Reader Request Week 2022: Get Your Questions In!
Posted on April 7, 2022 Posted by John Scalzi 129 Comments
So, next week is literally the only week in the next two months where I am not traveling and/or have something on a deadline, so you know what that means: It’s a perfect time for the annual Reader Request Week! That’s when you, the faithful reader of Whatever, provide a topic that you want to see me expound upon, and then I expound upon it, perhaps providing more information about the subject — or myself! — than you may have wanted or expected. Good clean fun!
What topics can you request? Anything you like: Politics, culture, personal positions, ridiculous scenarios, whatever you’d like to see me answer — 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, April 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 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 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
Reader Request Week 2021 #1: Creative Kids in a Computer Age
Reader Request Week 2021 #2: Book Numbers
Reader Request Week 2021 #3: Teaching “The Classics”
Reader Request Week 2021 #4: Living on a Boat
Reader Request Week 2021 #5: American Fascism
Reader Request Week 2021 #6: Krissy and Dogs
Reader Request Week 2021 #7: Does Money Satisfy?
Reader Request Week 2021 #8: Local Favorites
Reader Request Week 2021 #9: Short Writery Bits
Reader Request Week 2021 #10: Short Bits
Got it? Groovy. Hit me with some topics, then! I’m looking forward to what you want to ask.
That said: Request away!
Did you ever want to change the world?
Not in a science-fictional way, but here and now, in the present time and place where you are, using whatever is available to you.
If you’re trying, or have tried, how did it work out?
A tiny bit of rebellion:
When you were young, what is a rebellious thing you did that you are still proud of today?
Following that – how have you instilled a “tiny bit of rebellion” into your own daughter’s upbringing?
For me? It’s a satirical and joking nature. I made sure my kids are quick with the comebacks, are not afraid to be entertaining, and always do it with the idea of showing the bully or troll they are not afraid. Never do it out of anger, or to hurt others. It to bring joy into the world and poke fun at loved ones in a way to show they truly care.
The country seems as divided as it was back during the civil rights movement, maybe even more so, and things look to be likely getting even worse come November and 2024. Where do you see things going and are the any possibilities of things improving?
Probably I missed this, but what’s up lately with the church?
What’s your take on the GOP Putin wing?
I’d love to get your perspective specifically on the rash of anti-trans legislation getting pushed all over the US right now – Alabama just today passed their version, making it a felony to help someone transition under the age of 19, and there are a LOT of bills under consideration in other states as well.
Not to mention, we’re already starting to see the pivot from focusing specifically on transgender people to more broadly targeting LGBTQ+ people in general…
What are your favorite online comics? Why?
Once upon a time there was a educational computer system called PLATO. It’s mostly been forgotten. sigh From PLATO came the whole concept of threaded discussions (like this!), wide-spread email, massive multi-player games (empire!), and on-line letter editing. Discuss why this innovative system is so unknown. Discuss how we can make it known. Time is running out for the founders… they are either dead or fading away.
What is your experience with TTRPGs? Are they something you’ve sought out actively, and if so what do you look for in them when (if) you get to play them? Any particularly poignant memories from a gaming session?
If you were running Twitter, what changes would you make (or aim toward)?
What books/series of yours are not currently under option/development?
To Tell The Truth:
You have the power to force anyone in the world to only tell the truth for 30 days. They can’t lie, misstate, or anything. If asked a question, they must answer honestly and completely.
Who do your curse with this and why?
What is your relationship to and opinion of, as a science fiction author and just as a person, the present-day effort of space exploration? (Human astronauts, robotic probes, astronomy with ground-based telescopes, or any other aspect of it.)
Here’s one for you:
Given that every creative’s process is intimate and works for them individually, what is your process in writing a novel, from concept to outline (if so) to publication? What is Scalzi’s method?
I love process articles.
Question with spoiler for The Last Colony:
Both the humans and the alians coalition just ignore the planet’s native population’s rights.
Considering your stated views on native American history, this feels like a large plot hole. Would you care to explain?
