It’s Been That Kind of Day, So Please Accept This Picture of a Cat Who Is, Frankly, All Over Your Brand of Nonsense

I feel you, Spice. I truly do.

A Thought, Not Random But Possibly Not All That Consequential

Which is:

I went and got my teeth cleaned by the dentist today, and when I was done I got a jelly donut and snarfed it right down, at least partially, I think, as oppositional behavior.

Is it just me who does these sorts of (very) minor rebellions? I mean, I’m 48 now. I kinda thought I’d be over that sort of thing at this age.

Your thoughts in the comments, please.

Sunset, 1/14/18

Big yellowy sunset with glowing clouds.

Because sunsets are nice, and this was a nice sunset.

Hope your weekend was lovely.

New Books and ARCs, 1/12/18

What a very fine stack of new books and ARCs we have going on here. Do you see anything that calls to you here? Tell us in the comments!

Trump is a Racist. Stop Pretending Otherwise.

A picture of Trump at a lectern. Text on the picture says "Not just racist. A racist."

Here in January of 2018, this is the deal: I’m gonna judge you if you can’t admit openly and without reservation that Donald Trump is a racist. Not just racist, which is to say, he has some defense in the idea that we live in a racist society so we all participate in its racism whether we like it or not, but a racist, as in, he’s actively prejudiced against non-white people and groups, as evidenced by his words and actions, both before he was president but especially since then. If you can’t admit this here in January of 2018, when the evidence of his racism is piled up grossly upon the floor in full view of everyone down to the cats, then I’m going to go ahead and judge you for it. It’s long past time, folks.

(He’s also sexist and religiously bigoted and transphobic and classist, among many other bigotries, but let’s go ahead and save those for another time.)

Mind you, people are still going out of their way to pretend that the president’s comments yesterday about “shithole” countries isn’t really racist (“Well, they are shithole countries, not that I know anything about them, which conveniently means I can elide the centuries of racist colonialism and exploitation countries including the United States have engaged in to help make them so”) or how immediately contrasting those “shithole” countries with Norway isn’t racist (“There are brown people in Norway too, just ask Anders Breivik”) or when all else fails trying to change the conversation to be about whether the word “shithole” was actually used (it was), rather than acknowledging Trump’s entire position in the conversation was racist and “shithole” was just the juicy soundbite.

But we don’t have to be those people. Trump said a racist thing and he wants to keep people from these “shithole” countries from immigrating to the United States (as opposed to people from Norway) because he’s a racist. There are other reasons he doesn’t want them here, to be sure (Trump also hates poor people, as an example, and many of the immigrants are liable to be poor when they arrive), but none of those mitigates or obviates the racism. That it’s there too doesn’t subtract or divide its vileness. It adds and multiplies it.

At this point, there’s nothing to be gained by pretending that Trump isn’t a racist. Rather, the opposite: The willingness to deny Trump’s active, obvious and unsubtle racism suggests not just passive complicity in his racism, but an active participation in it. Trump’s folks in the White House yesterday suggested that his “shithole” comment would resonate with his base, which to be clear, is an explicit acknowledgement by the White House that it considers his base to be just as racist as Trump himself. If you consider yourself part of Trump’s base, you now get the chance to indicate whether or not you are as much of a racist as Trump.

And maybe you are! We do know that while not all Trump voters consider themselves racist, nearly everyone who considers themselves a racist voted for Trump. Maybe you’re one of the people who celebrates Trump’s clear and unambiguous racism. But if you don’t in fact consider yourself a confirmed and unapologetic racist, now is a fine time to make that clear. Even if you supported Trump before, it’s not too late to get off that rapidly-derailing train and to tuck-and-roll yourself clear of the continuing association with the man and his active racism.

And here’s the first test of it: Do you believe Trump is a racist? At this point it’s really a “yes” or “no” question, with no waffling qualifications needed. If you answer anything other than “Yes,” to that, well. You should really ask yourself why. And in the meantime, expect to be judged. By me, as noted. But, I strongly suspect, by others as well.

