Reader Request Week 2015: Get Your Requests In!

Next week is just about the only week in the next couple of months where I am not traveling, or on a deadline — so that makes it a perfect time 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 May 11.

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 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 five years (click through to see the full articles):

From 2010:

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

From 2011:

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

From 2012:

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

From 2013:

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

From 2014:

Reader Request Week 2014 #1: Travel and Me
Reader Request Week 2014 #2: Writerly Self-Doubt, Out Loud
Reader Request Week 2014 #3: How I Stay Happy
Reader Request Week 2014 #4: How I See You, Dear Reader
Reader Request Week 2014 #5: Hitting the Lottery
Reader Request Week 2014 #6: Enjoying Problematic Things
Reader Request Week 2014 #7: Editorial Independence
Reader Request Week 2014 #8: What Writing Lurks In the Shadows?
Reader Request Week 2014 #9: Short Writery Bits
Reader Request Week 2014 #10: Short Bits

So: What do you want to know now? 

214 Comments on “Reader Request Week 2015: Get Your Requests In!”

  1. 1) Unicorns though I will accept ponies.
    2) Dumb things I have done.
    3) If I were President
    4) My five wishes
    5) Cats and Dogs
    6) My seven favorite bands
    7) Seven bands I hate with all my heart.

  2. Okay, I’ll bite. Here’s one I’ve been thinking about (because I am woefully ignorant on the topic.) What, in your experience, are some of the benefits/pitfalls of professional organizations for people in the creative fields?

  3. I love to hear an update on the TV projects, but you are probably limited in what you can say or you would have told us.

    How about –

    Picture your life if you had started from nothing (based on your education i assume you did not). What advantages/disadvantages did you start out in this world and how did they shape you?

    What is wrong/right with print/TV/online media today?

    What you how (or fear) your daughter will say about you when you are gone (or absorbed into the singularity)?

    Takei/Shatner – pick a side.

  4. That should have been –

    “What do you hope (or fear) your daughter will say about you when you are gone (or absorbed into the singularity)?”

  5. You decide to form a superhero/villian/etc team. What family members, friends, pets, etc do you invite and what superpowers do each of you have? What is your team name? Who is your nemesis?

  6. Freedom of Speech and Safety

    There seems to be increasing polarization between those who view freedom of speech as an absolute, unfettered necessity for free society, and those who argue that since speech can cause harm, and the job of government is to protect its citizens from harm, the government should be allowed to limit speech in some (perhaps restricted) way.

    Philosophically, where do you fall on this issue? Do you think speech is fundamentally different from other potentially harm-causing actions? Should the government ever be able to limit speech in pursuit of the greater good?

    Tangentially: large free services like Twitter and Facebook are severely blurring the line between privately-owned spaces (where they have complete control over what speech is permitted) and public forums (where they do not). Twitter is legally a private space, but most of the time it *feels* a lot more like a public forum. Do you think the law needs to “catch up” in how it handles these quasi-public forums?

  7. (Sorry, @JBWeld, didn’t see yours before I posted mine, but clearly a Very Important Question!)

  8. You’ve been part of the conversation online for a long time, both on Whatever & through many other social networks.

    Given that experience, do you see any signs for optimism that humanity will finally figure out how to make a step change and really use the power of mass connection: to talk productively, to cooperate, to make good decisions and to solve tough problems?

    Or will we remain stuck forever using new channels to have the same old arguments?

  9. Post-apocalyptic SF, whether books, TV, or movies. I am so over them (yes, I know there is good stuff out there, e.g. Station 11). It’s much easier to start with a present-day world that’s been torn apart than it is to concoct a new, workable–and working–one. It’s not hard in the present day and age to come up with reasons why this setting is so popular, but what’s it going to take to see an uptick in non-catastrophic, plausibly conceived futures? Or am I just all wrong here?

  10. What’s your take on the state of short fiction in the genre? Print magazines, anthologies, e-zines, and anything else?
    Is the form viable and sustainable? And how much of an audience does it actually have?

  11. You’ve gained enough notoriety/fame that I suspect you are on the receiving end of a decent amount of the variously transparent “Look at meeee!!!” sorts of behaviors in which fans engage. (e.g., I can’t read most celebrities’ Twitter feeds without cringing the whole time; cf. fremdschämen.) How does it feel to be on the receiving end of such behavior? Do you pay much attention to it? Do you appreciate, e.g., self-mocking squee, that is aware of its own patent fannishness?

  12. You seem like a fairly genial fellow. I understand that part of that is the public persona you choose to project, but I get the sense that it’s a honest impression. So. Both in general, and specifically in today’s world, how do you keep you optimism up?

    I mean, between anti-vaxxers, climate deniers, bigotry, and all the other assorted stupidity and evil in the world, it’s often easy (for me, anyway) to get discouraged. Do you have a specific strategy for keeping an even keel and bright outlook, or is it more of an inborn personality trait?

  13. Do you have any suggestions to readers for reading broadly and still enjoying yourself?

    There’s so much to read; there’s so much available so easily. But there’s also so much dreck out there – or just stuff that’s not a particular reader’s cup of tea. What are good ways to discover new books, stories, and writers – preferably, without feeling like any given effort is as likely as not to be a flop?

  14. Who’s classier/more awesome, Sir Patrick Stewart or George Takei?

    Who’s got the sexier voice, Sir Patrick Stewart or George Takei?

    If you were to be any alien species from Star Trek, what would you be and why?

    Is there any chance of you and Brandon Sanderson writing a book together at some point? Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett did it, after all, and that book was AWESOME.

    Is it ethical for the USA to train Syrian guerillas to fight ISIS specifically while doing nothing about Bashar al-Assad and his abusive regime?

    There will be a sequel to “Fuzzy Nation”, yes?

    …that’s all off of the top of my head.

  15. What is your stand on fan fiction and other transformative works? I’m not merely asking if you are ok with your characters and worlds to be interpreted by fans, but also what intrinsic value do you see in such works, if any?

  16. I would love to see your thoughts on the pros and cons of Hillary Clinton as a candidate for president. Not so much as a president but as a candidate.

  17. John,

    The word “brand” gets a lot of mockery, but I think you’ve established a brand for yourself: snarky, “light” SF, often with an element of mystery. How much of that is deliberate? How much is a function of your own personality and tastes?



  18. 1.Night owl or lark? In other words,if you weren’t being a good father and getting up to get Athena off to school and a good husband and getting up to see Krissy off to work, what would your schedule look like? Up early and write till noon, like you do now, or sleep till noon?

    2. This one is a little writery. You’ve said your sweet spot for writing fiction is around 2000 words per day. What about for other sorts of writing you do? As a translator, I know that my sweet spot varies a lot depending on what I’m doing.

  19. I very enthusiastically second @dcrampton’s suggestion. Really I’m interested in your thoughts on the American justice system, approached from any angle, which I realize is unhelpfully broad but there you have it.

    It might be a long shot, but if you’re familiar w/ and have any opinions on William Stuntz’s arguments, particularly re: local policing, prosecutorial discretion, & jury nullification (see: Or any thoughts about distinctions between law & morality, the notion of ‘respect for the law’, and how you represent these attitudes to your kid at different ages.

