Zeus, 6/30/19

He’s got an itch. He’s gonna scratch it.

As the Senior Cat at the Scalzi Compound, Zeus sees relatively less media attention than the others, particularly Smudge, who is lately the star of the the show. So I thought it would be nice to give him a moment in the spotlight, as it were. Now, mind you, he’s a cat, he doesn’t care. Even so.

And with this post we close up the first half of 2019, which for me was… surprisingly good, and also kind of exhausting. Let’s see how the second half of the year turns out.

Hey Scalzi, Who Would You Vote For as the Democratic Candidate If You Had To Vote Right Now?

Well, since you asked:

1. Kamala Harris: Because she’s hella smart, pretty savvy and because I think her background and daily practice in politics shows she’s not scared of anyone, least of all the Republicans. I also suspect that she would put together a very fine cabinet of equally smart and savvy people and be the best chance to reverse the four years of stupidity and cupidity we’ve endured to this point. Is she perfect? Lol, no, and I suspect people will be more than happy to expound on this in the comments. But I don’t need perfect at this point, and additionally I think she’s smart enough to know where she’s not smart enough, and will collect people to her to compensate. Also, she’s not old as fuck, and her personal baggage seems dealable. Plus she’d shred Trump in the presidential debates like he was a chicken straight out of the crock pot. Yeah, I’d watch that.

2. Elizabeth Warren: Has a plan for literally everything and is also generally fearless, and she loosens the bowels of the very very rich, which I think is what we need right now. Bluntly, for me at this point it’s almost a tie between her and Harris; I would be fine with either and I think either would put the GOP in a panic, and in Warren’s case they would run in circles screaming “Socialism! Socialism!” like they were on fire, which would amuse me. I’m not in love with Warren’s age as she would be entering the office, but in this case I don’t see it as a dealbreaker, and it’s not as if she’s the most ancient of the Democratic candidates anyway. Would also shred Trump in debates, who would be reduced to muttering “Pocahontas” at her like a warding spell.

3. Joe Biden: I mean, honestly, meh? He’s too old and he’s too old in his thinking and every time he opens his mouth some unforced error comes out of it. But this is 2019 and compared to the current occupant he’s a goddamn statesman. He’ll remind less engaged voters of the halcyon days of the Obama administration, when we had a president who wasn’t an active trash fire 24/7, and I think there’s some validity in the idea that Biden could get the votes of at least some of the dudes who voted for Trump in the last election because they were either overtly or latently sexist as shit and tried to hide it by being concerned about Clinton’s email rather than admitting their problem was that she was a woman and had been demonized by the GOP for over two decades running. There might be some on the left who will stay home if Biden wins the nomination, but, really, fuck them if they decide four more years of Trump’s incompetent, hateful authoritarianism is better than a Democratic candidate who isn’t perfectly aligned with their personal agenda. Fuck them right in the fucking ear.

4. Cory Booker: Smart, seems capable, centrist-ish, I think is probably more likely than anyone else in the current field to be find himself considered for the VP position, and I think he would take it, especially from Biden, who at 76 might not finish his term anyway, and so on. Would be a perfectly cromulent president. Also I’m one degree of separation from him as one of my best friends is reasonably close to him, so the chance I would somehow manage to cadge an invite to the White House in a Booker administration is ever-so-slightly higher than it might be otherwise, so all other things being equal, this adds like 1% to my overall total for likely voting for him.

5. Kirsten Gillibrand: Sure, why not.

6. Amy Klobuchar: Okay, fine.

7. Julian Castro: No major objection; another “In it for the VP slot” candidate, in my opinion.

8. Beto O’Rourke: Run for Senate again, Beto. Otherwise, yeah, all right.

9. Pete Buttigieg: Good with soundbites, light on actual experience, proof gay people can be as resolutely and blandly centrist as any straight person you might name, and if it came to it, sure, I’d vote for him.

10. Jay Inslee: I think Inslee is running either to be Secretary of Energy or Interior and/or some major policy advisor on the environment and clean energy, so good for him. On the extraordinarily small chance he becomes the candidate, I’d vote for him.

11. John Hickenlooper: Fun fact: I referred to him in one of the Old Man’s War books; look it up. Not exactly enthusiastic about him, but can’t think of much that would incline me against him, either, so: Yes, fine.

12. Bill de Blasio: Not really setting me aflame and I suspect he needs to focus more on his current job than his next one, which won’t be President anyway, but he’s not a flaming racist shithole like the current president, and if these are our choices, de Blasio it is.

