The New Thing I’ll Be Doing This Tour: The Element of Chance
Posted on October 15, 2018 Posted by John Scalzi 28 Comments
This upcoming book tour for The Consuming Fire (here’s the link to the schedule) will be the tenth(!) book tour I’ve done, and over the course of time I’ve developed a strategy for my events: I read from an upcoming work, I read something short and funny, and then I read a piece from Whatever, usually about writing but sometimes about other things. It’s a good strategy because it works, but it also means that every event on the tour is the same. From the point of view of the people who come to see me, that’s not a problem, because they’re usually only coming to see me once per tour. But for me, I think it would be fun to shake things up a little bit, to keep the tour fresh, and keep me on my toes.
So for this tour, here’s my current plan: I have created a list of ten different things I’m prepared to do/read/perform on this tour, and at each stop, I will take a ten-sided die and I will roll it three times. Whatever numbers the die lands on, I will do the corresponding thing on my list.
And what is this list? I’m glad you asked!
THE TEN THINGS SCALZI IS PREPARED TO DO ON TOUR
1. Read from an upcoming work
2. Read from someone else’s new work!
3. Read some juvenalia
4. Read from Whatever
5. Speak authoritatively and persuasively for several moments on a topic chosen by the audience (even if I don’t know anything about that topic)
6. Read something that will probably make me cry
7. Lead an audience sing-along of an 80s pop song (if someone brings a guitar or ukulele to the event)
8. Give a Mini-Clinic on how to write a novel in just (mumble mumble) weeks!
9. Read something funny
0. REVEAL THE MEANING OF LIFE
So what does this mean, exactly? Let break each down:
Read from an upcoming work: This one is simple: I’m writing new work all the time, and I’ll read from one of those.
Read from someone else’s new work: Hey, you know how musicians will sometimes cover songs from bands they like? This is me doing the same sort of thing — I’ll read an excerpt from a current work that I like from an author I think is cool. The piece I’ve chosen is also something I think I can perform well, so that will make it extra fun.
Read some juvenalia: I found a piece of writing I did when I was fifteen years old. I think it’s a piece that people will find amusing, not only for its total fifteen-year-oldness, but also because I think in it you can pretty easily see the connection to that kid and who I am today. It’s proto-Scalzi!
Read from Whatever: It’s the 20th anniversary of the Whatever this year, so I will read pieces from the site. I have a piece selected but depending how ambitious I am, I may read a different piece each time this one comes up. There’s a lot to choose from, after all.
Speak authoritatively and persuasively for several moments on a topic chosen by the audience (even if I don’t know anything about that topic): I’ll let the audience pick a topic and then I will discourse impressively about the topic, showing my knowledge of and confidence in the subject. Whether I actually know anything about that topic will be another matter entirely, of course. But if you ever wanted to see how well I can spontaneously bullshit, this would be the time!
Read something that will probably make me cry: So, I’m a crier and I will cry at a drop of the hat about lots of things. This does not usually come up on tour because I intentionally do not read things I know are likely to make me cry — but this time, I will. I will not guarantee I will cry, only that in the past, the pieces I’ll read from have made me cry. We all take our chances.
Lead an audience sing-along of an 80s pop song: At some point in the past people started showing up at tours with ukuleles, asking me to sing something. I point out that I play the ukulele terribly, and the response usually is “we know, that’s why it’s funny.” This time around, if someone brings an already tuned ukulele or guitar (I can play either equally well! Which is not well at all) to the event, I will additionally perform a song BUT THIS TIME I AM TAKING YOU ALL WITH ME, which is to say I will make you all sing along. You have been warned. Also, seriously, make sure the uke or guitar is tuned. Stopping to tune kills the momentum.
Give a Mini-Clinic on how to write a novel in just (mumble mumble) weeks! I wrote The Consuming Fire just a little more quickly than I usually write a novel, for various reasons, and if this topic pops up, I’ll talk about why that happened, how I did it, and what if anything about my writing process for this novel you can take away and use yourself (and what things you really, really shouldn’t do).
Read something funny: I wrote a short new piece of fiction exclusively for the tour! I think it’s funny! I’ll read it!
REVEAL THE MEANING OF LIFE: Because I know! Sort of! And I’ll share it! Maybe!
Plus: The usual Q&A part and of course the part where I sign books for people.
Because what I read and do at the event literally depends on the roll of a die, every stop on the tour will be different and even I can’t know what I’ll be doing at any stop. I think this will keep the events unpredictable and fun, and that’s a good thing (hopefully).
