Reader Request Week 2018: Get Your Questions In!

Next week I am finally at home for an entire week, the first time, in, well, months, so that makes it an excellent time to finally get around to one of my favorite annual traditions here at Whatever: Reader Request Week!

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 and then write ’em up. What topics can you request? Well, anything at all: politics! Social stuff! Personal questions! Stuff and Nonsense! Things you wish I’d talk about but never do! And so on! Anything you’ve ever wanted to know about me, or wanted to know what I think about it, go ahead and request it. I’ll sort through the requests and start posting my responses, starting Monday, May 7.

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. Rather than thinking of a bunch of general topic for me to address, which isn’t very interesting to me, and which also like hogging the buffet, pick one very specific topic that you’re actually interested about — something you’ve thought about, and taken time to craft a question that will be interesting to me. I’m much more likely to pick that than look through a menu of very general topics.


2. Writing questions are given a lower priority. Me writing about writing is not unusual here, so for this week, writing topics are a secondary concern. But if you really want to ask a question about writing, go ahead, just remember that point one above will apply more to your question than most. It’ll have to be a pretty good question to stand out.

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.

From 2013:

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

From 2014:

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

From 2015: 

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

From 2016:

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

From 2017:

Reader Request Week 2017 #1: Punching Nazis
Reader Request Week 2017 #2: Those Darn Millennials
Reader Request Week 2017 #3: Utopias
Reader Request Week 2017 #4: Haters and How I Deal With Them
Reader Request Week 2017 #5: Remembering Dreams
Reader Request Week 2017 #6: Reading as Performance
Reader Request Week 2017 #7: Parents, Their Age, and Their Kids
Reader Request Week 2017 #8: The Path to Publication
Reader Request Week 2017 #9: Writery Short Bits
Reader Request Week 2017 #10: Short Bits

This week is almost always fun for me because of the questions you (yes, you!) ask, so please, think up some good ones for me to answer this year. I’m looking forward to what you have to ask me!

205 Comments on “Reader Request Week 2018: Get Your Questions In!”

  1. Note:

    This comment thread is for the asking of questions to me only — please do not comment on or respond to other people asking questions (the one limited exception is if you have a particular follow-up question to someone else’s question, but even then, please don’t offer commentary on their particular question). Also, please avoid comments that are general comments rather than specific questions to me. In all cases where there is not a specific question to me, I am liable to snip out the comment.

    (Also, of course, I reserve the right to Mallet questions I believe are merely trolling, so if you’re inspired in that direction, fellows, please uninspire yourselves quickly. Note I can generally tell the difference between trolls and people asking difficult questions. Trolls are pretty obvious, no matter how clever they think they are. It’s one of the things that makes them trolls.)


  2. Virtual Reality goggles: cool new thing, or nauseau-inducing fad? Have you had a chance to try a pair yet?

  3. Retirement: We all ride the merry-go-round of life during our careers and at some point many people decide to step off and stop striving. Others ride till they die. What’s retirement mean to you? Do you see yourself and Chrissy living in a condo in FL one day? Or is it write till the end? Or just write in a FL beach house like John D. MacDonald did for a long time? (Although he did pass away in Milwaukee.)

  4. How do you view the stance the Republicans, and the Trumpists have taken on immigration, with aggressive jailing or imprisoning individuals suspected of being in the country illegally?

  5. Would your summer intern be interested in talking about her first year of college?

  6. How did you decide to live in western rural Ohio? I assume you could live just about anywhere, so what sort of criteria and thought processes finally led to that particular location?

  7. Kind of related to Colonel Snuggledorf, but I thought it would be fun to have your daughter write about you. What you’re like to live with? Your most annoying “dad habit”? The one thing you do that embarrasses her the most? I think that could be fun!

  8. I’d like to know your thoughts on two issues.
    The first is, why do you think there is suddenly all the hate-on on trans* rights? For years trans* rights have pretty much flown under the radar, slowly gaining ground and acceptance, why now have they suddenly become the front line on the culture war do you think? And why have the rad-fems and alt!right male supremacists managed to team up on this particular issue?

    The second thing I’d like to ask you, and to be honest it is the far more frivolous issue of: If you were suddenly and magically put in charge of the Transformers movies by a genie’s wish, what changes would you make to the franchise, do you have a favourite character you’d put in the movies (I’d have a Kup movie instead of Bumblebee, personally speaking), and do you even like Transformers enough to have a story to tell for them?

  9. Would you consider doing an update to your now legendary post “I Hate Your Politics”?

  10. When are you going to get a new dog? And will it be an adult or a puppy? Any thoughts on type? (breed, size, hair, etc)

  11. Y’know, I’d phrase a more specific question, but since the ongoing dumpster fire that is the Trump White House is unveiling new depths of awful every day (which by your own admission is too much to keep track of), national politics: what the hell?

  12. Given the attachment we humans tend to have with our pets, how do we rationalize the treating them as commodities, food, or things (rather than beings)?

  13. Comment on modern day progressive’s impact on changing the USA’s culture. Is it too fast? Would progressive desires be better served to tone it down some to allow those to the right of progressives to more slowly come into the fold vs. running up a red flag to oppose the latest progressive outrage?

  14. Here is a fun one:
    You are a Burrito coinsure – please share some of your favorites and what inspired you (besides Wil Wheaton) to create them. :o)

  15. Given the dumpster fire that is American politics, would there ever come point where you would say “that’s it, I can’t take this any more” and pick up and move elsewhere? If so, how bad would it have to get, and where would be your relocation country/city of choice?

  16. Having acquired a new office chair, thoughts on furniture and home interior design generally. Some classic SF writers (Heinlein, Laumer) seemed to prefer stark modern, but glimpses of your abode and one picture I’ve seen of Wil Wheaton’s computer space seem to be strictly mainstream current, slightly 70s, maybe. Is home decor a mutual decision or is it up to the wife? A generational thing?

  17. I think it would be interesting to have you look at what the long-term implications of the actions (and inactions) of the Trump administration may mean for our society at large — especially from the viewpoint of a writer speculating on possible story implications for stories set in the near (or even far) future. What could our lives look like by the end of a two-term Trump administration? Ten years after that? Twenty-five years after that? 100 years after that? Longer, if you think it is warranted or interesting,

  18. Simply as consequence of the way you communicate online, your readers, fans and followers know far more about you than you know about them. It seems inevitable that leads to a bizarre flavor of one-way intimacy. How do you manage interactions with “friends” that you know nothing about? In what ways can we be better fans? Related: Do you remember the first time you were recognized?

  19. What are your thoughts on Science Fiction on television. Are we in a new Golden Age (The Expanse)? Reusing/reinventing old memes (Lost in Space)? Floundering in bad science (Scorpion)? Or moving into myths and legends (Ancient Aliens)? Where are we now and where are we going?

  20. Since you have a college age offspring, how do you and your summer intern view the uncertain future? What to study, how much to spend on an education, the question of college debt, and so on? Or more existential issues like climate change or the state of the country? Staying here vs moving elsewhere? Perhaps you could both contribute your views in these topics? Many families are wrestling with these issues,

  21. This is a follow-on to Van’s question: the Anthropocene presents something of an existential challenge to humanity. I know we like to think of it as a technical rather than moral question, but in truth, it’s a bit of both. What changes do you see needing to happen, in the world and in the US? How do they interface with changing geopolitics?

  22. I found a long time ago that things which seem obvious to me, often aren’t. Since I don’t like feeling like the guy I once talked to on the Mall in DC, who was very clear and sensible about how the Congress was being controlled by alien shape-shifters, I thought I’d ask you what your thoughts are on human tribalism, and why you think that we’re so pig-headed about only our tribalisms being OK. To be clear – I just want confirmation that my particular biases and prejudices are completely normal!
    Also, what do we do about the fact that we’re just jumped-up plains apes with imagination, in a world of self-driving (sort of) cars?

