A Non-Intern Take on Solo

I liked it, quite a bit in places, and (snarking aside) I can also see why it did (relatively) underwhelming business in its first weekend: it’s light in the way Star Wars films haven’t been before. Star Wars films have had humor, and have had snark, and have had quips and banter (usually through the graces of Lawrence Kasdan, who also offers them here in conjunction with his son Jonathan), and even have merchandise-ready cuddly creatures. But the core of Star Wars films is always something serious — the rise and fall of families and empires and personal morality.

It sets a tone, and that tone’s consistent through Star Wars films, until this one. This one flips the script: It’s got skullduggery and betrayal and death and personal sacrifice, but the core is weightless, and so everything ultimately feels consequenceless. This is a Boy’s Own Action Film, and there’s nothing wrong with that, except that’s all it is in the end, and — surprisingly! — I think many of us implicitly or explicitly expect more, or at least, different, from the Star Wars universe.

Does this mean the film is a failure, or a disappointment? Taken on its own terms, and considered as its own film independent of the Star Wars context, I don’t think so. This film is aggressively competent; it hits its marks. The action is sufficiently actiony, the acting is actual acting, the pacing is perfectly pace-y, and there’s no one place where the film falls down for me. It’s very fine summer entertainment and on that score I don’t think anyone involved should feel like they’ve done anything wrong. This is a film director Ron Howard, one of the most consummate directors working, could have done with his eyes closed, even if he hadn’t parachuted in at the eleventh hour to take over from the film’s previous directors. I can’t imagine that Howard, whose first film as a director was the Roger Corman-produced quickie Grand Theft Auto, didn’t enjoy directing those speeder chase scenes. It was like going home for him.

(While I’m at it, “taken on its own terms” is one reason why my intern’s review here was positive — as she notes in her review, she’s not nearly as steeped into the Star Wars universe as many other people, including me. She’s not carrying around the baggage of expectation. It makes a difference.)

All of this raises the question of whether Star Wars films should have the burden of their franchise’s particular thematic gravity. Why can’t you have a light, zippy, largely consequence-free story like Solo in this universe? Well, maybe you can: Solo will likely clear $200 million globally before Friday, and Solo has the reasonable good fortune of not having any film opening this weekend being a potential blockbuster, so it’s a decent bet it’ll stay at number one. The weekend after that the big film (Ocean’s 8) skews into a largely different demographic. So that’s two weekends for Solo to make up a bit of ground before The Incredibles 2 comes to snag its audience. If its box office grosses don’t drop too steeply this next weekend, or the weekend after, it might actually end up doing just fine overall, if (realistically) still well below other films in its franchise. If Solo earns out in theatrical, then the possibility for more Star Wars films like it isn’t entirely off the table, with some appropriate tweaking in the story and script stages.

Even if Solo does eventually — and again relatively — faceplant at below $250 million domestically and below $500 million globally, remember that Disney will still make money on the film when ancillary, merchandising and licensing is all hauled in. In other words, don’t cry for Disney, or LucasFilm, or for anyone else involved in the film. They’re all just fine. Solo will be to Star Wars what Cars is to Pixar: Valuable not for the theatrical box office, but everything else.

That said, I do think Solo flying in a bit lower than other Star Wars films should appropriately give LucasFilm a tiny bit of a pause for introspection. Were I giving Kathleen Kennedy advice, I would tell her three things: One, space your Star Wars films twelve months apart (December has been really good to the Star Wars franchise recently; don’t mess with that); Two, pay attention to overall tone so that the all the Star Wars films are consistent even when you’re trying for a little bit lighter; Three, the rest of Disney’s release schedule is not your friend. Avengers: Infinity War sucked up more than a little PR/marketing oxygen from Solo ahead of its release; The Incredibles 2 is sucking up that oxygen post-release (this is another reason to stay in December). Disney is now big enough to cannibalize itself, and I think that’s relevant to Solo, and the Star Wars franchise in general.

(Also I would tell her not to listen to the whiny manbabies posing as Star Wars fans on the Internet, stomping their feet about everything they stomp their feet about. But I expect if I did so Ms. Kennedy would look at me crossly for assuming she actually would listen to them; she’s smarter than that.)

In short: Solo: Perfectly good! I liked it! Only sort of what I come to Star Wars films for! Which is fine, and also possibly a teachable moment for the people making the films. I’ll be interested in how the next “Star Wars Story” film goes.

(Update, 6/2/18: Looks like Solo is dropping something like 66% in its second weekend, for an estimated weekend take of $28 million. Which is… not good. We’re looking at the faceplant scenario at this point.)

