Reader Request Week 2016: Get Your Requests In!
Posted on March 17, 2016 Posted by John Scalzi 223 Comments
Next week is the only one in the reasonably near future where I know I’m going to be home all week long and I won’t have a deadline of some sort looming over my head, so — hey! Let’s do another Reader Request Week!
For those of you just catching up, Reader Request Week is something I do annually, where you suggest topics for me to write about, and I pick from the requests. What topics can you request? Well, anything: politics, social stuff, personal questions, silly things, things you wish I’d talk about but never do, and so on. Whatever topic you want to request, go ahead and request it. I’ll sort through the requests and start posting my responses, starting Monday, March 21.
While any topic is up for request, I do have a couple of suggestions for you, when you’re making your topic selections.
1. Quality, not quantity. Don’t just splotz out a list of very general topics you think I should cover; I’ll likely ignore it. I’m much more likely to respond to a request that is thought-out, specific and requests something interesting. Give it some thought, is what I’m saying.
2. Writing questions are given a lower priority. Because I write about writing all the time, don’t I? That said, if you ask a really interesting question or make a particularly intriguing request involving writing, I will consider it. Just know the bar is higher here.
3. Don’t request topics I’ve recently written about. I’ve included the last five years of Reader Request topics below so you can see which ones are probably not going to be answered again. That said, if you want to ask a follow-up to any of the topics below, that’s perfectly acceptable as a topic. Also, for those of you wondering how to make a request, each of the posts features the request in it, so you can see what’s worked before.
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.
I really enjoy Reader Request Week, because it often lets me write about things that I wouldn’t think to write about — it stretches my mind, which is fun for me, and hopefully leads to interesting posts for you too. So, please: Make a request! Let me know what you want to know about, here, from me.
And now, the topics from the last five Reader Request Weeks (you can click through to see the actual posts):
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
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
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
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
Reader Request Week 2015 #1: Free Speech Or Not
Reader Request Week 2015 #2: Ego Searching Redux
Reader Request Week 2015 #3: Raising Strong Women
Reader Request Week 2015 #4: Bullies and Me
Reader Request Week 2015 #5: A Boy Named John
Reader Request Week 2015 #6: Me and Republicans
Reader Request Week 2015 #7: My Dream Retirement
Reader Request Week 2015 #8: On Being an Egotistical Jackass
Reader Request Week 2015 #9: Writing Related Short Bits
Reader Request Week 2015 #10: Short Bits
So: What do you want to know this time around?
What are your thoughts on the political debates raging (well, a little, anyway) in the media around the pricing of drugs? This topic, at least to me, is a fascinating study of the many contradictions inherent in capitalism and democracy. Leaving aside the obvious politically motivated screeds, do you feel that a certain balance that the American people can be happy with can be achieved? Or do you feel that any possible arrangement would impinge too much on some fundamental principle that the Founding Fathers espoused?
If you had J.K. Rowlings’ money in the bank, so complete freedom to write whatever and however you wanted, would go off in new writing directions? Experiment with topics and styles?
What media were you most excited to share with Athena as she’s growing up? Did her reactions to any of those things surprise you or make you see them in a new way
Reader Request: Do you see Science Fiction shaping the future? Do you consciously trying to shape it with your novels?
Background: I think popular SF (especially Star Trek) has had a tremendous impact on shaping our current times. Not just technologically, but also politically. If the head of the NSA is designing an office according to a TV series (http://www.businessinsider.com/the-us-army-star-trek-command-center-2013-9?IR=T), he will also have taken other things as well.
I jokingly accused Daniel Suarez (“Kill Decision”) of writing man pages instead of novels ;-).
Do you see the effect too? Do you consider this effect when writing SF?
You must read a lot. Anything you’ve read lately that’s particularly good? Or particularly bad? It might not be wise to snark on the bad, but it sure would be entertaining :-b
Seriously, I’m always looking for stuff to read – fiction, non-fiction, SF, even fantasy sometimes, if it’s well done.
If you were a puppy, what breed of dog would you be?
Has there every been an artistic field you wish you could pursue if you had time enough? Have there been things you tried and then realized that as attractive as it may have seemed, it really wasn’t for you?
I recently was reading your “Waiting for Athena” chapbook, where you wrote that you expected during Athena’s teenage years, you would have “world’s most embarrassing dad” status.” You then noted that real life was probably going to be quite different from your expectations. Now that Athena is a teenager, how is your relationship with her different from what you once thought having a teenaged daughter would be like? How is it not so different?
You have a distinctive aesthetic that combines a worldview, humor and a sense of what makes narrative feel complete. Have you thought about it much, and if so, have you come to any conclusions? I’m not seeking a crit lit analysis complete with Lacan and Derrida footnotes (although that would be pretty funny and great, too), and my question isn’t so much about technique or style as it is about how your art satisfies your sense of beauty/justness/etc.
Kind of a goofy question, but in all seriousness, if there were an apocalypse in the near future, what kind of apocalypse do you think you would survive the best in and why? Can be any apocalypse you choose- zombies, plague (assuming you survive the actual plague), World War 3, Aliens, AI uprising, you name it. Perhaps as a caveat, what apocalypse do you foresee being a real possibility given the current state of our world?
Whatever happened to 101 ways to use a goat? (Was that the title?)
I think it would be interesting to hear your take on Scott Adams’ characterization of Donald Trump as a “Master Persuader”.
In SF, there is a general expectation that stories must contain lots of interesting technologies. Some writers, like Daniel Suarez, use SF as a vehicle to explore the implications of emerging technologies on society (often in near future settings). I’m curious about how much weight you place on the pure technological aspect in your writing and how you balance your desire to explore interesting technologies with the need to tell a ripping good tale. I’m also curious about the level of technological/scientific research you conduct beforehand and how this affects your writing process. Thanks in advance for your consideration. . .
Much of your writing is set in a fictional future.
But given the recent news that February was markedly the most unusually warm month in history — and given, also, the fact that the world’s human population has nearly doubled in the last 50 years — are you still able to be optimistic about the future of the human species? If so, what gives you hope?
How did you learn film criticism? In this day and age I find that writes like FILM CRITIC HULK and youtuber everyframeapainting greatly increase my appreciation of story and direction in film–and make me less tolerant of bad film making.
What would happen to the White House if Trump won, then moved in and decided to: Redecorate!
(Our long Trump nightmare continues.)
Day in the life of the Scamperbeasts and their sofa John.
I’d like to see a compare/contrast blog post about how Ohio got better or worse under Gov. Kasich. I don’t trust Hillary, and I wonder if he is the lesser of three evils?
What percentage of Trump voters just want to watch the world burn? How many want a revolution, and how many just want off the merry-go-round?
What are your top three non-fiction book recommendations from say, the past year or so? What three fiction works have you most enjoyed?
The Science Fiction Fandom Fan Funds such as TAFF, DUFF and GUFF.
Watching the Expanse TV series I noticed how plot arc order and when/how I learn things about a character changes both how I view a team dynamic and the general feel of the story. Have you thought about how Old Mans War or Red Shirts might be altered for TV and what impact that might have on the story and character dynamics
how about a treatise on all things burrito?
If you were on top of the world, looking down on Creation, how many explanations could you find?
I had to search your blog to find a reference to Dungeons and Dragons that wasn’t written by somebody else. You last mentioned it in 2008, when you said you haven’t played it since way back in the day. Is this still true, and if so, what’s wrong with you? C’mon, John, come play!
Urban v. Suburban living: Why I live on a big ass property in the middle of nowhere with awful internet when I could be living it up in a nice house in a big city with all the benefits of modern society and be around more people with the same political and social ideals that I do.
What do you consider to be your worst book, and why?
What are your thoughts on the increasing prevalence of franchise leviathans? (E.g., the Marvel Cinematic Universe, DC, Star Wars.) Do you think they support or stifle creativity by placing so many stories in the same universe? Would you feel flattered or bothered if someone made OMW or Lock-In a franchise? Would you choose to franchise your own worlds?
Lately Charles Stross has been compiling a list of cliches in space opera ( http://www.antipope.org/charlie/blog-static/2016/03/towards-a-taxonomy-of-cliches-.html )… how do you think writers/readers should look at the use of these cliches – when should they be avoided and when should they be embraced?
Lawn Care. What do you do to achieve the perfect lawn and what are the therapeutic benefits of doing so? I’m also interested in a detailed comparison between your lawn and your neighbors’ lawns.
