time stream to take on the Romans, all of which leads up to the ultimate, final confrontation between him and Mecha-Caesar.

I think you’ll agree these new elements really work to strengthen the story of Jesus’ birth.

Also, we’ve made Chad a producer on the film.

Let us know what you think — after the new year, of course. We understand there are a few holidays to get through between now and then.


Peter Stone, VP of Story Development


Solstice Sunset, 12/21/14

A lovely way to go into the longest night of the year.


New Books and ARCs, 12/19/14

This will be the last of these, I expect, of the year, so: What here looks good to you? Share in the comments.


Ghlaghghee Update

I know many of you are curious about how Ghlaghghee is doing, so: She’s still with us and the medicine she’s taking to clear out the fluid in her lungs seems to be doing the job, since she’s not been having any of the troubling horking coughs which were troubling her before. On the other hand she spends almost all of her time sleeping and when she’s not sleeping she is moving very very slowly, and not whole lot. So while I think the danger of imminent death has been lessened, I’m not entirely sure she’s better. Again, we’ll have to see what happens. In the meantime and at the very least, she’s comfortable and cared for.

I do want to take a moment and thank the folks, here and on Twitter, who has been sending good thoughts our way. It’s kind of you to do so, and appreciated.


Nerds on a Boat

Over at Wired there’s a piece on the JoCo Cruise, the annual pilgrimage of nerds and geeks to the Caribbean, via a cruise ship, whilst they are being entertained by nerd celebrities like Jonathan Coulton (for whom the cruise is named), Paul & Storm, and, this year at least, me (I’m running a writing track on the ship). The piece is written by Adam Rogers, an editor at Wired, who in the interest of disclosure I met and became friendly with during the cruise (I’m quoted a couple of places in the piece).

It’s an interesting piece, in part because a significant thread of the story is Adam’s personal reaction to the cruise, which is filtered through the process of grappling through his own personal nerdiness. Adam is both attracted to and unsettled by the community and dynamic of the JoCo cruise — he considers the idea that the cruise both constitutes a  “victory lap” for geek culture and may suffer from epistemic closure — and of course he has to spend time digging into both.

On balance I think it’s pretty fair to the cruise and the people on it. It’s easy but not quite correct to say that Adam’s overthinking what is, at the end of the day, just a cruise. One, because overthinking is what geeks and nerds do, after all. Two, because while it is a cruise there really is a community dynamic to the thing that makes it more than just a cruise, and that community is in fact specific to the cruise, not just an extension of the larger geek community. I don’t know if people who go on, say, the National Review cruise think of themselves as a specific community in the same way Seamonkeys (JoCo cruise attendees) think of themselves as one, but I have a feeling that what’s going on with the JoCo cruises really is its own specific thing.

I will say it’s the reason this JoCo Cruise will be my third one, however. I honestly don’t give a crap about the trip — either the ship or its destinations; cruise ships are like hotels with malls dropped on top of them, chucked out to sea, and while it’s nice to be in the warm sun in early February, it’s not as if the cruise destinations give you an authentic island experience. I like the people on the cruise and the nice little world they create on the ship. It’s the feature that keeps me coming back.

In any event, the article is a good read and I can recommend it. It does make me feel a little sad for Adam, though. As a journalist he had to spend a lot of time thinking about what the cruise meant, which speaking from some experience meant standing outside of it. I think he might enjoy it from the inside next time.


Worst Date In 5 Words

It was a Twitter hashtag. I was bored. SUE ME.


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