Gah! Cat!

Sometimes you wake up from a nap and a cat is right there, being all, like, “hey, what’s up.” And it is disconcerting. So naturally you take a picture.

The Two Week Quarantine Report

We got back from the JoCo Cruise on March 14, and March 15 was our first full day back in the world, so today marks two full weeks since I’ve basically holed myself up in my house. In the first week back I had two trips out to the grocery store, both observing full social isolation (i.e., at least feet between me and everyone else, no touching), and this week I’ve been off my property exactly once — today, when I went for a long walk down my street, on which I encountered no one because it’s a rural road and no one actually walks it except for me. It was good to be out in the early spring.

And how has this two weeks of (mostly) isolation been? On the whole, for me: fairly pleasant. I’ve mentioned before that when I’m at home, I don’t tend to go out a lot anyway — I can easily go a week or longer without leaving the house or seeing anyone but my family and pets. The two weeks back from the cruise I had nowhere scheduled to be anyway; I was supposed to go somewhere nest Tuesday (that’s now been postponed), but up until then my plan was: Be at home. So in that regard, “self-isolation” has just rather closely modeled what my plan already was.

Likewise with work I didn’t have a lot scheduled for myself — mostly plotting out new work (which is a grand way of saying “staring into space a lot while vaguely thinking of things I might write next”) and preparing for the book tour that was supposed to start a little over two weeks from now. Well, the physical tour is cancelled but we’re actively replacing that with online events, and also I have been plotting out that new work, so while some things have shifted, essentially I did what I planned to do with this time, i.e., mostly nothing, but a little bit of something.

Moving forward, plans have changed a bit, of course. I was planning to continue a relatively light work load through the length of my tour, because tours are busy and also enervating. Now that there’s no physical tour, I plan on being a little more serious about daily work, starting this next week. When I say “a little more serious” I should note that I’m planning to be careful not to overschedule my workload. This self-isolation thing I’m doing is very much like my normal routine but these are very much not normal times, and while for various reasons I’m probably better insulated from the world’s woes than most people, I’m still feeling the stress. My daily work goals are going to be modest to start and then we’ll see what happens from there. The point for me is to start up daily work again, and to start filtering out the outside world during work hours (or at least until I meet my work goals for the day).

Between now and the end of May I have exactly two places I need to be other than home: I need to take a day trip to Michigan to sign copies of The Last Emperox at the Subterranean Press warehouse, and I need to go to Jay and Mary’s bookstore here in Troy to do the same thing. I’ll do those in the next couple of weeks (provided I’m allowed to travel to Michigan at all — state-to-state travel is becoming a weirdly testy subject these days). In both cases I’ll be very sure to observe appropriate distancing.

Beyond that: Well, I’ll be here, with family. And cats. There are worse fates, to be sure.

The Last Best Time

Three fridays ago I was lying in bed on the Nieuw Amsterdam, the cruise ship that the JoCo Cruise was sailing on this year, trying to decide whether or not I wanted to bother to get my ass up, head down to the tender boats and go over to Half Moon Cay, our current stop on the cruise. I’d been there before and it was the last full day of a week-long cruise, and no matter how enjoyable a cruise is or has been, at some point you hit cruise fatigue. I was hitting it. Staying in bed and then wandering around a mostly-empty cruise liner for a few hours sounded like a pretty good day.

Then a thought came into my head: You know what you’re going to back to. Who knows when or if you will ever get back to this place again. Go and swim in the ocean, why don’t you. 

So I did. I went and took the tender to Half Moon Cay and hung out on the beach eating ice cream with friends and family, and then jumped into the crystal blue waters of the Caribbean and floated there as fluffy white clouds drifted overhead and my scalp became a rather alarming shade of red. I got out and had lunch with my wife and fed bits of bread to a rooster who knew a sucker when he saw one. Then I jumped back into the water, floated there again and took a moment to be mindful of where I was and who I was there with, and what an actual privilege it was to be afforded this one last best time.

To be clear, six days earlier, as we were boarding the Nieuw Amsterdam, I think most of us knew we were running ahead of a storm. There had been some question of whether loading 2,000 nerds on a cruise liner was a reasonable thing to do at all, given it was clear the coronavirus had landed in the US and was beginning to break out. The cruise line had put restrictions on who could get on the boat based on their previous travel through hotspots, which meant one of the cruise’s performers had to stay off the boat, and the boarding process featured spot health checks of the passengers. Hindsight being what it is, we were lucky that these precautions actually worked as hoped. But we were lucky.

