Reader Request Week 2020: Get Your Questions In!

This upcoming week I have almost nothing scheduled, either in the real world or online, which honestly is a first for me in a real long time. I could just take a break, but where’s the fun in that? So: It’s time for the annual Reader Request Week, in which you pick the topics I write about for the next week here at Whatever. Always wanted to ask me a question? Want to see me opine on a topic of your choosing? See me dance like a monkey just because you can? This is the time and place for it!

(“Didn’t you just do a Reader Request Week?” I did one in November, yes, which is generally far later than I usually do them; I usually schedule them for March or April. So this is an attempt to get things back on the more usual schedule. Anyway, the last six months have been the equivalent of a decade, am I right? So I’m actually behind!)

You can ask any question on any topic — politics, social topics, personal queries, silly nonsense, it’s all up for grabs. Post your question in the comment thread, and I will go through the thread and pick the topics I’ll respond to, starting on Monday, May 11, and going through the entire week.

While any topic is up for request, I do have a couple of suggestions for you, when you’re making your topic selections.

1. Quality, not quantity. Rather than thinking of a bunch of general topic for me to address, which isn’t very interesting to me, and which is also like hogging the buffet, pick one very specific topic that you’re actually interested about — something you’ve thought about, and taken time to craft a question that will be interesting to me. I’m much more likely to pick that than look through a menu of very general topics.

2. Writing questions are given a lower priority. Me writing about writing is not unusual here, so for this week, writing topics are a secondary concern. But if you really want to ask a question about writing, go ahead, just remember that point one above will apply more to your question than most. It’ll have to be a pretty good question to stand out.

3. Don’t request topics I’ve recently written about. I’ve included the last five years of Reader Request topics below so you can see which ones are probably not going to be answered again. That said, if you want to ask a follow-up to any of the topics below, that’s perfectly acceptable as a topic. Also, for those of you wondering how to make a request, each of the posts features the request in it, so you can see what’s worked before.

How do you submit requests? The simplest way to do it (and the way I prefer, incidentally) is to put them in the comment thread attached to this entry. But if you have a reason not to want to have your request out in public, the other option is to send me e-mail (put “Reader Request Week” in the subject head so I don’t have to hunt for it).

Please don’t send requests via Twitter or Facebook, since I don’t always see those. I credit those whose topics I write on, but feel free to use a pseudonym if you’re asking something you’d prefer not to have attached to your real name.

Here are topics from the last few years:

From 2015: 

Reader Request Week 2015 #1: Free Speech Or Not
Reader Request Week 2015 #2: Ego Searching Redux
Reader Request Week 2015 #3: Raising Strong Women
Reader Request Week 2015 #4: Bullies and Me
Reader Request Week 2015 #5: A Boy Named John
Reader Request Week 2015 #6: Me and Republicans
Reader Request Week 2015 #7: My Dream Retirement
Reader Request Week 2015 #8: On Being an Egotistical Jackass
Reader Request Week 2015 #9: Writing Related Short Bits
Reader Request Week 2015 #10: Short Bits

From 2016:

Reader Request Week 2016 #1: Living Where I Do
Reader Request Week 2016 #2: Will Humans Survive?
Reader Request Week 2016 #3: How, and If, I Will Be Remembered
Reader Request Week 2016 #4: Autonomous Cars
Reader Request Week 2016 #5: Pronouns
Reader Request Week 2016 #6: Why I Don’t Drink or Use Drugs
Reader Request Week 2016 #7: Writers and Ego
Reader Request Week 2016 #8: STEM and STEAM
Reader Request Week 2016 #9: Short Bits on Writing
Reader Request Week 2016 #10: Small Bits

From 2017:

Reader Request Week 2017 #1: Punching Nazis
Reader Request Week 2017 #2: Those Darn Millennials
Reader Request Week 2017 #3: Utopias
Reader Request Week 2017 #4: Haters and How I Deal With Them
Reader Request Week 2017 #5: Remembering Dreams
Reader Request Week 2017 #6: Reading as Performance
Reader Request Week 2017 #7: Parents, Their Age, and Their Kids
Reader Request Week 2017 #8: The Path to Publication
Reader Request Week 2017 #9: Writery Short Bits
Reader Request Week 2017 #10: Short Bits

From 2018:

Reader Request Week 2018 #1: Incels and Other Misogynists
Reader Request Week 2018 #2: Our Pets and How We Treat Them
Reader Request Week 2018 #3: The Reputational Reset, or Not
Reader Request Week 2018 #4: Far-Left(?) Scalzi
Reader Request Week 2018 #5: Who’s Cool and Who’s Not
Reader Request Week 2018 #6: The Fall(?!?!?!) of Heinlein
Reader Request Week 2018 #7: Mortality
Reader Request Week 2018 #8: Public Speaking
Reader Request Week 2018 #9: Writing Short Bits
Reader Request Week 2018 #10: Short Bits

From 2019:

Reader Request Week 2019 #1: Strange Experiences
Reader Request Week 2019 #2: The War Between the Generations
Reader Request Week 2019 #3: Blogging With Extreme Confidence
Reader Request Week 2019 #4: The Things You Outgrow
Reader Request Week 2019 #5: Civility
Reader Request Week 2019 #6: Being Entertained as an Artist
Reader Request Week 2019 #7: How My Wife Can Stand Me
Reader Request Week 2019 #8: 13-Year-Old Me
Reader Request Week 2019 #9: Writing Short Bits
Reader Request Week 2019 #10: Short Bits

Got it? Good. Then: Ask me what you really want to know! I might even tell you!

