Reader Request Week 2021 #10: Short Bits

And now, some of the questions I didn’t answer at length, answered briefly:

Jim Randolph:

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?

Most I make commissions happen by contacting the artist and saying something along the lines of “Hey, I like your work, can I commission something?” Sometimes they’re too busy, but often they’re not, and when they’re not then we figure out if what they want to charge is what I want to spend, and so on. I enjoy being able to support artists with actual money, and also getting cool work, so generally it works out just fine. With regard to a music commission for the new novel: We’ll see. I don’t have anyone particular in mind, but we have a year before it comes out, so there’s time to think about it.

Paul Wiley:

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?

We have the technology now to do it if we really wanted, albeit not necessarily easily or comfortably or cheaply; the question is whether we really want to and what it would entail. And while it’s not an either/or thing, I think we’re generally better off working on this planet before going off to fuck up another one.

Richard Gibbons:

In the 2028 election, you vote for Republicans for president, congress, and senate. What has happened that has resulted in this outcome?

It’s more likely I bounce to the moon on shoes made of flubber than vote straight ticket GOP in seven years, so, yeah, I don’t see this scenario happening.

Penn Davies:

Have you ever tried out or trained in any weapons or martial arts, modern or historical, as part of research for a book?

As research for a book? No.

David Border:

Are you into Historical Sites, such as Lincoln Memorial, The Mall, Smithsonian Museums and such? Have you visited them?

I used to live in the DC area, so, sure, I’ve visited the various museums and historical sites there, and also in other places. Am I hugely into them? I don’t think so, but on the other hand if I’m there and they are easily accessible to me, I’m happy to go to them.


How’s the Mini Countryman holding up?

Actually very well. This month marks the 10th anniversary of me taking receipt of it, and in all that time I can’t recall a major mechanical issue. Part of that is due to me maintaining it fairly well — for eight of those years I had it under an extended care contract where the Mini dealership would pick it up, service it and detail it, and then return it, all without me having to do anything. Also it has relatively few miles on it — not quite 80k after a decade. This is because I don’t have to commute for work, and also because if I travel further than, say, Chicago, I tend to rent a car for the extended trip. I actually need to go get it serviced soon, but once I do I expect it to chug along happily. At some point I’ll get a newer car, but I’m not in a huge rush.


You’ve mentioned you’ve suffered a miscarriage. What effect did this have on you? Do you feel it’s something guys can talk about freely?

I wrote a piece about it when it happened, which you can find here, and which still very well encapsulates what my thinking about it is. I can’t say whether other men talk about miscarriages openly, but I think they should be able to and I think it’s okay for men, and anyone else, to mourn the loss.

Pete L:

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?

I had a stalker a while back and had to file a police report about them. I’m happy to say that the situation resolved itself reasonably well for everyone involved; filing the police report helped convince the person they needed to get back on their meds, and since then I believe they have continued to maintain their mental health, which makes me happy. It was really a “best case scenario” version of a stalking, and as such I don’t tend to compare it to what many other folks, particularly women, have to go through when they are being stalked.

Rick M:

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?

To subvert? None, since I think parenting is hard enough without some relative getting in there and messing up how one raises their kid. But I certainly plan to have fun with any potential grandchildren. I think it’s possible to be a mischievous grandparent without making my kid’s parenting duties more difficult.


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?

I don’t actually know! In fairness to myself, I do tend to preface opinions on subjects I don’t know a whole lot about with “Here is me talking out of my ass” or something similar, or I skip them entirely. But it’s difficult for me to say accurately what I know the least about. That’s something someone else would probably have to identify.

Colonel Snuggledorf:

I wonder if you’d be interested in sharing your thoughts on the proposals for a $15 federal minimum wage.

Mostly a) that it should be higher than that to keep up with what it should be had it been indexed to inflation all this time, b) that whatever wage they set it should be indexed to inflation moving forward so we can stop having to try to drag it forward to what it would have been and should be. And then general thought that if we really believe as a nation people have to work to live, then we should make it so they can live on what we pay them to work. That seems pretty simple.


