On the Road Again

Traveling back from a lovely wedding this weekend. It was good to see some joy in the world.

Otherwise, see you tomorrow!


Veteran’s Day

Please give a thought today to those who served our country.

In other news, I’m taking the weekend off; I figure it’s a good time to disconnect for a bit. Take care of yourselves, and see you all on Monday.


How I’m Doing

Since people have asked, privately and online:

Well, I’ve been stressed and depressed, like a lot of people of my general political inclination. I pretty much didn’t sleep for 36 hours starting Tuesday morning, since basically my brain went into “hyper alert” mode and wouldn’t turn off. I finally got some sleep yesterday by collapsing on my office sofa for a few hours, then waking up back in “hyper alert” mode, and then taking some Excedrin PM to force my brain back to sleep for a full night’s rest. Actually getting a lot of sleep seems to have helped. I’m still irritated and annoyed but my brain doesn’t feel like it has to be on.

Likewise, no appetite at all, which is in fact my body’s “normal” response to stress (when I’m bored or have a lot of work, I snack. I’ve been bored or working more than stressed in the recent past, and my waistline shows it). As I noted on Twitter, on one hand, this is good because I’m trying to lose weight; on the other hand it’s bad because it’s not actually healthy. I think I had 500 calories yesterday because my body just wasn’t telling me to eat. Today I’m still not hungry but made myself eat anyway, and real food, not just Good and Plenty candies, which constituted the bulk of my calories yesterday.

While I was on Twitter during the election results, people commented to me that I seemed calm, and have since praised me on my calmness over the last couple of days. Well, you know. I can’t take too much credit for that; I generally get calm when I’m freaked out. This is usually to my benefit (I’m the one actually able to direct traffic while everyone else is running around with their heads on fire, etc), but the ledgers eventually balance down the line. The good news for you is, you won’t have to see that.

All of this is fine… for a couple of days. It’s okay for me (or anyone) to acknowledge events have stressed and depressed them and do what they do to process those emotions. I do believe that when you have the luxury of being able to just have your emotions, you should have them so that you can more or less get over them and get back to a more normal space. The good news for me is that I have that luxury right now. I don’t have any work that’s pressing, or any other commitments, so I could just have my little freak out. If I were still super stressed and depressed after a week, I would most likely seek help for it. That wouldn’t be normal for me, and I would need to fix it.

But I already know I’m coming out of it. One of the reasons I know I’m coming out of it is that I have this “Oh, okay, this is how it’s going to be? Well, fine, then bring it” attitude that is crawling up from the back of my brain. Some of you longtime readers may recall this particular attitude from the Bush years. I suspect things will be getting a lot more political here (so if this is something you don’t want with your Whatever reading: Fair warning).

But here’s the other thing, which is that I’m coming out of it because I know I am likely to be okay over the next four years. I’m straight and white and male and well off, and unusually for someone in my field, I have contractual stability in the form of multi-year, multi-book contract with a major publishing house. Literally, as long as I write a book a year I’m going to be fine, and my family is going to be fine, and if we’re not, well, we’re probably all screwed in a massive way that impacts even the most insulated. I have the luxury of being pissed off, and pretty much only being pissed off, and I also have the option of not being pissed-off when I want, and doing other things with my brain cycles.

But I know too many people — people that I like, people that I love — who don’t have my ability to ride it out, and won’t have the ability to just turn off the reality of a Trump presidency. People who are minorities, and/or LGTBQ, and/or women, all of whom fully expect rights to be taken away from them and a culture of hate to thrive, making their lives worse. People who have insurance through the ACA who know that the Trump administration has it as a priority to repeal the law, meaning that once again that medical insurance will likely be beyond their reach and they will simply have to hope they don’t get sick. My neighbors, who I expect are going to find out what the limits of Trump’s promises are, and how they will differ in reality from what he promised, and how much more difficult their lives will be because of it.

I believe that things are going to get worse for a lot of people I know, and by extension, for a lot of people I don’t know. I would like to be wrong on this — I would love to be wrong on this, please GOP and Trump, prove me wrong — but I don’t think I will be.

I have the luxury of getting over this election. I worry about the people who don’t. I suspect that worry isn’t going to go away for at least four years.

And that’s how I’m doing at the moment.