  20. You wrote (several years ago?) about Joe Peacock’s article “Booth Babes Need Not Apply” and have continued writing about the harm of the Fake Geek Girl myth in general. What’s your opinion on this article by Joe Peacock that seems to retract his earlier statements?

    More generally, how do you think people go about becoming less sexist? How do you as a public figure deal with statements you regret, assuming you’ve already apologized for them?

  21. What advice do you have for raising a strong woman in today’s world*? Our daughter just turned one, and I want her to grow up to know who she is and what she wants, and to not take crap from anyone. But it’s overwhelming when society seems to have 10,000 conflicting messages about what those qualities even mean for women, much less how to cultivate them. I realize this topic might set you up for the haters, but my husband and I would love your thoughts.

    *OK, let’s narrow “the world” to the United States.

  22. I apologize in advance– I know this question is obnoxious and presumptuous and smacks of zealotry… but I’ve been reading your blog for years and I’d like to keep doing so.

    So… assuming your comments about what you eat, and the pictures you occasionally post of same, are representative of your actual diet… Are you EVER going to stop consuming so much processed food? I know you periodically diet and cut back, and I know you don’t eat bacon every day of your life, but Isn’t it time to take a real, permanent step back from the coke zero, mac & cheese monstrosities, and deep fried cheese burgers? I’m not suggesting you go paleo or gluten free or anything. Just, you know, I sort of flinch every time I read about the case of diet soda waiting for you at every venue, and wonder what’s your take on what that junk is doing to your long-term health prospects and if you’re considering making a change?

  23. You gave up ego-searching for Lent, and right after lent ended put up a post that you found you hadn’t missed it that much and though you had been doing it out of habit (I’m paraphrasing that post).

    Is that still true? Have you resumed ego searching or do you only respond if directly contacted (ie, @scalzi on twitter, tagged on facebook, etc).

    Do you think this has impacted your response to the Hugo/Puppy kerfluffle?

  24. Wanted to clarify that I’m not trying to set you up to mansplain either. But you have an extraordinary wife and exceptional daughter, and you’re a thoughtful human being, so I’m curious about what you think it takes to raise a strong woman today. Thanks for considering! :)

  25. What are your thoughts on space exploration? How do you feel about NASA and government versus privately funded space exploration? Manned missions versus unmanned? Is space exploration important just for human curiosity’s sake? Where would you like space exploration to go in the future or is it on the right path as it is?


  26. Have you had difficulties in translating Lock In to other languages and maintain the gender neutrality of Chirs?

  27. From what I’ve seen you’re fairly well travelled, but mostly the North America and Europe.
    Have you ever been to any Africa or Asia? What would it take to get you to do a tour of one of those countries, e.g. South Africa?
    Totally self serving question, as far as I know none of the great authors I follow have been to my part of the world, and I would really like to meet you and have you sign a book or two.

  28. What was the title of the first science fiction book you read? Was that book what drew you to science fiction?

  29. @daniel b.’s comment is a reminder that I’m curious about anything you have to say re: the social functions of food, the ways in which food can be imbued with meaning, and how that all works for an upper middle class white family living in the heartland in 2015.

  30. What is the Science Fiction genre and how does it fit with the awards?

    Some puppies think it is a lovely spaceship.

    Some include fantasy but not all fantasy. Goodreads created some dissent when they collapsed fantasy with paranormal romance.

    Wikipedia will list several genres for a book. The awards have their own sense so one doesn’t see a lot of urban fantasy.

    If fantasy is included, is Horror included? Correia, Jim Butcher, Stephen King, Stephenie Meyer, Charlene Harris, and Bram Stoker all have vampire books for example. Looking at the Goodreads Choice Awards, they put Correia under “horror” – not fantasy and not science fiction.

    Time travel books are by definition SciFi so Stephen King (11/22/63), Jack Finney (Time and Again), Diana Gabaldon (Outlander), Audrey Niffenegger (Time Travelers Wife), Deborah Harkness (Shadow of Night) and Karen Marie Moning (Highlander Mist) would all be as Hugo/Locus worthy as say H.G. Wells would be?

    When does romance disqualify a book from Sci-Fi? “Book of Life” tops the 2014 Goodreads Choice Award for Fantasy by a wide margin. It’s more than doubles “Skin Game”. But you don’t see any sci-fi buzz about it.

    When we say science fiction, what do we mean?

  31. 1. Talk about some SF from previous decades. What do you consider to be the “must-read” books and why? Or, to put another spin on it – what older works would you recommend to a reader who has only read recently published SF?

    2. What mainstream books have you enjoyed the most, and why? What would you recommend to readers of this blog (i.e. presumably people that like your work and SF in general)?

  32. I’d love to see your take on something completely outside your normal realm of knowledge: designated hitter rule; worst thing to come out of the 70s or savior of modern baseball?

  33. “Don’t request a topic I’ve answered recently.”

    could we ask follow-up/clarification questions if something wasn’t covered in the comments after a subject?

  34. If I recall, you attended your first SF con after you sold a novel.

    Do you think your relationship with con-going SF fandom is different than it would be if you had attended them before becoming an SF pro?

  35. @kilroy – everyone knows the dh rule is a crime against baseball, so there will be no debate…

  36. Have you ever attempted to garden and does anyone in your family enjoy gardening? Your current travel schedule wouldn’t work very well for gardening or farming, but is it something you’d like to do? (I have fond memories of my Grandfather’s garden, which wasn’t huge and didn’t appear to take endless time… but I don’t garden myself, despite occasional interest.)

    Are there any games that you enjoy playing with the whole family? Do you have a favorite game that you play with each woman in your life and a separate game that you all play together? Do you play RPGs only on the computer, or have you sat around a table with funky dice, mountain dew, and cheetos?

  37. With Krissy’s, and now Athena’s, Native American heritage what are the ways that that culture affect your lives? Food? Celebrations? Books?

  38. Best armament for today’s Social Justice Warrior, or How to Start Your Own Secret Cabal in (X) Easy Lessons.

    Sorry, John. I have a case of Friday silliness. :-)

  39. What is the process of getting your books to screen, contrasting TV to movies and what type of crazy bumps along the way have happened.

  40. The Juan/John Connundrum.

    Who wins in a fight. Juan Rico in powered armor or John Perry in his green body?

  41. How does a responsible, conscientious geek raise a child in today’s public and fannish cultures?

  42. What dumb television shows did you enjoy that were canceled before the end of their first season that you find yourself wishing had gotten a better chance? (I don’t mean Firefly, that was a quality show, something that you knew wasn’t great but you still liked to watch.)

  43. What books outside of SF/F shaped you as a person/writer/reader? Also, when you read are you able to shut down Scalzi the Writer and just be Scalzi the Reader? (And does “Scalzi the Reader” sounds like a minor yet pivotal character in a quest book to you as well?)

  44. Come on,@Not Chris S., a good American v. National league debate always great. And you won’t find me arguing with you on that one.

  45. Should you decide to go with some of the suggestions above and write about Athena, I would like to know what she’s reading. I’m blessed with two sons and two daughters, (Okay blessed isn’t the word. Overrun might be more accurate.) Youngest child is a daughter and is 15 and needs suggestions as to what’s good to read. My suggestions have all been shouted down, and she’s read every book in the house that she cares to read.

