Sunset, 12/31/17

The last sunset of 2017, accessorized with a light pillar (made from sunlight reflecting off ice crystals in the air). Not a bad way to see out the year.

Catch you on the other side, folks.

Don’t Live For Your Obituary is Out!

Let’s end 2017 on a high note, shall we: Don’t Live For Your Obituary, my collection of essays about the writing life, is now out, and available both in (increasingly hard to find so hurry if you want it) signed, limited edition hardcover, and (not at all difficult to find!) eBook. The hardcover, as it is a signed, limited edition, will run you about $40. The eBook is about $5.

For those of you who don’t know, the book is a compilation of writing-related essays I’ve created between 2008 and 2017, most of which were originally published here on Whatever. I’ve arranged the book into five overlapping chapters of roughly twenty essays each:

  • Golden Nuggets of Writerly Wisdom, or, This Is Where I Offer Up Some Writing Advice, Take It or Don’t;
  • The Fine Art of Putting Your Books and Yourself Out There Without Wanting to Drink Acid, or, Let’s Talk Publishing and Online Presence;
  • This is the Section Where Scalzi Snarks on People More Famous Than He Is, So Get Your Popcorn, or, Thoughts on Writers and Other Notables;
  • Don’t Type Angry, Well, Okay, Fine, Go Right Ahead, or Writing Controversies and Other Such Nonsense;
  • Jeez, Scalzi, Does it Always Have to Be About You? Why Yes, Yes it Does, or, Notes From My Career

We’re covering a lot of ground here, basically. It’s not a guide to writing, precisely (although there is writing advice in the book). It’s more about what it’s like to be living the writing life over the last decade or so. Is it useful? Publishers Weekly thought so; its review said “[Scalzi] writes accessibly and so commonsensically that this book should appeal to writers in all disciplines, and even to SF readers who have no ambitions to write themselves.”

Where can you get the book? Subterranean Press has the hardcover on their site if you’d like to buy directly from the publisher, but it’s also available (ebook, hardcover or both) at these fine institutions:

Amazon|Barnes & Noble|iBooks|Indiebound|Kobo|Powell’s

And you can try special ordering the hardcover from your local bookstore, too.

Not in the US? The ebook is available on Amazon worldwide, at the very least — I just checked the Canadian, German, Japanese and Indian Amazon stores and it’s there in each.

(Also, how awesome is that cover? It’s from Nate Taylor.)

I’m excited to have this book out in the world and I hope you enjoy it, and find it useful. Onward to 2018!

Daisy, 2007 – 2017

In 2010 our dog Kodi died. Krissy was pretty wrecked about it, and decided that it would be a while before we got a new dog. That lasted a couple of months, until she was somehow cruising a pet adoption site and saw the picture of a two-year-old half labrador, half mastiff named “Daisy.” She immediately fell in love with the pup and decided that she would be ours. I did not argue. Daisy came into our lives on October 16, 2010.

The thing about rescue dogs is that they come with their own set of baggage. Daisy’s baggage was that she hadn’t known permanence. In her two or so years of life she had been shuttled between several homes, and in some of them she hadn’t been treated very well. She had been bred when she was very young (not a great thing for a dog) and then basically abandoned after the puppies were born and presumably then sold. Her other homes also proved temporary, for various reasons.

As result of many homes in a short life, and also simply I suspect her own nature as a dog, Daisy was almost neurotically cuddly. This was particularly the case with Krissy, sticking close to her whenever she was home, and making sure that no other creature in the house got more pets and love than she did. She wouldn’t stop you from petting that cat; she’d just butt her head up against your other arm and make sure you knew that you were free to pet her too, if you wanted to, no pressure. I have a higher than average number of pictures of Krissy petting two animals at once. Now you know why.

Aside from the need for cuddles in any and every circumstance, Daisy turned out to be a very good fit for the Scalzi household. She was generally low-maintenance and friendly, and she got along with everyone, and everyone reciprocated, which pleased Daisy to no end. Our previous dog Kodi was an Akita, and people who were unfamiliar with her were wary of her because she looked like she was parting you out for snacks. No one ever felt that way about Daisy. The worst Daisy would ever do to anyone was shed on them.

And because she had once been a mother, I think, her behavior toward the cats in the Scalzi household was exceedingly gentle and maternal, particularly toward the Scamperbeasts, who arrived as young kittens. Daisy fell in love with them almost immediately and the feeling was mutual. It was not in the least unusual to find Sugar or Spice cuddled up next to her and both animals napping away contentedly. It was a family of pets, within the larger family of us.