The Big Idea: Brenda Clough

What happens when a science fiction writer goes back in time? A serialized novel following up one of the most intriguing woman characters of 1859! Brenda Clough explains how she got from here to there for her series A Most Dangerous Woman.

BRENDA CLOUGH:

I have always thought of myself as an SF and fantasy writer. But I realize now, what I really am is a fan of plot. What I love more than anything is breakneck story-telling. With hairpin turns of development that yet are inevitable, a novel as strong as neat rye whiskey, as speedy as a Porsche, tightly-packed as the app icons on the screen of an I-phone. And I want history, the fathoms-deep delve into the mind and heart of an era – a story that can be both perfectly of its time and yet the window into it for us, the modern readers. I want a book like a time machine.

I want to write, yes! a Victorian triple-decker novel for 2018. A little uncomfortable, for a writer whose brief is to write about the future. But the nice thing about a career in fantasy and science fiction? I can do it. On the page I fear neither God nor man. I have made it all up from whole cloth in my day. This is not rocket science – I’ve done rocket science already!

It has long been clear to me that Wilkie Collins sadly dropped the ball after he wrote his classic sensational novel The Woman in White. Honestly, Wilkie – it should have been shatteringly clear to you that this work cried out for a sequel. The world is in desperate need of more stories about your redoubtable heroine, Miss Marian Halcombe, how could you have missed this? There’s gold in them thar hills, pal. She was the Modesty Blaise of mid-Victorian England, a James Bond in crinoline and corsets. And if you didn’t mine it, I will.

I love plot, yes – it’s the engine of a novel. But if you want a book to go, character is the gasoline. And once I invited Marian Halcombe to take the wheel of the Porsche we were off at speed. Because Marian is one of the first feminist heroines in literature. An ugly woman, in an era when if you couldn’t marry you were bupkis, in the original novel she combated villains to secure happiness for her sister Laura. Is it plain to you, with this one-sentence summary, that the next bit of her story involves happiness for herself? Immediately the car that is my novel began to fill up, not only all the original Collins characters but a new batch.  A husband, of course she needs a husband. But a sexy and rich one.

Teenagers discovering their purpose in life have their own genre, YA. It’s about time we had a happily married couple doing all the married things, in addition to the hair-raising adventure and the cliff-hanger perils. And Victorian thrillers had the full spectrum of awful perils. I blissfully borrowed them all. Bigamy. Dickensian slums with no drainage at all. Nests of anarchists in the heart of London. Murder. Prison – prisons in the 1860s were exceptionally nasty. I see no reason why he should not get typhus in jail, do you? And medical care for that typhus was shuddersome, fantastically useless from our comfortable vantage point. Unwed motherhood, in an era when there was no birth control and having sex without the marriage license rendered you unfit for the company of decent people. Science fiction and fantasy writers know that there’s no point in writing a novel set someplace different if the full gruesome terrors of that time and place aren’t exploited to the hilt. If you’re going to Middle Earth, you have to have orcs, and giant spiders aren’t so bad either.

But I don’t want to just blast from the past. A work published today needs to speak to the modern reader. And the fact is that we often don’t realize how far we’ve come. We live in the bubble that is the present, and we don’t look back. A brief tour through the historical record reveals that it is really worthwhile to have antibiotics and penicillin. The song tells us that we built this city on rock and roll.  No, we didn’t. A city is built on clean water supplies and proper sewage disposal. London in the 1860s, when the Thames was a standing sewer of horse urine and human turds, will prove it to you. Can we lose this again? Oh sure – go to Flint, Michigan and see people poisoned by faulty water supplies. Can women or persons of color lose the rights gained over the last century or so? Open your daily paper. Today I read a statement by a black rapper assuring us that slavery wasn’t so bad. Honestly, dude? Or consider the Rohingya Muslim minority, in Burma. They were citizens of Burma at one point – there are 135 ethnic minorities in Burma with citizenship. But one day they woke up and they weren’t citizens any more, but deportation bait.

We have a civilization which we believe – just like the Victorians, the Romans, the Athenians under Pericles – is the greatest in history. But we can easily let it slip through our fingers, just like that, by inattention or fuggheadedness. Maybe it’ll help, to read a story in which awful things happen to people because a better solution simply isn’t available yet. That’s what historical fiction can do – it says, “This is how it was – behold how it’s better now.” Just as science fiction declares, “See this one trend: if this goes on, we are so toast.” What a relief; I went right around the world, and came back home again. I am still in my genre. This book is in the same line as Jurassic Park or On the Beach.

