An Interview in the Washington Post

About the deal, and other things. It’s actually pretty lengthy and meaty, which is good, because I am traveling — yet again! — today, this time to North Carolina to ConCarolinas.

27 Comments on “An Interview in the Washington Post”

  1. Lengthy and meaty is a bit of an understatement; it’s huge. I really enjoyed the fact that Alyssa had obviously given a lot of thought to asking interesting questions, which in turn gave you the opportunity to explain the realities of life as a professional writer.

    I would recommend it as compulsory reading for anyone who wants to become a professional writer, and fascinating to everybody else.

    One of the most important points is that publishers are not buggy whip manufacturers; given the number of times advocates of self publishing assert that they are this piece of knowledge is of considerable value.

    We minions now know your feet of clay; you just can’t hack the copy editing which would have set you on the path of fame and fortune in self publishing your 13 books. On second thoughts, you seem to be doing fairly well on the fame and fortune front anyway so ignore that…

  2. That’s a really coherent interview. Clearly you’ve already thought about a lot of the subjects that were covered, but how much do you think comes from you as the subject, and how much from the interviewer?

    I’m not sure how much paraphrasing goes on when it says “edited for clarity” and how much is just you talking?


  3. That was an enjoyable read. I’m really glad that you got this contract. I’ve really enjoyed your writing, I’m glad there’s a lot more coming, and I’m happy to see you rewarded for doing what I think is an excellent job.

    I’m also happy for you personally. I realize I don’t know you; rather, your online persona. However, the persona that you project of yourself and your family is appealing enough to make me think you’re a deserving family, and I’m happy to see you prosper.

  4. I appreciate your comments about editors. While it’s true that good editing isn’t noticeable to the reader, lack of editing (or bad editing) certainly is. I’ve I had to stop reading certain writers because, while they had interesting ideas, their books were so badly edited (or non-edited) that I found them unreadable – and this often gets worse over time as someone becomes a bigger name and seems to think they no longer need editorial help.

  5. The editing comments reminded me of the unpublished Jane Austen novel.(Mirth and Mischief) You can tell it is her style, but it has NOT been edited. Whether you like her stuff or not, this is a good example of a book pre-edit.

  6. “Scalzi pitched Tor three ideas for young adult novels, a genre he hasn’t worked in before.”

    Wasn’t Zoe’s Tale classified as YA?

  7. I don’t know, a lot of those Passive Voice folks think you’re getting barely above subsistence wages compared to their indie friends who all are making 7 and 8 figure incomes by turning out 35-50 books a year and also, too, this deal will spell the end of Tor as soon as the board figures out what an SJW ‘Patty’ is and how he’s killed the company to help out his SJW biddy John. Or something like that.

  8. It’s a good interview – sounds like the two of you had a really interesting chat. The interviewer asked good questions, you gave good answers, and the end result is an article which is well and truly worth reading if the reader is interested in writing-as-a-business.

  9. John: YA is at least as much a marketing category as an indication that young adults will like the book. Zoe’s Tale wasn’t published as YA, with all the marketing focus that that implies, though there was certainly nothing preventing young adults from reading and liking it. Because it wasn’t marketed as YA, ZT was much less likely to be found in the YA section of their bookstore or library. And the YA titles that have been proposed are much less likely to find their way to the regular SF shelves in your bookstore or library, as well.

    As I understand it, anyway.

  10. That was an excellent interview. She seems to understand the right questions to ask. And, in your usual manner, your answers seem to be to the point and responsive. It is always gratifying to see an interviewee answer the question that was asked.

    I do have a bone to pick. I downloaded, read and paid for all the episodes of “The Human Division”. And, being an old guy, I rather enjoy serial publication. However, since I did pay for each episode, I would have preferred to have free – or at least very cheap – access to the complete eBook. Can this be arranged in the future? I would think that at least Amazon would be able to track my purchases of the separate pieces.

    I read “Dune” when it was first serialized in Analog in the early 60’s, but reading it that way did not detract at all from my pleasure in reading it as a complete novel.

    Please? Pretty Please?

    Rick York

  11. Very good! Particularly your take-down of the publishing version of the Zero Sum Gain theory.

  12. The interview was interesting, but my main reaction was wait, we don’t know whether Chris Shane is male or female? Scalzi, you know the default is straight white male, and in my head Chris became straight white male, even without any explicit input from you. I think part of that is Chris is mostly referred to as Agent Shane, and Shane is a definitely male name. It’s an interesting characterization trick, but for me at least it didn’t work at all. I did notice that Shalle in the God Engines is not specified (or so far – I’m only halfway through) but it takes a little more work on the writer’s part to avoid specifying a gender in third person. It’s just not that noticeable in first person.

    Likewise, I know that Marcus Shane is probably black, with a name like that and a basketball career, (and that Chris Shane would also be black) but you never actually say and I never stopped to consider. I read mainly for pleasure, and quite quickly. I don’t stop to deconstruct the characters as I go.

    I’m rereading Lock In with the lack of physical description in mind, but it’s work to hold something other than the default in my head while absorbing the story, especially when I’m given no support for it in the writing.

  13. @lily – I don’t have a copy of Lock In to hand, but I think the end of Marcus Shane’s political career was the “black man with a shotgun killing a home invader”? so I think it was explicitly stated, but more in passing than in description.

    I read Chris as male initially, because I am, but I did pick up on the unspecified gender nuance whilst reading.

  14. Not possible for me to know how much ‘editing for clarity’ went on but this jumped out at me: “I’ve said to [Tor executive editor] Patrick [Nielsen Hayden] some….”

  15. .
    “asking interesting questions” is why I taught 3,000 to 5,000 students in classrooms. It seems that Mr. Scalzi and I prefer a GOOD question to an ADEQUATE answer ;)

  16. @Chris S – You’re correct, there is a line about “a large angry black man with a shotgun” not being a politically advantageous image, I just hadn’t reached that bit this morning. I think most of my reaction was annoyance that I assumed Chris was male, and didn’t assume a race in particular, and didn’t even notice that there was ambiguity. The fact that it came in the interview right after Scalzi was saying that he started thinking that by not providing physical descriptions the characters could be whatever the reader wanted was particularly telling – because it really doesn’t work like that.

  17. Lily

    The fact that you assume the default is straight white male doesn’t mean that everyone assumes that the default is a straight white male.

    In other words, it may not work for you that way but it does work for others.

    Readers take different things from texts; I noticed that Scalzi didn’t specify a gender, and given the context of someone wholly incapable of physical sensation then I’m not at all sure that the physical anatomy has any meaning. Gender is in many ways a social construct; change society in a radical way and what we mean by gender changes as well.

    There are two different audiobooks for Lock In, one narrated by a woman and the other by a man; I felt that this was something of a clue when I was reading the print text…

  18. I “read” Chris as female, but don’t know why. Once I noticed that no gender was assigned to the character, I kept reminding myself that my assumption was unfounded, but I still kept reading Chris as female.

    The reveal that Chris was black (or at least that their father was) took me by surprise, because I’d been reading Chris as white. Also for no founded reason, of course.

  19. “‘Lock In,’ the protagonist character, what I intended going in, the gender is not specified. We don’t know if Chris Shane is male or female”

    If I ever still needed a reason to consider you a great and modern writer, you had me there: just consider that even if the father was “black”, I thought he was a white male, and anyway I never considered the main charachter to be female!

    But discussing the gender of a soul living mainly in a robot would be wrong: I’d expect locked in to be more than a single gender, especially in the “Agora”

  20. Dear Mr. Scalzi: I pity the translators of gender prone languages (like Italian) who will have to solve the “genderless” dilemma. :)

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