Daisy was a large dog — she had the facial features of a lab but the size of a mastiff — and the thing about large dogs is that they don’t stay with you as long as some other breeds of dog might. Daisy was with us seven years, until she died in the early hours of this morning. In the last couple of weeks her appetite had lessened, and she was listless and had a fever; we took her to the vet, who put her antibiotics. These worked, until they didn’t. Yesterday in a few surprisingly short hours it became clear that whatever the underlying problem was that caused the fever, it had become life-threatening. In the early morning we started the journey to an emergency vet clinic. She passed along the way.

It’s sad when your dog dies, because she is part of your family, someone you love and someone who loves you. I grieve for Daisy, and I will miss her, and I will miss her gentleness and her lovely spirit. She was a good dog. But I’m also glad, and even thankful, that for seven years this dog who had previously never known permanence in her life had a home, had a family and had love, and could give it back in equal measure. She made our home, our family and our love complete with her presence.

She had permanence with us. She had it, every day of her life with us. She has it still.

New Books and ARCs 12/29/17

Here it is, the final stack of new books and ARCs for 2017. See anything here you’d like to take into the new year with you? Tell us in the comments!

2017 Recap + What’s On Tap For 2018

Sure, 2017 was an unmitigated shitshow in a general sense here in the US and in lots of other parts of the world — but how was it for me? Well, in fact, it was pretty good. In no particular order:

1. The Collapsing Empire came out to great reviews and sales, hit a bunch of bestseller lists and was snapped up for TV by Working Title pretty much when it hit bookstores, so all that was pretty great. I did a five-week tour for the book, which was exhausting but also a lot of fun.

2. The Dispatcher won an Audie Award in the “Original Work” category and debuted in print and has done very well there, so that was also pretty great.

3. Don’t Live For Your Obituary officially comes out in two (2!) days, and has been getting very good reviews and the signed limited hardcover edition has sold briskly, so that’s also pretty nifty (don’t worry, I’ll remind you about it again in two days).

4. Old Man’s War was optioned by Netflix to be made into a feature film, which pleases me immensely. It also came out in a very cool new small-format hardcover edition, which I think looks awesome and which I recommend for everyone.

5. I wrote Head On, which took longer than I would have liked to get done but still (barely) got in to make production dates for its April 17 release, so, yay!

6. My kid graduated from high school, and got into and is now attending college, which I think is pretty great.

7. Was a finalist for a few awards that other people won, which is fine, you don’t win them all.

8. Met and became friends with one of my all-time favorite musicians, which still fills me with squee. And met the Librarian of Congress at the National Book Festival, which was also pretty cool.

9. Remained married to a tremendous human and have gotten to be friends with other tremendous humans. Which is tremendous.

10. I was not consumed by wild animals nor by fire.

So, in all, 2017 was not bad on a personal level. I would have vastly preferred to have my good year along with a general good year for the country, mind you. But that wasn’t up to me, generally speaking (and if it was, I wish someone would have told me earlier because there were so many changes I would have made).

What’s on the schedule for 2018? Well:

1. On the 9th of January, my short story “Three Robots Experience Objects Left Behind From the Era of Humans for the First Time,” will be published in the Robots vs. Fairies anthology.

2. Head On publishes on April 17, and I’ll be doing a tour to support it. Not five weeks this time; a rather shorter one. Dates and places to be determined.

3. The sequel to The Collapsing Empire, entitled The Widening Gyre, is currently scheduled for release on October 16, although that might shift a bit. I start writing that, uuuhhhh, monday. No tour or events scheduled for it yet, although I imagine there will be some.

4. I’ll also be working on a non-fiction book, tentatively scheduled for the third quarter of the year. More details on that soonish.

5. Also somewhere in there I’ll be writing a novella, the release date for which is as yet undetermined.

6. Depending on how quickly the Old Man’s War and Collapsing Empire film/TV projects advance, I’ll be taking part in those (I’m an executive producer on both projects).

7. Certain things which were in process in 2017 but not made public will likely become public in 2018. You’ll know them when they arrive.

8. I’m Co-Guest of Honor of the Bubonicon science fiction convention with Mary Robinette Kowal, this August in New Mexico. I’m also planning to attend Confusion in Detroit in January, the Los Angeles Festival of Books in April, and the Worldcon in San Jose in August (and JoCo Cruise in February!), plus other events, I’m sure. I’ll update my appearances tab when they come in.

9. Uuuuhhh, I think I’m forgetting something but I can’t remember what it is and honestly what’s listed above is kinda enough, you know?

10. And then somewhere in there I need to sleep and spend time with family and friends and eat and enjoy recreational activities and post here and on social media and maybe even actually do some diet and exercise because middle-age is a thing for me now and I’ll be 49 in May holy cow I’m oldish.