My Wacky Video Game Mouse/Keyboard Control Scheme

A picture of the numberpad on my keyboard and also the mouse

I mentioned on Twitter that when it comes to PC-based video games, I have a keyboard/mouse control scheme that horrifies and mystifies everyone who learns about it, because it is so far deviant from the traditional “WASD” setup that people don’t know what to think about it. This of course meant I was immediately asked to reveal my heretical control scheme. I will do so now.

Basically, I do everything on the numberpad and the mouse and don’t use the primary keyboard at all. Also, I use these mappings primarily for first person shooters, as that’s my favorite type of game, although I also do usually map other types of games to some variation of this control scheme. Also also, I don’t claim this to be the best controlmapping scheme, merely the one that I’m used to; I’ve been using some variation of this since the Quake days 20 years ago. I will say WASD feels awfully cramped to me and I don’t know how it became the standard.

So here’s how I map my controls on the numberpad and mouse.

Mouse

Mouse Button 1: Walk forward
Mouse Button 2: Walk backward
Mouse Button 3: Weapon selection (both by scrolling with the mousewheel and holding down and selecting with the button when enabled in the game (see: Crysis and Wolfenstein)
Mouse Button 4: Grenades (when enabled)
Mouse Button 5: Sniper zoom (when enabled)
General mouse movement: Free look

Number Pad

7: Strafe left
9: Strafe right
4: Lean left
6: Lean right
0: Crouch
.: Fire
Enter: Fire secondary
+: Jump
/: Reload
*: Flashlight
Page Down: Use
8,5,2,1,3,-, pageup, home, end: Available for other controls the specific game might have, like sprint or map or inventory or health regeneration or whatever.

This works for me because it puts all the primary movement into the mouse and most of the secondary functions onto the numberpad. The mouse is all about looking and moving, the numberpad about shooting and occasionally ducking, leaning and jumping. Also the number keys aren’t staggered weirdly like the keys on the larger keyboard; they’re straight up and down and across, which for me makes them easier to use in a game situation.

As far as I know there’s only one other person in the world who regularly uses this setup: My kid, who naturally learned it from me, because she started playing video games on my rig. She, like me, is not sure why anyone does it any other way. I don’t expect other people to come around to our way of thinking on this, mind you. People use what they’re used to. This is what I’ve been used to for 20 years. It works for me.

Luuuuurrrgh

One of those days where my brain is aggressively stuck in neutral, probably brought on by bad sleep, early errands, more bad sleep and possibly on the road to becoming ill. Add it all up: No deep thoughts today, kids, sorry.

How are you? Are you one of the 90% or so of all humans who has been ill recently (including my kid and my wife)? Or have you managed to avoid that viral bullet?

Four Views of the Same Short Story

I had a short story come out today: “Three Robots Experience Objects Left Behind From the Era of Humans for the First Time,” as part of the Robots Vs. Fairies anthology. And here’s something I would like to show you, regarding the story: Four takes on “Three Robots,” from four different Goodreads reviews of RvF, each one giving the story one star fewer than the review preceding it (note: minor spoilers in a couple of the reviews):

Four reviews of my short story. The first one gave the story four stars the second three; the third two; and the last, one.

Which review is correct? Of course, they are all correct. Which is to say, they accurately represent the opinion of the person writing the review. Depending on who you are and what you want out of a story (or what you want out of a story from me), “Three Robots” is a four star story, or a three star story, or a two star story, or a one star story. It might be your favorite story in the collection, or the one you actively hate, or the one you don’t remember the instant you stop reading it. The text of the story is the same regardless of who reads it, but the experience of reading it is unique to the person reading.

This is a very important thing for writers (especially newer writers) to learn and build into their worldview: That everyone’s experience of your work, and any reviews they might then write, are inherently subjective, dependent on the person writing them, and there is nothing in the world you can do about that. That’s just the nature of putting work out into the world. Your job is to write the story as well as you can, and not worry overly much how it will be received. Because, as you can see above, it will be received well, and poorly, and everywhere inbetween.