Fiction allows us to test-drive stuff. Is it a good idea to marry the rat-bag gambler, or should you play it safe with your sister’s suitor? Read Gone With the Wind and save yourself heartache. I hope that you can look up from reading the appalling things that Marian Halcombe gets into (and out of, by main strength) and realize that you don’t want to do that yourself.

—-

A Most Dangerous Woman: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Serialbox

Visit the author’s site. Follow her on Facebook.

Volunteering at the Humane Society of Preble County

One thing I wholeheartedly believe in is volunteering. Community service should be a part of everyone’s life, even if it’s a small part. Recently, I started volunteering at the Humane Society of Preble County. It is a no-kill shelter for dogs and cats in Eaton, Ohio. Eaton is over thirty minutes from my house, so I only go once a week. When it comes to volunteering, it can be really hard to make time for it if you have a job, go to school, have kids, or any combination of the three. If you do have time, though, volunteering is a great way to spend it.

Eaton is halfway between my house and the town I go to college in. Every time I drove to either place, I passed the shelter. Sometimes I would see the dogs playing outside, or the employees photographing the dogs to put up on the website. One day I just flipped on my turn signal and pulled in to the parking lot. Then I walked in and put in a volunteer application. They accepted me on the spot and since then I’ve been volunteering once a week!

Every pet I’ve met has been so amazing. There hasn’t been a single dog that isn’t loving. Whether they love to play, be petted, or drool on me, they’re all loving in so many ways, and it breaks my heart that someone gave them up. I’ve come to know a lot of the dogs’ names, how long they’ve been there, and why they were brought in. Some have been there for over a month, while others get adopted within a week of being brought in.

I’m so happy when I hear a pet has gotten adopted. I mean, that’s the end goal, isn’t it? But I also get a little sad, because I know I won’t be able to play with that specific dog again, or pet the kitten I have every time since my first day. It’s certainly a little selfish, but whenever I’m playing with one of them, I almost feel like they’re my own dog or cat for a minute, and it’s really nice.

I’m hoping to spend more time volunteering at other places in my college town when fall semester comes around, but for now I think I’m content just at the animal shelter. It’s a really great place, all the employees are super nice, and if you live in the area and are looking for a pet, I recommend them highly!

Here’s their website, where you can view all their dogs and pictures of them. They do not have their cats up there, but I was just there today and I can tell you they just got a bunch of kittens in! So if you’re in the area and want a kitten, they sure have a handful of them.

If you don’t volunteer but have always wanted to, just do it! I have always wanted to try it, so now I am, and it’s awesome. Get out there and find something you care about and help out, I’m sure you’ll love it!

YouTube Shorts

If there’s one thing I love, it’s animated shorts. I have a pretty short attention span, so I particularly like watching shorts because they have so much to offer in such a short amount of time. Most shorts don’t have dialogue in them, or if they do it’s very limited, or sometimes the characters sing a song instead. This generally means shorts have pretty good music in the background, since that’s usually all the viewer hears.

I love shorts because you can watch one after the other, which can be dangerous if you’re procrastinating or just not good at keeping track of time If I’m bored and have some time to kill, I go through shorts like crazy.

So today I’m going to share with you five shorts I really enjoy!

This first one, “Yours or Mine”, is definitely one of my favorites. It’s on the shorter side of shorts, and is exciting and fun. The music is perfect for it, and I love this animation style. I think the plot is cute and the end is unexpected, and I think the addition of the end credit shots was a great inclusion.

Another of my all-time favorites is “Butter Lover”. This one is one of the few I’ve seen that has a lot of dialogue. Again, this is a drawing style I happen to love, even more so than the previous one. I think it’s drawn so smoothly and I love the characters’ designs. One of them has purple hair! How can you not love that? Another thing I love about this one is the plot is so out there, so bizarre, you definitely will not see this end coming. Also, make sure you watch until the very end for the end scene!

Are you ready for the funniest short you’ve ever seen? Here it is, “Death Buy Lemonade”! Another seriously short short, this adorable animation features one of my favorite things, the personification of death. There’s a cute little background tune that isn’t too distracting, and I think the title is perfect. I will be very surprised if you don’t laugh at the end.

This next one is called “Love Bites”. It’s cute and drawn pretty well, and the plot is humorous, if not a little messed up. I think the title is clever and just generally think it’s a pretty good one!

For the last short, I’ve chosen “Overweight”. All of the previous ones are funny, cute, and generally light-hearted. To end, I thought I’d choose one with a deeper meaning, one that isn’t comical. I feel that this one in particular has a message that relates a lot to current events, and I think it should be taken to heart.