The Cinemax Theory of Racism

Yesterday I wrote here: 

If Trump’s administration indulges in the racism, sexism and religious and other bigotries that Trump and his people have already promised to engage in, we can assume it’s because his voters are just fine with that racism, sexism and religious and other bigotries — even if they claim to have voted for him for other reasons entirely. After all, Trump didn’t hide these things about himself, or try to sneak these plans in by a side door. They were in full view this entire time. If you vote for a bigot who has bigoted plans, you need to be aware of what that says about you, and your complicity in those plans.

I also last night tweeted this:

And wouldn’t you know, because of both, I’ve gotten comments and emails and tweets from people upset that I pointed out that voting for a public racist with clear racist policies means that one is abetting racism. I assume that they know for sure that they’re not racist, and wouldn’t be racist, so being accused of racism stings. They didn’t vote for racism! They voted to make America great again!

Well, so, okay. Let me give you an analogy here.

Let’s say you want HBO. So you go to your local cable provider to get HBO and the only way they’ll let you get HBO is to sign up for a premium channel package, which includes HBO but also includes Cinemax. Now, maybe you don’t want Cinemax, and you don’t care about Cinemax, and maybe never personally plan to ever watch Cinemax, but the deal is: If you want HBO, you have to sign on to Cinemax too. You have to be a Cinemax subscriber to get HBO. And you go ahead and sign up for the premium channel package.

Pop quiz: In this scenario, did you just subscribe to Cinemax?

And you may say, no, I subscribed to HBO, but I couldn’t get it without Cinemax. I’m an HBO subscriber, not a Cinemax subscriber.

And then someone points out to you, well, in point of fact, you are a Cinemax subscriber, look, there it is on your TV channel guide. Some of the money you pay in for your premium channel package goes to Cinemax and funds its plans and strategies.

And you say, but I never watch Cinemax or ever plan to.

And they say, okay, but you still subscribe to it, and you knew that in order to get HBO you had to get Cinemax, and you signed on anyway. You’re a Cinemax subscriber whether you ever watch it or not.

And you say, well, look, I really wanted HBO.

And they say, sure, enough that you were fine with accepting Cinemax to get it. Just don’t pretend you’re not currently subscribing to Cinemax, too. You clearly are. Look, it’s right there on your cable bill. You’re a Cinemax subscriber.

Now, to bring that analogy back to the point at hand. This election, you had two major Presidential providers. One offered you the Stronger Together plan, and the other offered you the Make America Great Again plan. You chose the Make America Great Again plan. The thing is, the Make America Great Again has in its package active, institutionalized racism (also active, institutionalized sexism. And as it happens, active, institutionalized homophobia). And you know it does, because the people who bundled up the Make America Great Again package not only told you it was there, they made it one of the plan’s big selling points.

And you voted for it anyway.

So did you vote for racism?

You sure did.

And you say, but I’m not racist, and I would never treat people in a racist fashion, and I don’t like being called out as having done a racist thing.

And others say to you, okay, but you knew that when you signed up for the Make America Great Again plan that active, institutionalized racism was part of the package. Your vote supports racism. By voting, you endorsed a racist plan.

And you say, but I didn’t want that part. I wanted the other parts.

And others say to you, that’s fine, but you knew that to get the other parts, you had to sign on for the racism, too. And evidently you were okay with that.

And you say, no I’m not, I hate racism.

And others say to you, but apparently you like these other things more than you hate racism, because you agreed to the racism in order to get these other things.

And you say, well, the Stronger Together plan had horrible things in it too.

And others say to you, yes, and you didn’t vote for that, you voted for this. Which has racism in it. You voted for racism.

And you say, stop saying that.

And the others ask, why.

I’ve written before on how people can benefit from racism and other forms of discrimination without actively and intentionally discriminating against others, and if you have the time I recommend reading the piece. Lots of people benefit from an institutionalized system of bigotry, etc (including me) without being a bigot themselves, i.e., going out of their way to keep other people down. That’s the nature of a bigoted system so endemic that you don’t even notice it’s there for the same reason the proverbial fish doesn’t notice the water.

I think you can very easily make the argument that a lot people who voted for Trump are not and would not actively be racist to another person in their day-to-day lives. I live among Trump voters, and the ones I live among are lovely and kind and perfect neighbors. They are what nearly anyone would describe as good people, me included. As are, I think, the majority of the people who voted for Trump.

