A Pre-Worldcon Q&A

Tomorrow I head out to San Jose and Worldcon 76, and before I go let me address some questions about it and related things that I’ve been asked online and in real life, through the use of my fictional interlocutor.

That’s me!

Yes, it is. Let’s begin, shall we?

Okay! So, are you nervous yet?

About what?

You’re nominated for the Hugo! For Best Novel!

Okay, and?

Well, are you nervous about winning? Or about not winning?


Why not?

I already have a Best Novel Hugo Award, for Redshirts, and two other Hugos besides. If The Collapsing Empire wins this year, great, I’m Hugo Award winner John Scalzi. If it doesn’t, great, I’m Hugo Award winner John Scalzi. I’m good either way.

Well, okay, but do you want to win?

Sure. I like Hugos, and I like my book, and I would be delighted for my book to be awarded and to have another rocket for the shelf. I’m not going to pretend that I would not find that super cool. But, and this is the thing, wanting to win doesn’t mean I will be disappointed if I don’t win.

That’s hard to believe.

Nah. One, as noted, I’ve already got a best novel Hugo, so I already accrue the social and commercial benefits of that. Two, all the other books nominated this year are really really good, and all of them are worthy of the Hugo. I’m not going to be disappointed that a worthy book has won the Hugo. As a side benefit, most of the nominees are friends, and all are colleagues. I like it when friends and colleagues get recognition for their work. I will stomp and cheer and clap for whoever wins, and be genuinely happy for them.

That’s… a suspiciously healthy response.

Well, you know. I work on having healthy responses. They don’t always come 100% naturally, I assure you. Also, I’m not going to lie, it helps that Empire’s done very well commercially, and has already won the Locus Award. I’m cool.

Well, do you think The Collapsing Empire will win the Hugo? 

Nope, I think N.K. Jemisin is gonna three-peat with The Stone Sky.

Why is that?

Uhhh, because the Broken Earth trilogy is an absolutely groundbreaking achievement (pun entirely intended) in modern science fiction and fantasy? Don’t you agree?

I guess I do since I’m actually you? 

Yes. Precisely. But even if you weren’t in fact me, you would still have to acknowledge that Nora’s work on this series is stunning, and deserving of every accolade that’s been sent her way. To be clear, saying this is not a diminution of any of the other nominated works or their authors, including me and my novel. As I said, every novel on the ballot is eminently Hugo-worthy and could win, depending on the calculus of the voters as a group. But individually, The Stone Sky is worthy, and as a part of a larger whole, it’s a remarkable work.

Hugos aside, what is the event of yours you’re most looking forward to at the Worldcon?

Well, on my schedule, The Retro Hugo party on Thursday, because at the end of it (around 10pm) I get to DJ an 80s dance and it is going to be absolutely on fire, my friend. Metaphorically. We will hopefully not actually set anything aflame.

You’re not the most intuitive person to DJ a dance.

What is that supposed to mean?

Look in the mirror, Mr. Chunky-Middle-Aged-Science-Fiction-Nerd-Dude-In-An-Aloha-Shirt.

Point taken. That said, I actually studied dance in high school, and met my wife because she admired my dancing skills, and we still go dancing when we can. Plus, in the late 80s and early 90s I was a professional music critic — it’s one way I paid for college — so I have this particular era of dance music wired. Also, now I’ve DJed at conventions and nerd-related events for years.

How did that get started?

One year I was a GoH at a convention, and they had an 80s dance, and it was terrible because the DJ was, like, nineteen and wasn’t alive when the 80s happened and was playing not great music, almost like at random. And I was all “I WAS HERE TO DANCE AND I CAN’T DANCE TO THIS AND YOU SHOULD HAVE HAD ME DJ THIS DAMN THING” and they were all “Cool, come back and do it next year,” and I did, just to make the point. And it was fun. And I’ve been doing it since.

I’m not sure I’m ready to handle you gyrating on the dance floor, though.

You’ll just have to deal with it, my friend. But honestly if you can’t handle that, you can see me, somewhat more static, on some panels and a reading.

Speaking of Worldcon programming in general, anything else you want to add about this year’s programming fracas?

Not really. There were problems with the initial program slate, people complained, it got fixed, and now most people seem happy with it, and honestly, that’s kind of how it’s supposed to work, yes? Problems arise with every Worldcon (and every convention, if we’re going to be honest about it) and then the issue is, do they get resolved? This time, they got resolved. Hooray! Credit accrues to the convention and all the people working on programming. They did good.

Some people still aren’t happy.

Those would be the people, who are not coming to Worldcon, who were thrilled to see it stumble, and when the convention managed to keep going without falling on its face, complained about how it kept its balance, yes?

Pretty much.

Fuck those dudes.

Also, you know there are some protests scheduled in front of the San Jose Convention Center on Saturday? 

Yes. As I understand it there will be four main groups: a likely very small contingent of self-promoting shitheels who disingenuously picked a protest subject to mask their desperate desire for attention of any sort; a likely larger but still small group of racist fascist assholes who glommed on to the first group’s plan; a probably larger group of anti-fascist protestors who will likely scare the shit out of the first two groups; and probably some police.

