Buenos Aires Book Fair Schedule

Apr. 23rd, 2017 08:51 pm
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Posted by Jim C. Hines

I’m mostly recovered from Minicon…which is good, because on Tuesday, I leave for the Buenos Aires Book Fair!

Wednesday will be a day of recovery and looking around. Thursday afternoon I’ll be doing some press interviews at El Ateneo, one of the most gorgeous bookstores in the world.

Assuming they can pry me out of there, I’ll be doing an interview Saturday afternoon at the Book Fair, followed by a book signing. Later that evening I’ll be participating in the Bloggers Meeting as well.

Sunday, there’s a meet and greet at the bookstore, and then it’s back to the hotel to pack and prepare for the flight home on Monday.

It should be an exciting week. I’m looking forward to meeting my Latin American publisher, and I love that my official schedule has notes like “Embassy driver will pick you up from the airport.” And of course, it will be awesome to meet readers and fans from Argentina!

Blogging and email and such will probably be pretty light, but I should have plenty of pictures to share when I get back. Don’t break the internet while I’m gone, okay?

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Posted by John Scalzi

Look, it’s LA, being LA. 

I’m here for a few days! I get to catch up on my sleep! Wheee!

No event today, but tomorrow I am signing books at the Mysterious Galaxy booth at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books (3pm-4pm booth 368), and then on Sunday at 1:30, Cory Doctorow and I talk about life, the universe and everything, also at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books. Come to the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books! And see me! And also, you know. Other authors too, I guess.

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Posted by John Scalzi

Parking lot in there. Just barely.

Tonight: San Diego! Mysterious Galaxy bookstore! 7pm! Be there or be somewhere else!

Tomorrow: Nothing! I have a travel day and a break. BUT Saturday and Sunday I’ll be at the LA Times Festival of Books. I’m signing at the Mysterious Galaxy booth an Saturday at 3, and on Sunday have a panel with Cory Doctorow, followed by another signing. Come see us!

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Posted by John Scalzi

Not a parking lot, but there is street parking, so that maybe counts?

Tonight: I’m at University Temple United Methodist Church for an event sponsored by the University Bookstore (if memory serves the church is across the street from the bookstore). That’s at 7. Come see me then (but remember it’s a ticketed event)!

Tomorrow: I’m all the down in San Diego for an event at another of my favorite bookstores, Mysterious Galaxy. Also at 7. See you soon, San Diego!

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Posted by John Scalzi

That’s almost the Platonic ideal of the hotel parking lot photo.

Tonight: I’m visiting Boulder for the first time ever! My event is at the Boulder Bookstore at 7:30. Hope to see you there if you’re in the area!

Tomorrow: Seattle — one of my favorite stops — and University Bookstore (actually it will be at the University Temple United Methodist Church). Remember this is a ticketed event, so if you still need tickets (they admit two people each), you can still get them here.

art show online

Apr. 18th, 2017 08:55 am
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This is interesting. Most of us do not get to art galleries in our usual routine lives, either because of lack of propinquity or the routine of our lives. These modern students take it online. It loses the 3D in trade, but gains a lot in accessibility.


Interesting to reflect how this sort of thing might go, and grow, in the future when and if the net grows 3D capacity.

Ta, L.

(Why, yes, I do have a personal interest. You can probably figure it out if you scroll through the entries.)

posted by Lois McMaster Bujold on April, 18
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Posted by John Scalzi

Today is the birthday of the most fabulous person I know, namely, my wife, Kristine Blauser Scalzi, for whom my love is boundless. If you might wish to offer her felicitations on this most auspicious of days, I think that would be lovely, and I would thank you.

Minicon Pics

Apr. 18th, 2017 12:04 am
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Posted by Jim C. Hines

I’m back from Minicon 52 in Minneapolis. It was a fun con, and I’m hoping to write up some thoughts and reactions and talk about various cool stuff, but for now I’m still wiped and low on coherent wordage.

So instead, here’s a link to my Flickr album of Minicon pictures.

A few of my favorites…

Science Guest of Honor Brother Guy Consolmagno

Science Guest of Honor Brother Guy Consolmagno

David Perry prepares to interview me...TO THE DEATH!

David Perry prepares to interview me…TO THE DEATH!

Me and my liaison, Anton Petersen

Receiving tribute from my guest liaison Anton Petersen

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Posted by John Scalzi

Not quite pool season in Santa Fe, yet.

Tonight: I am at the Jean Cocteau Cinema in Santa Fe, having conversation with George RR Martin. As one does!

Tomorrow: Boulder, Colorado, at the Boulder bookstore. Really looking forward to that.

Hello world! I’m back on tour!

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Posted by John Scalzi

Happy Easter! Let’s close out Reader Request Week by running through a bunch of questions I didn’t otherwise get to, shall we?

Tracy Benton: If you were falsely accused of a minor crime that would ruin your life, what would you do? (By ruin your life, I mean cause you to lose the trust and respect of your family and friends, as opposed to put you in jail.)

Well, I mean, I’m regularly falsely accused by malign dopes of a major crime that would absolutely ruin my life, lose me friends and put me in jail, so being falsely accused of a minor crime at this point would be an upgrade. And I would respond to it like I do with this other nonsense, which is to point out it’s entirely false and that the people who promote it are assholes, and then move on with my life.

Catherine N.: Have you ever considered running for office? We definitely need more POC and WOC but we also need men who are willing to listen and learn and admit when they are wrong.

I have no plans to run for office, no. One, I think I’m more effective politically doing what I’m doing. Two, I live in a highly conservative part of Ohio and it’s unlikely I could get elected. Three, Krissy doesn’t want me to. Four, I have contractual obligations for the next decade. Five, I would have to take a pay cut. Six, the constant cycle of having to suck up to people for money would depress the shit out of me. Seven, I suspect the job would make me unhappy. Put it all together, and, no. Probably not a thing I will do.

Sam: What are your thoughts on assisted dying?

For me: Not yet, please. Otherwise, I think it’s fine for other people to decide when to check out, and to do so without violence, and with the help of others, if they so choose.

YuriPup: How do I take a good picture?

Take about a hundred pictures of whatever you’re aiming at. One of them is likely to be pretty good. This is how professionals do it (and me too). There are other things, too, but this is a pretty big part of it.

Topherman: Have you ever participated in meditation or mindfulness practices, or did you do some other something to cultivate such a strong sense of your own emotional range and how to manage or direct it?

Well, one, remember I look like I have it together all the time because you’re seeing me through this blog, which is (generally speaking) a highly mediated experience — I can edit to make it look like I’m a cool and composed cucumber. In real life, I’m a bit messier. Two, in a general sense I have enough life experience to know what things are going to have an actual impact on my life, and knowing that makes it easier to calibrate my responses (after any immediate emotional flush). So no, no formal meditation or mindfulness exercises, but I am mindful in an overall sense. Which I think helps.

Jayglickman: Are we Americans, as a population, significantly dumber than we were 50 years ago, especially since we started relying on increasingly sophisticated machines to help us think?

I don’t think we’re dumber, no, although I do think there’s been a decades-long push, particularly from the political right, to make us less critical of fact and more reflexively tribal in our political affiliation. That makes us feel like we are dumber than we might have been otherwise, as reflected in who is our current president. I don’t think the complexity of machines have anything to do with it, although the machines have made it easier for those who wish to spread disinformation (and therefore distrust in actual fact).

Jill Q: If you could witness one historical event, not interact, just witness, what would it be? So you can’t kill Hitler, but you also won’t die if you go back to the Great Fire of London.

It being Easter, it’s a fine day to note I’d be interested in seeing Jesus’ final week, to learn, among other things, if the resurrection was an actual thing. To be clear, I suspect very strongly it was not; Jesus had many fine qualities (at least as reported, and assuming he actually existed at all), but I doubt that actually being divine was one of them. I suspect he stayed dead. Be that as it may, as an agnostic I have to admit the possibility that I don’t know and that my opinion, based on actual physics as it might be, could nevertheless be wrong. I’d like to know.

Captain’s Quarters: Ahoy there matey! When I hear Walk the Moon’s song “Shut up and Dance,” it makes me think of how you met yer wife. Any particular thoughts on this specific song? Do ye two scalawags even have a song?

In this specific context, ours would be “Friday I’m in Love,” by the Cure, that being the first song we danced to when we met. I think the “Shut Up and Dance” song is pleasant enough, and otherwise its general lyrical content is not inappropriate to thinking about how Krissy and I met. Although, honestly, Krissy doesn’t really have to tell me to shut up and dance. We like dancing.

Don Gilstrap: Is the accepted disdain for the Star Wars prequels a bit over the top?

