Work-Related Semi-Hiatus Through the End of May

Hey! I have a book (The Last Emperox) that’s due reeeeeeeeal soon, so to avoid the world pulling focus on that, for the next few weeks (i.e., probably through the end of the month, possibly shorter, hopefully not longer) I’m going to be doing a semi-hiatus from social media and the Internet generally.

What does “semi-hiatus” mean? Basically:

  • Pulling back on Twitter, Facebook and blogging pretty significantly
  • Avoiding news and the outside world generally pretty much entirely
  • Answering non-business email only briefly (and sometimes not at all)

I’m calling this a “semi-hiatus” rather than a full hiatus mostly because a) here at Whatever I have Big Ideas scheduled this month, and I also want to note my 50th birthday, which is coming up on Friday, so those posts are definitely coming; b) generally I may have things to announce this month and I don’t want to have to preface them by saying “hey, breaking my hiatus to let you know…”; c) sometimes I will be all done with work for the day and will want to give myself permission to check in with friends online, or, you know, maybe post cat or sunset pictures, or other such frivolous/fun things, that won’t tax my by-then-almost-certainly-deflated brain.

Please note: my intention to largely avoid the outside world means that, barring genuinely world-shaking events, I am unlikely to be posting about politics/social issues, here or on Twitter or elsewhere, to any great extent until the book is done. Depending on who you are, this will either be a bug or a feature. But please know that, for me, any brain cycles spent being annoyed/outraged/upset at current events are brain cycles I’m not using to finish the book. This is how I’m built, and I have deadlines, so I have to prioritize my work. The good news (heh) is that there’s a whole bunch of other people out there to take up the slack while I’m away.

Please also note that when I come back I’ll likely do the annual Reader Request Week, so Whatever, at least, will get back up to speed pretty rapidly.

Regarding email: If you’re emailing me about something that can wait until the beginning of June, it’s probably best to wait until then. With regard to Big Idea queries, go ahead and send them but be aware I’ll likely not have a quick turnaround on responding to those this month.

And in the meantime, don’t worry: I’m fine, the cats are fine, everyone at the Scalzi Compound is fine. I’m just busy writing a book so you can have it to read and enjoy next April.

There it is! And now, a cat picture as a reward for your attention. Enjoy.

A Goal Mostly Hit

Back in October I groused about my weight and how it was making me feel physically, and proposed that I should lose twenty pounds by my birthday, which is, as it happens, this Friday. Today I’m happy to announce that indeed, I have lost twenty pounds from my top weight! So that’s good.

The slightly less great news is that it’s twenty pounds off from a top weight that I reached in December, which was nearly five pounds more than what I was in October, because, you know, holidays. So I’m still five pounds off from my ultimate weight goal of 170 pounds, and it seems unlikely I’ll drop five pounds by Friday, save by dysentery, which I am not inclined to contract.

I propose to solve this dilemma by a) celebrating hitting the goal of losing twenty pounds anyway (yay!), and b) setting a new target date to hit 170 pounds, which will be June 17, which as it happens is my anniversary date with Krissy. That’s about five weeks away, and as I’ve been losing roughly a pound a week — which seemed both a sensible and achievable goal in a general sense — getting to 170 by then seems doable. See you in June, target weight.

I have to say that dropping this weight has done me good aside from the simple physical side of it — although that side of it is not insubstantial. When I started in December I was winded after walking a mile on the treadmill, and now I can run two miles on the same treadmill without feeling like I want to die, and beyond that I’m feeling other physical benefits in terms of endurance and health. But there’s also a psychological benefit as well, which comes down to the ability to look in the mirror and see someone there who matches my own self-image of who I am.

As I’ve noted before, I’m not a proponent of the idea that “thin” is necessarily the body ideal for everyone, either for their physical or mental well-being. But I also know that for me personally, the weight gain was not positive, as much for what it represented in terms of what I was doing to my own body as for itself. Making it a goal to get myself back to what I see as “myself,” and having that be an act of my own will, has been a good thing for my mental health, I think.

When I hit 170 my plan is to pause there and try to maintain at that point for a bit, and see how I feel. I’ve weighed less than that before (in my 30s I was around 160 – 165), but I think at that point I’ll have to see what works for a 50-year-old version of me, not the version that has been around for over a decade. I suspect regardless I’m stuck with exercising regularly now, which is a thing I don’t love for itself, even if I like what it does for me. But, again: 50, as of Friday. I need to be exercising regardless.

So: Hooray! 20 pounds down! Five more to go! A reminder we are all works in progress, and the good news being sometimes that progress is a positive.

The Big Idea: Rudy Rucker

In this Big Idea for Million Mile Road Trip, author Rudy Rucker describes how he wrote himself into a bit of a corner — and what it was that helped him get out of it. His path is not recommended for others, but it makes for some very fine reading here.