    It’s always self-serving with me.

  46. Drawing on your film background a bit.

    The Disney/Marvel Movie publishing juggernaut has laid out and executed an unprecedented decades long plan for movies released that all interconnect in a single universe. Do you think it would be a valid argument to say that what they’re really doing is creating a very slowly produced, extremely high-budget TV series? How much do you think that has influenced the popularity/success of the movies and people’s willingness to see the lower-quality entries?

  47. What’s your dream retirement scenario? Will you carry on writing as long as you can?

  48. Seems like I may have asked this before, but I can’t find it.

    Robots. Specifically, ethical treatment thereof, inclusive of AI. What criteria should we use to decide how to deal with robots and AIs when they are not yet as intelligent as us? When do they stop being tools and start being people? I am assuming they will eventually meet or surpass our intelligence in important ways, and we won’t want to look back shamefully on our treatment of them prior to that point.

  49. An understanding of Orson Scott Card (OSC).
    (sub title: I always expect better behavior from my friends than enemies, and am sometimes disappointed.)
    I only discovered your blog and books a few months ago.
    In exploring past posts and comments I was amazed at how cranky many people were with OSC. I did read some about the controversy, and though I wouldn’t support anything he did, it did seem perfectly understandable for someone with his very religious background. He is just caught in his own particular whirl of history, and I’d guess his children will have more acceptance.

    And on a totally different note: (but related to authors I like to read.)
    What happened to Lois Mcmaster Bujold?

  50. What do you read for simply pleasure unrelated to work, review writing, et. al. How many books do you read for pleasure in a typical year? Have you once read any particular genre and have pretty much abandoned reading in that genre and why? All great writers are first readers, so tell us about Scalzi as a reader. Oh, and when and how did you catch the reading bug?

  51. Your growing collection of ukuleles gives away the fact that you enjoy playing the ukulele. I enjoy listening to your cover songs. I also enjoy your Next Band Name tumblr, probably too much. My question is, what are your thoughts on joining a band consisting only of science fiction/fantasy writers, not unlike The Rock Bottom Remainers?

    Bonus questions: Who do you see as the other band members? What instruments would they play (drums, bass, zheng, etc.)? What would you chose as your band name?

  52. 1) What near-future science or social innovations have sparked some writerly ideas, whether you plan to officially use them or not?

    2) What are some of the more interesting items from your bucket list?

    3) If you could have a roundtable conversation with Heinlein, Mary Shelley, H.G. Wells, and Octavia Butler, what would you discuss?

    4) If you could learn one completely new thing that you currently have no familiarity with (i.e. a new language, para-sailing, swine showmanship) what would you choose?

  53. What is the difference between a geek and a nerd; and how is it applicable in today’s society?


    How do you give your character’s different voices and not have them sound either identical or like the worst kind of stereotype?

  54. 1 – What I know about FairTrade
    2 – What I think about the notorious “beauty industry”
    3 – When you were a kid, the things you wished your life would be like

  55. What are your top five resources for finding good SF&F reading you might otherwise overlook?

  56. Two thoughts.

    1. I am about to become a parent in a few weeks, which is both awesome and terrifying. How has parenthood changed you, your life, your relationship with your wife and do you have any advice? (I have enjoyed reading about your interactions with your daughter over the years).

    2. This isn’t really a topic for request week but could you post a link or write a primer on the who “sad puppies” hugo thing? I don’t understand the whole issue and feel like I am missing the backstory.

  57. 1) Do you think that humanity will survive its adolescence, and one day overcome its baser instincts?
    2) What do you think of scientific frontiers that are being explored like string theory, or genetic engineering, or dark matter or artificial intelligence?

  58. What conspiracy theory would you most like to be true, and why?

  59. What would have happened on Season 3 of Stargate Universe? #WorthAShot

  60. Is the publishing industry, and by extension, Hollywood, ready to invest real dollars on fantasy books featuring girls? (I don’t know why I’m asking you, I know you’re not a publisher or a producer, but you seem to know a lot of stuff and I try to listen to people who know a lot of stuff)

  61. George: Re LMB, she had some health problems she needed to take care of after finishing Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance. She recently finished a new Vorkosigan book, “Commedore Jole and the Rew Queen” which is supposed to be a Cordelia book set three years after the end of “Cyroburn.” Due to be released from Baen in Feb 2016, or thereabouts.

  62. Riffing on your statement “Make me dance like a monkey, people!”: what do you think should change in the laws concerning animals as a result of recent years’ discoveries re animal intelligence? Should we treat apes/dolphins/crows/parrots differently than animals less cognitively impressive?

  63. Plotting with Scalzi: do you sit there slogging away at the plot, brow a furrowing, hammering away until it takes on enough shape and substance, or do you absentmindedly suck on the soggy end of a churro and wait for a fit of inspired genius to hit?

    Learning or taking inspiration from positive examples versus learning or taking inspiration from negative examples?

    Or, to put it another way: learning or taking inspiration from things that people have done well, versus learning or taking inspiration from things that people have done badly?

    Is either of these things more or less effective than the other? Do you find either to be of superior utility? Which do you think you’ve gotten the most mileage from, and has that changed over time?

    (I read an interview with Stanley Kubrick years ago where, insofar as I can remember it accurately, he said that much of what he did was inspired in a negative sense, in that he would look at something, think “No, no. That’s not right!” and then be convinced that he could do better. At the time it set me off on odd tangents, thinking about how both learning and creativity work as processes.)

  64. This will sound snarky, but it’s genuine. How do you use your philosophy degree in daily life?
    I always used to think that every philosophical discussion had to end with, “Well you just can’t really know for sure,” rendering it a potentially interesting but ultimately fruitless pursuit. Lately, I’ve learned a bit more about the subject and begun to see the real value in it. I’d like to hear how you use it and how it colors your approach to writing and life in general.

  65. I would love to hear your thoughts about “class jumping”. I refer people to your poverty writings pretty regularly. You also write about how your education and subsequent success has given you access to a different mindset both politically and economically. Please write about the in-betweeners! I struggle with what I owe to where I came from and how I can be a voice for the disadvantaged, when I’m not necessarily so disadvantaged anymore. We talk about race as a substitute for class a lot and we see the results of class mobility (or lack thereof) in the news all the time. Some people make the jump, but it’s getting more difficult all the time and it’s not just a financial challenge.

  66. How do you feel about the reception of Midnight Star? Are you happy with the final product? How involved were you with the dev team, being an external contractor? Would you ever like to be involved in a bigger scale video game project?

  67. Since you “like pie”, discuss your favorite and least favorite pies, describe a time when a slice of pie was a transcendental experience (if you’ve ever had such a slice of pie, and if you haven’t, I am filled with pity), and whom would you like most to share a slice of pie with (Krissy and Athena are understood as your top choice)?

  68. If you were offered a cameo role in a movie/tv adaptation any one of your books, what would your favorite one be? I am thinking the victim in the video that Sargent Ruiz shows to the recruits when they first arrive at boot camp would be a great one…

  69. General: What are a husband’s responsibilities during pregnancy and immediately after in two income households? How does he compensate for the limitations imposed by biology?