13. Bernie Sanders: Jesus, I’m sick of this dude, who is not actually a Democrat anyway, is older than fuck, and who has the most querulously peevish supporters who generally make me tired the moment they open their demanding and entitled mouths. I’m happy that Sanders 2020: The Rebernening seems at this point likely to be swamped by the backwash of the Warren campaign, but I want to be absolutely clear that if the final choice is Sanders vs. Trump, I’ll press the button for Sanders so hard the plastic shell of the button might crack beneath my fingertip.

14. Andrew Yang: All right, if I must, although I suspect “must” won’t be an operative condition here.

15 (tie). John Delany, Tim Ryan, Steve Bullock, Michael Bennet, Eric Swalwell, Seth Moulton, Wayne Messam, Joe Sestak, Mike Gravel: I mean, whatever, dudes, it’s nice you have a hobby this summer, and if a targeted and highly specific virus incapacitated every single other candidate above you, then I guess I’d vote for you over Trump. But really, now. Go home. Just, go home.

24. Tulsi Gabbard: Not as smart on foreign policy as she wants everyone to think she is, wants people to forget that she was anti-LGBT most of her life and is Russia’s favorite Democratic candidate, so that’s great. I’d vote for her over Trump, but think what it would mean if these were our choices.

25. Marianne Williamson: Awww, hell no. If we get here, I’ve already moved to Canada. I have the points!

And that’s where I am at the moment with these folks.

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like A Very Scalzi Christmas

Whilst I was away in Los Angeles, schmoozing entertainment executives, the ARCs for A Very Scalzi Christmas arrived from Subterranean Press, and they are lovely and seasonal and full of sugary goodness. Why, it’s just like Christmas in… late June! In any event, a nice thing to come home to.

Also, hello, I’m home, just in time for the weekend, which I intend to spend mostly sleeping. Hope you also have plans, whether they involve unusual amounts of sleep or not.

On Being Denounced, Again (Again)

Yesterday I came across a recent fanzine with a rather emphatic editorial about (and against) me, and my influence on the Hugo Awards and on science fiction and fantasy fandom in general. I posted a link to it on Twitter, and the editorial — and I — became the subject of much comment online. I was busy most of the day yesterday with business meetings and (because I’m in LA) driving to business meetings, so I didn’t have much to say about it. But I have a bit of time this morning to talk about some of the topics it brings up, so let me touch on a few of them.

1. First and most obviously, the author of the piece is perfectly within the bounds to have the opinion she has, even if she’s being mean to me, and even if I think the thesis of her argument and the general procedure of it is largely incorrect. I can take it, and I will remind people never to be an asshole on my behalf to anyone else, please, and thank you.

2. As it happens, I don’t regret winning the Fan Writer Hugo, not in the slightest, because I earned it fair and square, I love it was given to me by other fans, and it’s incredibly important to me as a member of the science fiction community. Nor do I think I broke that particular Hugo, in no small part because since I won it, no person has won it twice, and as such the award reflects a wide diversity of thought and expression in the science fiction community. I can’t take credit for that, of course, but I do like that it happened.

3. The Fan Writer Hugo, like the Hugos generally, are voted on by fans, or at least the subset of fans who have memberships at Worldcon; if this Hugo broke when I won it, it’s because the fans themselves decided it needed some breaking, and resetting. I was the beneficiary rather than the cause of that. We’ve seen over the years that the Hugo-voting fandom is notably resistant to people trying to game the awards for their own personal benefit, and this was true both before and after my Fan Writer win. I’m not sure why I would be an exception to that general principle; I’m not that special.

4. Likewise, as much as I would like to take credit for “breaking” the Hugos in general, inasmuch as that would mean I could say I was responsible for the Hugos of NK Jemisin, Cixin Liu, Ann Leckie, Kameron Hurley, Sarah Gailey, Mary Robinette Kowal, and apparently every other Hugo winner over the last decade or so — arguably one of the best decades in science fiction and fantasy — I’m deeply sad to say I cannot. One, the Hugos are not broken in the least, as even the most cursorial glance at the writers and works who have won the award in the last few years will tell you. Two, as others have cogently pointed out, placing the praise and/or blame on my shoulders erases the efforts of those who have more actively done the work, in the literature and in the fandom, to change the face of science fiction and fantasy.