There it is, five shorts I thought were really worth sharing! I hope you all enjoy them. Be sure to tell me which is your favorite in the comments, and if you would like to recommend one, I’ll be sure to try and check it out. Have a great day!

The First Strawberries of Summer

Technically, the first strawberries of late spring, as we’ve got a four weeks to go to solstice. But here in the US our cultural summer is Memorial Day to Labor Day, so, well, here we are, with these very nice strawberries from the little patch we have right in the front of our lawn. Like most strawberries that are not outsized monstrosities, they are packed with flavor, and these are also delightfully tart.

Also last night I saw the first fireflies of the year. Which is another “yup, it’s summer” sign for me. I’ll be trying to take some pictures of those soon. We’ll see how it goes.

What is your “first sign of summer”?

What You Should Be Watching: Voltron: Legendary Defender

Hello, everyone! I’ve decided to do a running thing called “What You Should Be Watching” and it’ll be me telling you about a show I think you should watch. To kick it off, I’m going to recommend one of my all-time favorite cartoons, Voltron: Legendary Defender. This more recent cartoon made by Dreamworks and Netflix currently has five seasons, and the sixth one is coming out June 15th, so you have about two weeks to watch the previous five if you want to watch the new season when it comes out.

Voltron has had many TV series and originated in the 80s. If you Google it, you’ll see many different versions. The version I’m talking about came out on Netflix in 2016 and looks like this:

Okay, now that we’ve cleared up which one I’m talking about, let me tell you all the reasons I love it!

Voltron: Legendary Defender is about a rag-tag group of teens (the middle one is an adult) that stumble upon a pilot-able robot lion that takes them to a faraway planet, where they find themselves in the middle of a universal war against aliens known as the Galra. Each one has their own robot lion and together they form Voltron, a super awesome robot capable of mass destruction.

This is a sci-fi show that features diverse characters that are all unique and interesting in their own ways. There’s the classic comedian that always smiles and loves to flirt (blue one), the moody badass with a side of mystery (red one), the sarcastic tech genius (green one), the super kind one who loves to bake (yellow one), and the strong, dependable leader (center). Not pictured is Princess Allura, an awesome royal whose father made the lions thousands of years ago. I can assure you, you will love every single one of these characters. In every TV show I’ve ever seen, there’s always one character I don’t like or I think is bad for the group. In this cartoon, I can attest to the fact that each one of these characters is so amazing and lovable in their own ways, and though I’m sure you’ll like them all, I’m also sure you’ll have a favorite.

Voltron, though it is a kids’ show, is also something adults can watch without feeling weird about. If you’ve seen Avatar: The Last Airbender or The Legend of Korra, you know just how deep a kid’s show can get. With themes like war, dictatorship, and even genocide, Avatar and Voltron manage to be kid-friendly and dark at the same time, pushing that boundary between mature and family-orientated that makes them so outstanding.

Speaking of Avatar and KorraVoltron has the same animators! So if you’re a fan of that drawing style, you’ll love the amazing shots Voltron has to offer, like these:

More seriously, though, this show really does have some spectacular animation moments that I’m sure would make for good screensavers.

Moving on, the voice acting in Voltron is spectacular. Jeremy Shada plays my favorite character, and also plays the ever-so-popular Finn in Adventure Time. This show has other great actors, like Steven Yeun, who plays Glenn in The Walking Dead, and Josh Keaton, who has played in tons of other animated series. Every voice fits the character they play perfectly, and it always matches their mouth movements perfectly.

The humor in this show is quick and witty, and has made me bust out laughing on a number of occasions. The combat scenes always have great movement. It’s all drawn very smoothly and is fun and exciting. The whole concept is unique and interesting, and I hope you all like it as much as I do. If you’ve seen it before, let me know what you think and who your favorite character is!

And remember the new season comes out in two weeks, so binge away!

Headed Home + Posting Through 6/15

I’m sitting here in Sky Harbor, getting ready for the trek home. With any luck I’ll be there early evening. Without luck I will be stranded in DFW. I’m hoping for luck.

Phoenix Comic Fest, where I’ve been for the last several days, was a lovely time with lovely people and I’m glad to have come back after a few years of missing it. That said, it will be nice to be home. It will also be nice to stay home too — I don’t have any travel for a month, which I think may be a recent record. This is a very good thing, as I have a book to finish.

Along that line, I am in final crunch time for the next book, so for the next couple of weeks at least I will be scarce and/or very brief around here. The good news is, Whatever has an intern. So enjoy her posts and wish me luck on finishing the book. Thanks.