But the fact remains that in voting for Trump, they voted for racism: It was right there in the package deal, front and center, and hard to miss. They voted for it anyway. And you may argue that voting for racism as part of a larger package deal does not a racist make, and I wouldn’t necessarily disagree, as far as what people do to others in their personal and day to day lives. But voting for racism will make personal, day-to-day life harder for the targets of that racism. Two days after the election, we’re already seeing that.

It’s perfectly fine to point out to people who voted for racism, that indeed, this is what they voted for. And also that if owning up to the fact that they voted for racism is uncomfortable for them, they should take a moment to think about how bad it is for the targets of that racism, and how bad it has yet to get.

For the Trump voters, Trump’s racism may have been just part of the package deal, the Cinemax they had accept to get the HBO. For those who are the target of that racism (and sexism, and homophobia), however, it’s not Cinemax. It’s their lives. Day to day, and every day. And they’re all too aware of what Trump voters signed up for, to get what they wanted.


Early Morning Thoughts on the Day After

Because, like I suspect a great many people, I couldn’t get to sleep tonight.

1. Well, I certainly missed that turn of events, didn’t I? To be fair to myself, pretty much everyone missed it — apparently even Trump’s pollsters thought he was going down in defeat last night — but I’m not responsible for other people, I’m responsible for me, and, well: Missed that one totally. I never thought Trump would win the election. I was wrong. He won it. My being wrong is on me.

Would he have won it with a different opponent? Would he have won it if the Supreme Court hadn’t gutted the Voters Right Act? Would he have won it if a significant number of people hadn’t voted for third party candidates? Or if James Comey hasn’t done his little email stunt in the last couple of weeks? These are interesting questions that don’t change the fact that in this reality, Donald Trump is the president-elect. The woulda, shoulda, coulda of things is irrelevant to that.

2. With that said, it is of note that the polling for this election cycle was essentially disastrously wrong, and — again to be fair — it was pretty much only Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight who warned people that if it was wrong, that the predictions for the race would fail in basically the manner that they did. Silver and his site predicted the outcome incorrectly just like everyone else, but he gets credit for saying “if I’m wrong, this is how that’s going to work” and as far as I can see pretty much nailing that. So, yay, Nate Silver? I would have rather it gone the other way and we all had a post-election laugh at his over-cautiousness. But it didn’t, and once again Silver is the smartest dude in the room, for what it’s worth.

Be that as it may, there is clearly something systematically wrong with how polling is being done. If poll after poll had Clinton leading in states she went on to lose, and often leading by more than a margin of error, then something’s going on. I don’t mean in a conspiratorial, “the polls are being manipulated, man!” sort of way. Again, it’s something systematic in how the polls are conducted and who they are reaching (and probably also something to do with this particular election cycle in itself). How does that get fixed? I’m sure someone will tell us. Maybe Nate Silver.

Much of my confidence about this year’s election was rooted in the polling, which had been reasonably accurate for the last few election cycles (both presidential and congressional), and like I said, while I own my own mis-estimation and being wrong, it’s also a fact that I was wrong along with a whole lot of people, including people for whom polling is their actual job. It’s a discomfiting place to be.

3. It will be no surprise to anyone I’m unhappy with the result of this election. Donald Trump was manifestly the worst presidential candidate in living memory, an ignorant, sex-assaulting vindictive bigot, enamored of strongmen and contemptuous of the law, consorting with white nationalists and hucksters — and now he’s president-elect, which is appalling and very sad for the nation. I don’t see much good coming out of this, either in the immediate or long-term, not in the least because if he does any of the things he promises to do, his impact will be ruinous to the nation. Add to the fact that he’s the GOP candidate, and the GOP now will have the White House, Congress and will appoint the next Supreme Court justice, and, well. There aren’t any grownups in the GOP anymore, and we’re going to find out what that means for all of us.

Here are some of the things it could mean: A conservative Supreme Court for decades, backtracking on climate change, the repeal of Roe v. Wade, curtailment of free speech, loss of medical insurance to millions, tax policy that advantages the wealthy and adds trillions to the national debt, punitive racial policies, the return of torture as a part of the military toolbox, and a president who uses the apparatus of the US to go after his personal enemies. And these are only the things Trump has said he’s ready to do — we don’t know what else he will do when he’s literally the most powerful man on the planet, with a compliant legislature and judiciary.