Replacement of *all* current federal taxes with a single import tax. I acknowledge you don’t hold yourself out as an economist, but it’s the non-economic effects that interest me more, and turning your Scalzi-sized brain toward this thought, which is aligned with current political maneuvering, would be interesting. Cruz dips his toe into this water with his (greatly simplified, relative to current behemoth) tax plan, but what would occur, in general (i.e., economically, socially, politically, etc.) if this was extended to being the only federal tax process? I have my own thoughts: simplified collection process, encouragement of doing things in-country, tremendous flow of US money currently held offshore back into the country, etc. There’s probably downsides too, left as exercises for the reader(s).
Raisins. Glorified rat poo, or succulent grape-nuggets?
(1) Assume for the moment that engineers figure out safe, workable, totally not gonna turn into Terminators, artificial intelligence androids. Three laws safe, with no Will Smith exclusions.
Would America, a nation with a culture steeped in the Puritan Work Ethic, be able to embrace the post-scarcity world? Or would it inevitably require a war to break the old paradigm?
(2) earthlings have 4 billion years to figure out space colonization before the sun goes red dwarf and consumes the earth galactus style. They also have 4 billion years before Andromeda galaxy collides with the Milky Way galaxy, which will likely require massive technology to survive.
Can we pull it off? Can we even survive that long?
Replacement of *all* current federal taxes with a single import tax. I acknowledge you don’t hold yourself out as an economist, but it’s the non-economic effects that interest me more, and turning your Scalzi-sized brain toward this thought, which is aligned with current political maneuvering, would be interesting. Cruz dips his toe into this water with his (greatly simplified, relative to current behemoth) tax plan, but what would occur, in general (i.e., economically, socially, politically, etc.) if this was extended to being the only federal tax process? I have my own thoughts: simplified collection process, encouragement of doing things in-country, tremendous flow of US money currently held offshore back into the country, etc. There’s probably downsides too, left as exercises for the reader(s) – but for example, Cato calls any sort of tariff “wrongheaded protectionism” – completely ignoring that collection of wealth from any citizen, whether at the shore or via the paycheck, can easily be labeled as legalized theft – a necessary, and so hopefully minimized, evil.
If I may extend this question a bit; you’ve commented about how the old Heinlein Juveniles are pretty ancient at this point, and that one shouldn’t expect today’s young to embrace them. Is there anything equivalently ancient that you did show Athena, and get a positive response?
We’re about to have a child and are planning on having just the one. As the parent of an only child, what advice do you have about socialization, dealing lack of siblings compared to peers, and other possible issues I don’t even know to ask about?
You may have answered this already, but I can’t find it in your archives.
What do you do with ARCs after you are done with them? You have said that you cannot donate them to a library, so what happens to them?
If you could travel anywhere (handwaving away any challenges of cost or danger, unless you think either or both of these caveats ought to be part of the experience), where would you go?
What is your opinion about general military intervention in the middle east (not limited to anti-terrorism/regime toppling) and the idea of the US (and to a lesser extent, NATO and the UN) as a sort of “world police”?
What would be the characteristics of the ideal book tour stop? Any details you care to include, from time of plane arrival to venue floorplan to host behavior…
I work at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. We are following the Department of the Treasury’s efforts to redesign the U.S. ten dollar note with great interest since we are going to have to print them after the new design has been finalized. What are your thoughts on the New 10 with its theme of An Era of Democracy, the incorporation of a higher level of artistry, and the decision to feature a notable woman?
10 years from now on America – two possible futures.
That one thing I want to change in my past. How do I think it would change my now?
A lot of people working in STEM fields really enjoy science fiction. Unfortunately, scientists and engineers have a tendency to forget that it’s only a book, movie, or TV show and we relentlessly nitpick the heck out of everything. Most of the time, we do it out of a sincere appreciation of the genre and love for our work in science and technology. How does feedback from the more technically inclined fans of your work affect the way you write?
What needs to change in the world of entertainment contracts to keep a situation like Kesha’s from happening again?
As a new father, how about some advice from someone who seems to be a good dad – what’s some advice you wish you had when you became a dad?
(I’m the new father here, Sorry)
There’s an adage not to judge a book by its cover, but we all know people do. I know authors get little to no say in the cover art, but do you have any preferences? Painting versus digital, people versus objects, a consistent look versus variety? Are there any of your covers you particularly love or hate (including foreign editions)?
Can you discuss education in America? What we do well, where we fail and what should our priorities be?
1.In our very social society, how much do you think the writer outside of their work, matters to the success of that work? Can a new work stand alone? How much of the success of a writer depends on this? Does all the tours, tweets, blogs, conventions, adaptations, affect not only the sale of the work but its appreciation? IE do we judge the book not just by the cover, but by the acceptability of the writer? Does this make writing any more or less a solitary pursuit?
2. How much is writing a solitary pursuit for you? How much do you run things past friends, family, or editors. How open are you to advice, do you look for it? Does anyone ever rewrite your sentences, and then you go yeah that is better?Often, reporters don’t have final say on the cuts to their articles, How much final say do you have now, and have you always had that? Have you ever had something published under your name, that you don’t quite feel was what you meant because of this? Have you ever read a written criticism of your work and have it effect how you write later. Has it ever happened from talking with a Fan? Here the “reader requests” solicit topic- have you ever had a non-solicited “request” slip into your fiction?
Share a few things on your bucket list please. Preferably things that are unlikely to happen?
Jokes have been made about moving out of the US if Trump becomes President. But absent some danger of getting killed or constantly harassed if you stay in the US, are there any real reasons to justify leaving the US? If you decide to stay in the US during a Trump presidency, how do you find forgiveness for those who voted to put him into office?
I believe you have a degree in philosophy if I’m not mistaken. How has your study of philosophy oh those years ago influenced you over the years? Do you consider yourself to have a personal ethical philosophy? Did your degree help with that or was it an academic exercise outside of that? Any modern philosophers you read/admire?
Sea World announced they are ending their breeding program, and phasing out the killer whale shows. What are your thinky thoughts about putting captive animals in shows, circuses, etc?
What factors do you consider when inviting guests onto the JoCo Cruise for the writing track?
Your thoughts on race/representation in Hollywood: where the responsibility for change lie? Is this something that can/should be intentionally changed or do you think it will change organically as consumers’ demands change?
Bonnie, in the movie The Devil’s Advocate there’s a scene that takes place in the house of a man accused of murdering his wife and son. Donald Trump loaned them his apartment to film that scene. If necessary, on the first day of the Trump Administration Congress should pass a law forbidding the President from redecorating the White House.
John! The populace being disgusted with the presidential candidates, you have been elected Emperor. What do you do on your first day in office?
1) What do you think will happen to the literary and Sci-fi ‘cannon’ as readership and population diversity is increasingly acknowledged by the publishing industry and enabled by self-publishing. As a woman, there are a lot of writers in the ‘cannon’ that I’ve found very un-relatable to unreadable. I don’t think that’s uncommon.
2) How do you deal with fear? I know when I’m afraid, not of spiders but of life stuff like relationship stress or job instability I an be very closed off and uncommunicative. It takes a lot of conscious thought to get past that instinct. Do you have a fear response you’ve noticed and have to pro-actively work against.
I’d like to see a piece on the way in which nearly all of the larger technology companies are completely dependent on government money. Just saw a Hewlett Packard ad on the screen in the lobby downstairs about how they’re “accelerating” everything awesome and “pushing” technology, “pushing” research, “pushing” innovation, etc. I worked for HP Federal in the early Aughties building database-to-web apps that handled their federal data. Here’s a little open secret: HP couldn’t push a matchbox car without the scratch Uncle Sam drops on their plate every year. I sure as hell don’t think they’d have survived the Carly Cataclysm without it. I know it’s not a topic anybody’s supposed to discuss in polite company, but it sure would be nice to see *that* commercial for once—the one that delivers a heartfelt “Thank You!” to the taxpayer. Just sayin’.
So no, yeah, some thoughts on how all the big dogs are really closet socialists. Tha’d be cool.
Thanks for reading this grousing request.
– Still Working for a Private Beneficiary of Federal Funds (SWPBFF)
How do you deal with a selfish or self centered person in a professional environment?
I am talking about the type of person who might be competent at their job, but has no issues stepping on and grinding into the ground others to get what they want done. Or even worse – the person who feels that they do not need to acknowledge (or even consider what will happen to) the people that will be directly affected by their action/plan/strategy. They will personally benefit and that is all that matters.
“Can you discuss education in America? What we do well, where we fail and what should our priorities be?” Beverly took some of the words right out of my mouth. Specifically, what is the best alternative form of education for our brightest, motivated teens who get little value from the traditional public high school setting? Is finishing early and moving on to college early ever beneficial, or damaging due to maturity level? Would taking online core high school classes and exploring other projects be the way to go?