147 Comments on “Reader Request Week 2020: Get Your Questions In!”

  1. The Last Emperox (and the rest of the series) read to me as much more in “your” voice, or at least more similar to how you write on Whatever than your other books. Asides, turns of phrase, sarcasm are all examples where I noticed similarities.

    Do you agree with that? Was it intentional?

  2. As the new humans allowed to live in the same house with a tuxedo cat, do you think they are born assholes or are they made (the nature/nurture argument)? I see a lot of Smudge in Felix.

  3. What are your views on professional and amateur sports? Do you have a favorite sport/team? You’ve created a fictitious sport in the Locked-In universe and one of the characters from those books was a legendary basketball player, but I’ve never read a blog or a tweet from you about sports in general.

  4. How is the SciFi and broader publishing industry doing in Covid-19? Who’s going to be OK, who’s hurting, and what’s the best way for fans to help?

  5. How important is science in scifi? Is it merely a setting that makes setting and plot easier? Or is credible (even if projected/forecasted/or guessed at) science central to the genre?

  6. My neighbors are assholes.
    The loudest voices are ultra-right wing. The type that push conspiracy theories about this being a hoax (one person complained just today about how Dr. Fauci should not be listened to because he “has an agenda”). The type that regularly responds to people concerned about the virus with “Well if you don’t feel safe, just stay home.” and demands the community open fully based on personal responsibility. And so on…
    You have been open that you are surrounded by conservatives. Some of them may be like my neighbors. Some, I assume, still support Trump and his efforts. In times like this, how have you been dealing with them?

  7. What do you think about The Pursuit of the Pankera, that somewhat-new book published by Robert A. Heinlein?

  8. Cover songs: The deity’s gift to humanity or an abomination unto said deity? What makes a good one? Any that you particularly love or hate?

  9. A prediction on any cultural impact mass adoption of internet conference sites like Zoom, Jitsi, & Webex will have after the plague has subsided.

  10. What are your thoughts on potential VP picks for Biden? Anyone in particular you favor for the slot?

  11. Why don’t we see any book remakes? For example FFVII Remake is doing pretty well at the moment, there have been countless movie remakes, but rare are there any book remakes. Is it mainly because of how long these things would take? Or something else? I’d love to see a minority writer rewrite LotR or Narnia. Or see how Joe Hill would do on a rewrite of one of his dads books. I don’t usually reread books but would take another trip if a different author rewrote it.

  12. Short version: Lots of white men who made great art in the 60s-80s have turned out to be assholes. What are we supposed to do with them now?

    Longer version: I’ve loved Terry Gilliam’s movies for decades. Like so many people in my generation, I laughed hysterically at Life of Brian and The Holy Grail in my friends’ dorm rooms. I’ve marveled at Peter Seller’s timing in Dr Strangelove. Let It Be and The White Album moved me to my core. We studied Purple Rose of Cairo and Zelig and Shadows & Fog in undergrad.

    Not all of these guys are still living, and some are retired. But others are still working. What are we supposed to do with their art? Do we turn away from their legacy because they were/are drunks, philanderers, racists, and/or violent and abusive? Do we acknowledge that they’re awful human beings who did some astonishing things?

  13. In some of your speaking about The Last Emperox, you mention that the reason far-future characters can have understandable motivations is the same reason we can still relate to stories from centuries ago: that human nature doesn’t fundamentally change. And yet we do see that society itself does change, and generally changes for the better, even if the process is slower than we’d like. Is there a contradiction there, or is your view that human nature simply has a thin predisposition toward “good”, and so the arc of history bends toward justice over sufficiently large arcs?

  14. You are an astute observer of human behavior and you have a personal window on the effects of celebrity of one family member on other members of the family unit. What do you imagine the lives of Melania and Brandon Trump are really like?

  15. I’ve been watching Upload on Prime (excellent), so the big question is: would you consider, upon your death, uploading your consciousness into a VR world, and if so, what type of world would you prefer?

  16. A photography geek post would be nice. What gear do you have? What you like about it? What do you regret getting? What surprised you in a pleasant way?

  17. Suppose you had access to a holodeck. What sort of programs would you run? (Sky’s the limit; you can simulate people, creatures, places, and things both real and imaginary.)

  18. Swearing in front of your own child(ren). At what age, what sort of cusses? My kid is 9 and we are starting to pull back on our self-censorship, but we haven’t returned our vocabularies to pre-parenting full “fucking bullshit” yet. My wife is more likely to do use profanity while driving, and I’m more likely to use profanity in pursuit of humour. That said, I suspect that our kid will be the one teaching her friends on the playground what the best cuss words mean.

  19. Do you use any word-processing shortcuts? Like, do you type “Nohamapetan” in all its 11 letter glory every time, or do you have an auto-complete option for it and other long proper names? Like alt-shift-N fills in Nohamapetan, or something. I had to slow down so much just to type it twice here, I can’t imagine how good a typist you’d have to be to keep typing those names!

  20. What unexpected / Off-the-Beaten-Trail hobby do you enjoy? (Obvs. we know about the photography and music; what *else* might there be?)

  21. John,

    Your camera posts have inspired me to go beyond my cell phone and my question is what resources did you use to learn how to take pictures? Was it purely experience, or did you read guides about technique, settings and technology? Also, for someone who is going to get a camera with interchangeable lenses and what appears to be a similar taste in photos, what kind of lenses do you recommend to start?