Some years back you commented that you couldn’t write a sequel to ‘The Androids’ Dream’ because your protagonists had gotten very rich. Later you wrote the character of Chris Shane, who in spite of great personal wealth has to work at things. He can buy a new threep or rent one easily, sure, but there are things all his money will not do for him. So I guess over the years you’ve gotten better at discerning the limitations of money-power.
All that being said, do you think you’d be better able to return to the TAD-verse now?
Names: When you pick names for aliens and future humans, do you have favorite sources of good sounds and/or meanings? Are you aware of influences from particular other writers (or editors!)? Do Krissy and Athena contribute any, particularly when the tides of inspiration are at low ebb?
Do you want your consciousness uploaded to ____* if it ever becomes possible?
*____ being green bodies, threeps, simulated environments or wherever else you might be able to load one’s consciousness in the future.
Care to comment on your lack of hair on your head? Both on top of your cranium and your face?
When starting a new book project, what are your very first steps? Hook? Characters? Settings and locations?
This question is for Scalzi the musician who owns a 400 neck guitar and a bunch of less fascinating instruments.
What are your thoughts on classical music and its staying power (more than half a millennium) vis-a-vis the stuff most humans listen to these days?
What’s your experience with pen-and-paper RPGs? Are you interested in any such experiences in the future?
If we promise you the Louvre will be open, is there any chance you’ll be coming back to Paris at some point?
Have you ever considered teaching? Even part time? Community college would mean more serious students, but high school kids can demonstrate some inspiring and unexpected curiosity.
How likely do you think it is that we’re living in a computer simulation? If you found out for certain that we were, would it change anything about the way you live your life?
The GOP failed to stop Justice Jackson from happening, even though they never got what they felt was a satisfactory answer to how she would define what a woman is. Could you define what a woman is for us; if not, why not?
What is your take.on the current run of “strong men” in terms of Hannah Arendt’s definition of totalitarianism? I am thinking primarily of Trump, Putin, etc. – the current applicants
I’ve followed you for a long time and when I first did you still had a day job of sorts as a freelance writer. I’m making my first steps in establishing myself as such (people are paying me money! To write words! I may never get over this!) and I was wondering if you had any advice in that realm.
I just finished reading Katie Mack’s book “The End of Everything”, which delves into the cosmology and astrophysics theories of how the universe – all of it, not just humans – will end. Scientists agree it will happen, just not necessarily how. Does knowing this end of all things is a certainty bother you?
How would you punish Will Smith if you were king of the Academy?
What fascinates me about the Grammys (other than the “fashion”) is watching genre artists dig on the musicians way out of their genre. To that end, who are some of your favorite NON-SF/F writers, past and present?
(NB: if your list skews a little cis het white guy, I promise not to judge.)
What do you think of the sanction tactics against Putin and pals? Too late? Why the drip, drip, drip and not just a gush of sanctions for everyone? Any thoughts at all?
high tech bicycles – are you interested in bicycles at all
A hypothetical for you. Your daughter, a high school junior, comes to you and says “Dad, I’ve decided that my heart’s desire is to become a mad scientist and try to conquer the world.” You, naturally wanting to support your child in their endeavors, start researching. What field of study do you recommend she pursue? Any particular schools that would help further her ambitions?
Understanding that you are invested in your present home and other properties (such as the once and future church), have you ever considered living in any other state/region? Our winters are a lot more tolerable here in Texas (baring the outlier Feb 2021 icepocalypse).
What are your plans for the church? Since they likely can’t be shared right now, when do you think you can share them? Dying of curiosity!!
How do you handle the fear brewing in the US right now? I have so much fear tied to what feels like (to me) a giant-ass step backwards in rights and education. The future feels terrifying, and hopeless, and that there’s nothing to be done. There’s no trust for politicians or the media, generally (again, to me), so what can be done? I feel like we’re just further setting the stage for social decay
which is probably what every generation feels. The future feels hopeless. Can you speak to that in any way? Generally, you come of as so common sense it makes me feel better. (Thank you for that!)
