Today’s question: What’s the longest amount of time you’ve ever slept, from head down on the pillow to head up? “Sleep” in this case meaning actual sleep, not a coma, trauma-induced unconsciousness or any such thing (actual sleep related to things like colds and flus totally count, however).
My answer: In high school, I stayed up for four days (not 96 hours, but through four calendar days) and finally went to sleep when I started hallucinating. I put my head down on Friday night and woke up on Sunday morning. Since when I woke up my bladder wasn’t exploding (and my bed was not damp and smelly) I assume that at some point I got up to use the bathroom, but if I did I have absolutely no memory of it. So: About 30 hours, more or less.
Taken earlier today, before I took a jetlag-laden nap. I was mildly concerned that if I took a nap in the afternoon I would be unable to sleep this evening, but now it’s evening here in Perth and I’m here to tell you, I will have no trouble sleeping. 34 hours of travel is exhausting.
First impression of Perth: Seems nice, and more than a little bit like San Diego in terms of climate and vibe. There are worse places to be like.
Is the novel finished: PROBABLY NOT (I might have finished it on the plane, but that seems unlikely to me, and as I’m writing this ahead of time because I am likely still on the plane, I don’t know for sure)
Today’s question: Your favorite stuffed animal from your childhood (or heck, if it’s one from your adulthood, name it too, I don’t judge).
My answer: A pot belly bear (representative picture to the right), which was a faddishly popular stuffed animal in the late 70s and early 80s. Mine was named (because I was that kid) Lt. General Potter Patton Chocolate Chip Cookie. No, I don’t remember why. It just seemed to be the thing at the time. I got it in elementary school. I really liked that stuffed bear, enough so that when I went to boarding high school, I took it with me, which was not actually an advisible thing to do. I remember the poor being kidnapped a couple of times and at least once being threatened (jokingly, to be clear) with a swirly. When I left for college I gifted the bear to a girl friend of mine. I wonder if she still has it.
As I was packing clothes for my trip to Australia, I came across an old t-shirt for VIP, your high school band. Man, I don’t remember how long I’ve had this shirt or how, in fact, I came in possession of it — I seem to remember a trip to Texas and fighting sixteen cowboys in a bar parking lot outside of Abilene for it, sometimes three or four at a time, but I may be misremembering — but it reminded me that, like you, before I was a writer, I was a high school rock and roll musician myself: I was in a band called Dead Rats Don’t Fly, and let me tell you, we rocked the greater Eastern San Gabriel Valley area back in the day. Good times, my friend, good times.
And, I don’t know, maybe it’s time to get the band back together. What do you think?
Or, we could form a band. Hey, it worked for the Rock Bottom Remainders. Why not us? As you can see, I still have the critical rock and roll moves:
(Any rumors that this stellar rock and roll leap ended with me on the lawn, clutching my knee in agony, is just that: rumor.)
Oh, and also, I hear it’s your birthday today. Happy birthday, man. May your day be filled with friends, fun, rock and roll and the occasional weird mystery.
Yer pal in the rock n’ roll lifestyle,
(P.S.: For anyone wondering what it is that I’ve got there in my hot little hands, it’s a Warren Ellis Signature MandoTenor — that’s Warren Ellis the musician, not Warren Ellis the author. I bought, slightly prematurely, as a “finished the new novel” gift for myself. Since the new novel is not yet finished (sigh), I still haven’t actually played it yet. And now I’ll have to wait until I get back from Australia to play it. But it’s fine motivation to finish writing.)
Today’s question: When was your first flight on an airplane? If you remember, where did you go? Aside from it being your first plane trip, was there anything notable about it?
My answer: It was when I was five, and my sister and I got on a plane — unaccompanied! — to go visit my aunt in Northern California. If memory serves (and it might not) we flew from Ontario, CA to Sacramento. I remember nothing about the flight other than taking off and waiting for our bag when we landed. After that flight, I don’t think I got on a plane again until I went off to college. These days, of course, I’m on planes all the time, including today, when I’m off to Australia.
Today’s question: Name a product brand (or two) that you are not entirely rationally attached to. This is usually expressed is a rivalry (Coke vs. Pepsi, XBox vs. PlayStation) but doesn’t have to be.
My answer: I think Coke Zero is obvious, so I’ll mention a less known one: I have a difficult time buying jeans that aren’t from Levi’s, simply because when I was a kid, they were the brand, as opposed to Lee (for the urban cowboys), Wranglers (dude, who even wore those) or the various “designer jeans” which at the time were targeted more at the women’s market anyway. Nowadays there are all sorts of hipster alternatives for jeans, but I stick with the Levi’s.
Fun fact: I was in Walmart the other day picking up socks and underwear for my trip and decided I should get a new pair of jeans too, but Walmart doesn’t stock Levi’s — but it does stock “Signature by Levi Strauss,” i.e., “the brand that Levi’s makes for downmarket stores that Levi’s wouldn’t otherwise be in” (Lee and Wrangler, I’ll note, were amply represented by their lead brands). And I was all, whatever, dudes, and bought a pair.