Nah, they’re actually pretty terrible movies and they deserve their criticism — and more to the point, George Lucas deserves criticism, because he did a terrible job with them. I disagree they’re rewatchable; I don’t particularly have an interest in doing so. I should note that my problem is not the general story line, which is fine, or the overall design of the prequel universe, which is cluttered but fun to explore. The problem is in the execution of the films themselves, which is leaden (and that rests on Lucas’ shoulders as writer and director). The smartest thing Lucas did was sell the universe to Disney and walk away; it clearly wasn’t fun for him anymore, and Disney is doing a much better job with the universe than he was doing the last several years. So, yes. The disdain is earned. Fortunately the new films are pretty darn good and all the ancillary material (novels, games, etc) is chugging along nicely too.

Meg Frank: What do you think is the most urgent domestic threat facing the US population?

At this very moment, I think an administration of corrupt, incompetent bigots and its enablers in both houses of Congress is a clear and present danger to the well-being of the country, held in check at this point mostly by the fact that they have no idea how to actually do things. But that’s not a great restraint, if you get my drift. Mind you, they are just the end-game manifestation of other, more existential threats to the commonweal of the nation, but those would take more than just a paragraph to talk about. So yeah, right now, I think Trump and his pals are an actual threat that needs to be addressed and dealt with (through legal, non-violent means, to be absolutely clear).

Mike Marsh: How do you feel about the increasingly prevalent use of anonymous sourcing in news reports? Do you think it damages the credibility of the newspaper? Do you think it is necessary for getting to the “real news?”

I dispute it’s “increasingly prevalent”; it’s been a common practice for decades. I don’t think it particularly damages the credibility of a news organization to use them if the information is accurate (and the news organization otherwise has rules about how they are used, and when). And yes, they can be useful in terms of helping the press perform its role. Now, I’ll additionally note that there are particular news organizations I would trust more than others when they report using an anonymous source, and (perhaps against expectation) that trust is not necessarily along the axis of perceived political orientation of the outlet.

David Foster: Why do you seem to be enthralled with cuss words in your novels?

I don’t particularly think I am. I have at least a couple of novels (Zoe’s Tale and Fuzzy Nation come to mind immediately) that are pretty low on the cuss meter, the The God Engines, which is my bleakest and most graphically violent story to date, I’m pretty sure has no cussing in it at all. Otherwise, I have cussing in my books roughly analogous to the amount of cussing I hear in my life, so, I don’t know. Maybe I know people who cuss a lot (note: Kiva Lagos in The Collapsing Empire is definitely an outlier).

Vonneanton: Your thoughts on Journey’s induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and Steve Perry’s decision not to sing with the band. Classy and humble, or persnickety?

I’m pleased with Journey’s induction and I think it’s entirely appropriate; Journey represents a sub-genre of rock (specifically, album-oriented rock) that was often critically maligned but undeniably popular and influential in terms of pop music. As the most popular band of that type of rock, they deserve a spot in Hall. As for Perry’s decision not to sing with the band, well, you know what? The dude is 68 years old, and as far as I know (indeed I think as far as anyone knows), he’s not been singing regularly for at least fifteen years. Anyone who’s expecting a basically retired near-septuagenarian to be at peak form for one night — a night where people would be expecting him to be perfect — may have been expecting too much. I trust Perry’s instinct not to sing in that case. I do think Perry’s induction speech shout out to Arnel Pineda, who has been singing with Journey for the last decade, was super classy, and I’m glad he did it.

Sistercoyote: Do you consider yourself a Hamilton (“I am not throwing away my shot”) or a Burr (“I’m willing to wait for it”)?

Burr in the streets, Hamilton in the sheets. More seriously, I don’t think the two concepts are mutually exclusive; I think there are some opportunities that require immediate action (i.e., not throwing away one’s shot), and others that are better cultivated until they are ripe (i.e., worth the waiting for). The secret, I suspect, is knowing which are which.

Aaron Dukas: If you were to do your life over on the condition of not being a writer (in any form), what career do you think you’d like to explore?

I used to say “history teacher” for this, and it’s still a top alternate life choice, but in the past decade I’ve really been into photography and I think maybe I’d do that. I think I’d be pretty good at it. Recently I took a bunch of photos of the final concert of this year’s JoCo Cruise, and I think that they’re some of the best pictures I’ve taken, in terms of capturing the moment and energy of the event. Between stuff like that and portraiture, which I also think I’m pretty good at, I think I could be reasonably artistically happy as a photographer.

(Also, to answer another question that was asked: Currently I’m using a Nikon D750, usually without flash, and Photoshop and Camerabag 2.)

Patrick V: Which Scamperbeast plants its butt in your face more?

Spice, and it’s not even close. Sugar likes to be cuddled more, but she doesn’t do a lot of early morning butts in face.

Sam Brady: How do the celebrity and fame parts of your career affect your family? Meaning–people say things (both positive and negative) about you on the Internet, you travel quite a bit and devote a lot of other time to your career apart from just the writing, and I’m sure people recognize you in public from time to time. How do your wife and daughter react to all of that? How do they feel about it?

My fame is specific and low-wattage, so on a daily basis it doesn’t affect the family at all. Krissy once got recognized in an airport, which was odd for her, and from time to time outside the specific venues of my fame (conventions and book fairs), someone will connect Athena or Krissy to me (the unusual last name helps). So far, both of them have taken it in stride and with some amusement. In general it’s low key and not too much to worry about.

Lym: Have you and Krissy given much thought or made any preparations or plans for your upcoming empty nest?

Well, Krissy has a job, and I have to write books, so I expect immediately our day to day lives won’t change too considerably (also, Athena will be an hour away, so we’ll probably still get to see her more than if she went to school across the country). As for the rest of it, well. We’ll see! If suddenly we adopt sixty more pets, you may assume it’s gotten to us.

Thanks everyone for another great Reader Request Week. Let’s do it again in roughly a year!

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Posted by John Scalzi

Coming to the end of the Reader Request Week, so let’s quickly cruise through a bunch of questions relating to writing and/or what I’m doing in my career.

DangerKitty: Are you ever interested in doing screenplays for TV series, such as Doctor Who, Star Trek, Black Mirror, etc? Why or why not?

I wrote a screenplay for The Dispatcher not long after I finished the novella, because I wanted the practice, and it was an interesting experience (and the screenplay was decent). I’ve not been asked to write a screenplay for any currently existing TV show, and while I don’t rule out the possibility in the future, there are other people for whom it is their full-time gig; I suspect they will get first dibs. The most likely path of me doing screenplays is me doing them for shows based on my own work.

Kevin G: Print vs ebook. Some people are die-hard paper-philes, and I now resent books that close up on me without a paperweight. Others are agnostic. Do you have a preference, and do you have thoughts on why?

I like print books for when I’m at home and ebooks for when I travel and otherwise have no real preference; words are words. There seems to be some indication that the brain processes words on a screen differently than words on a page, but anecdotally it all seems to work the same for me. I’ll note generally speaking my books sell better electronically than in hardcover; I think that says a little bit about who my fans are.

Kennelliver: Having purchased Randal Munroe’s book, Thing Explainer, a description of various difficult scientific concepts using only the 1000 most common words in the English Language, how about writing a story or novella doing the same? Or only the 500 most common? Or only the 100 most common?

Well, see, that would require effort on my part, and I’m not sure I want to bother. However, I know of a grandmaster who wrote an entire novel in Basic English (that’s the 1,500 most common English words): It’s Joe Haldeman, and it’s his first novel War Year. He did a pretty good job of it, too.

Sparrow: How do you spend your non-travel, non-event downtime when you are in tour?

Depends. Usually I only have a couple hours between arriving and event, so I’m likely to spend it napping or catching up on non-tour-related work (life doesn’t stop just because I’m on tour). If I have a little more time and I have a friend in the area, I’ll see them. If I’m somewhere for more than a day and don’t have a packed schedule, I may get in some sightseeing. But that’s rare; a tour stop is a business trip, not a leisure trip. As someone asked about food in a different question, I mostly eat at restaurants local to the hotel or event space, or just get room service.

Tom Combs: Why did you decide to go in a different direction in creating The Collapsing Empire instead of doing another OMW book? I would have thought there would have been some pressure (at least nudging) to keep the series going from publisher types and anxious fans dying for another taste.

Because I wanted to. Also, there was no real pressure on it. Tor was not exactly unhappy with the idea that I would be creating a whole new space opera series for them, especially because in that bigass contract I have with them I also promised them at least one more Old Man’s War book. It’s the best of both worlds for everyone involved. Also, with regard to the Old Man’s War series, I never want to be in a position where I’m just grinding them out. I want to write them when I have something cool I want to do in the universe. Otherwise, I won’t like writing them, which means other people won’t like reading them.

Kate: You’ve mentioned you’re not big on description in your writing, but do you picture your characters in your head?

Sure; they’re not mannequins. Sometimes they look not dissimilar to people I know; sometimes they look not unlike notable people; sometimes they have no precedent in the real world (that I know of). I’m pretty sure at this point most people know that Jane Sagan looks a hell of a lot like my wife; this is not a bad look for her. But unless there’s a reason for me to describe a person in the text (usually relating to plot), I generally don’t.

Troy Gordon: With potential TV series in the future, do you ever worry about not having enough creative input into the visualization of the sets, characters, aliens races, etc.? Do you get to have some veto power when it looks like somebody is going to absolutely brutalize your concept on projects like this?

