Time Flies When You’ve Got Cats

Also, as it happens, tomorrow is the 14th anniversary of Zeus showing up at our garage door on what was, if memory serves, one of the coldest nights of that winter, and meowing piteously to be let in, which, clearly, he was. I always forget which year it was that Zeus showed up, and thus he is younger in my head than he is in reality. In truth he’s now old and a little cranky, and he’s earned his rank of being the senior Scamperbeast. It’s not just him, though — all my cats I think of being a year or two younger than they are. My memory is doing a lot of condensing, it seems. Or maybe, in each case, it just doesn’t seem that long.

Enjoy your pets while you have them, folks. The time goes by faster than you think.

Zeus on the porch furniture.

— JS

January 6 One Year On

Photo by Blink O’Fanaye with additional photoediting by me (I made it black and white). Used under Creative Commons license (CC BY-NC 2.0). Click on photo to be taken to the original.

If there is one thing the United States is fortunate about, one year after Donald Trump supporters, with the then-president’s now-clearly-explicit consent, stormed the US Capitol in an attempt to disrupt the electoral vote count and allow Trump to unconstitutionally remain in power, it is that in this endeavor, as in nearly every other that Trump and his supporters have attempted, they were spectacularly incompetent. Had the attack been one whit less half-assed and shambolic, or had Trump himself and his team had even the slightest bump to their ability for executive function, then things might have been very different. There might be dead Congresspeople, or a hanged Vice-President, and while I do not believe Trump would have managed to remain in power, the process by which he would be required to be removed would have been a great deal more unpleasant. The goal was a coup, not just against the incoming president, but against the Constitution of the United States, and the idea of our nation as a republic. All that stood between that coup and its short-term success was competence. That’s it.

The attack on the Capitol was, and is, unforgivable. Donald Trump, the worst president we’ve ever had — and think of how bad a president you have to be to shoulder aside the likes of Buchanan and Harding — should be openly reviled by his party and his nation. And yet, after perhaps 48 hours of unrehearsed shock, the Republican party rallied around this traitor to the republic and the constitution, and tried to rebrand an actual coup attempt into overexuberant tourism. The large majority of its members acted as if Trump, not Biden or the nation or its laws, had been the one wronged in that attempt. The few Republicans who stood on principle, and allegiance to the United States rather than the party or its petulant leader, are being shown the door as quickly as possible.

And that, too, is unforgivable. The coup attempt and the Republican party response made explicit what anyone who has been watching the party in the last 20 years already knew: The GOP is officially done with the notion of democracy in the United States. Its only interest in it at this point is using its remaining functioning processes to shut it down. The GOP has no platform other than a Christianist White Supremacist Authoritarianism, no goal other than a corrupt oligarchy, and no plan for its supporters other than to keep them hyped up on fear and hatred of anyone who is a convenient target. The Republican party problem with the coup is not that it happened. It’s that it was so poorly planned and executed. Now they’ll have to attempt another one.

Which is coming! The GOP has already made it clear they have no intention of honoring another presidential election that might allow a Democrat into the White House. They are attempting all sorts of strategies to limit the ability of suspected non-Republicans to vote, to discount their vote if they still manage to do it, and to disrupt the certification of the vote if it doesn’t go the way they want it to. A Democrat winning is enough evidence of “voter fraud” for a Republican to attempt to gum up the works for as long as possible, to sow distrust in the system, and to pave the way for GOP Coup II, i.e., “We Didn’t Want To But Look What the Dirty Democrats Made Us Do.” This coup may or may not have an “armed citizen” component to it; as noted the GOP has gotten very good at using the processes of democracy against it. The Republicans would love a coup that they could punt up to a compliant Supreme Court, and that would probably not be a coup with shooting in it. But a coup it would be nevertheless.

The best case scenario of the GOP being unwilling to disown Donald Trump and his coup attempt would be that the vast majority of the Republican House and Senate members are simply moral and political cowards. And they certainly are that. But every other action of the party shows that the cowardice is paired either with moral or political cynicism, or moral and political degeneration. There are unabashed bigots walking the halls of Congress, House members who are disappointed that the coup didn’t take, and senators who have stated that if the GOP takes back the House, it will impeach Joe Biden “whether it’s justified or not.” Cowards, cynics, bigots. And opportunists.

A political party that can’t turn its back on a traitor who endangered even some of its own members should not be trusted. A political party that embraces that same traitor and doubles down on its allegiance to him should be reviled. A political party that has decided to abandon the constitution and the republic should be dismantled. Here in 2022, when the Republican party has clearly and unambiguously done all three, no person with any sense of moral character or loyalty to the republic should vote for the GOP, for any position, at any level, or support it in any way, but especially with money.

This is easy enough for someone who registered as a Democrat, or, like me, someone who does not belong to any particular political party. It’s rather more difficult for someone who has been Republican or Republican-leaning their entire life. And while it’s easy to spot the people who are 100% in for White Christianist Fascism (hint: If you’re still flying a Trump flag in January 2022, you have the words “most likely to be a traitor” blinking like a neon sign over your head), there are millions who are still laboring under the impression that the attempted coup wasn’t as bad as all that, or that the GOP is somehow on a reasonable path.