With both the US election and the UK & Dutch Referendums I am curious about your thoughts on America and Europe. This is a chance for you to reach out to your international readers (like me) and answer questions such as: Does a European collapse and possible further depression affect domestic US politics? Is this something the average American knows/thinks about? The BBC regularly has things on the American Election but what about over the pond?
How has Europe (perhaps even the rest of the world) shaped your life? What words do you use that you discovered were English and not American? Have you been on holiday or a convention outside the US (I’m assuming yes)? What are the things that most stand out in memory from them?
What are the differences/ similarities of the European/ Non-American reader and how has that affected your writing?
What international programs do you enjoy watching (Dr Who perhaps?)
As a big wig of SFWA what run-ins have you had professionally with Europe? Perhaps Copyright laws, cultural clashes or bad humour?
Does America have anything like the Tampon Tax? Should First Spouses be paid a salary for services rendered?
Do you disagree with there being a ‘Europe’ and it should be broken down into Nordic, Latin, Germanic cultures?
These are just some questions to stimulate thinking about the US and the rest of the world.
What do you think of the upcoming wave of consumer VR (Vive, Rift) and are you planning on buying one to try out?
What were your thoughts that led to the themes in Lock In? I’m struck by the type of AI/human interaction you describe there, being disabled myself. Have you imagined other similar uses of AI?
The recent Mark Oshiro story got me thinking about harassment and what is the line. There were obvious examples in his experience:
1. Unwanted partial nudity and touching from another panelist.
2. Unwanted repeated sexual innuendos and advances.
3. Homophobic slurs.
All of those are obviously harassment. The one that got me thinking the most was when he described being harassed when panelists for a topic about race in history used the term “Indian” instead of “Native American”, disputed historical points he believed in, and said that racism was not real. These may be inaccurate and distasteful views but are they harassment? What is your opinion on when a discussion of opposing views becomes harassment?
What if the Technological Singularity already happened and it was running this election?
Sent from my Verizon Wireless 4G LTE smartphone
Philosophically, do you oppose or support acts like the Superhero Registration Act? Relatedly, can you think of any instance where the required registration of one group of humans went well for the registrees?
I know you’ve touched on this in the past some but I don’t think you’ve done a full post before.
You speak on a bunch of panels, MC events, talk at book signings, and do other events where public speaking is a part. Due to success in my (small) niche, I’m now being asked to speak at some events. It ranges from being on a panel, short presentations of 15 minutes or so, and big presentations of over an hour. I’ve been doing toastmasters and a few speaking classes to try to get over some of the nerves and I was wondering if you had any tips, tricks, or sage advice for someone that is just getting into public speaking. Thanks!
I know that this is beating a dead horse, but, I have been finding more and more SF these days to have been written by Sad Puppies or puppy like. The insert a political statement into the middle of a story, for no other reason than to slam the left. Here’s a story about aliens invading earth, insert scene where we insult the liberal president, and then poof, never mention it again.
It is almost like these writers are “tagging” their readers “see, I hate LIBS!!!”.
The more I find this, the less that I want to buy anything written by that author.
Strange, they are all angry, white, male authors.
We know that you are aware of “these” authors.
Do you avoid their work? Avoiding giving them any sales?
Almost like avoiding staying at a Trump property, in favor of a less odious hotel.
/and yes, I understand that you are fairly exhausted by this topic. But it has been hitting me harder and harder these days.
Maybe we could meet your Mom? Your Mom is a HUGE player in pretty much every story you tell about your childhood (duh), from growing up poor, to switching school districts, to even the exploding diaper tale that got us all that hilarious “childfree” entertainment. But in recent years, we haven’t heard much. I certainly realize that your mom is entitled to her privacy, but I’d be curious as to how she’s doing (assuming she’s still around), and what it’s like for her to have gone from a penny-scraping single mom to mother of a NYT best-selling author with a $3M book deal.
Do you think Anonymous is a legitimate anti-institutional force that can help keep individuals in line who are able to escape prosecution through traditional means, or do you think they are a bunch of 13 year olds who spend most of their days playing MMORPGs and watching porn?
Berrimon mentioned it in his earlier post: – revolution.
The world has had French, Russian and American Revolutions – all caused by an elite determined to keep what they have regardless of the damage being caused to their society.
I have seen reasoning given that Britain never had a revolution because they kept making small changes that seemed to be enough to forestall a more violent reaction. Well, except for the American Revolution. But they did “learn” from that as no other parts of their empire fought for their independence: – they were given greater freedoms and eventually independence.
Here in New Zealand we changed our electoral system in the Nineties from “First Past the Post” (as Britain has) to Mixed Member Proportional (as Germany has). Discontent over the old FPP system had grown to the extent that the powers that be offered a binding referendum and MMP romped in. Pressure relieved, although many who benefited from the old system had fought hard to keep it.
The US though appears to be heading for a revolution of some kind. There is this infatuation with the Constitution and its “perfection”, but opposing groups cannot agree on its interpretation. And to change it would be nigh on impossible, without of course something revolutionary to force that change which makes it too late to make the change as the revolution has happened.
Gerrymandered electoral districts, Wall St immunity from prosecution, secret funding of politicians, etc
So I suppose the question is: – can the US do enough to avoid revolution? .
You’ve confessed before to being at least somewhat egotistical. Do you think it’s possible to be a successful writer if you don’t have a pretty big ego? Writing is notoriously solitary, and requires long periods of continuous performance without a lot of positive reinforcement. Doesn’t take a pretty good opinion of yourself to stay convinced that somebody will want to read your stuff when you are finally finished with it?
Do you find yourself a nostalgic person? Anything that stands out to you as something that no matter how you experience it just never tarnishes with age?
For example: I have a ton of amazingly positive memories tied to Jurassic Park the book and movie. Far more than just the book itself but the people I met through it, how they helped me during a difficult time and the imaginative adventures that it caused. Even with my issues with that book (the kids…), my fondness never lowers or goes away.
Do you have something similar from your past?
I was looking at previous reader requests and was struck by one in particular and would be really curious for a follow up. It was Children and Faith from 2011. I am a convinced atheist myself but tend towards your view that as long as someone doesn’t try to push their religion on me I won’t try to push my lack of religion on them. But I have an opinion that a disturbing number of people only follow the religion that their parents raised them in with little serious thought about it. So given that I would be really curious to hear Athena’s viewpoint on it if she is willing.
I’d like to see you comment on the viability of the socialist model, since it’s been so often disproved, but continually injected into the conversation.
In light of the rise of automation, the concept of a universal basic income seems to be becoming a topic of conversation. Do you think a universal basic income is feasible? Is it desirable?
Having just started re-watching Star Trek: The Next Generation, I wondered what your relationship to that series is – especially given that you have worked in TV, critiqued film and the Star Trek series, wrote Redshirts which is closer to the original series, and with a mind towards the promised new Star Trek tv-series?
As a side question: you have discussed writing novels in franchises before and generally dismissed the idea. What about tv-scripts? Not necessarily for new Star Trek, but if not that, then what? (Other than what’s based on your own properties)
John, I’ve gotten the same email from you about Reader Request Week three or four times since this morning. Clearly the Scamperbeasts should not be in charge of email blasts.
You and your wife obviously adore your beautiful confident daughter. Why did you choose (or did you? that’s probably way too personal) to only have one child? Do you and Krissy have siblings?
State of the Union 2024: A speculative look at where the US *could” be at the end of the next 2 presidential terms. A hopeful but realistic look at what a new president could accomplish with a solid mandate and starting with the situation we have today.
I’d be curious to see your thoughts on what AI is capable of, after seeing what AlphaGo has been able to accomplish recently. Are we all getting replaced by robots? Is Skynet going to kill us? Could an AI write an interesting and original novel about AI advanced enough to…write interesting and original fiction?
You’ve been invited on another JoCo-like cruise… but by aliens! As their guest of honor, you can travel with your family and friends (should they decide to come along) on a week-long itinerary that you can plan. They won’t let you visit off-world civilizations (saying something under their breath about “can bend the Prime Directive only *so* far…”) but their cruise jumpship can take you anywhere else in the known universe, with a 1-day transit time between different destinations. They’ll also provide you with appropriate protective gear for things like methane-sea-snorkeling or other suitable off-ship recreation. (And yes, the trip takes no more than 7 days both in subjective time and in Earth time between departure and return.)
Where do you decide to go? (And what might you do in transit, or at your sighseeing spots?)
How did you (and wife and child) choose your home? Not the location, the building itself. Or did “you” build it?
Have you ever wondered how you will be remembered by the “science fiction community”? How future critics will use you in comparison to future authors……about the legacy you have left behind you when you have gone……if you will be lost among the hundreds of authors, as many from the 50’s have been…..? No offense……but even great authors have no books reprinted….etc etc…..