5. What can I take credit (or blame) for, with regard to the Hugos? In what is no doubt a recurring theme in my professional life: For being in the right place in the right time. I came into the science fiction genre and fandom at a point when blogs and personal sites were blowing up in terms of attention and influence, and on my blog (hello!) I did in an amateur manner what I had done professionally for years: Wrote my opinion on things and wrote it on a very regular basis, and in an at least semi-engaging manner. This allowed me to make a bigger impact in the genre than many debut authors have done historically, even before my first book was published. These things made a difference for the award consideration of both my professional work (Old Man’s War being nominated for the Hugo out of the gate; me being nominated for and winning the Campbell) and for my fannish work (i.e., writing about the world of SF, among many other topics, here). I’m a good writer; I’m also lucky.

(And also, while we’re at it, I benefited from being straight from Central Casting for what many people would imagine a science fiction writer being, circa the turn of the century: A somewhat nerdy white dude with loud opinions and just enough personal charm not to be immediately punched in the face by others. I think there’s more to me than that, I should say, and I do try to use at least some of my luck and good fortune to benefit others. But I’m not ignorant that the Lowest Difficulty Setting worked for me then, and still does now.)

6. So why, over the last decade plus change, have certain people focused on me as the agent of change (and not necessarily a good one) with regard to the Hugos? After all, this latest editorial is not the first jeremiad about me on the subject; people will recall I was a frequent example from the Puppy Camp of Everything That Was Wrong in Science Fiction and Proof the Hugos Were Corrupt, etc.

Here are some of the reasons:

a) professional/personal dislike and/or jealousy;
b)
unhappiness with inevitable change with fandom and the science fiction and fantasy community and genre generally and the need to find a single cause to blame it on;
c) ignorance (willful or otherwise) of the labor of other people (many of them not straight and/or white and/or male) to change the tenor of the SF/F community (and as a consequence, its awards);
d) a general lack of understanding that the SF/F community is a complex system and like most complex systems a single input or actor, in this case me, does not usually precipitate a wide system change on its own;
e)
my privileged position in the community makes me an easy and acceptable target/strawman/scapegoat — no one’s exactly punching down when they go for me.

7. Speaking personally it’s weird — in a way that ranges from amusing to a little unsettling — to be cast as a radical agent in the house of contemporary science fiction and fantasy. Folks, I am, bluntly, as mainstream as science fiction gets: I’m a white dude writing largely conventional science fiction stories aimed directly for the middle of the market. It’s my whole remit, and the reason I have that silly long contract with Tor; implicit in that thing is the idea that I write books they can sell by the palletload. I think I write pretty good mainstream science fiction, mind you; I’m not going to have false modesty about that. I do what I do as well as anyone does it. But mainstream it is.

Likewise, as a mostly genial, mostly nerdy, mostly trying-to-be-decent person, I’m pretty much right in the middle of the SFF fandom bell curve. I certainly do have flaws, which I try to work on. But generally there’s not much about me that doesn’t suggest I would be a reasonably good fit into fandom and in science fiction and fantasy generally. Now, I admit that I’m looking from the inside; maybe I’m missing things, and I’m sure someone will tell me if I am. But as in other aspects of my life, I think how I present in science fiction and fantasy can pretty much be defined as “somewhat self-aware petit bourgeois.” I’m okay with this. I do think it makes me a poor example of disruption and radicalism, which is perhaps why people who see me as such sometimes appear to be confused about what my worst crimes actually are.

8. I get that science fiction and fantasy, and the community that grew around it, are changing, and that’s uncomfortable for some of the people whose self-identity is wrapped up in both of these things. I understand that I came around at a time when some of those changes started and kind of made a splash when I arrived, and that maybe it’s easy to confuse those splashes with the currents that were changing the genre. So I get that some folks will think of me as an agent of those changes, and some folks will blame me for them.

And, I don’t know. If it makes that change easier, or at least gives them someone they can point a finger at, then, fine. Point away. But on my end, I think I have an idea of my actual importance and influence in the community and the genre (and in its awards). It’s not zero, which is nice for me. But it’s not anywhere as much as I’m sometimes credited with. And I would just as soon that the work of others be acknowledged and credited appropriately.

Also: Change happens. In science fiction and fantasy, I think the change we’re having is a good — the field is better because it’s more inclusive and open to a wider experience and expression of what it means to love the genre and to be a fan. I’ve been in fandom now for sixteen years (since Torcon in 2003, which was my first science fiction convention, and where I met the first of the writers and fans that I now call friends), and even in those sixteen years those changes have been significant, and to my mind mostly positive. My personal expression of fandom is to be excited about what, and who, comes next, in the genre, in the community, and up on the stage, accepting Hugos.