  23. You are obviously a technology geek and enjoy sharing your love of gadgets with your readers – thanks for that – and you write very good reviews of the products you consume. The topic of my question is, being a techy and a futuristic science fiction writer to boot, where do you see technology going in the next twenty years? We didn’t get flying cars by the year 2000 as promised (and won’t for a VERY long time), and seem to be stuck in a cycle of “what more can we do with smart phones” and how can we more thoroughly ruin the Internet?” I feel we should have been further along in the explorations of our solar system by now; Juno and Cassini–Huygens were great and Hubble has opened the Heavens to show us a Universe we could never have imagined, but manned missions beyond the ISS haven’t occurred for decades. Do you think privately owned companies like SpaceX and Virgin Galactic will eventually get us on a new course of discovery or do governments need to start ponying up more funding for space exploration again to give it a boost (pun intended)? As one scifi character said, “These are the things I need to know.”

  24. Do you read nonfiction books/long-form articles/magazines such as The Economist/The Atlantic? If so, is there anything you particularly like/dislike–history, psychology/sociology, science writing, economics, current events? Why those particular topics?

  25. Anyone who’s been here for a while knows the important place dancing has had in your life; tell us more about it. How and where did you learn to dance? Do you do ballroom? How would you characterize your style? Any advice for someone looking to improve?

  26. You’ve made several comments in passing about vet trips and the like (and let me take a slight detour here to wish Sugar an easy recovery), but would you be interested in a full post on Responsible Pet Ownership?

    Though admittedly several issues aren’t going to apply to your specific situation. I can’t imagine leash laws being much of a thing in farm country, for example, while one of Mom’s neighbors is usually in trouble with the townhome association for letting his dogs run loose and poop on everyone else’s yards.

  27. I’d like to know your thoughts about the “Me-too” movement. Is the accusation of bad behavior enough to cause someone to be tossed overboard, or does “innocent until proven guilty” still apply. Where do the rights of the victims to be believed and the rights of the accused to defend themselves come into conflict, and how can this be resolved?

  28. I’m a woman closing in on 40. I don’t have children and I’m starting to think I never will. What are your thoughts on childless marriages (by choice)?

  29. Sort of related to Micheal’s question, but less philosophical.

    You’ve been a creative consultant on one TV show, and have frenemies (James SA Corey, and yes I know it’s mock frenemies) who HAVE a show, and you’ve optioned several titles for TV and movies. I have a process question. The usual answer to, “When will I see this?” is properly, “When you see trailers being sent out and not a second before that.”

    But what are the milestones on the way from your book to the small/large screen? What happens when, and at what point can I start actually getting excited that it might really happen? For example, how serious are casting rumors (since I already know that attaching a director apparently means nothing…)?

    Obviously I’m not asking for NDA covered info about YOUR optioned properties, just a more theoretical, “This is what happens first, then this, then this, then it’s real, then you see it,” list.

  30. Do you foresee a time when we will return to treating each other civilly again? The liberals mock, bash, and attempt to humiliate the conservatives, the conservatives mock, bash, and attempt to humiliate the liberals. Both sides claim the moral high ground, but neither of them acts in a manner reflective of their stated positions. As a moderate, (e.g. libertarian type) I tend to see points on both sides, but find the constant angry rhetoric disgusting and tiresome. Although we don’t always vote the same way, I do enjoy the humor that you employ when writing about politics.

  31. If you could have a superpower, what would it be and why? (And no, wacky burrito creation is not a super power!)

  32. I had a discussion on the topic of Popular media as a form of propaganda. My argument is that while the intent of creating a piece of work isn’t necessarily political, the end result (especially if it’s about state run entities, such as the police) is that it becomes political, just by existing, and that whether its positive or negative propaganda doesn’t matter. The other person disagree, arguing instead, that it was really about intent.

    This person and I were specifically referencing the many, many, years of cop shows on television.

    What do you think? I’d love to hear your view of this.

  33. Which of your four-footed house guests (either current or past) is your “desert-island” companion? Assume abundant food, water, and health for both of you. Who would you happily spend ten years with?

  34. How much time in a given week/month do spend reading other peoples’ work for pleasure (as opposed to reading for the purpose of writing a blurb or other publishing-industry related business)? What kinds of stories (besides your own) will you pick up if given the choice of anything in the world to read? I know some writerly-types are voracious readers and get great enjoyment from seeing what other people’s brains have come up with, while other writers are so focused on getting their own stuff out of their head and onto the page they have zero time or inclination to read for pleasure.

  35. Hypothetical situation: your senator’s office calls you up and says the senator wants your thoughts on what the next bill they write and introduce should be. [No, I don’t know why. Maybe they threw the names of all the senator’s constituents into a (large) hat and drew your name from it as an experiment in “connecting with the people.”] What do you suggest and why?

  36. Does your summer intern find that her college textbooks are still printed items, or are the colleges moving to eTexts? Is she buying new books, used books, renting books, subscribing to eTexts, and/or some other arrangement? What format for materials do college students today actually prefer? I know that the cost of textbooks and other materials is a big component of the college cost issue these days and I am curious

  37. Any thoughts on the Boy Scouts now admitting girls and changing names to “Scouts BSA”?
    Were you or your wife or daughter ever in any scouting program?
    What are the still Girl Scouts to do now that formerly Boy Scouts are accepting girls?
    etc, etc…amplify as you will.

    This is from an Eagle scout who turned in his medal during the “gay in scouts” controversy and stopped participating as an adult leader.
    I am quiet happy the way things have gone in the last five years and have recently asked to get my Eagle back and am planning to get involved again.

  38. What are your thoughts on Incels? While I think the type of guy has been around for always, their organizing and magnifying seems different and concerning.

  39. A lot of your books (maybe most) have at their core a new technology or major change in technology and its effect on people plays out in the story (with technology considered very broadly to take in things like the Dispatching and God Engines as well as the mind transfer of the Old Man’s War series and the threeps from the Lock In series). Given this, it seems you may have thought a lot about how such changes affect societies.

    So my question is, what patterns do you see in human reaction to massive technological change? I’d be interested in reading how you see that in history and in current events, what books you have read that handle it particularly well (or badly), and so on.

  40. Hello –
    What do Democrats owe Nancy Pelosi – DC insider who successfully cosies up to big money and counts noses in the House, and also the woman who ensured passage of Obamacare, correctly assessing that no matter what cost to implement, it would be hard to dislodge? I change my mind every other day on the answer to this!

    Easier – please list the books which influenced you as a youngster and if you think they are worth introducing to today’s youth.
    Enjoy being home!

  41. As an SF fan yourself, are there any works/authors from your youth (thinking 70’s and before) that you would like to see re-introduced to modern audiences. Be it by promotion, re-interpretation (as you did with Fuzzy Nation), or by translation to film or TV. And are there any that given the time(:-)) you would like to be involved with? And perhaps why you think they are worth the effort.

  42. On “not writing for free”. You recently wrote about not writing for free, and I understand and appreciate the post. For people who aspire to write but cannot get their short works accepted anywhere can you offer any insight as to a good way to proceed? Write new things and keep trying? Self-publish the old works through some medium, or post for free in an online arena?

  43. With the increasing intelligence of machines, what do you think will be the effect on capitalism as more and more jobs are replaced by robots, machine learning and other near future tech? Do you think a universal basic income will become necessary?

  44. Something I’ve been thinking about for a while now: What’s the best approach for a college professor trying to accommodate the educational needs of students when those needs might be diverse– that is, the students might have physical or learning disabilities, chronic physical or mental illnesses, or have cultural or religious taboos that make engaging with the class as it is usually presented difficult? Given that professors (especially adjuncts) tend to be over-worked and under-paid, what is reasonable to want or expect from a professor? Or from the administration?

    And at what point is it most reasonable for a student to say, “You know, because of my religion / culture / disability, this class / major / college just isn’t going to work for me, so I’m going to switch”? What factors should go into making that decision– and how soon is giving up too soon?

    I’ve been on both sides– switching my major from Theatre to English because half the classes were just too physically demanding, but pushing for (and getting) permission for more absences than the syllabus grants due to unavoidable medical appointments and illnesses, even when the professor was clearly unhappy about it. Sometimes, though, I wonder if I gave up on the Theatre major too soon?

    Re: religion, I’ve had more than one friend face the situation that to major in Fine Art means taking mandatory nude figure drawing classes with live models, which is against their religious or cultural beliefs. Some switched their majors right away, but some pushed back and were ultimately rejected, and they felt this was prejudiced or discriminatory. This in particular seems to happen every year, and I wonder what your take on it is. Also, would your take change if the requirement were to only look at pictures of nude people as opposed to live models?

