If You Go Carrying Pictures of Chairman Mao

The Warhol portrait is in fact very impressive close up. But it was equally impressive how people seemed to unconsciously place themselves in a tableau around it.

I’m back from Chicago, where I hung about with many impressive people talking about many impressive things. This was good for my brain, but now I am also very tired. I may be mush tomorrow. You have been warned.

New Books and ARCs, 1/24/20

Friday again, and time for another eclectic stack of new book and ARCs that have come to the Scalzi Compound. What here is speaking to you as we head into the weekend? Tell us in the comments?

Off to Chicago; Here’s a Cat

I’ll be in Chicago over the next few days to hang out with friends and do a little business so updates here may be sporadic. Please accept this cat as compensation for my likely mostly absence through Monday. It’s a fair trade.

My Tools and Programs, 2020

Over on Twitter this morning I was watching people discuss the pros and cons of various writing tools, which reminds me that it’s been a while since I’ve discussed which tools I use to work, and do work-adjacent things, these days. So in case anyone is interested, here is my list of current tools and programs here in 2020. Several of them are the same as they were the last time I did a piece like this, but a few are new and I may have some additional thoughts on the old stuff.

Please note that this is a “this is what I use” piece, not a “this is what you should use” piece, or, alternately, a “this is what I use and if you use something else, you suck” piece. Everyone has their own process and life, and for that process and life will find tools and programs that work for them. These are mine.


Desktop: I have a 2018 Corsair One, which sports specs that were top of the line roughly two years ago in terms of CPU, GPU, RAM and storage. This means that it’s still more than capable for the things I use it for, which are, in no particular order: writing, photo and multimedia editing and processing, consuming and generating social media, and playing video games. It’s complemented by an Asus 27-inch 4k monitor, a 10TB archive drive, a Razer mechanical keyboard and a Logitech MX Vertical mouse that lets my hand rest in a position that does not actively encourage RSI. This is my primary workhorse computer, as were its predecessor desktops — nearly all my novels and novellas primarily get done at my desk, as well as most other work I do when I’m at home.

Laptops: I currently use two, and their use depends on what I need. If I’ll need to use full-powered Microsoft or Adobe programs while I’m traveling (which is the case when I’m writing/editing, or am traveling with my dSLR camera or need to do other multimedia stuff), I have a 2019 Dell XPS 13, with an i7 processor, lots of RAM, 4k screen and so on. If I don’t need those things, I have a 2017 Google Pixelbook, again fully specced. Of the two laptops, the Pixelbook is my favorite — I think in general it may be my favorite laptop ever and close to the platonic ideal of a laptop — and 90% of the time it’s sufficient when I travel. But for that other 10%, there’s the Dell.

Phone: I have a 2019 Pixel 4 with 6GB RAM and 128GB storage space, both of which are more than sufficient for how I use the phone. This is my third Pixel phone, which I buy for two reasons: One, the phenomenal camera tech, and two, because as Google’s own phone, it gets all the Android OS updates first and most consistently, and Google also debuts all their innovations here first, some of which (call screening and audio transcription) are pretty close to revelatory. Also, did I mention the camera? The knock on the Pixel 4 is the battery is relatively small, but for how I live and work (i.e., never that far away from a charging station), it’s not really a problem, and I have a credit card-sized external battery that I take with me to sooth my range anxiety. So far I rarely have to use it.


Microsoft Word: Microsoft Word is the industry standard for documents and editing, so as a professional writer it makes sense to use it — and also, for how I write long-form (novels and novellas), it’s the most congenial program for me. I typically write novels and novellas into a single large document, because that’s how my brain works and because that’s how it will eventually be sent in (and then returned to me for copyediting), and Word is really good at handling large documents. Also, I’ve been using some iteration of Word for close to three decades now, so by this time I’m very familiar with how it works, and familiarity is a thing. Finally, on my 27-inch monitor, I can set Word up to display multiple pages of a document at once, and I find it super-helpful for my writing and editing processes to see a document three pages across.

I have Word through a subscription to Office 365, which I am a little ambivalent about — I rarely use the other aspects of Office, and I’m not a huge fan of now subscribing to a program I used to own outright. But in the real world, I like Word being constantly current and updated, and I like the fact that it now saves seamlessly into Microsoft’s cloud service (I also save to a local document at the end of each work session). And on those rare occasions when I do need Excel or Powerpoint, I have them, which is nice. I’m not in love with Word’s online and Android app iterations, since they either lack or make very hard to use some basic formatting stuff that I absolutely do need to use, and are generally laggy and suck. I use those iterations only when I have no other choice (this is one reason I have the XPS 13), and only for documents where I already have the formatting baked in and I need to make only minor changes.