    Specifically: 1) Should he give up caffeine / alcohol in solidarity (or, alternatively, take up drinking for three)? 2) Should he attend every medical checkup? 3) Should he take up all of the baby care he is biologically capable of (e.g., change all diapers since he can’t breastfeed)? 4) Should he take a longer parental leave to compensate for the wife’s discomfort and greater difficulty resuming her place in the workplace?

    Would be interested in hearing your thoughts on how to make this process fair when both parents want to maintain careers outside the home in the awkward era before home cloning kits and robot nannies are readily available.

  70. I gather you were a philosphy major in college. What philosophical school of thought do you prefer, if any? I’ve recently become interested in the Roman Stoics for example. Did your study of philosophy have any practical value for the way you live your life now?

  71. Conventions! What do you like the most about them? What do you think conventions need to be doing that they aren’t doing now? Advice for people running a convention for the first time? What are some mistakes conventions make/can avoid? What is the weirdest thing you’ve seen at a convention?

  72. What do you consider to be the ideal balance between work and leisure, assuming money isn’t an issue?

  73. As someone who attends so many conventions in a given year, which aspects of different cons make it more/less enjoyable for you as a guest? Is there anything that makes you tell others they should attend a specific convention or things that stick out that make you not want to attend again?

  74. Huh, I was just pondering this:

    So, you’ve talked about coming from a financially difficult background to a more comfortable lifestyle.

    You’ve talked about dealing with this transition while going through high school.

    You’ve talked about privilege and the advantages of being male.

    You’ve commented that, while you enjoy your success, you certainly don’t begrudge others their success.

    What I want to know is: Did you ever go through a period of being the Angry Young Man?

    If so, what is your sense of what was driving that?

    How did you get over it?

    If not, how did you manage to avoid it?

  75. In your books it seems that governments tend to be the ones who have near monopolies on space travel. But today there is increasingly a (small but growing) field of private companies trying to make it big in space travel. So from that arise 2 questions:

    1) do you believe that ultimately the goverent will control/ own space travel?

    2) is it desirable for NASA to spend a significant amount of its resources incubating private space flight ventures or should it let them live or die by the market and use its resources to explore/expand space travel as a government industry?

  76. 1. I’d like to know how the other cats and dog have adjusted now that The Radiant She has left them. Any totem pole shift? Any new spots being claimed for all catkind?

    2. Like Marc Criley said, enough with the post-apocalypses. How can we (or can we?) get some more positive stuff going on here? Pew-pew lasers optional.

  77. At one point, I recall you mentioning in a post that you had additional thoughts and comments on a specific recent convention harassment debacle, and that you’d share them at a later date. I could be wrong, but I don’t think I ever saw a follow-up to that. Are you at a point yet where you are ready/willing to comment further on that?

    May not be an appropriate topic for this particular week, I realize, just curious.

  78. You told a friend of mine at your recent event in Columbus that a lot of Locked In came from experiences you had talking to members of the Deaf community and the controversy that is ever present in terms of people trying to “find a cure.” I would love to hear more about your experiences with this, both in terms of how this showed up on your radar and what your general thoughts are about it.

  79. Is your social media presence worth it? Jos Whedon quitting Twitter the other day because he was tired of the constant stream of “you suck,” made me wonder if it is worth all the exposure to negativity and small-minded people. I know you’re very active on Twitter, but you frequently comment about “muting” people, so that means you have to deal with it, so is the benefit worth the cost?

  80. Hi there! I’d like to hear your thoughts about the name “John”. It’s one of the most common names in the English-speaking world. It’s also your name. Do you like being named John? If you had to change your name, what would you change it to?

  81. Things keep coming back from the dead. Vinyl is now popular again after it was killed by CDs and then digital downloads. Boardgames are back after they were killed off by video and computer games. Printed books seem strong despite being dismissed as on their last legs in an eBook world. Using your futurist abilities, what thing(s) that we currently presume to be pushing up daisies do you see making a strong comeback?

  82. Tom Bombadil: Important to the world-building of Middle Earth, or just needlessly weird?

  83. From what I’ve read, you seem to be progressive Democrat with a distaste for Republicans. Has there/will there be a time where a Republican, on any level, will do something that might momentarily soften your distaste for the Republican party?

  84. • What is the likelihood of you finding another publisher for—and updating—the Guide to the Universe and the Guide to Sci-Fi Movies? (They’re great, but could use a little refresh.)

    • We say it all the time: “I LOVE LIVING IN THE FUTURE!” But aside from my devices, my big ass TV, my boring hi-tech car, and the graphic design on my cereal boxes, there is very little about my house, yard and neighborhood that would freak out my great-grandparents, were they to time travel here from the ’60s. Mediate on how much we don’t really live in the future yet.

    • How can there not be stock emojis for bacon and pie? How did the engineers come to fail us so badly?

    • If you passed a guy in a restroom as he came out of a stall and walked out without washing his hands, and not long after you were introduced to him in a group of people, would you shake with him? You don’t have immediate access to a wet cloth, let alone Purell.

  85. Thanks to the date, I was reminded that the world wars (and the roaring 20s and the great depression) are disappearing from living memory. WW2 is, rightly or wrongly, popularly considered the canonical example of a “good” and/or “just” war, do you think the disappearance of living memory of the war will affect how people write about war, and if so, how?

  86. I am a veteran (navy 94-03) and still work with the DoD and I was wondering how you got your military parts in OMW novels and SG:U right (in my opinion anyway)? Did you do any special research? Also if you ever need any military questions answered feel free to email me! ;-) thanks for all your work on both the writing part and as a good citizen and human being.
    Josh (Rogue5)

  87. What future potential changes do you see as potential “singularity” events? Artificial Intelligence defines the term. But other advances such as “near zero cost solar” could have some weird/unpredictable effects on things by making the cost of energy approach zero. Space elevator would be another possible with a massive reduction in the cost to access space. Other things might not be “technical advances” but rather events, such as global warming raising sea levels by 20 feet, or the discovery of life on other planets (maybe just microbes in our solar system, but possibly bigger stuff). Immortality for everyone. Which ones are simultaneously potentially most awesome and potentially most terrifying?

  88. You wrote one book in another (now-deceased) author’s universe, more or less. If you could chose any still living author’s universe to write another book in, who and what setting?

  89. I know you have skirted around this contradiction a couple of times but I would like you to discuss/explain the mental gymnastics necessary for a community (country) to be simultaneously strongly Christian, strongly anti-communist and firmly pro capitalist?

  90. Like myself you’re a feminist. But I, personally, am troubled by how toxic the extreme elements of feminism are becoming (see the recent Joss Whedon Twitter thing…yes, I know now he didn’t leave because of the hateful things said to him, but they’re still a problem.)

    And it’s a trend that seems to be getting worse. What do we do about it? How do we deal with it?

    Related to that, my experience has been that most feminists are left-leaning. And by and large left-leaning people are usually pretty smart and pretty open to discussion and debate (You’re a good example of this, actually.) So the tendency of the extremes to shut down discussion is also troubling.

  91. How do you feel about the sort of uncritical patriotism pushed by statements like “love it or leave it”? Do you think the best way to love one’s country, fandom, or whatever is to refrain from criticising it at all, or do you feel criticism has a useful function?

