The New Laptop, 2019 Edition

It's a Dell XPS 13

It turns out as much as I love my PixelBook — and I do — when it comes to writing long-form documents while travel, Google Docs still chokes on large files, and both the Web and Android app versions of Word are really really bad for my particular writing workflow (it’s because they’re terrible). Plus while I generally like the Android app versions of things like Photoshop, it’s also nice to have the full-featured versions when I’m on the road. What I’m saying is that I’ve talked myself into buying a new Windows laptop, and this is it: A Dell XPS 13, the recently-refreshed 2019 edition.

My very early take (as in, I’ve had it less than a day) is that a) it’s tiny as hell and also pretty, which I like, b) it’s very powerful for size and profile, c) the keyboard is nice and clicky, and the screen is kind of ridiculous (it’s 4k, which is hella overkill on a 13-inch screen) and d) Windows is still a bit of a pain in the ass and if I didn’t really just need the full-sized Word in order to write I would happily never use it again on a laptop. One of the reasons I love my PixelBook is that on an OS level it just works for laptops and doesn’t leave me waiting for anything. If Google Docs would just stop choking on any file over 15k words, I’d never look back.

(Incidentally, this is not your cue to tell me about your favorite alternate word processor and/or suggest I go over to a Mac or Linux or whatever. I use the tools I use because those are the tools that work for me, folks. Just be glad that I don’t have, like, WordStar 3.1 as my favorite word processing tool, like George RR Martin does. Say what you will about Microsoft Word, at least it is readily available.)

This is the second Dell laptop I’ve owned; the first was the XPS 12 2-in-1, which I got about five years ago. It had a tablet mode which one activated literally by flipping the screen around, which was a neat bit of engineering but ultimately not especially practical; I only ended up doing that a couple of times. There’s an XPS 13 2-in-1 as well, but in general I’ve found that turning one’s laptop into a tablet is generally better in theory than in execution — my PixelBook is also a 2-in-1 and I use the tablet mode rarely if at all. I don’t think I’ll miss flipping this one around. And if I need to flip around my laptop, well, I still have my PixelBook.

I should also note that this doesn’t mean that I’ve entirely abandoned my PixelBook, which again I love and consider probably the best single laptop I’ve ever had. It’s going to find use during the times where I’m not actively working on a novel, and also around the house when I’m just casually looking at things online (which is, uhhhhh, a lot). But this Dell is my new workhorse for when I travel, which is, these days a lot. I expect a lot of the next novel will be written on it. And probably the one after that. And possibly the one after that, too.

Krissy and Me, June, 2019

I post lots of photos of Krissy but somewhat fewer of the two of us together, mostly because I’m the one holding the camera and I usually don’t think to do the selfie thing. This time I did. This is us this last weekend in Washington DC. She’s gorgeous. I’m smug. This is the story of our lives.

New Books and ARCS, 6/21/19

For the longest day of the year (here in the northern hemisphere, anyway), one of the highest stacks of new books and ARCs we’ve had for the year to date! What here in this super-sized stack would be what you’d want to read late into evening? Share in the comments!

View From a Hotel Window, 6/20/19: Washington, DC

It feels very Washington-ish, if you know what I mean, although I would not hold it against you if you did not. I’ll be here for several days for the American Library Association conference. But today is a free day! Which I am, uh, spending in my hotel room, trying to catch up on some writing. Writers, man. Always scribble, scribble, scribble.

On the Move (Again)

Here’s a view I see a lot these days: The interior of Dayton’s airport, before I’m off again to elsewhere. Today it’s to Washington DC, where I’m doing an event with Sarah Gailey tonight at Loyalty Bookstore (come see us!), and then attend the ALA conference this weekend. Then I’ll be back home literally for a few hours to do laundry and nap before I’m off to Los Angeles to pitch things for several days. I’m home two days for the rest of June. I have done this to myself.

This isn’t a bad thing, mind you (well, all the travel is not great for the environment, which is why I bought carbon offsets the other day to offset my air travel this year, with margin to cover other aspects of travel, including the cruise I went on in March), but it is a reminder that so much of my life these days involves… not being at home. It’s been this way for a while, but this year feels especially ramped up. This is a year where I don’t have a novel out and no book tours scheduled, and I’m still traveling more than ever. I think the travel is worth it, both for business and personal reasons. It’s still a lot.

And off I go.

24 Years

Krissy and I on our wedding day, 6/17/95.

Fun fact: As of today, Krissy and I have been married for 24 years. Also fun fact: Every day I get to be married to Krissy is a good one. Many of those days are great! And some of them are genuinely spectacular.