For those people, here’s a simple test: Substitute the words “Donald Trump” with “Hillary Clinton” and “Trump supporters” with “Clinton supporters” and then run January 6 through your memory banks. You good with a President Hillary Clinton encouraging her supporters to storm the Capitol to stop the certification of, say, President-Elect Donald Trump as the 46th president? Unless you are absolutely 100 percent lying to yourself — and you may be! — your answer here is “Hell, no.” And you would be correct. It’s treason, and any political party giving aid and comfort to such an act is beyond redemption.

One year out from January 6, it’s become clearer than ever that our nation was threatened by a small and unworthy man, supported by a corrupt and cynical political party. The small, unworthy man is gone, for now. The corrupt and cynical party is still there, and it has learned no lesson other than “do it better the next time.” If you care about the United States at all, you will work toward there never being an opportunity for a next time, either for the Republican party or for anyone else who would hold this nation and its best values in such contempt. You’ll keep working at it for as long as you can. Because I promise you they’re not giving up. And they will be more competent at it the next time they try.

— JS

Call Me Britney Because Oops I Did It Again

Athena ScalziMany of you have been asking about how my semester away from the blog went, and today I’m here to finally quell the curiosity!

Right up front I’m just gonna say: I blew it again. Old habits die hard, I guess.

I had signed up for four classes: Intro to Humanities, Intro to Communications, Race and Diversity, and Cell Biology. All were required, and all were 3 credit hours each (except biology which was 4). Cell Biology was on Monday from 9am to 11:15am, and the rest were back to back on Tuesday, starting at 10am and ending at 3pm. So, four classes, two days in person a week, it didn’t sound so hard. Or at least, it didn’t sound completely impossible.

I remember the night before I went to my first day of biology, I was in tears because until then I hadn’t thought to check the syllabus that was posted online, which said I needed to have read all of chapter one before the first day. It turned out I had purchased the wrong access code from the campus bookstore, so I couldn’t access the textbook to read the thirty pages, and it was already eleven at night. So I freaked out.

I didn’t want to go to class unprepared. Thinking of showing up without having read the first chapter gave me anxiety so badly I almost couldn’t bring myself to go to class, because the thought of the facing the professor killed me inside. What if she asked me something about the first chapter?! What if there was a pop quiz?! As most anxiety-inducing things go, it ended up not being even remotely a big deal, because no one had read the chapter and she didn’t really mind, she just said make sure you read it at some point this week.

For the first week, it was easy. Everyone loves syllabus week. That week of introductions and that feeling of getting back into things, color coordinating your folders to your classes (green for science, purple for humanities, obviously). And for a second you feel like you really can do this, and that things will be okay this time.

But then the assignments come. And the second you’re done with one, there’s another. Another paper to write, another virtual lab to do, another quiz to take. Then, when/if you finally get through all of that, there’s studying to be done for weekly tests, midterms, finals, you know how it goes. It’s just nonstop devoting all your time and energy to stuff that you don’t want to be devoting any time and energy to! But, them’s the breaks, right?

Every time I logged onto my laptop to do an assignment, I would pretty much freak out merely reading the instructions for the assignment. I have to read forty pages of a textbook, do 845 fill-in-the-blank vocab words, write a five-page paper on Leonardo Da Vinci’s The Last Supper, cite all my sources in MLA format (8th edition), and take a chapter test? For just one class?! I think I’d rather lie down in front of a train. A moving one.

It all felt like too much, way too much, right from the start. I got the urge to drop something. I needed to do something that would take some of the weight off. So in the second week, I dropped communications. I picked this one because my professor was a fucking racist, sexist, homophobic piece of shite.

Anyways, now I only had three classes to focus on, which again sounded completely manageable. Three is easier than four. I could do this.

And yet somehow I couldn’t! I would spend hours with my laptop open, staring at an assignment, and not doing any of it. Just agonizing over the fact that I had to do it, lamenting that I could be spending this time doing something else, guilting myself for not just shutting the fuck up and doing it.

I’d crack open my textbook and spend what felt like forever reading the same page over and over again because none of it was processing. Something something hydrophilic covalent bond blah blah signal receptors yada yada polarized valence electrons. What the fuck was I reading? The words meant nothing, they were just letters strung together to form something that looked like a sentence, but I’m not convinced they really were.

I kept getting so mad at the fact I didn’t understand the content, and was so convinced I could never possibly understand it, that I would just completely wing the multiple choice assignments. What should’ve taken me three hours took me fifteen minutes because I would just choose one and figure I had a 1/4 chance to get it right. So I kept getting forties and fifties on the assignments, and tests certainly weren’t any better. And so I started failing biology.

And soon enough I started failing the other two. But I have much less of an excuse for those two. It’s not like I didn’t understand it, as opposed to biology, which I genuinely can’t fucking comprehend. The other two were filled with content I cared about. I love sociology! I love art! How could I not do well in something I care so much about?

Truthfully, I don’t know. I can go to class, and I can talk about paintings and flying buttresses, and I loved discussing deindustrialization and the prison industrial complex. I like learning. I just couldn’t do the work.

Homework is truly the bane of my existence. Even when I was a kid in elementary, I had the hardest time doing homework, though I exceled in the classroom setting and was top of the game in standardized testing. Homework has always been my downfall, and college is a million times worse than junior high or high school ever was.