Automattic Updates Its Privacy Policy

Automattic being the owners and operators of WordPress, which hosts this site, and on whose software this site runs. Here is their updated privacy policy. I’ve made a permanent link to it here on what is now called my Site Disclaimer, Comment and Privacy Policy page.

Solo: A Star Wars Story Review

Yesterday I went with my mom and grandma to the movies and saw Solo: A Star Wars Story. Personally, I have always felt very disconnected from Star Wars as a whole. Even though I grew up in and still am part of the science fiction community, I have never seen the original six Star Wars movies, only the new ones (The Force Awakens, Rogue One, The Last Jedi, and Solo). I also never watched any of the animated series or played any of the games, except for the very beginning of LEGO Star Wars for the Wii when I was like twelve.

Given all this information, you can see I’m not the biggest Star Wars fan. However, I have thoroughly enjoyed the four that I have seen, and today I’m going to tell you about the most recent one, Solo.

Solo is a film you can watch without having seen any of the others, because it takes place before all of them. So if you’ve never seen Star Wars but think this one looks kind of good, go ahead and see it, you won’t be lost.

This movie is seriously jam-packed with action. Chase scenes, battle scenes, more chase scenes, gun fights, high stakes heists, etc. It is like 90% action and 10% talking scenes. This is not a bad thing, in my opinion. In regard to the fights, I think everything was choreographed amazingly; the camera work was really on point. If there’s one thing I hate, it’s a fight scene where I can’t even tell what’s going on because the camera is shaking around wildly.

I loved this cast, everyone did such an amazing job. I have only seen Donald Glover, Woody Harrelson, and Paul Bettany in other films before, and I really like all three of them, I think they’re great and were really good choices for the characters they played.

Visually, this movie was so awesome. All the aliens look cool as heck, all the landscape looks totally real, and everything is just so beautiful and seamless.

I think this was probably the best origin story movie I’ve ever seen, and I highly recommend it! It’s a lot of fun, very exciting, and I think it’s really well done. I hope you all enjoy it as much as I did!

New Books and ARCs, 5/25/18

As we roll into Memorial Day Weekend, here’s a quick stack of new books and ARCs for you to peruse. Does anything here look like your ideal summer reading? Tell us which ones in the comments!

And Now, a Quick Update From Phoenix

Actually, everything is groovy. Wednesday was “Elevengeddon” at the Poisoned Pen bookstore, in which more than eleven authors signed books for people, and yesterday was given over to a couple of panels and then mostly hanging out with friends. Above you will see my friend Olivia, being force choked by Darth Vader. That Vader. What a jerk. Today is more panels and hanging out. As is Saturday! As is Sunday! You sense a pattern.

Hope your Memorial Day weekend is going to be a fabulous one. If you have any particular plans for it you feel like sharing, well, that’s what the comment thread is for.

Have Some Photos!

Good evening, everyone! Today I’ve been really busy with schoolwork and running errands, and I realized I should probably post something before it gets to be too late in the day, since not everyone is as much of a night owl as I tend to be.

For today’s post, I thought I’d share with you guys some of my photography! If you follow me on Twitter or Instagram, you’ve probably already seen a few of these, but if you don’t, or you just happened to miss them, here is a few of my favorites!

Stairs to nowhere.

A post shared by Athena Scalzi ⭐ (@ascalzi98) on

Am I gonna post two flower pictures in one day? You bet I am.

A post shared by Athena Scalzi ⭐ (@ascalzi98) on

An oil spill of rainbows.

A post shared by Athena Scalzi ⭐ (@ascalzi98) on

Spring is so pretty I can’t get over it 🌸

A post shared by Athena Scalzi ⭐ (@ascalzi98) on

I mostly like to take pictures of flowers and scenery, but I really like cloud and sunrise/sunset photos, too. Hopefully this summer I’ll use some of my free time to take more pictures of nature-y things!

If you have any awesome pictures of yours you’d like to show me, put them in the comments and I’ll check them out. Have a great day!

Music Time!

Hello, everyone! Today I’d like to introduce you to some songs I really enjoy, by an artist named Sam Tinnesz. I have composed a little playlist of my five personal favorite songs of his. His music is dark, intense, ominous, melodic, honestly almost hypnotizing, and I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

The first song I ever heard by him was “Play With Fire”. It is also my favorite of his. Figured we should start off strong! This is the only song of his I have heard that has a female voice in it alongside his. I think the main reason it is my favorite is because it was the first one I heard, and the only one of his I listened to for a good while before I decided to give his other stuff a try. “Play With Fire” has a killer rhythm, a powerful chorus, a dark edge to it, and great lyrics.