I made a resolution that while I was on the ship I would avoid news and social media. I had email so that if there was a career emergency, my editor, agent or manager could get hold of me, but I had arranged things so that there should have been nothing that would have been an emergency during the week I was on the boat. We had departed on a Saturday; I was fully confident I wouldn’t have to think about the rest of the world until the next Saturday, when we returned to Fort Lauderdale.

In fact I made it until Thursday morning. Wednesday night my editor at Tor sent me an email, which was, basically: You have to call me immediately.

To which I replied: I’m in the middle of the ocean. There are no cell towers here. Just tell me. 

He responded in the early hours of Thursday, to tell me that my book tour for April had been entirely cancelled — and not just my tour; indeed, every event for every author my publisher published had been cancelled through April at least.

You have no idea what it’s like now, he told me. Everything’s changed. It’s been four months since last Monday. 

And I was all, well, shit, now I have to know. So I looked at the news.

He was right. Everything had changed.

For one, and very much least importantly in the grand scheme of things, no more cruise ships were going out. We were one of the very last to sail, and would be one of the very last to return.

By this time a lot of the performers and passengers on the cruise had also broken their news and social media fasts and were catching up on events in the world, and grasping what we were going to be coming back to when we arrived at port. Most of us also understood our first order when we got back to wherever it was we were going was to put ourselves in quarantine, for our own safety and the safety of others.

Because of that, at least some of us started looking at the cruise in a different light. The JoCo Cruise was always a good time — it’s why it had lasted for ten years and spawned a community that existed outside the confines of the cruise ship — but it was beginning to sink in that this might be the last good time for a while. Maybe for a long while. Or at least, the last good time we could spend with friends in reasonably close proximity, outside of the confines of our own homes.

So we enjoyed it. With the time that we had left to us, we enjoyed our time with each other. Our last best time. Then we came off the boat, got on our planes and came home to where we are now, and to the world as it is now.

We were fortunate. We were fortunate that on a cruise during a viral time, we avoided that contagion; it’s now been two weeks since we returned home, so we’re now outside the understood penumbra of its infection time. If any of us who were on the cruise get sick now, it’s far more likely that we got it here than there.

We’re also fortunate that we got to have this last, best time, with friends and music and laughter and blue skies and oceans to float in. It’s something that will help to sustain us through what we have now, and what is yet to come.

New Books and ARCs, 3/27/20

As we round the bend toward April, we have one more stack of new books and ARCs for March! What here is getting your attention as a possible Spring Read? Share in the comments!

Distance and Patience and This Moment of Time

The frustrating thing for me during this moment of time that we’re in is that I don’t think it’s quite sunk in to some folks that this virus doesn’t care about politics, or the economy, or in fact any human concern at all. It doesn’t care about anything. It just wants to spread, and will take any opportunity it is given to do so, to rich or poor, conservative or liberal, to any person regardless of their situation or circumstance or makeup.

And it’s really good at spreading — better at it than flu or many other communicable diseases — and it’s really good at hurting people. Right now we think its mortality rate is slightly above 1%, but I think equally important is that we estimate 19% of the people who get it will need to be hospitalized. That’s pain and fear and money and weeks if not months lost to recovery. Much of that avoidable, if people remember that this virus doesn’t care about politics, or the economy, or any human concern at all. It just wants to spread.

Now, let me speak of a particular human concern. I have lost hundreds of thousands of dollars (and, uh, possibly more) in the stock market in the last few weeks. I certainly understand how people might panic to look at it. I also know that historically speaking, the market will recover in time, as it did in ’87, and in ’08. It’s a good bet that if I’m patient I will see that money again.

If we rush to put this virus on a timetable that it cannot and will not honor, we will kill and hurt people who do not need to be hurt, and who do not need to die. I will see my stock market gains again, in time. I won’t see the dead again. They’ll be gone forever and every future moment any of us could have had with them lost.

It won’t just be the old, although that would be bad enough. Young people are dying of this too. People who are immunocompromised are dying, and so are people who were thought to be perfectly healthy. The virus doesn’t care who you are, what you want or what you believe. It doesn’t care who you will miss, or who will miss you. It doesn’t care that those lost will never be seen again.

The only weapons we have against this virus right now — the only weapons — are distance and patience. Right now we’re practicing the former, but we’re fighting against the latter, in ways both small and large. This virus doesn’t care if you’re patient or impatient. But if you’re the latter, it will take advantage of that to get to you, and it will use you to get to others. Please be as patient as you can, for as long as you can. It matters for you, and for the people you care about.