I feel like I’m buried under a crushing pile of assignments. I drown in it. I can’t breathe. It kills me. Slowly. Surely.

And the guilt is the nail in my coffin, built out of paper. Made with the pages of textbooks, the pages of my five-subject notebooks, the pages of the final papers I never wrote.

Every day that I went to class, I would cry the whole drive home. Every time I would try to do an assignment, I would cry. Cry at my inability to do simple things, cry at my hatred for being forced to do something that means nothing to me and brings me no joy, cry at the fact that if I had just gotten this right the first time at Miami I wouldn’t have to be doing it now.

Cry at what a complete failure I am.

Then came the time to tell my parents again that I was failing again. A painful repeat, but I’m nothing if not used to it by now. After all, it is the fifth semester I’ve failed.

The next day, November 1st, was the last day to drop a class, so I walked in and dropped all three. So instead of a bunch of F’s, I just have a bunch of W’s. But we all know what those W’s represent.

Anyways, time to get back in the saddle. I go back to school in two weeks. I signed up for two classes this semester, Intro to Geology and Intro to Anthropology. Both are required, one is 3 credit hours and one is 4 credit hours. Anthropology is all online, and geology is Tuesday and Thursday from noon to two.

Sounds doable, doesn’t it?

I guess we’ll see.


What Do I Have Eligible For Award Consideration This Year?

“Automated Customer Service,” from Love Death + Robots, Vol. 2 on Netflix, for which I wrote the script and the underlying short story on which the script is based. The is eligible for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form for the Hugos, and the Bradbury Award for the Nebulas. It’s already won an Emmy! So it has that going to for it, which is nice (note: I did not win the Emmy; it was for character design, and won by Laurent Nicolas).

Aaaand… that’s it! I meant to write some short fiction in 2021 for publication in that year, but I didn’t get around to it because I was busy doing other things, up to and including let my brain have some time off because I was coming off a stressful 2020. The good news is that for 2022 I’ll have a novel and a novella and a new episode of Love Death + Robots plus maybe some other things, so you’ll have lots of stuff for awards consideration next year. I’ll remind you then.

In the meantime, however: Hey, “Automated Customer Service” is pretty good! If you have Netflix (and most of you do, I bet), check it out. And if you want to, nominate it! If you don’t, that’s fine too. It’s still pretty good, award nominations or no.

— JS

Download the First Five Chapters of The Kaiju Preservation Society, For Free, You Know, If You Want

Even though I will not see a penny from it:

More seriously, enjoy and remember to pre-order the book, if you have not yet already. Every preorder equals a tasty snack for the pets! Roughly, I mean, I haven’t done the actual math on this.

Here’s the link to the Tor/Forge Blog piece on the free chapters. It includes links to various ebook stores.

— JS

In Theory, My Work Day

Now that the holidays have been packed away and we are back into the swing of things, I know that some of you have had an interest in how I manage my work days. The answer to this varies, largely depending on whether I’m working on a novel or not. However, as it happens, I am working on a novel again, and also, I’ve decided to put a bit more structure into my day. So in theory, here’s how my work days should go in 2022.

8am – 9am: General crawl out of bed time, and also take care of any emails/other messages that have to be addressed immediately (otherwise they can wait). Check Whatever comments to make sure no one made a fool of themselves overnight. Take the dog out if necessary. When writing, look over the writing from the day before and make adjustments to it. Post any Big Idea pieces. When all that is taken care of, turn on blocking software to clear out social media and news sites.

9am – 12pm: Write new stuff. “Write” in this case means typing actual new words, but can also include research (like today, when most of the day was spent on Google Maps and various realty sites looking at commercial real estate prices). I have a general goal of 2,000 words a day, most written in this time block, but I don’t beat myself up if I don’t reach that word goal.

12pm – 1pm: Exercise, shower and lunch, usually but not always in that order. Take the dog out for a longer walk. Check the mailbox. Turn on social media again but try not to spend long stretches of time on it until the end of the business day. Avoid news if it can be avoided until the end of the business day.

1pm – 5pm: Any other business-related tasks, other writing (including blog posts) and email, and any phone/zoom meetings or out-of-house errands. If work is not pressing, read something that is not social media or news. If there’s time left over, practice music. Probably some photography in there if I feel like it.

5pm – onward: Work day is over so, really, whatever I feel like doing. Check out the news (or maybe not if I don’t feel like bothering), spend time with family, watch movies/TV, read, nerd out of social media, write more on Whatever, etc and so on. More dog walking! And then, because I’m old now, usually in bed by ten.

So that’s the theory!

How will it work in practice? As with so many things, it depends. The most dependable part of the schedule is the 9am – 12pm block, since it really is the part of the day when my creativity and energy levels are at their highest. I really need to protect that part of the day if I’m going to, you know, get anything done and make money and whatnot. Everything else is movable — I might exercise later in the day if I have a meeting that needs to be scheduled at noon, or decide to read but not practice music, or vice versa, and so on.

Also, it’s possible that if I crawl out of bed before 8am, and as I get older this happens more often, then I’ll shift my day backward a bit: Start that 8am-9am block at 7am, for example, and then do the 9am – 12pm block from 8 to 11. The amount of time is more key than the exact hour.

