Reader Request Week 2017: Get Your Questions In!
Posted on April 7, 2017 Posted by John Scalzi 196 Comments
Next week, rather than being on tour for some or all of the week, I will be home the entire time, which makes it the perfect time to have my annual Reader Request Week! So let’s do this thing, shall we?
For those of you just catching up, Reader Request Week is when 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, April 10.
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.
Reader Request Week is usually one of my favorite weeks of the year here at Whatever, because it’s fun to see what you come up with in terms of questions, and often makes me think about things I wouldn’t otherwise have thought about. So thank you in advance for coming out of left field for these.
Here are the Reader Request Weeks from the last few years, if you want to catch up and/or be aware of topics already recently addressed:
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
Reader Request Week 2016 #1: Living Where I Do
Reader Request Week 2016 #2: Will Humans Survive?
Reader Request Week 2016 #3: How, and If, I Will Be Remembered
Reader Request Week 2016 #4: Autonomous Cars
Reader Request Week 2016 #5: Pronouns
Reader Request Week 2016 #6: Why I Don’t Drink or Use Drugs
Reader Request Week 2016 #7: Writers and Ego
Reader Request Week 2016 #8: STEM and STEAM
Reader Request Week 2016 #9: Short Bits on Writing
Reader Request Week 2016 #10: Small Bits
So: What do you want to know this time around? Let me know in the comments. Looking forward to what you ask!
Cats vs Dogs. Do you secretly have a preference, and the pros and cons of each based on your personal experience.
What is your current fiction writing routine, and how does it differ from the routines you had when you started writing fiction? Does it vary much from when you’re writing journalistic work?
Are you ever interested in doing screenplays for TV series, such as Doctor Who, Star Trek, Black Mirror, etc? Why or why not?
How do the celebrity and fame parts of your career affect your family? Meaning–people say things (both positive and negative) about you on the Internet, you travel quite a bit and devote a lot of other time to your career apart from just the writing, and I’m sure people recognize you in public from time to time. How do your wife and daughter react to all of that? How do they feel about it? (that’s a lot of questions, but I’m pretty sure it’s all the same topic)
I try to follow politics (both local in my country and international) to the best of my abilities and time. With that said, in recent years I feel that there is a shift in trends toward more authoritarian policies by democratic governments. Some of these policies feel that I read them in an Orwell novel.
Do you think this shift in trends will grow stronger. And if so, where do you see the line in which the shift will go back?
I know that it’s a topic that been discussed a lot by many from a more emotional point of view with the need to resist these changes. But what I am more curious about as to why there is a feeling that it so prevalent all over the globe.
I’m a female business owner who finds a good string of profanities to be a great stress reliever. I fell in love with Lady Kiva. I also found myself comparing her to Chrisjen Avasarala of the Expanse series-another powerful woman with a potty mouth, and I wondered what inspired you to create a female character who wasn’t afraid to express herself that way. What are your thoughts about profanity in general and more particularly when used by women?
Asimov said that he wanted to get married, and have a boy and a girl, and become a bestselling writer. So he did all of those things. What parts of your life panned out (or didn’t) according to plan?
Note : In his quote, Asimov didn’t mention that he actually got married twice, so you will also be allowed a little margin of error.
We have all heard that “words have power”. Of course, the list of the most powerful changes as time and events happen. What words do you see as the most powerful? And in a general sense, what words do you love, dislike, or evoke an emotion for you?
Hullo! I would love to know the extent to which your family ‘features’ or inspires your writing. Reading Old Man’s War for the first time recently (what can I say, I came to your writing via the blog), I almost instinctively saw you and yours as Perry, Kathy/Jane, and Zoe.
Was this intentional? To what extent can you, as a writer, ‘write in’ friends and family before it’s a problem?
(and I know.. A writing question :) Sorry! )
If you could choose any powerful figure/leader/amorphous blob/what have you from sci-fi history to replace our current president, who would you choose? (You are allowed to choose your own characters.)
Looking through some previous Reader Request columns, I noticed that you occasionally say (write) “bless your heart.” I’d never heard this expression, at least used as you use it, until I moved from California (after some childhood years in Connecticut) to Indiana. I vaguely recall that you used to live in California before taking root in Ohio. Did you start using “bless your heart” after that move, and if so, about how long did it take to pick up the expression?
Thanks for Reader Request week, for this blog, and for all the lovely books!
What do you think will be a few good careers to go into, where humans will not be displaced by computers/robots within the next 30 years or so? Aside from designing, building, programming, and maintaining computers and robots, that is?
When Hugo awards were first presented some decades ago, the new novels from year to year probably numbered in the dozens, and fantasy and SF were both included together. Now that new works of both types number in the 100’s, I would like to see the two types of fiction awarded seperately. What are your thoughts?
If you don’t mind a question about another writer’s work: The Culture in Iain M. Banks’ series of novels is depicted as a Utopia. There is no need for money or laws, virtually any material thing anyone wants is available for the asking, everyone is beautiful and lives a long, happy life (except sometimes for people who are actively involve in other cultures and civiliations).
That all sounds nice. But, assuming the necessary technology eventually exists, human nature being what it is, is this a realistic future? And would a life free from all challenge be a satisfying life?
As someone who in the past decade has rediscovered the joys of making (bluegrass mostly) music with my friends and listening to live music when I can, I get a kick out of seeing that it’s a hobby for you in a similar fashion. How much of a role does making music play in your life?
What’s your take on VP Pence and other Christian fundamentalists in politics who are attempting to impose their religious beliefs on everyone?
After the last Presidential election, you wrote an interesting post on your view of the GOP as it stood then. What would your view be now?
Do you think that the education provided by American schools are still relevant to the needs of the students and their families? How about American universities?
I’d like to hear your thoughts on persuading people.
What makes communication persuasive? What are good things to keep in mind when you’re trying to persuade someone, rather than just ranting at them ineffectually?
And, perhaps related: what do *you* find persuasive? What kind of things, or types of conversations, can persuade *you* to reexamine a topic you’d previously considered a closed case?
I’d also love to hear your thoughts on Jews in the context of diverse identities, whiteness and racism.
…which I assume may or may not relate to thoughts about Israel and the Middle East, which you wrote about previously, but quite a long while back.
You once mentioned you are pretty good with archery, how did you get into it? Do you still practice?
I’m a college literature professor who is usually called on to teach courses organized around a particular theme. I’ve been thinking about a class that would include your novel “Lock In.” My question is, what other texts would YOU like to see read alongside “Lock In”? What do you see as the key themes or narrative devices that would make those other texts interesting choices?
With Trump being president, How much worse do you think it will get, before it gets better?
When dealing with stress, problems, and things that just bother you, are there any philosophical models or schools of thought that have proven especially useful? Stoicism comes to mind (and nihilism too, but at a glance it doesn’t seem that helpful), but I didn’t study philosophy in college, so not sure what else is out there.
Here in the UK one of the newspapers does an interview with a different figure each week (author, actor – someone well-known). One of the questions they ask is ‘What historical figure (can be living or dead) would you most like to have dinner with and why?’
Is there a fictional world (not one of yours) in popular media right now that you think is being particularly well done? And is there a spec fic world out there that you’d like to live in?