The GOP conceit is that somehow they will be able to control Trump, which is a theory that’s worked so well up to now. More realistically, I think the best that can be hoped for is that Trump simply becomes apathetic and bored and leaves actual governance to others, i.e., the Dubya maneuver. This didn’t work particularly well then, but it might be marginally better than the alternative. But no matter what, I don’t have much optimism for the next four years.

4. I’m a well-off straight white man, which means of all the segments of the population, the Trump years will likely punish me the least — I may have to adjust my investments so I don’t lose tons of money when the stock market tumbles (or just be willing to ride it out, just like in 2008), but otherwise, in the short-term at least, I’m likely to be fine. I can’t say the same for my friends and loved ones who are women or minorities or LGTBQ or who struggle financially to make ends meet, or some combination of all of those. I wish I could say to them that it’ll be fine and that they’ll be able to ride out the next four (or, God forbid, eight) years, but I can’t. Trump, himself racist and sexist, brought a bunch of racists and sexists and homophobes to the dance, and now he’s obliged to dance with them. Things could get pretty ugly for everyone who isn’t a well-off straight white man. Things are likely to get ugly.

A lot of my friends are scared of Trump’s America, in other words, and they should be. As Maya Angelou once said, when someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time. Donald Trump has shown us over and over again who he is; the worst of his supporters — the ones who will now feel like they have free rein to indulge their various bigotries — have shown us who they are, too. And while not every Trump voter is among the worst of people, they share the responsibility of having made anyone who isn’t straight, and white, and male, and well-off, less secure, less safe, and more frightened. That’s what they bought for us when they pulled the lever for Trump.

5. And we have to face up to fact that it was white people who brought Trump to us — Trump got the majority of white men and white women who voted. We can parse out why that was (and we can talk about how the minority vote was suppressed), but at the end of the day, the fact remains: Trump will be in power because white people wanted him there.

If Trump’s administration indulges in the racism, sexism and religious and other bigotries that Trump and his people have already promised to engage in, we can assume it’s because his voters are just fine with that racism, sexism and religious and other bigotries — even if they claim to have voted for him for other reasons entirely. After all, Trump didn’t hide these things about himself, or try to sneak these plans in by a side door. They were in full view this entire time. If you vote for a bigot who has bigoted plans, you need to be aware of what that says about you, and your complicity in those plans.

I voted against Trump — voted against him twice, in fact, since I also voted against him in the primary — and I voted against him in no small part because I found his bigotry shameful, and still do. I am proud that he did not get my vote; I’m as proud of that vote as any I’ve offered up. And as an American, I have no plans to take his bigotry lying down. I hope you won’t, either.

6. That said, it might be a little much to ask people to stand and fight today. It was a long night, and a depressing night, for a lot of us. Take a day. Or two. Or a week. Or however much the time you need for yourself to get your head around this thing.

But at the end of that time, I hope you come back to us. Looking at the numbers as they stand right now, Trump won by just about 300,000 votes Clinton got at least 100,000 more votes than Trump out of about 120 million individual votes cast. There’s a lot of us who will stand with you, when you’re ready to stand again with us. There’s work to be done over the next four years and beyond. We need to get to it.


Your Quadrennial “I Voted!” Thread

If you’re a US citizen, it’s time to do the thing, “the thing” being voting. It’s only the future of our country, after all. I like to believe that Whatever readers are the sort who will stick it out in a line to vote. Prove me right please: If you have vote, or when you have vote, let the rest of us know here!

So: Have you voted?


Sunset, 11/7/16

Don’t let the sun set on you tomorrow without you having voted, y’hear?

(I mean, unless you’re working late and the sun sets before you get to the polling place. As long as you’re on your way, that’s fine. But vote, okay? Don’t make me ask again!)


New Books and ARCs, 11/7/16

So that not everything this week will be about politics: Look! New books and ARCs that have come to the Scalzi Compound! Anything here tickle your fancy? Tell us in the comments!


One More Day

Thoughts on the Day Before:

1. Vote. Yes, I know, I’m a broken record on this score, but, hey, you know what? I don’t care. If you’re an American citizen and you have not done so already, go and vote. I would prefer you voted for Hillary Clinton, and generally any other Democratic candidates for national office at least, but obviously you should vote for whichever candidates are most congenial to your particular world view (and please think seriously about whether your preferred candidate is, in fact, congenial to your actual world view). Don’t vote just for president; vote down ballot as well. Do the work and take a little time to familiarize yourself with the positions of candidate and various issues. Look, just be a goddamned informed voter, okay? Please? It’s actually not too much to ask for.