If you’re wondering how I found this song, I got it from this amazing Black Butler (my favorite anime) edit:

The second song I have chosen is called “Heart of the Darkness”. This one is much calmer, more melodic sounding, and not as intense. One downside to it is that it is pretty repetitive, but if you’re looking for a song that is easy to learn the lyrics to, that probably won’t bother you. I think this particular song really showcases his voice more so than some of the others, though he doesn’t have a crazy range to begin with, I still find it pleasant.

For the third song, I’ve chosen one that is a little more similar to “Play With Fire”, as it is more upbeat than “Heart of the Darkness”. It is called “Legends Are Made”, and I really like the lyrics in this one. I can see this one being played in the background of a movie during a pre-battle scene.

For the fourth song, I chose “Bloody City”. If you liked the dark edge in “Play With Fire”, you will love how ominous and creepy this one is. The occasional spooky sound in the background mixed with the rhythmic music is seriously awesome and somewhat chilling. The lyrics don’t flow amazingly well, which is why this is number four on the list.

Okay, last one! For the fifth and final piece, I chose something that sounds completely different from the other four. The tone of this one is so much softer, slower, and has almost none of the same elements as the previous four. This one is called “Hold On For Your Life”. I find this one to be somewhat depressing sounding, it honestly made me tear up a little bit because I imagined it being put to a heartfelt death scene in a movie. The main instrument in “Hold On For Your Life” is a piano, which differs greatly from most of his other songs. It is very beautiful and emotion-inducing, in my opinion, but also has that same issue of being slightly too repetitive.

So, there you have it! Those are my top five picks from Sam Tinnesz. If you enjoy any of these or find other songs by him you like, leave a comment! Hope you enjoyed listening to these and also hope you have a great day!

View From a Hotel Window, 5/23/18: Phoenix

There is a parking lot below the building at the front, but I decided not to feature it in the photo. Hey! Not every “view from a hotel window” photo has to have a parking lot.

Reminder to everyone here in the Phoenix area that tonight at 7 I will be at the Poisoned Pen, along with many many other authors, signing books, and tomorrow through Sunday I’ll be at Phoenix Comic Fest, doing panels, signing books and generally hanging about. Come see me at one or the other.

Scalzi at Phoenix Comic Fest This Weekend

As a reminder, starting today(!) I will be in the lovely and very hot town of Phoenix for Phoenix Comic Fest (previously known as Phoenix Comic Con), to sign books, be on panels and do a whole lot of schmoozing. And you(!) can be a part of that, if you happen to be in or around Phoenix this weekend.

What’s my schedule?

Wednesday (today):

  • 2018 Elevengeddon: A Multi-Author Sci-Fi Event
    7:00pm, Poisoned Pen Bookstore
    Event & Signing
    Authors: Myke Cole (Tor.com Publishing), Emily Devenport, Cory Doctorow, K Arsenault Rivera, John Scalzi, V.E. Schwab, Charles Soule, Sam Sykes

Thursday:

  • Out in the Field – Bizarre Things I Learned While Researching My Boo​k & Post-Panel Signing
    1:30pm-2:30pm, North 126AB
    ​Panelists: Aaron Mahnke, K Arsenault Rivera, John Scalzi, V.E. Schwab
  • Prophets of Sci-Fi
    3:00pm-4:00pm, North 125AB
    Panelists: Cory Doctorow, John Scalzi, Emily Devenport, Sylvain Neuvel
  • Tor Author Group Signing
    4:30pm-5:30pm, Changing Hands Author Signing Area
    All attending Tor Authors

Friday:

  • Tor Presents: Two Truths and A Lie – Authors Edition
    10:30am-11:30am, North 122ABC
    Panelists: Cory Doctorow, Emily Devenport, K Arsenault Rivera, John Scalzi
    Moderator: Myke Cole (Tor.com Publishing)
  • Marching Orders – Military in Sci-Fi and Fantasy Stories & Post-Panel Signing
    1:30pm-2:30pm, North 126C
    Panelists: John Scalzi, Melinda Snodgrass, Sylvain Neuvel, Mark Gardner, Kevin Ikenberry

Saturday:

  • Cory Doctorow & John Scalzi in Conversation about Politics in Sci-Fi and Fantasy & Post-Panel Signing
    12:00pm-1:00pm, North 124AB
    Panelists: Cory Doctorow and John Scalzi
  • Tor Presents #FearlessWomen & Post-Panel Signing
    1:30pm-2:30pm, North 125AB
    Panelists: V.E. Schwab, K Arsenault Rivera, Emily Devenport, John Scalzi

Sunday:

  • John Scalzi Solo Panel & Post-Panel Signing
    1:30pm-2:30pm, North 126AB

(All this information taken from Tor.com’s PCF schedule, which also features the schedule of other Tor-related authors, like VE Schwab, Cory Doctorow and Myke Cole among others.)