  22. Why is Science fiction and Fantasy mixed together in book stores and libraries? Or why should I enjoy fantasy when I prefer Science fiction?

  23. Space Force (the military branch, not the Netflix production): What are your thougths?

  24. The semi-lockdown here in this country has made me re-read a number of the books I’ve collected over the years.
    You on the other hand receive new ARC’novels regularly.
    How many of them do you actually get time to read?
    Stay safe and well!

  25. Was the story, “The Ugly Little Boy”, Asimov’s best, worst, or a throwaway? Should we even care?

  26. You mentioned in your conversation with Martha Wells on May 5 that you go back and re-read Dune on occasion. A lot of people seem to have a lot of thoughts about it, and I am curious about your take on the franchise (the books, adaptations both old and current, etc). As someone who has only read the first book, would you recommend reading the rest of the series?

  27. My grandmother used to say that as she grew older, she didn’t change, she just became more the way she was. I’ve always thought there’s a lot of truth to that – people don’t really change as they grow old, but aspects of their personalities become highlighted. Do you think that’s true? What do you see being highlighted in yourself?

  28. Do you have a favorite grocery store tortilla for you burrito construction? And have you had the opportunity to use more authentic style tortillas for your creations?

  29. You frequently write highly flawed heroes versus completely unsympathetic or even evil antagonists. Notably, you changed Little Fuzzy to be that way when the original had an incorruptible hero versus selfish antagonists.
    Is that a deliberate choice? What are your thoughts about that? Have you considered writing something with an incorruptible hero?

  30. SF has evolved over the past century {& a bit}. It is likely SF authors and readers from the 1930s would find both interest and surprise in the SF of today. Where do you think SF will evolve towards in the coming 50+ years, especially since you are likely to be an influence? Since some trends might interest you, and others not so much, are there trends you might like to try as a writer, especially if you are the creator of the trend?

  31. Two questions, 1 pandemic related, 1 not.
    If you could draft any politician in history to be president in this moment (or to run/be elected in November), who would it be?

    You write frequently about digital transfer of consciousness (OMW series, The Android’s Dream, The Consuming Fire, arguably Lock In). Why does that interest you? Would you want to have your consciousness uploaded to a computer? Is that consciousness still human? Does it matter if they’re human or not?

  32. What are your thoughts on the Joe Biden sexual assault allegations and the widespread reaction to them among members of the Democratic Party? Do you find the allegations credible? Do they affect your vote for him in November, assuming he stays on track to the nomination? Should the DNC be looking for someone else (Sanders/Warren/Cuomo)?

  33. Totally goofy question here (sorry, two months of quarantine appears to have addled my brain).

    There was a story this week in the WaPo about people starting to embrace PPE as a fashion statement. While I personally think the sequin-covered face mask was perhaps a bit much, I have no doubt that others would say the same about my garish tie-dye face masks; the fun is in embracing them and making them a unique part of who we are.

    Given your impressive choices in footwear (gorgeous Doc Martins, shoes with custom artwork based on one of your stories), you seem to me to be the sort of person who would eschew mass-produced plain white or blue face masks in favor of more unique and individual options. So the next time we see you at a convention, how will we pick out John Scalzi from all the other mask-wearing folks there? And have you contacted Mary Robinette for her superior mask pattern (which is also very easy to make)?

  34. How about some discussion on food choices of various organizations. Would the Colonial Uniom ever see the light of the burrito?!

  35. Your writing has evolved over time. Do you have a personal awareness of how the you of today has changed since the you of Old Man’s War? Of how you of today might approach that story if you had never written it? But I’ve already sidetracked myself from my real question. Can you tell if the current weirdness has changed you? Are you “seeing the future” differently now that there have been substantial changes in the present?

  36. My daughter and I disagree on the subject of cultural appropriation. She believes that it is “a bad thing” and I believe that, as an artist, we all take our observations, experiences, and impressions to create (be it literature, dance, the fine arts, music, or food). Do you believe that cultural appropriation is a thing, a bad thing, and/or is there a line (either a bright shining line or a murky gray one) that is the border between acceptable and unacceptable?

  37. In the “Old Man’s War” books, you write aliens that I think of in the “kind of like Star Trek” style — more or less human, and with more or less human motivations, or at least motivations that make sense to humans. What are your thoughts on writing more inscrutable, alien-to-us aliens (either why you don’t do it, or what you might do if you decided to do it?) Lindsay Ellis did an interesting piece a while ago comparing War of the Worlds to Independence Day, and in part, mentioned this divide, and some of the cultural/social reasons why different types of aliens are ascendant in pop culture. I’d be curious to hear your thoughts!

  38. What is your favorite musical instrument? Also, do you think that synth bass qualifies as “real bass”? No bias here.

  39. I’ve found sf in the last few years fresher and more exciting than the decade or so before. Is it just me, or are we having a wave? If so, what would you call it?

  40. To a long-committed healthful foodie, your apparent diet is quite horrifying. How often, if ever, do you consume plant “superfoods” such as carrots, kale, collards, broccoli, winter squash, sweet potatoes, chard, etc, etc, not to mention whole grains, beans and so on?

    I work at least two or three of such superfoods into each day’s menu, and couldn’t survive on the hellish swill you so often highlight.

