The Whatever Digest, 9/13/18

First: This banner from the Subterranean Press web site, which I got a giggle over:

I love it because I think Nate Taylor, the illustrator, did a perfect job drawing me. I look ridiculous, but in a fun and affectionate way, which I think is perfect, both for me and for the book. I may put the image on my business card, if I ever get business cards again, which honestly seems unlikely, but even so.

Also, in a larger since it’s a delight to love one’s cover art, which this banner is derived from. As a writer I have generally had pretty good luck with cover art — the number of covers of my work that I love outstrips the ones I’ve not like by a considerable margin. One does recognize that cover art isn’t just about one’s own preferences; it’s also marketing, designed to sell the book to booksellers and to readers, so one has to make allowances for that. But even making allowances for that, I’ve been pretty lucky. Virtue Signaling continues that lucky streak.

(PS: Pre-order it! Now!)


Virtue Signaling is coming out on December 31st, which means it will be the third book I will have published this year, not counting paperback releases and foreign editions. But it will actually be the fourth book I am published in, since Robots Vs Fairies, in which I have a short story, came out in January. That’s not a bad year for publishing things. I may take the pedal off the gas slightly in 2019. Slightly.


Trump asserting that thousands did not die because of hurricanes in Puerto Rico: One, what a venal piece of crap this president is, and two, this is probably not what people in Virginia and the Carolinas want to be hearing just as the outer tendrils of Florence begin slapping up against their coasts. It doesn’t exactly inspire confidence either in the potential government response, or how Trump will wiggle out of culpability if something goes wrong. Someone on Twitter made the crack that there are enough white people in the Carolinas that the FEMA response should be adequate this time, and while that’s a pretty sharp barb, with this administration it’s difficult to say it’s 100% wrong. I dislike having an administration which is so obviously white nationalist.

In any event, Carolinas and Virginia: Good luck. I don’t want to say you’re on your own, but I will say that if you drown, Trump will probably say that you did it just to make him look bad.


Google announced yesterday that it will be sunsetting Inbox, their much-superior email application compared to GMail, in early 2019. This makes me very sad because Inbox is my default email client, precisely because it does so many things better than GMail. Google claims it will be importing many of the features Inbox currently is better at (like email organization) into GMail, but I am, shall we say, entirely skeptical. For my money, GMail would be better off if Google simply ported Inbox over in its entirety and called it GMail. But they’re not asking me, damn it.


I’m a fan of Lindsay Ellis’ deconstructions of film and TV, which are both well-researched and a lot of fun to watch. But her most recent video isn’t about either of those two media, it’s about YouTube, the very medium in which she toils, and talks about how the people who are making shows and videos there are making them seem “authentic” as opposed to the conventional polish of television (or, even more so, film). Along the way she talks, on her own and with vlogger/author Hank Green, about the emotional cost of keeping up that veneer of authenticity on a regular basis, for people who, ultimately, one doesn’t know, even if they feel like they know you — in part because that’s what you were aiming for.

I found this video even more interesting than I find most of Ellis’ videos, because the issues she’s addressing are ones I’m familiar with, right here on Whatever. The site here is personable and people enjoy getting a glimpse of who I am and what I do, but as personable as it is, the version of me here is tuned — it’s a public persona. It’s not a false version of me, but it’s a version of me tweaked for the blog, as it were, just like when I’m out on a book tour, that version of my is tweaked for interacting with real live people in that particular setting.

I well aware of how much I do what Ellis’ talking about in the video, in my own fashion and mode, so it’s also interesting for me to see other people talking about it in their lives. What Ellis and others have to do and deal with is not exactly what I do and have to deal with, but it’s close enough that I can feel where she’s coming from.


And now I’m off — I’m heading to Columbus today to do a panel on science fiction and religion, in no small part because both The Collapsing Empire and The Consuming Fire feature a major religious figure in them. Should be fun. You kids enjoy yourself for the rest of the day. I’ll see you tomorrow, as we start the second 20 years (let’s hope!) of Whatever.

23 Comments on “The Whatever Digest, 9/13/18”

  1. I’m in SC, and know full well that we’re more likely to get aid because we have a lot of conservative white assholes here. When our POS governor asked for federal aid, my first thought was how the shitgibbon probably approved the request so quickly because McMaster was his chosen candidate, and because McMaster kisses Trump’s ass.

    Related, my bff and I were predicting last night that we have enough white supremacists here that maybe Trump will come down and throw real towels, not just paper towels.

    Thanks for the well wishes, John.