Hi John, my request is about travelling to or living on Mars. I have seen quite a bit in the past year or so about a manned mission to Mars, and about a colony on Mars. The talk seems to be that this will happen within the next 5-10 years. Do you think that is feasible – do we really have the technology? Who will pay for it, and how much will it cost? Is is riskier than folks are making it seem (e.g., Mars lost its atmosphere due to solar radiation, how will we protect people living there). Last thought, is a long term colony feasible on Mars?
Have you changed your mind about Trump supporters yet? Do you think the ones that still support him want to watch the world burn?
Silly random question here – sorry.
I’ve seen a lot of remarks about pies appearing at random TCE tour events. Would you care to comment on what pie or pies you like most? Fruit pies, cream pies, custard pies, nut pies, chocolate pies, savory pies – which is your favorite? Do you go for homemade crusts or the premade kind from the store? Are there any pies you dislike? Who in your family makes the best pies?
Thanks for inviting us to pepper you with questions, and enjoy your week at home!
Print vs ebook. Some people are die-hard paper-philes, and I now resent books that close up on me without a paperweight. Others are agnostic. Do you have a preference, and do you have thoughts on why?
Translators! Here are some specific ideas: Do you ever get to meet and talk with the people who translate your works into other languages? Do they ever want information or feedback from you on how your stories should be rendered? Do you know anything about how compensation works for translators, and do you think they are paid justly? What is your view of the role of a translator: only to faithfully render the language as best as possible according to your original intent, or is there room for creativity especially in trying to translate situations or plot points that may read differently in different cultures or that may have different associations because of different literary traditions, etc.? Do you hope the translated versions of your work will retain the “American SF” flavor of your particular subgenre, or do you hope it will fit into a subgenre of the target country’s SF tradition? (Or is whatever will sell lots of books and be enjoyed by fans fine with you?)
I’m curious about your reading habits. How much fiction versus nonfiction do you read? Do you make a conscious effort to make sure you are reading, and are reading a variety of books? Do you treat reading as part of your writing or is it separate? How have your reading habits changed over the course of your life?
One of my goals in life is to save up a ton of money as fast as possible, invest it, then life the rest of my life comfortably on the returns. After your contract with Tor is up, you’ll have enough to do that. You’d never have to work again. However, I’m assuming you probably will. What will motivate you at that point?
Agree or disagree with this premise?
“Capitalism, as David Harvey once remarked, never solves its contradictions, it only moves them around. If it becomes impossible to make profits in Europe, you set up plantations in the New World, where you can work people to death for free. If you’re worried about socialist uprisings in your own country, you can move the production process to south-east Asia, where client states can brutalize their populations without the people that matter ever having to care about it. For centuries the capitalist mode of production has chased itself in tightening circles around a planet that’s starting to wear away under the strain, thinning out the biosphere, removing the conditions necessary for biological life out from under its own frantic legs. It’s run out of room; there are fewer and fewer places in which to lodge the permanent crisis. The only direction left is up and out. And so the idea starts to take hold that human destiny is to conquer the stars, that the darkness beyond our planet isn’t the home of gods or aliens, but infinite lifeless space. An empire waiting to be founded. And if we don’t create it soon, the empire we have now will kill us all.
The unspoken promise is that things will be different on the seven new exoplanets: With all that room, you’ll have the freedom to build something entirely new, live the way you really want to live. It’s the promise of NASA’s poster: You’ll want to see this, it’s not like anything you’ll have seen before.
But things won’t be different on those distant planets. They’ll be exactly the same, just worse, always worse.”
Our problems have to be solved, not fed, before we risk spreading the blight to rot away the entire sky.”
What do you think of the whole ‘punching Nazis in the face’ phenomenon? I found it very confusing. It seemed to me to be mostly about performance (‘let’s show the power-hungry extremists that we resist’) but is that reason enough to cross the line to actual physical political violence?
Having purchased Randal Munroe’s book, Thing Explainer, a description of various difficult scientific concepts using only the 1000 most common words in the English Language, how about writing a story or novella doing the same? Or only the 500 most common? Or only the 100 most common?
Expanding on this, Ernest Vincent Wright wrote the novel Gadsby without using the letter E. How about five different stories, each one without one of the vowels?
Cats: Do they actually care what we think? Are your cats special beings who are exceptions to whatever your answer to this is? ;)
How do you organize your clothing drawers?
I’m a bit late to the party, but I’d like to contribute my bit, if that’s all right. All right? All right, here we go.
Loved the query from Colonel Snuggledorf–I could give him a big fat hug for that, because pie. Who doesn’t like pie? (Rhetorical question, feel free to ignore.) As for LAJ’s question–great question! I used to go back and forth on that one with a friend of mine, except in our case we’d separate it into categories of “Which living person?” and “Which dead person?”, and that was loads of fun.
Now, I try not to get my feathers ruffled over every little detail, but I did have to wonder about Standback’s question re Jews, Jewishness, whiteness, privilege, and racism. Right. I presume this is from the viewpoint of someone thoroughly educated in the context of modern sociology as propagated by our universities in this society at this time. Now, I’m sure Standback was asking out of a genuine sense of curiosity, but as a person of Jewish descent myself, I did feel my hackles rising ever so little. That said, I suppose it is a valid question of sorts–if you squint.
Now, I realize this is a question that requires you to talk shop, which you’ve done before, but how much does historical and other research influence your stories and novels (and yes, I know you write science fiction)? l ask because I was myself brought up as an aspiring writer through the “do your research or die trying” school–thank you, Thom Severtson, for putting me through the wringer the last time I tried to say my hero was a private in the navy of some unnamed nation (in my defense, I was about eleven or twelve at the time).
Greetings from rural Missouri!
Like me, you live in an area where most people are conservative in their politics & outlook. You, obviously, are not. I know you blog about your views but how open are you locally? Do you put up political yard signs during elections, political bumper stickers on your car?
What do your local acquaintances think about you? (Feel free to speculate!) Do they excuse your progressive ideas because you’re a nice guy? Do these differences ever come up in conversation or do you all tacitly agree not to talk about certain subjects?
Have you and Krissy given much thought or made any preparations or plans for your upcoming empty nest? Might be a good idea for a piece on how you thought it might be compared to how it actually is. Of course that requires waiting for quite a few months.
Alternatively, following up on Grace’s question, have any of the local supporters of the Orange Menace expressed any regrets in your presence? Or is it all good for them?
I know that you studied philosophy in university. Are there any philosophers, ancient or modern, whose works you consider significant for your own life? Contrariwise, are there any highly-thought-of philosophers whose works you consider complete rubbish?
How do you spend your non-travel, non-event downtime when you are in tour? (other than sharing lovely shots of parking lots etc).
Do you hole up in your hotel room? Do you explore? Do you have to keep working on your current projects? How do you cope with the grind of business travel?
I would love to see a piece from you about how to recognize when one is crossing the line between enjoyment of another culture and appropriating that culture, how to find appropriate resources, etc. What fuels this for me is having been an adviser for my son’s Order of the Arrow chapter in BSA; OA is the national camping honor society in BSA that uses a lot of Native American symbols and trappings and encourages each lodge to use the corresponding dress and customs of their local tribes. For me, this got harder to take because there is no national initiative to actually form a *relationship* with said local tribes, so there is a lot of appropriation. Although that was not the only reason I quit my association with the BSA, it certainly was one of the main reasons.