  41. John
    How do you Feel about our current behavior in society and how we are dealing with the, as we are being presented them, fundamental aspects of how a global pandemic/event impacts our future?

  42. Pohl said “A good science fiction story should be able to predict not the automobile but the traffic jam.” Suppose we can develop portable fusion power: light and affordable enough to equip cars so they never needs gasoline (but also can‘t be converted into H-Bombs). A benefit for much of mankind would also be hugely disruptive to the current world order, such as nation states dependent on energy exports or taxes on fuel, let alone the effect on oil and mining industries. What can you foresee as the short term consequences of such an invention?

  43. Virtual book tours and virtual conventions. Good? Bad? Indifferent? Should we have more of them, even after the quarantine ebbs? Should we (do you) worry about privacy issues with the current crop of telepresence providers?

  44. Given the upcoming election and the “dumpster fire” that is American politics at the moment, what would the first 100 days of a John Scalzi presidency (or as I don’t believe you personally hold ambition in that direction the first 100 days of John Scalzi’s perfect president) look like?

  45. I think over the years you’ve made your political beliefs quite crystal clear. Have you ever legitimately considered/agree with any viewpoint that came from the other side of the spectrum?

  46. As a movie buff and former film critic, do you have a short list of ‘If you missed this one, go find it!’ films? Stuff from 10-15-20-30 years ago that hardly anyone remembers, alas…

    And not just f/sf, most anything.

  47. What’s the best advice for parents whose first or only child is entering the teenage years? He’s a good kid, which helps a lot, I’m sure, but…still a teenaged boy.

  48. These days twitter seems to a burning thrash-heap and a grotesque mockery of any true communication. As a reasonable person, how do you think it has affected you? Do you fear bubblefication (if that’s a word)? Does being active and opinionated on twitter make any difference in sales and if so, how? More? Less?

  49. What’s your experience of physical pain been like and how has it informed your writing? I recently broke my ankle in three places, still waiting for surgery as we wait for swelling to subside. And it’s been truly bizarre to actually experience actual shock and pain and boredom and invalidom; when I’ve read about them in books for years. Put it this way, I can see why the recovery phase is put into a montage, because it is so boring. Anyway, I was wondering if you had drawn on any real experiences or how it differs to how you’d write it or had read about it.

  50. Other than Photoshop, what software do you use to store, sort and organize your photos? Do you apply tags or labels in order to more easily find things later, such as all sunsets or all photos of a specific cat? How do you put your hands on specific photos you took at some point, but can’t remember when?

  51. More of a comment than a question – I just finished “The Last Emperox” and it was a nice conclusion, just the open question whether Marce found Earth. And I did see the afterword too – except that with hindsight 2019 was a pretty good year compared to this year.
    I think that “Waldorf & Statler” are better candidates for the election.

  52. I just re-read Lock In and I’m curious about the threeps and their seeming lack of facial expressions. It really struck me on this read-through, probably due to the current prevalence of face masks now and much harder they make social interactions!

    Was it a conscious choice to have them be relatively expressionless? If so, why? It seems like a major barrier to Hadens interacting with the rest of the population.

  53. I’m curious what your thoughts are on uncertainty. I think the pandemic has highlighted more than any other world event how many decisions have to be made with incomplete knowledge. Shelter in place indefinitely, open as soon as possible, recommend social distancing or send out the police to force such things. When do we go left as opposed to right. Governors seem to be all over the place with their approaches, and it doesn’t feel like there are right answers or even a way to easily identify the least bad option. Sure, we can identify the horribly bad options using our models but they’re filled with their own uncertainty, assumptions, and disagreements. Nobody is making any credulous claims about the world in six months, a year, or further out because, well, that’s all just so uncertain.

  54. We all know that public personas are to some degree performative in nature. You’ve said yourself that who you are on Twitter, on the blog, at signings, etc. are faces that enhance some aspects of your personality for a given audience. Is there a public venue (where you aren’t “on the clock”) where you feel most comfortably “you”?

  55. How long do you think it will take for SF/F./gaming conventions to recover from 2020? Most of the smaller ones I know of had already had to shell out the bucks to reserve their venues for this year, and now they’re not able to hold the convention due to Covid (meaning they can’t get seed money for next year’s con by selling at-the-door memberships). I know of one convention that won’t get its money back from the venue due to force majeure laws, and has people demanding full membership refunds (using the money the con isn’t getting back) under threat of lawsuit.

  56. What are your thoughts on tracking individuals during the pandemic? Google and Apple are ready to push out an application to track people for contact with corona virus positive individuals. Heath officials say that tracking is essential for managing the spread of the virus – to the point that they’re recommending hiring tens of thousands of people to do the tracking. Using technology to aid in this is tremendiously attractive to governments and health departments and apparently was used with some sucess in several parts of the world. However, there are, understandably, privacy concerns about the idea of the government or private companies tracking not only your location but who you come near as well. So, the questions are: is this a good idea? Should it be mandatory for everyone? Should it be mandatory anywhere (like hotspots, for example)? If not mandatory, will it ever be good enough to make a difference? How do you balance health vs privacy rights?

  57. I’m wondering what your thoughts are on the future of commercial storytelling?

    Hard copy books are still with us (thank goodness) and traditional movie theatres seem to be holding on in the face of streaming, though it will be interesting to see how they recover post-COVID. That said, things have certainly changed over the past decade or two. I believe that books are getting more diverse and interesting, but I feel like traditional movies are going the opposite way and streaming services are where new ground is being broken.