  2. As far as public personas go, hey, man, the minute you wake up if you don’t live alone, you are a public persona. Then you go to work, and there’s another persona. And so forth. Are they authentic? Sure they are. And if you do ‘acting’ for a living, you may be in the more public public persona , but you are’t alone.

    As Will Shakespeare said so poignantly:
    “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players: they have their exits and their entrances; and one man in his time plays many parts, his acts being seven ages.”

  3. First off, head’s up, the remnants of Florence might head your way in a few days. Could get a bit damp.

    Didn’t most everyone make the remark on Twitter (and Facebook, and Mastodon) about a better response to Florence because white people?

    Living here in NoVa I know several people who are with FEMA. One is going on maternity leave tomorrow.

    The best discussion of Florence (and other weather phenomena) is at the Capital Weather Gang, but in the forecast posts, not the ones that hit the Post’s front page. The latter are quickly overrun with trolls.

  4. Regarding public personae, Sir Paul has some similar and believable things to say about that as well, in that new interview in GQ.

  5. There are no longer “dancers,” the possessed. The cleavage of men into actors and spectators is the central fact of our time. We are obsessed with heroes who live for us and whom we punish….We have metamorphised from a mad body dancing on hillsides to a pair of eyes staring in the dark…..
    — Jim Morrison

  6. It’s interesting that you bring up *Virtue Signalling*, since that’s related to your other post on Whatever today. There you mention people saying that you’ld be more productive if you didn’t write Whatever, and then on the other hand here you are releasing a fourth or fifth collection of essays from Whatever, showing that all that “non-productive” wordage is still earning you a little something.

    My in-laws live in North Carolina, which is a little worrying, but on the other hand they’re very smart folks who have lived there for their entire lives, so they know of storms and surviving.

    And Lindsay Ellis is always worth a watch, so I’ll have to find some time to watch his one as well.

  7. I love the cover art, although I admit to being disappointed that there isn’t a cat there (also in armor, because cat armor would look cute) and that you aren’t holding a burrito (although that might be a little too much of an in joke).

    That’s one hell of a big sword for a dude with skinny arms. You are obviously stronger than you look.

  8. I suspect people that possibly die in this storm will not be accused by Trumpalumpa of doing it to make him look bad.

    No, Trumpalumpa will deny they actually died.

  9. I work for Google and had the opportunity to use a pre-release version of Inbox. I dumped it pretty fast, finding it unpredictable and incomprehensible. Maybe it improved a lot between then and the most recent releases – i could take a look, I suppose – but I was not hopeful.

  10. Regarding personas, I understand.

    The “me” at work is different from the “me” visiting my parents is different from the “me” spending time with my friends. All of them are “me”, but each environment encourages different aspects of me based on what they want from me–and what I want from them.

  11. Love the banner! And I suspect I’ll love the book as well.

    Also, I agree with what everyone else says about personas. Most of us have several that we slip between without ever really noticing because we’re so used to it. People with a larger public presence are more likely to be aware of the process, but that’s a difference in degree, not in kind.

  12. The assertion that 3000 people did not die on Puerto Rico because of Maria is a perfect smokescreen. It covers the fact that $169 million was taken from places like FEMA and the National Radiation Leak Detection service to pay for immigrant detention. The lies come in bunches now so you can’t figure out which one pisses on you the most.

    Love that cover. Now find a cosplay costumer to make it for you and wear it to book signings, cons and such.

    All of you on the East Coast, stay safe.

  13. I run Thunderbird, it connects to gmail via POP I think (I set it up 10-15 years ago and haven’t had to dork with it since). Works great for me. Won’t work so great if you use email from more than 1 machine (I’ve got 1 laptop that I do email on) Web based gmail is IMHO unusable.

    As for Flo, the one I like is: It’s sobering to look at Flo from space. Once minute you’re sitting in your La-Z-Boy drinking a scotch and water, next your in orbit, sober. Christ, not again.

  14. Jim – isn’t there a “leave mail on server” option with Thunderbird? That’s how you would use Gmail on multiple machines without using Gmail in the browser. (Which I find just fine with the four tab inbox and heavy archiving to labels, but different strokes.)

  15. You say that the book is coming out on New Year’s Eve. As a complete Don’t-Know-It-All in this field, I find this odd. Wouldn’t you want the book to come out *before* Christmas to catch the buying tide? Or are there marketing forces at work here that I have no idea about? (I’m pretty sure it’s the latter . . .)

  16. Signaling virtue is one thing. Announcing your Virtue Signaling months in advance is…


    Possibly all three.

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