I hope you have a very good John and Krissy Got Married Day as well.

Taking a Walk for Refugees

I woke up this morning and checked Twitter and discovered that Neil Gaiman had told me to take a hike — or more accurately, he had tagged me as someone he challenged to walk 2,000 steps by Refugee Day (which is June 20th) as part of #StepWithRefugees, to raise awareness of the roughly one billion miles refugees, in aggregate, walk each year to try to find safety. 2,000 steps is roughly a mile, so the idea is something akin to walking a mile in someone else’s shoes.

So I got out of bed and took that walk, and of course, because such a public challenge by Neil requires documentation, made a video of my morning perambulation. In the video you will see cats, cranes, frogs, headstones and Amish, and, of course, me. Yes, the video is in portrait mode. Sorry. It was early.

As part of the challenge I was meant to nominate three other people to do this walking thing, so I nominated Chuck Wendig, Joe Hill and Yanni Kuznia. But there’s no reason you can’t do it as well. Go take a hike (or walk, or run, or swim, it all counts). As you’re doing it, think of the people who walk not because they want to, but because they have to. And think about the people who, at the end of their daily walk, don’t get to come back to a home that is safe and sound.

New Books and ARCs, 6/14/19

Gaze upon it, if you will: The latest stack of new books and ARCs to arrive at the Scalzi Compound. Do you see anything here that intrigues you? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Sunset, 6/13/19

It was gray and rainy all day, so the fact there’s a sunset to see at all is a minor miracle. And it was a good one.

Men, Women, House Cleaning

An essay in the Guardian, entitled “Want to be a male ally? Start by cleaning the house” and the discussion of the essay over on Metafilter has prompted me to have some thoughts about house cleaning and relationships. These are in no particular order:

1. Essays like this feel purpose-driven to make dudes establish their bona fides as good guys, i.e., “Well, I do work at home! I will now enumerate all the things I do around the house!” So let me buck this trend by saying Krissy definitely does more work around the house than I do and pretty much always has. I can and do do work around the house, but Krissy does it more frequently, and more thoroughly.

2. With that said, with regard to our particular situation, I wonder how much of it is rooted in gender and how much of it are other factors. For example, Krissy’s housecleaning industriousness appears to come from her father, who kept his own house in tip-top shape (as well as doing more than his share of cooking — he had a menudo recipe that could knock you on your ass). My own somewhat less assiduous housecleaning style is something of a family tradition on my side — all of us have, shall we say, a fairly high level for chaos. Athena, I should note, appears to take after me in this.

This is not to say gender expectations do not play a role. They do, and I’m not interested in trying to minimize that aspect of it. I’m just curious as to how those expectations are engaged in the overall mix of who we are as people and how that affects housework.

3. This discussion also led me back to think about how I kept my home clean before Krissy came on the scene. I did not, in fact, live in squalor when I was a bachelor; my apartment was reasonably sanitary. The answer to this as far as I can recall is that I kept everything minimal so that cleaning was really simple. For example, I think I may have had two plates, two bowls and two sets of cutlery, so a) cleaning up was never a problem, b) if I delayed cleaning up, I’d run out of things to eat food on. Likewise I would always have clean clothes (the one thing I absolutely demanded in apartment was a washer/dryer combo), but I’d pick the clean clothes out of the dryer and deposit the dirty ones directly into the washer. When the washer was full, time to do laundry.

I’m not a dirty person — I don’t wallow in filth — but it’s certainly the case I am a messy person, and I have a tendency to let mess accumulate. Which, again, was why my solution when living alone was to minimize the number of things I had that could create mess with. This worked fine when I was 24 and living alone. It’s a less viable solution now.

4. Krissy and I have lived together for more than a quarter century now and we have a pretty good understanding how to do things in the house. I do less housework, and when return when Krissy asks me to do something for her, regardless of what it is and when she asks it, I pretty much drop what I’m doing and do that task immediately — in part because I know that she’s letting me get off easy overall and therefore she deserves my attention and participation when she does ask for something.

This doesn’t mean I wait to be told to do simple things, like rinse off the plates when I’m done with them or take out the trash when it’s full. I mean, I’m not an animal. It does mean I understand the “price” of being allowed not to take the lead in house cleaning is making sure I am an absolutely reliable and uncomplaining support act. That seems, in the grand scheme of things, more than fair.

5. I do also have specific house cleaning tasks. I clean up all things that issue forth from any animals we might keep; I handle pests both arthropod and vertebrate; I’m generally the person who deals with taking the trash to the curb (which is no small task when the curb is a couple hundred yards away, especially in the dead of winter). There are other things, too, but you get the point. I do these things without complaint and generally without being told because these are long-standing tasks.