The Final Ride of the Not Cool Minivan, 2003 – 2019

Our minivan being towed away

Spare a moment, if you will, to think upon our 2003 Honda Odyssey minivan, which today, after sixteen years and over 200,000 miles, was towed away by a local charity to an unknown destination and future. The minivan has for the last few years been the daily driver for Athena, who took it to school with her and ferried around her friends and their stuff. But before that it was the family minivan, in which we carried kid, dogs, groceries and so on and so forth, as one does with minivans.

I should note that I didn’t want the minivan. When we went car shopping in 2003 (after my previous car, a 1989 Ford Escort, went belly up), I was looking at the then-new-to-the-scene Honda Element, which I thought was a pretty cool like pseudo-SUV. However, Krissy was indifferent to that car, so the salesman showed us a minivan, and by the time he got to the hideaway third row of seats, Krissy was sold. I accepted the inevitable, on the condition that we got personalized plates that read “NOT COOL,” because if you drove around in a minivan, any coolness you ever had goes out the window.

And as it turns out, “minivan for coolness” was a pretty good trade. The dirty secret of minivans is that they are generally comfortable, safe and useful cars. We were the ones toting friends when it came to go out to restaurants, and the ones who got called for loads that were too large for cars but too small for trucks; we could carry pretty much anyone or anything. And it turns out that Honda Odysseys are incredibly easy to maintain; I can’t really recall any particular trouble we ever had with it.

Be that as it may, sixteen years and 200,000 miles will take its toll, and the minivan was pretty much at the end of its useful life for us. We got Athena a used GMC Terrain to take her where she wants to go, and called up a local charity to come take away the minivan. I don’t know what they’ll do with it, but I like to think they might fix it up a little and give it to a family who could use it for at least a few more years. It served us well; it’d be nice if it could do the same for someone else.

So, farewell to the Not Cool minivan. It wasn’t cool, but it was good. It will be missed.

View From a Hotel Window: Hollywood, 6/24/19

Dog park!

Weirdly enough, the last time I was at this hotel, I was given this room. It’s the John Scalzi Memorial Room now, I suppose.

Here I am back in LA through very early Friday morning. And once again here for meetings and pitches and what have you. Exciting times, indeed. And who knows, maybe I’ll even write in the book!

The New Laptop, 2019 Edition

It's a Dell XPS 13

It turns out as much as I love my PixelBook — and I do — when it comes to writing long-form documents while travel, Google Docs still chokes on large files, and both the Web and Android app versions of Word are really really bad for my particular writing workflow (it’s because they’re terrible). Plus while I generally like the Android app versions of things like Photoshop, it’s also nice to have the full-featured versions when I’m on the road. What I’m saying is that I’ve talked myself into buying a new Windows laptop, and this is it: A Dell XPS 13, the recently-refreshed 2019 edition.

My very early take (as in, I’ve had it less than a day) is that a) it’s tiny as hell and also pretty, which I like, b) it’s very powerful for size and profile, c) the keyboard is nice and clicky, and the screen is kind of ridiculous (it’s 4k, which is hella overkill on a 13-inch screen) and d) Windows is still a bit of a pain in the ass and if I didn’t really just need the full-sized Word in order to write I would happily never use it again on a laptop. One of the reasons I love my PixelBook is that on an OS level it just works for laptops and doesn’t leave me waiting for anything. If Google Docs would just stop choking on any file over 15k words, I’d never look back.

(Incidentally, this is not your cue to tell me about your favorite alternate word processor and/or suggest I go over to a Mac or Linux or whatever. I use the tools I use because those are the tools that work for me, folks. Just be glad that I don’t have, like, WordStar 3.1 as my favorite word processing tool, like George RR Martin does. Say what you will about Microsoft Word, at least it is readily available.)

This is the second Dell laptop I’ve owned; the first was the XPS 12 2-in-1, which I got about five years ago. It had a tablet mode which one activated literally by flipping the screen around, which was a neat bit of engineering but ultimately not especially practical; I only ended up doing that a couple of times. There’s an XPS 13 2-in-1 as well, but in general I’ve found that turning one’s laptop into a tablet is generally better in theory than in execution — my PixelBook is also a 2-in-1 and I use the tablet mode rarely if at all. I don’t think I’ll miss flipping this one around. And if I need to flip around my laptop, well, I still have my PixelBook.