One thing I am really working on this year is ratcheting down the time I aimlessly spend on social media; I have the ability to endlessly scroll if I’m not paying attention. My new guideline for the year, during 1pm – 5pm business hours, is to limit myself to five or so minutes an hour on Twitter/Facebook and then ask myself if there’s anything else I could be doing with my time. The answer is usually yes (see: reading and music). I don’t think people on social media will notice if I spend only five or so minutes an hour there rather than endlessly scrolling, but I will notice it on this end. I’m 52 now; there’s more I want to be doing with my time than staring glassily into Twitter all day long.

(That’s not entirely true: experience tells me that I am actually delighted to stare glassily into Twitter all day long. It’s more accurate to say I have other things that I want to do, and the time to do them will have to come out of the time I spend, slack-jawed, on social media.)

This is the work plan for 2022, and probably beyond. Let’s see if I can stick to it.

— JS

A Twitter Thread on Book Blurbing

From earlier today, presented here for archival purposes, and also, you know, to make the the point that people are often very confidently wrong about things. The subject at hand is whether I pretty much indiscriminately endorse the books that come my way. Longtime readers here know the answer to that, but it’s always worth repeating.

1. Lol, no. I show off piles of books to show people what’s coming out; I also give authors space on my site to promote their latest books. But the number of books I actually *blurb* – give a quote for their cover – is actually pretty small, limited to books I’ve read and liked.

"Follow John Scalzi and you'll see him get a pile of books every month that he just writes endorsements for, it's not a secret"

2. Nor do I (or the authors I know) engage in simple logrolling. Do I endorse the books of friends? Sure – if I like them. I don’t endorse books of authors I know if they’re not to my liking. And I endorse books of authors I don’t know when they come to me and are amazing.

3. I decline to endorse the large majority of books that I’m sent to blurb. Mostly because I just don’t have time to read them (I warn the editors up front that might be the case) but sometimes just because it’s not the book for me, even if it will be a fabulous book for others.

4. And for the record I have never been *pressured* by an editor/publisher/etc to blurb a book. Several is the time my own publisher has sent me something for endorsement and I didn’t give it. The response is always, “okay, thanks, maybe next time.”

5. Not on this person specifically, but I really get annoyed with the assumption that author endorsements are this corrupt and chummy thing. That’s bullshit. If you see my name on the cover of someone’s book, it’s because I think that book is good and worth a look. That’s it.

6. This “blurbs are corrupt” nonsense is part of a larger narrative of “publishing is fixed, you have to know someone and/or recite a secret password” bad thinking. It’s untrue. Getting published isn’t easy but it’s not just for a pre-determined club. Reductive nonsense, that is.

7. Oh, and, know what? I have a pretty damn good track record with my blurbs. Many of those books have gone on to award wins and/or bestseller status; some have been made into movies or television. It’s correlation not causation! But indicative of me not being indiscriminate.

8. That said: I happily *promote* writers! I retweet their stuff, post pics of books sent to me, schedule Big Ideas, and otherwise help to get word out. Why? Because I have reach and because promoting books is *hard* even in the best of times, which these are not. Glad to help!

9. I can’t possibly read or actively endorse every book I’m sent or know about or retweet. But I can let other people know they *exist,* and I’m happy to do that. If that counts as *endorsement* to you, then okay, I guess. My own distinction is a little more fine-grained.

10. In sum: author book endorsements generally (and certainly mine specifically) are not glad-handedly corrupt. If I blurb something, I actually, you know, *liked* it. Thank you. And now, here’s a picture of a cat to see you all out of this thread.


Smudge, splayed out on his back.

Originally tweeted by John Scalzi (@scalzi) on January 2, 2022.

— JS

“Kaiju” Review in Library Journal

Well, this is not a bad way to start the new year: A positive review of The Kaiju Preservation Society in Library Journal, the last of the four major publishing trade magazines to report in on the novel. I can’t quote the full review (it’s behind a paywall) but the “Verdict” section wraps it up nicely:

Scalzi’s first stand-alone novel in several years is a wild ride filled with takes on pop culture, startups, governmental influence, and science.

Yes! All true! I cannot deny it.

Thus is capped off a nice run of trade reviews for Kaiju: Four positive reviews, with two of them (Booklist and Publishers Weekly) being starred. Which is more than I expected, if I’m being honest. Of all my books, Kaiju is tonally closest to Redshirts, which ten years ago received a rather more mixed set of reviews, including two really big pans of the book in PW (“strange and unfunny”) and Kirkus (“Intriguing developments, fresh ideas, dashes of originality? Forget it”). I was ready for the reviews to be all over the board for this one as well. So to have them all be varying degrees of “thumbs up” is really a pleasant surprise. I will take it, you know?

As for Kaiju itself: 73 days until its official release. I’m really excited for you all to see it.

— JS

How I Totaled My Car (PS: I’m Fine)

Athena Scalzi

On December 12th, I went to my friend’s ugly sweater party at her house in Columbus. After a few hours of socializing and dancing (badly), I ended up starting my trek home at around 2:30am. It’s not the longest drive in the world, but it is long enough to be a pain in the ass, especially in the middle of the night.