This may be too personal, but im curious – what do you donate to whom and how often? Curious on your philanthropies!
Thank you, this is fun!
Food: Is there anything your younger self is surprised to see you eating? Or that your younger self is shocked you no longer eat? Bonus points of Athena would answer this question as well.
Audible … Will Wheaton … Did you choose him to read your books?
Do you write with his voice in mind? Does his style of reading suit you?
I love Will Wheaton, but, sometimes he uses a cadence that is distracting.
How important is the Audible audience to you?
Have you ever listened to one of your books?
How would you autograph an Audible book for me if I can make my way to Berkeley?
So … Audible. Is it a necessary evil to you, or do you embrace it?
You seem pretty happy. This is something I seem to be bad at. Any advice?
Do numbers exist?
Ranked from worst to best, the Star Wars movies, and why is Rogue One the best?
For Gary Brown: PLATO is still around / available (if you’re running a classic Atari computer, an Apple II, a C64, or even on Android)
You have mentioned that you were a philosophy major in college. Did you have a favorite philosopher then, and do you have one now?
(You may define “favorite” as you choose – most coherent philosophy, most admirable as a person, philosophy you most consciously try to use as a model for living, philosopher you’d most like to invite to dinner, etc.)
You seem to be perfecting the art of the genderless protagonist/character, and I’m guessing perhaps not talking about it and making a thing of it is part of the point. If you won’t be drawn on that yet, then can you perhaps hint to us what other tricks you are neatly sneaking in, or would consider interesting?
How’s our pal Athena doing? (You can totally cheat on this one and let her answer!)
Is the library anti-capitalist and do you care if your readers get your books from the library instead of purchasing them?
What do you think open-minded folks from today will look hopelessly out of touch about years in the future?
First thought was: Audio synthesis (like, using analog synthesizers within a Eurorack system .. “Patch & Tweak – Exploring Modular Synthesis”) was my first thought, but oddly specific .. “making music” the next chunk up .. and “channeling creativity” yet another ..
… which let me to synesthesia and similar phenomena I’m not affected by, but consider super fascinating.
No idea what inspiration this gives you, but it’s an interesting question what kind of music you’d make – either when limited to non-acoustic instruments or not, or in general, or as a conductor, or with a conductor, or as part of a Sacred Harp (see: Ann Leckie’s Radch Trilogy) or … yet different.
You’re a virtuoso with words, I just wonder how else that knack could show itself!
How does it feel to be american now?
I am a middle age man from Spain and when I studied History in my high school, the narrative was how we as a country deal with losing power, through bad politics and demographics in the world and what it do to our people.
I know that USA is still the most powerful, most influential and richest country in the world but i feels completely different for a foreigner like me to how it was when i was 15 and USA was the only superpower in the world and i see some similarities with what happened to my country.
Best wishes and sorry for my English.
Do any of your neighbors keep honey bees?
When you publish a book in the UK, do you revise the manuscript? Do you change the spelling or idioms of speech?
If you were offered the opportunity to make a guest appearance on any currently running TV show (including shows airing on streaming services rather than traditional TV channels) what show would you want it to be and why? If you have an idea for what that guest role would be I’d like to hear that too.
Would your answers change if you had access to a time machine (that only went backwards and then returned you to your time of origin, to avoid speculating about future shows?)
How about the Marketplace/Make-me-smart podcast question: “What is something you thought you knew but later found out you were wrong about?”
Would the existence of “superheroes” devalue human effort, even in the face of tragedy averted? For example, would the people of Ukraine be as united as they are if a Marvel superhero had shown up day one to bash Russian planes and tanks?
What would be the human cost of a revolutionary energy technology such as cheap fusion power? As you’ve noted, we’re on a path toward replacing internal combustion engines with electric motors in vehicles and that’s a good thing. But the advent of the internal combustion engine vehicle a 100 years ago wasn’t so great if you were in the horse industry.
You said in your post about going off the musical deep end that you’re more or less where you want to be with your other hobby, photography. Have you got any musings on reaching that plateau, or advice for those of us that haven’t?