  92. Canada, eh? You’ve been here, at least a couple of times. I’m pretty sure you said you were at Torcon back in the dawning years of this millennium. And I think you spent time in Vancouver when you were working with the Stargate: Universe people. And hey, maybe you’ve been a few other, less important places up here, too. What’s the deal with us Great White Northers? Are we really so different, you and us?

  93. You have both a dog and cats. Which do you prefer as pets, and why? Which do you interact with more?

  94. Human overpopulation seems to be a/the root cause of oh-so-many issues… So, thoughts on transition to reduction?

    Also, what happened to Ralph in ATTS after Joshua became Michelle?

    Thanks. Much appreciation…

  95. What do you think are the hallmarks of a good on-line community and a bad on-line community? How can you fix a bad one or create a good one?

  96. The LA Times just bought the San Diego Union Tribune. Any thoughts on this? Also how and where to get quality news.

  97. Do you have any interest in returning to the world you created in The God Engines?

  98. Seems like we’re seeing a lot of movies based on old tv shows or movies from the 80s. I was wondering what you thought about that. Fair game? Boring?

  99. How to restart your career when it’s in a decline, or you have a gap in relevant employment (or any employment). I have some friends who struggle with this after the recession. I think it’s a really relevant topic for the current times.

  100. Topic: SF & Fantasy Games, and the rest of the genre.

    Possibly Details:
    Why the disconnect (except for with artists – they work both sides of this street)?

    Why no retro-Hugos for AD&D, Colossal Cave, Doom? Why no Hugos for Portal, Diablo, Magic the Gathering? (not just Hugos either though they are the biggest – no-one seems to span this divide)

    Why aren’t games companies bringing in SF authors as writers the way Star Trek & Dr Who did?

    Just too new as an art form, or what?

  101. I second some of the questions about raising a strong young woman. I’m not yet a parent, but my husband and I hope to have children in the next year or two, and I’m somewhat terrified by the prospect. It seems like there are so many ways to go wrong, and so many different opinions about how to parent… You and Krissy seem to have done an incredible job with Athena, and I’m curious if you had any sort of strategy, or just figured things out as you went along.

    I’d also be interested in your thoughts on raising an only child. I think I’d be happy with one, but my husband feels that only children can often be more self-centered that children with siblings, and also worries that an only child would be lonely. I think there must be ways to avoid these outcomes, and I have some ideas on how, but your perspective would be interesting.

  102. You live in Ohio. Ohio has a swallow-tail shaped flag. Do you have an opinion on the eccentricity of it, or any other thoughts on flag design or on flags in general? For example what would you like to see on a Scalzi flag?

  103. What if every time something good happened to someone they got hit in the hand with a hammer. How would society and values differ from today?

  104. Road trip! Pick a place that you have never been within 500 miles of your house. Why that place? What would you do once you got there? Would you drive straight there or see things along the way?

  105. In what ways is it easier to take care of a human child (as a parent) than a cat?

  106. Always interested in the intersection of profession and parenting so… has your life as writer, particularly one in a genre with such a high level of interaction between the writer and the reader, impacted your parenting?

  107. You’ve heard of ‘speed dating’ where you spend 5 minutes with each of several potential partners trying to determine if you are compatible. How about ‘super speed dating’ where you’re allowed just three questions? What 3 questions would give you a sense of go/no-go?

  108. “Lock In” in its bare bones, is actually a pretty good crime thriller.

    Have you given thought to writing outside of the genre?

  109. How do you decide which Big Idea books get prominent ads on the sidebar for years at a time?

  110. The complexities of the road to good. Or how one person’s steps along the road of life may be different from another’s, but both can be moving towards the same goal.

  111. – The difference between show and tell in fiction

    – Do men find the “Prima Nocta” comment in “Age of Ultron” funny?

    – Why isn’t there more female heroes merchandise?

    – Should “Lock In” be a movie at some point?

  112. Do you see a marked difference regarding how much men and women are negatively affected by gender norms? Do you think that what your daughter’s generation is growing up with is better, worse or the same?

  113. Adventures in being an ally, including dumb mistakes, wins, and perhaps the seduction of mansplaining (I do it too and I’m not a man.) Guy friends of mine chicken out on being an ally sometime because they are afraid of being scolded. They might like to hear some of your experiences and realize it’s survivable.

  114. Why have you Americans named the game, that the rest of the world calls football, soccer and then used the word football for a completely different sport, where the foot doesn’t touch the ball nearly as much? Are you deliberately trying to confuse us? Call it my need to know, as I’m certain that you have a good answer for this one. This isn’t meant as mocking – I honestly want to know and if you don’t have the right answer, then I’ll count on you having an entertaining one.

  115. Jonathan Vos Post May 8, 2015 at 9:15 pm
    [Deleted because this is a post for reader requests, not general discussion — JS]
    [No problem. — JVP

  116. What pizza toppings are the best pizza toppings and how people that don’t like those particular pizza toppings are are so utterly wrong its not the least bit funny.

  117. Going without technology. What’s necessary, what’s fun, what could you live without? ex. You did a Lenten fast for name checking, could you do a lenten fast for computers, tablets or phones, etc.? (I briefly thought of going even more extreme with like no powered lawn mower, or car and so forth, but you do do a lot of traveling for your work. I honestly don’t think most professional writers could manage without planes, trains and automobiles anymore).

  118. Generally, bullies bash people to get particular reactions — they want to shut down others’ voices or at least scare them. But, at least from the outside looking in, the only affect the Mewling Manlings/Rabidly Sad Puppies/etc. have on you is an occasional volley of very well-crafted snark. Given that they don’t seem to be getting what bullies generally want out of you, why do you think they keep at it?

  119. What do you think about Eric Flint’s idea of changing the Hugo and Nebula categories to differentiate between novels, short novels, multi-volume, and series?

    If you formed a band tomorrow which one of your many possible names would you actually name it?

  120. Why do you think Lt. Colombo always wore that trench coat? Isn’t Southern California usually warm if not hot?

  121. First-time commenter here. I was passing a quiet morning skimming recent Reader Request Week topics. I just read the Guilty Pleasures answer from 2013 and read: “Yes, my pets have theme songs? Don’t yours?” Then I saw commentors chiming in.


    Nobody (not my wife, nor my cats, nor guests) ever made me feel guilty about this. Just a little …um… off. Except for Jinx. The tip of her tail would start twitching ever so gently when I sang her song.

    ObRequest: Do you by any chance moo at cows?

  122. Athena is getting close to the age when decisions must be made about colleges, including whether to go and if so, where. If she decides to go to college and you had your druthers, would you rather she stayed close to home or went a fair distance away?

    (This question isn’t about what Athena wants, although knowing you, that’s going to factor a fair bit into your answer. But in the absence of all other factors, would you rather see her stay close or spread her wings immediately?)

  123. It’s fun to see the variety of questions you answer every year. Here are a couple I’ve had on my mind:

    1. When you write here on controversial topics, you are clear, direct, your prose builds, you include links that are interesting and to the point, and there’s humor. Do you have to do rewrites and research, then let them sit, and go back for re-reading? Or is what I read frequently off-the-cuff?