  45. What’s it like being a musically inclined writer? (And how is that new guitar working out?)

  46. As a professor of philosophy, I have noted in your bio that you were a philosophy major as an undergraduate. What interested you in philosophy in general? And in particular, what historical period or area of philosophy interested you the most? And finally, how does what you studied influence you today?

  47. What is your take on the concept of cultural appropriation? Are there things that you would feel inappropriate to write about at all because you are what you are and not something else? Or would you just try to approach things that don’t “belong” to your cultural background with care and respect?

  48. Would you be interested to talk a bit about how you learned music and playing? Were you trained in an instrument as a child or did you take it up as an old? Musical family or personal pursuit? Do you read music, know a bit about music theory, etc? How do you approach learning songs, full on sheet music, chord charts, tabs, just by ear…?

  49. I am curious as to how your professional experience affects your perceptions when interacting with creative works. Does your work as a professional film critic affect your engagement with films you watch for non-work-related reasons? How does your experience as a writer inform the ways you look at books you read for pleasure, or video games you play? Can you even tell whether these factors influence your reactions?

  50. Any favorite books that you’ve read that you would re-read if you had the time?

  51. As a retired ER physician I am curious how/when you came across “locked-in syndrome” and how you decided to use it as a basis for your recent near future novels.

  52. If you’re outside in the woods on a nice day, what do you like to do there? Watch birds? Follow trails? Geocaching? Mushroom hunting?

  53. After a few decades of use, you get a chance to write an amazon review for the human body and homo sapien design in general. How many stars would you give it? Any feedback for the manufacturer? Requests for design changes? Whats your least favorite design compromise of being human?

    Too many limbs? Not enough? Blind spot in our eyes? Uncontrollable fight or flight firmware. Knees bend the wrong way? For me, I would say its that we eat and breath through the same passageway and choking to death is a possible problem. Maybe you think the whole opposable thumb thing is overrated and would prefer tentacles. Or wings.

  54. I’d love to read your review/opinion of Star Trek Discovery’s first season

  55. Shortly after Trump’s election/inauguration, the idea was bandied around for a bit that a silver lining to all this nastiness was that we were going to get some great protest art out of it. The immediate rebuttal to this claim was that the Trump era would not in fact be good for art or artists – it’s hard to create art when you’re worried about whether you can afford medical care or whether you’re going to be deported, for example. Have you seen either side of this argument turn out to be true so far, in your opinion and/or experience? For that matter, is there any particular state of society or set of conditions that you feel would foster the growth of great works of art?

  56. You’ve been asked before about the creative process involved with bringing a book to screen and previously commented on how OMW would make a solid film, but with NETFLIX picking up the option for it, do you think a SERIES rather than a movie would be more appropriate? It seems that the slower pace of a series seems more capable of focusing on the characters and world building rather than the shiny things, and I would imagine it enables the story to be told better like it has done for Game of Thrones or Stranger Things so far.
    I ask because I still find myself severely disappointed by what Hollywood did to READY PLAYER ONE, several weeks after seeing it opening night. The lack of character development (Basically all of the High Five were empty shells on screen with no motivation or backstory, which is what made the book so special), the general missing of the 80s/90s vibe (Again, what the story revolved around and it was just thrown like glitter on a dog turd), and the total lack of subtlety in storytelling, a Hollywood favorite it seems. After what Spielberg did to The Lost World, I don’t know why I held any hope for RPO, but I’ve learned. I would hate to see Old Man’s War packed into 90 minutes and make the same apologetic excuse I have to provide people who’ve seen RPO. “Oh…Read the book…There’s a lot that was ummm….Read the book.”
    Maybe there’s a writers mafia of sorts (I’m sure of it) that would balk at you answering this. “OOOooo… Scalzi responded to somebody who called the film adaptation of my book a flaming piece of shit on my elderly neighbor’s rotting front porch. No Christmas card for him this year!” I imagine though, that as the originator of the idea, you wouldn’t want to see your idea become a laughing stock like akin to the Hasbro Hollywood ventures. Sure, they made some money, and though GI JOE, Transformers, and Battleship would probably never cross the intellectual threshold of greatness, I always wonder at the price tag attached to one’s dignity when he/she can sit through 120 minutes of filth, put on a fake smile, and hide his intelligence behind a false smile and proclaim happiness with the adaptation. Stranger Things and Game of Thrones put NETFLIX and HBO back on a lot of people’s radar, and the water cooler hasn’t mentioned Battleship in quite a while.

    Also, can we petition to get John Krasinski be involved? That dude absolutely MURDERED it this year with A Quiet Place.

  57. I didn’t see this in your list of topics, but if it’s already been asked, I apologize. As a librarian, I’m always interested in books that turned people into readers. So, I ask you, what was the book that made you love reading? Why was it so special? Also, what are you reading now?

  58. What do you imagine Threeps look like? Anthropomorphic like C3PO or more functional like Wall-E or R2D2? I always thought of them as more functional than human looking, but Head-On made me realize they had a head, or at least some of them do. How can the ‘tank’ threep playing Hilketa have the head removed if they are designated the ‘goat’?, a tank wouldn’t have a head at all would they (maybe a turret)? Has an artist ever drawn some models for you?

  59. I actually have a question for your summer intern, Athena. Since she is working on the blog, I think it would be interesting to hear her response to questions too. If you don’t agree, just delete this comment and move on. No offense taken!

    I grew up as the child of a well-known (at least locally in Seattle) person. Now that I am in my 70s, I can look back on my childhood and see many ways in which it affected how I grew up.

    My question for Athena is how has having a well-known writer as a father influenced her childhood? What have been the benefits, and what have been the downsides? Has it affected your interactions with other people, friends, and teachers? Inquiring minds want to know.

  60. Would you give us your thoughts on the privatization of space exploration.

  61. Are there any books you grew up reading that you would like to see made into movies or tv series, assuming a competent screen writer and director?

  62. You said questions to you, but what about a bonus one to Athena since she’s now working on this blog? If the answer is no, please snip the rest of this out.

    What is it like working as an Intern for your Dad, especially on a public platform such as this, are there pressures involved, and do you have any moments where one of you says something like e.g. ‘what are you doing playing with the cat, shouldn’t you be working’? Are you hoping to develop as a writer, make a career out of it, and one day surpass him? I appreciate it might be too early in the Internship to answer this/may be too personal.

  63. The current Trump meltdown over the Stormy Daniels payment, the Michael Cohen records seizure, and the Mueller investigation makes me happy. Yet that joy’s tempered by the realization that assuming Trump bails from the Presidency (a long shot given his “either you dominate or you’re dominated” personality), America will have a President Pence. Federal court nomination power given to a man who’s a far right Christian authoritarian worries me. So do you have any advice for maintaining hope given the awful dumpster fire of continued life under insane Republican presidencies?

  64. Of the various types of apocalypses that are widely, or wildly for that matter, written about these days, (Zombie, Plague, EMP, Alien Invasion, ETC) which do you think you would survive and handle the best, What would your game plan be for each? Which celebrity or celebrities would you like in your survival group?

  65. I didn’t see this among previous topics.
    Once you have a few pitches ready, how does one go about trying to get repped?

  66. I would love to hear your take on the pros and cons of boycotts — against individuals and against corporations. For a boycott to be effective, does it need to be loudly and repeatedly announced, or is a quiet “I just don’t spend money there” a better strategy? If there isn’t a lot of publicity, is it really a boycott? Are there common tactics used in boycotts that have especially negative or positive implications?

  67. How would you change Twitter or Facebook or other social media if you could?

  68. How are you and Krissy dealing with being empty nesters? Does Athena have any thoughts on being a returned empty nestee?.

  69. Why Ohio? Not knocking Ohio, just wondering why there and not, say, Montana or Alabama.

    Related. Being a reformed Californian, how did you learn to deal with the snow and Ohio winters in general?

    FWIW, born and raised in San Diego, still here 60 years later.