At this point we usually negotiate that I’m to be an executive producer on any series/movie, which means I will get some degree of input, yes. But I expect with any film/series I might be involved in, there will be some suggestions I’ll make that will not be taken, and some complaints/issues others will override. It’s the nature of the beast.

Matt Coats: I’ve always wondered what an author’s perspective was on used book stores. I know you don’t get anything on the sale of the book the 2nd time around, but are you supportive in general? Do you feel like this expands your reach? Thanks!

I like used bookstores just fine; I bought a lot of books that way growing up, and then when I found an author I really liked, converted to buying their books new. Also, sometimes you can’t buy a book new — a book may be out of print. In which case, finding that book in a used bookstore is the only way to get it. Either way, I’m just fine with used bookstores. I do hope people who find me in these stores eventually decide to pay for new books.

Jessica Drew: What are your thoughts on those who refer to science fiction as not real literature?

I say “bless their hearts” as I soak in my hot tub, reading the collected works of Philip K. Dick.

Mike M: I have two of your books that are signed, both in red ink. Do you always sign your books in red? Also, your signature is slightly on the large side- do you tone it down to sign tight spaces on documents, for example, or just let rip?

You might have gotten books signed when I was on the Redshirts tour, during which I signed books with red ink, because it seemed appropriate, all things considered. It’s not an always thing. Also, my signature scales quite nicely, actually.

Jack: How do you feel when a previously politically neutral writer uses his/her/their talents to go full bore political?

I tend to think that in fact they weren’t politically neutral before, they just never put their views into their fiction writing. Also, you know. I’ve had people read Old Man’s War and think I was a political conservative; I’ve had people read work I’ve not put any explicit real-world political slant into and say it was wildly political, because they know of my politics outside the work. People can get things wrong and/or project. That said, if someone’s real-world politics get injected into their work, well, if the work is still readable and interesting, meh. That’s fine. My problem is not when politics get into fiction, but when politics make the fiction less interesting.

Christopher Tower: Is the intent of science fiction to predict the future?

Maybe some science fiction writers intend to predict the future; I don’t. I do try to plausibly extrapolate from the modern day when I write, but that’s not the same thing as trying to predict. I think the writers who do try to predict probably have a very high failure rate. I do occasionally get people giving me credit for predicting a thing that’s being developed in the real world that is similar to something I put in my books (neural networks, artificial blood, computerized assistants). And, sure, if you want to give me credit for those, I’ll take it, because why not. But a) most things I’ve imagined others have too, so the credit I’m being given is more a reflection of people’s reading habits than anything else, b) I didn’t predict it, I just thought, hey, this will be a cool and/or useful thing for my book. So, yeah. I’m not in the prediction business, I’m in the “write a cool book with neat stuff in it” business. Sometimes that neat stuff comes true.

Lym: I’ve read other authors who say that book tours result in relatively few book sales, certainly not enough to cover the cost of the tour (if they finance it themselves) or the opportunity cost of not being able to write or do other work during that time. What real benefits do you see from your extensive tours? Building fan base? Keeping fan base enthusiastic? Other things?

Book tours a) help to move enough books to get on bestseller lists the first week of release, b) assist with strengthening ties between authors/publishers and booksellers/libraries, c) work to develop long-term relationships between authors and readers, d) generate national/local media interest, among other things. If you approach a book tour as a short-term profit center, then no, they they don’t make much sense, as most tours, even for successful authors, don’t “earn out.” I suspect my current one, for example, will zero out financially. If you approach a book tour as a tool for generating long-term, knock-on benefits for the author and publisher, however, they begin to make rather more sense. I mean, Tor doesn’t put me on ridiculously long tours just for fun. They work for both of us, over the length of time.

Science Marc: What do you think of Charles Bukowski’s poem: “so you want to be a writer?” Which says, in essence, that if writing doesn’t consume you at the expense of everything else in your life, *don’t do it*.

The poem in question is here; my reaction to it is, meh. I think it’s fine to be a writer even if you don’t have a blazing, enduring passion for it that eclipses everything else in your life. Maybe you just like to do it, and it’s fun, so why not? Bukowski might say that’s not enough but in the immortal words of The Dude, that’s, just, like, his opinion, man. Personally I think it might be more accurate to say, if you can’t not be a writer, and if not writing makes you miserable, then maybe you should be a writer, and make time for it in your life. Because otherwise you’ll be unhappy. And why be unhappy if you can avoid it?

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Posted by John Scalzi

Teresa asks:

From the moment that you wrote the first draft, how long it did it take you to see your first work of fiction published?

Heh. Well, it depends on what one means by my first work of fiction.

If, for example, my first work of fiction is thought to be the very first complete story I ever wrote, which is a story called “Best Friends: Or, another reason not to get sick,” then the answer is thirty-three years and counting, since I wrote it in 1984 for Mr. Heyes’ freshman English composition class, and aside from a few copies I ran off for friends (mostly the ones on whom the story was based), no one’s ever seen it, or is likely to. It was written by 14-year me and while it was good enough for the class — I was the only person in three sections of the class to get an “A” — I suspect it is of very limited interest to anyone else.

(With that said, I think the story’s opening graph makes it clear that my general advice of “have good opening lines” is something I knew early on. “Well, if this has taught me anything, it’s not to get sick. I get sick for three days, and the world changed” is pretty solid, even if it has a problem with tenses.)

(And yes, I do still have the complete story, along with just about every other story I wrote as a teen. No, I won’t show them to you. I’m doing you a favor.)

If one discounts juvenilia, then my next actual complete work of fiction might be considered to be a poem I wrote, “Penelope,” which I wrote in 1991. It’s written from the point of view of the wife of Odysseus, waiting for her husband to return and delaying having to pick a suitor by weaving and then unraveling a burial shroud. I don’t usually consider it to be fiction — my brain generally sections out poetry and prose fiction — but inasmuch as it does have a point of view character, and that point of view character is not meant to be me (spoiler: but it kind of was, inasmuch as I was writing it for a girl I pined for and wanted close to me and hey, look, allegory and metaphor), it could be called fiction. As it happens, “Penelope” was published in Miniatures, my book of very short stories, which was published last year (literally on the last day of the year). So that would be 25 years. I’d note I didn’t try to publish it prior to Miniatures; it was written for a specific person in mind.

If we toss out that poem and stick to prose, the next piece of completed fiction I wrote was Agent to the Stars, which I wrote in the summer of 1997 as my “practice novel,” i.e., the novel I wrote to see if I could write a novel (turns out I could). Inasmuch as it was my practice novel, I didn’t write it with the intent to sell it, but when I created my web site at Scalzi.com, I decided to put it up here and let people download it if they liked, and if they wanted, to send me money for it. So it was self-published, and that was in 1999. If you want to count self-publishing on one’s Web site as actual publication (back in 1999, I would note, it would generally not have been considered so), then it took years. If you don’t count that as publishing, then you’d have to wait until 2005, when the hardcover version was published by Subterranean Press. In which case: eight years.

But it’s important to note that Agent got published (by someone else) because that publisher asked to publish it; I didn’t shop it. If you’re curious about what piece of fiction of mine was the first that I wrote with the intent to try to have it published, and which was then in fact actually published by someone else, then that would be “Alien Animal Encounters.” I wrote it in 2001 and immediately submitted it to Strange Horizons magazine, on the basis that I liked the magazine, and also because it would accept electronic submissions, and I didn’t own a printer. For the life of me I can’t remember exactly when I wrote it, but I did submit it almost immediately after I wrote it, and it was published pretty quickly after that. That was October 2001, so I suspect I wrote it a couple months before that. Let’s say three months to be safe. So: Three months, from writing it to it being published.

(Also, all of these were first drafts, in the sense that I edit as I write, so when I type “The End” I just do a quick copyedit run through. I don’t edit less than people who write drafts, I just do it as I go along. Works for me; your mileage my vary.)

So: Depending on how one chooses to define what was my first work of fiction, and what constitutes publishing, the answer to the gap between first draft and the pub date is three months, or two years, or eight years, or 25 years, or 33 years and counting.

And you know what? I think that’s about average, as far as writers are concerned. There are lots of places one could count as the starting point for one’s career, and lots of different opinions as to what constitutes being published.

The important thing here is: I did start writing. And I did start getting published.

Everything progressed from there. And here we are.

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Posted by John Scalzi

Christine asks:

I recently had my first (and likely only) child, shortly before my 40th birthday. I’m finding the brainpower needed to parent is something I have a lot more of now, at this age. I have more emotional maturity, coping mechanisms, and perspective than I did even as a 30 year old. Do you believe that having children in one’s 20s is more or less advantageous for the child? What about for the parents? And the million dollar question — how do I raise a kid who is progressive and kind and acknowledges her (white, middle-class, Bay Area-dwelling) privilege without being an insufferable know-it-all?

I mean, the second part of that reader request is kind of separate from the first part, so let me answer both.