I’ll note that on Sunday, at my solo panel, I’ll likely be reading new material that I’ve not read anywhere else yet, so if that’s a thing you want to hear, get yourself there.

See you in Phoenix! Uh, unless I don’t, in which case have a good rest of your week anyway, okay?

Watermelon Salsa!

Hey guys! To kick off day two of writing on Whatever, I have decided to post a recipe. There were a surprising number of people in the comments of yesterday’s post that said they were looking forward to seeing what I make in the kitchen, and I was planning to make something today anyways, so I figured I might as well post it!

This past winter was, like, the longest winter I’ve ever lived through. I forgot for a second what in-season fruit tasted like. But now that summer is finally here, I bought a watermelon! I have never bought one before now, so that was an enthralling experience.

There a ton of recipes online for watermelon salsa, and while they are all unique in their own ways, they are all basically composed of the same few ingredients, which is watermelon, cucumber, red onion, and mango. Using my collective knowledge of these recipes, I just went for it and threw it together in a bowl.

Here’s what I used:

3 cups watermelon, diced

1 cucumber, peeled and diced

1/3 of a regular sized sweet red onion, diced

Juice of one lime

1 tbsp of sugar

Sprinkle of garlic salt (optional)

A very inexact amount of cayenne pepper (also optional)

Salt and pepper

So yeah, just throw all that together in a bowl and mix! Originally, I also had a mango I was going to use, but I had never bought a mango before today and apparently the one I bought was very very not ripe. So instead I added a little bit of mango flavored white balsamic vinegar, but I really wish there were actual chunks of mango in this bad boy. I think the sweetness of the mango would’ve been a great addition, as well as added some awesome color.

As for the cayenne pepper, just add as much as you want! Originally, I wasn’t even going to put any in because I’m a weakling in the ways of spice, but it seems like most other people in this household likes a kick to their food, so I just sprinkled a good amount in and hoped I wouldn’t die later.

Okay, so, about cost. From the store, I bought a watermelon, a mango, two limes (you only need one, though), a red onion, and a cucumber. I already had the garlic salt and cayenne pepper at home. All together, the produce cost $8.86 (this is including the mango I ended up not using). The most expensive thing was the watermelon, which was five bucks for a whole seedless one. Cost is very important to me. Food prices add up quickly, especially in recipes where you have none of the ingredients at home and have to go out and buy literally everything on the list.

If you end up making this, send me a picture on Twitter (@ascalzi98)! I would love to see if y’all end up adding anything, like the mango, or whatever else you think would be good in it! Hope you enjoy this summery and fresh salsa!

A Quick Note About Whatever, Your Data and GDPR

I’ve had a couple of people ask me how the European Union’s new General Data Protection Regulation law (which goes into effect on Friday) affects this site and how I run it, so, let me talk about that very briefly.

One, on a personal level, aside from asking for an email address in order to leave comments here, I personally am not (and never have) collecting any information about anyone, other in the very general sense of reading and comprehending whatever bits of personal information people leave in their comments. That said, I don’t do anything commercial with any of that — I don’t mine my comment threads for personal data, and certainly don’t comb through them for sales, advertising or other commercial purposes. It’s not that kind of site, and I’m really not that interested. Doing any of that requires work and effort that I have no desire to do. All I want to do here is write and post pictures. Aside from occasionally letting you know when I have a new book out, I have no interest in monetizing the site, nor anyone who visits it, nor any of the data they leave behind. Hell, I don’t even have sales affiliate links on Big Idea posts.

Two, while I personally don’t retain any personal information about you, WordPress, who hosts this blog via its VIP service, does (for example, if you do comment here, I’m pretty sure WordPress leaves a cookie in your browser so you don’t have to enter your personal information each time you decide to comment). WordPress tells me via its VIP service blog that it is currently reworking its infrastructure so that its services comply with the GDPR; inasmuch as WordPress’ VIP service constitutes the technological infrastructure of this site, I expect that how it handles your data, cookies, etc will now conform to EU law. Which is nice! Less work for me. Nevertheless I’ll be doublechecking to see if there’s anything else I need to be doing personally. I’m pretty sure there’s not, but it doesn’t hurt to be sure.