    2. I have been talking with my two college-age kids about some of the distressing recent recurring news topics, especially the deaths of young black men pursued by or in custody of police and what changes we think could improve the situation, especially what changes we can implement in our own lives and even encourage those around us to make. I suggested that it would be an excellent first step if we (we are white) did not react to black men automatically with fear. Growing up female, sheltered, and privileged in the South I don’t how I could have been any other way when I was young, but I have changed–I believe it can be done. And after listening to a speaker on The Moth Radio today, I’ve been thinking how horrible it must be to become a teenager and have people start to react on sight with fear and as though you were the enemy. So (finally!) my questions, do you think I am on the right track, and what thoughts do you have about changes we can all make so that we are not part of the problem, and even better, that could help end the problem?

  124. Who would you most like to write a guest post during Reader Request Week, and what would you ask them?

  125. A question I meant to ask at the last reading of yours I got to but ran out of time or nerve:

    You wrote Zoe’s Tale when Athena was quite young. Now that she’s caught up to Zoe’s age and you’ve experienced Life With Teenager, are there things you would change about how you portrayed Zoe (and/or Gretchen)? Has Athena given you any “Dad, that’s totally unrealistic” feedback on it?

    Heh. With all these Athena questions, maybe she could answer them herself, if you and she were willing.

  126. You frequently post pictures of the piles of new books and ARCs that get delivered to you on a regular basis (and make me incredibly jealous). I’m curious about what you actually do with all that wonderful reading material. Are you expected to read all of it? Do you have time to read all of it, and if not, how do you narrow down your reading list? Are some or all of the books sent to you with the expectation that you’ll review them somewhere, or write a blurb for the back? Who sends them — authors, publishers, book retailers? If you finish a book and didn’t like it enough to keep it, do you donate it to the library, sell it to a used bookstore, store it in your garage, or some other option?

  127. 1) What are your thoughts on human beings and love? Not the hearts and flowers stuff, but the nature of attraction and passion. How do they happen? How much control do we have? And, as part of that, what your thoughts are on relationships, and ideas like soulmates, true love, and the like.

    2) Comic books/Super-Heroes, movies are ok, but especially the book versions. What are your favorite heroes and villains, and why? Favorite type of story? Which character or title do you see having a great deal of missed potential and why? And finally, if approached to do a run on a comic book, or to write a screenplay for an adaptation of any comic book character or team, who would it be, why, and what kind of story would you like to tell?

  128. Being an “expert”: So, you hold a BA in Philosophy, but have been paid to write as an expert on various topics, such as film, finance, and astronomy. I understand that film criticism is mostly just expressing an opinion, and that you likely did significant research when writing the “Guide” books. I’m also familiar with (read: have heard of) the adage “Fake it till you make it”. But, has the notion of presenting yourself (or being presented) as an expert in a subject in which you lack more traditional bone fides ever given you pause? If so, how do you reconcile? If not, why not?

    Related: The role of objectivity in criticism: I’m sure you, like most critics, have been accused by readers of not being objective enough in your film criticism. What does objectivity look like in criticism? Can a critic truly be objective? Should they try to be?

    Further related: Ethics in (entertainment) journalism: How much nonsense is this line of reasoning? Shouldn’t caveat emptor be the guiding principle when engaging in entertainment journalism?

  129. What in your opinion causes the rabid hatred toward anyone gay in the christian world that is supposed to be focused on love? I can’t understand it. And why do they find it needful to lie about how marriage and all of society are going to be destroyed? Any enlightenment you can provide would be welcome.

  130. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about our growing tendency to store personal artifacts (photos, communications, and various writings) digitally. Specifically, I think about how historians rely on those kinds of artifacts to understand past cultures. The ephemeral nature of many aspects of digital culture makes me wonder what will be left to inform future historians of the daily lives of 21st century humans. Any thoughts on that?

  131. Professionalism: what personal experience do you have with it when it comes to appearance? Do you find that professional standards of dress alienate people? Is it possible to feel comfortable in a “professional” environment?

    My questions are inspired by this article:

    Any other thoughts on it? Any tips on how recent college grads can transition from lax dress standards to strict, unfamiliar ones?

  132. There are a lot of people who consider you an egotistical jackass. In your opinion, is this accurate?

  133. Are there any works outside of your area of expertise you’ve gone to for inspiration that might surprise your reads? As a history grad student, I’m curious, as I actually find science fiction useful for considering how to convey peoples and societies, foreign and familiar at once, to a potential audience.

  134. (Reposting in the correct thread this time): What’s your opinion of the Benjanun Sriduangkaew/Winterfox/Requires Hate situation?

  135. I was wondering about the physical and emotional tolls of writing. Do you worry about carpel tunnel? Do you use stretching techniques or Tiger Balm for marathon sessions? Thoughts on the use of ergonomics? Emotionally; does your writing affect you? If you’ve killed off a character you like, does it sadden you or is it all just words on a page? Have you ever written something that you found too disturbing even for yourself?

    Now that your back in the movie critic business and knowing your “love” of Star Wars: thoughts, expectations, or hopes for the release coming in December?

  136. The UK just had elections, and according to all of the Serious People the whole place is going to disintegrate in fire and war. What are you going to do when all of those British/Scottish/Welsh sf writers show up on your doorstep begging for a place to sleep and a wi-fi hotspot?

  137. 1. You’ve mentioned that you don’t drink alcohol, and you’ve mentioned attending many Alateen meetings at some point in your life (presumably while you were a teen . . . ). Can you talk about how others’ use of alcohol affected your life and, presumably your decisions (while still respecting their privacy, of course)?
    2. Wittgenstein or Popper?

  138. I’m a huge SF/Fantasy/horror, etc etc fan. Eclectic about it too. I use your stacks of incoming books as clues about what to look for/download. I enjoy your work a lot, by the way.

    But I’m not a social joiner. Never been to a Con, barely understand the concept. So I don’t know how to enter the Hugo contremps and take action against the puppies, sad and rabid. I can certainly afford to spend $40, happy to in this case. I can afford to go to Washington for the big con if I thought I would enjoy it.

    How can I plunk down $40 and do something about these rabid/sad puppies? It would help if you could list their “slates” (so I know who to avoid voting for), and then list worthy authors not on a slate. I am willing to vote Noah Ward, but prefer to go for the best person with a shot who isn’t on a puppy slate. So I am also asking for recommendations to vote for, as I haven’t read nearly all the nominated works. Two lists, I guess, or three if the sad puppies and rabid puppies have different slates, oh gawd, how bad is that?

    I live in rural W Va, and like the Midwest as a place to drive through, how did you wind up in flat place outside Dayton? How is Dayton doing, I understand the factories are gone and the place depends on military bases and contractors, Driving past downtown on the interstate it looked like a great downtown, but I never got off, on an errand headed to the airport.

    Best wishes, sorry about the late great cat. it’s always hard to lose someone in your life that you have totally warm fuzzy feeling about, isn’t it….

    So that’s two (or 3 or 4…) suggestions for you to write about. Thanks for all you do.