With regard to parental age, and all other things being okay in their lives of the would-be new parents (a biiiiig qualification), I think becoming a new parent at any age between 25 and 45 is going to mostly turn out okay for the kid. Earlier than 25, I worry about the emotional maturity and financial wherewithal of the parents and how that affects the kid; later than 45, I worry about the parent’s energy levels and frankly ability to stay alive while their kid goes through their entire childhood. This is not to suggest people can’t be great new parents before 25 or after 45; they absolutely can, and I know several people in each case who are (or have been). I do think it adds a few more challenges, however.

Overall, though, I think age is less an issue in terms of what’s advantageous for a kid’s childhood than partner and family support for the parents. I tend to believe it’s better for kids to have parents who are together (and positively engaged with each other); I tend to believe it’s better for parents to have family and friends to call on for help and encouragement and knowledge. I think these things can mitigate other issues where parents (or a parent) have other challenging aspects to their lives.

In the case of my own child, I think Athena’s childhood was substantially improved by having both her mother and me in the same house, and by having Krissy’s family nearby as she grew up. It helped us too — Krissy and I could individually do other things in our life knowing that the other parent had our child-rearing back, and having family nearby meant, among other things, that Krissy and I could have the occasional date night to ourselves (this is important).

With that said, I can say that when I became a parent at 29, I personally felt rather more equipped to handle parenthood than I would have at 25 or 20, which was the age my mother was when she had me. At 25, I was by my own estimation a barely-acceptable actual adult; I wouldn’t have wanted to have me in charge of a tiny human. Forget age 20 entirely; despite my confidence then that I knew everything, I in fact was barely competent to cross a street. At 29 I was working, I had calmed down as a human, and I was looking forward to having a family with my wife; I was in the right place for me, in other words, to become a parent and father.

I suspect that’s the key — the best time to become a parent (presuming any sort of control over the matter) may be the time when you look forward to it, because then you’re present and engaged. And that can happen at 25, or 29, or 32, or 38, or 42 or whenever. Everyone’s different. I think I became a parent at the right time; if you feel the same about whatever age you became a parent, chances are you are correct.

As for raising good and kind children who are also progressive and recognize their privilege: Well, the first question is — are you good and kind and progressive and recognize your privilege? Your child will see you in the world and you will be first adult they look to in order to understand what the expectation is for being a functional human and (eventually) adult. So the first step, I think, is to recognize that you should be the things you want your child to be. That whole “do as I say, not as I do” thing really doesn’t work with respect to moral character.

The second thing is I think it’s easy to consider one’s self good and kind and progressive and cognizant of one’s privilege if one only ever consorts with people who are like one’s self, however one defines one’s self across several axes. As an example, one of the reasons that I think it was important for Athena to live here in Bradford as she grew up is that, as child of well-off parents who are politically liberal, she every day of her life went to school with kids of blue-collar, conservative parents, and saw the differences in opinion and lifestyle (and fundamental, grounding assumptions about life). These kids aren’t abstractions for her; they’re her friends, and I think that’s going to make a positive difference for her in terms of how she builds her own life and character, even as she herself is politically pretty liberal and fairly in tune with her own set of privileges (I just checked with Athena on this assertion of mine; she agrees).

So to that end I would consider making sure that your child is not only ever exposed to folks just like her or in her particular situation, and that this “exposure” to others doesn’t constitute what would essentially be a field trip to the “other people zoo.” Actual tolerance and appreciation of diversity occurs through living it, not just knowing it’s out there. Also, this works for everyone, not just progressives; it’s useful for conservatives (and their kids) to get out their bubbles as well, for example.

Third, and this is important: Remember that your quest to raise a good and kind human is not going to be without its potholes, because you are human and so is your kid. My kid is great, and there were still moments I was all who are you and why are you acting like such a horrible person? And to be fair, there were moments she might have asked the same of me.

The good news for all of this, Christine, is that it seems like you’re ready to take on the challenge of being a decent parent. Good! It’s a continual process. Trust me on that.

Today’s New Books and ARCs, 4/13/17

Apr. 13th, 2017 09:15 pm
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Posted by John Scalzi

As we head into the holiday weekend, here is a stack of very fine new books and ARCs for you to peruse. What here would you like to find in your Easter basket? Tell us in the comments!

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Posted by Jim C. Hines

As we continue to see discussion and fallout surrounding Odyssey Con, it’s important to remember that these things don’t happen in isolation. While I wish it weren’t necessary, I’m happy to share this guest essay from software developer and Congressional candidate Brianna Wu, talking about some of the reasons we keep seeing this kind of mess with sexism and sexual harassers.


I want to tell you a heartwarming story about second chances. Last year, Google welcomed a developer named Chris onto their team. Chris is like a lot of men I know in the tech industry. He’s super geeky, white, male, just 28 — and has an incredibly irreverent sense of humor. He’s the kind of guy that would fit right in a Google — or really any other large tech corporation.

Just one catch. Chris had a bit of a misadventure as a teenager, launching a well-trafficked internet site where some pretty unsavory things happened. An encyclopedic list would take too long, but here are the highlights:

  • The site was a haven for child pornography.
  • A member murdered a woman violently, and posted picture of her strangled to death on the site.
  • A transgender woman was outed and then bullied until she committed suicide.
  • A breach of iCloud resulted in non-consensual sexual imagery of celebrity women to be spread through his site, most notably Jennifer Lawrence, who called it a “sex crime.”
  • Prominent women in the game industry were relentlessly harassed through his site, resulting is several careers being destroyed — and unmeasurable personal harm.

I’m speaking, of course, of 4chan founder Chris Poole. Last year, after not being able to make money from his site, he decided to take a job with one of the most powerful corporations on earth. As I was one of the women who had been repeatedly targeted by 4chan, I was fairly incredulous, as were my fellow women colleagues.

Unsurprisingly, the white men in tech I know felt differently.

I’m not going to name names, but I had at least 10 conversations with colleagues in tech about Poole’s hiring. They felt it would be unfair to deny him a fresh start at a career. They didn’t want his past to haunt him forever. They saw 4chan as just a silly teenage hijink, something all in good fun. It’s hard to imagine, they saw parts of Chris Poole in themselves — and by giving him a second chance — they could give themselves a chance to clean up their own mistakes.

America loves second chances. But it’s hard to not notice that the main people that seem to get them are straight, white, and male.

This brings us Odyssey Con.

I’ll spare you the blow-by-blow, which has been written up here. But, long story short, the con had decided to let an extreme sexual harasser onto the programming committee. When guest of honor Monica Valentinelli was put on programming with him, she asked the con to step in. They wrote an amazingly condescending email back to her, at which point she withdrew from the con.

What stands out to me the most in the whole harmful affair was a single line by Gregory G.H. Rihn, writing about “what would be fair.” He suggested a compromise between Monica and Jim Frenkel, the known serial harasser. In a world where sexual harassers are on one side, and women wanting to be treated with respect are on the other — women can never win. Rihn saw himself as an impartial observer, but he’s part of the problem in a way he can’t understand.

And he’s far from alone. Or even, a particularly egregious example.

As a prominent woman in the game industry, I’m also married to four-time Hugo award winner Frank Wu — so I feel uniquely positioned between the tech industry and science fiction fandom. And while, I know it would shock some of you to think about this, the structural sexism is practically the same. Consider the following.

  • Like the game industry, I am regularly asked to do programming at cons on my gender rather than my professional expertise.
  • Like the game industry, I am regularly talked over by men on programming.
  • Like the game industry, men generally talk to my husband and not me when we are in groups.
  • Like the game industry, it’s the men in the field getting big career opportunities – and not the equally talented women.
  • Like the game industry, no men I know will admit they are part of the problem.
  • Like the game industry, the men in science fiction consider themselves impartial judges of structural sexism – rather than influenced by motivated reasoning.
  • Like the game industry, there’s a lot of window dressing and very little examination of bias.
  • Like the game industry, I regularly hear sexist, racist and transphobic jokes that make me blanch.
  • Like the game industry, men that speak out about sexism are heroes — while women are put in a career box as a known feminist.
  • Like the game industry, you have a hate group rooted in white supremacy — hellbent on establishing a golden age without diversity.

If the tech industry gets a D- for sexism, science fiction doesn’t deserve much better than a C-. Maybe a C+ on the good days.

This brings us to Jim Frenkel. His situation is no different than Chris Poole’s, albeit a lot less extreme. The men of Odyssey Con (and one woman is a position of power) were reluctant to exile him from fandom because if he were held to high standards, that would mean they or someone like them might be one day as well. So, he will get an ample supply of second chances, just like most white straight men in science fiction.

There are so many times in science fiction I hold my tongue because I don’t think anyone on programming would listen. Recently, I was on a panel with a rather prominent man in the game industry that made a wildly sexist remark about “banging whores.” I sat there for the panel, stewing, feeling like this inappropriate statement needed to be called out. I asked male friends about it later, who all told me to, “let it go.”