I understand some of you reading this will want to make political arguments, or argue about what we know about the virus, or (in the US, at least) make the very real point that money is running out for so many of us. Your points may be good, or they may not be, but I’m not going to argue any of them with you right now. I will simply remind you of what I said at the beginning: This virus doesn’t care about politics, or the economy, or any human concern at all. It just wants to spread. That’s it. That’s all. It will, if you let it. And won’t, if you don’t.

Try to Get a Message to Her: (Another) LP-Length Playlist

Hey, I made another playlist! Enjoy. Here’s the Spotify link, or follow along with the videos below.

RIP, WIlliam Dufris

William Dufris was a voice actor known for a number of high profile roles, the most famous being “Bob the Builder” from the children’s television show of the same name. More relevantly for me, he was the narrator of five of the audiobooks in the Old Man’s War series (excepting Zoe’s Tale, which was narrated by Tavia Gilbert, who also co-narrated The End of All Things with Dufris). In the last couple of days he passed on from cancer, and I have to say I’m in a bit of shock about it. He did such a good job with the books that the voice I hear coming out of John Perry and Harry Wilson is no longer my own but his.

He will be missed by many, and also by me. RIP, sir.

Nothing But Blue Sky

So, here’s a thing I never expected to see again in my lifetime: A sky entirely devoid of contrails, and the planes that make them. This is a 360-degree “photosphere” panorama from my yard, so the entire sky is here, and not altered from the photo that came out of my camera (I did photoshop the yard, since Athena was in it and she didn’t want to be in the final photo). Minus the curving streaks from the sun that are an artifact of the camera lens, there’s nothing but blue sky.

There’s only one other time in my life I’ve seen a sky like this, and it was in similarly extraordinary circumstances. And just like that time, I am amazed to see the sky of my ancestors. I genuinely never thought it would come around again.

CoNZealand Goes Virtual

This year’s Worldcon is going virtual, because we’re currently living in a global pandemic, and despite what some clueless politicians might say, we’re not going to be out of the proverbial woods by Easter. Moreover, the nation of New Zealand is currently under a stage four lockdown and will be for several weeks, which I imagine makes it very difficult for the Worldcon planners in country to do much of their work. Finally, who knows when international travel will be unfucked. Add it all up, and not only is going virtual this year the best and most responsible choice, essentially it’s the only choice, short of calling off the Worldcon entirely.

For the record, I fully support and endorse the online version of CoNZealand; I plan to attend and, if they want me, will participate in the programming as well. We’re currently in a world that calls for flexibility and imagination in order for people to get together as individuals and communities, and the science fiction and fantasy fandom is one of my communities. This is how our tribe comes together this year, and I want to be part of it. I’m sad I don’t get to do it in the physical New Zealand this year — it’s always been one of my travel goals — but that just means we can visit some other time. This works for me in the interim.

If you were planning or even thinking about going to CoNZealand, I hope you’ll support and attend this version; it will work if we want it to, and show up. I’ll be there. I hope I’ll see you there, too.

News Books and ARCs, 3/24/20

I’ve got two — yes! two! — new book stacks for you this week, to catch up from when I was away earlier in the month. And this is the first one! What here in this group is calling to you? The comments are waiting for your input.

Advice to Myself (and Others) About The Great Pause

Dear creative folks (and the people who love and/or buy their work):

Like many of you, I am looking at our current situation — which it seems were are moving toward calling The Great Pause — and wondering what this means, both in the long and short terms, for our careers and livelihoods. This is a perfectly reasonable concern! We should be having it! Because otherwise we will have to go back to actual jobs, which to be clear, are also kind of up in the air during The Great Pause. The Great Pause is like that.

The actual answer to what The Great Pause means for creatives is: Nobody knows. Because at the moment no one knows anything, except that staying at home and washing your hands so as not to overwhelm the medical system is a really excellent idea. Nevertheless, I have been thinking about the current moment a lot. Given where we are at the moment and where it seems reasonable (to me) to project where we are going, I have formulated a plan for myself, regarding expectations for the immediate future, and for the slightly longer term. I will share them with you now. Hopefully you find these points useful.

1. I’m grading 2020 on one hell of a curve. 

As many of you know, I have a new book, The Last Emperox, coming out in (checks watch) three weeks. It’s a very good book! With great reviews! And it’s the conclusion of an award-winning, best-selling series! With popular characters that people like! Which is in development for TV! If any book is positioned to do pretty well, it would be this one.

