Reader Request Week 2021: Get Your Questions In!
Posted on March 25, 2021 Posted by John Scalzi 111 Comments
Well, would you look at that: Next week I have nothing on my schedule in terms of writing. You know what that means, don’t you? Yes! I will sleep in until noon all those days! And also, it’s a very fine time for me to do a Reader Request Week.
For those of you who are new to Whatever, the Reader Request Week is the week of the year in which I let you pick the topics for entries. Anything you’ve ever wanted to ask me or to have me expound upon in long(ish) detail? This is the time to ask it. No question too serious or silly that you can’t ask it, and who knows, I may even pick it to answer. Politics, culture, personal positions, ridiculous scenarios, whatever you like — ask away. 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, March 29, and going through the entire week.
(For the avoidance of doubt, while April 1 falls during the week, I’ll not be doing any “April Fools” stuff here, either relating to Reader Request Week or in general.)
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 topics 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:
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
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
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
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
Reader Request Week 2020 #1: Being Politically Persuaded
Reader Request Week 2020 #2: The Hellish Swill I Consume
Reader Request Week 2020 #3: Becoming More Ourselves
Reader Request Week 2020 #4: What It’s Like To Be a Cis Straight Man
Reader Request Week 2020 #5: Me and Sports
Reader Request Week 2020 #6: Pulling Punches in Criticism
Reader Request Week 2020 #7: Cover Songs
Reader Request Week 2020 #8: What It Means to Be Dead
Reader Request Week 2020 #9: Writing Short Bits
Reader Request Week 2020 #10: Short Bits
Got it? Good. Then: Ask me anything you like! Starting now!
Also, this comment thread is for Topic Questions Only. Comments about other comments/other topic suggestions/anything else will be snipped out.
Also, it’s me, John Scalzi, who is doing the Reader Request Week, not Athena. She may or may not do something similar at a time of her own choosing. But don’t direct any questions to her, please.
I have a couple questions about the New Books and ARCs posts, and I apologize if you’ve already answered these elsewhere. 1). Where do the books come from (your publisher, the bookstore, other, a combo of each)? 2). Do you read all the books that you share here? Thanks!
I gather one of the things that you get satisfaction from is the work (both art and music) that you have had the opportunity to commission on your own. I’d love to hear more about how you make that happen. And are you planning a music commission for the new novel?
You’ve written so much about outer space and aliens in your fiction writing. Do you personally believe that aliens exist? And if so, why have they not contacted us? Is it just because of the vastness of space? Or some other reasons?
Why would Republicans like living in Disc World? Republic ideas ignored; no science, just wizards; guilds rather unions; free enterprise for everything; ignore polution?
Considering the current states of society, technology, and the Earth, what are your thoughts on colonizing the Moon, Mars, and/or other possible sites in the solar system? Yay or nay?
Could you possibly go into more detail about what Kiva Lagos looks like? You know, for those of us who might want to commission fan art of her.
Noon is for pikers.
Other than you, my favorite living authors are Neal Stephenson, Charlie Stross, Michael Moorcock, and Philip Pullman. I love to find out what my adored authors think about each other, both personally and regarding their oeuvre. So that’s my request: wax eloquent with your thoughts above the abovementioned folks and/or their work.
I actually got to hang out with Charlie a few years back when he was staying in DC and I was working there. He held a fan get together at a gourmet beer joint, and I showed up early due to overestimating the delay in getting from the Mall to the venue and dining in between. Lucky for me, he and Feorag showed up early as well. Due to some kind of fan-dar they just sat down at my table (I wasn’t the only person there!) and we started chatting. They didn’t even ask “are you here for Charlie”. I had him to myself for a good 45 minutes.
In the 2028 election, you vote for Republicans for president, congress, and senate. What has happened that has resulted in this outcome?
Should we teach “the classics” in high school? In the past I felt like the novels and plays I teach my students are a part of our cultural vocabulary, so they have common ground with other adults, later in life, but after once again slogging through Huckleberry Finn and (ugh) The Scarlet Letter I’m starting to think that what is important is practicing reading a longer work while holding details in your mind as you analyze a novel. How important do you think it is for all sophomore or junior teachers to teach the same titles from English canon?