Right after the election, there were a lot of people saying Democrats need to find a way to engage with blue-collar workers and rural voters (sometimes but not always overlapping populations). There was also an awful lot of “you should listen to us” from the right, but when actual questions – sincere, how-do-we-fix-this questions – were asked, the answers were predominantly SHUT UP WE’RE BUILDING A WALL AND REPEALING OBAMACARE. And when various solutions were proposed, the response was predominantly HA HA WE WON SCREW YOU.
Herewith the question: Part A. Since you have a broad acquaintance and therefore a broader view than many of us, do you think there actually is a way for the left to engage the voter who feels he/she has been left behind, and for the left to formulate and publicize policies that will get that voter to swing away from the “let’s burn it to the ground” Bannon-esque right? Part B. Have you any thoughts on methodology? Part C. Is the Democratic Party actually worth a damn anymore and can it be reconstituted in a way that will de-radicalize the political conversation?
Thanks, and enjoy your break from traveling. :-)
What is the process from your side when a narrator is recording one of your audiobooks? Do you meet with them beforehand, tell them how names are pronounced, character quirks and accents, or how a particular scene should feel, etc.?
Since it’s April and therefore environmental season in the news media (as February is black history month and November and December are Christmas…), I’ve got a science-y/environmental-y question for you:
What do you think is the current relationship between science and science fiction, especially in the US, especially now?
Current science fiction seems (from my ignorant point of view) seems to be a form of fantasy, and what could be categorized as hard science fiction set in the near future gets sold instead as dystopian YA (for those under 18) or technothrillers (for those over 40) (yes, I’m oversimplifying for rhetoric’s sake).
At the same time, there’s a March for Science April 22, a Climate March April 29, and science is under attack in the US and across the globe (cf the way the Australian parliament dismissed scientists’ warnings that a coal deal will destroy the Great Barrier Reef). Scientists have been warning about climate change for over 100 years (google Svante Arrhenius), so it’s not like we’re not doing our job, but I digress.
The heart of my question is, what, if anything does the science fiction community owe the science community, especially the part that’s currently embattled and still trying to save civilization from itself? Should science fiction fans get out and march too, even if they don’t consider themselves scientists? Are there things the science fiction industry can do to promote the science they allegedly depend on? Or is SF now just another form of escapist fantasy, no longer relevant to the current world?
What has been your favorite view from your hotel room over the various tours?
Since you’ve recently been on tour, I have a question about the mechanics of preparation. Preparation for the *performance* not the travel.
As I’m in Canada I haven’t seen what you do on tour, although I have attended your readings at cons. Is a tour mostly readings, or are there other performance aspects? How do you select the reading and other material, and do you practice or mostly improvise? What do you feel is the most important thing to do to meet audience expectations? I’ve noticed many authors struggle to make the transition from solitary writer to performer.
This came up in a discussion I had with other writers at a con recently about our own prep (I’m a fan of practice but not over-practicing), and I was interested by what they do, and thought it would be interesting to hear what you do.
Since you travel so much, I presume you dine out more than the average person. When you are out on your book tours, do you stick to the known chain restaurants, or do you seek out local eateries? Is there a meal / restaurant / hot dog cart that stands out as being head and shoulders above the rest? What made it so special?
Bearing already asked my question about translation of your work :-) (and many of my subquestions too!) I just wanted to add: do you read other authors’ work in translation? If so, what kind of translations do you prefer? The ones that will adapt the text to make it as close to American culture as possible or the ones that will retain elements of “strangeness” and structures closer to the original language?
Which Scamperbeast plants its butt in your face more?
In your essay on women and geekdom, you mentioned the prevalence of status seeking and wrote that it would be a topic worth expanding on. Would you do so?
My question is… Why did you decide to go in a different direction in creating The Collapsing Empire instead of doing another OMW book? I would have thought there would have been some pressure (at least nudging) to keep the series going from publisher types and anxious fans dying for another taste. Is it the urge to create something different, or are you tiring of the old playground?
Also on a sidenote, can we get a follow up to Agent to the Stars? :D
What If: Like Cardenia, some bizarre catastrophe, or string thereof, finds you somehow being forced For The Good of Humankind to accept political power. What political office are you in, how did you get there, and what is your first official act?
Bonus question: What name will you rule under?
I’ve been thinking a lot recently about how to interact with people who hold views I find personally abhorrent. I’m curious about how you might walk the line between continued protest and not allowing normalization of extreme (alt-right, for example) views, but not turning into a bully.
absolving you of any legal liability, what would you advise someone to ask for, not give up, be sure to include in any book deal? i.e. don’t give up e-reader, European market, hardcover vs audio, movie rights, etc.
[hard to ask what not to give up as no one has offered me a contract though the day isn’t over yet.]
You’ve mentioned you’re not big on description in your writing, but do you picture your characters in your head? Like, does a (human!) character have blue eyes, or freckles, or a bald head, or some other physical characteristic that you have in mind as you write? I don’t believe authors have much say in cover art for their books (but I don’t really know, of course!), but are there instances of cover art that make you go: “Yes! That’s exactly how I pictured it!”? Has a fan ever created a piece of fan art that you thought captured a charcter or scene particularly well or that matched your own ideas?
PS – I do NOT create fan art and have no intention of inflicting any on you!
Would you like to see the world implement some form of minimum income, given the ongoing and expected displacement of labor via robotics? How would you personally prefer it implemented, if so?
How do you balance life and/or a day job with writing (presumably this would be more about the early years, before the Nebulas)?
A focus for: Graphic novel/ good ol’ comic books in larger print would be great. Been collecting for decades, and now even with the bifocals, can’t read some of my favs. Whether new or a reprint in bigger fonts…oh, joy. There, for you.
I’d really like to read your thoughts on… kindness; the act of being kind feels a little bit brave, a little bit transitory, but also immensely undervalued. Nothing goes viral like a random act of kindness, especially if the giver or receiver is appropriately cute (or in uniform – seems to be a thing), but do we value the effort it takes to be kind or the importance of teaching kindness to others or the subversiveness of kindness in a world that respects power or wealth or intellect or other forms of achievement?
What is your biggest “eye opening moment”? OR What revelation completely changed how you saw the world (for the better or worse)?
Lack of civility is an ongoing question; apparently as far back as the Greeks and Romans people were bemoaning the neighbors’ rudeness. These days, we have people who are selfish, pushy, oblivious, entitled, bullying, or just plain crazy, with no apparent internal censor that keeps them from inflicting it on others. The internet has given many of them an even bigger megaphone to show off just how big a jerk they can be. Do you have any thoughts about dealing with the daily crop of douchecanoes?
Can you tell us about your first kiss?
By now you’ve been writing and publishing long enough to have seen some pretty major changes in the publishing industry, especially (but not limited to) online sales and the rise of online communities (such as Whatever) as audience building tools. I’d be interested in your observations on the environment now, especially as it may concern writers just starting out. Potential sub-subjects to this could incorporate the changing role of agents and/or editors, perceptions of self-publishing (in various formats), what print publishing may evolve into/away from in coming years, if electronic publishing can ever capture print’s cachet, even how writers must think in terms of business plans. I know you’ve touched on some of these subjects over the years, especially as it pertains to your career, but maybe take the 60,000-foot view of this as a kind of This-Young-Writer-Is-What-You’re-Signing-Up-For post. Demystify the publishing-industrial complex, as it were.