How does one hold a peaceful, yet thought provoking conversation about a subject, with a person who holds the opposite view? How can one learn about another’s ideas, or explain one’s own, without generating anger or hurt feelings that snuff out the joy and possibility of learning?
I wish to second Jim Randolph’s question about philosophy. I’ve always been intrigued by the fact that you studied philosophy as an undergraduate (partly because I, too, am a philosophy student), and I wonder if there are any areas of philosophy you still keep up with, or any philosophers whose books you read these days? Obviously many of the kinds of questions discussed in philosophy of mind, for example, lend themselves to an SF imagination. (Whole boxes of novels could be written from the thought experiments of Derek Parfit!) So a second part to my question would be this: have you ever used the philosophy you studied in a novel or been inspired by it while you were writing?
“I Hate Your Politics” will be fourteen years old next week, and the Metafilter thread about it is what first introduced me to your writing. Re-reading it in 2016, some of the snark that made me laugh in 2002 provokes a mild wince now that I’ve got fourteen more years of SJW indoctrination under my belt. Have you ever thought of doing an updated version? Or, in general, do you ever consider updating or re-working your “greatest hits”? Or is that too much a Lucas move?
What non-fiction books did you find yourself reading over and over again when you were a child? Have you ever reread them as an adult? How much influence do you think they had?
What acoustic musical instrument would you want to attempt to learn, among those you don’t already know how to play?
If Athena is comfortable with the idea, I’d love to hear about how her college search is going, what she’s looking for, and what she thinks about any college visits she has done. She is such a strong and intelligent and articulate and perceptive young woman, and I am curious about how she is approaching that process. I raised a daughter who shares many of Athena’s characteristics, and it was interesting to me to see how they made some aspects of college easy for her and others considerably more challenging than was the case for her peers.
You know, for that matter, how would you feel about inviting Athena to do a guest piece on Whatever? You share this space with others on a regular basis in your Big Idea posts. Would you be comfortable inviting a family member to take a turn? Maybe ask her if she’d like to choose one of the questions folks have asked here and tackle answering it? Blue-sky idea, totally unrealistic, sorry – but it would still be cool.
And then of course, I am always, ALWAYS eager to hear about the Scamperbeasts, how their personalities are emerging, what their quirks, likes and dislikes are, and what mischief they’ve gotten into lately. I truly loved the Battle For a Sunbeam illustrated epic poem; have sent that link to many friends, in fact. Any old time you’d like to revisit that concept for another chapter, I’d be simply delighted.
Reader Request: Autonomous cars, does it change how you will work in 10 years?
Board games. Do you and your family/friends play them with any regularity? Ever find yourself playing any at cons? Any favorite games? What do you like/look for in a game (theme, mechanics, replay value, diversity, etc.). Any other thoughts on the subject?
The current supreme court debacle.
Mentioned earlier by a couple of folks, you do a great service with showing your ARCs and The Big Idea. But what are you reading and what have you really liked a lot in the past year?
Just wondering…..have you ever read any Thorne Smith books, and what did/do you think of his writing & how it influenced 20th century & 21st century entertainment/pop culture, even though no one remembers who the heck he was. I mean, he was so much more than the one book-became-a-movie that most people know him for. And yes, I am purposely NOT naming anything he wrote. Let people who don’t know look him up. I have a sneaky suspicion that YOU know…..you and he are the only writers who have made me laugh out loud (while reading) so hard that people have stared. And I love you both for that.
Is Trump’s radioactive orange glow hypnotizing the American public to vote for him? If so, what are your theories behind the mechanics of his radioactive influence?
What’s does fate have in store for the ARCs you receive? So far this year you’ve posted pictures of 73 separate books, plus a box of miscellaneous packages. What proportion get read? Do the rest get sent out into the world to make their fortune? Or is the the Scalzi household heating solution?
My question relates to the one asked by Elizabeth McFadden.
The more I read about climate change, the more I wonder if humanity (as a species) is doomed.Our governments seem incapable of meaningful action and I doubt that my small personal efforts (recycling, taking public transportation, using less energy) are going to save the world. The pace of change has become frightening. My questions for you are: Do you ever worry that humanity is doomed? If so, how do you cope with those feelings?
Do you have any thoughts on your personal mortality? Or had someone’s death impact you in an unexpected way?Today a friend of mine who is 82 going on 18 fell and broke both of her wrists and one knee. It puts me strongly in mind of the time when my father died (also an accident) and it changed me in ways I never expected.
If you had friends planning to visit Ohio, what would be your top sightseeing recommendations?
I would love to read your take on the business driven model for education dominating the politics of education today.
I. your thoughts on unmoderated vs. spicy ketchup.
I. The burrito you will never make, but should.
III. A listing of the 94 most interesting alternate reality John Scalzis
iiii. An epic length ode to Nick Harkaway’s eyebrows.
iiiii. Why the Northern Spy Apple is inifintely superior to whatever bland form of tree fruit you’ve been gushing about.
Iiiiii. Be really interesting to see if you read this far.
iiiiiiii. I have an Australian Shepherd puppy, do you perhaps have a herd of fainting goats I can borrow?
Kind Regards. Thanks for your work.
I know in the past you’ve addressed what you think about being male, and what makes a good man, but what do you miss about being female?
You’ve remarked multiple times that Kasich is the most moderate Republican in the race. But back in the 1990s, when serving in the House, Kasich was a Gingrich-esque conservative firebrand — not a moderate by any measure. What was your opinion of Kasich, if any, before he became governor of Ohio? How do you think his ideology has changed compared with the Republican Party over the last few decades?
I work in the children’s section of a library (12 years old and under). Would you ever be interested in writing a middle grade book? The reason I ask is that there is not an abundance of science fiction for that age group. Magical fantasy, thanks to a certain boy wizard, rules at the moment.
If anyone is interested, a few good science fiction books for that age are The Jupiter Pirates series by Jason Fry; The Mars Evacuees series by Sophia McDougall; and I’ll always have a soft spot for The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex. But after this handful and a few others, you drop into the Star Wars books, which are fine, but are also more fantasy than science fiction.
Anyway, I know that you’ve got a pretty tight schedule planned for your upcoming books (and that you’re taking on some YA writing, which is awesome) but I just wondered if middle grade was anything you’d considered. I think kids would love your mix of humor and excitement.
Would you care to ponder the difference between skepticism and contrarianism. Too many people these days seem to think they’re the same thing. What do you think?
You have written a very successful series with a (space-)military setting. Would you share your own thoughts and experiences with (non-space) military? My understanding is that Americans have a very complex relationship with their military and it will be fascinating to hear your perspective.
I would love to hear your views on Doctor Who! I don’t think I’ve ever seen you mention it. Have you ever watched the show, do you have a favourite doctor/companion. If you don’t watch it, do you watch any other British sci-fi (or have you in the past) e.g. Blake’s Seven.
I know you play music, and of course you write, but have you ever tried the visual arts? Anything of the sort that you wish you could do? Drawing, painting, sculpture?
I would like to see a couple of top ten photographs list. What are best ten best landscape, sunset photographs; and the ten best pet pictures of all time. I mean the ones that you’ve taken.
1. When are you going to make Aliyah?
2. Favorite podcasts, if any. Thoughts on the genre.
What are the chances of a third world war?
Every election you hear people saying “If Barack Obama/Donald Trump/Hilary Clinton/etc becomes president, I’ll move to Canada.” What would make you leave the US and move to Canada (or any other country)?
Increasingly, it has become okay for people to say, “I’m not a scientist, but I believe that the scientists are wrong.”
Personally (as a physicist) I find this both terrifying and bizarre, but what are your thoughts on this phenomenon or the institutions perpetuating it?
Given the number of threeps Chris trashes (with help, granted) in Lock In, will some smart manufacturer start a line of law enforcement-optimized threeps for Haden officers? Improved durability, modular construction to make repairs easier, and I suspect the “bomb squad” model would have the pain sensors turned completely off.
Libraries, and how they impact our communities, our children, and how the Freedom of Information and Expression is important to all of us.
Everyone has a few “comfort food” books: books that are easily re-readable, books that you can pick up and flip to any page and read when you don’t have anything else you want to read at the moment. I’d like to know how this works from a writer’s point of view: what makes a book re-readable? How much, if any, control does the writer have over this, or is it all dependent upon the reader? Thank you in advance for your thoughts on the matter.
Currently Paramount has a copyright infringement lawsuit against a fan film Star Trek project Anaxar. I know that you want to be paid for your work.
Where do you think the payment line or quality control line or flatly ban is on an author’s stories presented in another author’s universe? A story created for profit is certainly different than a self published work and the original author should be paid accordingly, but non profit work?