    We love to tell each other stories, that’s not going to change, but how do you think these industries will evolve over the next couple of decades?

  58. with the multitude of pets you’ve had at the Scalzi Compound over the years, can you speak to training issues such as stopping pets from destroying furniture or doing their business outside of a litter box or the outside as appropriate? What worked for you, what didn’t, etc.

  59. Who inspires you?

    What pulls you into the future the fastest?

    Where is the most sublime place you’ve ever been?

    When do you feel most inspired?

    Why do you do what you do?

  60. How do you discover new books to read?

    I feel like I have difficulty finding books that are dissimilar to books I have already read or am currently reading. On the one hand that’s great; if I’m finding books that are similar to one’s that I like, it increases the chance I will like the new books. On the other hand, I find that it narrows my focus to a particular subset of literature. I don’t want that; I want to be able to experience as wide an array of reading as I possibly can.

    So how would you recommend that I, or any similarly situated reader, find good books in areas/subgenres/categories with which be may be unfamiliar?

  61. Regardless of what you actually want (presumably Trump out on his ass after Monday, January 21, 2021), do you think DJT has a chance to win reelection (due to voter suppression, dirty tricks, etc)

  62. Farah Mendlesohn’s book on Heinlein came out last year, which you mentioned reading and perhaps in response also reread a few Heinlein books. Anythng further to share? For instance, I was hoping that she would explicitly say why he was such a compelling writer, but she didn’t come right out with it. So I’m still trying to figure out why he grabs me–something about the midwestern voice of my childhood? I know you’ve said he’s basically a good story teller. True. But did you get anything more specific to think about after reading Mendlesohn?

  63. “Never waste a good crisis.” COVID-19 will change society. While it might be easy to work out the pessimistic possibilities here, but what do you see as the optimistic possibilities?

  64. What do you believe will be the social direction of the aftermath of Covid and the coming election? Civil War, Interregnum of a Prophet, or Union Strengthening?

  65. I have questions about pie. What is your favorite pie filling? Do you prefer pie hot or cold? With Ice cream or without? Coffee or something else?

    Can you make a pie a burrito?

  66. What’s your take on sports in general? Also, why do so many people on the nerd spectrum take offense to the idea of sports?

  67. Just rewatched Pulp Fiction again (saw it as a teen and didn’t care for it) and found it is a really good piece of filmmaking. Do you like Pulp Fiction, or Tarantino films in general?

  68. What was the last genuinely new experience you had which positively surprised you?

  69. Gardening — do you like doing the actual hands-on/in the dirt part of gardening? What are your favorite flowers to grow/ look at/ take pictures of? (Yes, there is a definite pictures please! element to this question :-))

  70. I have seen several examples of virtual proms for kids who are missing out because of Covid19. Have you considered DJing a virtual dance similar to ones you have done at previous events? It doesn’t have to be for kids specifically, but us old people need to shake it some too!

  71. How will this affect the TV and movie industry long-term? How long of an economic storm can they weather? Will we run out of new TV shows to watch??

  72. Creative personalities and other artistic media:

    Since you also engage in music, photography, and DJ-ing, I was curious about how you view those pursuits. Are they fun hobbies with occasional professional applications, or something else? Is it relaxing to engage in them, or is there a sense of professional rigor attached to them? In your experience with other authors, is it common for them to also have other artistic pursuits?

  73. You and your family have to move to a new country (for reasons). Which country, and why?

  74. You’ve mentioned muting A Certain Politician’s name on Twitter to reduce the flood of depressing and enraging information.

    How much news is too much news? How do you choose how much, and what, to filter out for your own peace of mind, and how much, and what, to follow to remain an informed citizen?

    I feel like I *ought* to try and keep up with what’s happening in the world, but boy howdy, it can get depressing (and be a horrendous time-sink).

  75. Well, the question that comes to my mind is about writing, and specifically yours, so I don’t suppose it will appeal, but I’ll toss it out.

    You mentioned a while back, if I recall correctly, that you read Foucault in college but that this never influenced your writing. I always wondered whether things were that simple. While i haven’t read a lot of Foucault myself, I found he has some interesting things to say (notably, points of history) that are certainly relevant to the uses of technology by the state, surveillance, and so on. And there’s a general tendency for everything to be grist for the mill. So if you’re ever inclined to revisit the topic, I’d like to hear an expanded version of that remark.

  76. Getting down to dry financial matters, has the upheaval with Corona and the markets caused any permanent changes to your investment portfolios? I know for me at my age (67), I’ve gone super conservative.

  77. Time travel – Given only one choice, would you prefer to go forward or backward in time for a visit?

  78. In The Last Emperox, we learn that very advanced scientific knowledge was lost in a great social upheaval. Does the movement away from paper-based records intensify that risk for our own culture?

    Digital records strike me as (counter-intuitively) less permanent than paper records. I have boxes of photos stretching back nearly 100 years. In 100 years, will anyone be looking at the digital photos I take today? What about all the other records that are only stored electronically? Or does the ability to accumulate more data overcome any such concerns?

  79. Two years ago I asked your thoughts on guns. Since that time we have had yet more horrific shooting incidents including one somewhat uncomfortably close to home for you. Any changes in your thoughts?

  80. What is the funniest/weirdest thing that you’ve ever seen?

    Do you think cupcakes are “played out” as a thing? [I’m a fan of the mini/hand pie myself and loath cupcakes.]