And it might! Still! Also, people are now shut up in their homes and away from their jobs, if they still have them, which rather suddenly a lot of people do not. My book tour, which is the way I usually promote my new work, has been cancelled because it’s not safe for me or my readers to meet up right now. Bookstores are still out there but a lot of them are closed for the duration. The economy is crashing and people are prioritizing where their money goes. And so, while a good book is in fact a really excellent way for people to pass time whilst in self-isolation, I understand that people, and this is an understatement, have a lot on their minds right about now. It’s possible that getting my book when it comes out may not be the same priority that it might have been even a month ago.

Nor am I the only author or creative in this position — a lot of us have work scheduled for release this year that now we’re looking at and wondering whether the audience will be there for it. Authors and musicians, at least, can get their work out; people who work in film, television or theater (as examples) are finding their work delayed, postponed or even dropped outright. It’s a mess, and it’s a mess that none of us have control over.

I want The Last Emperox to be a financial success out of the gate — I want people to find it and read it and love it. I also realize that, more than in any other year, that success is so very not up to me anymore. If the book doesn’t do what I hoped it would do in terms of sales, my official response is going to be to throw my hands up in the air and say, “It was 2020, baby.” And then watch every single creative I know nod and get a rueful look on their face. Because, man, 2020. You remember how that was. And if, in fact, Emperox does do just fine — and it might! Still! — then I’m going to be especially happy. Because, man, 2020.

So, yeah, creative folks: Don’t beat yourself up this year about how your work does, or doesn’t, do. This is nothing we could have figured into our plans. Do what you can to let people know your work is there, and be happy for the people who find it. But this year is not like other years. Be kind to yourself (and your work) when you think about it.

2. It’s going to take time to get to somewhere like we were before. 

Probably. Maybe we’ll get lucky and flatten that curve and navigate the economic fallout and come out of this all in six months not really worse for wear, and go back to something close to where we were in January. But, you know, I wouldn’t plan for that. I would plan for us dealing with this for the entire rest of the year and then spending a few years with the fallout, retrenching and then rebuilding. I’m assuming a recession of 2008 proportions.

Nor do I think we’ll get back exactly to where we were before — things are going to change and the models of how we sell and distribute and share things will likely be something other than what they are now. Mind you, “things will change and be different” is a statement that was going to be accurate anyway; a decade ago the landscape of my book sales was very different than it is now. Audiobooks came up, Borders bookstores went down, and there was a big fight over what the cost of an ebook should be. What I mean here is that the changes now are likely to come faster, because the economic situation we’re in is going to be that much more volatile. What’s going to come out of it will be good for some, less good for others, and who will be in those respective camps, we don’t yet know.

But no matter what, I’ll be working on the assumption that for the next couple of years, at least, people will be digging out from the economic mess of 2020. That’s going to affect the new books that I have coming out in the next couple of years — and also my backlist, which is my true economic engine. I expect my publisher (Tor in the US/Canada, but others elsewhere) are going to make adjustments to deal with this new era. Same with Audible, who handles my audiobooks. I think I’m going to be fine, but I also am, shall we say, tempering financial expectations for the next couple of years, which is going to have an influence on my how I plan for my life in that period. Which means, among other things —

3. Time for a thorough vetting of expenses.

I’ve always considered myself a thrifty sort of person who has an eye on the bottom line of things, and who doesn’t live extravagantly, given his income. However, having just looked over our taxes for the year prior to handing them over to our accountant, I can say that the variance between my self-image and my actual expenditures is… wider than perhaps it should be, let me put it that way. So this enforced downtime at the Scalzi Compound will not go idly by; one of my tasks for the next couple of weeks is to go through our finances and to do a triage of things we need, things we don’t need but are still willing to pay for, and things that it’s time to drop entirely.

Among those things in the latter category: Recurring online subscriptions, which as it turns out really pile up when you’re not paying attention. I currently subscribe to four separate music services, for example, which is, uhhhh, probably at least two too many. There are other services which I will have to give hard consideration about their usefulness in this era: We have Dish Network but watch streaming services rather more, so the question becomes whether to ditch Dish or at the very least cut back on the package, which features probably 280 more channels than we ever actually watch.

Other things: Last year’s biggest expenditure by far was travel. 2020 has cut into that considerably in any event by making us all stay at home for a currently indefinite period. Even after that stay is lifted we plan on keeping closer to home for the next couple of years. My MINI is ten years old next year so I’ve been thinking about whether it was time to move on from it; now I think I’ll keep it going for a while longer. I’ve been planning to make a music studio in my basement; in the short term I’ll work on getting better on the guitar I already have.