I have three requests:
1)The future of water. I live in bucolic CT. A California water bottling company is trying to come in (Niagara water). They essentially did a down-low deal so that their name would not appear in any of the permits or paperwork until it was a fait-accompli. Basically, they would get priority over our water in a drought. They did it in one town, but it affects at least 8 more, because the water supplier provides water to that many people. It also opens the door to other water companies to come in, as well. We have huge, scary infrastructure issues for water worldwide, nationwide, we have issues with lead in many more communities than Flint. And of course there is also the plastic water bottle issue too. Have you run into water issues in Ohio? As California continues to have issues, the water bottling companies will be looking for new sources of revenue… I’d love your thoughts.
2)Child labor. Child labor/slavery produces a LOT of American-used products, from chocolate bars to makeup to pavers (yes, pavers!) Is this something you try to research before buying products? I know it is, unfortunately, virtually impossible to buy everything Fair Trade/non-sweatshop/child labor free, particularly as a homeowner. But I hate the thought of little kids having to lug stone and such. And I suspect that the more people look for accountability from companies and from the supply chain…
3)Buying a new furnace. My oil company is making noises that it is time for me to spring for a new furnace. I know you recently bought one. How did you research it? I keep hoping there are going to be magical new technologies in furnaces that will be a little more environmentally friendly…
Man I wish I could come up with something original. But since writing questions are low priority and the political situation is already killing me, I’m just going to second Miles Archer and mythopoeia. Because I’m obsessed with books and I wonder about your family a lot.
Clearly there are great benefits to your success (cons/cruises/a comfortable life) and you’ve hit the family lottery in a loving home but how do they feel the feel about the public exposure? As someone who was a very shy teen and still prefers solitude, I’m amazed by Athena’s confidence and Krissy’s nonchalance. Are they naturally confident, gregarious people? Do they ever find the spotlight uncomfortable? Do they ever worry about it? And how do they deal with it all? Of course answers to these questions are a further intrusion in their lives, so…
Writing question (feel free to ignore if you’ve already answered it or something like it, or if it’s just too boring): Science Fiction is typically a “book” genre. Fantasy tends to be as well. I feel like the superhero genre is kind of a mix between the two (it has the magic of fantasy mixed with an attempt towards realism like sci-fi), so why are those stories typically more visual in nature?
Life question: Who are your favorite comedians? Do you know any personally, and does that affect your opinion?
In what “technical” ways do you think your writing has improved recently? (narrative structure, quality of prose, etc.) Are you concentrating on getting better in some specific area at the moment?
Since I’ve yet to see you featured on Lawrence Schoen’s “Eating Authors” blog posts, I’d like to borrow/steal his question and hear your answer. Tell us about your most memorable meal.
Hi. As backstory, I was drawn to your work through Twitter wit, snuggled into Sugar&Spice, and then found blog of thoughtful prose. I’ve not read everything, of course, but appearances accrue to kindness overall (allowing for human flaws likely less obvious in one’s own writing). Regarding discovering the that the world of humans isn’t always similarly inclined toward non-judgmental respect and kindness, how did you adjust to that reality? Fight or flight? Or something else?
I was wondering – you use space as a theme in your fiction, what are your views on the real space programmes we have seen over the years? Have you met any astro/cosmonauts, if they offered you a week up there would you go? And so forth.
If you choose to write about politics/Trump–I’d be fascinated what you hear/observe from your neighbors. The part of Kentucky where my family lives has a lot of Trump supporters, and hearing about their views and concerns is a helpful window on the old. (Also, my brother-in-law’s comments, or “The Trump campaign–a Kenyan perspective on Kentucky” should be a blog or something; it’s hilarious.)
I’ve often wondered about Krissy’s career choices and how the two of you have worked together in this arena given that writing as a career can be uneven (to say the least) in terms of income. Has Krissy ever taken or kept a job she might not otherwise have done to support you as a writer? Have you ever put off a freelance goal and held onto a “regular” job to ease career transitions for her? Now that you have achieved moderate success in your field (ahem), is Krissy now exploring any projects or activities she may have deferred earlier on?
Yes, this is the kind of dance all couples do, but it would be nice to hear how another couple handles career and finances when one of you is doing the creative life path thing. Thank you!
What blogs do you read?
You seem to get a dozen or so ARCs every week. My assumption is that you don’t read them all (because it’d take too much time and/or some books wouldn’t appeal to you). How many do you read? What do you wind up doing with all those books?
Any chance we can see a collaboration between you and Brandon Sanderson? Like, a novel shared between the two of you the way Neil Gaiman and the late, great Sir Terry Pratchett did “Good Omens”?
Because a space opera by you two, done as a deconstruction and then reconstruction of the genre, would kind of be the most awesome thing in modern science fiction. Also it would make my incredibly packed schedule and weekly 8-hour organic chemistry assignments a lot more bearable. :D
Here in Panama we are really, really scared about what’s happening in your elections (actually terrified), and most of the world seems to be in the same state of mind. We are a country were it rains 10 months out of the year, but have been in a drought since October, we will be one of the first countries under water, and the canal will no longer be functional, what the hell happened with the US? How come history and science are routinely forgotten or denied in the US, invasions, war, deposing democratically elected governments in the 1950’s and 60’s are forgotten, and American’s seem to be in a state of denial why the rest of the world, fears, or is angry at the US government. How can this work out in the long run?
Do you think that Americans are obsessed with “heroes”? Everywhere and everyone, doing, as I see it, an ordinary job, is a hero; cashiers helping a customer, firefighters, police (though many are doing their best to negate that) and the most prevalent, anyone in the military. I was at a music performance recently and one of the performers announced that there was a soldier in the audience who was being deployed to the Middle East soon. He received a standing ovation, but did he deserve it?
Following Beverly @ 3:00pm and CathyS @ 4:22pm on 3/17…
One of the candidates for the Congressional seat in my district (Zephyr Rain Teachout — even if I didn’t love her politics I’d be tempted to support her just based on the name) tweeted parents and teachers to ask how high-stakes standardized testing has impacted their children, classrooms and schools. Responses told of bright, curious kids coming to dread going to school, crying during the tests, or shutting down completely because of the stress. One child threw up on a test. A retired teacher reported his colleagues had been brought to tears as well. And of course, many teachers lamented the time lost for instruction to the endless test prep, test prep, test prep.
Several years ago I heard someone on NPR recount a conversation he’d had with educators in China, who laughingly said they loved the direction US education was headed in, as it seemed guaranteed to diminish our capacity for creativity and innovation.
Do you think that’s true? If so, how can the direction be reversed [deleted because it kept turning into a rant about [[rant rant rant deleted deleted deleted]] ]?
I’m kinda new here, so this may well not be a new idea .. but here goes in case it is new. I would like to know what general thoughts that you would like to convey to your future descendants (say your great great grandchildren, etc.) that perhaps you will never know. I have two younger granddaughters and I’m in the process of writing some words for them when they are grown up and setting their life’s direction. I’m looking at this not only for them but their kids kids if they are so inclined and the world holds together for them. What sort of messages would you want to pass on?
John, your stories are great and quite obviously popular. This blog is just another great source for your fans to experience your words and imagination. Have you ever thought of writing off another’s ideas. For example, the Robot City novels were by and large based on Asimov’s robot novels and the Galactic Empire. If you could is there a trilogy or anthology that you wished you could continue? What direction would you take it? Another example, I have often thought it would be great fun to tell the tale of R. Daniel Olivaw during the time between Forward the Foundation and Foundation and Earth.
I’d like to read your thoughts on the fact that cats are an alien species who came to earth about 10,000 years ago and decided to breed and train these ‘ape-like things’ as servants. (It’s a well-known fact).
You’ve mentioned you were pleased readers picked up on the parallels between the characters in “Lock In” living with Haden’s Syndrome and real-world Deaf Culture. I’d be interested in learning more about your thoughts on the latter.
I think it would be interesting to hear your version of the “Desert Island Five Things”: Which five items would you pack to take a desert island, beyond those already required for basic survival. (It’s a common icebreaker technique for newly formed groups / meetings / committes.)
This could even be done by genre/medium to broaden the topic.
Do you have any plans to continue Shadow War of The Night Dragons? Perhaps with an epilogue?
Do you have any advice on raising kids (specifically a daughter)? My wife and I have a new daughter and obviously want to raise her well – from your posts on Athena she seems smart, confident, etc. so any tips you can provide would be great.
I first heard of you and this blog when a friend linked “Straight White Male: The Lowest Difficulty Setting There Is” on Facebook, and I’ve been impressed with the general civility of discourse found here. Back in 2012, you had to brandish the Mallet once or twice a month. Now I cannot recall the last time you used it. Same with kittening. So what do you think makes this such a nice place to post, compared to the comments section in my digital newspaper or on Facebook? And what, if anything, do you think can be done to raise the tone or level of public speech in America?