And yes, learning to be okay with the fact everyone won’t love what you wrote is hard, because everyone has an ego, and everyone likes the validation of people enjoying their work. But as I frequently tell people, there are creators who I admire and whose work I love, and every single one of them has something they’ve created that I don’t like. Sometimes more than one thing! And sometimes it’s more than just not liking; sometimes I kinda actively dislike it. Or even hate it. On the flip side there are creators whose work I mostly dislike who will have that one thing that just works for me, or that I might even love. It happens! And then the whole mass of creators in the inbetween, whose work is mostly okay for me, but occasionally veer into the “like” or “dislike” territory.

If I feel that way about the creators whose work I experience, how can I expect any different from anyone else? I don’t expect everyone to like what I write equally; I don’t even expect people who like what I write to like it all equally — or uncritically. That would be weird and a little unsettling. I mean, you don’t need to tell me personally when I write something you don’t like. Feel free not to. But if you think yourself “I like Scalzi’s work — well, except for [X] which really kinda stank,” congratulations, you’ve passed a Turing test. You’re human.

Write your story and create your work as well as you can. Be as happy as you can with what you write and create before you send it out into the world. That way, no matter what people think or say about it, you can be happy knowing you did as well as you could with it.

Which is how I feel about “Three Robots,” incidentally. I enjoyed writing it, and it did what I wanted it to do, really well. It was fun. If people like or love it, that’s great. If they don’t, that’s okay too. They’re entitled to their opinion, and they’re entitled to share that opinion. I’m glad they took the time to read it.

Robots Vs. Fairies is Here!

Reminder to all and sundry that Robots Vs. Fairies, an anthology of eighteen stories featuring robots and/or fairies, is out today. I have a story in it, entitled “Three Robots Experience Objects Left Behind From the Era of Humans for the First Time,” in which, well, three robots experience objects left behind from the era of humans for the first time. It’s a very SEO-oriented story title, now that I think about it.

Other authors in the collection include Cat Valente, Seanan McGuire, Ken Liu, Max Gladstone, Tim Pratt, Mary Robinette Kowal and others. It’s been getting lovely reviews (“a cinematic and well-paced collection and will please both science-fiction and fantasy readers with its variety” — Booklist; “Exceptional storytelling and well-paced writing make this volume a total delight” —  Library Journal) and is available in the US and Canada in all the usual places online and offline, including your local bookseller.

Congratulations to Navah Wolfe and Dominik Parisen, who are the editors of this anthology; they did a fab job selecting stories and writers. If you like robots, or fairies — or both! You don’t have to choose! — you’re going to like this book.

Scamperfight!

Sugar and Spice not being very sisterly.

As with much of North America, around here it’s been single digits (Fahrenheit) and below for several days, which means the cats are spending almost all of their time indoors. As the days have ground on they’ve started getting crankier with each other, and so we have more-than-usual moments like this, where they tussle with each other, I suspect more out of boredom than anything else. Which is fun for the rest of us — look! Small predators fighting each other is adorable! — but I suspect increasingly less fun for them. The good news is the temperatures are going up above freezing in the next few days, so they can get away from each other again in the great outdoors.

I posted a small video of the Scamperbeats tussling on Twitter earlier in the day with the caption “Cue Star Trek fight music,” and I’m happy to say someone obliged:

We are all doing what we can to keep ourselves amused in the winter cold.

Obnoxious Twits and Conventions

I wrote this tweet the other day about a minor dustup in the science fiction community:

Which led an obnoxious twit to blather, more or less, “Yeah, well, I think you’re an obnoxious twit, Scalzi! What if I want you banned from a convention?!?” I think the argument here (such as it is) is that I would recoil in horror at the idea that a science fiction convention might decide to disinvite me, of all people, to their soiree.

But inasmuch as science fiction conventions are almost always private entities with control over who they allow in and who they don’t, in fact, I find it entirely unobjectionable that one might wish to seek to keep me from attending, for whatever reason. So I suppose if someone wished to register a complaint about my attendance, they should take it up with the convention committee. If the convention committee was convinced (and presuming I was planning to attend at all), they would let me know I was not welcome. Seems pretty simple.