I should also note that this doesn’t mean that I’ve entirely abandoned my PixelBook, which again I love and consider probably the best single laptop I’ve ever had. It’s going to find use during the times where I’m not actively working on a novel, and also around the house when I’m just casually looking at things online (which is, uhhhhh, a lot). But this Dell is my new workhorse for when I travel, which is, these days a lot. I expect a lot of the next novel will be written on it. And probably the one after that. And possibly the one after that, too.

Krissy and Me, June, 2019

I post lots of photos of Krissy but somewhat fewer of the two of us together, mostly because I’m the one holding the camera and I usually don’t think to do the selfie thing. This time I did. This is us this last weekend in Washington DC. She’s gorgeous. I’m smug. This is the story of our lives.

New Books and ARCS, 6/21/19

For the longest day of the year (here in the northern hemisphere, anyway), one of the highest stacks of new books and ARCs we’ve had for the year to date! What here in this super-sized stack would be what you’d want to read late into evening? Share in the comments!

View From a Hotel Window, 6/20/19: Washington, DC

It feels very Washington-ish, if you know what I mean, although I would not hold it against you if you did not. I’ll be here for several days for the American Library Association conference. But today is a free day! Which I am, uh, spending in my hotel room, trying to catch up on some writing. Writers, man. Always scribble, scribble, scribble.

On the Move (Again)

Here’s a view I see a lot these days: The interior of Dayton’s airport, before I’m off again to elsewhere. Today it’s to Washington DC, where I’m doing an event with Sarah Gailey tonight at Loyalty Bookstore (come see us!), and then attend the ALA conference this weekend. Then I’ll be back home literally for a few hours to do laundry and nap before I’m off to Los Angeles to pitch things for several days. I’m home two days for the rest of June. I have done this to myself.

This isn’t a bad thing, mind you (well, all the travel is not great for the environment, which is why I bought carbon offsets the other day to offset my air travel this year, with margin to cover other aspects of travel, including the cruise I went on in March), but it is a reminder that so much of my life these days involves… not being at home. It’s been this way for a while, but this year feels especially ramped up. This is a year where I don’t have a novel out and no book tours scheduled, and I’m still traveling more than ever. I think the travel is worth it, both for business and personal reasons. It’s still a lot.

And off I go.

24 Years

Krissy and I on our wedding day, 6/17/95.

Fun fact: As of today, Krissy and I have been married for 24 years. Also fun fact: Every day I get to be married to Krissy is a good one. Many of those days are great! And some of them are genuinely spectacular.

I hope you have a very good John and Krissy Got Married Day as well.

Taking a Walk for Refugees

I woke up this morning and checked Twitter and discovered that Neil Gaiman had told me to take a hike — or more accurately, he had tagged me as someone he challenged to walk 2,000 steps by Refugee Day (which is June 20th) as part of #StepWithRefugees, to raise awareness of the roughly one billion miles refugees, in aggregate, walk each year to try to find safety. 2,000 steps is roughly a mile, so the idea is something akin to walking a mile in someone else’s shoes.

So I got out of bed and took that walk, and of course, because such a public challenge by Neil requires documentation, made a video of my morning perambulation. In the video you will see cats, cranes, frogs, headstones and Amish, and, of course, me. Yes, the video is in portrait mode. Sorry. It was early.

As part of the challenge I was meant to nominate three other people to do this walking thing, so I nominated Chuck Wendig, Joe Hill and Yanni Kuznia. But there’s no reason you can’t do it as well. Go take a hike (or walk, or run, or swim, it all counts). As you’re doing it, think of the people who walk not because they want to, but because they have to. And think about the people who, at the end of their daily walk, don’t get to come back to a home that is safe and sound.

New Books and ARCs, 6/14/19

Gaze upon it, if you will: The latest stack of new books and ARCs to arrive at the Scalzi Compound. Do you see anything here that intrigues you? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Sunset, 6/13/19

It was gray and rainy all day, so the fact there’s a sunset to see at all is a minor miracle. And it was a good one.