As a Canadian, I am curious why, each time something happens ‘down there’, a bunch of y’all say you’re going to move up here? Example: gay marriage becomes legal in some US state, you’re moving to Canada. Trump becomes president, you’re moving to Canada. A black man becomes president, you’re moving to Canada (whoops, too late). Why come here? We have legalized gay marriage, socialized medicine, igloos and polar bears. And gun control.
The genius of Pink Floyd.
I live in Israel, a country torn apart by war, hatred, racism and ignorance. Other than practicing Yoga and doing the best I can to promote peace, understanding and empathy, I’m writing every day, hoping that one day people will read whatever words are racing from god-knows-where to my brain and finally to the paper, and that they will improve their lives, and maybe, just maybe, help them to realize we are all in this together. Being a very infleuntial political writer, do you have any thoughts regarding the subject of war and it’s price (other than those about the intergalactic one), and about the steps we can take to prevent (or at least minimize) it?
I want to know more about your marriage. It seems like you have a good thing going, and I’m wondering how that works.
Everyone else’s questions are much, much cooler, but I’m dying to know this. Why, in the last few years, have publishers started making mass market paperbacks taller? They cost more and I find them hard to read. I notice that while a lot of publishers are doing this with big name authors, yours remain much more gracefully proportioned, so I figure you nixed this at some point but know why it’s being done in the first place.
Sometimes, you mention some people as someone you’d expect everyone in geekdom to know of. Now, I do know that you have an inclusive view on this and that your jokes about people handing in their geek card if they don’t know these people are just that – jokes, but it has made me wonder because oftentimes, I talk with other science fiction or fantasy readers and find almost no overlap between the writers we read. Often, they haven’t even heard of the writers that that I like and the other way around too – mostly due to the genres being so big and so diverse, so my question to you is:
Do you think that we can still talk about a science fiction canon – a group of writers or others that you would expect all, or most, science fiction fans to know?
My request is: based on New Horizon’s views of Pluto (see here: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/pluto-s-wonders-come-into-focus/ ), should we reinstate Pluto as the 9th planet based on its overall newly discovered coolness?
What do you make of Robert E. Heinlein?
Given that Hillary will be President after the coming election, do you see any chance of a Republican challenger defeating her in 2020? And if yes, then who? (I lean towards Nikki Haley or possibly Paul Ryan. The latter for position, not necessarily politics. As Speaker, he can build quite a base.)
Sorry, Robert A. Heinlein, or course.
It’s time for you to choose a new book to read. How do you do this? Do you try to keep up with authors you know, or choose a new-to-you author because they’ll be attending a convention that you’ll also be at, or close your eyes and reach into a stack of books? And how do all those lovely ARCs you get play into this?
Since you so clearly love your current state, I’m curious about what first drew you to living in Ohio? And what are the most important-to-you contrasts between living in Ohio and living in California? Where else have you lived?
You’ve written about space and space travel, and you’ve written about aliens. If you were offered the chance to travel in space would you take it? Or meet aliens? At our current state of tech, our “travel is space” is limited compared to fiction. How would that affect your decision and would you want to wait till we learn more and have cheated off of aliens notes first? I hear there’s plans to go to Mars sometime…
Hi John! I discovered Whatever a couple years ago via a link to your “lowest difficulty setting” piece, which then led me to read and throughly enjoy most of your books. So, great marketing strategy there:). I am consistently grateful and appreciative of your strikingly sane feminist stance, and in that vein would love to hear more about how you navigate taking up space in relationship to women (and other marginalized folk).
This comes up for me regularly as a woman in training environments with dudes. There is just such a strong default setting of entitlement and comfort in speaking first, taking up both literal and energetic/verbal space, not tracking or noticing that a woman (or, say, POC) hasn’t spoken in ten minutes or might take longer to get started. This is often invisible to most, including some women, since we’re all so thoroughly marinated in this soup that it feels normal. I sometimes end up bringing attention to this dynamic, which is a chore, and creates a different kind of attention/tension than what I might be actually wanting. How do we shift this? How do you think about/track/speak up about this in your life (I’m imagining that you do)? Thanks:)
i believe you have mentioned you are working on some YA . As a high school librarian, I am curious as to how you approach that audience differently than your usual audience. I know Zoe’s Tale was written in the female teen voice,so you have experience , but just wondered how writing for YA is different, at all, for you and what different challenges it brings. I look forward to including more of your work in my collection.
With the release of season two of Daredevil, I’m wondering what you think about superheroes, especially in films and on TV. Are they a new fad that will burn out soon? An extension of the superhuman action movie heroes of the past? Something else entirely? Do you even enjoy them?
How much science do you think should be in a piece of science fiction?
Do you plan on writing a full book based on The God Engines?
A case can be made that both of our political parties are dysfunctional, but the Republicans seem be exceptionally so, and in a very dark place. As an optimist, I’m fairly confident that if I were able to look 50 years ahead, I’d see a United States that has two reasonably healthy and sane political parties. But for the life of me, I don’t see how we get from here to there. Any thoughts?
A quick question:
I have come to the conclusion that all of USA is either 1) A cleverly made and very convincing fictive world or 2) An elaborate, well made piece of performance art.
Which one is it?
What is your view on the debate about a search for a cure for autism? (Typically: People who want a cure vs those who don’t see it as something that needs a cure and are offended by the implication that something is wrong with them).
We are coming up on autism awareness month, after all, and Autism Speaks’s “light it up blue”, which is also a matter of contention.
Do you agree or disagree with David Brin’s “everything out” stance on privacy and transparency, and why?
What is your opinion on recent advances in the commercial space industry? SpaceX, Planetary Resources, and other companies seem to be pushing us closer to a world where science fiction is becoming reality. Does this inform and/or inspire your writing?
“Knowing what I know now…” and “If I’d known then…,” I wouldn’t change what I did — maybe, perhaps, probably — because it made me who I am and I’m fairly satisfied with how I turned out. But if you could somehow (quantum thought transmission?) send your younger self two or three bits of hard-earned wisdom as epigrams — “Always cut cards,” “Never play poker with a man whose first name is a city,” “Never sleep with a woman with a dagger tattoo” — what would they be?
What’s the worst thing you’ve ever done?
If you could take a one way to to another planet–you can take your wife but not your daughter–do you?
Imagine the republican primary process for the election, and everything that has happened up to now (or whenever you decide to write, if you decide to do so) was a fictional, dystopian novel (in the style of 1984) and then write your vicious 1-star review detailing how the novel could have been so much better
Many thanks, love the blog.
I have recently seen a trend of companies and/or media outlets distributing email newsletters. I’m not interested in thoughts on blogs going the way of the dodo (which you have written on before), but do you have thoughts on modes of online “content” delivery? To what extent are things changing? Are we still basically playing with the same tool box and just rebranding automated delivery systems like RSS readers?
I won’t belabor with a list of questions on how the mobile environment plays into this or speculating about the past or future of content distribution, or the many surrounding issues, but let you choose where the discussion goes should you choose to write on this topic.
I’ve been thinking a lot about media, politics, fear, advocacy, power, and civility (particularly in regards to trying to understand people with different viewpoints even when they can be portrayed like idiots; trying to address the underlying problems even when they might not be readily apparent; and working toward a common good). Right now it’s a big jumble of thoughts with lots of longing and concern, inspired by diverse things such as the presidential election, the SCOTUS vacancy, reading Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg by Irin Carmon and Shana Knizhnik, Eyes Wide Open:Going Behind the Environmental Headlines by Paul Fleischman, The Allegheny College Prize for Civility in Public Life (http://sites.allegheny.edu/civilityaward/), the Move to Amend movement (https://movetoamend.org/), and decreases in access to women’s healthcare via attacks on Planned Parenthood and other recent legislation. The past Unitarian Universalist minister at my church was pretty tuned in to current events and probably would have said something that would address these feelings in some manner, but as an alternative I thought I’d see if you felt like “preaching” in the area.
I just re-read Zoe’s Tale, and I would like to know if you or any of your fans composed songs to go with the playlists from the different colonies that are referenced in the book. As the Old Man’s War books have been optioned for the screen, are these type of details things that you think about now, even if you didn’t have specifics in mind while writing?
A relatively simple question – should one read all of the Old Man’s War series in order, or should The Human Division books be read before The End of All Things? Might you be able to provide a recommended reading order for the books in that “universe,” or just let readers newly acquainted with your work that it doesn’t really matter?
Can you tell us about your first kiss?