  81. What scifi novels (from any period) don’t get a lot of attention now, but you would strongly recommend – and why? (Mine is: A Fire Upon the Deep by Vernor Vinge)

  82. As a sci-fi author, what do think of educational technology? Do you believe that the way we teach children and adults is old-fashioned and due for some sort of revolution? Or, do you think that digital technology is not really going to result in better outcomes than a teacher + whiteboard + books any time soon?

  83. I remember making a list of pieces of music that I wanted to own and discovered that I had achieved that goal. So, is there any piece of music that you are still looking for?

  84. John, where do you/me/we/us find HOPE for the future? I ask this because as someone who generally writes what I would characterize as non-dystopian SciFi, and this isn’t about your books but about YOU, who in the face of *waves around* all THIS, how do you keep faith that things will work out? I’ve never been considered a starry eyed optimist by people who know me, but I’ve always thought things would work out in the end. These days…with creeping stupidity on top of disease washing over us, I would like to know how you never seem to flag in your optimism for humanity.


  85. You’ve been without a dog for a while now, do you plan on getting one in the near future or do your mother-in-law’s dogs fill that hole?

  86. Hard SciFi, generation ships:
    Think they would work?
    Would you board one?

  87. How much should someone care about the large numbers of needless deaths of people they dont know?

    Caring is emotional, its visceral. But the scale at which cv19 operates is either very large or very small numbers. And humans suck at grasping really large and really small numbers. We do not get them as a “gut feel”. We do not get them viscerally. Therefore people dont know how to feel about it. And so they let other people tell them how they should feel.

    Its very large in terms of total infected and total deaths, the number of unemployed, the cost of the bailout. But its also very small in terms of how many americans have gotten it compared to total american population. 80k/330m=0.05% chance that I will die from cv19 based on numbers so far.

    Should people care? If so, how do you get someone who doesnt care… to care? With no feelings of their own, because it hasnt affected them personally yet, and the numbers are so large, they let fox news tell them how to feel. Is there a way to change how someone feels about this short of letting them and people they know get infected and some die, so they suddenly have a personal cost and feel.very strongly about that?

    How much is too much feeling? One could potentially get very empathic to the hundreds of thousands of deaths and curl up into a fetal position whispering “the horror”. Is that too much caring? If so where exactly on the spectrum is the right amount of caring?

  88. Do you think that the cruise ship experience is necessary for an event like JoCo Cruise? How do you think JoCo Cruise will change as a result of the pandemic, both in the short and the long term? What about science fiction conventions in general?

  89. How is the US going to overcome its internal divisions?
    Is that even possible, or do you see it fall apart at some point?

    I’m not a US citizen and maybe up close things are different, but the US comes across as a broken marriage with two parties fighting about everything regardless of whether that makes sense. It’s deadlocking every change, it seems, from healthcare reform to gun control.
    Trump not being elected in November won’t suddenly make the 40% or more of people supporting him change their minds, as some seem to think. A democrat as president isn’t going to magically heal that rift, and another four years of Trump certainly won’t.
    I’m curious to hear your thoughts on the matter.

  90. What is it like being a cisgender straight man?

    I ask because I’m a trans woman who spent 50+ years living (or at least trying to live) according to the assumption that I was a man, but could never make any sense of the men around me. I couldn’t figure out why they did what they did, nor how they they related to one another. Ijust never “got it.”

    By contrast, women have always made sense to me (even when I thought they were being cuckoo), and I find I can even relate to most trans men reasonably well.

    I don’t know if you can do anything with my question, but I thought I’d throw it out there.

  91. Well, someone has asked my question about cruising. I’d just like to see a bit broader answer: what will happen to the cruise ship business? It would seem to be a nightmare to be stuck on a disease riddled ship for days or weeks. Are there enough brave soles to keep the industry alive? As someone who witnessed the world change while on a cruise, I’d love to hear your perspective.

  92. Writery question:

    why do so many authors (both written stories as well as screenplays) switch between A and B storylines instead of writing the story straight through? Is it so you don’t get bored writing it? Is it supposed to keep the reader hooked? Always bugs me when the A chapter ends on a cliffhanger and then you turn the page and it’s about other characters picking up after the B sections last cliffhanger. I have friends who actually skip ahead but I prefer to muddle through. It’s so pervasive I wonder if powers that be make everyone do that else the publishers threaten not to accept the work.

  93. 1 have you ever considered running for (any) office?
    2 you often mention that you grew up under hardship and I’m pretty sure that I never read anything about your father around here. if this is not too hard, could you elaborate on these topics (of course as much as you are confortable to do)
    3. do you have a gun at home? what is your opinion on this issue?

  94. Most of the country has re-opened by now, with any other remaining states likely to be re-opened by the end of the month. Come Independence Day, do you think we will be looking back at the next couple of months considering it a success, or a nightmare?

  95. Your fans know that you play a couple musical instruments and also play video-games; I’m wondering if you’ve ever done handicrafts as a hobby (knitting, crocheting, needlepoint, tatting, whittling…) and it so, what did you do and what did you think of it?

  96. You’re attracting less attention lately from members of the Internet Hate Machine.
    Do you think they just got bored with you, or did you frighten them off?

  97. On a recent Facebook discussion, someones linked to a page which lists OMW as one of the greatest hard science fiction books (no link, can’t remember the details. Sorry). I replied that although I think OMW is a great book, I don’t think it qualifies as hard science fiction. What is your take on this?