Men, Women, House Cleaning

An essay in the Guardian, entitled “Want to be a male ally? Start by cleaning the house” and the discussion of the essay over on Metafilter has prompted me to have some thoughts about house cleaning and relationships. These are in no particular order:

1. Essays like this feel purpose-driven to make dudes establish their bona fides as good guys, i.e., “Well, I do work at home! I will now enumerate all the things I do around the house!” So let me buck this trend by saying Krissy definitely does more work around the house than I do and pretty much always has. I can and do do work around the house, but Krissy does it more frequently, and more thoroughly.

2. With that said, with regard to our particular situation, I wonder how much of it is rooted in gender and how much of it are other factors. For example, Krissy’s housecleaning industriousness appears to come from her father, who kept his own house in tip-top shape (as well as doing more than his share of cooking — he had a menudo recipe that could knock you on your ass). My own somewhat less assiduous housecleaning style is something of a family tradition on my side — all of us have, shall we say, a fairly high level for chaos. Athena, I should note, appears to take after me in this.

This is not to say gender expectations do not play a role. They do, and I’m not interested in trying to minimize that aspect of it. I’m just curious as to how those expectations are engaged in the overall mix of who we are as people and how that affects housework.

3. This discussion also led me back to think about how I kept my home clean before Krissy came on the scene. I did not, in fact, live in squalor when I was a bachelor; my apartment was reasonably sanitary. The answer to this as far as I can recall is that I kept everything minimal so that cleaning was really simple. For example, I think I may have had two plates, two bowls and two sets of cutlery, so a) cleaning up was never a problem, b) if I delayed cleaning up, I’d run out of things to eat food on. Likewise I would always have clean clothes (the one thing I absolutely demanded in apartment was a washer/dryer combo), but I’d pick the clean clothes out of the dryer and deposit the dirty ones directly into the washer. When the washer was full, time to do laundry.

I’m not a dirty person — I don’t wallow in filth — but it’s certainly the case I am a messy person, and I have a tendency to let mess accumulate. Which, again, was why my solution when living alone was to minimize the number of things I had that could create mess with. This worked fine when I was 24 and living alone. It’s a less viable solution now.

4. Krissy and I have lived together for more than a quarter century now and we have a pretty good understanding how to do things in the house. I do less housework, and when return when Krissy asks me to do something for her, regardless of what it is and when she asks it, I pretty much drop what I’m doing and do that task immediately — in part because I know that she’s letting me get off easy overall and therefore she deserves my attention and participation when she does ask for something.

This doesn’t mean I wait to be told to do simple things, like rinse off the plates when I’m done with them or take out the trash when it’s full. I mean, I’m not an animal. It does mean I understand the “price” of being allowed not to take the lead in house cleaning is making sure I am an absolutely reliable and uncomplaining support act. That seems, in the grand scheme of things, more than fair.

5. I do also have specific house cleaning tasks. I clean up all things that issue forth from any animals we might keep; I handle pests both arthropod and vertebrate; I’m generally the person who deals with taking the trash to the curb (which is no small task when the curb is a couple hundred yards away, especially in the dead of winter). There are other things, too, but you get the point. I do these things without complaint and generally without being told because these are long-standing tasks.

6. “But you shouldn’t have to be told to do anything; you should just do it.” Well, yes, and also, no. I agree as a 50-year-old man I should have some understanding of basic housekeeping and perform those tasks without being told, and indeed I do those things and have gotten better at it as time has gone on. But it’s also the case that there are things Krissy wants done that either I don’t know about or that I don’t see as being an issue — as noted before, I’m comfortable with a higher level of chaos than she is, and also, sometimes I’m just plain lazy. Sometimes I need to be told, and I appreciate when she tells me, so I can make her happy by doing those things.

This was a thing that Krissy had to spend a little time getting comfortable with — both to get over the idea that I should inherently know what she wanted in terms of housecleaning, and to be comfortable asking me to do those things. The good news for us was that was all settled a while back and now it’s a thing that works for us both. And yes, I did ask her: We had a nice long chat about this general topic before I sat down to write this piece (and then read it to her before I posted it).

7. What would I do if Krissy decided to stop doing housework? Would I step up and take of all the work myself? No, because I know her standard of housecleaning and I know my own, and there is, to put it mildly, a gap there. I would keep the house clean by having someone else do it. We already have someone come in every couple of weeks to do a deep clean of the house; I’d have them come in more often. And yes, I’m aware we’re fortunate that we have the option. Again, I wouldn’t let the house collapse into squalor between housekeeping visits — remember, messy, not dirty — but I would definitely outsource this particular task.