Do you believe that the GOP has a snowball’s chance in the mid-terms?
The only platform I see is Rick Scott’s, their message gets garbled by talking around the foot in their mouth, and they actively attempted to kill themselves with the Vaxx revolt.
They still keep talking a big game, though.
While reading of the exodus of Russians from that country in the face of Putin’s continued tyranny, in my darkest moments I think that many of us Americans, too, will end up needing to pick up and go if the Republicans are allowed to take power again. Do you have any hope for a turnaround and return to full democracy in the US in your lifetime? Do you have an exit plan, or concern about needing to form one – or just wanting to, rather than continue to support or live under Republican tyrants?
Supposedly, Frank Lloyd Wright said “what a boon to the creative imagination is the baked onion.” * On the same note, what are things unrelated to the creative imagination you would consider boons thereto (for example, I’ve said for years that kids are a boon).
*I don’t know if FLW actually said this, but my father quoted it to us often.
How does your knowledge/interest inform your science fiction writing? Do you strive for accuracy or is the plot more important than, let’s say, getting the gravitational pull of a planet 100% correct?
How would you strike the right balance in ending the war in Ukraine? Russia is clearly an aggressive, evil regime willing to not only invade its neighbors but also actively promote war crimes. But they are also a huge, dangerous nation and escalating the conflict is likely to cause even more harm on a global scale. Would you be willing to tear off (another) chunk of the country so Putin could save face? Foreclose any possibility of justice for those murdered in Busha? Bonus question: once you decide on your course of action how do you influence an increasingly isolated and erratic Putin?
The American super-hero myth encourages toughness by having us tell ourself we’re invulnerable, to the point of being anti-vaxxers. As an ornery Heinlein character said in one book, “Any bug bites me, dies.” When I visited Sweden a few years ago I noticed that it seemed to be OK there if you were a human being; not everything was designed to the premise that people were actually machines of some kind, or ought to be, as in America. My brother in law killed himself a year ago, rather than face an end that involved helplessness. On the one hand, the superhero is unrealistic. On the other hand, it seems to give people courage. So, thoughts on toughness, human-hood, and whether we can ever get acceptance of the human condition as an alternative mind-set?
I’m curious about your experience with travel. How has your experience of travel changed now that you are able to travel again after a year or two of break? Are there things you do to maintain normalcy during heavy book tour travel? Do you try to get other things done while traveling, or is your attention mostly just focused on touring?
The most pressing question coming out of the Oscars, obviously, was that Spider-man wasn’t nominated. Didn’t the Oscars add five films to the list in order to nominate more mainstream fare? Shouldn’t the academy be nominating popular things along with the “high art” cinema they tend to gravitate toward?
What (or whom) would the hypothetical John Scalzi Award honour?
Would the award itself be burrito shaped?
Does it seem like the world has gotten significantly worse over the past 3 years (COVID, Jan 6, war in Ukraine, etc)?
Being the father of two girls and two boys and working in video games, I’ve tried to introduce them all to gaming with varying levels of success and wide varying interest in different genres so far.
To what degree have you played video games with Athena as she grew up? Do you imagine any difference in your attitude to doing so based on her gender? Would you have done anything differently from what you did, looking back?
One of the things that I always enjoyed about science fiction (at least the science fiction that I prefer to consume) was the inherently optimistic view that there would be a future, and in that future, people would still be people, but could learn to get along well enough to take us as a species to new and wonderful places.
I always figured it would be cooperation rather than competition that would allow this, but the vehicle taking our latest batch of space tourists to the ISS this week is that of a private for-profit company, with plans to build on and then spin off a commercial station. Is this really the way forward?
What were some of your favorite places to go in Chicago as a young person?
There’s a lot about you in Camestros Felapton’s Debarkle (now a Hugo Finalist!), as an author that a number of Puppy-adjacent figures were responding to and/or opposing, as well as about the controversies in SFWA leading up to 2015. Is there anything you would like to add to what Camestros reported about you or the events you lived through that might add to our understanding of those events?