What are your views/experiences with collaborations – whether in a book, film, or television setting or other? How have you dealt with conflicts in these situations? Compromising your vision say with another writer’s vision? How flexible have you had to be? What are the challenges? And have you ever been in a situation in which you were a “hired gun” so to speak and had to write what someone else wanted you to write and how have you handled this challenge ?
What do you think the legacy of Covid-19 will be for the U.S. or places more generally?
I know you have written speculative fiction about a virus and its aftermath.
Is there anything positive that might come out of it in terms of societal changes and what pitfalls are there? Is there anything that surprised you about how things unfolded? (Popular astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson, for example, expressed dismay that the attitude of we humans as a tribe versus the virus decayed into political belief/disbelief in the validity of preventative measures and skepticism vs. acceptance of the severity of the virus).
It’s been a long year, and I’m wondering how you are processing it in the grand scheme of things, since you write fiction about seismic cultural and political shifts.
Whenever we visit family in Ohio, they like to take us to Marion’s pizza. As an Ohio resident, can you explain the appeal?
(I didn’t think it was bad… just completely unremarkable and not deserving the enthusiasm)
What words inspire you and what words do you despise, and do you create new words with new meanings?
A music topic. What is your favorite guitar and associated gear? What music do you enjoy playing most? I see you also play drums, any other instruments?
Have you ever tried out or trained in any weapons or martial arts, modern or historical, as part of research for a book?
What are your thoughts are doing away with the current senate filibuster rules? On one hand, the current rules give the minority party a voice and forces the majority party to at least think about taking them seriously. On the other hand, we have the current situation where it appears that most things, no matter the need, just won’t get done at all as long as it stands.
So, keep it, dump it completely and go majority rules or is there some middle ground that would work better?
Are you into Historical Sites, such as Lincoln Memorial, The Mall, Smithsonian Museums and such? Have you visited them?
I’ve never understood why publishers appear to be so cagey about the numbers of books they sell. Have your publishers ever asked that you not reveal how many copies your books have sold?
How and when did you start playing music? Do you play anything in addition to guitar? Have you taken lessons? What genres do you like to listen to and play?
Being a child of the late 20th century, I always thought the USA was somehow immune to fascism, and I’m honestly surprised to discover recently that this isn’t the case.
Is this simple naievete, or have things fundamentally changed in American politics?
Now that you’ve had a little time to experience it, can you opine on the observable differences between dogs and cats that you didn’t know about before.
I always chuckle when a new dog owner says I can’t believe my dog just did X. Having dogs my whole life, I always feel like “how could you not know that?”
Since you’ve got movie critic chops…
What did you think of TOMOROWLAND?
pax / Ctein
In 1989 Billy Joel released a song titled “We Didn’t Start the Fire”, listing historical events from 1949 to 1989. If you and he were to collaborate on a new version to be released in 2029, what are some events you would nominate for inclusion? [9/11 is a shoe-in, filling the role of “JFK blown away” in the original.]
Do you think talent is more genetics, or does it come from being surrounded by certain influences as a child? I’m thinking in particular of sports greats who also have very talented children, but there are a great many acting dynasties, as well as writers who grew up in a family of writers.
In your own case, Athena seems to have grown up quite enamored of the written word although it might easily have gone the other way. Do you recall encouraging her or shaping her choices in any way, or was it simply that she saw you doing something you loved and wanted to emulate Dad?
It seems you recently bought a guitar with six necks. If so, do you have any plans to acquire a theorbo? Also, if you’ve somehow never heard of a theorbo, YE OLDE GODDES, MANNE, go look at a picture!
If you could go back in time for just one day on this planet Earth, where and when would you go? And, why? (Note, you cannot modify, change or otherwise alter anything you see or observe that day.)
Could you tell us about your first kiss?
What do you see for human civilization, say, 100-120 years down the line (assuming any of us are still around then)? I ask because I think constantly about the future that William Gibson’s most recent books envision, and wonder whether that’s where we’re headed and if so how bad it would actually be to live there. What do you think?