So, in sum: 2017 was a busy year! 2018 will be a busy year too! It beats the alternative.

Sunsets, 2017

First, here’s tonight’s:

And a few others from 2017:

Good job, sky! A quality year for sunsets to be sure.

2017 Top Ten Whatever Posts + Social Media Stats

It was an interesting year on Whatever, in terms of visitorship. As I noted in early July, visitorship to Whatever — as in people actually clicking through to the front page of the site — has undergone a collapse this year. I speculated as to why at the link, so if you’re interested in that, check it out there, but the relevant bit now is that I estimated in July I would end up with about 4 million visits to the site in 2017. As of right this minute (6:18 am, 12/28/17), Whatever’s visitorship for the year is: 4,110,902. Right in line with my expectations (also, to be pedantically clear, “visits” here means page views, not unique vistors).

Am I worried? Well, no. One, four million visits in a year to a personal site is still nothing to sneeze at. Two, many of the people who would have visited the site directly are now having the content being served to them via other means, including 28,500 who follow me on WordPress, 12K or so on Feedly, and so on. The reach of the site’s content still appears to be chugging along nicely — how people get it seems to be changing considerably, here in these late days of 2017.

The drop in direct visitors to the site also means that the most visited pieces on the site were not new pieces, but archived posts; only one of the top ten most visited pieces from 2017 was from this year: “2017, Word Counts and Writing Process.” This is very unusual. Usually the top ten is roughly half new stuff, half archives.

With that said, here are the top ten pieces written in 2017:

I will note that there is a very high correlation between the most visited pieces on the site this year and my linking to it on other social media, most notably Twitter. Twitter and Facebook are also consistently the top non-search-related sites (by far) for referrals to my site. This strongly suggests something I’ve long suspected, which is that Twitter and Facebook have at this point largely consumed and digested the former blogosphere, enough so that at this point, I wonder if I should even call Whatever a “blog” anymore. The name is beginning to get a fusty smell to it. There’s irony here, as I for many years resisted calling Whatever a “blog” at all. I would be okay with simply calling it my “site.”

(I still strongly believe creative people should keep their own sites as a way of controlling their own content, and to have a place online that’s not directly predicated on someone else mining it just to sell things to you and everyone else. But no need to get into that in detail right now.)

Speaking of Twitter, while Whatever is and will always be my home, Twitter is currently where I have the largest reach. I have 133,760 followers, up 22,431 from this time last year, and my tweets there garnered 268.9 million impressions, which is up rather substantially from last year’s 177.5 million (I tweeted 17,059 times, some two thousand fewer tweets than last year). I will miss it when it is gone and sold for parts, which at the rate it is going should be sometime in 2018. My Facebook fan page is also up, to 20.5k (from 18k), so that’s nice too. But really, for me, Twitter is where it’s at, social media-wise.

My goals for 2018? For Twitter, it’s mostly to keep doing what I’m doing over there; it seems to be working for me just fine. For Whatever, my plan here is to post maybe a little more. I posted 452 entries here this year, but a lot of them were Big Idea and “New Books” posts, which while popular and informative, aren’t really precisely from me. Personal pieces were fewer this year, I think mostly because I was in a bit of a writing funk (part of being in a general funk, of which I will speak more in a later post). Being in a bit of a writing funk wasn’t a good thing for me in general. Writing more usually improves my mood. So maybe writing more here will be a thing I do. I like Whatever having more whatever. We’ll see.

I Present To You Our Big Holiday Purchase

It’s a wall-mounted heater for our garage.

Exciting!

Well, okay, not exciting. But it means that no matter the weather (and right now it’s a blistering four degrees Fahrenheit outside), the garage is always above freezing; we run the heater so the overall garage temperature is between 40 and 50 degrees. This means that our cars are not unspeakably cold when we get in them, and that liquids we store in the garage will not burst their cans when their insides freeze (which is a thing that’s happened before).

It also means that our cats, who persist in going outside in insensibly cold weather, will not actually be in danger of freezing to death before we let them back into the house, so long as they remember to come into the garage. To aid in this learning curve we’ve been letting them out via the garage (there’s a human-sized garage door to the outside world with a cat flap; the inside door does not have one, because we have raccoon neighbors).

I could say we bought it for the practical reasons, but in fact we got it because of the cats. This is where my brain goes. I regret nothing.

The heater necessitated upgrading our electrical system a bit — it draws a fair amount of power so we put that wall on its own circuit, which means expanding our circuit board. This was something we needed to do anyway (we use a lot of electronics in this house, as it happens), so this was a good time to do it.