And for those of you who stubbornly refuse to follow links, the guests (aside from me) include: John and Hank Green, Holly Black and Cassie Claire, Katherine Woodson, Patrick Rothfuss, Mary Robinette Kowal, Welcome to Nightvale, Steven Brust, Kimya Dawson, Paolo Bacigalupi and the proverbial many others.
It’s happening October 9th and 10th at the Minneapolis Convention Center. You should be there. Here’s the link again.
Today’s question: What is the furthest away you’ve ever been from your home?
My answer: So far, Melbourne, Australia, which is (or so Google tells me) 9,807 miles from my current hometown of Bradford, Ohio.
However, that record is about to be broken, because on Sunday I get on a plane to Perth, Australia, which is 11,167 miles away, to be the International Guest of Honor at Swancon 40. As the circumfrence of the Earth at the equator is 24,902 miles, meaning one can only get 12,451 miles from home before one starts inching back, it’s entirely possible that Perth is just about as far as I can get from Bradford and still be dry land — Indeed, another quick check of Google shows that the spot on Earth exactly opposite of Bradford is a spot in the Indian Ocean almost equidistant from Perth and a small island I’ve never heard of before called the French Southern and Antarctic Lands — and even then Perth (11,167 miles away) is further from my hometown than that island is (11,005 miles).
So yeah, very soon I will very literally be on the other side of the world from my home, nearly as far away from it as it is possible to get. That’s a little weird if you think about it.
How long does a world exist for an author before it makes it into a novel? Sometimes it can be a long time indeed. As Cat Rambo explains, the world in which her novel Beasts of Tabat takes place was a land she knew and wrote about well before this novel came to be.
The big idea behind my book, Beasts of Tabat, is an exploration of oppression and how it’s justified and organized, played out against a backdrop of a fantasy city that I’ve written in time and time again.
That city is Tabat, which is situated on the southern coast of what’s called the New Continent. Its counterpart, the Old Continent, lies far to the east, and is primarily a devastated landscape ravaged by the magic of the warring sorcerers that once battled there. The New Continent fears and immediately kills sorcerers, but the humans living there also depend on something supposedly initially created by those sorcerers: Beasts.
“Beast” is the term applied to any intelligent magical creature, ranging from dragons to dryads, and the city of Tabat depends on both their labor and sometimes their physical bodies. Beasts of Tabat focuses on the city at a moment of intense political upheaval, when the Beasts are first starting to rise up. We tend to both demonize and infantalize those who we oppress, and I’ve tried to show some of that in the book.
That’s a hard theme to grapple with, and not one to lends itself to light banter. One of the things I’ve worked hard at is not making it an unrelentingly grim book, and I think I’ve succeeded, though that remains to be seen. I’ve tried to make Tabat a place of wonder, like the fantasy cities I’ve loved: Lankhmar, Ambergris, far away Kadath. That’s the backdrop against which this theme plays out, a world full of entrancing things like a College of Mages, and the overhead trams that take Tabatians from one of the city’s fifteen terraces to the next. But it’s a world that depends, economically, on oppression.
It’s not a new theme for me, and I’ve written multiple stories set in the world of Tabat. Next month “Primaflora’s Journey,” a novelette based on a chunk that got excised from the book, will appear in Beneath Ceaseless Skies, which has previously published “Love, Resurrected,” which is set on the Old Continent in the days of the sorcerer kings. Other stories have appeared in Realms of Fantasy, Fantasy Magazine, Clarkesworld, and Weird Tales.
It’s a world that I love, and that I know well, not just from the stories I’ve written in it, but because it originally started as a game area for a MUD that never saw daylight. The room descriptions had a pretty intricate way of altering themselves according to factors like season, time of day, moon phase, etc, which made writing descriptions laborious but beautiful, and in many ways it helped me fleshing out Tabat: the smell of fish on the wind when you’re near the fish market, the shifting colors of the Moonway tiles, the great waterfall that falls into a circle of nothingness in the center of the Duke’s Plaza.
That’s been a big advantage, but at the same time, making the city as much a character as anyone else in the book has been a challenge, sometimes leading me to mistakes that sent me down wrong paths. At one point the book had eight different POVs, plus notes in between each chapter. Splitting some of that into book two has been a smart move, and has let me rely on two point of view characters: Teo, a young boy who’s just come to the city, and his hero, Bella Kanto, one of the gladiators who enact Tabat’s ritual battles.
This is the first volume of a quartet, and I’m hard at work on book two, Hearts of Tabat, which moves to a different set of characters centered on Bella’s best friend and former lover, Adelina. It’ll be followed by Exiles of Tabat and then Gods of Tabat. I’m very excited to have the book that I’ve worked on so long finally go out into the world.
Today’s question: When you were fifteen, what was your favorite electric or electronic object? These can be computers, toys, phones, televisions, game consoles, etc. You get the idea.
My answer: Eddie Chowaiki’s Macintosh. He had one of the first of these computers, and I was in his dorm room constantly, using it to write short stories and other such things. I strongly suspect for a while there I was using it more than he was.