2. I wrote my electoral predictions yesterday and in the intervening time the FBI announced that they weren’t going to do anything new regarding Clinton and those damn emails, which basically means the FBI and its director James Comey very publicly shat themselves, and smeared poop all over the election, for no good reason at all. What the little escapade did do, however, is remind people that the email “scandal” is largely bullshit, despite the fervent desires of many; I suspect it probably also enraged a number of Clinton supporters who see this as direct and intentional interference by the FBI on behalf of Trump — the new email scandal lasted just long enough, in fact, for the press to winkle out that at least some of the FBI New York office has it in for Clinton.

As I said on Twitter yesterday, this won’t have any effect on polls — it’s too late for that — but it might have an effect on voting, as in, some folks will be extra motivated to vote Clinton and down the ticket now. It’s one thing for Clinton to have to deal with all the ambient sexism that any woman candidate would have to, plus the three decades of animus she’s accrued. It’s another thing to believe the actual FBI is actively working to sabotage a presidential campaign out of spite. There was chatter that the FBI’s involvement might have cost the Democrats control of the Senate; I would suggest there’s just enough time for some really pissed Clinton supporters to get it back now.

3. On the other side of things, and obviously we’ll have to see if this holds, but at the moment it just kind of feels like the Trump campaign is kind of like a three-day-old birthday balloon left out in the sun, leaking air out of tiny pinpricks. Clinton’s FBI exoneration couldn’t have come at a worse time, a New York Times article about the Trump campaign’s last days is full of bathetic pathos, nearly all the national polls show Clinton with a durable lead, and in the state where there’s early voting, the latinx voters are coming out in force against Trump, building margins for Clinton that are, if not insurmountable, certainly a challenge to get over.

It’s not over — please vote! — but it doesn’t look good for Trump. It’s one thing to have everything come down to the wire, and it’s another things to have it like this, where it’s pretty clear the game is done, it’s just that the timer hasn’t run out yet, and everything is simply in garbage time now.

I don’t think this is a bad thing, mind you. There’s always been a chance that the more racist and horrible of Trump’s supporters would show up at polling places with their little man-props to “monitor” minority votes, and they still might, and of course Trump will stomp and mew about the vote being rigged no matter what happens. But the more it looks like it’s over before the vote is tallied up, the better chance we get through tomorrow without some regrettable incident.

Again, one big sign is how Florida falls. If it goes Clinton, Trump’s pretty much done. If it goes Trump, but North Carolina goes Clinton, he’s also pretty much done. If he gets both, buckle in, this will take a while.

4. But again, take nothing for granted, and remember I can be as full of shit and rationalizations as anyone. Vote.

I know! I keep saying it! Well, you know. I’ll say it some more before we’re done.


My Electoral Prediction, 2016

Here is the map I think is going to happen on Tuesday night, the one that carries Hillary Clinton to electoral victory and Donald Trump into heaving fits of frothing denial. I think it’s a realistic map (I also made pessimistic and optimistic maps, which I will show you a bit later), although I’m happy to concede that at least a couple states here are teetering, and a couple could go red and at least one could go blue. But to be honest I would be surprised if it varies too much from this map.

As ever, it seems, the key to whether Clinton supporters can breathe early or settle in for a long, anxious night will be Florida. If Clinton wins Florida (as I expect she will), then it becomes virtually impossible for Trump to win the election. If Clinton loses Florida but wins North Carolina, once again Trump is in a very difficult position.

None of this is news, of course; despite constant Clinton supporter panic over the months, Clinton has always been in the lead and Trump has always been the underdog. There are rather more ways for Trump to lose than Clinton. Clinton in fact can lose Florida and North Carolina and even New Hampshire, and still win, as evidenced by this pessimistic version of a Clinton victory map:

This isn’t a very happy map for Clinton supporters, since it will leave the Trump supporters howling and possibly riotous on Wednesday, but 270 is what you need, and this map gives it. And again it also illustrates Trump’s bind: He’s got a hell of an uphill climb to victory.