And how do we feel about our Christmas gift to ourselves? Very happy, in fact. It’s nice to not have the garage be hideously cold for four months of a year. It’s not a sexy gift, sure. But at this age, practical gifts that make one’s house nicer to live in are pretty great. And the cats like it, so there’s that.

Get any practical gifts this year? Share with the crowd in the comments.

2017 Portraiture (Non-Related Edition)

I took a lot of photos this year, including pictures of friends at various events I was at. Here are some of the best of those.

Kristine Smith
Baize Latif White and Mark Oshiro
Molly Lewis, John Roderick, Paul Sabourin and Storm DiCostanzo
Tawny Newsome
Janny Chiayavet and Brennan Hubbell
Sarah Tong
Sanjay Dholakia
Tim McGinley
David Urban and Soojin, whose last name I have rather inconveniently forgotten.
David “Uncle Dave” Fawcett

Whatever Best of 2017

Well, this was a year, wasn’t it. I’m not going to be terribly disappointed to see it go. Nevertheless, I got some decent writing out of it here on Whatever. Below, in alphabetical order, you’ll find the pieces I find of special note in 2017. Be aware that I tried to keep the pieces kvetching about our current horrible president to a minimum; I want you to be able to get through the pieces without feeling like you want to walk into the sea. Nevertheless these pieces reflect the general “ugh” of the year, because, well. 2017 and all that. You know. You were there.

And just so everything in this wrapup is not Very Serious Pieces, here’s me and Chuck Wendig and Neil Gaiman and Mikey Neumann and my kid being silly on Twitter. You’re welcome.

Google Search Updates Take a Personalized Turn

I had cause to do an ego search on my name yesterday and noticed that when I did, Google popped up a couple of new features on the right-hand column, saying that I could post updates and suggest edits to searches on my name. I haven’t seen news or posts about this new functionality anywhere. I was curious, so I went through Google’s verification process and then posted an update, which I highlighted in the photo above.

So apparently now, when anyone Googles me, among every other thing they will see, they will see an update actually from me, which is I think a very interesting thing. I have not suggested an edit to my search results, although I am interested to know what that might entail. On one hand, if people are trying to manipulate Google search results to spread lies about one, I could see it coming in handy. On the other hand, if one is trying to get Google to suppress inconvenient truths about one’s self, this could be a problem. We’ll see how it eventually functions, I suppose.

To be clear I certainly don’t mind Google allowing me to have a little space on my search results. On first blush it seems like a neat idea (and it’s appropriately off to the side, rather than in the actual search results). My update pops up on “Scalzi” and “John Scalzi” but not on related searches like “Old Man’s War” or “Whatever,” so it also appears reasonably tightly targeted.

During the verification process, it was noted that this is a sort of beta/trial run program, so I don’t know if it will be available right now to everyone notable enough to have a right-hand column when someone searches on them (my best guess as to why I’m in the trial program: I have a secured Gmail account and a Pixel 2 phone, which means I’m pretty deep into the Google ecosystem, and also I’m verified on Twitter, which adds an additional layer of being able to confirm I am who I say I am). If I were an author/creator/person of some notability, I would go check and see if you’ve gotten an invite.

19

My kid is pretty great. And she’s 19 today. I hope this year of hers is everything good.

New Books and ARCs, 12/22/17

Just in time for Christmas weekend, this lovely stack of new books and ARCs? Which would you like to see under the tree? Tell us in the comments!

New Books and ARCs, 12/21/17

Happy solstice! To celebrate the longest night of the year (on this side of the globe anyway), I’ve got a very fine stack of new books and ARCs for you to peruse. See anything here you’d spend a long evening with? Tell us all in the comments.

Quick Thoughts on the Google Home Max

Google went and made a big-ass home assistant called the Google Home Max, which boasts two 4.5-inch woofers, and commensurately-sized tweeters and the promise that it would be a) useful  like the regular Google Home and b) sound pretty good, for $399. Well, I have a fair number of home assistants in the house now, but none whose sound will carry well into another room, and I came into some money recently, so I decided to give it a shot.

And, well. It certainly is loud. I have it in my office right now, and fills up the room at probably 40% volume, and I can hear it pretty much anywhere in the house at that level. I suspect at 80% I’d start rattling windows; I haven’t taken it up that loud. The sound fidelity is pretty good too. I’m mostly using it to play stuff from Google Music and Spotify, so a lot will be dependent on what streaming quality one is using. But it works for my needs, soundwise.

Otherwise, it works like Google Home — you can ask it things and it will answer via the Google Assistant, it can operate smart appliances in your home if you want to go that way (I don’t; I can turn on lights by myself) and you can use it to call people if you have yourself an Android phone. You can operate the speaker via your Android phone via the Google Home, and it has a touch-sensitive strip on the side for raising/lowering the volume and for pausing music.