8. Along this line, as long as we’ve been together I’ve always made it clear to Krissy that I don’t ever expect her to do the housework; if she were to stop doing it, I would not attempt to take her to task for shirking her “duties.” To repeat, I am well aware how much of a break she’s cut me by doing the majority of the housework over the years, and also, it’s not her “duty,” outside of the general sense of “hey, if you make a mess, clean it up,” which applies to everyone. It would be disingenuous for me to say I’m not happy she decides to do it. I make sure to let her know, on a regular basis and in various ways, how much I appreciate what she does for me and our house. But it’s not her job, and I’m not her boss.

9. Which I think is to the point. Any dude who has the expectation that a woman should be taking care of the housekeeping, leaving him free to play video games or whatever, is doing it wrong. I think it’s fine if one partner is more inclined to do housework, but I think if and when that happens the other partner should consider themselves to be getting a gift, and be ready to compensate their partner for their time and effort, to be an aide for their partner when needed or wanted, and to make sure they are doing other things in the relationship that are comparable to the time and effort and care their partner is putting into house cleaning. Let’s not pretend this is always the case.

The Big Idea: David Walton

In his Big Idea for Three Laws Lethal, author David Walton introduces you to those who hold your life in their (figurative) hands — whether you like it or not.

DAVID WALTON:

Don’t look now, but intelligent robots are about to decide if you live or die.

Somehow, while we weren’t paying attention, we slipped into a universe where the robots from Isaac Asimov’s “Three Laws of Robotics” stories are about to surround us by the millions. The self-driving cars being sold by Tesla and other manufacturers aren’t quite there yet, but we are quickly entering a world where AIs will be making moment by moment choices about your survival. Consider this scenario: Your car is driving you down a two-lane highway with concrete dividers on either side when an I-beam falls off the truck ahead of you. In the other lane is a motorcycle. Should your car swerve, missing the I-beam but hitting the motorcyclist? Or try to brake, knowing it can’t stop in time and possibly killing you? A human driver would act on reflex, but a computer has plenty of time to consider the options and decide who should survive.

My initial “Big Idea” for Three Laws Lethal was simply: Why isn’t anyone writing novels about this?

It’s a topic so overflowing with drama it was hard to choose a focus for the book. Should I write about a tense legal battle over who is responsible for a deadly crash? What about terrorists who hack cars to kidnap passengers, or use them to deliver bombs anonymously? Or maybe it’s the battle between proprietary algorithms kept secret by big corporations vs. open algorithms that consumers can replace by downloading those they like better? Or maybe a deadly war between competing companies to destroy each other’s reputations by causing the others’ algorithms to fail?

In the end, Three Laws Lethal includes all of these scenarios, but its central Big Idea is something that draws all of them together. As all of this drama is unfolding in the outside world, a young female programmer recognizes what others don’t: The AIs driving the cars are exhibiting some surprising emergent behavior. The AIs are trained in a virtual game world, one that uses evolutionary principles so that only the best of them survive to be used in real life. But after thousands of generations, the AIs are evolving survival tactics that reach outside of their expected parameters. In short: the cars are developing goals of their own.

I had something of a eureka moment in the early outlining for this novel when my daughter Naomi–a quiet, caring, quirky introvert–complained that the characters in the books she read were never like her. I realized that her personality was exactly what this novel needed. An introverted, book-loving programmer who struggles with social anxiety would be more likely to sympathize with the AIs than with other humans. So with her permission, I added eight years to her age and made her a main character.

But as I wrote the book, I was left with a question, given Naomi’s empathy for the AIs: Would she warn humanity of the threat? Or would she help the AIs achieve their goals?

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Three Laws Lethal – USA: Amazon | Barnes and Noble | BAM | IndieBound | Audible
Three Laws Lethal – Canada: Amazon.ca | Indigo

Visit the author’s site.  Follow him on Twitter or Facebook.

Today’s Collection of Flower Photos That Are Also Secretly Covers to Goth Albums

Dark, gothy photo of a flower.

Dark, gothy photo of a tigerlilly.

VERY colorful photo of a rose.

Threw you a curveball on that last one, didn’t I. Hey, goths can have color from time to time, they just have to be morose about it.

Today in “Things I’m Doing That I’ve Never Done Before”

I agreed to do a 5k run with my friend later this year. I made clear to them that I couldn’t promise I wouldn’t vomit at, like, mile three, but they were undeterred. It’s a few months away so I have time to prepare, at least.

Honestly who am I and what have I done with me these days.