(Context for those not familiar with the works in question: in this imagined future 80% of humanity has died off, along with democracy, in a sort of slow-motion apocalypse, but on the other hand we’ve fixed climate change and made all sorts of other nifty technological advances.)
I’m a teacher and I find myself confronted with ethical questions related to covid and children almost on a daily basis. I could give you a lot of examples but for clarity let’s just go with one of the biggies: Many students struggle with not having real social interactions with their peers. I don’t care very much about my lessons right now, but many children are hurting without school and not being able to see their friends (I believe Athena mentioned something along these lines, too – and she is an adult!). On the other hand there are necessary requirements connected to infection prevention. Meeting online might help a tiny bit but it just isn’t enough at all.
The problem for children in my experience is also bigger than an adult’s “Yeah, I’d kinda miss my friends.” I’m a performative introvert and don’t mind being by myself, but it’s a whole different ball game for kids.
In “whatever” you advocate for caution and I understand that and agree. However, what’s your take on caution vs. emotionaly crippled (This may be overly dramatic, but it actually fits an awful lot of my students)? Is there anything to do more of right now to counter these issues?
Do you have ideas for how society can alter systems to combat systemic problems?
Specifically recently, early vaccination in a number of states became a game of who could spend the most time redialing/refreshing and who had the widest availability in terms of appointment times and locations… which is “fair” in some ways but seriously skews the system against those who are likely already less privileged: those who are stuck with walking or using public transit, have work hours they can’t choose or miss, don’t have easy internet access [esp. seniors], and/or who do not have a lot of time they can pour into hunting an appointment or money they can use to hire someone to hunt an appointment for them.
I’m talking about a separate grade of problem from “big campaign donors get the vaccine” and similar “oh, yeah, that’s definitely evil” shenanigans. I’m just talking about “this would be fair if everyone had the same resources; but they don’t” situations like SAT test scores (do you have access to tutoring and the not-working-after-school time to study, or not?) or vaccination signups or just about anything where having resources gives a major advantage in an otherwise “equal access” system where you’re not buying your way in directly. Systems where, to be actually fair, things need to be designed very cleverly; I’m also interested in how to help people (Americans) think about these sorts of issues in some way other than “it’s fair as long as anyone with the same resources has the same chance.”
How’s the Mini Countryman holding up?
As someone who games a lot–and has since I was a kid with my NES–I’d be interested to hear about your own relationship with video games, and/or your short videogame biography, as it were. You’ve mentioned playing and enjoying them here and there, but…
What’s the first video game you remember playing?
What’s the most compelling game you’ve played?
Are you a console or PC guy when it comes to games? Why?
If you’ve owned consoles over the years, which ones?
How much and what sort of stuff do you play nowadays? How much do you play now versus whenever your peak was for playtime?
Do you have any thoughts about the development of games from Pong and Tetris to the crazy stuff we’ve got now, up to and including the relatively recent beginning of consumer home VR by Oculus and Sony, etc.?
You get the idea. Your general thoughts on video games and your experience with them over the years, or some subset of the above questions that you find appealing.
Follow up from 2016:
Did they enjoy the world burning? Why do they still tell themselves it was the right thing to do?
This gets personal.
You’ve mentioned you’ve suffered a miscarriage. What effect did this have on you? Do you feel its something guys can talk about freely?
What would you say to somebody who is going through this now or in general?
Is your mom still around? Either way, how did/do you deal with being a parent to a child while also having to parent an aging parent? Middle age is hitting hard with both the death of my mother and the fact that my father has depended on others for practical things his entire life, and I’ve got an elementary school age child. I dunno. Maybe how you deal with aging, the generations passing, and the shift in responsibility.
Which one of your works would you most like to be made into some non-book/ audio-book format? Why? Preferred format? Things that might have happened (within the bounds of NDA’s and future possibilities)?
How would you describe your relationship to music?
Superhero movies. Are they something that will eventually fade from the scene, like TV westerns? Or will they flourish even more in the next couple of decades?
You’ve had your fair share of haters, but have you ever had to deal with the other side of the coin, e.g. stalkers?