Google Docs: Google Docs is my go-to word processing program for shorter pieces: Short stories up to 20,000 words or so, and most non-fiction work that isn’t going into the blog. The basic formatting tools are similar to what I get on Word, and some minor but occasionally useful stuff it actually does better (for example, voice entry, which I use rarely but appreciate it working well when I do). Its integration with Google Drive is stellar, and its offline saving is much improved from where it started as well. I literally never worry about losing a document when I use Google Docs.

The knock against Google Docs is simply that it doesn’t handle large documents well, and really never has — my experience has been that once you get over 20,000 words, the programs hangs and stutters and basically wants to know why you’re making its life miserable. I’ve been using Google Docs in its various iterations for a dozen years now, and it’s never handled large documents well, and at this point I’ve just accepted that it never will. This is why I will probably never abandon Word (and also because Docs doesn’t let me do that “multiple pages on my monitor” thing, which again I find super helpful for longer documents). But again, for casual writing and short pieces? I prefer it over Word.

WordPress: What I use to write on the blog (hello!), and for that sort of writing, it’s very easy to use, with a mostly consistent UI and feel. I wouldn’t use it as a primary word processor (I tried it once, when I was writing The Human Division, and… yeah, not great), but WordPress is the gold standard for producing blog writing. I’m very comfortable with it and its capabilities; writing in it doesn’t feel cramped in the way that other blog/social media UI does. I friggin’ hate writing anything more than a couple of sentences on Facebook, for example; its interface actively encourages writing poorly and in an ill-considered manner. Ugh. So, yes, WordPress: Great for writing online when your want your writing to show that you think, rather than merely react.

Adobe Reader: This is what I use to check page proofs (i.e., the documents that show my manuscripts once they’ve been laid out and formatted into book form), or have forms I need to fill out, or occasionally contracts to sign. I also occasionally get books sent to me in pdf format to read (mostly for blurbing) and this is what I’ll use to look at them. I don’t think Reader is great; the UI is a little fiddly and unhelpful. But it’s the industry standard, so, meh, whaddya gonna do.

Fade In: I don’t often write in screenplay format, but when I do? This is what I use, because it’s simple to use and is more esthetically pleasing to me than Final Draft, which is the industry standard program (it’s cheaper, too). That said, inasmuch as Final Draft is the industry standard, I have that around, too, for when I need it.


Nikon d750: This is the camera I use when I want to take formal portraits or get real detail, either up close or from a distance. I have a couple of different lenses but tend to stick with the Nikkor 28mm-300mm lens (f/3.5 – 5.0) I have because it pretty much does everything. I also tend to keep everything in auto, because the camera is actually smart about lighting and shutter speed, and because, inasmuch as I shoot in RAW format and then work on the photos in Photoshop, I mostly tweak lighting and other things there. I also tend to shoot with available light rather than flash. The d750 is a more than capable machine, but I suspect mine is coming to the end of its natural life, since I’m experiencing a few physical glitches and hangups recently. I already have my eye on what I’ll get to replace it. No, I won’t tell you. I’ll let it be a surprise. Until then, however, I can say I have gotten real value out of the d750. It’s been a very good camera for me.

Pixel 4: The Pixel line of phones have been lauded for their photo-taking abilities, and in my experience, justly so. For casual shooting, they do some things as well as substantially more expensive, dedicated cameras, and other things they do even better than that (see: night sight and the new and genuinely spectacular “astrophotography” mode). Other phone manufacturers have caught up to Google so you can have the technical argument that the Pixel line no longer has the best in-phone camera, but what that really means is that now, after years of meh photos from your phone, you now have a choice of several excellent shooters, including the Pixels. We all win, basically.

With that said there are limitations. The Google “computational photography” techniques are great but it does mean that there’s a very specific Pixel “look” to the photos, which some people like or don’t, but is something you have to work with. The zoom on the 4 is better than on previous Pixels, but it still gets impressionistic fast. The Pixel can shoot in RAW format, but setting that up and taking those out of the phone takes effort, so you’ll probably stay with the jpeg format and all the lossiness that entails (lossiness that is compounded when you archive to Google Photos, unless you splash out extra cash). Selfies and closeup shots will still make you look like you have a big(ger) nose, because of the camera’s focal length.