It only took me about ten minutes to get out of Columbus, and then it was smooth sailing on the interstate. It was one of those times where it seemed like there was truly no one else on the road, except the occasional semi all the way in the right lane. Maybe it’s because it was so late (or so early).

I was all the way in the left lane, going the usual highway speed of about 75mph, when suddenly there was a tiny little piece of something in the road. I ran over it and thought, huh, I wonder what that was. Then, for the briefest second, I saw a destroyed car in the right lane, and by the time I looked back at the road, there was huge piece of something in the road.

It was large enough, in fact, that upon running over it, I caught air, my airbags went off, my front tires popped, and my vehicle was immediately totaled.

With my ears ringing and my eyes wide from being stunned by the airbags, my first thought was did that really just happen? and my second thought was I should pull over.

And so I pulled over into the left shoulder, threw it into park, and immediately got out to breathe in the non-smoky, freezing night air. The adrenaline hit was instant, and I knew it was why I started shaking immediately, separate from the cold. Upon getting out, I realized I hadn’t gotten over enough, and part of my car was still in the left lane. I pushed aside the airbags and got back in, and tried to pull over more, but my car was completely dead. The underside had been ripped apart by whatever I hit, and fluids from my engine were gushing out onto the pavement.

Again, I got out and looked back at the car that I had seen. The smashed car was across the highway from me, and it looked like it had been rear-ended so hard that the back half was pancaked into the front half. Obviously, it had been in a collision, so where was the other car? I looked ahead on the highway, and it was so dark out I almost missed it, but there was the other car, flipped upside down in the middle lane.

Immediately, I ran towards the flipped over car. All I could think about was how there were probably people trapped inside, hurt or dying, and I wanted to help. It was further away than it looked. Turns out highways are pretty massive.

Upon reaching the car, I called out, “Hello?” Immediately I heard the sound of someone on the inside banging on the windows.

“Help me! Let me out!” they yelled. I tried pulling on the doors, but they were locked, or maybe just stuck, but either way I couldn’t open them.

“I can’t get the doors open,” I replied. It was then that a semi blew past me a few feet away, and it occurred to me that I was quite literally standing in the middle of the I-70. I looked back to see if there were any other cars coming, considering that they could smash right into the flipped over car (and me) if they were traveling in the middle lane, and in looking back I saw that a highway patrol officer had pulled up to the smashed car I initially saw.

“The cops are here, I’m going to tell them you’re trapped,” I told whoever was inside.

I ran back to my car and saw the cop standing by the other car talking to someone.

“Help!” I yelled. They both looked over and the cop yelled back, “Stay there!” I stayed put and waited for him to run over to me.

“Someone’s trapped in their car!” I pointed to the flipped car, which was barely visible, to which the cop said “my god,” and ran to it.

The next thing I knew, three more patrol cars and three ambulances showed up. I stayed by my car and stood in a place that I was easily visible, and was approached a couple of times by different officers asking me if I was hurt. I kept saying no, then they’d go off and deal with something more urgent.

As I stood around, I decided to look around some more and take pictures, because I found the whole thing kind of interesting and figured this was a pretty rare occurrence. In doing so, I followed the trail of red metal from my car back to where I hit the thing in the road, and I discovered that it was the back axle of the first car I saw. One of the tires was still attached.

They shut down the highway by laying down a line of flares, causing a traffic jam. I thought about how much I would’ve hated to be stuck in traffic at 3am.

Eventually, a paramedic came up and asked the same thing I’d been asked a dozen times, and while I assured him I wasn’t hurt, I mentioned that I was cold, and it was starting to make me numb. So he took me to one of the ambulances and let me sit inside to take my information until another officer was ready to take my statement.

“Is there someone hurt? Does anyone need this ambulance?” I asked as I stepped in. “I don’t want to take it if someone else needs it more.”

“No, no one is hurt,” he replied. “The other two drivers are fine, you all refused treatment so no one is getting taken to the hospital.” All three of us were completely uninjured? That seemed lucky.

After a bit, an officer came and told me to come with him to his car, and I sat in the front seat and filled out a paper giving my statement. The guy from the first car I saw was sitting in the back seat doing the same thing.

“Where’s the other guy?” I asked the officer, who then informed me the other driver was impaired, so he was in the back of a different car (most likely in cuffs). Then, a tow truck came and started taking my car away.

The officer got out to do something, and I turned around to talk to the guy.

“Okay, what the hell happened?” I asked. He told me that he was traveling in the center lane going about 70mph, when suddenly this other car came flying up behind him, going at least a hundred if not over. He claimed that he tried to get into the right lane to get out of his way, but in the middle of doing so was smashed into and went spiraling out of control, meanwhile the car that hit him flipped over.

Somebody came and picked that guy up from the scene a few minutes later. Meanwhile me and the other driver got taken back to the station. I sat in a room and waited for my ride. The impaired guy was put in the room next to me, and I heard the officers tell him he was going to jail, and then I heard him start sobbing.

I got picked up at around 5am, and it was about another hour and a half before I was able to lay down in bed and finally sleep.

Long story short, there was an accident, I was just minding my beeswax when I suddenly hit the debris from the accident. My accident was considered separate from the other accident. I was not cited for anything and was assured by the officers many times that I was at fault for nothing, no one was hurt, and I don’t know if the impaired driver ended up getting actually sentenced to jail or if he just got his license revoked. I got a new car the next day (a used car), and started driving again immediately.