Having now just given the Clinton supporters here angina with this worst case scenario map, here’s what I think is the most optimistic Clinton map, short of a stunning blowout repudiation of Trump and the GOP, which to be honest I don’t see happening:

In addition to moving Ohio and Arizona into the blue, this map also gives Utah to Evan McMullin, a thing I currently find unlikely but not impossible given the general LDS dissatisfaction with Trump. Clinton fans would love to have Trump and McMullin split Utah and have her go right up the middle for the win, but, folks, listen to me: It’s okay to settle here. A McMullin win still deprives Trump of electoral vote oxygen.

I’ll note that my own “realistic” map is more optimistic in terms of Clinton electoral votes than either FiveThirtyEight (which as of 8am this morning, has Clinton at 292.5) or the Princeton Election Consortium, which has her at 312. In both cases, however, it’s important to note that they both have Clinton taking the election. At this point in time, there is basically no reputable estimator or poll aggregator that doesn’t have Clinton ahead in the electoral vote count.

Can Trump win? If you take my “pessimistic” map and give him Colorado or Wisconsin, then he can win outright. If he wins neither but takes Nevada (which after this week’s surge in early voting seems unlikely to me, but 538 still has it leaning red), then it’s an electoral vote tie, and the election goes to the House of Representatives, which realistically means Trump wins. It’s possible Trump wins. It’s also unlikely.

I feel pretty confident Clinton’s going to take it, but if you’re a Clinton supporter and still feeling edgy, I’m okay with that, too. Get out there and vote, and take all your other Clinton-friendly (or at least Trump-unhappy) friends with you. And while you’re at it, remember to vote Democratic down ballot as well. As I’ve noted before, Trump’s not the only problem here.

Again: Don’t panic, but don’t take anything for granted. When Trump loses — and I’m pretty sure he will lose — he’ll whine and complain and stomp his feet and continue to suggest the vote is rigged. He’s already doing that, complaining that the perfectly legal policy of letting people already in line when a polling time passes actually cast their vote constitutes “rigging,” rather than ensuring citizens their ability to exercise their right of franchise. If the vote is close, you best believe Trump, his people and the GOP are going to work the refs. So better if Clinton wins walking away.

That being the case, you know what to do: Vote, and this year, vote Clinton.

(Maps made with’s electoral map maker: Click here to make your own map.)


View From a Hotel Window, 11/4/16: Frankfort, KY + New LA Times Article (on the Election, as it Happens)

First, here’s the view directly out my hotel window here in Frankfort. I’m here for my last public event of the year, the Kentucky Book Fair. I have two events tomorrow: A panel at 11am entitled How Geek Entertainment Took Over the World, and a solo thing at 1:25pm on the main stage. Here’s the schedule for the whole event. And I’ll apparently also have a table where you can wander by and have me sign things. If you’re in Northern Kentucky tomorrow, swing on by. It’ll be lovely to see you.

(Actually, I just remembered I do have one more event this year: I’m interviewing Justine Larbalestier about her new book My Sister Rosa on November 18 in Columbus at the Book Loft. That should be fun! Come see us. But please note that while it’s a joint event, I’m there to promote Justine and her new book, which, incidentally, is very very good. I’m there in sort of a journalistic capacity.)

Second, I have a new column up at the Los Angeles Times, where I am a critic at large, talking about dystopias and elections, and why while dystopias are fun to read, you wouldn’t want to live in one. Naturally, I recommend the column, and suggest you read it and share it. And also, you know, that you go vote. So we can avoid the dystopia that’s staring us right in the face, waiting to happen.


The Cubs, the 108-Year-Long Streak, and Old Man’s War

Photo by Arturo Pardavila, used under Creative Commons license. Click on photo for original.

This year, as the Chicago Cubs came closer and closer to winning a World Series, people wondered what that might mean for the Old Man’s War series of books. After all, in several places I had people in the books discussing the Chicago Cubs and their inability to win a World Series, and in The Human Division, it’s actually a plot point. So what happens to those books, now that the Cubs, after 108 years, have won a World Series?

Well, you know. In one sense, nothing. The books are fiction, take place in the “future” and in a multiverse where space travel isn’t actually traveling in space, it’s traveling from one universe to another, where things are (usually) just one electron position different. So now either the events of the Old Man’s War series have been pushed further out in the timestream, for at least another 108 years (or so), or we’ve just become a universe so improbable that it’s unlikely the events of the Old Man’s War book will ever happen in it, but those events continue, about a billion universes to our left.