I realized it wouldn’t be worth it to fight that battle with programming, and it could burn a bridge with someone powerful in my field. Like most women, I fight these internal battles daily — and I lose a piece of my soul every time. I have to imagine Monica Valentinelli was fighting this same internal battle before withdrawing as guest of honor. Her comment about wanting to be known for her work rang so true for me. It’s the same fear all women feel when deciding to speak out, being shoved into a box that says loud feminist.

Our political system trains people to root for one side like a football team- everyone points fingers and no one feels accountability. For science fiction, there are plenty of men that vote Democrat and believe intellectually in the equality of women. They think that’s the end of the story. It is not.

You can either have a community where the Jim Frenkels are thrown out, or you can just admit all the talk about gender equality is window dressing.


Brianna Wu is a software engineer and a candidate for US congress in Massachusetts district 8. You can follow her on Twitter at @spacekatgal or on Facebook at Facebook.com/developerBriannaWu.

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Posted by John Scalzi

Katrina Archer, who is a writer (and a former student of mine) asks:

Since you’ve recently been on tour, I have a question about the mechanics of preparation. Preparation for the *performance* not the travel.

As I’m in Canada I haven’t seen what you do on tour, although I have attended your readings at cons. Is a tour mostly readings, or are there other performance aspects? How do you select the reading and other material, and do you practice or mostly improvise? What do you feel is the most important thing to do to meet audience expectations? I’ve noticed many authors struggle to make the transition from solitary writer to performer.

First, I really do want to do a tour of Canada. It’s on my list of things to do.

Second, I do in fact think a lot of about the performance aspects of a reading, precisely because it is so very different from what writers usually do. The act of writing is usually solitary and silent and done with no one else around (or if they’re around, like in a coffee shop, incidental to the writing act). A reading, on the other hand, is meant to be social, and heard, and in front of (optimally) as many people as possible. Writing is an introverted act of creation, and a reading is an extroverted act of expression. Writing is a process, a reading is a performance.

Which takes a massive shift of gears, and not every writer is good at that, which is not a great thing when a writer who is not particularly good at it nevertheless does a reading or goes on tour. Those of us who have been to readings on a regular basis have been to the event where the writer hasn’t managed it, and it’s kind of deadly — the reading is flat, regardless of how good the text is, because the writer, as a performer, just can’t sell it. So the audience sits there, blankly polite, until they can get their book signed.

This is not to criticize these writers overmuch, I want to note. Performance is not a natural state of action for most writers, who again tend toward introversion as their default. Performance is draining and weird and it exposes you directly to the judgement of others, which is its own thing as well (and which can further affect the performance). You have to work at it to get good at it, and most writers don’t really ever have to start working at it until after they’ve published, i.e., they’ve created something people want them to read. Which is to say they’ve spent all this time learning to master one specific skill set, and when they get good at it, people want them to bolt on an entirely different skill set and take it on the road.

Which is why, in my anecdotal experience, the writers who are good at the performance of reading right out of the gate are often ringers — that is, the ones with some previous performance experience. Writers who have acted or played music or did presentations of some sort — anything which meant getting in front of people in some way, and getting used to the rigors of performance. It also helps if the writer is in fact extroverted, which is unusual but sometimes happens. Even “not actually extroverted but can fake it for a few hours” will suffice.

In my particular case, I did acting in high school and college and I can fake extroversion and I’m relatively quick-witted in real life. Also, for various reasons, for good and ill (which could be a Reader Request Week piece all in itself), I’ve long been used to the idea that when I open my mouth people want to listen. Put it all together and I’m a fairly ideal writer to do a reading…

… and I would still fail miserably at a reading without adequate preparation. Likewise, a writer who is not like me in terms of being used to being up in front of people can, if well-prepared, still offer up a presentation that hits the mark.

So, how to properly prepare? Well, this is what I suggest folks do, based on my own experience.

1. Recognize it is a performance. Which is to say that you can’t just go in front of a room, mumble your way through fifteen minutes of text, answer a couple of questions and go home (I mean, you can, but it won’t turn out the way you want it to). You actually have to be up and on, from the moment you get to the event until the moment you’re done. Which is draining, but can also be fun. When you read, don’t just read the text, act it. When you’re answering questions, don’t answer quickly, answer completely. When you’re signing, work to make it so the person you’re signing for feels like that those 30 seconds with you is a pretty good 30 seconds of their life. Know all this going in, and prepare.

2. It’s okay to role-play a little. If you’re not the sort of person is who naturally up and extroverted and ready to deal with public events, here’s a useful trick: Ask yourself “what would an up, extroverted version of me do in this situation?” And then do that. It’s called having a “public face.” I definitely have a public face — a version of me tuned for performance and dealing with the friendly strangers who show up to my events — and having cultivated that helps me on those days when I am just so not into being in front of people, or, alternately, when an event has gone on too long and my brain has clicked over from “socialized introvert” to “everyone in this building must die in fire.” If you see me at a event, you’re seeing me in what I call my “performing monkey mode.” It’s me, just on.

3. Plan your event. I mean, people are taking time out of their lives to see you, right? You might as well have a plan. When I tour, I plan specifically what things are going to happen, and how they’re supposed to work. Here’s my usual plan for my presentation, which clocks in at about an hour:

  • A primary reading (usually from an upcoming work, not the book I’m on tour for, on the basis that people who come out to see me should get something no one else gets) which will take 15-20 minutes;
  • A secondary, humorous reading (because people like to laugh) which takes about ten minutes;
  • Sometimes an additional piece (usually a Whatever post that’s on point), which can take another ten minutes;
  • If someone brings a ukulele, as they sometimes do, a short song (with patter, no more than five minutes);
  • Question and answer period, for the remainder of the hour.

And then I sign for however long it takes, and budget 30 seconds to a minute of time for each person in line.

I use this general outline because it works for me, although I tweak from tour to tour — this tour, for example, the primary reading runs a little long, so there’s no third piece, the ukulele bit comes and goes (it’s dependent on others bringing the instrument), and the Q&A sometimes goes a little longer this time around — which is fine, it’s often the best part of the event for the audience and me, because Q&A plays to my personal strengths as a performer.

The outline for each writer will be different — some people will read for a shorter amount of time, or stick to a single piece, or whatever — but I think it’s important to plan ahead so you as performer have fewer surprises, and so over the course of doing a bunch of readings you can get into a groove with the material you have on hand. Speaking of which:

4. Have some flexibility. I go on tour with a larger selection of stuff than I actually read, on the thinking that some nights, with some crowds, some material might be better than other material. Likewise, if I’m doing a reading at an event that’s being broadcast to the public, I’ll read from the newly-published book rather than the upcoming work, because I want to keep the upcoming work relatively down low. And for events where I’m teaming up with another writer, I may only read a short piece (so we both have time for reading) or we’ll abandon readings altogether and have a conversation, an idea that’s best when you have two people who can blather on and/or at least one of those people is willing to direct the conversational traffic. The point is to plan ahead enough that you have the ability to makes changes on the fly that will give everyone a better experience.

5. Don’t panic. Readings are work, and not every writer is going to be great at them right out of the box. But the thing to recognize is that when you go to do a reading, you’ve generally got a pretty easy crowd — these are people who actually went out of their way to see you and already like at least some of the stuff you do. They want you to succeed, and will give you leeway to do so. Remember that, when you’re up there, doing the reading. It makes it easier. And the more you do it, the easier it gets, most of the time.

With all that said:

6. It’s okay if you discover performance is not for you. Some writers will never be great performers and will never like being up in front of people, reading their work. For those writers, maybe other sorts of presentations (like an interview, or panel presentations, for example) might be better. Or maybe you just… don’t, and find other things that work for you, publicity-wise. There isn’t any one right way to do this stuff, you know. It’s just finding out what’s right for you.

So find out! You might be surprised.

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Posted by John Scalzi

Fabrizio Toso asks:

Do you remember what you dream? If yes, has anything from your dreams found its way in your books?

I do remember a lot of what I dream, yes. Not all of it — some of it slips past me in the morning — but certainly enough of my dreams that I have a memory bank filled with them. I suspect this is also because I’m generally a lucid dreamer, which means I almost always know when I’m dreaming. Being a lucid dreamer has a number of advantages (for example, I’ve never really had a nightmare, because I’ll just wake myself up if the dream becomes too unpleasant), and one of them, I think, is that because some part of my brain is always observing in the dream, it remembers to remember most of the interesting dreams.

That said, I can’t think of anything I’ve dreamt that’s ended up in a novel, or a dream being an inspiration for something I’ve written in one of my stories. My dreams, frankly, aren’t particularly well-plotted, and even in individual moments they’re often disjointed and nonsensical. Even the ones that have a throughline aren’t the stuff of great literature. For example, the other night I dreamed I was skydiving in Australia, and then suddenly I was on the ground, walking around, and since I didn’t remember landing I was worried I was dead, so I went into a donut shop to order a donut, on the idea that if the person at the register could see me, I was clearly alive (she could see me; I ordered a donut; I only had American and Canadian money on me so couldn’t buy it). As a dream, mildly interesting; as something that should make its way into a story of mine, not so much.