This would be a “short bit” at most, but I know that in the past you’ve said that you’re not a fan of the Oxford comma. I would love as thorough an explanation as you can give of why that is, because as a big fan of the Oxford comma myself, I genuinely don’t understand the arguments/preference against it (or, put another way, I’ve never heard an argument against it that I’ve found to be at all convincing). I say this as someone who frequently copy edits ESL peer-reviewed academic journal articles in both British and American English, and can usually see both sides of grammar disputes/preferences.
With potential TV series in the future, do you ever worry about not having enough creative input into the visualization of the sets, characters, aliens races, etc.? Do you get to have some veto power when it looks like somebody is going to absolutely brutalize your concept on projects like this?
Do you think SF can pull off truly alien aliens and keep them weird over a whole book/series? Any examples?
Which would be better for humanity? Lots of low cost “green” energy, lots of low cost “green” food?
With your role in non fiction as an editor at large and the apparently growing phenomenon of fake news I am wondering on your perspective of libel/slander laws. I believe in the US to prove libel the claimant has to prove it isn’t true while in the UK the onus is on the publisher to prove it is. Given a choice which system would you prefer and why, or alternately how would you manage the conflict of free speech vs libel?
Something pet related. Cats vs dogs? If you could have any critter as a pet, what would it be? Have you ever based a character on some aspect of one of your pets!
From the perspective of your experience working on a sci-fi show, what are your thoughts on The Expanse (if you’ve seen it, or the novels if you’ve read it)?
OK, here goes: I miss Kurt Vonnegut very much. Have read, re read and re re read his books, but there you go: there will never be a new book coming out. So, the next best thing would be to read any thoughts you have about him, his stories, his view on the world… Hopefully, it would light what is for now a very very hard springtime.
If you were to do your life over on the condition of not being a writer (in any form), what career do you think you’d like to explore?
I’ve always wondered what an author’s perspective was on used book stores. I know you don’t get anything on the sale of the book the 2nd time around, but are you supportive in general? Do you feel like this expands your reach? Thanks!
The Collapsing Empire features the Flow, which is the only way humans can travel faster than light. If you were at a party, and someone asked you to explain why faster than light travel isn’t possible, how would you explain it to them in layman’s terms?
Can you talk a little bit about “chemistry”? It is the secret sauce that makes the world go round, be it in romantic relationships, business partnerships, and all manner of dramatic recreations. It is tempting to say it is “undefinable,” but I don’t think that is true. A fiction writer is trying to artificially recreate that phenomenon in a completely artificial environment and so, in my opinion, might also be able to provide some insight into how that chemistry happens in life.
Lets talk about Mars. There is a push, mostly by SpaceX, a private company, to get to Mars in, relatively speaking for such things, a short period of time (10-15 years or so). What do you think the impact on our society will be if they make it? If they fail completely is there value in even trying?
So Elon Musk has stolen the “brIn pal” idea.https://www.wsj.com/articles/elon-musk-launches-neuralink-to-connect-brains-with-computers-1490642652
If this becomes a thing, what does that mean for society? For education?For addressing mental health issues?
In the OMW universe, one of the problems for the Conclave in dealing with the Earth is that there is no planetary government. Do you think we will ever have such a government, given the fractious nature of human beings, and how would it work?
I would like to have you discuss libraries. What do you see as the future of libraries in an increasingly digital age? You touched on the concepts in the Old Man’s War series, with the interconnected BrainPals acting as personal library systems. Do you see a future for more traditional, communal libraries? What forms and functions might they take?
Impotent Celebrities® such as yourself must get a lot of swag (i.e. free books, fancy dinners, free vacations as a thank you for a 1-hr argument with Wil Wheaton about what constitutes a burrito, etc).
What is the best swag you have ever received?
“Swag” means anything given to an attendee of an event (such as a conference) as a promotional or thank you. Spontaneous hugs, x-mas gifts, macaroni art, etc. from your friends or family doesn’t count. Macaroni art from a stranger at a book signing would be eligible, however. “Best” is a subjective, it can be a superlative in any category you like.
PS please excuse spell-check failures. You can substitute “Important” or choose to pronounce that first word with a southern accent, placing the emphasis on the second syllable instead of the third. Im-Po-Tent vs impo-tent.
As I once observed, John Scalzi says you majored in philosophy, and he should know. So who was your favorite philosopher? Obviously Roger Bacon or Francis Bacon — with either, you get bacon with your philosophy — but which of those two?
But, bacon puns aside, who was your phave? (and why, and how dare you like [x]!, etc., etc.)
1000 most common English words reminiscent of Basic English, a revised English with a thousand-word vocabulary (but not necessarily the most common) (and plus some supplemental specialist vocabularies) — dates from around the end of WW II, I think. I.A.Richards was one prominent proponent. Some had it that this simplified English should replace the natural version, others advocated it as a teaching tool to get English-as-second-language learners minimally functional.
What are your thoughts on those who refer to science fiction as not real literature?
Imagine you are traveling on one of your book tours, staying overnight in a town of about five thousand people. A blizzard hits town in teh middle of the night, taking out phones, internet, and ATM’s. The snow makes travel difficult. You give a reading for your book at the local library (which is stocked with a surprisingly wide selection of books for the town’s size), but only three people showed up because of the blizzard. All the stores are open because, hey, they’re used to blizzard weather. You decide you’ll stay an extra night, hope the roads are clear by morning, and drive 4 hours to your next stop.
you wake up the next day trapped in your own version of Groundhog Day.
You can remember the previous days, but you are stuck in time for an unknown amount of time.
You have only what you normally carry with you on tour.
You have no idea if today will be the day you move forward in time or not.
What would you do with your time?
What lesson would you probably need to learn to move forward in time?
Would you pursue that lesson to escape or would you spend eternity reliving teh same day?
How long do you think you would take before trying to move forward?
for reference, Harold Ramis said that the original idea for Groundhog Day was to have Murray’s character trapped in Groundhog Day for 10,000 years. He says that the movie version had him stuck for about 10 years. Some claim he would have to have been stuck for 30 years or more to acquire all the skills he has by the end of the movie (piano player, ice sculptor, learn french, read Chekhov, etc)
It seems that, in many circles and/or the media, success is defined by one’s wealth. Others more entrenched in the social media age gauge by follower count, often using a low count as a (frankly weak) means to attack/belittle someone’s opinion. Other metrics abound. As a rather successful author, what defines success for you, and what criteria do you feel are most (and conversely least) valuable in gauging the success of others both generally and in specific relation to one’s job/role in society?
Had a further thought on my request in re: your favorite philosopher: What philosopher do you think was the best writer (when writing philosophy, that is), with due allowance for era, translation, etc.?
I notice that much of the popular science fiction of our age is either post-apocalyptic or dystopian. From The Road (which may not be sci-fi, but is certainly post-apocalyptic) to The Hunger Games and The Walking Dead, modern pop culture seems obsessed with the idea that civilization will either crumble or become wildly oppressive. Do you have any thoughts on this? Do you think it’s likely that any of that will ever come true, even to a much lesser degree than it’s depicted?