I don’t have any intention of withdrawing from the economy entirely. I will still buy and subscribe to things. But inasmuch as I do expect things to be economically variable the next couple of years at least, it makes sense to do an audit of what I (and we) spend and to bring those expenditures to a sensible level.

With that said:

4. Also time to support creatives and local businesses (more than I already am).

At least some of the savings from above will be going into the pockets of the creative people whose work I admire, and the local business that are feeling the pinch from this slow-down. In both cases, these groups are getting hit hard by this moment, and can use support. In the latter case in particular, if I don’t support them now, they might not be around to support later, and there’s no guarantee anything will spring up to replace them.

I want to be clear that on some level, as someone who grew up poor, and as someone who (factually or otherwise) sees himself as prudent with money, my initial impulse to current events is to listen to the not-so-little voice in my head which is incessantly screaming HOARD ALL THE MONIES FOR VERILY THESE ARE THE END TIMES. I’m gonna hoard some of it. But honestly, if I won’t support my local business, and the creatives whose work I like, a) who will, b) how can I expect anyone to support me and my work? And in any event, putting money into nearby businesses is an investment in the local economy, and my neighbors. Putting money into creatives means maybe I’ll get more stuff from them in the future. Again, an investment. It makes sense.

5. Try different things.

When the global economic collapse of 2008 hit, I was on, shall we say, a pause from publishing novels, out of contract and not actively pursuing one. Zoe’s Tale was published in 2008, and it wasn’t until 2011 that Fuzzy Nation came out. In the meantime, I: Wrote a novel for fun, with no immediate intention of selling it (Fuzzy); wrote a novella that was not representative of my previous work (The God Engines); edited and contributed to a shared world anthology (Metatropolis); and worked as a creative consultant on a television series (Stargate Universe). I also worked on a video game during this time, which never came out, but which was fun to be a part of. Of all of these things, the only thing I had done before was the novel-writing. Everything else was new and worth trying, one, to see if I had any facility for it, and two, to see if I could make any money from it.

I’m in a different place here in 2020 than I was in 2008 (I have a long-term contract, for one), but during this time I’m still going to try some new and different things, both to find out if I might be good at them, and also (although a lower priority, for now) to see if I might be able to make money from them. As I noted earlier, things won’t go back to exactly the way they were before, so it makes sense to me to be using this time to look at other things and see what I think of them. They could pan out! Even if they don’t, I’ll have learned things, not least about myself. It won’t be wasted time.

6. Don’t panic.

Right now is not a great time — we’re all isolated, afraid of getting sick with something that can really mess us up, worried about our financial futures and careers. Immediately after this time is not likely to be a great time, either; we’ll be digging out. I think it’s totally valid to be upset, and angry, and afraid, and bored and all those other not great things. Pretending not to be those things will often make them worse to deal with later. It’s useful to acknowledge all of these things that many if not most of us are feeling, and will continue feeling in the immediate future.

I do think there’s a difference between feeling all these things, and even feeling anxiety about them, and panicking about them. Mind you, it’s easy to say “don’t panic,” however, and harder to do, especially if there are accompanying personal life and/or mental health issues that are overlaying everything else that’s going on now. I am a huge supporter of addressing mental and personal issues, through therapy or medication or both. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, ask for help, however you can and in whatever way is best for you.

For me, however, the reason I’ve been thinking about all this stuff is so that I can put structure to it, and plan, and prepare mentally and financially for what I think is likely to happen next, without undue panic. That’s useful to me, and I think it’ll be useful for other people too. Maybe also you. This won’t be forever, and when we’re coming out of it, the planning and preparing we do now will help. This has been my experience so far. I think it’ll help in the future as well.

JoCo Cruise Concert Photos 2020

Each year I go on the JoCo Cruise I post up photos I take at the concerts I go to (or, at least, the ones I bring a camera for). This year’s collection is now up on Flickr, and you can look at it here. If you’re a Seamonkey, then you’ll know what I mean when I mention that the photos cover the opening Gold Team, and final Red and Gold Team, concerts. Everyone else: The album covers three separate concerts. I went heavy on black and white this year, but I like the results. I hope you do, too.

New Books and ARCs, 3/20/20

Seems like now is a fine time to return to one of the favorite features of Whatever — and accounting of the new books and ARCs that have come to Scalzi Compound! What here is calling to you this weekend? Tell us all in the comments.