Some people will tell you that these days you can’t tell the difference between pictures out of a phone and pictures from a dSLR or other high-end dedicated camera. Since I use both, I’m here to tell you that’s not true at all; you very much can when the higher-end camera is being used well. What is true is that your chances of getting a very good to great shot out of a phone camera (and in my case, the Pixel) is much better now than it ever was before. That’s a great state of affairs.

Photoshop: I unapologetically “photoshop” my images before I post them, which means I use the program to tweak lighting and contrast, and to remove cat hair, gouges on the walls, the occasional light switch or contrail, and, yes, to alter faces a bit when I use the wrong focal length and give someone an enormous schnozz, or alternately flatten out their head to such an extent that they look like the moon in a Georges Méliès film. Mostly I tend to go for a natural look, but occasionally I… won’t. You’ll see that mostly in overly-dramatic sunset photos or the pictures of me where I make myself look like a ghoul or something.

Lots of enthusiast-to-pro-level photographers prefer Lightroom to Photoshop, because it lets you batch edit and organize photos more efficiently than Photoshop does. I prefer to use Photoshop because I rarely batch edit and I already have a system for organizing my photos, and anyway, in my experience Photoshop allows one finer-grained control over photo editing than Lightroom does. Basically, Lightroom does things I don’t need, and the things I do need, Photoshop does better.

I use a number of plug-ins with Photoshop to clean up photos. Most notably I use a plug-in called Portrait Pro (currently in iteration 19), which true to its name tunes up face pictures. You can do highly unrealistic things with it — I’ve used it to de-age pictures of people a couple of decades — but I mostly use it to tweak lighting and even out skin tones. I use Snap Art 4 when I want to make a picture look like an oil painting or a pastel, and I use Exposure X5 and the Nik Collection (and Camerabag 3, a stand alone program), when I want to give a picture a specific look and feel, particularly in black and white.

I use Photoshop as part of the overall Adobe “Creative Cloud” suite of programs, and I pay for the full-freight subscription (which is about $60 a month) because I use other programs in the suite. But if you’re only interested in the photo stuff there is a Photoshop/Lightroom bundle that’s substantially cheaper.

Photoshop Express: If I take pictures on the Pixel and want to edit them substantially but don’t feel like porting them over to the desktop, I’ll work on this app, which is available for Android. It’s perfectly fine for editing that’s more complicated than just fixing contrast but less complicated than editing out cat hairs. If I’m just fixing contrast or other relatively simple things, I’ll use the built-in editing tool for Google Photos, which is fine for that. I’ll occasionally use Snapseed for its effects library, but Photoshop Express or Google Photos usually has me covered. Speaking of Google Photos:

Google Photos: Google offers online storage for photos so one does not clutter up one’s phone — but if you use the free tier, it will compress the photos before storing them, which makes them smaller but more lossy (i.e., details are lost). You can pay more to store the photos without compression if you like. I use the free tier and I have to say that for most photos the compression isn’t really noticeable at all… until you put them into a photo editor and start to play with them, at which point the compression artifacts can become really noticable the more you tweak the photo. The way I deal with that is that I port the photos I know I want to tweak to my desktop before I clear them out of my phone and store them. It’s a good compromise for me.

Flickr: Most of the photos that come from the dSLR I archive on a hard drive (more than one, actually), but the ones I’ve edited and want to show off in public I put up on Flickr. It’s also where I store most of the photos I use on the site. Flickr’s changed ownership a couple of times since I started using them, so I have some small concern that one day they’ll just up and disappear, but I have those photos archived to a hard drive in any event. I do like Flickr and can recommend the service.


Adobe Audition: I use this when I do my occasional audio recordings. I have a number of digital audio workstation programs I’ve bought over the years with the ambition to use them to make music, but I haven’t made much headway with them yet, so I will refrain from noting them here for now. I note Audition because I do use it, and because it’s (relatively) simple to record voice into and then edit that voice recording. I have used it for music and it’s done fine how I’ve used it, but I suspect I’m using it very clumsily. With that said, Audition does everything I ask it to do, and it comes as part of the Creative Cloud suite, so, you know. Use what you have.

(When I record using Audition, I am usually using a Blue Yeti USB microphone I’ve had for a couple of years now. It’s really solid and is overall a very good general-use microphone.)

Adobe Premiere Rush: This is Abode’s “kiddie-level” video production and editing software, which means it’s perfect for me and what I typically need to do on those rare occasions I decide to make a video. It’s functional and (again, relatively) simple to use, and I’m relieved I don’t have to learn how to use Premiere Pro.