If the president and vice president both died and the speaker was only 34 years old, would the Senate Pro Tem serve as president for the rest of the term or only until the speaker’s birthday?
My daughter recently discovered the awesomeness of sloths, who are not as, well, slothful as was once believed, and maintain a whole ecosystem of bugs and algea via their fur, feces, and sunbathing habits. She watched a documentary, like, five times in a row, and is now fully prepared to raise a baby sloth next time one is orphaned by a fast moving truck.
I remember this sort of fascination. I had my favorite fast and strong animals, but was really keen on the pangolin when I was a kid, actually for similar cross-species traits to what you see in a sloth.
When you were young, were there any particular animals you really geeked out about?
How about now?
What science fiction have you enjoyed recently? As a Person of Noteriety in science fiction, is that something you can answer?
I’m currently sitting in a classroom, taking a break while watching my students research computer components online. It’s fun, teaching. Most of the time.
Which prompted my brain to ask: how could this be worse? Unruly kids? Learning difficulties? Violence? Been there, dealt with it.
I couldn’t think of anything that would stop me teaching.
So, my question is this: What would stop you writing? You obviously enjoy crafting literature as much as we enjoy reading it.
What would make you stand up, say you’re done and leave?
Is there anything?
For decades now, various think-pieces have commented on a divide between sciences and humanities. “The Two Cultures” by C.P. Snow is an early version of this, but it is manifested today in discussions about STEM and STEAM, the value of liberal arts, and discussions on the purpose of a college education. To some extent, science fiction writers inhabit multiple worlds. Do you think that a science/humanities divide is real, and if it is, how could it it be bridged? Or is it necessarily something that needs to be bridged? I’ve often seen the issue framed as how scientists can learn something from those in the humanities, and would be interested in your thoughts on that; but what about the reverse situation?
The Marx Brothers or the Three Stooges?
1. Hamilton the Musical- any strong feelings? If you haven’t listened to the cast recording yet, would you be willing to, say, livetweet your first listen? If you’ve listened to it and managed to not become obsessed, how did that happen? If you’re a fan, what in the musical speaks to you the most?
2. There have been arguments in recent years over whether or not Doctor Who should consider having someone other than a straight white british dude as the next Doctor. (There have also been arguments in the past few years that Who’s lack of diversity and poor storylines for female characters are a betrayal of the ethos of the show, but that’s another kettle of lobsters). Where do you fall on this? Do you think that people engaged in producing what some feel is a traditionally liberal show have an obligation to continue that tradition? Or is it within their rights to say screw it, I’m writing stories I like, representation and politics be damned.
3. Lots of science fiction uses the distance of the future, or an alternate reality, to examine issues that plague us currently. What’s your favorite way this has been done, and what’s your least favorite? Or do you abhor using science fiction for political commentary?
A few years ago you signed a petition about not attending any convention that did not have a harassment policy. A couple of months ago I heard about a convention, Conquest, where one of the guests of honor was harrassed. After two years of nothing happening, the guy had to publicly shame the convention to get any traction on his … case…. or whatever you call a report of harassment. Since you signed that petition, how do you, as a potential guest of honor at Conquest reply if they ask you to be at their convention? Also, have you and the other singatories of that earlier petition have an idea of how to deal with a convention that has a harassment policy but doesn’t enforce it?
How much do you read?
That is the question. The background is: I read a lot more than most people I know. Over 10 years ago, when it appeared necessary in order to avoid rereading books unintentionally, I began to keep a list of everything I read, and found that it was between 30 and 50 books a year. I know I am a slow reader, but I was floored when Jo Walton wrote that she read 1 book a day when she was busy and 6 when she wasn’t doing anything else. Where do you fit in the spectrum or reading speeds? How much of what you read do you read only because it necessary? What are the major types of things you read?
What are your thoughts on big picture, open, science/philosophy of science questions, and the consequences for real life? What interpretation of Quantum Mechanics do you prefer? What do you think about consciousness? How will we fix the rift between QM and relativity? (When) will the current standard models of QM/GR/Cosmology/Biology be superseded, as the models of Newton and Galileo were in their time?
(This is one question with a bunch of question marks, with the first one the important one and the rest just some examples. I’m a working quantum physicist, so I think a lot about that stuff, but if the open problems in bio are more interesting to you, answer that :)
John, I’d simply like to hear you expound on the often romanticized condition of a writer writing while falling in love, and what your experiences have been.
[Deleted because, Eligion, you didn’t actually ask a question, you just stepped onto a soapbox to offer a political opinion. If you want to try again, asking an actual question, please do — JS]
Something for the “Random Writing Bits” post at the end of the week: You’re starting over. All of your previous novels do not exist and you’re looking to write a first book. Assuming you do the same recon now that you described leading up to OMW, what genre might you write?
In a world where the only creative outlet available to you is what you adorn your peanut butter and jelly sandwich with, how would you rise above the crowd?
There was a recent article put out by the NY Times about how analytics companies are gathering data how readers read new (e.g., soon to be published) books. This data would then be given to publishing houses for their use. The publishers are currently saying they are using the data for marketing purposes but the article suggested that the data could be used to change how authors write and readers read. What are your thoughts on this topic?
The name of the article is “Moneyball for Book Publishers: A Detailed Look at How We Read” and it was published on March 14, 2016. I am not that good with embedding links so here is the link in all of its glory: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/15/business/media/moneyball-for-book-publishers-for-a-detailed-look-at-how-we-read.html?_r=0
What are your thoughts on the Best of All Possible Worlds fallacy, and its relation to science fiction? In particular I’m thinking of the “Killing Hitler always makes things worse” trope. Setting aside various theological arguments, I don’t quite understand the aversion people have to suggesting that the world could be better than it is.
In “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress” Robert Heinlein posits an irreversible effect of the light lunar gravity. In essence, people who go to the moon and stay for a certain period of time, I think it was 6 months in the book, but maybe 1 year, would be unable to return to Earth and live a normal life. We know that not to be true, as astronauts have lived on the space station more than a year and still come back. Do you think there is such a thing as an irreversible effect of light or no gravity? Also, in the Expanse novels, people from other planets have grown taller and thinner. Do you think it is possible for such an evolution to happen in that short a period of time (e.g., 200 hundred years)?
In tune with your “will humans survive” reader request, if you could pick a genetically engineered form for a branch of mankind to go to the stars, what would you change about humans for this branch? You have some genetically engineered humans in the “Old Man’s War” saga, but those genetic modifications are incidental to extended hostilities. If you had to design a species to survive in the universe what would you change/add/remove from humans now?
Would you ever consider writing a self-consciously ‘literary’ work?
Is the Colonial Union’s skip drone industry deliberately suppressing anisible technology?
When you were doing your philosophy degree which philosohers and/or flavour of philosophy were most influential on you? Did any of them radically change your worldview?
Sorry, I think I messed up commenting earlier because of my wordpress login. Do you like the show The Magicians? You wrote about it before it aired on tv. Is it living up to what you thought it would be then?
You’ve mentioned several times that you don’t drink alcohol. I do a lot of work with addiction/recovery and I’m wondering about your relationship to alcohol and drugs and what led to your decision to not drink. Or is this simply a case of “that stuff doesn’t taste good”?
I also have a sort of followup question to your thoughts on conventions and harassment policies — how are you able to determine whether or not a specific anti-harassment policy has in fact been enforced? Just because a group or convention pays lip service to anti-harassment ideals it doesn’t mean they always follow through.
Do you intentionally pick questions where you can disagree with part of the premise, go for a while about something, and then come back to the premise? Or is that just a lucky accident with some of the questions in this batch?
Why is science fiction having such a hard time tackling climate change? I’d like your opinion as a writer. It’s amazing to me that SF writers are perfectly okay tackling alien planets, they’re perfectly okay tackling the future, but they’re not okay with tackling the way that we’re turning the Earth into an alien planet. Nor am I seeing anyone trying to build future civilizations the way they were back in the 1970s (indeed, some of those old ideas look more adventurous than what I’m seeing now). Admittedly, I’ve sharply decreased my reading of current SF because so much of it reads to me as if it was written by MFAs who consider themselves experts in manipulating the standardized tropes,* but who don’t really want to deal with reality and all the crazy stuff that could actually happen. If there’s climate change in a novel, the standardized tropes are dystopia, post industrial landscape, and a blank slate against which a jeremiad on current civilization is painted in broad strokes. If you read what the scientists are saying, the future is a lot weirder than that.
What’s up? To get fiction back to a more realistic future, do we need a breakthrough novel in cli fi (climate fiction) to cosign SF to the hobby heap with steam punk? In some ways, it seems like Harry Potter led the charge in taking the kids away from SFF by creating the Young Adult literature section in the bookstore. Does cli fi or some other movement need to take the future Earth away from science fiction as well, just so we can have an imaginative literature about an even slightly realistic future?