After the Pandemic

Illustration by Mark Pernice

The folks over at the Washington Post have put together a piece on how the world will change after this pandemic — not in the huge ways, but in the smaller, day-to-day ways — and they asked me to write something for it. I did a piece on personal greetings, because, as it happens, it was a matter of some discussion on the cruise I just came back from. My piece, and the whole package, is here for your reading. Enjoy.

Till the Heart Caves In: An LP-length Mixtape Playlist

I felt like making a mixtape today! Which I did, and it turned out exactly as long as an LP, with five songs on each side. Here it is, in YouTube video form. I also have it on Spotify, here.



Great Scott

I noted this on Twitter yesterday but it bears a retelling and an archiving here: The folks at Jay and Mary’s Book Center, my local bookstore, knew that I and my family were away on a cruise the week that the coronavirus started to bite down hard, and people started freaking out and hoarding toilet paper. So out of their own purchases (which I can only assume were moderate and responsible), they saved us this 4-pack. Athena went and picked it up the other day.

As it turned out, we were not in want of toilet paper — we have an ample supply to get through the next two or three week at least — but I very much appreciated the neighborliness the act represented. That sort of simple kindness and consideration of those near us is the thing that’s going to get us through the next couple of months, and may hopefully set a pattern (or reset it) that we can continue on after this.

Also this is a fine reminder that I do sign stock at Jay & Mary’s on a frequent basis, and will be signing The Last Emperox for them when it comes in, so if you don’t have a local bookstore you already support, and you feel like splashing out a little extra in shipping in order for me to scribble in your book, you can give them a call and they will be happy to help you out.

A Bunch of COVID-Related Thoughts

The front page of the Dayton Daily News, 3/17/20.

I’m awake at an absurdly early hour and can’t get back to sleep! A perfect time to post a bunch of musings on the current apocalypse! These aren’t in any particular order because see above, re: absurdly early hour.

* First off, this is an apocalypse that I have to admit seems uniquely suited, on a day-to-day basis, not to inconvenience me all that much. Let’s recap: I’m an introvert writer who works from home, rarely goes out, does almost no local socializing and who has over the years developed long and fruitful relationships with people he mostly hangs out with online. What we’re all doing now? This is my actual life. Staying at home for weeks at a time without outside human contact is what I do anyway. I know this current situation is difficult for a lot of you, and you’re struggling with this enforced isolation. I do sympathize, and I mean that entirely without irony or sarcasm. But for my own self, well. I got this.

* Also, on a slightly more serious note, this current apocalypse is one I and my family are fortunate to be equipped to handle. We live in a small town on some land so “social distancing” is not exactly difficult. My wife’s job already let her work from home two days a week, so she already had her infrastructure and habits set and we already have a “both of us working from home” routine set. Her working from home five days a week (as she’ll be doing for the next several weeks) will not be a problem. As already noted, I work from home anyway. Our kid is back at home right now, but we like having her home, and she likes us too, so that’s great. We have health insurance and we can cover our deductible without a problem, and we are all generally healthy. We have money in the bank and no debts or immediate financial concerns. We have satellite TV and streaming services and internet and musical instruments and, of course, thousands of books. We have cats. We’re fine. Mind you, if civilization collapses entirely we’ll be just as fucked as everyone else. But until then: We’re fine.

* However, I’m well aware that not everyone else is fine. Even leaving aside those who are ill or taking care of the sick, there are millions of Americans who are not in a great position to weather weeks at home, and whose jobs and lives and incomes and health are threatened by the Great Stop of Everything we’re seeing now. I am worried about friends and family and I’m worried about local businesses. We are giving thought to how best we can help, locally and with the people we care about. There’s a rush to do everything up front, but this is something that’s going to be with us for a while, both in the immediate crush of crisis, and the long follow-up of reconfiguring our lives to what comes next. We’re thinking about both, and what we can do.

* And it’s not as if the current situation isn’t affecting me, either. I just had a book tour cancelled, because it’s unlikely things are going to take a sudden magical turn for the better in less than a month. That’s going to have an effect on how the book does in the short run — as will the fact that people are at home rather than out at bookstores, and that they’re worried about their finances, so book purchases may (understandably) be a lower priority for some. Long-term, I think it will be fine; one weirdness of my career is that I frontlist well but I backlist like a friggin’ rock star, so in time any hiccup with the launch will probably be smoothed over (EVEN SO pre-order The Last Emperox right now, if you can, please and thank you). But yeah, I’m going to take an early hit on this, possibly a real big one. It is what it is.