I always wanted to write an SF novel about a motley group of characters taking a long journey to visit a lot of planets, some of the travelers human, and some of them alien. To make it more fun, I wanted them to be riding in a car.

Why a car? Well, we already have plenty of SF novels about tourists in spaceliners, emigrants in generation starships, and troops in the space navy. In a car, there’s no captain, and you can ride with the windows open, and you stop wherever you like.

Real-life road trips end before you want them to. You run into a coastline. The road stops. I wanted a road trip that goes on and on, with ever new adventures, and with opportunities to reach terrain never tread upon before. But how to do that in a car?

I peeled Earth like a grape, snipped out the oceans, shaped the flattened skin into a disk, and put a mountain range around it. Then I laid down a bunch more of these planetary rinds, arranging them like hexagonal tiles on a very wide-ranging floor. All set for a Million Mile Road Trip.

How did I decide on a million miles? Well, the edited-down Earth disk has a diameter of about ten thousand miles. And if we’re generous and say our roadtrip will run across about a hundred similar planet-like disks—then we’ve got a million miles. 100 × 10,000 is 1,000,000. Nice and tidy.

By the time I was two-thirds done with my novel I realized I’d only traveled through six worlds. I needed to pick up the pace. The acceleration part was easy. I introduced an invented-on-the-spot SF technology that I called stratocasting (for the Fender guitar). The hard part was actually imagining a whole lot of worlds. I figured describing thirty of them would be enough, and the rest could be a blur. But I was having trouble getting thirty unique worlds together.

At this point, in January 2016, real life intervened. I had to go into the hospital for an especially traumatic hip operation.

After the operation, I woke, soaked in sweat, in a state of delirium at half-past midnight. My bed seemed like the edge of an alleyway, and I was like a wet rag of clothing lying there, a wadded shirt. A nothing. Pathetic. Lost. Undone.

I was unable to remember who I was, or where, or what my significance was, or what ordeal I was undergoing, or what I was supposed to do. A wet crooked rag in an alleyway. Eventually I found the ringer-button to call a nurse. She was sympathetic.

And then, on the table by my bed, I spotted the paper scrap with my marked-up draft of the “Stratocast” chapter for Million Mile Road Trip. Ah, yes. I told the nurse I was a writer, and that the scrap was from a science fiction novel I was working on, and  that I would now try to recover my personality by thinking about my book. She approved.

I had all the time in the world, anonymous in the middle of a hospital night. I set to work, typing till 3 am. I was happy to be writing in such an extreme situation. I ran my characters across twenty or thirty planet-sized basins in a single chapter. A surreal mural in my mind.

That hospital experience reminds me of a sentence in a short story, “Miss Mouse and the Fourth Dimension,” written by Robert Sheckley, the SF-writer-hero of my youth, and later my mentor. He was a wise, hip guy, and deeply funny to boot. Here’s Sheckley’s line: “A genuine writer is a person who will descend voluntarily into the flaming pits of hell for all eternity, as long as they’re allowed to record their impressions and send them back to Earth for publication.”

I always think a lot about what I’m writing. I’m a perfectionist. On the days when I can’t get anywhere on my current novel, I work on my notes for it, thinking about my world and about the invented logical explanation behind it. It’s a dialectical process. The thesis is the fantastic vision, the antithesis is the pseudoscientific explanation, the synthesis is ramifying linkage between the two, and the process is the the act of shuttling back and forth, repeatedly adding to the vision and the theory.

Of course, Million Mile Road Trip is no ponderous work of phenomenology. It’s light and playful. The heroes are three high-school kids with bad attitudes. And the aliens they encounter are, to say the least, flaky.

Another element that influenced my composition is the style of Thomas Pynchon. I wanted to write a novel in the present tense like he does. Often readers don’t consciously notice what tense a novel is written in—like, is it past or present? But for writers it’s a fraught decision. I found that using the present tense gives a chatty feel, like someone recounting a tale. Another Pynchon move is to rotate the point of view from chapter to chapter. And he writes very close-up to the current point-of-view character, producing an effect like a real-time stream of consciousness.

Regarding locale, I like to fold my real surroundings into my SF novels—it’s what I call transrealism. SF that’s set in the real world.

This time around, my transreal world includes flying saucers—and they’re not boring machines, no, they’re live beings made of meat. The aliens don’t ride in flying saucers, dude, they are flying saucers. (I don’t understand why more people don’t realize this!) Be that as it may, you can’t really have flying saucers in a novel without a full-on Attack of the Flying Saucers. And what better setting for such a scene than—the annual graduation at our local Los Gatos High School! I’ve been to quite a few graduations there.

It’s all here. Check it out.


Million Mile Road Trip: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Indiebound|Powells

Read an excerpt. Visit the author’s site. Follow him on Twitter.


A View Through the Backyard Maple

It’s a very relaxing view. 

No reason for this other than I thought it might be nice to a have a bit of tree and sky in our lives today.