6. “But you shouldn’t have to be told to do anything; you should just do it.” Well, yes, and also, no. I agree as a 50-year-old man I should have some understanding of basic housekeeping and perform those tasks without being told, and indeed I do those things and have gotten better at it as time has gone on. But it’s also the case that there are things Krissy wants done that either I don’t know about or that I don’t see as being an issue — as noted before, I’m comfortable with a higher level of chaos than she is, and also, sometimes I’m just plain lazy. Sometimes I need to be told, and I appreciate when she tells me, so I can make her happy by doing those things.

This was a thing that Krissy had to spend a little time getting comfortable with — both to get over the idea that I should inherently know what she wanted in terms of housecleaning, and to be comfortable asking me to do those things. The good news for us was that was all settled a while back and now it’s a thing that works for us both. And yes, I did ask her: We had a nice long chat about this general topic before I sat down to write this piece (and then read it to her before I posted it).

7. What would I do if Krissy decided to stop doing housework? Would I step up and take of all the work myself? No, because I know her standard of housecleaning and I know my own, and there is, to put it mildly, a gap there. I would keep the house clean by having someone else do it. We already have someone come in every couple of weeks to do a deep clean of the house; I’d have them come in more often. And yes, I’m aware we’re fortunate that we have the option. Again, I wouldn’t let the house collapse into squalor between housekeeping visits — remember, messy, not dirty — but I would definitely outsource this particular task.

8. Along this line, as long as we’ve been together I’ve always made it clear to Krissy that I don’t ever expect her to do the housework; if she were to stop doing it, I would not attempt to take her to task for shirking her “duties.” To repeat, I am well aware how much of a break she’s cut me by doing the majority of the housework over the years, and also, it’s not her “duty,” outside of the general sense of “hey, if you make a mess, clean it up,” which applies to everyone. It would be disingenuous for me to say I’m not happy she decides to do it. I make sure to let her know, on a regular basis and in various ways, how much I appreciate what she does for me and our house. But it’s not her job, and I’m not her boss.

9. Which I think is to the point. Any dude who has the expectation that a woman should be taking care of the housekeeping, leaving him free to play video games or whatever, is doing it wrong. I think it’s fine if one partner is more inclined to do housework, but I think if and when that happens the other partner should consider themselves to be getting a gift, and be ready to compensate their partner for their time and effort, to be an aide for their partner when needed or wanted, and to make sure they are doing other things in the relationship that are comparable to the time and effort and care their partner is putting into house cleaning. Let’s not pretend this is always the case.

Today’s Collection of Flower Photos That Are Also Secretly Covers to Goth Albums

Dark, gothy photo of a flower.

Dark, gothy photo of a tigerlilly.

VERY colorful photo of a rose.

Threw you a curveball on that last one, didn’t I. Hey, goths can have color from time to time, they just have to be morose about it.

Today in “Things I’m Doing That I’ve Never Done Before”

I agreed to do a 5k run with my friend later this year. I made clear to them that I couldn’t promise I wouldn’t vomit at, like, mile three, but they were undeterred. It’s a few months away so I have time to prepare, at least.

Honestly who am I and what have I done with me these days.

Love Death + Robots Renewed for Season Two

And Oscar-nominated animation director Jennifer Yuh Nelson is coming on board as Supervising Director. All the details (that has been announced anyway) are in this Hollywood Reporter article.

Before you ask, I don’t have any other information that I can share about anything, so any question you ask beyond what’s in the article linked to above, I can’t answer, mostly because I don’t know. What I can say is well-expressed in the following gif:

(for those who can’t see the gif, it’s K-VRC from “Three Robots” saying, “Oh, man, this is so exciting!”)

Congratulations to everyone who worked on LD+R season one, and to everyone who might get to work on LD+R season two. This is nifty.

Announcing A Very Scalzi Christmas, From Subterranean Press

Surprise! I have a short book of (mostly) Christmas stories coming out this year, each story featuring art from Natalie Metzger. It’ll be out in November, and available in a signed, limited hardcover edition (perfect for holiday giving!), and also in eBook. And it features three new stories never before published anywhere.

Here’s the write-up from the Subterranean Press announcement:

Deck the halls with boughs of holly! ‘Tis the season… for Santa’s lawyer to talk about the legal status of the workshop elves, for Christmas to arrive in an unexpected month, and for the innkeeper at the nativity to spill the beans about what really went down on that one night in Bethlehem.