Who would be a liberal equivalent of Donald Trump? In the sense of “how to get conservative friends/family to understand why liberals are so freaked out about Trump”. Feel free to make up a hypothetical equivalent if you don’t think any real people are a good comparison (for example, I’ve used “a version of Michael Moore who is a trust fund baby…”).
Let’s turn this around. You have the opportunity to ask someone else questions you always wanted to ask. Who would that be and what questions would you ask?
In Lock In, Chris objects to being called a clank but has no problem referring to non-Haydens as questionable pork products encased in intestines. What’s up with that?
Do you consider yourself a Hamilton (“I am not throwing away my shot”) or a Burr (“I’m willing to wait for it”)?
I can’t remember: I know you have discussed swearing in the context of writing you hate mail, but have you ever discussed your favorite swear word, and why that one? Is it the same as the one you use the most?
Do you remember what you dream? If yes, has anything from your dreams found its way in your books? (bonus points if you dreamed about electric sheep or about android’s dream sheep)
What will you know in 20 years that you wish you could know now?
Do you agree with Barack Obama’s assessment that his successor cannot do quite as much damage to our planet as we might think? (B. Obama, “The irreversible momentum of clean energy,” Science, 9 January 2017; http://science.sciencemag.org/content/early/2017/01/06/science.aam6284.full)
How did you become friends with Neil Gaiman?
Why did you move from California out to such a cold (during winter) state?
If you were to work in any government agency, which one would you choose to work in and why? How would you encourage others to connect the agency’s work to the larger world?
From the moment that you wrote the first draft, how long it took you to see your first work of fiction published?
How do you manage food when you’re on tour? Do you get to go to restaurants? Or is it all fast food in airports, supplemented with baked goods from fans at tour stops?
What constitutes a well-lived life?
Mine has been brutal, from start to present with bits of happy thrown in. I try to be a good person, have always tried. Not sure where the urge to do so comes from as I did not learn it as a child. Am now 58 & wondering if I should’ve given as I got but even the idea makes me nauseous. Watched Paterson last week & have been mulling on how nice an ordinary, steady, well-lived life would be. If they exist. Am wondering if, at the end of mine after I make it to 104 to see if the Vulcans really show up, my life will have been well-lived. Am wondering if there is a general list of To Do for that beyond 1. Don’t be an asshole, mean or cruel to anything else that lives, 2. Be kind, 3. Stand up for those who can’t for themselves (people & critters), 4. Work hard (smarter is better but sometimes hard is necessary), and 5. Give back to one’s community.
For those who will tell me Vulcans aren’t real…duh. When I was a child I hoped they would be and then, when the First Contact date came about in the movie, I made it my “hopeful goal”. I get it though. Not real.
Also, I did not read all the comments, nor all of the previous questions so sorry if this is a repeat.
Hard Candy or Gum?
Do you ever do any collaborative work with other authors? Particularly, and I want to make it clear this is where I’m really interested, party-game type things. Write a sentence, pass-it-on; arbitrary-and-changing constraints; parody each others’ styles; some kind of SF version of The Aristocrats…
I could go for some of that right now.
Heya! Noticed your response to my question. My apologies, rereading it, I can absolutely see what irked you there.
I’m Jewish as well (hence, my interest). I tried to keep my question brief, and avoid going in the direction of “here is my thesis on topic X, please respond to it.”
To expand just a *little*, though: My heart’s gone out to several excellent threads on Twitter, talking about how Jews — as a group, a race, a culture — kind of seem to be left off to one side whenever it comes to diversity, privilege, etc. I have… THOUGHTS… about why this might be and what this might mean… but I’m specifically interested in hearing somebody else’s thoughts on this. I think Jews, and antisemitism, inhabit a space that’s a little unusual in common discussions — so hearing somebody *else* musing on that and seeing how *they* parse it is interesting to me. And asking this of John, who tends to write with a lot of common sense, clarity, and awareness of these kinds of issues, is something I’d like to see.
I hope that helps somewhat — although, hey, I understand if it doesn’t, too. My apologies for that :-/
(Example of such a discussion: https://twitter.com/navahw/statuses/763775301792956416 )
You’ve mentioned writing poetry before, but I haven’t found any in your books that I’ve read. Is poetry something you publish through Subterranean Press? What is the role of verse in science fiction? Fantasy books have lots of verse (“Three Rings for the elven kings under the sky…”) but sci-fi doesn’t (generally speaking).
I’ve read funny poems about sci-fi, e.g. odes to characters from Star Wars and other major sci-fi properties, but none with original narratives. Most narrative poems of the supernatural fall more in the fantasy end of speculative fiction (or at least those written in the 19th century or before).
PS I’m also very curious about your answers to the questions about translation.
I’d like to see a guest post from Athena.
My life at times seems to run by “Dumb Luck and Timing”. Its how I met my wife, got the best job ever (in my opinion), met my best friend, and the best dogs I have ever had the pleasure of being their boy, have all come to me through Dumb Luck and Timing. Not that I do not work hard at things and I am sitting around waiting for the universe to nudge me in a direction. But that some of the best experiences and events in my life are the result of being in the right place at the right time and open to the possibilities life presents me with. I was hoping you could share a tale or two relating to this phenomenon in your life or the creations of your characters.
See you in Santa Cruz……
I came here to ask Kore’s question, so I’m going to second the request for a discussion of the status seeking ways of geek culture.
A pendantic question: Since our star is named Sol, don’t we have the only solar system? Wouldn’t all the others stars with planets just be star systems? It’s not keeping me up nights or anything, just wondering. Thanks!
Subject request Toes, why? why not? I was bored and typed in Whatever and found your fascinating site and will never look back.
Where will health care – and health care insurance – be in, oh say, fifty years.
I think your dual life as a science fiction writer and political commentator would give you great insights on this topic.
First, your thoughts on Journey’s induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and Steve Perry’s decision not to sing with the band. Classy and humble, or persnickety?
Second (WARNING: Writing related question to follow, so bar is high!), when I’m reading my favorite authors, the presence of typos annoys me as I feel the publishing house should treat them with more respect. Am I just being an idiot? What’s the process like?
There, have fun! And thanks for these moments!
Do you have a favorite web site and if so what is it. (mine is kottke.org)
Hey John! Big fan! I loved TCE and read the whole thing in one sitting! Can you give any insight on what we can expect as a followup to that novel? Is it going to have another book or will it end up a series like old mans war? Also while awaiting your next work, what author or books can you recommend that are on a level with your works? I don’t know where to start but love the space opera genre greatly and would like your opinion on great books or series to read please!
P.S. would love to see some signings or events in Louisiana! I would totally be there!!
You recently posted a pic of yourself with your noise cancelling headphones on an airplane. What other travel habits get you through all that time in airports and hotels and big groups (at signings)? (And I’ve love to know which headphones you’re using, if you like them, since I’m looking for some for my college student to-be.)
What is your current DSLR camera equipment that you are using? Note: I’m not talking about just the camera. Also, what software do you use with it?
Travel! You do a lot of it. What are your best travel tips, packing methods, etc? I have a lot of travel in my future and sadly, a nervous & digestive system that deeply resent some of my career & life choices.
Any ideas or recommendations to keep your body and mind feeling good and organized?