What do you think about humanity going to Mars? Not just to send a few astronauts to take selfies, but to try to settle it and make a self-sustaining colony. Do you like the idea? Enough to contribute money? If you could, would you want to go?
The Dr of Gonzo
I recently shared with the team I lead that you and Hunter S. Thompson are my favorite authors – any thoughts on the great Dr. and possibly what you think he would have to say about the current state of the state?
The Tor newsletter had a piece recently about childhood books. Specifically, childhood books that you love, but nobody else seems to know. Do you have one (or several) of those?
I couldn’t really come up with one, as I had a friend who read as much as I did and we were always recommending books back and forth and hanging out in the library. Good times!
You seem like a busy guy what with all the church-buying, travel, writing, and guitar playing; do you find time to squeeze in reading for pleasure?
I’d like your take on introducing a new pet to current pets – especially in light of your successes with introducing a new dog to a cat family. What techniques work best, how to tell when the pets are ready to be together unsupervised, that kind of thing.
So, since the world continues to burn down around us, how do you think that’s working out for the people who voted for it?
Surely nobody needs a caps lock key? It spends more time being activated in error than be used. So, my question is: which keys should be removed and which should be added to the standard keyboard format.
There are numerous ways to travel FTL, apparently. There are many different types of weapons. Thinking about those two matters and drawing upon as many authors as you wish, which is your favourite means for FTL and what weapons are the most useful?
Any parental advice if their 7 year old has both imagination and desire to write? (Other than basic encouragement). Also, did you name your guitar? (Lucille was taken of course)
What’s your experience with burnout, especially in other people around you? How do or did you cope, what are things that helped them? What are things that helped you? If there could be FMLA but for burnout what would you want that to look like?
Why have you decided to not invest in solar panels for your house (this presumes you’re not just on one of those ^%&$! long waiting lists to get installation, in which case…. never mind).
Asking for a friend — truly! I know all the pro reasons for when people ask me for advice on this (they do) but I figure if you decided con, then you had real good reasons.
pax \ Ctein
When did you start creating your ‘burritos’?
How do you transmit your finished novels to your publishers? Email (hackable!) or memory sticks or Cd or ? Surely not a printed copy!
(Hate to do this but, a PS to Jason – at least on a Mac you can disable that damned caps lock key)
You have written quite a bit about your attitude towards writers who hold political opinions that are different from your own, or behaved in a manner that you disagree with. What about books (or films, TV shows, songs) that express political opinions that are different from your own or promote a behavior that you disagree with? Would be able to enjoy works of art of this kind, or even define them as good works of art?
in KPS, you had sonic defense weapons, and I thought this “sounds” familiar, (having just reread fuzzy nation).
Are sonic weapons something you would like to “sound off” about?
You have occasionally been criticized by meatheads for being a “girly man” type, and you have dismissed these idiots appropriately.
However, for the sake of argument and fun, please defend your man-cred, and demonstrate your good standing in the white male dominated patriarchy. What tools do you own, and what can you do with them? Can you fix an engine, sail a boat? Are you a deadly shot with a pistol? Do you hunt? What sports have you, can you play well? Macho achievements, skills? Can you drink all night and crank out immaculate prose like a Hemmingway? You get the idea.
Kaiju Preservation Society you goes real deep on current-day references. Not only Societal, but also entertainment and politics.
Can you talk through your thoughts on why you decided to pepper in the cultural references (that were obviously top-of-mind when you wrote the book) and your decision to lock the book into a very specific timeframe instead of a generic “modern-day”?
How about discussing your plans for the church?
Chris Calabrese beat me to it, so what he said. Maybe elaborate a bit on how you think it will really end.
What comes after “The End”? Once the last page is written, is read, and turned, what comes next? Where does your mind take you? What more lies ahead in the cosmos for John Scalzi?
Adding my vote to the others who are curious about your plans for the church.