  70. You’ve mentioned different conversations that you’ve had with people regarding not giving a gender to Chris Shane in Lock In or Head On and how people have assigned Chris a different gender in their own minds (male/female/gender fluid). Another author that I enjoy, A. Lee Martinez, recently posted on his blog that he regrets not assigning race to some of his characters in his books, as people seem to picture them in their head as the default of white and this is contrary to how intended to write them. What are your thoughts on this as it seems to be contrary to your experience? Here is a link to the blog post for your reference:

  71. Parenting: As a parent of a college aged child, what do you wish you could go back in time and tell your younger self about parenting when your child was 1-10?

  72. Topic: Books you loved in your youth – those that hold up to rereads today and those that don’t. Specifically, why many don’t, and why many do.

  73. Music is another of life’s great pleasures, and you clearly enjoy both the listening to and making of music. Among today’s music creators, who do you think will have the kind of enduring status of Beethoven, Bach, Mozart etc. And why will those musicians be remembered for centuries? Thanks! It’s always a pleasure reading your responses to whichever questions you choose to answer.

  74. Hi John,
    I worry sometimes that I am creating an echo chamber for myself with the friends I cultivate and the news feeds that I follow. While it is comforting to know other people share my views, I worry sometimes that the change I want to happen might not be grounded by reality.
    At the same time, I don’t want to feel like I’m already defeated when people are saying of any given change “it can’t be done”.
    Do you have any thoughts or suggestions you could please share?

  75. Prophecy is something that I’ve come to question in Sci-Fi writing lately. When first exposed to prophecy, I digested it whole and took the idea at face value, but lately I’ve come to question the very nature of prophecy and the intention of prophets. Is it possible that prophets are only capable of seeing what might happen among a sea of possibilities, and thus casting a prophecy is a way of guiding the future towards something that the prophet wants to happen? This is similar to the idea of free will vs predestination, but with the added twist that through the right wording, a prophet can create a situation that is more likely to happen vs something that is set in stone.

  76. Artificial Intelligence.
    Some people are worried by it, some welcome it.
    And there are some people hyping fancy computer programmes as AI.
    Using your call from the doctor re cholesterol. Had you spoken to a computer generated voice would that be AI? (I believe not). What then if it had produced that final line of conversation about not eating a whole lot of butter?
    What would you define as AI? Is there a line or is it a big grey area?

  77. You have been given the opportunity to amend the constitution. Your amendment is limited to a single subject, and will take effect at a date you specify.

    Assume, for purposes of this hypothetical, that the general rules governing constitutional amendments will still apply after your amendment becomes law. That being so, if your amendment proves wildly unpopular, then it would presumably suffer the fate of the 18th Amendment and be short-lived.

    What is Amendment XVIII to the United States Constitution?

  78. Will Hollywood ever grow a pair and stop milking old properties over and over? Batman, Spidey, Superman, Star Trek, Lost in Space (!), Hulk… Did they really need 25 years to get Ender’s Game on the big screen? What’s next, a remake of M*A*S*H* ?

  79. I just skimmed parts of the list, and I’m loving a lot of these questions, so I am hesitant to add one, especially a convoluted one. But I’d be interested, so!

    Regarding the oft-made argument “if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen”: In cases where the “heat” is differential or inappropriate (racist or misogynist or etc. industries that expect people to just “be cool” with situations ranging from uncomfortable to horrible), how can we successfully work on three fronts there, 1. against the people who are deliberately holding blowtorches to people while spouting that, 2. against the general racist/misogynist/otherwise-bad cultural elements that make it unnecessarily and differentially harder for specific kinds of people in certain career choices, and 3. for those who *can* just barely cope that heat, yea, even unto the blowtorches, staying in there without burning out in a variety of ways.

  80. I’d like to ask for a follow-up on one of last year’s posts. In Reader Request Week 2017 #5: Remembering Dreams, you mentioned that you’re a lucid dreamer. Could you please tell us more about this? Have you always been a lucid dreamer? If not, how did you become one? Do you have any advice for people who want to become lucid dreamers?

  81. How important is the “community” aspect of Whatever to you? Related: have you ever considered implementing any sort of open thread scenario where people can talk about… well, whatever?

  82. Tesla, Elon Musk, and Saving The World with big batteries and cheap(er) space travel. And cool (non-flying, damn, cars.) Given a chance to take the helm, maybe redirect a few things (or not), what would you do with this technological/manufacturing empire? Besides making Athena VP.

  83. Tattoos in your immediate family! Valid self-expression protected by the first amendment, or “OMG what were you thinking, how are you going to find a job like that?” Bonus question: cute or non-cute?

  84. Blah, blah, incels, blah blah sex, blah Ross Douthat (ugh!), blah blah women are wicked, etc. Please expound. Bonus question: are the incels really just channelling the Doors’ “People Are Strange” 50 years after the fact? What does that say about their originality?

  85. Should one be civil to those people who are not civil to you? Obviously, we should not normally be assholes, but is being an asshole a justified response to an asshole? What about if someone is being an asshole to others, what do we do?

    I hear a lot of calls for political civility. The ones by people who have already thrown stones aren’t so interesting. But I do wonder about self proclaimed moderates who just want both parties not to be so divisive regardless of any other policies.. How do you view those desires?

    Should people who disagree with Trump treat him with civility? Do we owe it to his followers? Should we go after those who are uncivil regardless of whether they “started it” or not? Is it a moral or rhetorical choice?

    Does one stance on civility depend on whether one is in the process of being marginalized? Ie are straight people more demanding of civility when it comes to LGBT issues, are white people more demanding of civility on racial ones, are men more demanding than women on gender issues?

    This is less a question of what others owe you, than what you feel is owed others.

  86. There’s a lot of these, but…
    Following up on your 2015 Reader Request “Me and Republicans” – wtf is going on with the GOP and do you still get along with your predominantly GOP-neighbors? In particular *SPOILER ALERT*

    your latest novel Head-on trended into areas that seemed straight from the newspapers when it went into corruption, Russian money laundering, and paying a “respectable” U.S. business for the seeming of legitimacy. I haven’t seen dystopic writing so closely mirror real life since 1948.

    Based on what I’ve read your politics sound pretty close to mine – I describe myself as a Hamiltonian or Roosevelt Republican, and I find it abhorrent that Zinke uses the same term so hypocritically. In the scheme of things, this is a minor horror these days. So – could you please update your “Me and Republicans” post from 3 years ago?

  87. This is somewhat related to your Will Humans Survive question of a couple of years ago. Do you believe physics (or anything) holds the possibility of us ever being able to escape the solar system in such a way as to colonize or travel between the stars, or is all this SF that is written and consumed by us readers just pretty much fantasy? Einstein just shot a lot of our hopes all to hell.

  88. Privacy In A Ramble

    Is privacy a permeable barrier? How does it differ for someone famous — whether actress or singer or athlete — in regards to the public? Does being ‘famous’ carry with it any expectations that allow for a certain level of “if you didn’t want this, why are you doing what you’re doing”? Or is that just another way to say “look at what (s)he’s wearing”? If there are expectations that preclude some of the frustrations a famous-person might feel, how does that intersect with the internet’s ability to make anyone famous for 15 minutes?


  89. In today’s “Jacked-in” society and its seemingly never ending security breeches; (Twitter’s announcement today, Facebook’s ongoing issues, etc, etc, etc.) What do you do to keep yourself and family safe and what would it take for you to drop a service such as twitter or Google? I use those two; since as you say, you are fully ensconced.

  90. Lock In featured a legally married gay couple. Then the Supreme Court made it a reality.

    Head On features the Washington Redhawks.

    If DC’s NFL team does change its name, thereby making another of your prophecies come true, how will you use your newfound power in a third book?

  91. I really admire your cat photos and struggle with taking photos of my cats with my cell phone camera. They always close their eyes with the flash. What tips can you give aspiring cat photographers?

  92. Do you think about mortality frequently or do you try to put it out of your mind? Do you think it’s better to ignore it or jam pack as much as you can into every minute with one eye on the clock?

  93. You got very lucky to go to a private high school which pushed and prepared you for the University of Chicago.
    What are the strengths of Athena’s school system and what do you wish it could improve? How would you improve it?

    I hope that Athena writes her own response on a question of her choice.