  139. Hillary Clinton’s chances for president if she were a man.


  140. John, given the Old Man’s War universe and its topics of age, reinventing oneself, and veterans, would you care to comment on the plight of today’s veterans? I think mostly about the number 22: The number of veteran suicides per day. The recent VA health care debacle. The move by Congress to reduce benefits to active duty service members and their families. Veteran underemployment and unemployment, as well as homelessness. Talk about the 1% o fAmericans! In this case, I’m talkinga bout those that volunteered to serve their country, putting their fragile selves between hearth, home and loved ones and war’s destruction. As a disabled veteran myself, I find that Congress’ failure to keep faith is deplorable, but sadly not anything new. Does this pique your interest? :)

  141. Given that the OMW series follows a couple of (former) soldiers as protagonists, and other novels do include violence in one form or another, I would be very interested to hear your views on violence, both at an interpersonal level, as well as its application on a national level.

  142. What are your thoughts (if any) on the new Harper Lee novel, Go Set a Watchman, scheduled for release later this year, as well as the controversy and questions regarding her condition and wishes for the novel?

  143. I can’t figure out if I should address this to John or Mr.Scalzi.

    Can you talk a little bit about being productive? Not where your ideas come from or writerly advice, but more how do you stay focused on being a productive writer when there are so many distractions available. I unfollowed you (and others) on twitter for a whole day so that I could be more productive. (Not the worst day of my life, but close).

    Also, I’ve seen you mention Ubuntu somewhere. Could you imagine yourself with a completely open-source work flow? What would you need to switch over? I think I would offer to cut your lawn with safety scissors if you switched everything over to open-source for a year.


  144. From here it seems that society is going through an transition where more and more people trust social authorities less and less, yet at the same time all of the pressing issues that we need to address require that we reach consensus. Is this a cyclic phenomenon? Or are we heading for a new social organization beyond what we had last century? Are we starting to get beyond hierarchy and the worst of tribalism? Finally, given that the current economic structure is a failure for most people, where do you see it changing?

  145. At the end of “Free Speech or Not” you say “Courtesy seems okay to give.” There is a conflict between the people who want to establish a higher standard of social interaction and the people who accuse standard-keepers of making too many demands — that’s a whole topic by itself. If you don’t care to do that kind of followup now (on the grounds that it would be Too Much of the Same Thing), could we have one later?

  146. I had a really good question yesterday at work, and now I forgot it, so I’ll go with a stupid one instead:

    As a science fiction writer (and occasional ukelele player), what are your thoughts on filk music?

  147. Stress balls, yes or no? Seriously, how do you deal with stress of deadlines, constant travel, ever increasing expections, fame & the jerks it brings out of the woodwork.

  148. Given the success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe as a whole and the company’s ability to keep all of their live action properties in one shared universe (excluding rights that were sold off to other companies years ago), how long do you think it will be, if ever, before they buckle under the weight of everything they’ve set up? Also, do you think other franchises that are try to do the same, most notably DC (but lets not forget Transformers, Ghostbusters, etc.) will be able to achieve the kinds of success and cohesion that Marvel has done?

  149. What are your thoughts on bad actors in anarchic/unorganized social movements? From looters hi-jacking civil rights protests to gamergate (some people seem to actually believe it’s about ethics in video game journalism) and Puppies (likewise), the stated goals of the group are undermined or by those calling themselves members of the group while acting in counter-productive ways. Can these groups police themselves despite a lack of central authority? Do you have any suggestions for people who are genuinely concerned about ethics in videogame journalism or other populist causes?

  150. I am coming late to this and have not read all the other questions, so if someone else has asked this already I apologize, but this question kind of comes off today’s question. I didn’t feel it matched in the comment tread though.

    What are your thoughts on government(s) (local and state) interjecting themselves into private businesses that choose not to accommodate certain people groups due to religious beliefs? Does this fall into your free speech defense, or even freedom of religion?
    I am not referring to not hiring, degrading, or mistreating individuals. I am referring to simply allowing a business to say, “I am not comfortable selling you …”

  151. I can’t imagine I’m the first person to ask, but on the theory that it never hurts:
    What would be the top bits of advice you would give to someone who wants to start writing and publishing fiction today?

  152. Is there a popular fictional trope or character trait you would like to abolish for a time, just to see what would fill the vacuum? Conversely, is there an obscure trope or trait you enjoy in fiction but don’t see often enough? Goes for genres/sub-genres as well.

  153. Harassment in games.
    Online games have policies, but the harasser is anonymous and the punishment is typically hidden from the victim, it seems that there is little to no moderation of harassment in many of these online games.

    Things seem to be getting worse, not better. At what point is the only solution Real ID?

  154. Sorry, it’s a writing question.

    How do you go about making an extreme character believable?

    I have someone on the fringes of my life who annoys the hell out of me. I want to use him as a character because a) it would be therapeutic and b) it might help me understand him and therefore deal with him better. But whenever I use actual things that he did, my crit group all say it’s unbelievable, and I can’t blame them. It was pretty unbelievable watching it with my own eyes.

    But of course fiction has to be believable, and being true isn’t a substitute for that.

    One writing friend suggested making him less extreme, but that sort-of misses the point. And there are so many wonderful extreme characters out there, so it has to be possible. I’m thinking of Hannibal Lecter, Mrs. Haversham, Heathcliffe, Basil Fawlty, Reggie Perrin…


  155. I realize this is a late request, but you said it’s not too late yet.

    Once upon a time, Science Fiction (and related pursuits) were the haven of the socially awkward. Whether they were called nerds, or geeks, or anything else, they wanted some socialization, but lacked the skills to navigate the eddies of complex social interactions. (I believe this is a huge part of why Role Playing became popular in that crowd – interactions! with rules! that you cn read and study and understand!)

    As geekdom has become more popular, the features that made it appealing to the awkward are being replaced by, well, more awkwardness. It doesn’t help that online communications are rife with bad examples of how to play well with others.

    So, to the question – are the lovable losers of 30 years ago now doomed to either hide in their closets, or become trolling assholes because of a lack of outlets?

    I suppose a different way of asking this questions is: “How did geek culture contribute to what you are today, and have the changes to that culture preserved or diminished those aspects?”

  156. Would you rather fight 1 horse sized duck or 100 duck sized horses? Pick one and describe the fight and the outcome.

  157. What makes a character truly evil?
    I like the idea that every villain is the hero of their own story, but what makes a character irredeemably evil? I started thinking about this after the Star Wars Showdown on Are there ‘evil’ characteristics you think are intrinsic? Understanding that not all worlds harbor ‘good vs evil’ so cleanly. Blurred lines and complex characters are certainly more interesting, but I wondered if, in story telling, you have ways of communicating a characters’ evilness that isn’t just ‘opposite goals of the protagonist’.

  158. Paths not taken.

    I’m your age, with a Philosophy degree. Actually, you were born 3 days before me – so it being May 12th you’re older than me today. This time of year makes me reflect on things.

    Me, I’m very happy with me life. You seem very happy with yours. Great! But… what else could you have been? Would that have made you happy?

    What if you’d used your talents for evil – would Karl Rove have competition, or what?

  159. Once upon a time,I was a user of Old Spice talcum powder.Great scent easy to apply.You did mention talcum powder,so what are your thoughts on the subject?