*For Lovecraft, add tentacles, for cyberpunk, add dark sunglasses and chip ’em in. For space opera, add blasters and spaceport dives, etc, As long as it’s in TVTropes, it’s fair game.
This is frustrating: about a week ago I thought of a question and thought it would be cool if you did another reader request week. Once you actually posted this the thought was gone. It may have been this (probably for the short bits section): Would you consider using content tags on Whatever? I received a ukulele as a gift a while back and would like to be able to easily find the ukulele related posts.
What is the one thing that didn’t exist 10 years ago (or pick another time period, I don’t mind) that you cannot imagine living without now?
My younger child, a sophomore at Smith College, has asked me to use “they” “them” as their preferred pronouns. I live in a very liberal and gender-choice aware New England college town, and I still find this difficult to consistently comply with. Sometimes my English major brain rebels at using plurals for a single person, sometimes I just don’t want to have that conversation with a stranger, especially one who has already stated views that suggest they have no sympathy for the preferences and realities of others. Sometimes I’m just tired and it’s hard to keep it all straight. So, what do you think of gender neutral pronouns? Can you suggest something…better than they, them? Am I being disrespectful of my child by failing to consistently respect and comply with their request? And how would you, or an older, female, Southern version of you respond to the boor who immediately brings up Caitlyn Jenner and insists on calling “him” “Bruce”? And, since you love writing questions, have I used too many “””‘s in this question?
Not sure if it’s permissible to post a second time (and of course feel free to delete this if multiples are a problem) but there’s a question that’s been rolling around in the back of my head of late, and it occurs to me that it might be something you’d find interesting to consider.
You and other writers have spoken out passionately about the importance of paying creators for the results of their skills and gifts. I think the most recent spate of commentary emerged in the wake of a news site that doesn’t pay its contributors, claiming instead that “the exposure is sufficient compensation.” The responses to that assertion have caused me to rethink some of my own choices, and I’m curious about your take on it.
If a person makes a good living in a non-creative field and also pursues a creative hobby through which they produce a fair amount of well-crafted output, do you feel that it undercuts the work of actual professionals in that creative field for the hobbyist to give away their work in return for donations to charities instead of selling it? Or maybe to put it a different way, how would you as a professional writer feel about an amateur writer giving away their work in return for donations to a charity? Does that devalue your own work? Would that sort of thing potentially make it more difficult for professionals to get paid what their efforts are worth?
Should aliens put a fence around our solar system to keep us from getting out until we grow up? If we ever get out of the solar system, would it be our salvation as a race, or would we be a rampaging plague on the rest of the galaxy?
Do you believe that your writing can influence society for the better? Does the possibility of doing that influence your writing?
You say you don’t drink alcohol. Why? And in what ways, positive or negative, do you think this has effected your life? Going out for a beer “with the guys” after work, for example, can be of some social importance in some companies/professions/negotiations, for instance. I assume it’s not a morals thing, since you don’t seem the type. I don’t because I found myself on a dance floor at 2am in a club singing “New York, New York” to everyone with no idea how I got there and it messed with me out since I’m something of a control freak. Stopped right then.
Do you think there is something to the complaint that we are becoming too obsessed with “PC culture” for lack of a better term? Some fairly serious people (see: Jonathan Chait et. al.) have tried to make this argument (though not terribly well.)
I feel like there may be a valid point there that we are so focused on policing what people say that we are ignoring what people do. And that we are so focused on people not being “offended” that we are less focused people being actually harmed. It’s a hard subject to discuss because most people trying to are generally just trying to excuse their completely indefensible behavior. But maybe there is something there.
If you could have your brain uploaded to a computer (i.e. Whole brain emulation) and essentially “live forever”, would you?
Having just read your entry on gender-neutral pronouns, I was struck again by what a sensible, rational person you are, and how often that is acknowledged in your comment sections.
Now, some of that is selection bias, of course, but I think there’s at least a kernel of truth to it. So please approach this from the other angle:
“About what things are you irrational? What things do you do, say or think that you might think make you just a bit out of step?”
Paul Ryan has now been the Speaker of the House for several months. After Boehner resigned, you said, “I don’t think Boehner’s departure from the Speaker position is going to do the House GOP or the GOP in general any good. I suspect whoever replaces him will be to Boehner’s right and more willing to use the House as a bludgeoning tool to get their way, which will be an interesting dynamic coming into an election year, and I use “interesting” in all its connotations.” Do you still hold that opinion? You criticized him in 2012 on your blog and you’re not a big fan of his policies — but with Trump now threatening the destruction of the Republican Party, what are your opinions of Ryan’s tenure as Speaker so far? How do you think he has been handling the Donald Trump situation? Any advice, criticism, and so on?
A group of aliens lands on your lawn and tells you they’re big fans. In fact, they’re such huge fans of yours (particularly Old Man’s War) that they developed the technologies in the book (the cloned bodies, BrainPals, etc.) for real, a la Galaxy Quest. They offer to give you, free of charge, a fresh body with a BrainPal. Do you accept now, later in your life, or not at all and why?
I am curious as to what you think about the internet hacking group Anonymous. Some might claim that they hamper the efforts of real law enforcement (or the military) with their hacking activities. Other suggest that they are an arm of justice for the people who otherwise have no voice. While they have been known for targeting corporations, they are now trying to effect change with regard to ISIS and Donald Trump’s candidacy for president. How successful are they in their work, really, since they are using illegal means to achieve ends that are, in their minds, for the good of all?
Overuse and misuse
“However” is forever cropping up in my writing and I am actively purging “frankly” from my verbal vocabulary. A friend of mine uses “tacit” when he means “explicit” and has given me license to laugh and point when he does.
Are there words that you tend to overuse, either speaking or in the written form? What is the threshold for overuse? Are there words that you habitually (if unintentionally) misuse? Have you devised clever strategies to deal with any of it?
I know you’ve mentioned disagreeing with copyright lengths and I remember the passing of ‘the estate guy’ whose name I unfortunately forget but what about allowing for ‘orphan’ works. Where the copyright owner cannot be reasonably identified (i.e they’re dead) then the work could be freely published or a statutory amount held in trust?
Do you think you will ever expand your writing out into other genres?
What was the first book that made you cry?
What is the smallest bit of trivia that you have put in to any of your works that you are inordinately proud of?
How do you make sure that your characters don’t all end up sounding the same (i.e.: how do you give your characters different voices when you write them?)
If you were to become an evil super-villain, what kind of villain would you be, and what would your first dastardly deed be? (Bonus points for choosing your nemesis.)
I’ve just ordered my latest “year photobook”, a habit I got into after a disaster where a decade’s worth of photos were deleted. You do a lot of digital photography and keep a lot of your thoughts in this blog. What steps do you take to preserve this against personal, hosting company or wider dataloss?
Amazon Kindle has a feature where you can highlight passages you like, and also see what other passages are frequently highlighted. Amazon seems to have some kind of sliding, normalized scale for what’s popular; for some books the threshold seems to be > 100, for others it’s more like > 5. Do you ever buy your own books on Kindle to see what passages strike readers’ fancy? Do friends or readers ever email you about it?
Some short examples: I’m reading The Human Division right now, and some popular highlights are (one could argue these are spoilers, so readers beware):
Captain Sophia Coloma looked every inch of what she was, which was the sort of person who was not here to put up with your shit. (44 highlighters)
I hope the validation of your middle-aged ego and three minutes of exercise is worth it. (11 highlighters)
In all the history of professional sports, the Cubs are the ultimate symbol of complete failure. (18 highlighters, though it doesn’t say whether they’re Cubs fans or not)
One I highlighted: “Better learn more about baby bears.” I laughed out loud. :)
What are your thoughts on Amazon’s Author Follow program?
Why Nikon? (Not a dis, the way a “Why Nikon??!? CANONS OMFG SO MUCH GOOD yada yada” would be). I’ve bounced back and forth between N and C equipment (with the odd side track into Sony and Minolta [film] back in the day). I think I’ve finally settled on Canon bodies but would be hard pressed to say why… you, having teh way wi’ teh wordz, might be able to express something that makes me say — yes that! that’s why I went with Canon!
And the having of a “normal” prime… oh my, yes. (Canon makes an 85mm that I use for portraits — taking pictures of toddlers and animals, it helps to be far enough across the room/yard that they don’t see you are doing so and so the pics are more natural).
personal question here: my sister just got into the university of chicago and is unsure about whether or not to go there. what made you want to go to that school, and what advice can you give if she does choose to go there?