  94. Does it seem to you that consciousness of Robert Heinlein as a singularly influential SF writer has precipitously faded in the past several years? (Not that this would be a surprise, as the 30th anniversary of his death is next week.)

  95. Professional wrestling as physical storytelling! What do you know of past storylines in wrestling on which you might speak? What do you think of the story that the members of Bullet Club have told for the past year-point-five in New Japan Pro Wrestling, Ring of Honor, and the YouTube series “Being The Elite”? (There are many, many recap and highlight videos available if you decide this rabbit hole is a novel leap.)

    In a far broader sense, what do you think of professional wrestling’s combination of storytelling, theater in the round, and practiced athleticism?

  96. As an old school DM, as in, back in the days when it was still harshly whispered in near horror by parents “dungeon master”, I have what’s known as the “bonk die.” Short story form is that the bonk die was originally a 30 sided die that would get thrown at a player for doing something entirely stupid/annoying/endangering to the party. In the military, I got the bonk die Rock after one of the players chucked his at me. I was running a 20 player table top (side note: DON’T EVER run a 20 player table top unless you Want to have your last shred of sanity sucked away and learn new and interestingly creative ways to eloquently abuse just about Every spoken language… And booze.. Oh the booze… You could snort moonshine after that with a straight face.)

    Do you have something like that? Hell, do you even still Run?? Or do you prefer a version of the Mallet?

    Lastly, could you autograph my bonk die rock??

  97. I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts on the near-term effects of automation on jobs — if you’re one of those people who thinks that plenty of new job opportunities will be created, or that we’re looking at a fundamental change in society where the majority of humans will eventually be superfluous to the economic machine in a few decades.

  98. Hi John,
    How do you think class differences (income inequality and such) can be addresses through sci-fi writing? Do you see the 1% being something that needs to be more addressed within sci-fi? One of the things that comes to mind is the ability of the 1% to shape humanity’s future in space/other planets while the other 99% might not. Do you think that as a sci-fi writer with a wide audience, in an era where most of the world’s wealth is being consolidated in a very small percentage of the poplulation, you have a responsibility to address this? And if so, is there a way you go about doing that?
    Thanks so much for sharing your writings and thoughts with the world. <3

  99. You did an interview at your local library a while back, saying there was a question that you wished people asked you more. If I recall rightly, you wanted to be asked _not_ where you get your ideas from, but rather how you filter out the bad ones.

    How do you decide which projects to pursue, and which to quietly shelve for now?

  100. I’m curious about your ‘public speaking’ role. I know you have representation and are available for events. I would like to know things like what advice do you have for other folk who don’t do much public speaking? Do you have any formal training? Why should somebody pay to hear you speak? What’s the difference between writing your own speech and hiring a speechwriter? Have you ever written somebody else’s speech? Do you write out your entire presentation or just have an outline?

    While I can find plenty of writing entries on here, even the convention entries lack this kind of detail.

  101. I asked it (in context!) a few months ago on twitter! Top 5 man crushes!!

  102. You’ve spoken before about education but could you speak more about the impact a teacher or mentor in education made on you. Perhaps the role of mentors in successfully making transitions, setting high expectations for you and providing support when family may not be able etc.

  103. I watched your travel schedule unfold on Whatever and was struck by the variety of cities and venues where you appeared for Head On. I’ve wondered…are authors in charge of appearance scheduling for their latest publication or are book appearances managed by the publisher?

  104. Do you think human’s will ever colonize our solar system? Elon Musk wants to go to Mars, but populating that planet or putting up a space station in the asteroid belt like in the Expanse is a whole ‘nother level of investing in our species. Do you think we’ll ever get there?

  105. We recently lost one of our fur-kids, a cat named Cindy. She was 17 years old. We will likely adopt another mature cat at some time but not soon. I know that you suffered your own loss this year. Do you think you might restore the dog population in your family?

  106. You do a lot and wear a lot of hats as an author – books, the blog, op-ed pieces, and then there is the whole promotional aspect of book tours, interviews and such. Not to mention working with a variety of agents for TV and movie development. How do you stay organized? Do you have a system, are you just a naturally detail-oriented person or do you have organization tools? While I know there is some ‘poetic license’ with your comments on staying in your robe all day, I get the sense that those days are very, very busy. So I guess the question is how do you stay on task? How do you keep all the plates spinning and balls in the air and such?

  107. What are your thoughts on public education funding? What are your thoughts on recent teacher walkouts in multiple states? And, any general thoughts regarding public vs. private education?

    For context, I am an educator in a Title I public high school in Phoenix, AZ. Recently we had a statewide walkout in an effort to restore funding for public schools that has been declining in this state for the last ten years. We are not the first state to do so and rumors suggest other states will soon follow. The majority (pretty much all, actually) of my social contacts are educators or spouses/relatives of educators. I am curious to hear the perspective of someone not directly connected to the education profession.

  108. Hi John, I met you last year at Penguicon in Detroit. I was excited to see you because you are one of my favorite authors. I follow your blog, and we have exchanged thoughts via DM a couple of times. I sat in the front at your reading, eager to get a photo and a book inscription following, which I did. However, afterwards, in thinking about that, I realized that I may have stepped out of the bounds of how the fan interaction is supposed to work. After all, following your reading was not a designated time for photos and autographs. I sort swooped in and put you on the spot, and you were very gracious. A few others did the same, so I was not alone, and yet… I see you wrote about how to be a fan a few years ago, but it does not look like you addressed the way we have fans approach you in public and respect your boundaries and personal space at conventions, signings, or even if we were to run into you at the local churros and burrito emporium. Could you respond with thoughts on being a fan in regards to interactions and public appearances?

  109. Colonel Snuggledorf, “Would your summer intern be interested in talking about her first year of college?”

    Along those lines, would your summer intern be interested in talking about growing up in the semi-public eye of Whatever?

  110. This question would invite all sorts of dumbshittery, I get that, but: how do you suppose a cottage industry in attacking you for being ‘far left’ became a thing?
    There are actual far left authors they could go after, it’s not like Steven Brust or China Mieville aren’t outspoken.

  111. Have you ever considered appearing on either Celebrity Jeopardy! or Dancing With the Stars? (Please say yes.) I’ll bet that if you dropped a few hints, it could happen. I would certainly watch!

  112. Do you have a “Worst Best” or “Best Worst” of anything? To use film as an example, I don’t mean that Plan 9 From Outer Space is “the worst film, but so the best because it’s hilarious.” I mean in the sense of “Something everyone thought was great/terrible, but was terrible/great in its actual real life effects.”

    For 7 decades, D.W. Griffith’s “Birth of a Nation” was considered a Great Movie. It invented the close-up! But it led to a resurgence of the KKK and the waves of lynchings in the 1920s and 30s. Herr Goebbels’ “Kohlberg” was the Nazi “Gone With the Wind” (another racist movie considered “great”). It was a really bad movie, but it used an entire Wehrmacht division’s worth of troops, gunpowder, fuel, Napoleonic uniforms, etc. If it hadn’t been made, the war would’ve lasted maybe only a day or even an hour longer, but with that many more dead. To me, “Nation” is the “Best at being the worst in real life” movie made, and “Kohlberg” the Worst at being the best.
    Anything you can think of like that, especially in science fiction?

  113. Hi John –

    So, there is an entire genre of “what I’d tell my younger self.” But what if we flipped that to ask “What would I tell my older self?” Assuming that people our age (you and I are both nearing 50, I think) have attained some sort of wisdom (not convinced, but I’m going with it), and putting aside the obvious answer that your future self will be wiser (I’ve no doubt he will be), what would you want to say that 80-year-old John Scalzi might want to hear/remember? (I am assuming you are living to 100, b/c I don’t want to stop getting new books from you * grin *)

  114. It seems to me that the most important consequence of the Trump era will be the foreign policy area and the relationships we have with our trading partners. I’d enjoy your take on what you think will be the norms in this area four years after Trump leaves office.

  115. You consistently use “sooner than later” instead of “sooner rather than later.” I’m assuming that this is a conscious choice. When did you start this and why? I Googled the question and both are “acceptable,” but I’ll admit that it drives me nuts and, at least momentarily, diverts my attention from the story.