I have two of your books that are signed, both in red ink. Do you always sign your books in red? Also, your signature is slightly on the large side- do you tone it down to sign tight spaces on documents, for example, or just let rip?
Sci-Fi and Fantasy often lend themselves to some very interesting and odd character names. What do you do when stumble upon a name which is difficult to prounounce or you have no idea what the authors intended pronounciation is? Do you read the entire book saying the name in your head one way even though you consciously think it may be something different? I find this to be very maddening. I just completed Dune and had myself pronouncing Kwisatz Haderach ‘Qui-zats Had-er-ack’. Lol I thought about this question when reading your introduction to Collapsing Empire and happened upon Captain Arullos Gineos. Gineos caught me by the same conundrum and I have been telling myself Gineos should be said ‘Jin-e-ose’. So, what do you do in such a case? Thanks! (It was nice to meet you at the book signing in Madison yesterday. I’m looking forward to delving into The Collapsing Empire!)
Did you ever meet Ray Bradbury, Leonard Nimoy, Gates McFadden, or David Foster?
P.S. – Why do you seem to be enthralled with cuss words in your novels? Did you pick that up from Shakespeare, Mark Twain, William Faulkner, or Flannery O’Connor?
Count another vote for Kore’s question re: status seeking.
Would the Scamperbeasts be interested in a guest post?
Are you ever going to go back to farts etc? I’m not just asking about explicit fart jokes like the first chapter of Android’s Dream. The section in Agent to the Stars describing the smell inside the alien ship is some of the most vividly descriptive writing you’ve done and made my nostrils wrinkle in sympathy.
If you’re worried about being typecast, Bill Bryson is an example of a respected writer who can seamlessly interject flatulence into an otherwise erudite passage.
Also, +1 to the question about the Oxford comma.
How do you feel about the increasingly prevalent use of anonymous sourcing in news reports? Do you think it damages the credibility of the newspaper? Do you think it is necessary for getting to the “real news?”
Did you ever ride the bike path from Bradford to Greenville? If yes, how is it? I know you have said you want to exercise more. Any interest in biking, even at a casual level?
Vacation: all you ever wanted?
I’d be interested in a piece about family vacations over the years and what might be coming in the future. I’m interested in knowing what you look for in a family vacation. I ask about family in particular because, with all your travel, I’d guess a week at home with no responsibilities would probably make you very happy, but your family would rather … what?
And, as a nested question on the same topic, has your concept for what makes a vacation a vacation changed with your changing income level? I know my wife and I are happy to never stay in a hostel ever again.
We’ve had the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the X-Men, and the Arrowverse on tv all give their takes – what’s your view of how the various factions of humanity (nations, religions, other major organisations) would react if obvious superheroes and supervillains started appearing tomorrow?
What can be done about people whose beliefs (political or religious) run counter to the current scientific consensus.
When are you going to finish the sequel to The Collapsing Empire?
I just finished TCE and am looking forwards to the next one!
(Ok, ok, this probably isn’t enough for an entire post, but hey – it was an awesome book, and inquiring minds want to know! :) )
One thing (or two) that you miss about living in So. Cal?
Also, what do you think is the best Star Trek movie in terms of story (interesting, really thought provoking, etc)?
Environmentally friendly remodelling/renovation and your thoughts on how possible/likely/etc it is. I know more and more people are doing things like putting solar panels on houses, but there doesn’t seem to be much industry focussed on environmentally friendly redos. On things like putting in thyme lawns, or, replacing a furnace with something that doesn’t use resources like gas, etc. It seems like I see a lot of options that are either heavily “smart” or the house is designed to be eco-friendly. But we have huge numbers of houses from the 1940sand 50s built when oil was abundant… and we need some better options. This could also involve farming, too… I’ve read things that indicate that smaller farms with more biodiversity are better for the environment… how can we move from this culture of excess consumerism/capitalism to something more ecofriendly? (This also ties in to a question of rampant capitalism, as above) I guess a shorter question would also be waste/trash. How to deal with it, how to reduce it, how to be savvier.
A note. I have an electric mower, I use rechargeable batteries, try to take bags everywhere, try not to buy things with plastic, but… I still have a huge carbon footprint, and I’d like better options. Particularly with the current administration which has declared open season on the environment. I’m NOT a big fan of pesticides, etc either.
What do you think is the most urgent domestic threat facing the US population? Looking for a large scale problem, not a specific person…
+1 for Happy’s question.
We are rapidly approaching the 20th anniversary of Whatever. Any nostalgic thoughts? Anything you will do differently going forward, now that you have reached this milestone?
Two more questions. Have you ever boycotted a company/for a cause? And how would you make the Midwest/etc more diverse and more attractive to diversity?
Also, what was the last thing you had to put work into studying to learn? How have your studying/learning habits changed since you were in school?
Collegiate grading to a fixed curve: Is it fair? Just? Appropriate? (for whatever those things mean)
I caught a comment in one of the older linked entries where a Miami alum mentioned a freshman class had a prof who had predetermined that there would be 3 As and 3 Fs awarded. It reminded me of my own experience where I was thoroughly paranoid about that sort of thing my first year of college because my scholarship money was dependent on maintaining a given GPA. My first couple of semesters didn’t have any accumulated success behind them to weigh against any one mess of a class, and I sweated what sort of temperament I’d encounter from my professors.
This is not a request but I love seeing this post each year because it prompts me to go re-read your previous years Readers Request answers. I always seem to find something new. So thanks for doing this particular post yearly.
I have realized that my bookshelves are crammed primarily with white dudes. Their books, I mean. Not their corpses. Can you discuss authors of colour you recommend, and why it is important that we expand our horizons and see sci-fi and fantasy through the eyes of people who aren’t part of the dominant culture?
How do you feel when a previously politically neutral writer uses his/her/their talents to go full bore political? I’m thinking specifically of Dan Simmons, who I was reading back when Hyperion came out. I was floored then and read everything of his up until Flashback, that told a preachy dystopian story of the terrible ills foisted upon us by Obama and Clinton. Now I won’t go near his stuff. I’m fine with a writer building political beliefs into a story as long as the beliefs serve the story, not the other way around. I remember reading that Tolkien chastised CS Lewis for wearing his religion on his sleeve in the Narnia books.
Rank the following by order of greatness, show your work:
Pet Shop Boys
These were selected on the sole basis of me liking them and that they are still around making music. Yaz was purposefully omitted as your love of Alison Moyet (perfectly understandable) clouds your judgement.
Many people over a certain age have the opinion that Millennials think they know it all/have overly inflated self-esteem/etc because they were given participation trophies when they were young. Do you think this opinion has any basis in fact?
Sorry for asking a writing related question, but I did not see this answered before.
Your books often deal with “person finding their place in the world”. Even when they’re changing the world they live in, their motivation is often very personal. Is this just to serve the stories, or is it something you feel strongly about?
Any thoughts on modern air travel, perhaps stimulated by today’s United video?
Are Corporations evil?
United Airlines being the perfect example today, but then so are all airlines, banks (Wells Fargo’s new announcement about clawing back bonuses from their old CEO since the fake accounts scandal was going on for 15 years), auto companies (VW’s cover-up being the most recent glaring example I can think of), etc etc etc.
Of course it would be easy to say that legal fictions can not have agency that would allow them to be evil, but then the law states that corporations are people, so I think they waive any objections to agency!