Freedom: This program keeps me from accessing social media on my desktop from 8am until noon, which is the time of day that I’m generally most creative and therefore should be writing in novels and such and not yelling at people on Twitter. As I’ve noted elsewhere, I hate that I’m the sort of person who has to use blocking software to keep from getting distracted, but I am, so here we are.

DJ Pro: From time to time I DJ dances, and this is program I use to do it. I use it on the XPS 13, because the Windows program is stable, and the Android version, when I use it on the Pixelbook, is not so much. I like it because it’s flexible and (on the Windows version) allows me to mix between four different songs, and also because it integrates with Spotify, which means that I am able to pull up just about any song I want (or that someone requests) when I DJ. It’s nice to have that option.

Steam: When I give myself a break and want to play a video game, this is the service I use to do that. Recently Epic has been making waves by getting some studios to make their PC games exclusive to their store for a period of time. That’s fine, but I like having all my games in one place, so this just means I won’t get those games until they’re on Steam.

Spotify: I actually subscribe to several music services (Spotify, Google/YouTube Music, Amazon Prime Music HD) for reasons that make absolute perfect sense to me and me only. I like and use all of them, but the one I use the most is Spotify, partly because it’s the most widely used (useful when I make playlists), and also because it’s the service that’s best integrated into other things — like the DJ Pro program above.

Fitbit: I own a Fitbit Versa 2 smartwatch (and a Versa before that) and I use the Fitbit app and site to count my calories and chart my exercise. I’ve found the service and the smartwatch very useful, and can recommend both. Fitbit was recently bought by Google, which has caused some consternation, but I’m not too personally put out by it because of the next bit:

Google generally: I joke, although it’s not really a joke, that these days you have to decide which company you want to give your privacy to: Amazon, Apple, Google, Microsoft or Facebook. Of those five, I think I get the best value proposition out of Google, which provides me a lot of hardware and services I find very useful, and whose intrusion into my privacy is, if not minimal, at least as close to subtle as these services get. So I tend to default to Google services and apps rather than use the apps and services of these other tech giants.

But not always. I use Audible for audiobooks (and not only because they’re my audio publisher), and I have a couple of Amazon Echos, including the new Echo Studio, which is a very nice audio speaker, and like most humans at this point have and use Amazon Prime quite a lot. I own an iPad so I connect with Apple there. I use Windows and have Office 365, as noted, so Microsoft gets me there. Facebook I connect with the least, which is probably for the best, because I think it’s being run by someone who is increasingly malign to the interests of most humans everywhere. But I still check into the service because my mom is there.

Password manager: As I interface with technology so much — and because interfacing with technology means being vulnerable to people who think it’s fun to mess with you — I use a password manager and two-factor authorization on everything, and especially on things that are public-facing and/or have access to financial information of mine. Now all my passwords are ridiculously long strings of random ascii characters that I could not hope to remember myself, and have to be verified with an authenticator in any event. You should use these yourself. Also, on the same wavelength, I use a VPN regularly, which makes it somewhat more difficult for bad folks to mess with me. It’s okay to be a little paranoid about this stuff, folks.

Coke Zero: My stimulant of choice while I work. I think most of you already knew that.

There. More information than you needed to know! But also a good snapshot on what I use to get things done here in 2020.

Zeus Contemplates the Meaning of Existence, January 2020

He’s been contemplating the meaning of existence for a while now. I don’t think he’s gotten particularly far with it, but to be fair, I don’t know that anyone else has really done all that much better than he has. So there’s that.

I’m back home, after a few days in suburban Detroit for the ConFusion convention, where I signed books, did a reading and DJed a dance. I especially like doing that last part. A lovely weekend despite the cold and snow. I did not spend that much time contemplating the meaning of existence, however, so Zeus is ahead of me on that one. Good for him.

New Books and ARCs 1/17/20

This looks like a very fine time to show off this week’s stack of new books and ARCs that have come to the Scalzi Compound! What here is getting your blood pumping? Tell us all in the comments, please!

The Last Emperox Gets a Starred Review in Publishers Weekly

Publishers Weekly has dropped their review of The Last Emperox, and, well:

Hugo Award–winner Scalzi knocks it out of the park with the tightly plotted, deeply satisfying conclusion to his Interdependency Sequence space opera trilogy… Balancing existing character dynamics and surprising—but well-earned—reveals with interstellar politics and pressing ethical questions of sustainability and power, Scalzi sends his series out with a bang.