Many, including you, have viewed Buchanan as the Worst President In Like Ever. Why? “Because he didn’t prevent the Civil War” is the usual response. But the beginning of the Civil War started literally the day Lincoln was inaugurated. Doesn’t that make him the worst? It took a massive war to end slavery, and I don’t see how else it could’ve ended. No one says “FDR sucked because he was cool with a war to defeat the horrors of global fascism.” What could Buchanan have done? How could he be worse than Jackson, Dubya, or That Orange Thing?
I can envision you as a mischievous grandfather. What plans do you have in place to subvert your daughter’s undoubtedly excellent (yet hypothetical) parenting?
I recall in a different post you mentioned you spent a summer on a houseboat when you were young? Can you elaborate on the story of how it came about and some or all the shenanigans that ensued?
A bit of a themed post here…
Are you a fan of the works of Sir Terry Pratchett? If so what do you think of the mess that BBC America seems to have made of his City Watch in the translation to a series – mainly through miswording of the original contract so that the only approval needed was that of Pratchett himself, not cascading to his company/relatives/business associates in the even of his death?
Following that line of thought, do you have anything in place to make sure that your works are protected in the event that you are no longer able to look after your works?
Pratchett famously had his unfinished work steamrollered after his demise, would you do something similar or pass them onto a trusted associate to oversee the completion of?
I absolutely loved the article on cohorts / the “ok boomer” thing from my last suggestion 2019. Somehow I missed last year, but this year I have a new topic I’m interested to get your take on.
Love over the Internet. Falling for someone who is maybe not even in your timezone. What’s your take on that, and what do you think would make it work in times of forced apartness due to COVID?
Could you elaborate about the pros and cons of adapting historical works to current sensibities? In Holland and Belgium there’s a bit of a hubbub about a new translation of Dante’s Inferno, in which the name of the prophet Mohammed has been omitted to avoid “unnecessarily hurting people”. The publisher is accused of self censoring, not unthinkable after two waves of cartoon-murders in France, but says they “don’t want to distract from Dante’s humanistic message”.
I have the faint feeling that it’s also valuable to see how people in 14th century catholic Italy saw the world. After all, if you read Jane Austen you learn a lot about the deeply unequal and sexist society, reading Dickens teaches about the hellish 19th century labour conditions. On the other hand, only the name is omitted.
Then there is the point of words that were common slurs or even commonly used in their time, but are now considered extremely tasteless or even taboo. The writer may have chosen the words to make the character appear unsympathetic, or this was just how people really spoke at the time of writing.
What is your take on this?
You were a full-time stay-at-home dad and professional writer when Athena was a baby/toddler. Right now and in the next few years, I imagine a lot more people will be juggling work from home with small child care. What are your best hard-won pieces of advice?
The advent of Social Media (Facebook/Twitter/IG/etc) has further allowed the easy spread of disinformation / misinformation / “The Big Lie”. How do we as a society combat this and does it make sense to revise legislation to address this issue. As part of this should we consider revising the Libel/Defamation laws?
Computers today are mostly consumption devices. Tablets, cell phones, smart watches… How do I make sure my young son will grow up having the passion to CREATE instead of only passively being entertained?
you write now and then about your mother, but I don’t recall reading here anything about your father. could you share anything about him, about your relationship with him, about your feelings towards him, some features you might have inherited from him etc. thanks!
a second topic concerns amish people, as you sometimes mention your amish neighbors; what do you think about the deliberate choice to embrace their way of life and also about their children, who (as far as I know) grow “protected” from the modern civilization – should the government do more to offer them a choice between their family’s religion and the nowadays society? I mean, they can leave their family & religion when they’re 18 (or around), but the handicap of not knowing what electricity can do (not to mention the internet and so on) can stay with them all life long
Any recommendations on raising a soon-to-be school age child in the age of internet and smart phones and social media?
Dear Mr. Scalzi, it seems you have opinions on most every subject and freely share your thoughts on multiple topics all across the spectrum. What is the topic you have least background to provide an opinion and what is that opinion?
Why is there so much human totalitarianism and monarchy in the novels of not so right wind authors as yourself?