@Standback: Okay, that clears things up beautifully–and I understand now why you’d be curious. I do appreciate that. I also see your point about how Jews and Jewishness are often shunted to one side, or outright marginalized, when it comes to public discussions on identity, diversity, and other entertaining topics related to such. I think the main reason the original query hit one of my buttons is because at the moment I’m writing about my maternal grandfather’s life story (he was born in Poland–you do the math from there). I’m transcribing, you might say, his memories and not mine, but after all of the research I did they feel as fresh and vivid as though I had lived all of it myself. I almost mentioned this in my initial response, but I thought it best to keep it as brief and as civil as possible. Glad that that’s one misunderstanding cleared up.
What can you telling us about OMW/GB progress? Seems like ages since it was green-lit.
It was great fun seeing you, Elizabeth Bear, and Scott Lynch in S. Hadley the other day.
So, it was the mid 70’s or so, I was in my late teens and on a train in Italy with a friend. I think we were traveling from Rome to Florence. We got into a conversation with some other travelers around our age, and one guy asked my nationality. “I’m American.” He chastised me, saying that American could refer to citizens of any country in North or South America, and it was arrogant of me to answer that way. FWIW he was not American.
In the last few months I’ve been told some people in Central and South America feel as he did.
So, what do you think? I don’t mind being a little ambiguous, and honestly I think people understand what I mean. Is this a legitimate complaint? And what should my answer be? (“I am from the United States of America” can be beyond my language skills where “Americana” is no problem.)
As someone who admires your opposition to bigotry on a variety of fronts (calling out racism, sexism, homophobia, religious persecution, etc.), I would love to see you write something about how you, as a straight white guy, arrived at that philosophical/ideological position. Just the high spots would be fine, especially since I suspect there’s a much longer essay if not an entire book worth of potential material there.
How do we draw the line between assholery that’s annoying but shouldn’t be criminalized and harassment that needs to be stopped by the law if that’s the only way to do it? I’m thinking about things like doxxing, stalking, and actions that if done once or twice might just be annoyances but if done regularly or in large amounts would make it impossible for a person to live a normal life. (Even if they don’t feel physically threatened, though the sense of threat is also an issue.)
For something a bit lighter, what about games?
Based on a few old posts, looks like you are (or were) a PC gamer. If you’re still playing, which ones are your all-time favorites and what are you playing these days?
Are you also a fan of board games? And if so, which ones do you like to play with family and friends?
you have the military as a feature in a lot of your stories and I was wondering where do you get your information to base your military information from; do you have prior military people that you consult with or just do regular book/web research? I think you do a great job with your military characters (I did over 8 years in the US Navy and currently still work in the DoD) and in my neck of the woods you have a decent military following so just keep doing whatever you are doing but was curious how you were able to get your characterization pretty close without having served.
Addendum to the Groundhog Day question:
Your wife and daughter are along for the ride with you because it turns out this townof 5000 actually has a nice little natural hot springs spa, a great massage place, and a bunch of fun things to do. So, while you are scheduled to do your reading the family has the day scheduled full of fun stuff for them to do. So, staying stuck in groundhog day doesnt separate you from your loved ones.
Is the accepted disdain for the Star Wars prequels a bit over the top? It’s certainly fair to say there are significant stylistic flaws, but overall they do add depth to the Star Wars universe and you would be hard pressed to find a Star Wars fan who cannot describe the events of the prequels in excruciating detail. Clearly, they are not only watchable, but re-watchable. Still, it’s not uncommon to find fans who love to tell you how they rolled their eyes throughout their very first viewing of “The Phantom Menace” and generally declare smugly, “We shall not not recognize the existence of the prequels.” It’s a bit much.
To be clear, I think Jar Jar was an unfortunate choice and yet I laughed my ass off the first time I watched “The Phantom Menace” (at the times I was supposed to, I mean). I think it’s possible to enjoy that films AND critique them without declaring them “film non grata.”
Social media and it’s effect on pre-teens. My oldest will soon be in middle school and we will have to start wrestling with the “when to get them their own device” question. I have concerns. Their minds are just starting to figure out social interactions. There are so many pitfalls with social media that adults fall into that I’m putting a lot of thought into how to teach them healthy practices without laying down the ban-hammer. This feels like a problem that my parents didn’t have to deal with. I’m assuming you have navigated this minefield already since you have successfully grown an adult human.
Ahoy there matey! When I hear Walk the Moon’s song “Shut up and Dance,” it makes me think of how you met yer wife. Any particular thoughts on this specific song? Do ye two scalawags even have a song?
x The Captain
I recently had my first (and likely only) child, shortly before my 40th birthday. I’m finding the brainpower needed to parent is something I have a lot more of now, at this age. I have more emotional maturity, coping mechanisms, and perspective than I did even as a 30 year old. Do you believe that having children in one’s 20’s is more or less advantageous for the child? What about for the parents? And the million dollar question — how do I raise a kid who is progressive and kind and acknowledges her (white, middle-class, Bay Area-dwelling) privilege without being an insufferable know-it-all?
How would you go about trying to lessen the congressional districting gerrymander?
Not sure if the college student daughter is going to be living at home, which may affect your answer: you’ve written about your community and the experiences of a liberal in a predominantly conservative state. What changes in societal, political or community norms would have you considering moving out of the state, perhaps back to California? Do you ever join the Canada thought conversation?
So, here’s a question I am curious for the answer from not just you but all writers who classify themselves under the broad umbrella of science fiction (or speculative fiction if you prefer). Is the intent of science fiction to predict the future? Warren Ellis has been noodling this idea about for quite some time, noting, rightly that though Star Trek sort of predicted the portable phone, Kirk still tuned his communicator like a radio. So, if science fiction is not meant to predict the future, then what’s its look for the future for beyond just entertainment?
Uh… that could be better worded…(and I do write and even TEACH English, but it’s early…) How about for that last part: “then what is the intent (an intent) of this brand of fiction’s look into the future?” Now, off to get more coffee…
What are your thoughts on this year’s Hugo nominees? Have you read any of them yet?
what are your thoughts on the incident where United kicked a guy off their airplane?
In 2013, you put out your Convention Harassment Policy which quickly gained hundreds of other creators’ signatures. Have you had to apply the policy (not asking for specific cons, unless you’re willing to share those details) and were conventions willing to work with you on it? I’m curious how it has played out since then.
If you could witness one historical event, not interact, just witness, what would it be? So you can’t kill Hitler, but you also won’t die if you go back to the Great Fire of London.
Would you choose something huge like the fall of Babylon or just maybe a Journey concert you would have loved to attend 30 years ago? ;-)
There is a slightly morbidly curious part of myself that thinks I would like to go back to something like the Blitz, but I think even witnessing something like that (with knowledge of the outcome and knowing you were going to be safe) would have a huge psychological impact.
And I am someone with a privileged life, who has never had to live in a war zone, as many people have and continue to do.
I feel like this one is obvious, apologies if it was in one of the short bits and I missed it.
I’ve been reading your site for probably at least 13 years since my then boyfriend, now husband introduced me to it. Best wishes for many more years!