Any updates for OLD MAN’S WAR on Netflix?

It’s still in development and I’m still getting option payments on it, and aside from that I can’t say much. When/if I can say more, you’ll know.

William Patrick:

Given your love for movies, why don’t you have a home theater?

I mean, dude, I have a 65-inch OLED screen hanging in my living room, how much bigger and nicer do I need the screen to be? I’m doing all right on this score!

Dan S:

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?

An eternal trash fire at Mar-A-Lago sounds about right.

Thank you everyone for your questions this year! Let’s do it again, oh, in 2022.

— JS

24 Comments on “Reader Request Week 2021 #10: Short Bits”

  1. Where can I contribute to the Eternal Trash Fire at Mar-a-Lago? I am so down with that.

  2. I enjoyed your answers. It is nice to hear some sane responses. That seems kind of rare these days.

  3. “65-inch OLED screen hanging in my living room”

    We are pondering similar. Given the pricing premium on OLED, which isn’t slipping much, is the improvement in picture quality worth it? It looks like it in the showroom, but the cost difference is noticeable.

  4. WRT overlarge TVs:

    I had trouble finding a small-enough TV the last time I bought one. The space we use for that isn’t huge.

  5. “An eternal trash fire at Mir-A-Lago” gets my vote, and inner-tube contributions!

  6. @Jack Tingle – Last time we shopped for a small TV, we were able to get a 22″ model. I think we got it online. Our overlarge TV is going into a 24’x27′ room, which we are dividing down with freestanding bookshelves for a 24′ wide by 12′ deep TV area. 77″ should be perfect for the planned layout.

    @John Scalzi – Thanks! I’ve needed a user nudge like this, and from your previous writings I’m comfortable that it’s actually a user experience preference, and not a pixel-peeping thing.

  7. But there is already ‘an eternal trash fire at Mar-a-Lago,” isn’t there, since January 20?

    Miscarriages are indeed common. My mother had one the year before I was born (creating a possible Rh thing, which did not turn out to be a problem in the end), and both of my sisters had miscarriages before their first children were born. The worst case was a friend who found out after seven months that the fetus had died, who had to carry it for another couple of months. Bad.

  8. Thanks! As for the new novel, I’d imagine either Paul&Storm, Mike Phirman or Molly Lewis have a good kaiju song in them.

  9. I’m in the process of rereading the OMW series for the fourth (or fifth, or sixth, I forget) time. If it is made to a show on Netflix, I don’t think I’ll watch. First, I know John Perry, Jane Sagan, Zoe, and all the others like old friends. I don’t want anyone to tell me I’m wrong about them. Second, an awful lot of adaptations of scffi novels are just terrible. I’m still trying to forget I went to see Starship Troopers.

  10. @Bill Lowrey – Starship Troopers (movie) shared exactly one thing with Starship Troopers (novel) – the name.

    It is my casual observation that short stories make good movies (all those Phil Dick adaptations, V for Vendetta) with some exceptions (Contact), while novels benefit from the current trend in serialization (Good Omens comes to mind).

    I personally look at adaptations with the H2G2 filter firmly in place – it was a movie based loosely (badly?) on a BBC TV series that was casually derived from books written about some characters and situations in an original BBC Radio series. Yes, I own all of the above, and yes, they’re barely related. Probably the best thing the movie did was to introduce the thought-sensitive face-swatters. The essence of all this is that I approach movie and serial adaptations as their own works, distinct from the source material, and end up less annoyed for it.

    Now, can we please have a film adaptation of Redshirts, pleeeeease?

  11. @Bill Lowery: “I know John Perry, Jane Sagan, Zoe, and all the others like old friends. I don’t want anyone to tell me I’m wrong about them”

    I feel the same way about hobbits, and refused to watch LOTR.

  12. I red an article that said you were offered a deal for a tv show for the interdependency. The article was made back in 2017 and I didn’t see any recent news on it. What happened with that?