(Honestly, most dreams are pretty boring, including mine, when they’re described to other people. The ones most people want to share are of the “I was in some place! And then something surreal happened!” variety, which I’m okay hearing as long as one is relatively quick about it. I’ll listen to nightmare stories also, because I don’t have them and I’m sympathetic to people who have had a good night’s sleep ruined by them. But generally, meh. Dreams, like one’s children’s school achievements, exist in the “more interesting to you than to anyone else” category. Please share, if you must, briefly.)

In terms of plotting, or of vivid imagery, that’s relevant to my books, my most productive time in bed is not dream time, but that period of time either just before I go to sleep, or just after I wake up. That’s when the connections in my brain are kind of whipping around wildly, and I’ll get interesting ideas out of the blue or something close to visions that are applicable to things I’m writing. I’m not asleep and it’s not dreaming, but I’m not always precisely awake, either (it’s also the time where my brain creates amazing melodies for songs, and if I will myself more awake, I can never remember them precisely. I write fantastic songs, people, in those liminal minutes. You’ll never hear them, alas).

Another thing my brain will do for me storywise while I sleep is work on plot points — if, just before I go to sleep, I say to my brain, “okay, while I’m sleeping I need you to think about [plot point in question],” my brain will do so as I snooze. I don’t have to say it out loud (although sometimes I do), but I do have to specifically tell my brain to work on it while I sleep. And you know what? If I ask it to, there’s a better than even chance that when I wake up, I have some new options for that plot point. They won’t always be good options, but they’ll still me more (and different) than the ones my conscious brain would have provided. I’m not sure if anyone else does this sort of subconscious problem-solving, but it’s worked for me for a while.

I’ll note that just because I don’t use dreams for story ideas/plotting/etc doesn’t mean other people can’t or don’t, or that I don’t doubt people who say ideas come to them in dreams. If they do, good for them! I’m glad it works that way for them. It doesn’t work that way for me. I tend to think of my dreams more as my brain sorting things that happened during the day, or just playing around when it doesn’t have my conscious self at the wheel.

And I’m fine with this; I like my dreams, by and large. They can do whatever they like. If I’m unhappy with ’em, well. I’ll wake up.

(There is still time to ask a question for Reader Request Week. Go here for all the details, and to ask your question.)

Minicon Schedule

Apr. 12th, 2017 05:04 pm
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Posted by Jim C. Hines

This weekend, I’ll be the author guest of honor at Minicon in Minneapolis, along with science GoH “The Pope’s Astronomer,” Brother Guy Consolmagno, and fan GoH Mark Oshiro.

They’ve posted the preliminary schedule. Here’s where I think I’ll be for most of the weekend:


  • 5:30 p.m. – We Suck: The Importance of Failure
  • 7 p.m. – Opening Ceremonies
  • 8:30 p.m. – Internet Presence


  • 10 a.m. – Exploring Creativity
  • 11:30 a.m. – Koffeeklatch
  • 1 p.m. – Interview with Jim C. Hines
  • 5 p.m. – Costume Contest
  • 8:30 p.m. – Reading
  • 9:30 p.m. – Autographing


  • 10 a.m. – The Business of Writing
  • 1 p.m. – Progressive Story
  • 2:30 p.m. – Feet of Clay
  • 4 p.m. – Closing Ceremonies

And then at a little after 8 that night, I’ll fly back home to Lansing.

It should be a fun time! Looking forward to seeing folks!

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Posted by John Scalzi

For this one I received a couple of email requests, and I’m going to conflate them into a paraphrased question which goes like this:

Your site motto is “taunting the tauntable,” so why don’t you go after your haters more?

And I’m all, ooooh, so let’s talk about my haters a bit.

My haters generally break down into three categories:

1. A specific, embarrassingly devoted hater and his few dozen fans/sockpuppets;

2. A wodge of right-wing SF/F writers and their fans who got het up during the “Puppies” nonsense;

3. Various alt-right cranks who try to gang up on me on Twitter.

I’ll note there is some overlap between all three categories.

So, to begin, here are some things I know about haters, and how they relate to me:

First, I acknowledge that people are in fact perfectly free to hate and despise me, for whatever various reasons they choose to do so, and there’s very little I can or want to do about that, particularly when the John Scalzi they have in their head (and then assert to others exists in the world) has very little to do with me. People feel how they feel, and some people just don’t like me, and probably never will. Indeed, I could argue that there is a small contingent of people who at this point feel professionally obliged not to like me. And, well. C’est la vie. There are enough people in the world who do like me that I don’t generally feel a lack of positive attention, either personally or professionally.

Second, I recognize that the haters generally have a pretty low impact on my life, professionally or personally. Despite several years of committed hater action against me, including the active attempt to spread lies about my character and the state of my career, I’m one of the best-selling, best-known authors in my genre (and do pretty well overall as a writer), with lots of friends and colleagues, and some enviable professional opportunities. If my haters have been trying to drag me down (more on that in a second), they are delightfully incompetent at it, and have been for a while. I’ll note that this is a result specific to me; other people with other haters may have other, different and more serious problems with theirs.

Third, my time is limited these days — I have books to write, tours and other professional travel to undertake, other projects to develop, and (somewhere in there) friends and family and pets to cherish and spend time with. How much time should I devote to haters? Site motto notwithstanding, these days, the return on investment for me for engaging with haters in more than cursory, snarky fashion is pretty low. It doesn’t especially benefit my career, and while it used to be kind of diverting to poke at haters, these days it’s a low quality experience overall; it’s not as much fun anymore. Maybe I’ve grown up a bit — not a bad thing for someone who is 47 — or maybe the haters have just gotten more stupidly programmatic. Or both! Either way, meh.

Fourth, I’ve come to realize that some people are using hating me primarily as a transactional enterprise; they see some personal business advantage to holding me up as someone to be hated, and doing so allows them to, say, peddle to the gullible and strident wares that they might not otherwise be able to profitably market. To this respect the hating isn’t actually about me — if I didn’t exist, they’d just pick someone else who suited their needs. That being the case, why get worked up about it? Especially if it’s not having any noticeable effect on my own personal or professional fortunes.

Fifth, I look at who it is that is hating on me in a public fashion. In general they tend to be awful people, or people aspiring to be awful people, or (unfortunately) people who aren’t themselves awful but have managed to get themselves used by awful people and would rather double down on I meant to do that than extricate themselves. I’m okay being hated by them.

Sixth, look: Some people are just fucking unhappy. For all sorts of reasons. And that’s on them, but it’s easier to put it on someone else, and hey, why not me? I’m a pretty convenient target.

(There’s a seventh thing here, too: the possibility that somewhere along the way I’ve done something that genuinely merits someone hating me. Honesty compels me to admit this is a possibility. And to those people: I’m sorry I fucked up somewhere along the way, and that in fucking up, I hurt you. If you ever want to talk to me about it, I’ll listen. With that said, I don’t think most people who are getting off on hating at me publicly are in this category. Most of them, I don’t know or have even met.)

So, what to do with the three general categories of haters? In reverse order:

Alt-right cranks on Twitter: Generally employ the Scamperbeasts rule, and otherwise mostly ignore and mute. Life’s too short. Occasionally I’ll condescend to them before I mute them. The good news is that Twitter’s muting functions have improved recently so muting their nonsense is even easier than it was before.

Right-wing SF/F writers and fans: I mean, at this point I think this has generally fizzled out, no? I was a useful synecdoche for everything they thought was wrong in science fiction and fantasy for a couple of years, but the end result of that was… the world of science fiction and fantasy continuing to go on anyway, because at the end of the day publishing, even in science fiction and fantasy, is about what sells, and what sells is me (and a whole bunch of other people, including some of the right-wing writers who were griping about me). I didn’t go anywhere, they didn’t go anywhere, and ultimately I suspect most of the smarter writers and fans who were amped up about me just let it go. Which is fine with me! I wish the writers all the success they can have, and their fans happiness in reading. I’m perfectly happy to let all that go and move on. With that said I’ll still occasionally see someone in this grouping snarking on me. You do you, dudes.

Specific, embarrassingly devoted hater and his pals: I don’t have much time for this dude anymore, and I suspect it really bothers him. Cultivating the idea of a feud between us is a cornerstone of his publishing strategy, and asserting equivalency in our careers is how he tries to convince others he’s important. And while it’s nice every now and again to raise lots of money for charitable causes off his obsession with me, in a general sense I’ve been kind of busy. I pretty much don’t think of him unless he’s jumping up and down to get my attention, or trying to make a buck off my name. It’s a lopsided deal — he needs me, but I don’t need him for anything. My real annoyance at this point is that other folks are unintentionally doing this jerk’s desperately attention-seeking work for him, sending me updates on the latest nonsense he’s saying or doing, involving the version of me he peddles to his pals. If all y’all could resist the temptation, I’d be obliged. I don’t actually care about this dude.