I know it is hardly a pattern… but I happen to also like a quite right wind author (I mean his novels of course) without that kind of… glorification? for those institutions. Which puzzles me a bit.
You were very clear about your presidential choice in 2020.
As of today, how would you vote on President Biden’s executive orders if you had a vote?
How many total yes/no?
And which are the most important to you, yes or no? (some small number like three or five).
Will there be a Burrito Pope t-shirt. Thank you. Enjoy the pup.
I wonder if you’d be interested in sharing your thoughts on the proposals for a $15 federal minimum wage. You grew up poor in a high cost-of-living area, and you are currently not poor in a low cost-of-living area, so I imagine that your perspective would be an interesting one. Is a higher federal minimum wage the best way to facilitate people escaping poverty? What other components would be as (or more) important? What factors do you consider relevant for legislators to bear in mind in evaluating anti-poverty proposals like an increased minimum wage?
Aphantasia is a term for the lack of a mind’s eye, and can also refer to lacking other mental senses (mind’s ear, etc). Have you heard of this? Do you have a mind’s eye? Yes or no, how do you feel that impacts your writing, if at all?
As a former DC metro area resident who has set novels in the District, and who has been especially active on voting rights this past year, I’d be keen to get your take on this issue. Statehood legislation was passed in the House for the first time and the Democratic Party has moved the issue onto its core voting rights platform. Arguments from opponents touch on whether or not DC has a landfill, a “diverse” economic base, and the bureaucratic tasks needed to make it work, etc…not whether or not 700,000+ US citizens should have voting representation in Congress.
To get your creative juices flowing, here is some recent satire from @petridishes: https://wapo.st/3tY75DD
[Full disclosure: I’m a DC resident approaching 20 years of Taxation Without Representation.]
What bothers you most about people with whom, politically or culturally, you generally agree?
There are literally a bajillion books out there, most of which are never read. In a world of diminishing resources and a culture of diminishing returns, why do we need even one more?
Starlink, maybe you’ve heard of it — what are your thoughts about satellite constellations? We are on the verge of putting tens of thousands of new satellites into low-Earth-orbit and changing humanity’s view of the night sky forever. It’s far from just one company’s doing, and it’s a real space debris situation with impacts on astronomers and stargazers worldwide. How do you think this will play out?
Since you (obviously) are well versed in the online world and use media and social media with a lot of reflection on how as well as in a (enviable) common sense way, I would really like to hear your take on misinformation, whether it is on a community, national or global level.
How do we deal with misinformation or counter it in an effective way?
Does it really matter in which degree misinformation is politiseized or not?
What do you think about intentions or attempts to deal with misinformation through regulation on tech companies?
And do we generally overestimate or underestimate it as a problem in your opinion?
Not necessarily answered in that order… :) Or even all of it.
As you released your newest book title just recently I will ask the following
What are your opinions on Kaiju films as a genre (both Asian and elsewhere)?
Do you have favorites or significant dislikes?
Your views on suit work fx versus cgi fx?
Have you ever thought about how to fix the misinformation ecosystems? There are quite a few ways bad info spreads. Some are intentional others not. I would love to hear your musings on two questions: What is your solution if you could implement whatever you wanted, no questions asked? What remedy do you think might realistically have a chance of being implemented? On one hand your word is law. On the other you have to work with the world we are actually living in.
Is the U.S. two party system doomed to fail under the current levels of animosity and inability to find common ground? If not, what keeps the current system together?
Towards the end of Chapter 23 in Redshirts, there is this exchange:
What is the pun?
Data cartels / data trusts.
If “data is the new oil”, do you see organizations (good or bad) coming into existance to take advantage? Usurp the power from existing players? Or existing players cloaking themselves further?
Nationalization? Global grass roots uprising?
All of the above? none of the above?
Any updates for OLD MAN’S WAR on Netflix?
Considering your burrito exploits, have you been introduced to the sushirrito? (Apparently, there’s a restaurant…)
Cincinnati chili: yes or no?
Given your love for movies, why don’t you have a home theater?