Given how technology has changed between now and when you started writing, are there any changes you would make to to any of yourbooks / stories if you were writing them today, solely based on technologies that have been introduced since your first book (e.g., think how in star trek data used to have to plug in to get downloads and now that looks antiquated)?
Do you subscribe to the widely held view that “old music” is superior to “new music”? More specifically the view that more recent popular music has become formulaic and simplistic and will never approach the quality of popular music of the ‘classical’ period of the early 60’s through late 70’s. Follow up question, is every generation incapable of appreciating art that was not commonplace when they were in their teens or early 20’s or are boomers and Gen-X uniquely terrible about this?
What do you think are the responsibilities of the better off towards the less fortunate in your local community?
Why do publishers seem to hate mass market paperbacks so much? For me as a reader if I have the choice between trying out a new-to-me author in a $7.99 paperback or a $16.99 paperback, I’m going to choose the $7.99 paperback every single time. There are multiple authors I would have tried in a mass market edition but just can’t get excited enough to try at a trade paperback cost. And I don’t read ebook because my e-reader always seems to be dead when I want to read. Why don’t publishers understand that they’re missing a whole group of readers by not having mass market paperback editions?
Aside from your life being in imminent danger from political persecution, is it ever a good idea to pull up stakes and flee to a politically saner country?
Political events of the 21st century (e.g. the re-election of George W. Bush as POTUS, the GOP’s fascist slide) has made me wonder more than a few times whether it’s time to find new ways to fight or treat the U.S. as a lost cause.
I choose quantity, because I don’t make non-quality requests lol. Two on movies; two on politics.
1) Given the thousands of movies you’ve seen—and having written a book on them and whatnot—is there a “big one” that’s eluded you? What great, classic movie have you never seen, whether because you and it have never been together in the same place at the same time, or because you just know it’s not for you? For me, I’m a middle-aged American man who’s never seen any part of The Godfather, nor have I ever seen a Martin Scorsese movie except for Hugo.
2) One of my (many) pet movie peeves is the strident Practical Effects Snob, who deplores all the “CGI junk” in today’s tent poles. What’s your opinion? I think practical effects are usually pretty meh. Where someone else might see a CGI creature battle and yawn at all the supposedly weightless pixels flying around, I look at practical effects and roll my eyes at all the foam rubber and corn syrup flying around. Maybe it’s just that ALL of us Very Online movie fans have completely lost the ability to suspend our goddam disbelief for a couple hours?
3) Peter, above, kinda beat me to this: Is “The South” pretty much irredeemable? Cards on the table, I detest Conservatives. They’re always wrong, about everything, everywhere. The fight isn’t between Democrat and Republican, it’s between Progressive and Conservative (e.g., Conservatives in old Dixie were Democrats until the arc of history bent enough toward justice, then they all turned Republican.) Unfortunately, their death march back to reverse both the Enlightenment and the Renaissance only seems to be growing stronger, and all my adult life I’ve heard southern progressives and liberals say they’re trying to fight the good fight, and not to give up on them. But the good guys are losing, they’ve been losing, and they will likely continue losing. So when can we finally write off The South (and, say, Oklahoma, Indiana and Idaho) and get to work making these 36 United States great again. /s
4) Do you know why trans folk never seem to play the birth defect card against the forces of darkness? It’s a legitimate card to play, isn’t it? If some person is a female brain born in a male body (or vice versa), it seems to me like that’s a pretty damn significant birth defect. Especially when the most effective paths to wholeness are pharmacological and surgical? But I don’t ever see it framed in that context. Put it this way: you’d never see legislation passed outlawing treatment for kids born deaf, or with a hole in their heart…would you?
Has success spoiled John Scalzi?
I recently re-read Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded, which is full of what my grandfather would have called “piss and vinegar”. Whatever used to be biting and savage. Now it’s all “look at what I bought”, and “here are new books I got for free”, and “The Big Idea”. Aside from The Big Idea, it’s less interesting.
My 50 year high school reunion was last fall. Actually 50+1 because of COVID. Have you attended any high school reunions? Or have you kept in touch with childhood friends post high school?