Which is it? You choose, either is valid.

As a practical matter, mind you, I think the plot points still work, they just got more meta. Now readers in North America, at least, are aware that the long suffering of Cubs fans has come to a close, and will enjoy the presence of the plot point on that grounds (or if they’re Cleveland fans, not). Readers will hit those points in the books, enjoy the slight bit of cognitive dissonance, and then move on.

But of course, with all those assertions above, it’s possible I might be rationalizing just a tiny bit. In which case, yup, it’s time to come right out and admit it: Now the Old Man’s War books suffer from the same problem as all the science fiction stories before 1969 that named a first man on the moon, or the ones that imagined canals on Mars. The real world caught up to them and passed them by, waving as it did so.

And that’s okay. This is the risk you take when you put a plot point in your books that’s contingent on the real world. It is the fate of science fiction books and other media to be continually invalidated by real-world events, or at least, to have the real world catch up to it and then have the work, by necessity, consigned to a nearby but undeniably alternate universe. This had already happened to the Old Man’s War series in a small ways (no one calls hand-held computers “PDAs” anymore, but the folks in the OMW series do, because that’s what they called them in 2001, when I wrote the first book), and in larger ways for other books of mine. Agent to the Stars, for example, has a plot point involving an elderly Holocaust survivor. In 1997, when I wrote that book, that was still a reasonable thing. Today in 2016, it’s a pretty long stretch. In another ten years, Agent to the Stars will undeniably take place in the past, in an alternate universe.

The real world catches up to science fiction. It always does.

But it doesn’t always kill the book (or film, or whatever), thankfully. 1984 is still read despite the titular year now being more than 30 years in the past; we watch 2001 despite us not having moon bases or monoliths at the moment; people still enjoy the various Star Trek television series despite the fact the communicators in each iteration are laughably less complex than a smart phone today. People seem to get that science fiction stories have plot points and details that expire, or, at the most charitable, “go meta.”

I suspect that will be the fate of the Old Man’s War books. The Chicago Cubs in that universe are a plot point, but a minor one overall. I don’t expect that many people will decide that the Cubs continuing to be lovable losers there will be the thing that throws them entirely out of suspension of disbelief. And if it does, I mean, okay? Their life. Everyone else will either push out the timeline, enjoy the meta moment, or, alternately (and especially if they’re not baseball fans), not care. I think the books will survive, is what I’m saying.

In the meantime, congratulations to the Cubs and all their fans. As someone who attended college in Chicago, this is lovely moment; as someone who now lives in Ohio, this is a disappointment; and as someone who grew up in Los Angeles, I stopped caring one series back. No matter what, however, having the Chicago-Cleveland series decided in the tenth inning of a game seven is just about perfect. It could not have been written better.

I’ve gone on the record in years past saying it’s more existentially satisfying for the Cubs to keep losing than to ever win the World Series — they crown a World Series winner every year, after all, but no one else has a 108-year-long streak of futility to their name, with the potential to add to it every season. Streaks like that don’t come around every year, or even every century. Seems a shame to throw something like that away on mere winning. But, you know what? Right now, there’s not a single Cubs fan in the world, living or dead, who agrees with me, if indeed there ever was. That’s fair enough. I hope they all enjoy their moment of winning, and the end of the long, long, long losing streak. The Cubs earned it.

And, also, if they ever make a TV series or a movie series out of the Old Man’s War books, Chicago in the text will be replaced by Cleveland, and it will still work. Sorry, Cleveland. You know I love you.


Thoughts a Week From Election Day

They are, in no particular order:

1. Vote. I mean, presuming you are an American citizen, etc. But vote. It’s actually important. And remind everyone you know to vote as well. This election matters. A lot. Vote early if you can, you’ll feel better having it done with.

2. Don’t panic. One, at this point, at the presidential level, this cake is already baked. Clinton voters don’t give a shit about the most recent email nonsense. Trump voters don’t give a shit about any of the various horrible things he’s done. Everyone’s going to vote the way they were always going to vote. It’s all over except for the waiting.

3. Take a day off from the world. But! But! But! I hear you say! Polls! Controversies! Dogs and cats living together! If you still can’t stop freaking out, disengage. I did this yesterday: I stepped away from the Internet and read books and played video games instead. It helped to take a breather. I recommend you do so, too, if the stress is getting to you.