So, yeah. Reviews don’t get much nicer than that. The full review is here and has no real spoilers (so long as you’ve read the first two books in the series), and obviously I’m pretty happy with it. It’s always nice when one of the big trade magazines for the industry comes out with a rave for one’s work. Between this and being announced as the Literary Guest of Honor for Dragon Con, it’s been a pretty nifty week for me, I have to say.

(This is where I drop a little plug for you pre-ordering The Last Emperox via Subterranean Press, because I’ll be signing and (if you like) personalizing those copies. Get ’em!)

Hey, Guess Who Will Be Going to Dragon Con This Year?

Spoiler: It’s me. I will be going. As its literary guest of honor.

I’m very excited and I’m looking forward to seeing folks there in September! More details to come, promise.

When I Die and People Write About Me

Apropos of nothing in particular, I have some thoughts about my (hopefully not imminent) death, and the people who will decide to write things about me immediately thereafter. Consider this piece a bit of advance planning.

1. When I die, some people will be moved to write touching pieces about me, talking about all the kind and fine things that I did for people, and for my community, and for them in particular, and that will be their way of dealing with the fact I’m dead, and that this is how they’ll want to remember me, or will want to be seen remembering me. This is fine by me; I like it when people remember the good things I’ve done, and I like the idea that a moment I’ve shared with someone or a thing I did resonated with them enough that it’s something they’d want to share at my passing. That’s lovely.

2. Other people will feel the urge to try to write a balanced assessment of my life and influence, noting the kind things I did but, to a greater or lesser degree, not skimping on my unkindnesses or my lapses in judgment or empathy. This is also fine by me, because I’m not a perfect person, and while I try on balance to be the sort of person people remember well, I have my bad days (and weeks, and months, and possibly years). In any event it’s impossible to be on the side of angels for every moment in one’s life, or even on the side of every human you meet. If someone decides to try to measure me in full right after I’ve kicked the bucket, well, that’s ambitious, but I’m not going to blame them for trying. They might even succeed!

3. Still other people will decide it is time for an accounting of all my misdeeds, fuck ups and trespasses, perhaps because they are sick of seeing all the treacly remembrances of category one, or the “measured” assessments of category two are a little too artificially measured for their taste, and someone needs to speak truth to power, even if that power is newly dead. Alternately, it’s entirely possible that unintentionally or otherwise, I was a completely awful person to someone (or they believe I was a completely awful person in general), and they feel compelled to share that out loud.

And you know what? This is also fine. I have been an awful person from time to time, and awful to specific people. Sometimes that’s because I’m just me, and I’m occasionally cranky or clueless or stupid, like anyone else. We don’t always know to correct our mistakes, and sometimes we learn it’s too late to do so. But then there are the times when I did go after someone, because they needed a stabbing in the eye and I just happened to have a pointy stick in my hand. I regret that some people who I did not mean to rub the wrong way will think poorly of me when I die. If possible, I would have liked to make amends to them. There are other people, however, that I will be delighted to have antagonized, yea even onto death, because they were terrible people and they got what they deserved from me. I’ll see those motherfuckers in Hell.

4. In any event, I will be dead, so it’s safe to say that I personally won’t care one way or another what people say about me, good, bad or otherwise. I don’t believe in an afterlife, and if there is one despite my expectations, the last goddamn thing I will want to do with it is scroll down social media to see what people are saying about me. People who write about me after my death are doing it for themselves, and that’s fine — it’s one way of processing my death and what I meant to them, positive, negative or some combination thereof, while I was alive. I will not be healed or injured by anything anyone has to say about me when I’m dead, because, again, I’ll be dead. I’ll be beyond worrying about reputation or standing or my influence on current or future generations.

5. That said, from this side of the veil, I can say that I expect the whole range of remembrances when I kick off. Everyone’s interaction with me is different and personal, and to the extent people are moved to speak of me at all, they should speak their truth about me, even if that particular truth is not flattering to me, or not what some people would consider appropriate during a period where people who knew and cared for me are in mourning. I feel fairly confident that the people who will mourn me will be able to handle the occasional less than perfectly kind social media declaration about me, or my life and its work.

6. While I am not currently the boss of you and will be even less so after I am dead, nevertheless here is a small request: If, right after I am gone, you see someone post a remembrance of me that you disagree with, for whatever reason, just… let it go. Don’t respond in the comments, don’t write an outraged rebuttal, and certainly don’t decide to gather up all your excitable little friends to gang up on whoever is saying mean things about me because my honor must be defended (or my honor must be torn down, or whatever). One, why? Let me repeat: I will be dead. I literally won’t care. Two, being shitty to other people in the service of my memory just means you’re being shitty and using me as an excuse, and, yeah, just don’t. Be shitty on your own time.