All of this works reasonably well but I’ve actually had several glitches in getting it to do things for me. The reason for this, I suspect, is because I have more than one Google Home device within earshot when I speak to it, and the other ones are picking up the instructions, and the devices sort of fight among themselves as to which one gets to fulfill the request. This means requests for me are a little laggy unless I modulate my voice jusssst right.

(Not to mention my phone is Android and has Google Assistant on it and will also try to fulfill the request.)

So there’s an irony here, which is that indulging Google’s likely desire for me to have more than one Home gadget (and an Android phone) means that their performance degrades because they can’t tell which one I’m meaning to speak to. I suspect this could be solved by the ability to use a wake phrase other than “okay, Google” — i.e., consumers are able to name their home assistant devices (and phones) and have them respond to that name. It doesn’t seem like this should be a real technological issue at this point. Google and Amazon (and Samsung and Microsoft and anyone else doing assistant software) needs to get on it.

But this may be an issue specific to me and others who have multiple devices of this sort. For anyone else who wants a home assistant that can also blast tunes loud enough to alarm your pets, the Google Home Max is a very nice, if not exactly cheap, choice.

Please Enjoy the Scalzi Family 2017 Holiday Card

It’s lovely and truly captures the sentiment of the season.

Its genesis comes from a bad pun I made on Twitter (“If shrimp had a religious leader, it’d be known as the Prawntiff”) and then art of the Prawntiff being made by @jurijuri. It delighted me so much that I asked her if I could use it for a holiday card (I then also paid her for the work, because that’s what you do).

And now I’m sharing it with you. I hope your holidays are delightful, and that the new year will bring you joy. And so does the Prawntiff.

New Books and ARCs, 12/20/17

For your perusing delight, a baker’s dozen of new books and ARCs that have come into the Scalzi Compound. Anything here you’d like to see under the tree this year? Share which it is (or they are) in the comments!

Hey, I Did An “Ask Me Anything” Q&A on Reddit

And you can find it here, if you’re interested in hear me blab on about writing and books and people and the Netflix deal and all that. And if you’re not, I mean, why do you even come here? WELL?!?

Head On Post-Writing Post

Now that I’ve, you know, slept, a few thoughts on Head On (that’s the UK book cover for it, btw):

1. I like it and I think others will like it to. It has everything: Futuristic sports, murder, sex, love, home invasion, shady business people and midnight flights to central Europe. As one must.

2. It’s also a book that ended up different from the book I intended to write when I started. Books change in the telling, because sometimes the book that makes sense in your head doesn’t hold together on the page. That’s not because the page is unforgiving; it’s because your head is too forgiving, allowing you to sort of slide over plot gaps and dodgy character motivations and what have you. Or at least, my head is. So when I tell you “this is not the book I had in my head” that means it’s better, not worse.

3. I’m also sure the writing of the book is deeply informed by it being written in 2017. I’m not going to get into the details of that now, as I think it’s something people reading the book should be able to discover and judge for themselves. Don’t worry, there’s not a strawman Trump stand-in or anything like that. That would be a little on the nose. Just that writing the book was a reminder for me that while science fiction writers write about the future, they live in the now, and the now is going to have an effect on writing.

4. This book also took the longest of any novels to write — I started it in January and finished it yesterday. Part of this, as I noted earlier, is because the world is on fire, and that makes it difficult to focus. With that said, there’s only so much I can blame the trash fire that is 2017. Some of it really is on me. My new year’s resolution is going to be an overhaul of my time management. Wheee!

The good news is that the book was done when it needed to be done to hit its publication date, which is ultimately the important thing. The not so great news is it was done at almost literally the last possible moment to hit its pub date, which is a thing I don’t want to do again. Not only is it not great for me, but it’s a real pain in the ass for the book production staff. I try not to be a pain in the ass.

5. For those who will ask, yes, there will be audiobook, and aside from that it’s too early to say anything else about it. So anything else you’re going to ask about the audiobook, please see the previous sentence.

6. Also, to anticipate the next question, there will also be a book tour for this one, albeit somewhat shorter than the one for The Collapsing Empire — something like ten date rather than twenty four, plus some conventions and book festivals. For this one we’re trying to hit some places that we haven’t been to recently or at all yet. More details when we have them, probably in a couple of months.

7. Finally, in case you didn’t know already, Head On is being released on April 17, 2018. You can pre-order online or from your favorite local bookstore.

8. And now I’m going to spend the rest of 2017 sleeping and watching Teen Titans Go!, I think.