(For those of you asking why I’m even concerned about this at all, since I and the site are in the US, the short answer is that, as I understand it, the law covers EU citizens, and on any given day roughly 20% of the traffic here is from the EU. Likewise I’m pretty sure WordPress has users and offices in the EU.)

The short(er) version of this is that I don’t expect anything obvious will change here in terms of how either you or I use the site, and what things will change will be handled mostly in the background by WordPress itself, and generally speaking Whatever (and I) will continue not using any information you do provide here for any commercial purpose.

Basically, we’ll just keep on doing what we’re already doing here. If any of that changes in any significant way, I will let you know.

New Books and ARCs, 5/21/18

Here you go, folks: Another very fine stack of new books and ARCs that have arrived at the Scalzi Compound. What here is catching your eye? Tell us in the comments!

Hello, Whatever World!

Howdy, y’all. Today is my first day as my dad’s intern, and this is my first Whatever post! My dad is off writing some silly book or something along those lines, and because he is busy he tends to neglect this website a little bit, so I am here to ensure that posts are posted and readers are reading (and, of course, enjoying).

If you’d like to know a little about me, in case you have never seen anything on here regarding me, my name is Athena Scalzi. I am nineteen years old, an only child, a Capricorn, left-handed, and I love reading, writing, photography, baking/cooking, and looking at the stars. My favorite color is purple, my favorite animal is a tiger or a snow leopard (they’re both equally adorable and fluffy and could murder you), and my favorite movie is The Nightmare Before Christmas.

Generally I think I will be posting movie reviews, anime reviews, book reviews, things like that, along with some of my photography and my daily adventures in this oh so exciting life. I’m sure I’ll also post some pictures or recipes every once in a while of things I whip up in the kitchen. In regards to this, there has been some speculation as to whether or not I am as monstrous as my father when it comes to burritos, and I can finally assure you all, I am no heathen. I am a Burrito-Purist and my father’s inventions horrify and appall me.

Overall, I am very excited to be here and look forward to writing for this blog. I sincerely hope you all enjoy what I have to offer and that I give thoughtful contributions to this site, or “whatever”!

The Big Idea: Cat Rambo

Where to start the second book in a series? If your answer is “after the first book, duh,” allow Cat Rambo to offer another option to you, which she employs in her novel Hearts of Tabat.

CAT RAMBO:

My second novel is out as of May 20, and it’s a satisfying feeling. At the same time, I’m a little nervous about it, because it’s not a standard sequel, but rather takes the events of book one, Beasts of Tabat, and provides some different angles on it, this time seeing them through the eyes of a new set of viewpoints, including the best friend and former lover of one of Beasts’ protagonists and the two men vying for her attention.

Hearts of Tabat follows up on Beasts of Tabat not by starting where the first book ends, but considerably before that with one of the scenes from Beasts revisited. The characters from Beasts are there, particularly charismatic gladiator Bella Kanto, but they are seen through the eyes of a set of protagonists. It does end in time after Beasts, and those wondering what happened to Bella at the end of Beasts will find out.

Because of this, there’s a weird and somewhat unanticipated structure, where either book will work equally well to bring the reader in. The next one, Exiles of Tabat, won’t share this trait – it’s placed solidly after the end of Hearts of Tabat, and the final Gods of Tabat definitively after Exiles in its own turn.

I’ve always loved books that are oddly shaped in one way or another, which read one way backward and another frontward, or where any chapter can serve as the beginning, but I didn’t set out to create an oddly shaped series. I worry sometime that I’ve failed to pull it off, but at the same time I know Hearts is a better book than the first one, and Exiles will be even better yet.

And writing this way has let me create an even richer, deeper nook. By now I’ve written three and a half books and two dozen stories and novelettes set in this world. I know it well, but when I go wandering it in that hazy state of slumber that one hopes will carry you off to sleep, I always find new things, new little details, but all of them things that grow out of the shape of the world, caused by the existence of the three moons or the way the terraced city steps down to the water.

By the time I’m done with Gods, though (and I’m hoping the the next books come much quicker once my stint in the SFWA Presidency is over in mid-2019) I’ll be ready to move away from Tabat, for a little while, at least. I’ve been working on a YA space opera at the same time and I want to finish that up, along with a modern horror novel, tentatively entitled Queen of the Fireflies. So many projects and so little time — and who know what shape they will end up being?

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Hearts of Tabat: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Kobo|Smashwords

Visit the author’s site. Follow her on Twitter.