Caveats: If after trying it out a couple of times this d10 plan turns out to be awkward/terrible/unpopular, I reserve the right to fiddle with the formula and/or discard it entirely, because the actual point of these events is to make sure people come to them have a good time. Also, if for some reason it’s not possible to do one of the things on the list (for example, if no one brings a ukulele or a guitar), I’ll just re-roll OR just pick something else to do. Also also, if time/interest permits, I may do more than three things from the list (or do something not on the list at all). Finally, at the Austin, TX stop, I’m not doing any of these things because instead I will be in conversation with the awesome Victoria Schwab about writing and life in general. But that’s going to be pretty great on its own, so come see us anyway.
Sound like fun? Alternately, want to see my flail about horribly whilst doing these things? Then come on down and see me on tour! And please bring along everyone you’ve ever met. The more people, the better. See you soon!
I like this, but I notice the word “burrito” is suspiciously absent from this list. I was hoping to see something like, “Make a burrito from random ingredients provided by the audience.” Of course, the odds of producing something toxic or explosive might preclude this.
I wish I lived in America! You are still coming to Eastercon in London (Britain) next year, aren’t you? Might you use the d10 then? (Though I’m imagining that actually doing so will depend on how use of it goes on this tour.)
What happens if you get duplicate results–e.g., die comes up 1-5-1; will you read the upcoming work sample twice?
Please, no need for an explaation, we’re all GMs here, and we know how this works: you roll the die, and then choose whatever you feel like doing at the moment. ;)
Heh. Actually, I’ll just re-roll to get a number that hasn’t come up yet.
Bah! Again you are boycotting Philadelphia with your tour. How can I pay my proper respects and provide tribute?
Eh, we already know the Meaning of Life. It’s 42.
Think of it as a new beginning.
I’m always reminded of an old “BC” comic where the supplicant asks the Old Man on Top of the Hill what is the secret of life. Answer: “The sooner you get started the more time you have!”
I like #2. The first time I attended a signing/reading by Andrew Vachss, he had a table of books he recommended next to a table of his own work.
wiredog, that’s not the meaning of life. It’s just the answer to the question of life the universe and everything.
At least by day 4 you’ll have some idea how good/bad an idea this was, and we’ll benefit from the guinea pigs earlier in the schedule. :)
Aw. The main thing that convinced me to deal with the awful parking at your local stop is #9. I don’t care for those odds.
I should have made a to do that you weren’t coming to Park Road Books in Charlotte. It’s right on your way to GA. Hit me if you want coffee.
‘proto-Scalzi’ – I don’t know why but that concept bothers me. “They’re coming!”
Given his legendary luck (??) in rolling dice, why not have Wil Wheaton stop by the Los Angeles date and give that die a spin? What could go wrong?? (cue citywide disaster, dogs, cats living together…)
This makes me wonder if you have the equivalent of Deadheads (Scalziheads?) who follow you from hotel to hotel during your tour. Changing things up during the tour will make their experience more enjoyable. Good for them (if they exist). Frankly, seeing familiar faces from previous stops on the book tour would creep me out a little.
Will you share with us (maybe after the tour?) what you read that makes you cry, and whether it did, in fact, make you cry? Because I also cry at the drop of a hat, and there are any number of songs that I can’t perform in public because I break down every damn time I play them.
I use dice when creating algebra problems for my classes. When I want unique numbers, I will roll one die, like a d10, and then a d4 as a offset. The first number is the result of the d10 and the second is the sum of the two dice. That may wreck the uniformity of the distribution, as adding random variables needs to be done with care.
Everybody knows the dice are loaded
Everybody rolls with fingers crossed.
I’m looking forward to being a guinea pig in LA on Thursday. I’ve even reserved a seat! Which seems a little redundant as I bring my own (power wheelchair) wherever I go. In any case it’ll be my first visit to The Last Bookstore. What’s the etiquette in bringing, say, my copy of Old Man’s War to be signed? Just the one, not the entire library?
It figures you’d do change up each event this year, because THIS time I can only attend the Raleigh date. As you know, normally I go to both Raleigh and Chapel Hill.
But seriously, this sounds fun. I’ll see if I can borrow my friend’s ukelele again.
I think he actually means a d20, not a “ten-sided die,” which would not have equal probabilities for each face. My old DM and math instincts kicked in at an inconvenient time as usual.
@Jaws: You are incorrect: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pentagonal_trapezohedron
It’s not regular, in the Platonic sense, but it has 10 identical faces with an equal chance of landing on each one.
Who’s to say you don’t have a few Deadhead-Phish-DMB types who follow you across the country on your book tours? Maybe you should take that ukulele with you and add a few songs in with the rest of the fun!
Well, apparently I could have saved myself some embarassment by reading the whole blog post before commenting! ☺️
So, are you doing the die-roll onsite, at the event? So you won’t strictly speaking know what you’ll be doing until you’re there, onstage? If not, how will we know you’re actually following the formula? Huh? Huh??
Please, please, please write up your mini-clinic on how to write a novel in *mumble* weeks for Whatever (after you’ve refined it on tour). If I lived 2,500 miles closer to any of your tour stops, I’d attend just for this.