This is a journalism (and a sports journalism question at that,but it’s about the business) question but I understand that journalism is writing-adjacent so assign this the priority it’s due.
What’s your take on the whole Defector/Deadspin debacle and what that means for online journalism going forward?
What is your favorite game? I know several people who divide the question of “what is their favorite game” into two parts. What is their current favorite and what is the game that is the most nostalgic/influential for them? Is there a game (video, card, tabletop, board, etc.) that you consider your favorite for nostalgic feelings or for the influence it had on you? What is that game and why does it hold such importance for you?
Does the behavior of Americans in the pandemic surprise you? Would you have predicted this outcome in your fiction? Has it changed what you think about human nature and do you think it will alter your future work?
I would love to know the genesis of some of your ideas. I am a huge fan of Lock In and it seems weirdly prescient right now. Plus the whole idea of implanting a computer in the brain (brain pal) seems more likely everyday.
I love your stacks of books that you post every now and then. Are there any books by other authors that you are particularly looking forward to reading in the next few months?
There’s been some discussion of the Hugo Award categories for best dramatic presentation; a particular proposal is given at the end of http://file770.com/barkley-so-glad-you-didnt-ask-a-column-of-unsolicited-opinions-57-2/
The present system certainly seems not to have aged well. Any thoughts on that you’d want to share?
@ Rick K
I don’t recall the passage, but it appears to be “a doll”
See also: Kannon and Phodder (Fforde)
If you could have a half hour conversation with one of your household pets, which pet would you choose and what would you talk about? Assume that for the length of this half hour the pet has a command of the English language equal to your own.
Not sure if this made it into one of the “short bits” answers over the years, but I’d like to ask you about time management in your work. Specifically, and COVID notwithstanding, you are a very prolific creator, producing a steady stream of novels, audiobooks, related content, this blog, songs and other fun stuff, and so forth. I noted that Reader Request Week came around just as you completed a manuscript. How convenient! But also, sure, RRW can fall where you want. But do you have a system for juggling all the writing projects/sideline gigs, in the form of a calendar, daily planner of sorts, spreadsheet, stack of Post-Its, or what-have-you? What works for you, and what doesn’t? Sincerely, a creative but poor planner.
I just read your answer on sales numbers, and it got me thinking about ebooks, and specifically ebook metrics. I believe Amazon (and to some extent, B&N on the Nook, and maybe Kobo or other ereaders) track reader engagement metrics on a book. They can see how far you got on a book, if you finished it, how long it took you to read a book, etc.
Do you get those stats from Amazon? Is that something you or your agent could request from Amazon?
Let’s say you could get that info. Would you want that info? Would you want to know that, for example, 20% of your readers got stuck on chapter 17 and stopped reading? Would that information help or harm you as an author?
Have you ever considered any of this before I asked it, or am I now awakening some deep horror of some executive being able to grade your novels based on readability statistics?
A few years ago at the LA Times Book Festival (wow, remember going to large events in person?) you had a really interesting conversation with Cory Doctorow about how certain ideas/themes/styles of writing take over a genre at a given time and relating that to natural selection – like there is a cloud of random ideas out there, and some of those ideas rise to the top because they are more ‘of the time’ and better adapted to those particular environmental conditions.
In the past, there was much more gatekeeping in terms of which voices/ideas would be heard by a general audience (see: Sad Puppies et al.), so that only certain voices would get past the environmental filter to compete for resources. I feel like that is changing (for the better), but what are your thoughts on whether this increased diversity can be maintained over the long term, or if we will fall back into the rut of a few big names vacuuming up all the resources?
You’ve answered questions about your style in these reader’s questions weeks before. You have a very distinctive voice and cadence in your blog. Others may hear it differently, but to me it’s “Punchy introduction and why the topic is worth writing about. Exclamatory statement distilling and conveying a point of view! (Perhaps some softening, modulation or nuance that will pay off later…) More in-depth discussion with humor, sarcasm or honesty as appropriate. Another exclamation or two! Speculative conclusion.”
I feel like I’m seeing more Scalzian writing out there recently. Are you part of the Zeitgeist? Influencing it? Do you see it, too?