Cameras: Where is the price/performance sweet spot for a person wanting to get into photography? Should a person focus on getting a better mirrorless / DSLR camera body, then getting better lenses (or not) as budget allows? Any experience with / thoughts on the point-and-shoot models (which run in the $500-$1000 range)?
I asked this last year, and hope my persistence will pay off. In 2013, you 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
I was watching some YouTube and saw an interesting video on when the last black slave was freed in the United States; it was 1941 where basically a slave family was passed down through another family as chattel and it slipped through the cracks. So the question is: “what piece of knowledge most surprised and disappointed you?’
Have you ever acted in a Shakespeare play? If so, which one, and if not, which one would you want to be in?
If you ever met Ted Cruz, would your first instinct be to slap him in the face, or kick him in the balls?
My book budget is limited, so if there’s a book I want to buy, traditionally I wait for the mass-market paperback version to come out. The thing is, sometimes there is a mass-market paperback version, and sometimes there isn’t – even if the author has had mass-market releases before, which it seems used to be a reliable benchmark.
So do you know what’s the criteria for this? How does the publisher decide which books get mass-market editions? And is there any way for us readers to know if we can wait for the mass-market version, or we should go ahead and splurge on the hardback/trade version because that’s as good as it gets?
(And apologies if you’ve answered this before – I have in fact Googled this and have yet to find a satisfactory answer.)
As someone who makes his living writing books, where do you stand on Controlled Digital Lending (CDL)? To me it makes inherent sense that if a library is allowed to loan a physical book, it should also be allowed to loan a book digitally, as long as it only loans as many copies as it owns at a time.
This practice is becoming more and more common, but as far as I know there are not yet any laws or court opinions concerning it (only a matter of time, I’m sure; the ramifications are too big for legislatures and courts to leave it alone).
Hi Mr Scalzi,
We are aware that you have a great love for many authors, which is obviously right and proper, even going so far as to do authorised fan-fiction – Fuzzy Nation comes to mind!
I was wondering what other intellectual property/ies float your boat to such an extent that you might consider going to the length of acquiring the acceptance of the IP owner and creating your own story in someone else’s universe.
Assuming this is a “what if?’ scenario and you’re not actually going to do it; what would it/they be and where would you take it/them?
When you, as a reader, are reading a series you are attached to (perhaps the characters are having their own adventures in your imagination) and the author does something completely out of left field and out of character with the characters and story how do you go about detaching from that series and moving on? (For example 8 books in swerving wildly)
I’m having trouble breaking up with a book series that meant a lot to me but … oh boy no thank you. I actually successfully moved on once years ago, forgot the actual reason I stopped reading a series and went ‘oh, I wonder what happened with those characters’. sigh I’m really wasting far to many brain cycles on this but I not sure how to move on.
(To be very clear, this is not one of your books/series)
I often read or hear about “American Exceptionalism” and as a Canadian, I’m always perplexed by such a statement. What do you think of it?
So I just read your happiness answer and I have something that I hope is acceptable for short bits.
Just what ARE the theme songs for the pets?
Does the behavior of Americans, (the mask/vax political maelstrom and denial), during the pandemic surprise you? As a writer, could you have predicted it and would you find it plausible if you had read (or written) it in a spec fiction story?
PS. Wendig knew.
What is your methodology (or thoughts or philosophy) on world-building for your novels? Just enough to get the story done or do you get all J.R.R Tolkien and invent languages and draw maps and so on? Do you enjoy the process or is it a necessary part of the process?
Echoing David Hunt above:…could we pretty please hear the theme songs for your pets?
What are your pets’ (past and present) theme songs, and how were they assigned?
When you write a story with significant information that’s never revealed to the reader, do you usually work out those details yourself? I’m thinking of both things that are unknown in-universe (e.g. the mechanism of revival after murder in the Dispatcher universe) and things that are known in-universe but not by the reader (e.g. Chris Shane’s gender.)
(Note that I’m not asking for you to give us the answers about these things, only about whether you know the answers.)