Now, it’s been almost three weeks and I feel okay. Though, things in the road scare me far more than they used to. I never realized how much shit there is in the road all the time. Plastic bags, soda cans, branches, there’s so much that we just casually run over everyday and it obviously doesn’t affect your car or anything.

But there have been several times over the past three weeks when it wasn’t just a can. I was driving to the grocery store and there was an entire full trash bag in the other lane. Like one of the heavy duty black trash bags. Another time, I was on the highway again and there was a huge board of wood laying in the road that I had no choice but to run over. Shortly after that, there was an entire tire!

Sometimes, you hit things, and it’s just a little bump, other times, you hit an axle and it destroys your car.

So, yeah, my anxiety has been a little higher. I’m hoping it goes away after a while. Here’s a selfie I took while I was in the cop car.

It’s New Years Eve! Don’t drive drunk! You could flip your car. Or kill someone. You know how it goes. Have a great holiday!


Looking Back on 2021

2021: Not a great year! Its major claim to fame is that it wasn’t as bad as 2020, which I expect and bluntly fucking hope will go down as a real bottom-scraper in the annals of the 21st century, but let’s all agree that “not quite as bad as 2020” is not a huge recommendation for a year. I mentioned last year around this time how 2020 looked good for me on paper but was miserable in reality; I can say that 2021 looked less impressive on paper than 2020 — I didn’t publish fiction of any sort this year, for one thing — but was I think a much better year overall for me, both as a human and as a creator.

Let’s recap some of the personal highlights:

1. Wrote The Kaiju Preservation Society and saw it get positive reviews in all the publishing trades (including Library Journal, that review is official as of tomorrow) and otherwise do pretty darn well in its 2021 run up to publication in March;

2. Wrote the third installment of the Dispatcher series, which will debut in audio in the second half of 2022;

3. Got the Dispatcher series optioned for TV;

4. Saw “Automated Customer Service” premiere as part of Love Death & Robots, Vol. 2, and win an Emmy;

5. Bought a silly guitar;

6. And also a whole damn church;

7. Was Guest of Honor at Dragon Con — again! Although in person this time;

8. Was nominated for a Hugo for the Interdependency series;

9. Made a little bit of music;

10. Got a dog.

Plus there were some other things that happened in 2021 that I can’t talk about (yet) but which were definitely positive developments; maybe I’ll get to tell you about some of them soon. There were some of the usual disappointments and annoyances as well, because life is never 100% perfect. On balance, however, a definite step up from the year before.

I will celebrate the upswing and hope it augurs well for 2022 and beyond. I do think “2022 and beyond” are going to take a lot of work, to be clear. But I’m in a better place now to face it all than I was twelve months ago. So, come on in, 2022. I’ve been expecting you.

— JS

Prepping for the New Year

Krissy’s family has a tradition of making menudo for the New Year, which aside from Krissy’s family’s Mexican roots, is probably because menudo is also a traditional hangover cure, which some people might need on the morning of January 1. Krissy’s dad (who was actually of German descent – go figure) made the best menudo, and after his passing, Krissy has taken up the task. The prep takes a while, and menudo is best when it’s gotten a little time to let all the ingredients get to know each other. The soup making begins today so it’ll be available for tomorrow and New Year’s. Prepping and planning ahead for best results in the new year: There’s a metaphor here.

On the subject of prepping for the new year, I’ve been thinking about plans and goals for 2022. In terms of resolutions I might have, they are basically the same ones I had for 2021, which in turn were the goals I had for 2020: Structure time better, and make more time for reading, music and friends, not necessarily in that order, and maybe spend less time on social media. 2020 blew up those goals for me, but I did a little better with each of them in 2021. I’m hoping to do even better with them in 2022.

But more than that, what I want to do in 2022 is plant some seeds, both in terms of my career and my personal life: start earnest and intentional work on some strategies and plans that will have a long-term payoff rather than a short-term benefit. You may recall that we bought a church this year; that was a slightly unexpected head start on what I’m talking about here. We didn’t just buy it for fun. We bought it so we could have a headquarters for things we want to do and build on in the coming years. It’s a statement of purpose for ourselves as much as anything else.

Which is, I’m not going to lie, something I personally need. I’m not sure it would come as a surprise to many of you if I note that I am both ambitious and lazy, in almost equal measure; There is a lot that I want to do, and also, I’m easily bored and happy to occupy my time with naps and Twitter. So it helps me to have a plan and a mission statement and maybe also a concrete material investment to remind me to get my shit together and do the things I actually have to work at a bit. I’ll still have time for naps and Twitter when I’m done with that other stuff.

(It also helps that I’m bringing Krissy more into this stuff. She most emphatically does not have the lazy gene.)

Somewhat unintentionally, there may be an arc to the last few years for me. 2020 was the year a lot of things fell apart for me (and for everyone else, to be fair); 2021 was in many ways a year for me to rest and regroup; 2022 is hopefully the year I’ll start building some of the structures and practices that could carry on for me for the next several years. It’s the hope and plan, anyway. I’m optimistic. But then, I often am.