“Don’t actually care” is where I mostly am with my haters these days, in fact, and I acknowledge it’s a nice place to be in. I’m blessed with work I like and people in my life I love, and the time I have now is all the time I’ll ever have. I plan to spend as much of it focusing on the things I like and people I love as I can, and rather little of it on the people who get off on hating me. Go on and hate me, dudes. It’s your karma. I have better things to do with my time.

(There is still time to ask a question for Reader Request Week. Go here for all the details, and to ask your question.)

Odyssey Con, Frenkel, and Harassment

Apr. 11th, 2017 07:04 pm
[syndicated profile] jim_hines_feed

Posted by Jim C. Hines

Odyssey Con is a Madison, Wisconsin convention scheduled to take place later this month. I want to share two tidbits from their website.

From their harassment policy:

“It is the intention of Odyssey Con to create a safe, friendly, welcoming environment…”

From their Who is Odyssey Con? page:

James Frenkel, Guest Liaison


I’ve talked about Frenkel on the blog before.

As have others.

As is the nature of these things, there’s a lot more that isn’t written about publicly. I’ve spoken with other people harassed by Frenkel who chose not to post about it online, or to file complaints. Given the way we tend to treat victims of harassment and assault — demanding details and proof, blaming them, excusing the harassment, telling them why they’re wrong or overreacting, and so on — I can’t and won’t blame anyone for making that choice.

Even so, knowledge of Frenkel’s history is widespread in the SF/F field. He lost his job with Tor Books shortly after the 2013 incident. He was banned for life from Wiscon. Hell, some of this stuff is on his freaking Wikipedia page.

In other words, there’s no way Odyssey Con was unaware of this history. But they still chose to allow Frenkel to serve as their Guest Liaison.

That’s their right. It’s their convention, and if they want to put a known repeat harasser on staff, they can do so. But that choice has consequences. Consequences like their Guest of Honor withdrawing from the convention. Or having other guests and companies withdraw because the con prioritized a harasser over the safety of their guests.

ETA: Or then having another guest of honor withdraw…


I haven’t seen a public response from the convention yet, but I’m bracing myself for the typical refrain:

“But he’s such a nice guy. I never saw him harass anyone!”

He was a nice guy to me, too. He was genuinely kind and supportive when I was a nobody starting out in this business, and I hated learning about this other side of him. But the fact that he was nice to me doesn’t mean he’s nice to everyone. Harassers can be quite charming, and they learn to isolate their victims.

It would be like saying, “But Hannibal Lecter never tried to eat me, so how can you say he’s a cannibal?”

“He has a long history with the convention.”

Yes…he also has a long history of harassing women. What’s your point?

ETA: Called it! From the Odyssey Con program chair:

I have been personally acquainted with both Richard and Jim for many years, and, as program chair, I am 100% certain that they will both conduct themselves in responsible and appropriate fashions. Both Jim and Richard have made valuable contributions to Odyssey Con for years and I expect that they will, given the opportunity, continue to do so for years to come.

“He hasn’t done anything wrong since Wiscon 2013. Doesn’t he deserve another chance?”

Some things aren’t mine to share, but I question the assumption behind that statement. As for deserving another chance…personally, I think it depends. What work has he done to try to earn another chance? I do believe that everyone deserves the chance to learn and grow…but not at the expense of their victims. In other words, why is giving Frenkel yet another chance more important than giving your convention attendees a safe, welcoming event?

“It’s a witch hunt!”

Oh yes, of course. I’m sure it’s a big old conspiracy between Matthesen, Kowal, Priest, Kendall, Wiscon, Tor Books, and everyone else who’s spoken out about their experiences with Frenkel…


You can try to create a convention that’s safe and welcoming and friendly. Or you can put a man with a long, public history of harassment in a position of authority, with access to your guests.

You can’t do both.


ETA: Odyssey Con has posted a statement on Facebook (now removed, but screencapped by Natalie Luhrs), which includes this gem: “Odyssey Con is now, always has been, and always will be, open and welcoming to all. We do not allow anyone, not even a guest of honor, to dictate that someone else must be excluded from it.” (Read the full statement for context.)

ETA2: As of 4/12, Odyssey Con has posted a new statement on Facebook. This one notes, “Frenkel is no longer a member of our ConCom in any capacity, he has no position of authority in the convention proper, and he is not a panelist or lecturer. He has the right to purchase a badge and attend the convention, but as of this writing, I do not know if he is planning to do that.”

Reader Request Week 2017 #3: Utopias

Apr. 11th, 2017 03:47 pm
[syndicated profile] scalziwhatever_feed

Posted by John Scalzi

Ken Baker asks:

If you don’t mind a question about another writer’s work: The Culture in Iain M. Banks’ series of novels is depicted as a Utopia. There is no need for money or laws, virtually any material thing anyone wants is available for the asking, everyone is beautiful and lives a long, happy life (except sometimes for people who are actively involved in other cultures and civilizations).

That all sounds nice. But, assuming the necessary technology eventually exists, human nature being what it is, is this a realistic future? And would a life free from all challenge be a satisfying life?

I’ll answer with specific regard to Banks, and then assay the general concept of utopias and humans.

First, with regard to The Culture, I don’t think it’s a universe free from all challenges; there are plenty of challenges and adventures that people in The Culture may choose to take. Indeed, in The Hydrogen Sonata, our main character has spent her life — and modified her body — to attempt the performance of the musical piece that gives the book its title, and is notoriously difficult for anyone with fewer than four arms to attempt. Now, maybe you might argue that this isn’t a true challenge, but I don’t know; most people don’t specifically radically change their physiognomy to do a specific thing if they don’t consider it a central challenge to their life.

The difference between the challenges of The Culture and the challenges of, say, current life on this planet is that the ground level of the challenges of The Culture are elevated from basic needs. Here in the US, the ground level challenge is to achieve the economic means to stay alive and comfortable — get a job that gets you money so you can pay for food, shelter, education, medical needs, and so on. Failing this ground level challenge means going hungry and/or lacking a home and/or dying early from otherwise avoidable heath issues and/or being trapped in a cycle of poverty, along with your children, who inherit your ground level challenges.

The Culture gets rid of those particular ground level challenges, so the question now becomes: What are your challenges when you don’t worry about, say, starving or dying early? It’s not that there are no challenges. It’s just that the challenges don’t end with you dead in an alleyway because you can’t afford to eat.

Indeed (and to now generalize) this is what utopias for humans essentially are: The removal of physical want and need to allow the multiplicity of operative choice. Choices can be challenges and many humans desire challenges — things which offer (or at the very least, appear to offer) meaning and achievement to one’s life. So even in a utopia there should be challenges galore. Otherwise one may meaningfully argue that the society isn’t a utopia at all. Utopias, in my opinion, minimize want, not choice and opportunity for achievement.

One may even argue that utopias should offer more opportunities for personally meaningful challenges because baseline needs are sorted, and that these additional challenges might seem frivolous to someone who is just surviving, but for the citizens of the utopia might have actual meaning. If you don’t think that’s possible, ask yourself why the Super Bowl and the Oscars draw in millions of viewers every single year, when the “achievement” those participating in it gain is based fundamentally on entertaining others. They both have meaning because of their context in a society that allows for enough wealth and leisure time to allow exceptional entertainment skills to become an achievement. Your ancestors on the savanna would would look at on Oscar as a useless shiny thing, and in their context, they’d be entirely correct. In our context, it’s still shiny, but not useless. And in a utopia, maybe an award for, say, origami is one of the highest achievements one could aspire to, because why not? In a utopia, that sort of cleverness and dexterity could be (literally) prized.

(Before anyone notes it: There are already awards for origami. They just aren’t widely known outside their specific community, he said, looking at his own shelf of community-specific awards.)

Here’s an important thing to note about utopias, which I think is often overlooked (although not by Banks, as he wrote up The Culture): Utopias still have humans in them, which means that not everyone in them is going to be happy all the time. If you eliminate certain needs and wants, the part of the brain that focuses on achieving those needs and wants (or alternately desiring them) will focus on some other subject, and will be happy or unhappy about that. People will still have doubts and longing and desire and unhappiness to the same extent they do now. They just won’t worry they’ll, you know, starve.

How am I confident about this? Because some people already live in a utopia: In our world, they’re called “rich people.” Rich people (usually) have their baselines sorted don’t have to worry about food and shelter and health care and such things; they lead enviable lives with lots of opportunity for leisure. But in my experience they’re not always happy, and their lives are not always problem-free. They have exchanged one set of problems for another, and while their problems are ones many people wish they had, they still weigh on the mind. In a utopia, where the baseline standard of living is the same as that of, say, a tech firm VP living in Irvine, California, people will still have problems. Maybe better problems. But still problems.

And I suspect that’s why, when people actually live in a culture that seems utopian to us, here in the early 21st Century, they won’t recognize or appreciate it as utopian, any more than we recognize that the average life of a 21st century American citizen is utopian to, as an example, a European serf in the 11th century (“You can leave the estate? What? There are no estates? And you have all your teeth and don’t have tumors on your face? And everyone can read? And what is this ‘cell phone’ thing you have? MY GOD MUSIC AND PICTURES ARE COMING FROM IT IS IT POSSESSED”). For the people of a utopia, it will just be… life. And they will wonder what it will be like for the people who finally get to live in a utopia, centuries away from their own experience.