What do you think of the draft? Did you consider joining the military?
Followup question: So… about those spare goats? Any plans for that instruction manual of 101 uses, or should I put my extra goats on freecycle at this point?
You are given the authority to create a new monument representing 2020. You have unlimited budget and can place it anywhere in the United States (including unlimited eminent domain powers).
What in your mind does it memorialize, what does it look like, and where would you put it?
What do you think about classics being banned and censored in public schools (Such as 1984, Catcher in the Rye, To Kill A Mockingbird, etc.)?
You often describe how you live in a community whose members are mostly far more conservative than you are but are nice friendly people. Do some of these people have opinions that you consider immoral? And if so, do you worry that not challenging their opinions makes you complicit in them?
What is it about Krissy that dogs like so much? You mentioned that Charlie has already attached strongly to her, and I remember Kodi did so as well (and I assume Daisy?). Why?
How should book titles be printed on the spine? Vertical, so that the title is easily readable when the book is properly shelved; or horizontal, so that we can easily read it where the book lies carelessly on the side table where we tossed it 2 months ago? And a follow-up: what are your favorite cover fonts and why?
You have posted several times about the River Scalzi in your lawn. Now, I know you’re just a mainstream American in a rural neighborhood where everyone knows everything; but when I see that I see a great opportunity to plant beautiful flowering shrubs and trees and grasses that do well in ephemeral creeks; or to just stop mowing and see what plants volunteer in. I remember you saying Krissy does most of the mowing, but you do show lots of pictures of a very low, homogeneous looking green lawn which looks like a real missed ecological opportunity to me. Why don’t you take advantage of the River Scalzi to enhance the ecological function of your land? Why don’t you dig some more ponds, swales, and maybe some ditches to allow more water to sit on your land longer, and to drain off in a flood-reducing fashion?
Oops, in my question about the River Scalzi, I meant everyone in your neighborhood “mows” everything not “knows” everything.
Now that it looks like things will be getting “back to normal” this year, is there anything you feel might have permanently changed for you going forward?
I recall you being a Garbage fan, so what do you say about their newest single “the men who rule the world”? (i like it a lot, by the way)
Given that we (barely) avoided an existential democracy crisis in the US with the defeat of the former occupant and the GA senate elections, do you think there’s any hope of a return to sanity from the GQP? They’ve finally admitted that they don’t have any policies beyond “Fuck you, I’ve got mine”, being generally awful to anyone who isn’t a rich white male, and shoving as much money upwards to the 0.01% as feasible in the shortest amount of time possible.
Given the leading “lights” include such luminaries as the Canadian Rafael Cancun Cruz, Tom Cotton, Josh Hawley, Kristi Noem, Ron DeSantis, is there any hope of a principle-lead (or even one with a reduced level of hypocrisy) opposition party anytime soon? Or at least some thing with a coherent position on, well, anything at all, apart from the magic of tax cuts. And if so, is it the GQP or something else?
Do you think that there will ever be electoral consequences to the GQP for refusing to govern, as it’s likely they will retake the House and Senate in 2022 due to the rampant voter suppression the state parties are barreling ahead with, which won’t be stopped by the compromised Supreme Court in time?
I don’t know if you’ve been paying much attention to the current Space Race which is predominantly happening in the private sector. Does the reduction in the cost of putting things in space inspire any thoughts about near-future space stories for you?
Do you consider there to be a difference between writing for reading text and spoken text? i.e. do you feel there a distinct between in medium between the two?
A double barreled question:
Who is your favorite character? The one you want to talk about, the one you want to write about again.
What makes this character your favorite?
[Deleted for being obnoxious. Run along, dude — JS]
Is there anything out of the last four years of politics that you can reuse or recycle in fiction? I am, of course, thinking of Trump, but also BoJo, Balsonaro, Putin, Li Keqiang, Jacinda Ardern, etc., Thoughts on making the last four years make sense enough to put in a SF book?
To some extent, this is rehashing things that perhaps shouldn’t have been hashed in the first place, but as someone who was there to someone who was blissfully unaware until the whole thing was over, what do you think of the accuracy of the evolving Debarkle history over at Camestros Felapton?