  160. 1)What are your thoughts on the drought in California? And how do you feel about the various factors that have gone into creating it? (Agriculture, Fracking, bottled water, etc). I am also concerned that the corporations responsible are just going to head overseas/other states and continue headlong. What can we do, as consumers, to force a change, in your opinion?
    2) We have an incredibly throwaway society. Look at all the plastic crap, for example, everywhere, on everything. Would you ever consider trying to reduce the amount of plastic in your life? It does leach (particularly the more flexible plastics). Plastic is a wonderful substance, but when the majority is in packaging and is non-recyclable…

  161. Whats your relationship to comic books? Did you read them alot as a kid, teenager, young adult, still? Have they influenced your writing style in any way and also now that you have done one, how was the experience?

  162. So much seriousness. As a change of pace, how about: if you were ice cream, what flavour would you be? And, why? (BONUS COOL MARKS for original and/or entertaining reasoning.)

  163. Complimentary to your “Raising Strong Women” post, how about your thoughts on raising boys to be feminists?
    We have two boys who are one and three. One thing I try to do is try to encourage them to do things like a “big kid” rather than like a “big boy” in an effort to avoid limiting his role models to one gender.

  164. Have you ever gone to the Levi Coffin House in Fountain City, Indiana? It’s actually a pretty amazing piece of history, both of the Underground Railroad, and of the Society of Friends split over abolition, and of the “Free Labor” movement (as opposed to goods produced using slave labor). And! Only a few minutes away is “Hoosier Hill”, the highest point in Indiana. At a whopping 1,257 feet. It’s, er, really just a quite little hill in the middle of some farmland. It’s not that impressive. But it’s kind of neat in its way.

  165. How do you balance justifiable outrage at social injustice without becoming bitter or letting it color everything and make everything sad and angry.

  166. For the short bits, probably:

    I’ve read your site for years, and a year or so ago was the first time I remember you mentioning doing recurve archery (which isn’t to say you didn’t mention it before that). How long have you been doing it?

    If memory serves, you said that you have a 50 pound bow, which would lead me to think that you practice quite often to be able to pull that kind of weight without getting hurt, so I was surprised that I couldn’t recall you mentioning it previously. Having taken up recurve archery about a year ago, I’m curious to hear your history with the sport.


  167. If an arbitrary stranger saved your life, what would you do? In particular, how would you deal with that person? Likewise, if you saved someone else’s life, what, if anything, would you expect of them or of yourself?

  168. Given you have done some journalism early in your career, what is your take on modern journalism and apparent demise of real investigative journalism. There have been an increase in scandals in journalism (Williams, Hersh, Rolling Stones, etc) lately.

    Do you think this is purely a case of scandals getting more scrutiny and press or do you think there has been a severe decline in journalism integrity.

    Is real journalism doomed? Is there hope? What do you envision the future of investigative journalism?

  169. Do you agree with current copyright term lengths? Your daughter and her children will probably own the copyright for probably much longer than you will. Does it seem fair to you that your works will not enter the public domain until 70 years after you pass away?

  170. Since you’ve recently made another lap around the sun, would you reflect on the advance of writing technology in your life? Would you still be a writer if you were stuck with using an old Olvetti typewriter, white out, and carbon paper?

  171. Bruce Jenner coming out as a tansgender person (even though it appears many people have known for years) and his desire to have gender reassignment but still be exclusively sexually attracted to women, does that make him a lesbian? The confussion, for me, lays in the fact that his brain is female but his DNA is male even if he changes his male bits to female bits. Or is he a heterosexual male that just had a sex change?

  172. John – how do you feel about role playing games, larps, and other bits of nerd culture?

  173. As a fellow Ohioan, I’m curious about your take on our very own Governor John Kasich’s various feints towards a presidential run. Frankly, I don’t like him or his politics very much, but my son, a budding Republican (…shudder…) thinks he would be fabulous.

  174. John,

    it was good to meet you in Iowa City last year. Made my daughter’s day, too. Come by any time.

    I’ve just read an article over on DailyDot that apparently the manosphere is up in arms about “Mad Max: Fury Road.” It’s apparently just too darn feminist for them. Since you are one of their favorite people and a competent film critic to boot, I’m wondering what your thoughts are on this particular film.

  175. Curious as to your thoughts on the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Any thoughts at all, but specifically those pertaining to intellectual copyright, DRMs, and the potential for the TPP for good or ill.

  176. I’ll probably add this to the Republican thread as well: Would you be willing to write “Grand Old Party” in every instance where you use “GOP” in a blog entry about politics? Why or why not?

  177. You mentioned having a middle name, (which I hadn’t seen you use before.) What do you think of the practice of having/giving middle names?

  178. Mad Max : Fury Road has an excellent strong woman protagonist; I’d love to see your review of it, so this is a request!

  179. A more serious question this time.

    As a scientist (PhD in Biology), i spent a long time learning not only biology, in my specific area of expertise, but also learning critical thinking skills and analysis of facts. I find it incredibly frustrating that scientists are discounted and even vilified by many politicians and the general public these days (anti vaxxers, climate change deniers, and the like).

    I think the majority of the problem is the fact that it does take so long to learn how to read a scientific paper and critically analyze data. People CAN learn to do it without advanced degrees, but it isn’t something that could be learned quickly.

    I keep trying to think of ways that scientists of any field could explain complicated and nuanced information to the general public, especially in a day and age when seven second videos and 15 second sound bites seem to fill the attention span of a lot of people, but i keep coming up short.

    I guess my question is how do scientists effectively communicate facts to the general public without being discounted by people who don’t have the knowledge or patience to distill scientific evidence (or just don’t want to because of “belief”).

    I would appreciate any thoughts on this because frankly, it baffles me how people can discount science (as imperfect it is, it is still better than ignorance) because of their “belief” mostly based on things they read on the internet or in literal readings of holy documents.

  180. Considering that you were a film critic in a previous life and because of the new Sundance gig you got, list some of your favorite (because of the genre you write) Sci-fi movies of all time. Let’s make it a top ten list (doesn’t have to be in any particular order).

    Note: most likely Star Wars (even though it’s fantasy more than Sci-fi) and Star Trek are on that list, I would be interested in knowing other ones.

  181. If one is writing a fiction novel set in a real place, and assuming the plot does not center around an aspect of the setting itself, how much real information do you think the writer should use, or how much tolerance of ignorance do you give before it suspends your disbelief? For example, are you happy if they just have the landmarks and streets correct, with a nod to local history and culture or do you expect them to know what all the hotspots are and be able to throw in unique nuggets of local charm?

  182. A reader’s crib sheet for one of your novels, similar to what Charles Stross does with his – some background, then covering themes, metaphors, literary devices, allegories, what you were attempting, and how it was largely received.

    EG: “When I said the curtains were blue, most readers thought I meant that the curtains were blue, but what I really meant was that it symbolizes man’s struggle within himself, as you can see from this passage here…”

  183. As the working-from-home parent, you’ve been mostly responsible for taking care of your daughter during the day (getting her to school, appointments, etc.). In what other ways have you and Krissy divided home responsibilities in “non-traditional” ways? And how did you come to that division: doing what each felt like doing? long serious discussion? violent conflict involving kitchen utensils?

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