4. Clinton’s almost certainly gonna be president. Because, per point two, all the noise at this point is just noise. Polls will tighten, the press will jump on things — Clinton’s email on Friday, Trump’s server talking to Russia today — and you and everyone you know will pray for the sweet, sweet release of death between now and next Tuesday. But at the end of the day, Clinton’s in the lead in terms of projected electoral vote count and has been for nearly the entire run of the campaign. There would have to be a collapse of historic proportions to change that. Could that happen? It’s a quantum physics universe and anything can happen. But it almost certainly won’t. As Sam Wang of the Princeton Election Consortium has noted, despite all the noise, this election has actually been incredibly stable, and stable in Clinton’s favor.

5. Clinton voters: Don’t get cocky. Clinton’s almost certainly going to win, but one way that she won’t is if everyone who was going to vote for her gets complacent. Remember that Trump is out there telling everyone the vote will be rigged and telling his voters to go be “poll watchers” (i.e., intimidate the hell out of Clinton voters), which as it happens is causing potential problems for the RNC, as it should. A number of states, including my own, have gone out of their way to make it harder for people to vote — and let’s be honest, by saying “people” here, I mean “minorities, who are overwhelmingly more likely to vote Democratic.” Also remember that Trump’s people are all in on trying to discourage Clinton voters from going to the polls, because that’s really the only way for him to win at this point. Basically lots of people would love it if you didn’t vote. Disappoint them.

6. Trump voters: It ain’t rigged. When your dude almost certainly loses next Tuesday, it won’t be because the election was rigged. It’s not. It’s literally almost impossible to rig the presidential election. The only reason for Trump to be bellowing that the election is rigged is because he can’t fathom losing fair and square, and because the GOP wants an excuse, any excuse, not to give a Clinton presidency any legitimacy. Now, you may be voting for a horrible, racist, sexist, ignorant braggart and loudmouth, but you don’t have to believe every piece of stupidity that comes out his mouth. The “election is rigged” piece is one of the stupidest. It’s not rigged. Your fellow will lose because he didn’t get the votes. Simple as that.

7. Hang in there, it’s almost over. One week, that’s all. Then afterward there is a whole other set of issues to deal with. But this friggin’ nightmare, at least, will be done. Keep it together until then, okay?


A Year of Scamperbeastery

A year ago today we went over to my mother-in-law’s neighbor’s house and took possession of two eight-week-old kittens there. These kittens, tentatively named Thing One and Thing Two, eventually became known as Sugar and Spice, aka the Scamperbeasts. It’s been a pretty good year for them since then, as they’ve become beloved members of the Scalzi household, with Sugar becoming especially partial to Daisy, our large galumphing dog, and Spice apparently enjoying alternately antagonizing and adoring Zeus, the senior cat of the household.

Over the space of the year, other aspects of their personality have sussed out as well. Sugar, appropriately, is the cuddly the one — she likes sleeping with (or on) the humans in the household and will actively seek one out for pettings and affection. Spice also likes affection but on her terms, which is usually at 4am, when she will leap on the bed with a series of loud chirps. Sugar has claimed the front room as her primary domain; Spice prefers the master bedroom.

However, both these days prefer being outside. Once they were large enough not to be taken away by hawks, we let them out to roam around the Scalzi Compound, pursuant to our tradition of having our cats not only be pets, but working animals. To recap, there are agricultural fields on three sides of us, and in the fall, a lot of the rodents who had been living in the fields start looking for somewhere warm, and our house looks good to them. So the cats basically set a perimeter. As it happens, both of the Scamperbeasts are really good at the whole “don’t let rodents into the house” thing, and they pretty much stay outside until they are tired or decide they want kibble or petting. They’re country girls at heart. We’ll see what happens once it starts getting really cold overnight, however.

A year ago I was initially reluctant to take two kittens — more accurately, I was in the market for only one, although when both Athena and Krissy decided we should take two I didn’t put up too much of a fight — but I have to say that a year it, taking the two instead of just one seems to have been the right call. In the early months especially they kept each other company; these days they are rather more independent of each other but they are still obviously affectionate sisters. They make for quite a pair.

As I said, a good year for them, I think, and for us. We’re glad they’re with us and we look forward to them being with us for as long as they are. It’s been lovely to see them grown from kittens to cats. Here’s to the rest of it.

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