— JS

My Top Two 2021 Songs

One was a big hit! The other was from a video game! And, uhhh, don’t really have that much in common sonically. Welcome to me.

If you have a song or two from 2021 that spoke to you (and actually from the year, not just something you like generally), put a YouTube or other generally accessible link to it in the comments. I can always use new music, even as the year is getting old.

— JS

Whatever Best of 2021 (Athena Version)

Athena ScalziHello, everyone! It is I, the junior Scalzi, returning to bring you a few of my favorite pieces I wrote this year. Since I haven’t been writing for the past couple months, I have a smaller selection of posts to choose from than some people on this blog, but I guess that makes the selection process easier for me, anyway.

Before we begin, I’d like to take this time to thank everyone for the happy birthday wishes last week, it means a lot to me! I really appreciate the warm wishes, and for those of you that asked about how my semester away from the blog went, I am planning to write about that soon, so bear with me a little longer.

Back to the matter at hand, 2021 was, as it surely was for everyone, an interesting year. It’s definitely one for the history books, anyways. I have no hope that 2022 will be better, but I suppose we’ll just have to wait and see. Optimism aside, here are some of my favorite posts from this year:

I was going to go for ten, but I threw a couple extra ones in there, hope you don’t mind. And I hope you have a great day! I’ll be back very soon.


Thoughts on Whatever in 2021, and in 2022

This was an interesting year for the Whatever, in my opinion. It was a pretty good year for Athena Scalzi content in the eight months she was blogging regularly, and a very good year for Big Idea features. It was a middlin’ year for me, though. I wrote some very good work here this year, but I wrote less of it — this was a year heavy on short bits, cat pictures and other fillers than it was on longer, more thoughtful pieces.

I can think of some reasons for this, but most of them devolve to the same culprit: Burnout from the last few years, and recovery thereof. I think it’s fair to say that I had a breaking point of some sort in the last month of 2020 and the first month of 2021, as did a lot of other people. When the change of administration happened, the rush of relief I felt channeled first into getting Kaiju written on a very tight schedule, and then into writing up the third Dispatcher installment, and then mostly just… resting my brain, honestly. In point of fact, what I needed for most of 2021 was down time. I’m lucky to have the luxury to take that time, and I did.

As a result, the one writing thing that is contingent on my doing it between pay copy — the Whatever — got less of my attention than it usually does. I don’t feel particularly bad about that fact, mind you, and even if I did it wouldn’t change the fact that I needed to curate my brain cycles a little more heavily in 2021 than I had in years previous. This web site is free! You get what you pay for! And you get whatever I decide to give! That said, it wasn’t really until the latter part of this year that it solidified in my thoughts what I was doing, and wasn’t doing, here in 2021.

One reason I noticed it is that in the last month, I’ve been feeling (slightly!) more ambitious about what I’m doing here on the site. A slow year is fine, and I needed it. But my brain is feeling at least a little more recharged, and now — 2022 willing, cross fingers, knock on wood — I have some plans to do more writing on the site in the coming year. And a desire to do so, which is actually important. This will need to be balanced with the need to write pay copy and tend to some other projects (hey, did you see that The Dispatcher got optioned?), but I’m feeling optimistic. We’ll see!

(As an incidental side quest to writing a bit more here, I’d also like to bump up visits; 2021 visits were down slightly from 2020, although about equal to 2019. Some of that comes from writing a bit less, and Athena stepping away from regularly contributing in August. Some of it is the continual struggle of any site away from the current social media standard bearers. The online experience is highly centralized these days. This is not really a complaint, since I do perfectly well on Twitter and through my public Facebook page. But I would be happy to convert some of those folks to folks who visit here from time to time as well.)

It’s nice to feel a bit ambitious for this site again, and hopefully it’ll be fun writing here in the new year. Thank you, as always, for coming along for the ride, whatever the ride is at any one time.

— JS

Brief Review: Don’t Look Up

I liked it a lot, which is not surprising as it combines two of my favorite things — astronomy and satire — into one movie, and then also gives me an excellent cast and a pretty good script. I would have liked it more, I suspect, if we weren’t currently living through a pandemic in which a great many Americans believe an actual virus that could kill them is a fake government plot which nevertheless can be counteracted by consuming enormous piles of horse paste, an idea that they were given (or at the very least encouraged in) by their chosen political idols. So the idea that a planet-killing comet could be met with indifference at best and gleeful avarice at the worst is a little on the nose for 2021.

But if you’re going to whistle past the graveyard, at least this film can carry a tune (literally, as Ariana Grande shows up to sing a song about the end of the world). It’s fun to see Leonardo DiCaprio play against type as a socially awkward nebbish of a scientist; Jennifer Lawrence is more in her own wheelhouse as a sarcastic millennial, and is unsurprisingly good at it. Plus there’s Meryl Streep, Streeping it up Streepily as the sort of President of the United States I fear we’re cursed to have more of in these latter days.

It’s all done well, and all more depressingly likely than I prefer. Satire is harder to do than it used to be. That’s not this movie’s fault. It’s ours.

— JS

(Probably) My Last Self-Portrait of 2021

And I look skeptical! Of what? Well, what have you got?