  116. I guess because I always find your opinions on movies to be interesting and insightful: Thoughts on Denis Villeneuve taking a stab at Dune? Excited or apathetic? Are you a Dune fanboi? I don’t recall you mentioning it in the past.

    And bonus quick answer question while we’re on the subject: Lynch’s Dune adaptation, unwatchable mess or misunderstood classic?

  117. What are you thoughts on how much more it seems like we’re just dividing into camps for what we believe and (sometimes) being very puritanical about those in our own camp believing pretty much exactly the same as us.As well as thinking that those outside are WRONG.

    And, it’d be easy to think I’m talking about politics and social justice issues. And that’s part of it. But it’s also when people brigade on a gaming critic for not given their favourite game a 10/10. Or being a DC fan and HATING Marvel.

    Is it really worse, or does it just seem worse because of the internet?

    Related to that, I am fearful of what I see as ever growing divisions in our culture. Like a few I mentioned above. And it does frighten me. I feel like we’re losing our ability to agree to disagree. And that when we disagree we seem incapable of ascribing anything good to those we’re disagreeing with. Even, (it seems) just basic human respect.

  118. I note that you and your family have had several pets over the years. Which one is/was your favorite and why? How about Chrissy and Athena’s fav?

  119. Do you have a favorite colored sound? And if you do, what flavor would it be? Just kidding, move along.

  120. Fantasy cast one of your favourite reads were it to be made into a film or TV series.

    If you could have a sit down with any 6 people, living or dead, who would you choose and why?

  121. Rudolph Giuliani is the Criminologist from Rocky Horror. Discuss. Starting point: Got no neck.

  122. Blackstone’s formulation: “It is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer”. Do you agree?

  123. SETI: In light of your perspectives on both astronomy and SF, what’s your take on the Fermi Paradox? Is there non-human intelligent life (however you define it) somewhere else in the universe?

  124. Athena seems to be a pretty successful human (jr. division). Please share tips, fears, etc. I’m always fascinated by the male perspective in childrearing (or as I said once when interviewing someone, “Children: threat or menace?”)

  125. We’ve had a lot of talk about AI in real-life, but what about AI in fiction? Is it more believable to present them as the hyper-rational beings like in classic Sci-Fi? Or as the weird goofballs today (see Microsoft’s Tay project)? How would an author describe the processes in neural networks and support vector machines that’s understandable to the audience, but also accurate?

  126. How much do you delve into the current understanding of the physics and technical aspects of the technology/science that you write about? Is it mainly a prop/background to grow a story around, or do you spend lots of time with scientists and experts to understand what is at least plausible? Relatedly, where do you get the inspiration for the technology/science used within your novels?

  127. Parenting: What was your reasoning and thoughts behind how you spent recreation time with your daughter? How did you balance the activities that you enjoyed vs those you know she enjoyed (or did you always shoot for common ground)? Did you prioritize teaching moments, maximized fun, time?

  128. The Singularity:
    A) Any day now (relatively speaking)
    B) Yeah but not for a thousand years (relatively speaking)
    C) No such thing, change will be faster, but not unpredictably fast
    D) Yes, but it will be the Singularities
    E) None of the above
    Show your work.

  129. What do you think about comic books? Superhero—Comics as literature (Drawn & Quarterly and Fantagraphics)—Underground (Robert Crumb, Justin Green, Art Spiegelman —there’s overlap here I know). Would you consider working with an artist to make a comic?

  130. What opinion do you have or belief that you hold diametrically opposes virtually everybody else? Or, in what thing is everybody else wrong but you are right?

  131. Mister Husband and I have every cable channel god ever created, and, having no cash left, spend a great deal of our time watching stuff including BBC nature specials. It’s common, however, to finish admiring the lava-temp steam-eating tube-worms on the bottom of the sea, the itsy-bitsy crabs schmoozing under their ceiling of Antarctic ice, or the hardy desert Whatever Lizards (Jeezis, forty snakes chasing one freaked-out little iguana out there!), only to tune to news, another nature special, or even a feature on astronomy and hear “But it’s 100 degrees below zero, and so no life could ever be found there.” Or there isn’t enough oxygen, or the taco trucks really suck on that planet…criteria that wouldn’t even rule out the LizardFishWorms I just got done admiring in real-life HD. So: what’s YOUR take on the limits of life, preferably in the form of sentient beings? Could those crabs be lurking inside Enceladus? Are there taco trucks on the hot side of Mercury, or Kepler-90i?

  132. Serious questions:

    1) Hair: at what point (perhaps a movie syndicated deal) will you switch into full Bezos mode and just shave it all off (but keep facial hair)? When oh when will you do the decent thing and pull a full Patrick? There are many interested shippers placing bets as we speak (apologies to the love of your life, but ‘look, don’t touch’ is still a legitimate thing).

    2) Nature. When was the last time you hugged a tree? Fondled some earthy loam? Those 5 acres of grass (barring the Matrix style square patch that hasn’t been patched and has random tiny weeds) is. Just. Too. English. Please plant some trees there. A couple of bushes? Something. A small rockery with a fountain?

    3) Are you actually a spy? Mexico is asking. So is Canada. Russian botfarms are confused. China actually has started translating your works to figure out the codes. No, really: you have an entire Shadow-Realm confused. It’s like the anti-Trump diplomacy game afoot. (*cough* English Boarding Schools? Quite the tip of the hat *cough*).

    4) Furries and Texas: your stance on the Fringe riding Valkyrie style into the Mainstream?[0] You kinda flirted with it with the Devil PR make-up job… but are you ready for the really Wild THINGS to X-fertilize your Time-Line? (You’re probably ok, no worries).

    5) Spandex & Fashion: where will 21st C take us all? You’ve chosen the classic (BRITISH) bathrobe & towel, but…





    Disclaimer: we’re fully aware that Host does a lot to support the community and younger peoples, the seriousness of the question is hidden in a deep mine of respect.

    [0] Please look into this, it’s brilliantly funny.

    [1] Student debt, house prices etc etc etc – Athena is somewhat cushioned by having noble parents, many Americans are not so fortunate. Oh, and most of your Senators / Judges are like 70+ which is just b-r-o-k-e-n.

    [2] Not really.

  133. This is, I’ll admit up front, a writing question, but one that has nothing to do with the writing process, per se, and it probably is applicable to plenty of other creative processes. The question is this:

    Writing is a largely (almost entirely) sedentary task. Even things like standing desks only alleviate this problem, without solving it. Writing is also a task that involves staring at a bright screen for long periods of time, sometimes long after most people have gone to bed. For most people, that’s not a super healthy lifestyle.

    What do you, Hugo-winning author John Scalzi (see how I’m sucking up there to counteract the writing question handicap?), do to stay healthy? If you have a diet and exercise regimen, what does it look like? And, if you’re comfortable discussing them, what health issues do you live with which you can attribute to spending a chunk of your life sitting down and typing, and in retrospect, how could these have been avoided?

    All of this to say: how do you make writing not kill you?

    (full disclosure: I am an unpublished novelist with some chronic pain issues, so I most assuredly have a horse in the race with this question)

  134. [Deleted per notation that this thread is for questions only, not commentary – JS]

  135. What is your favorite tool and do you have a reason why? Mine is my Estwing straight claw finish hammer. My father worked construction when I was young and swore by them. He also always told me to never set foot on a roof without a straight claw hammer. Because if you start sliding off you have a chance of punching through the sheathing and save yourself. Not so much with a curved claw hammer. So whenever I use it I’ll think of my Dad and I’ll also think of all the other projects I’ve done with it. Plus it really is a nice hammer.

  136. Re your post last year about millenials. Should we just start killing off the boomers? What is your stance on euthanasia? We have it here in Oregon but no one seems to notice. I feel sorry for the millennial since they inherited so much shot from us boomers. Maybe we need to stop living so long.

  137. Have you found yourself transitioning in the genre or type and style in the books you read? If so, when did you notice it and why did it happen?

  138. Have you seen James Cameron’s “The story of Science Fiction”? Care to comment? If you have not he makes a point early on that all Sci-Fi comes from authors who are angry with something in their current society. Want to riff on that statement?

  139. Is there any period of history that interests you and you keep coming back to? Would you ever write an alternate history novel based upon that or any other period?