And if a convention decided I was not welcome at their event, how would I take it? I mean, I would hope they’d tell me before I made flight arrangements and my hotel rooms were non-refundable, but otherwise, meh, it’d be fine. Generally I prefer not be in places I’m not wanted, and if the convention committee was telling me to go away, that’s a pretty good, non-subtle hint. Which means my weekend is now free! Which is excellent, I usually have things to do on a weekend, even if those things are “watch six hours of How It’s Made in a row and then take a nap.” Which these days is a pretty great weekend, I have to tell you.

(Mind you, I would be curious to know what the material objection to my presence would be; I don’t really have a reputation for being, say, a grasping creep who has designs to harass people and then pretend like I’m the injured party, for example, or for being a difficult attendee in a general sense. But I’m sure someone could come up with something. Whether it would have merit would, of course, be up to the convention itself to decide.)

But certainly, if you have a problem with me attending a convention, let the convention committee know. I have absolutely no doubt they will give the complaint the consideration it deserves.

New Books and ARCs, 1/5/18

A new year, a new stack of books and ARCs that have come to the Scalzi Compound. Which of these works would you like to be one of your first reads of 2018? Tell us in the comments!

Thoughts on My 30th High School Reunion

This last October I went to my 30th reunion at my high school, and had a very lovely time of it; I did a reading for my former classmates and others, hung around with old friends and generally enjoyed the company of people I had known for decades now. My school asked me to write up a piece about the experience for our alumni magazine (and yes, I went to a high school of the sort that has alumni magazines). So I did, writing about why this 30th reunion was my favorite of all the reunions I’ve been to. If you’re curious about it, the piece is here.

Also, I took lots of photos of the reunion weekend, including members of the Class of ’87, other folks, and general scenery around the school. Follow each of those links to take a look.

Hey, You Know What’s Fun?

Reading a TV script based on something you wrote and thinking, “that’s a bit of all right, that is.”

Can’t tell you more at the moment, I’m afraid. But I think you’re going to enjoy it one day.

Enjoy your Thursday!

The 2018 Awards Consideration Post

Another year, another quick post to let you know what work I have for you to consider for awards and such. Ready? Here we go:

Best Novel:

The Collapsing Empire (3/21/17; Tor Books; Patrick Nielsen Hayden, editor)

Best Related Work/Non-fiction/Collection:

Don’t Live For Your Obituary: Advice, Commentary and Personal Observations on Writing, 2008-2017 (12/31/17; Subterranean Press)

“The Dispatcher” was published in print in 2017, but first appeared in audio in 2016, which generally counts as first publication. It’s definitely ineligible for the Hugo and the Nebula and the Locus (which it was a finalist for last year in any event).

And that’s what on tap this go around.

The Collapsing Empire Out in Paperback Today

Well, here’s a nice way to start the new year: The mass market paperback version of The Collapsing Empire is out today in the US and Canada, available at your local indie and chain bookstores as well as through your favorite online retailers. If you’ve got gift cards or certificates to burn, this is a very fine way to do it! And remember that the sequel, to be called The Widening Gyre, is coming out in October (presuming I finish writing it in time, which I will), so you won’t have that long to wait for it.

Also! Remember that my non-fiction collection Don’t Live For Your Obituary is out now, too! Ten years of observations and commentary on the writing life, all in one conveniently collated book. Just $5 in its ebook form.

Thank you for indulging today’s self-advertisements. As you were.

Hey, Scalzi, Got Any New Year’s Resolutions?

I’m so glad you asked! Yes, I have a few. In no particular order, these are the things I’m going to try doing here in 2018.

1. Better diet and exercise. I’m up above 190 pounds, which is not great on my particular frame, and a good general description for me in 2017 was tired. Also I ate a lot of junk in 2017, and not just in burritos, for those of you who were about to make that crack. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with eating junk if it makes you happy, but I think I should probably eat less of it this year, since I’m not happy with the results of eating so much of it.