In The Android’s Dream, which I wrote over a decade ago now, I reached into the thinky crevasses of my brain to conceive of a thing that no human had dared to dream of: white chocolate M&M’s. Yes! I was the first! They came from my very thinkmeat! And people said to me then, well, hold up there, Scalzi. Spaceships and aliens are all very well, but white chocolate M&M’s? That’s too radical an idea! And then they laughed, nervously.
WELL WHO IS LAUGHING NOW, PEOPLE:
Yes. Arthur C. Clarke had communication satellites, Robert Heinlein had waterbeds, and now I have white chocolate M&M’s. I predicted this magnificent confection of the future! I did! Me! Alone!
YOUR WORLD IS WHAT I HAVE MADE IT, PUNY HUMANS. PARTAKE OF THE PEARLESCENT PRODUCT OF MY PRODIGIOUSLY UNPARALLELED PROGNOSTICATION.
I’ll take my Grand Master award now, if you please.
Today’s question: What’s the first book you remember reading — meaning, the first book you were able to read on your own, front to back, without help from someone else. If you can’t remember the title, describe the contents/story of the book.
My answer:One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish, by Dr. Seuss, an author I suspect will turn up a lot here. I was reading when I was two so I don’t really remember not being able to read, but this was the first book I actually have a memory of reading.
Today’s question: In honor of convention runner Peggy Rae Sapienza, who passed away yesterday: Name the first convention you went to. It can be a science fiction/comics/nerd-oriented convention (which I suspect is most typical for this crowd), but I’d also count conventions/shows for other enthusiasms as well — cars, video games, pets, etc. The convention should have been open to the public and have something more than just a sales floor — so panels, speakers, specialized interests rooms, etc. If you’ve never been to a convention, it’s okay to note that too.
My answer: Journalcon 2000, in Pittsburgh. It was a small gathering of folks who were writing blogs back in the day — so long ago they were called “online journals” or “online diaries” rather than “blogs” a word which was probably invented by then but didn’t have much currency. And it was a lovely time, and I met in the flesh a number of people who I am still friends with today, along with some others who, alas, have drifted off — most of those online diaries from the turn of the century are not still active anymore. Here’s a picture of me singing karaoke at that convention. Oh, karaoke, you never let us down.
My first SF/F convention was Torcon 3 in Toronto, in 2003. It was where I first met many of the authors and SF/F folks who I count as very good friends today. Honestly, conventions have been pretty good to me, in terms of meeting people who have since become my friends, and have stayed so.
Indeed she will be missed. When I was president of SFWA, I had the good fortune of working with Peggy Rae on the Nebula Awards Weekend, and I can attest that she was one of the good ones. She knew what she was doing, and she made it look, if not easy (running conventions is not easy) then at least manageable. I do remember that at one point during my tenure as president I made the off-hand comment that after a certain date I would be turning my attention more to the Nebula Awards, and getting a polite but pointed note from Peggy Rae asking “what exactly does that mean?” To which I responded something along the lines of, “it means that I will do nothing to get in your way but will back you up when and if you need it.” Which appears to have been the right answer all the way around.
She ran Programming and Special Events for ConStellation, the 1983 Worldcon in Baltimore. She ran Exhibits, Registration, the Dealers’ Room, Information, Press Relations and the Newsletter (the “Second Floor Division”) with Fred Isaacs for Noreascon III in 1989 in Boston. She also conceptualized and managed the ConCourse for which Noreascon III was known. She served as Vice-Chairman for ConFrancisco, the 1993 Worldcon in San Francisco. Her many accomplishments in fandom were crowned by her serving as Chairman of Bucconeer, the 1998 Worldcon in Baltimore. More recently she helped Japanese fandom bring the Worldcon to Japan in 2007 and served as their North American Agent.
Those are some excellent accomplishments for which anyone could be proud.
Finally, I’m happy to say I considered Peggy Rae a friend, and deeply admired her competence and her cheerfulness in being so. If Peggy Rae was running things, basically, I felt in safe hands.
All thoughts to her family and friends today. She’ll be remembered not only by them, but by all of science fiction fandom.
Today’s question: Favorite Saturday morning cartoon, if you are of an age to remember when cartoons were only shown on Saturday morning (if you’re too young for that, spare a moment for those of us who suffered in such deprivation).
My answer: The Bugs Bunny show (in its various incarnations) because even at a single-digit age, I could tell the difference in quality between that and, oh, Superfriends (not that I didn’t watch Superfriends. I did. I had standards but they were very flexible).
Today’s question: What year of your education do you remember as being your best — “best” for whatever metric you like (most enjoyable, most academically successful, most memorable, etc, or any combination). Choose any year between kindergarten and the completion of your formal education.
My answer: I’d say it was my third year in college. I was well-established at school (i.e., I knew people and people knew me), I had friends I really enjoyed being with, I was editor-in-chief of the newspaper, which was a job I really enjoyed, and I was focused on being there, rather than having to think about what was going to happen next, which is to say, graduation and getting a job and so on. I had a really good time of it, I have to say.