A group of rabid fans of your work approaches you and demands at spearpoint that you stand up in your newly purchased church a parish (or clave, or hive, or congregation, or whatever) from a religious order/denomination from one of your fiction works. Funniest answer only, which order/denomination are they demanding you start a congregation for, and what is your response?
OK, after reading “How to Be Pretty Happy”, I’ve just got to know – what are the cats’ theme songs? Are they already-existing songs or did you compose them yourself? How did you choose?
How do you find construction contractors you’re happy with and how do you maintain a good collaborative working relationship with them? Do you have a strategy to get things way you want them without micromanaging?
And does it feel weird to be on the other side (the “editor” side) of the relationship when you’re usually the one doing the hands on work in your creative working relationships?
You’re a professional communicate, and good with words – I think we can all agree on that.
We seem to have two parties in the US – one which is basically poo-flinging flying monkeys without any policies, and one which is trying to be responsible grown-ups, or at least on passing acquaintance with reality. Unfortunately, the second is unable to message itself out of a paper bag, while the first seems to excel on sucking the air out of the room with a succession of bat-shit crazy – just recently, the CRT insanity and the despicable “groomer” gay/trans panic.
Is there any way for sanity to gain a foothold in the discussion, especially given the “both-siderism” that dominates so much of the MSM? What would you do if you’re on the coherent wing of society?
You’ve addressed your engagement with pie multiple times and ways over the years.
That said, I don’t recall an in depth discussion of pie preferences, ranking, strategies, or even eating techniques. [“pie with a fork” — RAH] Would you like to — ahem — fill us in?
Inspired by a current newsletter that included a reference to “Water Pie”: https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/great-depression-water-pie-sprite-pie
What procedure do you use when you introduce a new cat to the family?
I’ve seen you post about Smudge (and Charlie) when they came aboard, but don’t remember seeing the specific process that you use. (I guess a follow up might be – have you ever been unsuccessful introducing a new pet to the others).
What are the pets’ theme songs and how did you decide what they were?
I’ve noticed in most of your novels you very rarely give physical descriptions of characters (height, hair color, etc…). Is that intentional, or is it more like Linus not drawing hands?
Our book club is reading “Atomic Anna” by Rachel Barenbaum. As the club’s expert on Science Fiction, I was asked “Is this book Science Fiction?” Time travel is central to the plot (this not not a spoiler) so the obvious answer is “Yes.” However, as I read it, my instincts told me “No.” When I subsequently checked reviews on line, I found a number that classified it either as “Fiction” or “Literary Fiction” and none that classified it as “Science Fiction.” Do you feel that the distinction between Literary Fiction and Science Fiction is a useful one and do you think it involves more than just the obvious inclusion of elements of Science Fiction such as Time Travel or Space Flight? (I like “Atomic Anna” very much!)
A question about guns in America:
I’m a left-leaning American gun owner who is for universal health care, LGBTQ+ rights, and good nationwide mass transit system. I also enjoy competitive shooting sports, and I carry a firearm professionally. With this in mind, I find the current discourse on guns to be extremely frustrating. The far right fetishizes them as power objects, while the far left demonizes them as evil talismans.
With that framing, here’s my question: Since you seem to know enough about firearms to understand how they actually work (I was impressed by your portrayal of them in KPS), and you have a basic respect for human life, could you please talk for a bit about how you view guns, and what you feel responsible gun ownership looks like (assuming such is possible)?
As a sci-fi writer, who’s job is to think about the future, and someone that is very politically aware, where do you see the US in 10 or 20 years? I know it’s easy to think “our time is the worst ever” but as a historian I am getting rather worried about the future looking at the political climate we are in.
How do you feel about spoilers? There was a recent Washington Post article advocating for them. I’m personally on team No Spoilers (unless I explicitly ask for them because I won’t ever read/watch/play the thing).
How Realistic Should Sci-Fi Be?
You mentioned Dayton in your travel post. What do you think of Dayton? What are some of your favorite things in Dayton?