  98. Given that you like in conservative area in Ohio,and that you seem to get along with your conservative neighbors, any thoughts about how to find consensus on issues, where agreement is for more liberal approach, such as gun control or Covid-19 testing, for example.

  99. I’d like to hear your thoughts about the feasibility/desirability of Earth humans trying to save the species by colonizing Mars. Maybe compare and contrast with spending that effort/time/money to repair and replenish our current home planet. Thanks!

  100. Hey John,

    You’ve probably noticed that your blog is colossal. Moreover, you’re exceptionally engaged with its readers/commentators. The result is an active community with your readership that wouldn’t have been possible prior to the spread of the Interwebs. How do you think it’s affected you as an artist? There was an interesting BBC article positing that fans now have more control than ever, citing the Sonic the Hedgehog redesign and the petition to redo the Game of Thrones finale, and while I feel like authors have retained more independence than filmmakers and showrunners by nature of the medium, I think it’s a fascinating new dynamic and I’d dig your take on it.

  101. What do you think about the confirmation from the US Navy, that the videos shot from the jets during the Nimitz UAP contacts are genuine? Does it have any influence to you as an SF author?

  102. If Krissy is ok with sharing this information with us, what are her creative outlets?

  103. Thoughts on artists/writers etc getting locked in to certain genres after achieving success? This question comes following a conversation I had with a writer friend who happens to be black. He has wanted to write a sci-fi book for some time, but his publisher has done a lot of pushing back. Keep in mind, this is an award-winning writer with decades of publishing. He is respected. But his publisher wants him to keep writing topical ‘black experience’ works. What are your thoughts on that, and do you feel locked in to writing sci-fi in a similar way because of your history and success in the genre?

  104. Sorry if this is a repeat, asking on mobile and haven’t had a chance to search through the archives.

    1) How’s your internet connection holding up in this time of increased video conferencing, and

    2) Would you consider a leased line so you could get faster internet? (Several villages where I live also have fibre delivered through specialist rural ISPs, not sure if that’s a thing in the US though)

  105. Going for something different this time.

    Knowing you’ve said previously that you have multiple fridges I am asking about Kitchen Knives. Are you the primary user of the kitchen knife? How many do you have? How would you define a good knife? Is it something you’ve spent time thinking about? How expensive would you define expensive as? Have you recently brought a new knife?

  106. Given that this in an election year, a double barreled question: in your opinion, what would it take to move American federal politics from dysfunctional to functional & how much movement could be possible this election cycle?

  107. If you were an editor in publishing, what kind of books do you think you would enjoy working on and bringing to market? (Not necessarily what you would be best at. What would be the most interesting for you.)

  108. I’ve read that you did a coin toss to decide whether to write mysteries or sci-fi, so we know what one alternate universe Scalzi is up to. If you ever imagine yourself in a totally different non-writer career, what would you have liked it to be?

    Another question, given your current life as an author and past career as a movie-reviewer: I love sci-fi and fantasy entertainment across a bunch of different styles of media, but I find that my relative enjoyment of each varies with that medium (ie, I tend to prefer sci-fi books to fantasy books and fantasy games to sci-fi games). The biggest disparity comes in the area of movies/tv. Of the top of my head, I can think of a handful of great examples of fantasy, but dozens of great examples of sci-fi. Why do you think sci-fi works better on the screen? Or is there something else that explains this disparity? I don’t think it is just my personal taste, at least as far as movies/TV go.

  109. Didn’t mean to post my full name with that comment, please don’t include it all if you use my question. Thank you!

  110. If you were transported into the past, when and where would you want to end up?

  111. Any predictions on what permanent changes covid-19 will bring upon our society? The easy ones are: no more salad bars, self-serve drinks, reusable cups and so on. But do you see anything bigger that covid-19 will change forever?

  112. What’s it feel like to be 51?
    How did you get there so quickly?
    Happy Birthday! I remember it well!
    I love you

  113. Lots of college kids are graduating without a graduation this year. They’re interviewing on Zoom and may start an in-person job entirely remotely. If you were to give them a commencement speech, what would you say?

  114. “Paper, scissors, or rock?” or lizard or Spock? Nerd-dom ain’t what it used to be!

    RR – John, some years back you said that you couldn’t follow up “The Android’s Dream” because the protagonist was so rich that every problem could be resolved by a phone call. However, the problems faced by Chris Shane – who is also pretty wealthy – don’t all resolve themselves that easily. Sure, he can get a new threep with VIP service, but many problems still require leg work and ‘skull sweat’. Seems to me that you’re better now at discerning how different problems sort out. (Aside, a lot of people talk as if winning the lottery would solve _all_ their problems. Umm…)

    With this in mind, is there any possibility that you’ll someday re-visit the Android’s Dream-verse?

  115. Your dedicated fans know that you don’t drink alcohol (and haven’t ever). I’m going to assume that you also have never done recreational drugs. With pot becoming legal in more states and certainly more socially acceptable everywhere, what is your attitude towards it and other recreational drugs? I wonder especially about your feelings regarding Athena and the chance that she’ll try things.

    I’m not asking this because I want to pry. This subject has been very much on my mind lately. I’ve never done a recreational drug in my life, nor has my wife, and we have a 13-year-old daughter. I wonder how I’ll react if (when?) she tries pot at some point, which seems more and more likely with the way our society is going. I find it hard not to let my personal judgements come into play.