It’s not just Christmas. It’s A Very Scalzi Christmas.

New York Times bestselling and Hugo Award-winning author John Scalzi gift-wraps fifteen short takes on the holiday season—interviews with holiday notables, “informational” articles about TV specials and Christmas carols, short stories and poems, and even a couple of nods to Thanksgiving and New Year’s — and puts them all into a stocking stuffer-sized package that makes the perfect gift for friends, family, or yourself.

With stories both funny and touching, A Very Scalzi Christmas also features three new stories exclusive to this collection: “Christmas in July,” “Jangle the Elf Grants Wishes” and “Resolutions For the New Year.”

A wonderful collection for the most wonderful time of the year.

Here’s the pre-order page from Subterranean Press for the limited, signed edition. There will be only 1,500 of these, and once they’re gone, they’re gone. So it makes sense to pre-order if you want to be absolutely sure you get one of these very fine stocking stuffers.

I’m super happy with A Very Scalzi Christmas, and I think you’re really going to enjoy it — especially the stories that are exclusive to the collection. I also think you will enjoy Natalie’s illustrations, which are, in a word, delightful.

And, yes, it makes for a perfect gift.

The Scalzi Theory of Strawberries

In our front yard we have a very small garden in which we grow strawberries and oregano, and one of the things I really enjoy is for a few months out of the year being able just to step out of my house and have a fresh, tart strawberry whenever I want. The strawberries we grow tend to be small but pack a punch with flavor, enough so that it leads me to what I call the Scalzi Theory of Strawberries, which is:

All strawberries have the same amount of flavor, distributed across their overall volume.

So the very small strawberries I get from my yard and the monstrous fist-sized strawberries you buy at the store have the same overall amount of flavor, it’s just that in the small version it’s concentrated, and in the polyploidal version it’s diluted. That being the case, the small, potent strawberry is usually the way to go (at least, I think so).

I suspect that holds for other types of fruit as well, but it’s especially noticeable with strawberries.

So: In your experience, does my Theory of Strawberries hold up?

Two Somewhat Contrasting Views of Athena

Athena in black and white, looking very serious.

Athena with a bit of a sardonic grin on her face.

Looking very serious, and then less so. Either way, she’s pretty great. It’s nice to have her home for the summer.

New Books and ARCs, 6/7/19

Another Friday, another ample stack of new books and ARCs that have come to the Scalzi Compound. Lots of good stuff here — what in this stack is catching your eye? Share in the comments!

Spice and Smudge, 6/6/19

Spice is in the foreground, looking back, while Smudge is in the distance, wandering toward the treeline.

Patrolling the yard, as they are wont to do. There is, after all, a lot of yard to patrol.

Hey, Wanna See the Cover for The Last Emperox?

If you do, it’s over here at Tor.com.

As with the other covers in the series, it’s done by Sparth, and as with the other covers in the series, I kinda love it.

Also, I’m still writing it. It needs to be done soon. Sooooooooon. But I think you’ll like it.

A Thought About Writing About Your Marriage Online

Was reading elsewhere someone noting their opinion that when people are posting online about how great their marriage is, that marriage is probably in trouble in some way, in the manner of how our online presentation of ourselves is highly mediated and controllable, unlike our real lives, which are messy and not always great.

I’ve been online long enough to take as a given that the online versions of our lives are the edited versions. I have always been open to people who read me online that they’re getting a version of me tuned to the medium, and I don’t feel obliged to share everything that goes on in the day-to-day of my life. Certainly that can cross over to the aspirational (presenting our lives as better than they are) or defensive (presenting them as different to counter a growing reality). With that said, I think it’s also the case that we can be cynical about how people present their lives online, and why.

I frequently write about being married to Krissy and how lucky I feel that I get to be so. It’s not because our marriage is in trouble, otherwise it would have been in trouble for close to a quarter century now. It’s mostly because I just genuinely *like* my wife, as well as love her, and because I am aware of just how different (and almost certainly lesser) my life would be without her. I think it’s good to publicly acknowledge that and to appreciate her (as well as, of course, let her know privately, away from the rest of you).

I suppose what I’m saying here is that when people express love for each other online — whether it’s to a spouse, or a parent, or a child, or a friend — consider that it’s not fake, or an inverse relationship, or a harbinger of trouble for that relationship. It is possible for people to be sincere online. It’s not all fake relationship news. And if sometimes it *is* fake relationship news, it’s okay to hope that by presenting that aspirational picture, the people involved are putting up a signpost for where they want that relationship to go, and will find a way to get there.

Krissy and I in London, earlier this year.