Three, and again: Everyone will have had a different experience of me, and their experience of me will also be informed by who they were when they met me. As long as they are speaking the truth of their experience of me, I’m fine with it. As far as I’m concerned, they should be able to have their say, without taking a ration of crap for it from anyone else.

When all the remembrances of every one who feels compelled to write about me directly after my death are added up, the composite of me it represents will still be incomplete — but I suspect it will be an interesting one to read. And while I’ll be dead then and won’t care, right now I can say I’ll be sad to miss it. All of it.

First Pass Oscar Predictions, 2020

You know what? I genuinely can’t generate any enthusiasm for thinking about the Oscar slate at all this year, so, yeah, I’m gonna take a pass and maybe come back to it in 2021. I feel pretty good about this decision, honestly.

Get Signed/Personalized Copies of The Last Emperox From Subterranean Press

We’ll be announcing my tour dates for The Last Emperox soon, but in the meantime I understand that not everyone can get out to see me when I’m on tour, either because I’m not coming to a town they are near, or because they are pinned by a large automobile and literally can’t move (or something like that).

In either of these cases (and some others as well), there is an alternative: You can order a copy of The Last Emperox from Subterranean Press, and just before I go on tour I will go up to their warehouse and sign (and if requested, personalize) those copies of the book, so you can have a copy that I myself have scribbled in, delivered right to your door.

In all seriousness this is a pretty great way to get a signed copy of the book if you’re not going to be able to see me on tour. And also, SubPress usually feeds me when I go up to sign the books, so I get a free lunch out of it, too. Everybody wins!

(Also, if you’re actually, like, pinned under a car, please take care of that first before you send in the order. I want you to be able to enjoy the book later. See? I do care.)

Dispatcher 2: Done!

For those of you who were wondering if there would ever be a sequel to The Dispatcher, the answer is: Yes. I have literally just now finished writing it, and it is good, if I do say so myself. Like the original, it is a novella, and it will be an Audible exclusive audiobook first, and then available in print/ebook via Subterranean Press some months after that.

And no, Dispatcher 2 is not the actual title. It will have a different and much less numerical title very soon, i.e., after I give my brain a tiny bit of a rest.

Also, at the moment in time there is no other information available, including release dates, narrator for the audiobook, or anything else. As noted, I have literally just finished writing it. I need to dunk my fingers in ice water. Everything else is to come. Rest assured I will let you know things when I know things.

In the meantime: Yay! I’m done with something! And it’s only the 13th of January! It’s been a productive 2020 so far.

First Photos of Athena for 2020

They’re good ones, too. Uhhhhh, says the photographer, but anyway.

Have a happy Sunday, folks.

Smudge Wants to Know Just What, Exactly, It Is You Think You Are Doing

To be fair, it’s a totally valid question.

Don’t lie to Smudge. He’ll know.

Why, Yes, In Fact, Old Man’s War Could Make a Very Fine Movie

This morning I came across this blog post, by a fellow who read Old Man’s War and loved it, which is lovely, and then discovered that it’s been optioned as a movie and thinks this is a mistake, that it should be a series instead, which, meh. He also determines that the reason I optioned it for a film is that I must be desperate for the sweet love and adoration of Hollywood. Which, lol, no.

So, let me talk about this for a second, and why, in fact, I believe that Old Man’s War could make a very fine movie.

To begin, and as background, let’s recall that Old Man’s War has been under option before, both as a movie and as a television series, the former at Paramount and the latter at Syfy/UCP. It’s now at Netflix as a movie rather than a series. In both of the previous cases people spent time and money developing them and commissioning scripts and trying to get them done, and it just didn’t happen.

Why not? Because sometimes in Hollywood (read: nearly always) it just doesn’t happen, and that’s just the way it goes. Currently things are coming along nicely at Netflix, and I’m (reasonably) optimistic about the state of things — but it still might not happen, because, again, that’s just the way it is. If it doesn’t happen this time then we’ll send the property out there again. Then maybe someone else will option it, either as a movie or as a television series, depending on their particular interest and also what they think can get made, and the whole dizzy ride will start over again.

Given the history of the property, in fact this fellow already got his wish: I did option it as a series. And to be clear, when I did, I was no more or less desperate then, than I was this time, when it was optioned as a film. It just… didn’t get made. When the next people who wanted to option it came around, they wanted to make it into a film rather than as a series. I thought that was fine and I let them.