Also, that portion of my retirement account that’s invested in the stock market has, uhhhhhh, taken a bit of a haircut — the stock market is down a third from its highs, and much of that has been in the last couple of weeks, while our incompetent national government has been saying and doing exactly the wrong things, frequently and in sequence, and the repercussions of our economy shutting down have hit the markets. The “good news” here, for me, anyway, is that I’m not retiring for 20 years anyway (if writers ever retire at all), and this isn’t the first massive market correction I’ve weathered as an investor. You may recall the 2008 unpleasantness, for example. But it’s still rather emphatically not great.

Again, I’m fine, my family is fine and short of a complete collapse of civilization we should get through this okay. We are affected less than others, and you really should not feel sorry for us. But we’re still being affected.

* Let me talk a moment here about the president and the federal government and their response to this crisis, and let me begin by noting that no matter who was in power, this global pandemic would have happened and it would have been horrible for people and the economy. This is a tsunami that feels almost specifically designed to swamp the way we’ve designed our global systems and the way we move around in the world, locally and internationally. This was always going to be bad; the role of national governments in this case was always going to be how to mitigate the awfulness as much as possible.

With that said, let’s not pretend that we did not have the absolute worst president and administration possible for the circumstances presiding at the moment (and yes, this is a recurring theme). We did and do, and we and our economy are currently suffering for it. The president and the administration lied and minimized and denied responsibility while all of this was happening, and wasted billions trying to prop up markets that collapsed regardless. I mean, I know why they did that: one of the great “justifications” for the incompetence and malign nature of the Trump administration has been a smug “how’s your 401(k) doing?”, as if one’s retirement account excused the vast corruption and incompetence.

Well, the answer now to that smug question is: Terrible, actually, it’s lost every single gain it’s made in the last three years, and it lost it in just under two weeks, in no small part to how the administration bungled the response to this. Now everyone is at home and lots of people won’t have jobs or money after all this is over. What’s the excuse now for this awful, terrible, incompetent regime, now that the nation’s 401(k)s are well and truly screwed? There is none, except, basically, racism, bigotry and “owning the libs.” Enjoy your MAGA hat, folks. That’s all you’re getting out of this presidency.

At least our response (now) isn’t “Get them all sick, let God sort them out,” which I understand is the current UK government response — or was until I think yesterday evening, when the Tories figured out they were going to end up slaughtering mostly their own voters. Congratulations, US, for not having the absolutely most heartless national response to a global pandemic!

Also, for fuck’s sake, people, stop voting for rich, ignorant, venal white men (and their quisling lackeys) who don’t care about you unless you’re a goddamn billionaire. Just fucking stop, already.

* This would also be my cue to slam US conservatives in general for their “let’s pretend this isn’t happening because if we say it’s not happening then it won’t happen” mode of thinking and responding, and generally speaking I would not be wrong to do so — except for the actually conservative government of the State of Ohio, in which I live, which has been doing an overall very decent job of recognizing there’s a crisis. It’s been shutting down the state in an orderly fashion so that people will just stay the hell home, already, and coordinating with local governments to stay on top of things. They were doing these things at the same time or even before more liberal state governments in places like California and New York were doing their things. Apparently, conservatives in Ohio may be conservative, but they still have some relationship to a reality that’s not been entirely crafted by Sean fucking Hannity and Fox News. So thank you, Ohio conservatives, for generally being in the same world as I am, at least for this bit. It’s heartening.

(EXCEPT for this complete bullshit, closing down the polls as a health hazard at ten fucking thirty the night before the Ohio primary, with no prior notice and with no actual plan to reschedule the primary aside from “oh, we’ll move it to June, except that I, the governor, have no legal right to do that, so, uh, yeah [Jedi hand wave].” I usually vote early in Ohio, but didn’t this time, and now I’m kicking myself. Never again. Also, hi, folks, do your voting early/by mail this year if you can, because you just know this bullshit is going to pulled again come November. There is literally no excuse for this last minute rug pulling, and everyone of every political persuasion should be waving red flags about it.)

* To come back to me for a moment, and I think for the duration of this (at least), one of my plans will be to write more here, and to do what I can to support other writers and to give people things to read and do to occupy their time. What that means at this point I’m a little fuzzy on, other than probably writing more posts. I’m figuring this out as I go along like everyone else. But again, I know this isolation thing is tough for folks, for all sorts of differing reasons. I’d like to do what I can to make it a little more bearable. All which is to say: I’m working on it, folks. We’ll see what comes of it.

(Note, because I see some of you hovering over your keyboard, I’m not looking for suggestions on what to do. I’ll figure out what works best for me. If I do want suggestions, I will specifically ask. But thanks!)