We’re now in that week between Christmas and New Year, in which days, hours and even minutes mostly lose meaning, so maybe I’m skeptical of the very nature of time itself. Seems a reasonable position to have, at least through January 1st.

How are you in this post-Christmas moment?

— JS

Review: The Matrix Resurrections

Big question first: Is The Matrix Resurrections the first sequel to The Matrix that is actually essential to the story of this universe?

The answer to this is: one, there was already an essential Matrix sequel and it’s called The Animatrix, thank you very much; two, from a cinematic point of view this film was absolutely not necessary in any way whatsoever. But! It is kind of fun if you like meta on top of your meta, stuffed into a cavity of more meta and then served up on a lacy bed of even more meta, and also, it’s clear that Lana Wachowski, who directed and co-wrote this installment without her sister Lily, with whom she co-directed the previous three live-action installments, is working through some stuff here, with regard to where she last left these characters and this setting. So, good for her that she did that and managed to get Warner Bros. and Village Roadshow to pay for it all.

What’s this about meta? you ask. It’s this: The film knows you’ve seen the previous films (even the ones you sarcastically say don’t exist) and also, the film knows you know that it knows you know this. It knows that (spoilers for a two-decade-old film trilogy) you know both Trinity and Neo are dead, of impalement and christly electrocution, respectively, it knows you know that Morpheus has been recast, it knows you watched both the trailers and the various interminable YouTube dissections of the trailers by beardy monotone nerds sitting in front a green screen, and it knows you know that Lana Wachowski, brilliant as her work has been (and here I stan Speed Racer, forever and ever, amen) could probably use with a hit at this point in her career.

So, fine: The film loads all that into the first hour of the film in a way that is absolutely designed to make this movie’s TV Tropes page an impenetrable wall of text. Which, by the way, I think is pretty damn great; really, at this point, the only way the movie could have dealt with all of this was to haul out the largest possible lampshade and hang it on film and tell you to just fucking deal with it. As someone who plays with meta all the time, and will again, just you wait, I’m happy to see Lana Wachowski and the other screenwriters run toward this problem rather than away from it. Full points! Well done!

Once the meta is done and dealt with, mind you, it becomes Just Another Matrix Movie, which, well, fine: action sequences, very pretty people dressed like bougie goths in expensive sunglasses scorpion-kicking interchangeable enemies (literally, they call them “bots” in this one), some philosophical pancake-flipping that grinds scenes to a halt (again, literally in this film) and which would cause eyerolling from the adjunct professor who taught you (or, if you saw the original in the theater, your kids) Philosophy 101, and, of course, the occasionally doomed love between Neo and Trinity, now with the added psychological weight of both actors being 20 years older, which — more points! — the film leans into rather than trying to pretend these two aren’t in their fifties at this point. The nuance of what their relationship means, to themselves and to the Matrix universe, is nice to see.

All of this is stuff you’ll like if this is the sort of the thing you like, and not if you don’t. At this point the question of whether the Matrix sequels need to exist is moot, since they do and we just have to accept that fact (I will allow that The Matrix itself neither required nor necessarily invited sequels; it was delightfully self-contained. But success breeds sequels, necessary or not, and if nothing else, I bow to the Wachowskis for getting Warner Bros et al to cough up $300 million for what are basically two live-action anime films, as well as an actual anime collection with the spare change). The question at this point is how well this sequel exists in the context of everything else.

This one has its ups and downs. On one hand, this one does all right tying up loose ends and getting everyone up to speed and explaining why, after Revolutions, which promised enduring peace, we have to go through all this Matrix shit yet again (and how Neo and Trinity are, you know, not worm food). On the other hand the recasting of a couple of roles (Morpheus most obviously) gives this film the feel of a national touring company version of a successful Broadway show, in which the two leads from the years-ago original run come back for a limited engagement in Chicago with the rest of the cast filled with kids who were in elementary school when the show made its debut. The cast is fine! It’s not quite the same, however.

(There are a couple of actors from the previous films showing up here. One of them looks like how Robin Williams looked when he escaped from Jumanji. The other has been slathered in makeup which tries to suggest they do not have a pair of the most impressive cheekbones in Hollywood, and doesn’t succeed particularly well.)

There’s another thing about Resurrections that is another layer of meta, which is that this is the first film in the series made after the Wachowskis transitioned, and the whole series began to be looked at through the lens of the trans experience, which in itself has an additional layer of irony given how “redpill” was been used as a metaphor by awful cis bigots to make their shittiness seem hip and in-crowd. First, of course, fuck those people, they’re awful, and second, while I strongly suspect this film will go a long way to punt their shittiness out of the conversation around these films, which in itself is an absolute good, I’m also aware I’m not otherwise qualified to go that deep into the dynamic of transness and the Matrix films, and will leave it to others to better essay. I will say I’m happy it’s out there openly now.

Again, The Matrix Resurrections isn’t essential, but it doesn’t hurt the series and ultimately may give its overall storytelling slightly more coherence. Moreover, from a storytelling point of view, and like the original film, it seems to neither need nor invite a further sequel. Will it get one? It depends on how much it makes and how well it does on HBO Max, and, I suppose, on the cartilage elasticity of Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss. On the latter score, CGI and virtual universes can only do so much.

— JS

%d bloggers like this: