We’re heading into Labor Day weekend, and closing out August and the summer. Here’s a stack of new books and ARCs for you to contemplate for the ending of this month and season. Is there anything here you’d like to put in your September “to be read” list? Tell us in the comments.
Someone asked me if the other cats are jealous of the attention that Smudge is getting as the new kitten. Well, in terms of the attention on the Internet, the answer is that I’m pretty sure they are not, inasmuch as none of our cats, no matter how clever they are as cats, understand the concept of online media to any great extent. In terms of us giving them attention, in point of fact we’ve been pretty scrupulous about making sure the older cats are not neglected for human attention versus Smudge. Kittens are kittens and need attention, of course. But we really like our other cats as well and don’t want them to feel neglected. So if you were worried about the disposition of the other cats regarding pettings and scritchings, never fear. They’re fine.
Today we’re catching up on the new books and ARCs that arrived at the Scalzi Compound while I was traveling. There are some pretty excellent works in today’s stack — what here is intriguing you? Tell us all in the comments!
He’s still a kitten but he’s definitely not as small as he was two months ago, which of course makes perfect sense if you think about it. We’re letting him out on short, supervised trips since like the other cats he’ll be an indoor/outdoor working cat as well as a pet. He’s enjoying the outdoors, which makes sense because that’s where we found him, and anytime anyone opens a door he makes a mad dash for it. I suspect the other cats will also prefer him to be outside at least part of the time, because he likes to tussle, and they don’t like tussling nearly as much as he does. In all, a very kittenish kitten, still.
I was talking yesterday on Twitter about my writing when I was much much younger (i.e., in the years between 18 and 21) and how the world is much better not seeing that writing, which of course some folks took as a challenge. So fine, as a representative sample of my writing at that age, here’s my review of Depeche Mode’s Violator, which I reviewed when it came out, when I was 20. I reviewed it in the Chicago Maroon, the University of Chicago student newspaper (of which I was the editor-in-chief at the time). Compare and contrast to the cranky 49-year-old you know today!
3 Stars (out of 4)
Reviewed: March, 1990
A couple of years ago, after Depeche Mode’s appearance at the Rose Bowl, a Los Angeles Times reviewer ventured the opinion that Depeche Mode was this generation’s Pink Floyd. This comparison appears ludicrous on the surface and doesn’t get any better further down, and may be an indication that this reviewer doesn’t know what he’s talking about, or that he has an annoyingly precious view of our generation.
Both bands do drink deeply from that peculiarly English well of loneliness, pain and alienation, but the similarities end there. Where Floyd gloomily ruminates about insanity and the humiliating end of all things British, Depeche gloomily wraps itself up in latex and metal nubs and makes like the height of human relationships is mutual tattooing with dirty needles. This from a band who got its start with playful little ditties like “Just Can’t Get Enough” and “See You.”
You do have to wonder if Depeche Mode has gotten a really good look at their main audience of screaming fourteen-year-olds recently, whose depth of lyrical awareness is limited to holding up lighters during “People are People.” Depeche can’t be said to be addressing the concerns of their public when they jot down their notes about perversity, subjugation and wearable rubber. This is just as well, as the fourteen-year-old who lives “Master and Servant” and “Strangelove” is the one to stay very far away from. But even if their audience isn’t really listening to them, it certainly hasn’t hurt their sales base any. If the records sell, there’s no reason for them not to delve deeper into the topics that interest the creative element of the band.
The name of the band’s latest effort, Violator, will telegraph to the astute consumer just what those interests are. Taking the lyrics on face value would suggest that Martin Gore, that black leather mini-skirted songwriter, fancies himself just inches away from being behind glass somewhere in Amsterdam. None of the lyrics are graphic or obscene (although “Personal Jesus,” the lead-off single, caused more than a few pairs of fundamentalist underwear to get into a bunch), but almost all of them give the impression that love is a darkly obsessive, ulcer-manufacturing and ultimately fatalistic sort of thing. You’ll also get the impression that, were Martin the religious type, he’d be doing a lot of penance for the horrible things that roll about in his head during those sweaty nights.
This can become awfully tiresome. On Music for the Masses, Depeche Mode’s last studio album, it was. Despite a couple of thumpers (“Strangelove” and “Never Let Me Down Again”), Masses got weighed down by its own self-importance and ended up little better than existential elevator music. Violator is every bit as self-important as Masses was; the difference lay in the fact that Violator is more interesting musically than its predecessor.
To manage this, Depeche has reached back into its own past and welded some of the more successful elements in its history onto its more recent sounds. “Personal Jesus” lifts its guitar line almost verbatim from Masses‘ “Pleasure Little Treasure,” and uses it to much greater effect. “World in My Eyes” and “Waiting for the Night” wouldn’t be out of place on A Broken Frame, Depeche’s second album, and Violator’s second single “Enjoy the Silence” sounds as much the sequel to “Leave in Silence” as the title suggests it would be. Ironically, some of the least successful moment on Violator, like “Sweetest Perfection,” are those that are natural progressions from the Music for the Masses’ sound.
The band has also managed, for the first time in several albums, to edit themselves as well. Where they have been previously guilty of sticking musical fragments onto their albums and labelling them songs (“Sometimes” on Black Celebration and “Pimpf’ on Masses), Violator is free of chaff, at least on that level. And as an added bonus, the lyrics, while occasionally tedious, do not insult your intelligence.
The biggest complaint to be leveled against Violator is that it simply never lets up. It’s depressed with a vengeance. “That’s all there is/ Nothing more than you can feel now,” sings Dave Gahan on “World in my Eyes,” and it doesn’t get any cheerier than that: “Policy of Truth” tells its subject after the fact that “You will always wonder how/ It could have been if you’d only lied.” “Halo” notes that “When the walls come tumbling in/ Though we may deserve it/ It will be worth it.” On and on and on. The lightest moments are in “Personal Jesus,” and it’s hardly a lighthearted tune.
This thematic darkness is abetted by the band’s trademark ominous samples; satanic laughs and shouts of “Crucified!” among other less obvious but nevertheless oppressive squawks, honks and squalls. This relentless down trend is a shame, particularly since their lighter moments, when they happen, are usually pretty good (“Here is the House,” and “But Not Tonight” are examples).
Fortunately, Depeche has the sense to give their oppression a beat. In the final analysis, this is and has always been the band’s saving grace; they may be in misery, but they’re never too far gone that they can’t dance to it. If Depeche Mode ever loses sight of this, they will, surely, vanish without a trace under the waves, and it couldn’t be said that they won’t deserve their fate.
As it is, Violator stands on solid ground, a much better album than Music for the Masses would have led us to expect it would be. Old Depeche fans will be thrilled that their favorite band hasn’t run dry, and if you’re not yet a “Modester,” but like the idea of being tunefully pained, this album is for you. Depeche Mode is not our generations’ Pink Floyd, but at least it’s not simply for screaming fourteen-year-olds anymore.
I was away from the house for two weeks, and in that time here are the books that arrived in my absence. There’s several dozen books here, some of them even ones I’ve written: two of the boxes here are author copies. But a significant number are from other authors. I’ll be posting a couple of “new books and ARCs” stacks very soon to catch up. But if you were ever wondering about the inflow of books at the Scalzi Compound, this should give you some idea of what it’s like.
On my way home after two weeks away. I expect Smudge to be twice the size he was when I left. See you all on the other side.
Hello, everyone! Welcome to my final post. Today, I’m just here to say what a pleasure it has been, and close the curtain.
I moved into my dorm at Miami today, and me being back here means summer is officially over for me, and that means after I post this, I am no longer a summer intern at Whatever.
I’m excited to start classes and be back on campus with the friends I made last year, but it is sad that summer is ending. However, I will definitely not miss the heat. Summer is the worst season. There are a lot of good things about it, no doubt, but the sweating and heat stroke kind of cancel it out.
Anyways, writing for Whatever proved to be a lot of fun! Sometimes it was hard to think of what to write, but I was so happy to be able to choose to write about whatever I wanted to. Thank you all for being such an amazing audience. If I posted music, you listened to it, if I posted a video, you watched it, and if I asked a question, you all answered! It has been so awesome reading y’all’s comments. I wish I had responded to more. I don’t know why I pretty much never responded, considering I read all of them. If I could go back, I would definitely reply to you all more often.
I sincerely hope you all have enjoyed reading my posts; I know I enjoyed writing them! If you want to follow me on Twitter or Instagram, my handle is ascalzi98 on both. I will really miss writing on here, but I’m totally stoked I got to do it at all, even if it was just for the summer.
When I went to camp as a kid, there was always a closing campfire on the last night of the week. At the very end of the ceremony, we would sing a certain song, and the last line of it was, “this is goodnight and not goodbye”. And that’s exactly what this is.
So, without further ado, I bid you all goodnight.
I’ve actually been in this hotel room since yesterday at around midnight, but I also stayed in bed all day yesterday which was delicious, so this is the first time I managed to haul myself over to the window and snap a shot. Hello Albuquerque!
I’m here for Bubonicon 50, at which Mary Robinette Kowal and I are writing co-guests of honor, and we’ll be doing stuff individually and together and it will be delightful. If you’re in the greater ABQ area, why not come on down? We’ll have all sorts of fun.
Hey, everyone, hope you’re having an awesome Friday! One thing some of you might possibly know about me is that my dad is a writer. A successful one, at that! And as such, he knows a lot of other successful writers. Because of that, I’ve had the amazing chance to meet so many super cool, fantastic authors and be immersed in a book-filled, writing-intensive world. A world where words on a page are basically blood in your veins, where hardcovers are the air you breathe and paperbacks the water you drink. I’ve lived in this world for as long as I can remember.
And, honestly, it’s pretty daunting. It makes you think, how can I ever amount to what all these amazing people have? Will I ever be at their level, going on book tours and having signing lines hundreds of people long? How can I become as great as them, have my writing be as loved as theirs?
So, I started writing, determined to get to that point, hellbent on having a best-seller out by the time I was eighteen, having my book translated into twenty different languages and tour the world by the time I graduated high school. Obviously, that didn’t happen.
I don’t have anything to show for all my time spent writing. Because I can never finish anything. And I know writer’s block is a thing and that a lot of professional authors struggle with completing a book, but eventually, they do complete it! And I have never been able to do that. I keep thinking, this will be the story I finish, and it never is. I can’t make it past a certain page number in any of my stories.
So I contemplate why I can’t just crank something out, why I can’t just sit down and finish any number of things I’ve started and abandoned in my Google Drive cemetery. I think the main reason is because I love all my concepts and ideas, but as soon as I start putting those thoughts onto the page, they’re not what they were when they were still in my head. Trying to write them out seems to almost ruin them. I can’t seem to convey the things in my head well enough to be satisfied with the thousands of words I’ve written.
And the whole thing of being a writer is conveying your ideas to others through the written word, but I just can’t seem to do that. How can I ever be a writer? I’ve got the support, the connections, everything anyone who wants to be a writer could wish for, and I just can’t write. It’s not even like I’m trying to write a whole novel, I’m just trying to get something finished, and it seems impossible.
My whole life I’ve been around successful people who are doing exactly what I want to do, who are living the life I want to live, and I don’t think I’ll ever catch up.
Anyways, this is my second to last post on here, so I wanted to share that with y’all. I know a lot of you like to write, too, and it probably seems like an impossible task sometimes. Well, you’re definitely not alone. Keep at it, though. That’s the best advice I have for you.
And have a great weekend!
Now that I am comfortably ensconced in the hotel for Bubonicon 50 and will not be required to drive or appear anywhere else for a few days, it’s time for my Worldcon 76 recap. Here are some thoughts, in no particular order:
* It was good! I enjoyed myself tremendously over the course of the convention, thanks to friends and to the fact that downtown San Jose was surprisingly (to me, anyway) walkable and full of good restaurants and bars. There was always something to do and great people to be met. I was never bored and I never felt like I wanted to be anywhere else, which means that this convention was a success on a personal level.
* In terms of my own programming and events, my own highlight, not surprisingly, was the 80s dance that Worldcon 76 graciously allowed me to DJ on Thursday night, after the Retro Hugos. As it happened, the Retro Hugos theme included several dance interludes with music from the 50s, 60s and 70s, so the people who attended the Retros were both already in the mood for dancing and primed to segue into the 80s. The dance was well attended and there were people on the dance floor from the first song to the last, two and a half hours later. So if you went to the dance, thank you for making it a success, and if you didn’t, well. You missed out.
For my other programming items, the first was the actual Retro Hugos ceremony, where I played a character in the futuristic skit that accompanied the awarding of the trophies. I hammed it up and that seemed to work out fine. I also had a reading with fellow Hugo Best Novel finalists Mur Lafferty and Ann Leckie, where we all read from upcoming works. I thought that also went well, although we were in a room that was roughly three sizes too small — too many people who wanted to see us weren’t able to, and that is my only real complaint for the convention. Next up, I moderated a panel on Near Future Fiction with Annalee Newitz, Sarah Pinsker, Linda Nagata and Stanley Chen; where they were all very smart about what it takes to write fiction set not too far from the present. I also moderated a panel called “Author vs Fan Ownership,” with Renay WIlliams, Foz Meadows, Eric Kaplan and Greg Hullander, which was (heh) quite spirited and also included me calling out Cory Doctorow for making a comment rather than a question from the audience (this was funnier than it sounds, and Cory and I giggled about it later).
* There were meant to be protests at the Worldcon, and there were, of a sort, but they were mostly a bust. The alt-right fascist dumbasses who came to protest were corralled into one corner of the square in front of the convention center, where they were obscured from the street view by a bloodmobile. No one seemed to notice them much. The antifa protesters who came were corralled into a separate corner, and no one seemed to notice them much either. The police mostly stood around and got paid to do that. At 4pm, they apparently all went home. Certainly there was no disruption of the convention itself. In one of the least surprising twists of all time, one of the instigators of the protest was nowhere to be seen at the protest; he instead popped into the convention center a day before and walked around aimlessly until he was caught and punted out, again, to absolutely no consequence to the convention itself. So much for that nonsense.
* The Hugos were delightful, both because I approved of nearly all of the winners and also because emcee John Picacio’s philosophy of the Hugo ceremony was, basically, “Let’s get people their rockets and then go party.” Which is a philosophy I wholeheartedly embrace. The ceremony was done in two hours flat, which may be a record and is impressive considering there were new awards given out. As noted earlier, I did not win the Hugo category in which I was nominated, but I didn’t expect to and was thrilled with who did, so it was all good. And I came in second, which was a pleasant surprise. I’ll take it. I note the usual whiners complained about who won (the fiction categories were all won by women), but, you know. Fuck those pissy little manbabies right in the ear. All the works that won were eminently deserving of their awards, and all the pissy little manbaby whining doesn’t change that simple fact. I was going to write more on this topic, but on further thought, “fuck those pissy little manbabies right in the ear” is really all they deserve. Others complained about NK Jemisin’s acceptance speech, but personally, I thought it was great, A+++, would watch again. And at the end of it all, the Hugo Loser’s party was epic fun, and everyone went away happy.
So, to wrap up: Worldcon 76: A really nice Worldcon. I’m glad I went. And now I’m looking forward to the Worldcon in Dublin, quite a lot.
Yes! I am going on tour! Again! Twice in the same year (2.5 times, actually, since I am currently on tour with Mary Robinette Kowal)! This time I’ll be touring for The Consuming Fire, the sequel to the The Collapsing Empire. Tor.com has all details, but if you’re too lazy to link over, here are the dates and places:
Tuesday, Oct 16 at 7:00 PM
Wednesday, Oct 17 at 7:00 PM
Thursday, Oct 18 at 7:00 PM
The Last Bookstore
Los Angeles, CA
Friday, Oct 19 at 6:00 PM
San Francisco CA, Borderlands
Saturday, Oct 20 at 2:00 PM
Weller Book Works
Salt Lake City, UT
Monday, October 22 at 6:30 PM
American Writers Museum
Tuesday, October 23 at 7:15 PM
Chapel Hill, NC
Wednesday, October 24 at 7:00pm
Quail Ridge Books & Music
Thursday, October 25 at 6:00 PM
Saturday, October 27 at 11:00 AM
West Virginia Book Festival
Charleston Civic Center
Sunday, October 28, Time TBD
Texas Book Festival
And now, the quick FAQ on the tour:
Are these all dates?
Can you add a date to come to my town?
No! Because literally a day after this tour I have to go to France for a week. Yes, I know. Poor me.
Why do you hate Canada?
I don’t. I will get there one day.
When does the book come out?
The same day the tour starts.
Are these free events?
Check the specific links. I think many are, but some might require a ticket. The ticket may be free, but may not.
Wanna hang out before/after your event?
I’m generally scheduled all day long for my event days, so probably not, but thanks.
Any other questions? Put them in the comments!
It’s a very mid-century hotel, and I’m here for it.
Tonight: Mary Robinette Kowal and I are at the Poisoned Pen bookstore at 7pm. Mary’s terrific new book The Fated Sky is out today, and we’ll be celebrating that and chatting about writing and doing other fun stuff. Please come on down to see us.
Tomorrow: Mary and I will be at the Cocteau Cinema in Santa Fe, New Mexico, doing more talking about her book, and writing, and other stuff. Come down and see us there, too!
Hello, everyone! Today I’m here to share with you some awesome music from a very talented friend of mine, Jon R. Mohr. He’s a composer/musician, plays piano and writes music, all that jazz, and he has some pretty awesome sounding stuff I thought was worth sharing. He’s got slow, pretty piano pieces, action-y ones that sound like they’re straight off a video game, fantastical/otherworldly sounding stuff, even 8-bit music!
He says he uses a couple of different programs, like Reaper and EastWest. He is self-taught on all the programs and on piano, so that’s neat.
Anyways, you can check out his channel here. He is also open for commission work! You can email him at email@example.com.
Here’s a couple of my favorites by him:
Those two are from his Action playlist, which is probably my favorite playlist of his, that or the fantasy one, which this one is from:
But this dark fantasy one is also awesome:
Aside from these, his piano covers are definitely worth noting, too, like in this Hallelujah cover:
Anyways, those are just a couple of really great ones, but be sure to check out others on his channel, he has lots of fantastic stuff and I think he deserves a lot more recognition.
Hope you enjoy, and as always, have a great day!
Last night I did a thing that no one else in the entire history of the Hugo Awards has ever done, an achievement so singular, so unique, that no one could have possibly have imagined it for me or for anyone else:
I came in second in the Best Novel category to someone who has won back-to-back-to-back Best Novel Hugos!
No one else has ever done this! Ever! My achievement is monumental! No one can take this spectacular moment in time from me!
And naturally, I owe it all to N.K. Jemisin, who, by being the first person ever to win back-to-back-to-back Best Novel Hugo awards, created the necessary conditions for my exceptional position in the history books. I couldn’t have done this without all of her hard work over the years, and I thank her for it.
And of course I spent the evening basking in the glow of this historic event, in the company of friends who witnessed me achieve this thing. We partied through the night, we did. As well we should have. It’s not every night one makes history.
Also, as an aside, Nora Jemisin is heckin’ amazing, her Hugo win tonight was spectacularly deserved, as were her other two wins, and she rocked the ceremony with what is probably the best acceptance speech ever:
I was immensely honored to have been on the ballot with her, not in the least surprised that she won, thrilled that she has done so and would not have had the outcome be other than what it is, in this and in other categories. What a great night for the Hugo Awards.
So, while the first part of this post was obviously a bit silly, do not doubt that I am in all seriousness proud and happy to have come in second in the Best Novel category this year. The right book, and person, won, and I am delighted.
More Hugo and Worldcon thoughts later — today, I have some road tripping to do.
Howdy, everyone! How’s your weekend going? Hopefully, it’s going well, but if it’s not, I’d like to offer you a Smupdate in this trying time.
Smudge is getting bigger and becoming even more of an asshole than before, but I’ll be darned if he ain’t the cutest thing I ever did see. One down side of him getting bigger is that he’s stronger now, so he bites a lot harder when he plays.
The other cats are still not entirely used to him, which I figured they would have been okay with him by now, but, cats are weird. Sugar is really the only one that actively hates him, the other two only dislike him when he attacks them randomly, which he does several times a day.
I can tell he’s getting cabin fever, since every time anyone opens a door he sprints to it in an attempt to escape, alas he is the perfect size for an eagle to carry him away, so, he’ll just have to live with being stir-crazy. And crazy he is! If Smudge was a power source, he could give an entire city energy. This can prove troublesome at four in the morning when all he wants to do is attack your toes, but you kind of already have plans to sleep.
Anyways, he’s doing great and is super cute, so enjoy these pictures.