I live in a pretty blue Chicago suburb, and most of my friends are fairly liberal and anti-Trump, which means I don’t have a good handle on how Trump supporters feel now that he’s actually the President. Is he doing a good job? Do they support him? When I’ve tried to find Trump supporters to ask, the general response has been “He won in a landslide!” or “Just watch Fox News, he’s great!” I know that most of your neighbors support Trump, and that you both like and respect those neighbors. I’m wondering if you’ve had more productive conversations about Trump with people in your community, and if so, would you mind sharing their thoughts?
Now that book stores are carrying fewer and fewer books, I’m having trouble finding new authors to read. Every time I go to my local B&N the science fiction section has shrunk again. Amazon is fine for authors like you that I’m already familiar with, but I feel like I’m missing out on books I might like despite what Amazon recommends, and I hate having to page through 70 or 80 screens online to make sure I didn’t miss something. For me, looking at actual books to buy is faster and more fun but is getting more and more difficult to do.
I just started reading your blog a couple of months ago and saw that you list new books, which is great. I’ve been reading SF since I was 7, but now I feel as though I’m out of the loop and losing touch with what’s available. Are there many of your readers who feel the same way? Also, do you think there are fewer authors writing science fiction? Is the genre shrinking, as well as the number of books on the shelves?
What happens to all of the books you get each week?
At this point, I may be too late, but I don’t remember this being asked and I’d love to know what tools you use to write. I don’t mean computer hardware, because we’ve seen reviews of several things, but rather what software do you use? What do you think of Scrivener, for instance, or programs like it? What do you use to organize your ideas and projects? If you use something mainstream like Word, do you use a particular template?
I know it’s kind of a crunchy, nuts-and-bolts topic, but as a professional geek, that kind of info fascinates me.
You’ve written about how proud you are of Athena, and the young adult she has become, and recently noted that she has decided to enroll in a college in Ohio (I forget the specific one right now). As you yourself went “away” to college, and do a fair amount of world travel both promoting your work and for pleasure, do you think there is value in going “away” from home for college, rather than staying close? Broader world view and all that? My personal experience has been that people who went away for college tend to live “away” from home as well, and travel a fair amount, while those who attend a local college never left the area.
How do you approach reading for pleasure? Do you have any favorite genres outside of science fiction? How do you choose what to read aside from work/blurb commitments?
What opinions of yours have changed over the years. I read a past readers choice where you said that you are not as righteous about not using alcohol and other drugs as you were growing up. Any other nuanced or major changes?
This seems somewhat topical, since you (sigh) just had to once again make your opinions about cons and harassment policies clear. You said, “No one should feel unsafe when they attend” — and so I am curious, how does this policy relate to politics? In particular, there are certain locales that have publicly made it look unsafe to various groups (Arizona and their papers-please law, North Carolina for that clusterword, foreigners coming into the US, I could come up with more). Now, I’m not asking are you boycotting any particular state or city or country, I’m asking your thoughts on how “unsafe” and “political regions” overlap.
Are we Americans, as a population, significantly dumber than we were 50 years ago, especially since we started relying on increasingly sophisticated machines to help us think? If so, how dumb do we have to get before we collect a National Darwin Award? Or is that happening right now?
Hi Scalzi, I love your books, but I especially love your blog, as you are so capable of breaking down your thoughts and feelings on a topic or issue and contextualizing them, and you don’t try to paint an “everything’s perfect” or “I’m totally internally consistent” or “I have complete control” picture, you instead sound like you are able to float above major issues arising from things like, say, haters (as you discuss in your most recent post) without supressing or fighting your feelings and instincts. As I’ve recently started mindfulness exercises, your writing looks pretty much exactly like a very mindful person’s internal monologue as I understand it. Have you ever participated in meditation or mindfulness practices, or did you do some other something to cultivate such a strong sense of your own emotional range and how to manage or direct it?
I’ve read other authors who say that book tours result in relatively few book sales, certainly not enough to cover the cost of the tour (if they finance it themselves) or the opportunity cost of not being able to write or do other work during that time. What real benefits do you see from your extensive tours? Building fan base? Keeping fan base enthusiastic? Other things?
I’d really, really love to know the latest on the TV show of Redshirts.
How do I take a good picture?
I know you used to live and work in Fresno. Me too! I wondered what you thought about your time there.
Have you ever considered tagging entries? I would find it helpful to be able to click “Ukulele” and see all the posts that are about ukuleles, playing ukulele or are you (or a friend) performing on one. You share neat photographs, and sometimes you talk about photography (ideas, equipment, musings on technique); maybe that would be two different tags.
What do you think of Charles Bukowski’s poem: “so you want to be a writer?” Which says, in essence, that if writing doesn’t consume you at the expense of everything else in your life, *don’t do it*.
You’re a professional storyteller and a parent, so I’m guessing you were pretty good with bedtime stories when your daughter was younger. I did my share of this in years gone by, and it wasn’t always easy to make up a good story on the fly. Do you have any tips for us amateurs? Any favorite stories from your own experience?
There’s a common rallying cry, “Trans women are women.” What do you think of this statement?
Here’s where I’m coming from. Women are a class of humans. By definition, members of a class must have shared characteristics / traits / attributes. So if someone is positing that trans women are women, my next question to that person is: “OK then. What attributes are shared by, let’s say, Caitlyn Jenner, Kate Middleton, and k.d. lang that makes them women, that in turn are not shared by, let’s say, Chaz Bono, Sean Spicer, and RuPaul that makes them not women?”
I haven’t been able to answer this question. Can you?
p.s. The answer is not, “they all identify as women.” That doesn’t answer the question – it just moves it later in the sentence. They all identify as … what? This is exactly what I’m asking.
What are your thoughts on assisted dying?
I’m writing my thesis in this area, and trying to get a sense of what others think and feel around this topic. I’d be glad to hear your views.
Have you ever considered running for office? We definitely need more POC and WOC but we also need men who are willing to listen and learn and admit when they are wrong. And, unfortunately, there are still a heck of a lot of white men out there who only listen to white men. Having social media skills is also important these days too, in so many ways. Look at Chris Murphy, for example.
Other people have mentioned it but I’d like to ask more specifically: as a guy who flies fairly often, what would you have DONE if you had been on “that” United flight?
Can you explain: The song “Africa” by Toto, what is going on in the music video for the song and finally, how the video relates to the song?
Best mistake you’ve made in writing, life, or both? Biggest mistake you see people in your field continuing to make?
Let’s say it was totally up to you to create the system of government for some colony, say on Mars (assume terraformed because why wouldn’t you). everyone who goes there has to abide by whatever system you come up with….what would it be?
What does their constitution look like? How would taxes be collected? Are abortions allowed? Free health care and education? etc.
If you were falsely accused of a minor crime that would ruin your life, what would you do? (By ruin your life, I mean cause you to lose the trust and respect of your family and friends, as opposed to put you in jail.)
Having just seen another New Book and ARC post, I realized I still wonder ~2 years after starting to read Whatever, that I have no idea what you actually do with all those books. Do you read some of them? Use them to build a nuclear bunker? Insulate your home?
Maybe too late with this question, but it just hit me that both in Old Man’s War and Collapsing Empire (mild spoilers for both, I guess), the loss of connection between humanity and the Earth is a plot point. Is the loss of connection to one’s roots an essential theme for your work? Is it a conciously chosen theme? Do you have thoughts or speculations as to why it pops up relatively often?