Why did I let them? In no particular order:

1. Because I liked the people who were involved (both personally and as business people) and thought they could do a creditable job with it;

2. Because the terms and conditions of the option deal were congenial to my own plans and interests;

3. Because I like money and lots of it;

4. Because I strongly believe there’s a way to make a very fine movie from Old Man’s War.

And I do, although I will note (and perhaps this is to this fellow’s point) that a two-hour movie will not cram the entire complexity of the novel I wrote into its 120-minute running time. I mean, to be bluntly honest, a two-hour movie could get a lot of it — Old Man’s War’s plot and prose are neither dense nor intricate, and the book itself is written in a three-act structure which (theoretically at least) should make it super-easy to turn into a movie script. It ain’t Foucault’s Pendulum. But inevitably not all the book will make it into the movie.

And that’s fine, and as it turns out, necessary. Movies are not books. Movies are adaptations of books, for another medium entirely. When filmmakers try to make their movies simply a “faithful” version of the book that runs at 24 frames a second, the results (speaking as a former full-time professional film critic) tend to be dreadful more often than not. I don’t want a movie of Old Man’s War that’s a retread of what I’ve already done in the book. What I want is an adaptation and interpretation of what I’ve written that’s interesting and exciting, and is faithful to the idea and feel of the universe I created. What I want is a movie that people who loved the book can watch and say “yeah, I see where they made changes and why, but they still kept the heart of the story.” That can absolutely be done. To the extent I’m involved with the production, preserving that heart is what I see my role as being, even as changes, deletions and additions necessarily come about.

But if you did a series, you wouldn’t have to cut anything and you could still keep the heart of it! Oh, my sweet summer child. Just because a TV series is longer doesn’t mean it would be any more faithful to the books, either in detail or in tone and feel. TV series aren’t books, either. They are also adaptations of a work into a different medium. Sometimes they nail it, sometimes they don’t. Sometimes they do both, just like movies do.

(Also, you know. The movie vs TV series dichotomy is a pretty much a false one at this point in the history of entertainment. Hey, if Old Man’s War is really successful as a movie, guess what? They’ll make sequels! And those sequels can follow the books, or catch up with parts of the books that weren’t in earlier films, or go off into places the books never got to, or weren’t able to spend any time on. And because this is Netflix, maybe some stories in the universe might eventually become… TV series! Seems to me there might be precedent for movie franchises spawning TV series, and vice versa.)

Regardless of whether Old Man’s War (or any book) is made into a TV series or movie, it won’t be the book. It can’t be. If you demand that it must be, you are going to be disappointed coming and going. I can’t help you there. Fortunately, the books are the books, so no matter what happens with a movie, or TV series (or video game, or graphic novel, or Broadway musical, or whatever), you’ll always have those.

Since I neither want nor expect either a film or TV version of my work to be exactly like the books I write, I’m open to the idea that they be adapted to either — or both! — and that the result will be its own thing, separate but complementary to what the books already are. I think that’s exciting, actually. Especially since, unlike nearly all of you, I know what’s going on with the current adaptation and I’m pretty happy with it, and would be happy to see it, finally, go all the way into production. We’ll see, or we won’t. Either way, the books will still be there, and I will be fine, and not desperate.

RIP, Neil Peart

What a drummer. A dab hand with lyrics, too. He will be missed.

In memorial of his passing, my favorite Rush song. Lyrically very appropriate for the day.

New Books and ARCs, 1/10/20

A new year and a new stack of books and ARCs that have come to the Scalzi Compound! What here is calling to you? Share in the comments!

Mike Resnick, RIP

Photo of Mike Resnick and me at Chicon 7 the 2012 Worldcon, taken from the MidAmeriCon photo archive. Click on the photo to be taken to the original.

Laura Resnick has posted that her father Mike Resnick has died, which means that it’s a very sad day for his friends and fans in the science fiction community. Give the length of his remarkable career, and the honors that were given to him (including five Hugo Awards as well as a Nebula and a Locus Award, and being the Guest of Honor at Chicon 7, the 2012 Worldcon), this is indeed a considerable percentage of that large and fractious community.

The picture above, of me stroking Mike’s leg, is from that Worldcon; I was the toastmaster of the Worldcon and the opening ceremonies of that convention were in the form of a talk show, for which I was the host. Mike came out for his interview segment and told a story about being on the same stage for an earlier Worldcon:

Mike (pointing up): I remember those lights from 1991. I was toastmaster of the masquerade, and I had notes and I couldn’t read them. I had a guy in the front row who was going to give me hand signals on whether to go faster or slower based on what was happening backstage, and I couldn’t see him with those lights. And I was standing with my back to a curtain, and somebody reached out from under the curtain and began stroking my leg. I decided that meant either he was in love with me, or I should go faster. And then he went like that (makes a hand sign that looks like clutching a leg), and I assumed that meant go slower. We did that for an hour and a half. (Points up again) And they haven’t changed those bulbs!

Me (getting up from behind the desk, going over to Mike, stroking his leg): Go on.

You can see that particular moment (and the rest of his interview) in this video of the opening ceremony, taken by Lisa Hayes; our conversation starts at the 20:20 mark in the video.

Mike was a very fine writer and a gregarious person, but what I think you will see most in the tributes that will be coming out about in the next few days is the fact he was a teacher and mentor to a great number of writers in the science fiction community, sharing advice about writing and the writing life over decades. There are working writers today who unironically think of themselves as “Mike’s children,” which is a testament to his influence. And of course Mike’s actual daughter Laura is a very fine writer as well. This is an excellent legacy to have, and Mike should be proud of it.

My own relationship with Mike had its ups and downs, the most notable down involving a blow-up about the SFWA magazine while I was president, where a column he wrote with Barry Malzberg incited controversy. I took responsibility for its publication as the publisher; I had been asleep at the wheel and let something get through that I’m sure if I had noted to Mike (or more accurately noted it to the editor at the time, who would then note it to Mike), he as a consummate professional would have found another way to make his point. I did appreciate that aspect of his, and I think he appreciated that I appreciated it. In these later years we saw each other at occasional conventions and chatted along agreeably on Facebook about life and business. Stay in a community long enough and there’s always water under the bridge.

Laura noted that Mike passed due to lymphoma that had come on unusually aggressively, and his doctors decided last month there was not much else to be done and recommended hospice. He passed quietly in his sleep. The family has a GoFundMe up to help Carol Resnick, Mike’s widow, manage the medical costs they’ve accrued over the course of his treatment. If you were a fan or friend of Mike’s over the years, I hope you’ll consider contributing.

My condolences to Carol, and to Laura, and to all those who were friends to Mike or considered him a teacher and mentor. A very grand presence is gone. And while the lights Mike was pointing to on that Chicago stage might still be there, they’ll never have the honor of illuminating him again. Their loss, and ours.

Scamperbeasts 2020: More and Better Naps

“More and better naps” is, I think, a campaign platform we can all get behind.

In other news it’s been a little surprising to me how busy my first week of business in 2020 has been. I’m writing, which is to be expected, but I’m doing a bunch of other things too, including setting up events and appearances in the rest of 2020 and beyond. It’s going to be a busy year, it turns out, which I guess means that a busy week to start it off is perhaps not all that surprising.

One side effect of being busy is that I’ve not been as engaged with news as I might otherwise be, which, again, I don’t see as entirely horrible. I’m working on an informal rule that I’m not looking at world/national/political news before the close of business, so I can focus on doing my actual work and also to keep my blood pressure relatively low. So far it seems to be working. It appears a lot of other people are more than happy fill in the gap I’m leaving during business hours.

One thing I did see today that I think on balance could be a good idea: Twitter planning to give users more control over who can directly respond to their tweets. I’m already seeing some hand-wringing about the idea that this will just allows echo-chambers to become more echo-y and for bad actors to make “statements” that people won’t be able to challenge, but, you know, eh. You can still snapshot something egregious and comment about it on your own feed, where you can keep comments open, if you like; also, if you’re that far into an echo chamber, you’re not there by accident, and someone commenting on a tweet isn’t going to pry you out.

On the flip side, it will make it harder for bots and trolls to do their thing, at least for a bit. As someone whose private Facebook account is already locked down so that only people I select can see and comment on it (and who can close comments here anytime he likes), I’m not seeing a huge amount of downside there. I’m looking forward to seeing how it works in reality.

In the meantime: Look, Sugar! Napping!

Smudge Brings His Nap Game Into 2020

And what a high-level nap game it is!

Also, hello, folks. Today I wrote a chapter and replied to notes on a treatment and now I’m about to go run a bit because I bought new running shoes and I have to justify spending more on them than I think I have for any other pair of shoes I ever had. 2020 is keeping me busy so far. Fortunately I have cats to hold down the napping angle of things.