  116. This isn’t a writing question though it may seem like one at first. I’m a sixty-three year old man in the middle of writing my first novel. I’ve written and published other things; plays and poems and short stories, mostly, but a novel is on my bucket list and even though it’s awfully late in the game, age-wise, I’m plugging away. I was wondering, given how much you’ve already accomplished in life, if you have any items you’d still like to scratch off your bucket list and what you’re doing about seeing them accomplished. Thanks.

  117. What’s your take on the climate crisis?

    It’s a question I’ve thought a lot about; more and more since I got kids. And we (me and my wife) try to lead by example for them; try to reduce our emissions (while still living a pretty normal life) and try to read about it. But it all seems so little when gargantuan companies and some politicians, fail to realize the situation (to put it mildly).

    And after reading ”the Last Emperox”, which kinda matches where we’re all at (barring a good Emperox), I’m really keen to get your take on it.

  118. What’s your approach to discussing politics and other touchy issues in face-to-face conversation? As someone with a considerable platform and a curated authorial voice to utilize when expounding on issues here on the blog or on Twitter, do you find it a challenge to express your thoughts in a similarly eloquent fashion when in a one-on-one situation, especially when the other party might not agree with what you’re saying?

  119. As one of my favorite Sci-Fi authors I would love to hear your take that the that the whole planetary pandemic is really our New Overlords fattening up us. Not making light of a very serious situation, this situation does sound like a very bad Sci-Fi to movie to me.

  120. John, what are your views on the two party system that controls US politics? Do you think we will ever get rid of it and (if so) what would that take?

  121. After finishing the Emporox series — thank you very much — I wanted to read something a bit funnier, so I decided to re-read The Android’s Dream. Call me juvenile, but it starts with a fart joke and what’s not funny about that?

    Last night I got to page 68 (hardbound) and read, “Archie McClellan was born to be a geek. … ‘You were named after an ancient search protocol,’ Archie’s dad…told him…. ‘And so was your sister, Veronica.'”

    This was an interesting, presumably historical, tidbit to throw in, so for no good reason I decided to check it out, and sure enough there was an Archie search engine! Well done you. But, lo and behold, Wikipedia also says that “The name derives from the word “archive” without the v. Alan Emtage has said that contrary to popular belief, there was no association with the Archie Comics and that he despised them.”

    And here I had thought that you did such meticulous research.

  122. John, Thanks for the valuable escape the trilogy offered (I went back and read ’em all in sequence) — I’m looking forward to the hinted Old Man’s war universe tale, when you’re ready.

    Question: Given that the Republican mental state appears to be viral (on public and social media), have you thought about writing a vaccine?

  123. Do you ever hold back in your criticism of other artistic endeavors (movies for instance) out of fear or apprehension that it will open your own work to hostile/non constructive criticism and exclude you from future opportunities? You are successful and obviously intelligent enough to know how story and character arcs work, and how to bring a story to life, but sometimes your reviews on things can come across as…muted. I find this interesting, given how outspoken you can be on some topics, but very careful in your criticism of other’s work. Is it because as an artist, you appreciate the effort that went into that other piece of art, is it a political consideration, or a combination of both?

  124. I miss the blogs of the early 2000’s eras, now more than ever (so thank you for keeping Whatever running!). I think what made them so special – and what would be important today’s strange, mad world – is that the writer’s personality came through more than even in op-ed, giving the reader a little more grounding in who was writing, what their priors are, and a bit more personal feel to connect to.

    So, my question is, why do you think blogs died, and do you think something like it will ever come back?

  125. As a follow-on to your note about criticism, can you relate any media that you luuuuuuuuuv, but your friends, family, peers, etc. just don’t get? (For me, it’s the Speed Racer movie, which my wife and I thought was a love story to the anime and a lot of fun, but I nearly got fired over that opinion).

  126. Just finished the Interdependency series (thank you for diverting my attention from our ongoing calamity) and I was wondering if the ship names in those novels were an homage to Iain M. Banks. And on that general topic, do ever reference other writers either directly or by inference in your own work?

  127. After losing my cat to old age a year ago, I’m looking for a new cat to share this crazy thing called life. It’s been years (over 20) since I’ve had a kitten around. I’ve also only had one cat at a time. Since you have adopted a number of cats of various ages, what do you think about one cat/kitten vs two? Some people have suggested I get two so they entertain each other. Does it really work out that way? What about adopting an older cat vs a kitten? Any thoughts/advice/anecdotes, amusing or otherwise, would be appreciated.

    And thanks for posting lots of cat pictures. They’ve given me a smile when my own cat was no longer around to pat me on the arm and demand attention.

  128. I’ve asked version of this question for several years now. You answered the first one way back when. But…

    Are Trump and his supporters enjoying watching the world burn? So many preventable deaths, so much pain and suffering, so much public support from the good people of the country, and yet all we see from the great Orange one is a total denial of responsibility. It’s hard to comprehend the level of narcissism and nihilism needed to put us in this situation.

  129. I’m sensing we’re at a major global change point: the virus, global warming, immigration, Trump & lots of major governing problems in the world—all coming to a head in the next decade or two.

    Does this feel to you like a turning point for the world?

  130. You generally only write one or two sentences, but absolutely love how you always mention your wife and daughter in your forward or afterword. I can tell in just a few words that you love them infinitely.

    Will you share some cheesy goodness on that? How did tou meet your wife? When did you know she was the one? What was the best present you ever gave them and vice versa?