There’s a culture war among European publishing houses about the correct gender and race of translator for the poet who read at Biden’s inauguration.
Shakespeare, Twain and Mitchell all created famous black characters, and Himes created white ones, if just to create the police force Gravedigger and Coffin Ed work for.
Your thoughts on who’s appropriate to write what across gender/race boundaries (and I suppose species, too, considering your subjects.)
Now that Athena is working for your blog in a non-term position, have you found any difficulties in reconciling being her dad and her boss? I totally understand if that’s more behind the curtain than you’re interested in getting, but figured it couldn’t hurt to ask.
You once said the following about Reddit:
(We could have an entirely different discussion about how Reddit embodies the Walmart-ization of online communities — migrating communities which used to exist disconnectively online under a single roof — and what that’s meant for the dynamics of online discourse, but it’s a big topic and I don’t want to get distracted. Nevertheless, put a pin in that concept. It’s worth thinking about.)
Can you un-pin it and elaborate this week? I’ve been thinking about it for years now (you said that in 2013)
As livestreaming has become more and more mainstream over the past few years, moving from a techie West Coast audience through the gaming community and into a larger public, how do you feel “transform[ing]…private play into public entertainment” (T.L. Taylor) has changed (or will change) modern media and/or culture at large?
For aspiring writers, isn’t getting published really a looong shot? Many F/SF mags receive 1000 mss a week, over 10 weeks in two months, which is the usual publication period, and they only publish about 10 tales, which means our stories have to be that 1 in 1,000 that’s special (and even more unique when factoring in “known authors” who will sell magazines). Please tell me how wrong I’ve got this.
In a recent post Athena talked about not being a ‘joiner’. I was really surprised for some reason, and it really struck a chord and I found myself thinking about it often in the weeks afterwards. My daughter (16) is also not a joiner, I think mainly because of crushing self-esteem issues (I adopted her when she was 7, so she unsurprisingly struggles with insecurity and other early trauma issues). If you just met her out of the blue you’d think she was a very bright, funny, articulate, charming, confident kid. Yes to 4 out of 5. She just had a pre-sixth-form-college (Grades 12 & 13 basically) telephone interview about extra support she will need and the woman interviewing her basically fell in love with her. I, like you (I think) was very much a joiner, and it kills me how much she’s missing out on. So, long-winded question: what are your top tips on a joiner lovingly parenting a non-joiner? (Happy of course for a two-handed answer!) Cheers, Kimberly
Does the money satisfy? I mean this sincerly. I know it’s probably nice to be rich. And I’m personally much better off this year than I’ve been in years past but I also find that obtaining some of the things I’ve wanted while I was poor for decades don’t necessarily make me feel better. So, Scalzi, what is best in life? And what, other than 5 part guitars, do you spend your money on?
[Deleted because just because you want to tendentiously cause shit on my site doesn’t mean I’m obliged to let you. Run along, child — JS]
It appears the Ever Given pilot and crew are facing arrest and possible jail time for their actions. In some countries (Italy, for example) the pilot (or even air controllers) face prison time if they are deemed responsible for the crash of an aircraft. In the US they may just get fired and lose their license (and maybe get sued). Is prison time too harsh a punishment for these kind of accidents or is it just?
This is a nod back to a 2008 reader request week post as some change has come. You previously wrote (paraphrasing wildly) that multi-partner marriage was a pipe dream, in part because get-in-line meant same-sex marriage was going to have to happen first.
Last summer, Somerville, Massachusetts, became the first town to create a definition of domestic partnership that allows for more than two partners. The first town level same-sex domestic partnership initiative passed in 1990 and nation-wide marriage came 25 years later. Think that schedule could hold up here?
The more interesting question, I think, is about who is included in the Somerville’s definition. It allows for non-romantic partnerships to be registered, like multi-generational households and chosen families. Is it possible that, between a rise in identification and visibility for ace/aro folks and the economic factors leading to more combined households, there is a newly recognized set of needs that multi-partner domestic partnerships would be able to meet? And if so, how do you see that version playing out? Do you see this topic blowing up or fading out?