The Big Idea: Richard Kadrey

Cover of Richard Kadrey's

In his new novel The Grand Dark, author Richard Kadrey takes a bit of swerve — and creates a world both like and unlike our own, in a particular time, and in a particular place.

RICHARD KADREY:

I’ve been thinking about The Grand Dark for a long time. Years, in fact. But I couldn’t figure out how to write it. Then, like a lot of my books, the opening just appeared in my head. Stories do that sometimes. I beat my face against the keyboard for days and then—pop!—the whole thing is there. I knew the story was going to get deeply weird, but I didn’t want to jump right into it. So, the book opens with a quiet bike ride through a waking city at dawn. That’s it. Just a guy on a bike.

Of course, the ride isn’t really ordinary. Our young hero, Largo, rides across a bridge that could easily be in 1920s Berlin or Prague, except for the robots. Little food delivery ones and Black Widows—huge spidery bots delivering steel and machine parts to the nearby armaments factory. While stopped at a street light, Largo sees a little delivery bot crushed under the treads of a military vehicle. This should be his first clue that the day isn’t going to go well but, of course, it isn’t.

Most of my books have been set in L.A. or San Francisco. But for The Grand Dark, I wanted to create a world that was completely mine, the way writers such as M. John Harrison created Viriconium and China Mieville created New Crobuzon. In that spirit, I invented Lower Proszawa. I’d been fascinated by the Weimar period in Germany between the First and Second World Wars, so that became the basis for the city.

Lower Proszawa is the somewhat rundown sister city to High Proszawa in the north. But the High City isn’t really there anymore. It was virtually destroyed during the Great War. As the story opens, it’s an uninhabitable ruin of shattered buildings, unexploded ordnance, and plague bombs. Those with the means had escaped the High City at the first hints of war. Now the two populations co-exist in a kind of liminal state made frantic by the knowledge that the Great War hadn’t settled anything and that another war is just over the horizon. And what do you do when you know the world is ending? You party.

There are drugs, sex, and entertainment of every sort in Lower Proszawa. The book revolves around the Theater of the Grand Darkness, a kind of Gran Guignol palace that stages the most gruesome murders imaginable twice a night. The actors are life-size electric puppets brought to life by actors backstage wrapped in metal galvanic suits. My puppet theater was inspired by the work of the brilliant animators, the Brothers Quay, whose The Street of Crocodiles made me wonder what it would be like to put people into their dark and fantastic worlds.

The book’s protagonist, Largo, spends a lot of time at the theater because his lover, Remy, is one of The Grand Dark’s rising stars. With her, Largo’s life seems great. He has a beautiful girlfriend. His job as a bike courier doesn’t pay much, but it’s easy. And, then there’s all the drugs and sex. Plus robots, which Largo hates because they’re taking jobs from humans, and genetically engineered Chimera pets, which Largo longs to create himself.

In a lot of ways, Largo is different from any protagonist I’ve written before. Most of my main characters are powerful and driven. Largo is a twenty-one-year-old innocent, in the sense that he thinks he knows how the world works, but has no real idea what he’s talking about. He’s also scared. He grew up in the slums of Haxan Green, saw his father and best friend murdered there, and is constantly afraid of screwing up enough to lose everything and end up back there. Because of his fear, he becomes the perfect pawn for forces that want to either destroy Lower Proszawa or transform it into something truly awful. This begins with the disappearance and possible murder of Remy. From there, his life takes a series of dark and surreal turns that lead from parties at millionaires’ mansions to the plague pits in the north.

I’m not going to lie to you. The book might have been different—lighter and more amusingly fantastical—if I’d written it at a different moment in history. But the real world always creeps into our work, even if we’re writing about L.A., Mars, or an entirely fictional city. We all live between Great Wars, whether they’re the kind with guns or our everyday struggles to live, create and be at least a little happy in a global shitstorm.

Most of all, though, The Grand Dark is a strange adventure story. You’ll find secret police, strange airborne maladies, carnivals full of the most fantastic Chimeras, clandestine submarine bases, revolutionaries, and weird weapons the world hasn’t seen before. But if you really want the elevator pitch, here it is: The Grand Dark is about a young man and his lover having wine and cocaine at a 1920s Berlin café run by robots and scarred war veterans at the end of the world. Or, at least, the beginning of a new one.

I think it’s the best thing I’ve written. I hope you enjoy it.

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The Grand Dark: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Indiebound|Powell’s

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