Reader Request Week 2020 #10: Short Bits

To wrap up this year’s Reader Request Week, quick answers to questions I didn’t otherwise get to:

Stephanie Brown:

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?

I mean, if it’s coming to a head in the next decade or two, it’s not really a turning point, is it? It’s more like a long slow curve at best. Also in a larger sense there is always something that feels like a turning point, but perhaps isn’t. Obama being elected as president felt like a turning point, and perhaps it was, just not in the way people expected or hoped. This is a way of saying that history is always happening and the world is always turning.

Kate M:

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.

As a person with multiple cats, I can say that yes, indeed, they do end up entertaining each other, during the times that they are not assiduously and conspicuously ignoring each other. Kittens will have more energy and will (adorably) tear up a place if you’re not paying attention; an older cat is usually less about that, so it’s about what you want in a cat. We’ve had kittens and we’ve had older cats who just wandered into our yard and decided we’d do and moved in. They were all good.

Tom White:

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?

The system wasn’t designed with two parties in mind but it makes it easy for two parties to predominate; if you want to change that you’d probably have to amend the US Constitution to do that. I don’t see that happening anytime soon.


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 don’t take any drugs recreationally, no. I’m not a fan of pot but I’m not overly concerned about other people using it. It’s not my place to outline Athena’s use of any recreational drug (including alcohol) but I can note her stance is generally close to mine. She’s an adult now in any event, so her decisions are her own, along with the consequences of those decisions.

Ryan True:

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

Generally I’m not inclined to go to the past, because the past doesn’t tend to have very good medical care or human rights overall. I’d probably stick to the last hundred years and overall would probably likely hang around, like, Canada.

Thomas Beck:

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?

I’d remind people that “UFO” doesn’t inherently mean “aliens,” and it seems unlikely those UFOs are from some planet other than this one. It’s unlikely to be something I consider as a science fiction writer until and unless something more concrete happens or is learned about it. I realize this is a very boring answer.

Joe Arsenault:

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!

If we’re colonizing Mars to save the human species, it’s doomed. If you want to save the species, work on this planet. It’s that simple.


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?

Who knows? Who cares? Maybe they did get bored! Good for them. As noted previously, none of it ever did me or my career harm that I can think of, so it’s just as well they found a new hobby.

Steven desJardins:

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?

Speaking personally, and not for the JoCoCruise in any way, I would love for things to have settled down by next March, which is when the JoCoCruise is meant to sail again. But we shall have to see. I know Carnival is planning to start cruises up again in August; I’ll be very curious as to how that goes and what the impact of those cruises will be on the future of that particular industry. With reference to JoCo Cruise in particular, it is so community-centered that the cruise aspect of it is no longer required; I think it could take over a single land-based resort for a week and it would have the same feel to it. But the key in either case (and in the case of conventions in general) is getting to a point where we all feel comfortable being in large groups again. Again: We’ll see where we are in the next few months.

Julie Lindstrom:

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?

I suspect a dog will be in the cards at some point in the near(ish) future. But the decision-making process there is likely to be handled by Krissy, not me.

Steve C:

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.

Not really, no. My retirement, whatever that means for a writer, is still a couple of decades out, and I was already a pretty conservative investor. I’ve been investing for decades so the recent fumbletypeg does not mess me up in terms of my overall gains as it might with others who started investing more recently. Honestly, excepting a few tweaks here and there, I’m riding it out for now and we’ll see where we are a bit down the road.


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?

Well, to be clear, muting Trump’s name on Twitter doesn’t mean I’m not keeping up with news; it just means that on Twitter I don’t see all the rage tweets he inspires. Rage tweeting isn’t “news”; it’s visceral reaction. When I want news, I go to news sites to read the news. These days, I read the news after 5pm, when I’ve done everything productive I’m going to do in a day, so reading the news won’t get me so angry I can’t focus on work. It’s a more civilized way of dealing with things, and I have the luxury of being able to do it that way, so I do.


Do you think you could actually take the week off?

Maybe! I can and have gone weeks without doing anything of substance; I’ve managed to design my life so I can. Or could, and then I had to go and become successful enough in my field that there are always demands on my time if I’m not paying attention. I have to say the quarantine and everything uncertain about it elicited the reaction in me of piling up work, just in case. I’m a bit on the other side of that now. I would be happy to take off a week, and just may.


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)

Sure, and it doesn’t even have to rely on dirty tricks; his approval rate, low as it is, has been essentially unwavering, and all he has to do is boost it just enough come November. Mind you, I do expect dirty tricks and voter suppression in any event. So he could win. I hope he doesn’t. I won’t be voting for him, regardless.

Jay Brandt:

What are your thoughts on tracking individuals during the pandemic?

Dude, we can’t even get people to wear masks without a bunch of yahoos screaming about muh freedums, so regardless of the benefits/concerns regarding tracking people, I’m not exactly convinced it’s on the table as a practical matter.

Jani Korhonen:

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?

As noted above, I shape my Twitter feed a lot, including the muting of names and phrases, to make it more congenial and manageable. I think if you run it as an unfiltered feed, you’re gonna be unhappy. If you recognize that you can shape it to a large extent, then it becomes a better place. I make no apologies for managing Twitter (and every other bit of social media I’m on).

Steve R:

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

At this point I have almost none, other than holding judgment to see if it will in fact turn out to be anything other than a vanity project for the current president.


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.

We always cursed in front of our kid and when she was young we laid out a schedule of what words she could say and when. That said, she didn’t actively start cursing around us until she was eighteen, and then it was like a firehose came on, suggesting that she’d been doing it all along, away from us. As I curse fairly freely, I wasn’t exactly concerned about it when she did, nor was I concerned that she would not understand when and where cursing was appropriate and when it was not. It turned out fine.

Laura Conrad:

In the current situation, how do you distinguish genuine precautions against infection from “plague theater”?

Does it stop or slow transmission of the virus? If so, then it’s a genuine precaution. If not, it’s theater. Honestly it’s just that simple.

Phil O’Dendron:

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?

What? White dudes turn out to be problematic in their old age? That’s unpossible! I suspect a lot of them were assholes before, too, we just didn’t know about it as readily, either because they were better at hiding it (and the culture excused it), or because in their old age they just don’t give a shit, or are experiencing a mental decline which means they don’t filter as well as they used to. As regards what to do with them: Aside from accepting that problematic people can make good or even great art, I don’t know if there’s anything you have to do. If their assholishness bothers you, leave off any of their new art, and any of their old art that you’re uncomfortable with now. Soon enough they’ll be dead and then you can decide whether you can go back their stuff now that they can’t be assholes anymore. I have my own “revisit when dead, maybe” list myself.

Professor Jason:

Why can’t we just be nice to each other?

We can! And most people usually are, on an individual basis. Being nice to each other and being good to each other are different things, however. Being nice is easy. Being good is not.

Thank, everyone, for your questions! Let’s do this again, formally, sometime next year. Informally, you can ask me questions to consider on the blog whenever you want. Try it sometime!