  140. In your review of Avengers: Infinity War , you commented on the lack of main characters that are going to stay dead. You attributed this to corporate greed, should film makers and authors ignore the fans and just remove or change characters at will?

  141. Would you consider writing Big Idea posts about your own books? And why or why not?

  142. John,

    Two questions.

    1) I adore your smartass daughter, and the visible side of your relationship.You guys seem to have real respect for each other in the right ways. Any parenting advice?

    2) What made you become the kind of cis-white-het male who fearless wears dresses, and can explain the lowest difficulty setting to other men?

  143. Do you regularly read any political writers or pundits that would broadly be considered conservative? If so, what about them do you enjoy – or at least find worthwhile?

  144. Heat death of the universe:
    For or against?
    A plot by liberals to suck all the joy out of life or proof of the pointlessness of recycling?

  145. I had the experience of seeing Da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi in a bright sunlit room with less than ten people just before its auction…. Has there been some visual work of art that left you speechless?

  146. What over-looked ‘classic’ work of SF would you like to see updated and made into a Hollywood blockbuster? (And please don’t say ‘Foundation’!)

  147. Here’s a real weird one:
    I think that the whole future of our society hinges on how hard we bite into the nature, vs the nurture perspective of ourselves. Can you please, please make a compelling argument for why I am wrong?

    Really, I would very much like to stop feeling like I understand something so very important – but am still powerless to enact any meaningful change.

  148. Would you rather fight one horse-sized duck or one hundred duck-sized horses?

  149. What media do you have an incredible amount of nostalgia for? Any good story behind that?

    For example, for me it is Jurassic Park. I had just moved to a new country a few months before the book came out. I had no friends. Strange new school and location.

    I was a huge dinosaur nerd. I was reading the novel in camp and another kid came up to me and we bonded strongly over the book. We spent the entire summer reading the book to each other chapter by chapter. Then the movie came out and we saw it together. I must have seen it with him (and by myself) at least ten times in the theaters. To this day I make it an important event to read the book each summer and watch the movie afterward.

    To this day I love the book and movie. It is one of those things that no matter how down I am, will always bring me a smile.

  150. I first read Old Man’s War around the same time I read Accelerando (by Charlie Stross). Both books involved the transfer of consciousness. But where Accelerando treats consciousness transfer as a copy operation, OMW treats it as a transfer. This raises questions on the nature of consciousness and, in particular, dualism. Given what I know of your world view, you’re no dualist — but obviously free to posit whatever for a work of fiction.

    Anyway. Accelerando‘s approach sidesteps any consideration of duality; OMG‘s approach does not. Some of the “old farts”, including JP himself, were (or so it seems to me) people who would’ve been inclined to at least consider the question, but as far as I can recall, that subject never came up.

    Do you have any thoughts on that subject? Copy vs. transfer, as well as your literary treatment?

  151. A procedural crime thriller that is hinged on a trash-chair swap in front of a notable authors home. Or, a paranormal horror that involves a trash-chair swap in front of a notable authors home. Or, a bleak but lovely literary piece that hinges on a trash-chair swap in front of a notable authors home. Or, a dystopian warning tale involving a trash-chair swap in front of a notable authors home.

  152. Short version: If you were to set a SciFi story in the near-mid future (e.g. 30-40 years) and if you felt the need to justify why the world was still understandable enough to be a useful and entertaining setting, how would you do that?

    Longer version:

    I prefer good SciFi over good Fantasy, and hard SciFi over soft, and mid term (20-100 years) over any other time setting. Unfortunately, right now I’m not sure it’s possible to write that kind of fiction in a way that doesn’t strain my suspension-of-disbelief ability past the breaking point. The biggest issue for me is that I see some kind of intelligence explosion as inevitable with unpredictable (at best) results. There are numerous other issues, though. For example, if, a few years ago I’d been reading an excellent book that otherwise met all my criteria, but was set in the actual reality we’re living in, I don’t know if I would even finish reading it (which is rare for me, no matter how bad a book is).

    Vernor Vinge’s Zones of Thought is one example of at least handwaving away the problem.
    Charlie Stross’s Accelerando is an example of trying to write the strangeness itself.
    Ramez Naan’s Nexus trilogy is an example where some other tech (neural interfaces) became so big that it, to some extent, sidelined or delayed AI research.

  153. My partner and I recently moved to Ohio. In the past few months, one of our neighbors has twice attempted to give us “brand new” mattresses. We accepted the first one and were disappointed that we seem to have differing opinions on what a brand new mattress should look like (there were far too many stains to match my idea of a new anything). And so, I must ask: a) Do Ohioans frequently offer new neighbors mattresses? 2) Do Ohioans not know what new mattresses should look like? c) Where is my neighbor getting these mattresses?

  154. Hi there Mr. Scalzi, long-time lurker here.
    I’m a middle-aged white woman- reasonable comfortably off with some resources in case of bad times, but by no means independently wealthy. That bit was just for some background.

    Every day I am increasingly incensed by the outlandish evidence of the hatred against brown people by too many of my fellow Americans. I am at a total loss as to how to impact on this in any truly helpful way. I vote. I speak up against racism when I hear it. I live by the Golden Rule and raised my kids that way. What can really be done to effect positive change?

  155. What would you do if you came to [what seemed to you to be] a well-reasoned, {good, objective, evidence}-based conclusion whose public expression you thought would likely seriously damage your standing among those who held you in esteem, or bought your books, or whose affection mattered to you?


  156. What new/upcoming/theoretical science and technology excites you? Gives you apprehension? Scares you? That you think is silly?

  157. What is Twitter to you?

    For us who follow you its a fun way to interact with someone we wouldnt have accesses to otherwise and since you post quiet freely about whatever we also get glimpses at the man behind the name.

    But what does it look like from the other side?
    Are you naturally inclined to pick up and dive into new technologies?
    Are there any major downsides? (people boycotting your work because they dont like what you post/mass trolling/other).
    How do you work with the plattform? Do you reserve timeslots for Twitter or is it running in the background all the time anyway and you check in whenever? How much time do you spend on it daily (ca)?
    Are there some posts/topics you try to avoid reading/retweeting/writting about?

    I hope i didnt repeat to many questions that where already asked ☺.

  158. What are your thoughts on hunting? I know from previous articles you have mentioned you shoot both bow and gun. I hunt with bow and rifle, and believe that properly regulated hunting is the best conservation tool of all.

  159. I noticed that you lived in Fresno CA and was wondering when, and why??? What did you think of it and do you miss anything about it? I ask because I grew up there and moved away close to 20 years ago. The only things I miss are my sister (who for some reason still lives there) and Fancy Burritos from Sal’s.

  160. How far left / liberal (and on which particular topics) is too far left / liberal, in your opinion? At what point are you like, woah, back up and bring in some perspective here?

    Have you started feeling the pinch of sandwich-generation-ness, and how are you dealing with it if so? (I’m a newbie in the gen and looking for handy hints – practical or mindset type, anything helps).

    What are your thoughts on end of life assisted suicide? What’s your backup for your opinion? (So I can totally use them if they make sense, or consider them if they differ from mine. It seems so obvious to me that I do not even know how to discuss with other side here.)

  161. I recently saw someone post something on Reddit about Karen Decrow where they had a quote from her saying that men should be able to legally surrender parental responsibility (there would obviously have to be restrictions). The argument being that women have the choice to unilaterally decide whether they want a baby or not but men have no say (in terms of whether to keep it or not) in some cases yet are still responsible for 18yrs of support. It prompted some debate and I’m interested to here what you have to say. On the one hand I see what she means in that women have the choice to get an abortion when men can’t decide to stop a pregnancy. On the other hand, you know, responsibility for your actions. I found an article on Karen here with more info if you are interested:

  162. What are your religious beliefs and how do they influence your writing?

  163. What is the deal with Cthulu (non-sequitur parenthetical?)

    I mean, I don’t expect you to necessarily have insight into their personal situation, but what is the point of posting bizarre and elliptical tracts? I see the outline of a point in their rants, but it is right at the edge of being completely nonsensical, and often crosses over. Why do this rather than contribute meaningfully to the discussion?