So: I’m going to eat less junk, take in fewer calories in general, and exercise not so much to lose weight but to get up my energy levels. We have a treadmill in the basement. That seems like a good place to start. Which brings us to my next resolution:

2. No computer before exercise. Which I started today; I walked two miles on the treadmill before I came up here to type this. The idea here is, honestly, once I park myself in front of the computer I’m pretty much here for the day. So before I get here, maybe I should go take a walk or something. I brought my tablet down and watched part of a movie while I walked. It was not horrifyingly onerous. I think I can do this on a daily basis.

(Before someone suggests a treadmill standing desk: Dudes, I already have a treadmill and a desk. I don’t need to mate them into an unholy union. Don’t spend my money for me, please.)

Speaking of “No [x] before [y]”:

3. No social media or news before noon. I think my major fall down of 2017 was that I let the world intrude on what is my prime creative time, which is the period of time between when I wake up and when I have lunch. Now, 2017 was a historically bad year, but honestly in retrospect there was nothing so very awful that I couldn’t have waited until after noon to find out about it (or that I could have done anything useful about until then). And the thing is, news and social media helped punt me out of my creative space — I’d get worked up and angry (and depressed), and that’s not conducive to building out the lives and adventures of fake people in my head, which is how I make my living.

“No internet before noon” is not new for me — it’s been a cornerstone of my getting work done for a while. What was new, to be blunt about it, was my willingness to ignore my own established process. A new year is a fine time and place to re-establish that old rule and stick to it.

4. More time reading books. I read a historically low number of books in 2017, which was a real problem, since, you know, I like books, and a lot of my friends write them and are good at writing them. So I’m going to make an effort to put more books into my eyeballs. Lord knows I have enough books in the house. This should not be a hugely difficult thing for me. Also, in general:

5. Less time on the computer — or perhaps more accurately, less time on the computer staring glassily into Twitter and Facebook as a default. I love the feeder bar aspect of social media, I really do, but perhaps I love it a smidge too much, and there are other things I could be doing with my time that I actually like doing. I bought myself a raft of music production software in 2017; 2018 might be the time to start learning how to use it. Or maybe get better playing guitar. Or doing more photography. Or just spending more time with Krissy, you know, my wife, who is fabulous and really cool and interesting.

As much as I love social media, for 2018 I think I’m going to approach it with the question “Isn’t there something else you could be doing?” in my mind. I’m not getting any younger, and I do suspect that when I’m on my deathbed, I won’t be wishing I spent more time on Twitter (“Lol, totally dying right now #ReincarnationBetterHappen #ComeBackAsAPangolin”).

Basically, these resolutions boil down to: Get organized, move around, don’t spend all day in front of the computer and when you are there, have a purpose. That seems reasonable for 2018.

Sunset, 12/31/17

The last sunset of 2017, accessorized with a light pillar (made from sunlight reflecting off ice crystals in the air). Not a bad way to see out the year.

Catch you on the other side, folks.

Don’t Live For Your Obituary is Out!

Let’s end 2017 on a high note, shall we: Don’t Live For Your Obituary, my collection of essays about the writing life, is now out, and available both in (increasingly hard to find so hurry if you want it) signed, limited edition hardcover, and (not at all difficult to find!) eBook. The hardcover, as it is a signed, limited edition, will run you about $40. The eBook is about $5.

For those of you who don’t know, the book is a compilation of writing-related essays I’ve created between 2008 and 2017, most of which were originally published here on Whatever. I’ve arranged the book into five overlapping chapters of roughly twenty essays each:

  • Golden Nuggets of Writerly Wisdom, or, This Is Where I Offer Up Some Writing Advice, Take It or Don’t;
  • The Fine Art of Putting Your Books and Yourself Out There Without Wanting to Drink Acid, or, Let’s Talk Publishing and Online Presence;
  • This is the Section Where Scalzi Snarks on People More Famous Than He Is, So Get Your Popcorn, or, Thoughts on Writers and Other Notables;
  • Don’t Type Angry, Well, Okay, Fine, Go Right Ahead, or Writing Controversies and Other Such Nonsense;
  • Jeez, Scalzi, Does it Always Have to Be About You? Why Yes, Yes it Does, or, Notes From My Career

We’re covering a lot of ground here, basically. It’s not a guide to writing, precisely (although there is writing advice in the book). It’s more about what it’s like to be living the writing life over the last decade or so. Is it useful? Publishers Weekly thought so; its review said “[Scalzi] writes accessibly and so commonsensically that this book should appeal to writers in all disciplines, and even to SF readers who have no ambitions to write themselves.”