* We’ll get through this, most of us. Wash your hands, stay home, take care of yourself and your family and look out for your neighbors and friends. Don’t hoard toilet paper or milk or whatever other saleable good everyone seems to be panicking about today. Stick to actual reputable news sources and don’t forward bullshit you see on social media. Support your local businesses now so they will be around when all of this is over. If you can, buy a book (waves) or subscribe to a Patreon or otherwise give support to the creative people you know who are low-key panicking about how they’re gonna eat for the next month or two.

Finally and for the foreseeable future: Let’s be kind when we can. I bet we can be kind most of the time. Let’s all try it and see.

Important News About The Last Emperox Tour

So, let’s get right to it, folks: The book tour for The Last Emperox has to be cancelled.

Why? Well, I’m pretty sure you know why:

1. There’s a global pandemic going on as we speak.

2. Gathering in groups is not a great idea.

3. In a lot of the places where my tour stops are, gathering in large groups is currently not allowed.

4. A number of the events and festivals that I was going to as part of my tour have already been delayed or cancelled.

5. Neither I nor Tor can in good conscience ask people to risk their health — or the health of others — just to come see me do my thing. These are extraordinary times and circumstances, and we want you all to be safe and healthy, today and in the future.

I want you to know that neither I nor Tor have come to this decision lightly. If you’ve ever seen me at an event then you know how much I genuinely enjoy them. I love coming to town, seeing all of you, and supporting booksellers in their communities. I am as unhappy about this as you are. But! This is just one tour. There will be other books, other tours and other opportunities to see each other. Let’s keep that in mind even if things are disappointing right now.

Also and this is important: If you have pre-ordered The Last Emperox from your local bookseller in anticipation of my upcoming tour event, please keep your pre-order with your local bookstore. The next couple of months are going to be very difficult for local business, bookstores included. They will need your help to make it through what is going to be a very tough time. On my end, I’ll be doing what I can for the bookstores where we had announced tour events to get signed copies and/or bookplates to them. We’ll try to do right by them and you on that score. That’s another reason we’re announcing this now — so we’ll have enough time to work with these stores.

So, please, please, please: Keep your pre-order at your local bookstore, or make that pre-order at your local bookstore. Your local bookstore needs you right now. The more you support your local bookseller today, the more likely it is to be around in the future, when I and the other authors you like are able to go back on tour. I want to be able to see you and scribble in your book face-to-face, the next time I have a book out. And the way for that to happen is for you stick by your local bookstore today.

Also remember that I am signing and personalizing copies of The Last Emperox through Subterranean Press (get your orders in there soon; I’ll be signing those at the end of the month), and that you may also order signed books through my own local bookseller, Jay and Mary’s Book Center of Troy, Ohio — and that’s any of my books, not just Emperox.

Finally, and just to be clear about this, I will be promoting the crap out of The Last Emperox. Folks, I’m not bragging when I tell you this book is really good; I can’t think of a book I’ve written before where I’ve been this excited to have you all read it to find out what’s happening with the characters and the universe. I want to share it with you and talk about it with you and geek out about it with you.

That being the case, just because I’m not going to be able to do a physical tour doesn’t mean I won’t be around to talk it up and to get with you all. I had a long phone call today with the folks at Tor where we thought about what to do for the book and how we can get people excited for it. We have plans. Oh so many plans. You will find out more about them soon. This will be fun. Stay tuned.

In the meantime: Wash your hands, be kind to each other, support your local businesses including your local bookstore, and above all be ready, because in less than a month The Last Emperox will be out. It will be worth it, and I can’t wait for you to get your hands on it.

My First Associated Press Photo Credit

I snapped a picture at the Ft. Lauderdale airport yesterday while I was trying to head home and posted it on Twitter with the requisite snarky comment, and then it went viral (so to speak). One thing led to another and now the AP is distributing the photo. Now I have an AP photo credit to my name, which as a former full-time journalist, is kind of neat. I also talked to the AP’s local reporter (Terry Spencer of the byline you see above) of the mood, etc of that very packed airport.

When he asked me my occupation, I noted I was a science fiction writer who had, in fact, written books about a future plague, so the unfurling of current events was not exactly surprising to me. We’ll see if that quote gets in any future updates to this particular story.

If you’d like to see the story to which the above photo was appended, it’s here.

Also, hello! We’re back home. We’re feeling fine. I for one don’t plan to leave the house for a while. Not only best practices at the moment, but just, you know, what I do anyway.

Life at Sea, Thursday Edition

It’s nice. I’ll be sad to be back on land.