Hey, everyone! As I’ve been packing and sorting clothes and junk, I’ve been listening to a lot of music, and I stumbled upon a song I think is really interesting. It’s got that old sound to it, like it’s from another era of music, but I think it’s really good and I like the lyrics a lot. It’s pretty different from some of the music I’ve posted in the past, so I thought it was worth sharing.
Let me know what you think of it, or if you know of any other songs that have the same sort of vibe this one does. And as always, have a great day!
Hello, everyone! Summer is coming to a close, which means I only have one week left of posting on here. It also means that I move into my dorm next week, and will be starting classes soon after.
Last year, I definitely went overboard on back-to-school clothes and supplies shopping, but that just means I have supplies for this year and don’t have to go out and buy new stuff, so really it was a smart move in the long run, right? Turns out at college you need approximately one pen and one notebook, and that’s only occasionally.
Going back to school has its pros and cons. I mean, I can just walk to any restaurant or store in town, so that’s pretty cool. It’s like a little city, it has everything you could need close by, unlike Bradford, where you have to drive twenty minutes for literally anything. On the downside, I will be living in a dorm, which has communal bathrooms and definitely does not have my huge comfy bed in it, so that sucks. Worst of all, though, I won’t be around the cats. Sugar, Spice, Smudge, and that one that starts with a Z no one remembers. I will miss them all dearly. Another plus, though, is that Miami has therapy dog petting sessions, like, every Monday for an hour, so at least I’ll get the chance to pet some good bois.
Last year, I didn’t join any clubs. I definitely wish I had, and I plan to this semester. Miami has, like, hundreds of clubs, and one I would really like to try out for is one of the singing groups, Just Duet. I wanted to audition last year, but already had plans for when they were holding the auditions, so I didn’t. Also, I’m afraid of rejection, because who isn’t? So, wish me luck! I’m not sure what I’ll sing yet. Oh, and if you would like to hear what they sound like you can check out this video of them that I think is pretty awesome.
So, for the next week, I’ll be busy frantically packing and making a hundred checklists before setting off to Oxford. I’ll also be thinking of what my final few posts should be about.
Do any of you have kids about to go off to their first year of college? Tell me about it in the comments, and as always, have a great day!
It’s a lovely day in San Jose, despite a certain amount of particulate matter in the air, cause by parts of California being deeply aflame. Here you can see the convention center in which we’ll have Worldcon 76, which starts tomorrow and runs through Monday. It’s nice to be in California again.
Aaaaand now I think I might take a nap.
Hey, everyone! Today I thought I’d share something important to me, that being my all-time favorite movie, The Nightmare Before Christmas. Though it is technically Disney, anytime someone asks me what my favorite Disney movie is, I always forget to say The Nightmare Before Christmas, and usually say Mulan or Tangled instead, because I really think of The Nightmare Before Christmas as a Tim Burton movie, which it is, but, y’know.
There’s something about stop motion that I just love, and come to think of it, my love of it probably stemmed from The Nightmare Before Christmas, since I’ve been watching it for as long as I can remember. The Nightmare Before Christmas has some of the most interesting characters I’ve ever seen, and part of that fantastic-ness comes from their design and the way they look overall. Halloween Town is an amazing setting to begin with, and all of the characters that call it home are even cooler looking.
Besides how awesome the visuals are, the soundtrack is to die for. In case you’ve been living under a rock for the past several decades, Disney has the greatest songs, like, ever, but the greatest of the great can be found in The Nightmare Before Christmas. Danny Elfman is pretty much the best composer/musician/singer in existence. Though it’s difficult to choose a favorite song out of all the amazing ones on the soundtrack, I’d have to say the best is “Jack’s Lament”, which even if you haven’t seen the movie, is pretty good on its own (you can watch it on YouTube).
This movie has had merch available at places like Hot Topic and F.Y.E. for forever, and believe me when I say I have my fair share of stuff. There’s even video games that came out around 2005 or so.
The Nightmare Before Christmas has been my favorite movie for as long as I can remember, and I’m fairly certain it always will be. I wish I had been able to see it in theaters when it first came out, alas, it was before my time of being alive. Have you seen it before? What are your thoughts on it? What’s your favorite song from it? Is Jack your favorite character? Let me know in the comments, and as always, have a great day!