Where can you get the book? Subterranean Press has the hardcover on their site if you’d like to buy directly from the publisher, but it’s also available (ebook, hardcover or both) at these fine institutions:

Amazon|Barnes & Noble|iBooks|Indiebound|Kobo|Powell’s

And you can try special ordering the hardcover from your local bookstore, too.

Not in the US? The ebook is available on Amazon worldwide, at the very least — I just checked the Canadian, German, Japanese and Indian Amazon stores and it’s there in each.

(Also, how awesome is that cover? It’s from Nate Taylor.)

I’m excited to have this book out in the world and I hope you enjoy it, and find it useful. Onward to 2018!

Daisy, 2007 – 2017

In 2010 our dog Kodi died. Krissy was pretty wrecked about it, and decided that it would be a while before we got a new dog. That lasted a couple of months, until she was somehow cruising a pet adoption site and saw the picture of a two-year-old half labrador, half mastiff named “Daisy.” She immediately fell in love with the pup and decided that she would be ours. I did not argue. Daisy came into our lives on October 16, 2010.

The thing about rescue dogs is that they come with their own set of baggage. Daisy’s baggage was that she hadn’t known permanence. In her two or so years of life she had been shuttled between several homes, and in some of them she hadn’t been treated very well. She had been bred when she was very young (not a great thing for a dog) and then basically abandoned after the puppies were born and presumably then sold. Her other homes also proved temporary, for various reasons.

As result of many homes in a short life, and also simply I suspect her own nature as a dog, Daisy was almost neurotically cuddly. This was particularly the case with Krissy, sticking close to her whenever she was home, and making sure that no other creature in the house got more pets and love than she did. She wouldn’t stop you from petting that cat; she’d just butt her head up against your other arm and make sure you knew that you were free to pet her too, if you wanted to, no pressure. I have a higher than average number of pictures of Krissy petting two animals at once. Now you know why.

Aside from the need for cuddles in any and every circumstance, Daisy turned out to be a very good fit for the Scalzi household. She was generally low-maintenance and friendly, and she got along with everyone, and everyone reciprocated, which pleased Daisy to no end. Our previous dog Kodi was an Akita, and people who were unfamiliar with her were wary of her because she looked like she was parting you out for snacks. No one ever felt that way about Daisy. The worst Daisy would ever do to anyone was shed on them.

And because she had once been a mother, I think, her behavior toward the cats in the Scalzi household was exceedingly gentle and maternal, particularly toward the Scamperbeasts, who arrived as young kittens. Daisy fell in love with them almost immediately and the feeling was mutual. It was not in the least unusual to find Sugar or Spice cuddled up next to her and both animals napping away contentedly. It was a family of pets, within the larger family of us.

Daisy was a large dog — she had the facial features of a lab but the size of a mastiff — and the thing about large dogs is that they don’t stay with you as long as some other breeds of dog might. Daisy was with us seven years, until she died in the early hours of this morning. In the last couple of weeks her appetite had lessened, and she was listless and had a fever; we took her to the vet, who put her antibiotics. These worked, until they didn’t. Yesterday in a few surprisingly short hours it became clear that whatever the underlying problem was that caused the fever, it had become life-threatening. In the early morning we started the journey to an emergency vet clinic. She passed along the way.

It’s sad when your dog dies, because she is part of your family, someone you love and someone who loves you. I grieve for Daisy, and I will miss her, and I will miss her gentleness and her lovely spirit. She was a good dog. But I’m also glad, and even thankful, that for seven years this dog who had previously never known permanence in her life had a home, had a family and had love, and could give it back in equal measure. She made our home, our family and our love complete with her presence.

She had permanence with us. She had it, every day of her life with us. She has it still.