    I see others question Cthulu’s continued posting privilege, but I don’t know that I’ve seen an answer. I assume many do as I do most of the time, scrolling past without reading. So maybe there is little cost to their continued posting.

    I guess the question really is, why provide a platform for them on Whatever? What do you feel is gained by having their observations?

  164. Have you seen the Molly Crabapple video for the Chainsmokers? What do you think of it – I believe she did a cover for one of your books?

    Also, what Nat Mund asked about Cthulu – they’re a waste of pixels, I just scroll past, if they have something to say, say it, don’t hint at a bunch of conspiracy-tinged wingnuttery garbage.

  165. How much (if at all) should an artist’s political beliefs impact on an audience’s desire to enjoy the artist’s work? In other words, is it reasonable to avoid work by artists you would otherwise enjoy because you disagree with their politics? Thanks.

  166. You seem happy with your career, family, and the shape of your life — and as far as I can tell from the other side of the internet — for good reason.

    Is there any area of your life that you feel you’ve neglected or think could use a good shake up?

  167. What are the typical philosophical ideas that are the underpinnings to the books you create? Would your books be just random ideological underpinnings or at the very essence what stories might you tell that would be shaped by the political issues of the day?

  168. I like sports, and more specifically I like college football, as I live in a college football town (Athens, Georgia). However, I am frequently bothered by the treatment of the student athletes, which tends to put a damper on my full enjoyment, especially being aware that the NCAA is exploiting these kids (who are predominately black) to the tune of billions of dollars. What’s your take on college athletics and the NCAA money-making marching in particular?

  169. The last few years have been pretty…ummm….testy. Do you see a path towards rapprochement? Not necessarily a persuasion that any one perspective is better than the others, but towards being able to live with one another civilly?

    Tronatology 101 – Never let the smoke out.

  170. In Head On, you have a very minor character named Yegevny Kuznetsov. I’m curious if this, in a book partially about professional sports in Washington, D.C., was an intentional reference to Washington Capitals forward Evgeny Kuznetsov. Or was it, y’know, coincidence? Either way, I kinda giggled a little.

    For reference:

  171. Realizing that there are many worse things, but that doesn’t mean your own situation doesn’t have down sides:

    What are some of the difficulties of being (comparatively) well off and well known?

  172. On parenting, or maybe for the grown-ups, too: How do you deal with the “screen-time” problem? My tween boys’ default is to hop on a device and stay there until I tell them to turn it off. Some of the stuff they do is mindless, some is educational, some is creative, and some is bashing other people’s avatars in video games. And I’m sure a lot is stuff I don’t even know about. You write about high-tech futures, so I’m wondering if you think screen addictions in our younger generations will help bring about this future, or derail it? (Or a third option?)

    Sorry if you’ve already addressed this. I’m new to the blog, and loving it, as well as your books. And weirdly, in high school I knew one of the people you dedicated a book to. She introduced me to Boskone!

  173. Having just read the Twitter post, I’d really like to know your theory of coolness and why some people will never be cool.

  174. “On September 13, 1998, John Scalzi sat down in front of his computer to write the first entry in his blog Whatever–and changed the history of the Internet as we know it today.”

    What do you have planned for the 20th anniversary?

  175. What political issue have you done a full 180 degrees on, adopting a position that was the opposite of your original view? (Bonus points if your answer isn’t disavowing some goofy position held by teenage John–spectators demand a fair fight.)

  176. As a British (English, specifically) fan of your fiction and blog (especially US politics) writing: what does Brexit look like from where/who you are?

  177. What is your position on guns? Would you support a total ban on guns in this country? Is there even a whisper of a chance I might see such in my lifetime?

  178. I have greatly enjoyed the works of Asimov, Clarke, and Heinlein, and have recently discovered and enjoyed yours. I am not widely read outside of those. Whose work should I try next?

  179. You work in a creative field and dabble in others, notably music and photography. I was wondering how your experience differs between being creative as a job and as a hobby. Do you get a different sort of satisfaction or emotional reward out of them, or is there some overlap inherent in creating art regardless of the circumstances in which it is done?


  180. What does it mean to be dead? Do you have a living will/POLST? What do you want done with your body once you’re dead? I’m curious to hear more of your views on end-of-life ethics.

  181. Why does so much science fiction involve galaxies where each planet functions as a single country? Where did all this unification come from? I find it easier to believe in aliens and faster-than-light travel than world peace throughout the universe. Is it a narrative simplification or do most authors genuinely believe that it’s a prerequisite of space travel?

  182. I absolutely loved how Lock In and Head On addressed issues of disability and disease in complex and believable ways. Chris talks about how Hadens are viewed by each other and the Non-Haden members of society, and Chris was frustrated with the world we live in, because it could definitely be more accepting. So, I’m curious about how you think advancing technology has changed how society treats people with disabilities. And, since I imagine you put a lot of thought in to this for your writing, do you think technology will help society to accept people with disabilities more than it does now in the future, or will technology further alienate people, as resources are invested to make certain groups of people’s lives better?

  183. A lot of your inspirations are both more obvious and more recent than they are for other authors. I’m thinking here especially of Old Man’s War, Android’s Dream, and of course Fuzzy Nation. Why are you relatively unusual in this regard? There are oodles of written works with obvious influence from Jane Austen or Shakespeare or folk tales, but it seems like not so many authors, especially on the “hard” SF side, are willing or able to use works generated in the last 100 years. I’m sure copyright is a large part of this, but I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on other reasons.

  184. You set an example of donating to various needs, some that are not traditional charities. I’m fortunate to have a steady job that pays well enough that I can give some back. Mostly I focus on known organizations with a track record and accessible financial reports. I hesitate to donate to other types of requests because I have no way to determine whether they are legitimate. How do you determine whether a request is legitimate and not a scam?

  185. A topic I’ve been pondering is to what extent the proliferation of entertainment & informational choices — Internet, cable TV, smart phones — is an overall boon or blessing to society. Were we actually better off when we had three or four TV channels, radio & vinyl for our music, paper maps for car trips, and shelves of encyclopedias to use for tracking down facts for our school papers?

  186. So this may be a silly question, but as someone with minor OCD trying to write, I was curious about something: do you ever struggle with daily word limits impacting the rhythm of your plot? You’ve said that your fiction quota is 2000 words a day. Do you ever find that this number determines where you start and end chapters or storylines? And if yes, how do you deal with that?

  187. This is political, so if you don’t want to touch it with a very long pole, I understand. Out in HI, this past week, we have had a local emergency with a lava outbreak in a subdivision. Our governor and the Big Island mayor have requested the president declare a state of emergency; the prez’s response has been ‘meh.’ Over the past couple of years, the administrative response to natural disasters has been less than enthusiastic, IMO particularly in areas that didn’t support his presidential bid. Does it seem like the Washington government is abdicating responsibility in areas where the locals are unhappy with them?

  188. If you could choose a lifespan for yourself (and if those you love would stay alive and healthy at least as long as you did), how long would you choose to live?

  189. Well, come retirement in June I am leaving Texas to become an expatriate living in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, for my retirement years; I plan to concentrate on my creative writing. Now, John, you seem quite well content in place there in Ohio. But, IF you were to leave these United States to become an expatriate living elsewhere, where would move? Why there? Just curious. (I did not consider Ohio because, well, I am so tired of the downward trend in US politics and the constant newscasts; at least in Canada the news will not be dominated by things US.)

  190. two questions: 1. would you (just for fun) write a short story and submit it under a pen name to some magazine in order to see whether it gets published?
    2. have you ever considered running for some (political) office?

  191. thanks in advance for considering them (even if one concerns writing and you specifically ruled these out) ;)

  192. Probably too late but finally thought of a good question. What do you think about the whole “I mean?” thing. Where did it even come from? Verbal tics have been with us forever, um…uh…so…but I don’t remember hearing that until just recently, and now everyone when asked a question on NPR or CNN interviews starts out with “I mean…,” and then they say their answer. I think it’s weird.

  193. I hope I am not too late for readers’ request week, John. The New York Times had an article yesterday on the so-called “Intellectual Dark Web,” which seems to be a loose consortium of intellectual square pegs tired of fitting into round holes. I’d like to see your analysis of their complaints.

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