Think there will be a riot?

I seriously doubt it.

How are you going to deal with the protests?

Since my hotel is connected to the convention center and I’m busy with programming the entire time the protest is scheduled, my plan is to ignore it entirely, and I suspect other convention-goers will do the same. There are many entrances to the convention center, including ones that are ADA-compliant, away from where the protests are scheduled. So they will be easily avoided, and then they will be over.

No deeper thoughts on it?

Nope. I’m not obliged to take seriously a protest I know the initiators don’t take seriously. I have better things to do today, and will have better things to do on Saturday.

Are you looking forward to Worldcon?

I am! As with most years, I’m mostly going to hang out with friends, who will be there in abundance. When I’m not on programming, I will mostly be catching up with my pals. It’s going to be a blast.

And then you go home, yes?

Not at all! Starting on August 20, Mary Robinette Kowal and I start an epic road trip that takes us from San Jose to Phoenix/Scottsdale (where we have an event at the Poisoned Pen Bookstore on the 21st) and then to Santa Fe (where we have an event at the Cocteau Cinema) and then finally to Albuquerque, where we are guests of honor at Bubonicon 50. Mary is debuting her latest book, The Fated Sky, on this trip, so if you’re anywhere near where we’ll be, come see us!

Sounds like you’ll have a busy couple of weeks.

Yes! Worldcon! An 80s dance! (Probably) not winning a Hugo! A road trip! Another convention! It’s fun being me right now, I have to say.

18 Comments on “A Pre-Worldcon Q&A”

  1. Have a great time! I’m sure the whole conference will be a lot of fun (if maybe a little stressful because of planning). I’m excited that you’ll be on tour with Mary. I read The Calculating Stars two weeks ago and LOVED IT. I’m looking forward to some posts from the road about your time with her too.

  2. You get to spend time with Mary? You dog of a dog. Tell her I LOVE her Martian Lady Astronaut stories.

  3. I wish I were going to be at Worldcon. I’m currently building a playlist for my iPod called “So 80s it Hurts” and I’d love to consult with you about what I might be missing that you’d consider essential. My era was actually the 70s, but I didn’t completely stop listening to commercial radio until the 90s, and there’s quite a bit of 80s stuff that I like. (Also greatly enjoyed your dance at DetCon 1 – you hit several of my top favorites to dance to!)

  4. I don’t know if it’s worth mentioning, but I saw on Twitter that there will be some pink-shirted folks who will be available to escort people through the doors into WorldCon, if they’d rather not walk past protest(s) by themselves. Unfortuntely since I’m not going to WorldCon I didn’t commit any of the pertinent details to memory, but I know they’re out there if anyone would like to enter the building with support.

  5. Dagnabbit! August 21 is a Tuesday and I have obligations every Tuesday evening! Crap! I’d love to meet you both while you’re in my hometown! Oh well…be patient. There is always another time. Glad for your success and agree with you about Stone Sky. May good fortune follow you everywhere!

  6. The supermarket was playing 80s music this morning. So many songs I could sing along to, yet not remember their title or who sang them.

    I’m a little pissed “Owner of a Lonely Heart” was interrupted by an ad for the in store dietician.

  7. As someone with zero Hugos, but is on the ballot for the second time – I’m with you. I would love to win a Hugo, would love to so very much. But I’m not going to be all that disappointed if / when we lose. It was hard to be disappointed when Lady Business won last year because they’re great and there are some really good fanzine finalists this year (if it’s not me, I’d love love love to see SF Bluestocking win).

    Which is a long way to say good luck and I think it’ll be a lot of fun just to be a part of the whole thing! I’ll only be there on Sunday, but it’s still my first Worldcon.

  8. The Twitter about the pink shirts is here. Apparently they also know accessible ways in and out of the Convention Center that won’t go past the temper tantrum at all.

  9. If this is too nakedly self-serving, please feel free to bring the hammer down on it. Having said that, I hope you’ll be able to find a moment to seek out the Amazing Stories table in the dealer’s room, where we will be handing out free copies. It will be good to meet you in person.

  10. Bubonicon is a truly terrific little con. Have fun with that. Mary’s new series is also totes terrific. I’m apparently not immune to being jealous of what you get to do for your career. :)

    Ah well, I’ll suck it up. Have fun!

  11. Off topic, but your tweet about the princess heist movie was genius and was well appreciated by the facebook group where I saw it.

  12. I hate illinois nazis

    Also, i cannot for the life of me think of more than a couple 80s songs that I would call “danceable”. Are you playing stuff like “whip it good” or ‘working in a coal mine’ by devo? Classic 80s songs. Cant dance to either one. Thrash/bounce, maybe. But dance?

  13. I don’t dance at all, so it’s just as well my era is seventies prog rock. And it’s hard to dance to a Yes song that might be in 11/8 time, anyway.

  14. Looking forward to seeing both you and Mary at the Jean Cocteau! Had a great time seeing you last time you were there. Also have been planning on reading Mary’s latest book so perfect timing!

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