  13. The other component of a true home theater system seems to be a ludicrously excessive sound system with at least 8 speakers, a million watts, and a response from 0.0005-1,000,000 Hz. How’s yours?

  14. Given your love for movies, why don’t you have a home theater?

    I mean, dude, I have a 65-inch OLED screen hanging in my living room, how much bigger and nicer do I need the screen to be? I’m doing all right on this score!

    Well, you could probably use a better sound system for openers, and I really hope your OLED isn’t near a window because that kind of destroys its biggest advantage, the inky blacks and the colors that “pop” because the light is the color it’s supposed to be, rather than light filtered to make it fit like LCDs do.

    And depending on the size of your living room? 65″ isn’t all that big, not if you’re watching 4K movies on HBOMax or Netflix.

  15. Whitney Turner – do you have a darkened room to view your television in, or is it in the living room where the daylight comes in a lot? Or do you mainly watch television at night?

    If it’s a darkened room or you mainly watch television at night, then OLED is far superior to current LED LCD televisions, and some superior to QLED or even MiniLED (although both have advantages OLED doesn’t!).

    The good news about OLED is that the blacks are much blacker and the colors are truer and “pop” more, thanks to both the blacker blacks and the fact that OLED’s light doesn’t pass through a LCD to get its colors, but fires them directly at the screen.

    The bad news about OLED is they’re not as bright as LED, QLED or MiniLED televisions, so watching them in a living room during the day with the curtains up isn’t going to look as good (though they’re getting better, partly because so many people buy their new televisions from Big Box Stores like Costco or BJ’s).

    If you watch television primarily at night, or your “television space” is darker for a more theatrical experience, then yeah – absolutely get an OLED! But if not, take a look a good LED or QLED television, because they’re the best compromise for rooms that brightly lit half the time.

  16. Jack Tingle — the smallest size you’re going to find a consumer Ultra HD (4K) television any more is 43″, and it’s unlikely to be one that has both HDR10 and Dolby Vision High Dynamic Range.

    If you’re willing to drop down to 1080p Full HD? You can get Vizio’s D series 24″ 1080p set, or some off-brands that probably rebadge the Vizios. If you want 4K with HDR, Vizio makes the V-Series that’s 40″.

    Honestly, though? I’d get a 50″ TCL 5 Series, because in addition to HDR10 and Dolby Vision, it’s got the Roku streaming aggregator that’s built right in and is really easy to use. Vizio uses their proprietary SmartCast, which…I don’t think is that smart, really.

  17. The thing about 4k in “smaller” sets is that it doesn’t do a whole lot of good. At the range you’re probably sitting you really can’t tell the difference in the pixel count (a computer monitor you’re a LOT closer).

    21 years ago I bought a Kenwood receiver with S/PDIF input and 5.1 channel output. One of the better (and longer lived!) home theater investments I’ve made. Better sound than most soundbars give you, and at a lower cost. Plus, I can listen to NPR on the FM radio.

  18. I think you meant Mar-A-Lago rather than Mir-A-Lago, but other than that, you’re spot on. Just please include an air filter so it doesn’t add further to the local poluution.

  19. @timeliebe – The room is the bottom floor of an addition, and has a pair of windows flanking the TV location and a sliding glass door at the other end. We have plans for a combination of in-frame light blocking shades and light blocking curtains. Light can’t make three 90° turns, so those will be blacked out. The curtains on the sliding glass already seal out light exceptionally well.

    So, effectively a dark theater room whenever we want it. Thanks for the heads-up about the available luminosity!

    As for sound, we are are planning a 5.1 or 7.1 setup, but using 6″ or 8″ BiB speakers ( for Front L/R instead of typical home theater speakers.

  20. I’m someone whose wife suffered an ectopic pregnancy in between our two kids. We both talk about it. First with family, and then with friends and more widely. My wife actually wrote a piece about it a few years afterwards for a Jewish parenting blog. Not talking about pregnancy loss is a bit of a problem in our community. (As well as more widely, from what I’ve seen.)

    Thanks for speaking about it.

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