(There is still time to ask a question for Reader Request Week. Go here for all the details, and to ask your question.)

Aaronovitch novella

Apr. 10th, 2017 02:47 pm
[syndicated profile] lois_mcmaster_bujold_feed
Aha, I see Subterranean Press and Ben Aaronovitch have found each other...


Such interesting things one can do with novellas these days. Back in the era of print-only, novellas, particularly fantasy novellas, used to be nearly unmarketable, too long for the magazines and too short for the book publishers.

As usual for SubPress, this is a collector's edition. I trust that a more affordable e-edition will be along someday.

Ta, L.

posted by Lois McMaster Bujold on April, 18
[syndicated profile] scalziwhatever_feed

Posted by John Scalzi

Srs asks:

Many people over a certain age have the opinion that Millennials think they know it all/have overly inflated self-esteem/etc because they were given participation trophies when they were young. Do you think this opinion has any basis in fact?


One, of course, an older generation being angry at the Millennials for the participation trophies they handed out to them is both ironic and stupid. Two, I’m of the opinion that participation trophies and ribbons are generally more important to parents than to kids, because everyone wants to believe their child is special (i.e., that they’re not fucking up as parents), and they want some concrete manifestation of this.

Three, participation trophies and ribbons are neither new — I got a few when I was a kid, and I’ll note that no one really gave a crap about them then — nor are they given solely to Those Damn Kids™: Go to any running event you care to attend and you’ll see that everyone who runs gets a medal, pretty much for registering for the event. Congratulations! You can fill out a form! And why not? Everyone likes swag, and that’s basically all these things are. It could have been a t-shirt, but I guess runners like medals more. Or maybe they get both! Honestly, I don’t run unless I have to. I don’t know.

Four, it’s just the Millennials’ time in the tube, which is to say that every generation of younger people gets shit on by the olds, and right now it’s the Millennials. I remember being in my early 20s and watching everyone throw up their hands at Gen-X; they called us “slackers” and wondered if we were ever going to get real jobs or just sit around in flannel listening to those damn grungy bands or whatever. Prior to that, of course, the Baby Boomers were all hippies, with their damn free love and marijuana, and before them were those beatniks, blah blah blah yadda yadda yadda Jesus Christ it’s all so predictable you could set a clock, or at least a few Time magazine covers, by it.

I think it’s pretty stupid, and in the particular case of the Millennials, I have a fair amount of sympathy for them as a generational cohort. For the last few decades we’ve been making it more difficult for people to get ahead economically — the choices are to go to college, and get saddled with tens of thousands of dollars of non-dischargable debt right out of the gate, or not go to college, and then mostly never have a job that makes more than $30k a year. When you pull shit like that, of course Millennials are generally going to be broke and not, say, buying houses or squirting out kids at the same point in life as earlier generations.

Add on to that the general New Gilded Age we live in, in which the vast majority of income growth in the last couple of decades has gone to the top few percent while at the same time life costs have spiraled up (tried to rent in NYC or SF or LA or other places where jobs that pay well actually are these days), and yeah. Stop shitting on the Millennials for the awful hand they’ve been dealt, which they (largely) had no part in dealing. If I were in the business of assigning blame to generational cohorts, I’d be pointing fingers at the Boomers rather more than the Millennials; they’ve been the ones with the cards for a while now.

Beyond this, I know my fair share of Millennials, and utterly unsurprisingly, as individuals they are all over the board. Some are slackers. Some are hugely industrious. Some are fuck-ups and some are not. Some are people who I care for and love, and others are people I would be happy never to see again. In my experience they have roughly the same proportions of varieties of the human experience as any other generational cohort, because people are people, and the Millennials are people.

So, basically, all this backhanding the Millennials is bullshit. They’re generally doing the best they can with what they’ve got, and participation trophies don’t have much to do with it one way or the other. Or if they do, it’s because of this: Because an earlier generation decided to give them participation trophies, but keep all the other prizes for themselves.

But thanks for playing, Millennials! And don’t worry: society will be dumping on the kids who come after you soon enough.

(There is still time to ask a question for Reader Request Week. Go here for all the details, and to ask your question.)

Borderline, by Mishell Baker

Apr. 10th, 2017 06:53 pm
[syndicated profile] jim_hines_feed

Posted by Jim C. Hines

Borderline: Cover ArtJust finished reading Borderline [Amazon | B&N | IndieBound], by Mishell Baker. This is a Nebula award finalist, and having raced through the book, can see why. Here’s the official description:

A year ago, Millie lost her legs and her filmmaking career in a failed suicide attempt. Just when she’s sure the credits have rolled on her life story, she gets a second chance with the Arcadia Project: a secret organization that polices the traffic to and from a parallel reality filled with creatures straight out of myth and fairy tales.

For her first assignment, Millie is tasked with tracking down a missing movie star who also happens to be a nobleman of the Seelie Court. To find him, she’ll have to smooth-talk Hollywood power players and uncover the surreal and sometimes terrifying truth behind the glamour of Tinseltown. But stronger forces than just her inner demons are sabotaging her progress, and if she fails to unravel the conspiracy behind the noble’s disappearance, not only will she be out on the streets, but the shattering of a centuries-old peace could spark an all-out war between worlds.

That description sells the book short, in that it ignores a huge part of the book. Those “inner demons” are a reference to the fact that Millie has borderline personality disorder. In fact, everyone who works for the Arcadia Project has some form of mental illness, for reasons that are gradually explained and explored throughout the book.

I don’t know enough about BPD to judge how true Baker’s portrayal is, but it’s clear she’s done her research. Some of Millie’s comments about therapy and the techniques she’s learned to manage it ring very true to techniques my wife (a mental health therapist) has talked about. It feels respectfully written, which shouldn’t come as a surprise if you’ve read some of Baker’s posts and essays about mental health.

The central idea of fey serving as muses for big Hollywood names, and the effects and consequences of that magic, sets up a good story. But it’s the characters that really elevate the story. (I think Caryl was my favorite by the end.) They’re all portrayed with a sense of honesty and respect. BPD affects a lot of how Millie processes and reacts to things, for example, and sometimes that goes pretty badly. The story doesn’t try to justify or excuse Millie’s actions in those cases, nor does it condemn her as a horrible person. It’s presented as part of who she is, and we see her awareness and her struggles to manage being borderline.

The same holds true with Millie’s physical disability. Baker clearly did a lot of research about Millie’s prosthetics and the other effects of her disastrous attempted suicide. The metal in Millie’s body disrupts fey magic, but it isn’t played as just a clever way of giving her an advantage over the fey. I don’t have first-hand experience here, but it’s handled and written in a way that feels true to me.

The ending felt a little bit rushed, and got a little darker than I’d expected, but it worked well both to wrap up the story and lay some groundwork for the sequel, Phantom Pains, which just came out a few weeks ago. I’ve already added it to my reading list.

You can read an excerpt on Baker’s website.

For those of you who’ve read it, what did you think?

[syndicated profile] scalziwhatever_feed

Posted by John Scalzi

It’s time to begin this year’s Reader Request Week, and let’s start with something punchy, shall we? Janne Peltonen asks:

What do you think of the whole ‘punching Nazis in the face’ phenomenon? I found it very confusing. It seemed to me to be mostly about performance (‘let’s show the power-hungry extremists that we resist’) but is that reason enough to cross the line to actual physical political violence?

Well, I have two answers for that.

One: the starchy old Believer in the Actual First Amendment me believes that even Nazis have the right to peaceful assembly, physically unmolested, and that indeed this is the very essence of the First Amendment: that even the morally repulsive have a right to trot out their fetid wares in the public marketplace and see who wants to buy them, and that everyone else’s job is to make sure other people see those shitty ideas they’re peddling for what they are. Constitutionally speaking, provided the Nazis are peacefully assembling, people should not be punching Nazis just for being Nazis, and having Nazi views.

Two: I find it positively delightful people out there are punching Nazis, and could watch (for example) pathetic wannaNazi shitball Richard Spencer get punched for hours. And have! My understanding is this weekend Spencer got himself punched up again, and once more I find this utterly delightful. Nazis being punched will never not bring a smile to my face. Go get punched some more, Spencer! You certainly deserve it, you mountainous pile of crap.

“But Scalzi,” I hear you say, “how can you think both that Nazis should have the right to peaceably assemble, and that it’s delightful when Nazis get punched? Isn’t that a contradiction? Doesn’t that make you a complete hypocrite?”

Short answer: Yes!

Longer answer: I recognize that there’s a difference between what I believe is correct intellectually and philosophically, and what makes me feel good emotionally. Intellectually and philosophically, I stand foursquare with the First Amendment, and the right of even Nazis to have their spot in the political conversation of the nation. Emotionally, I find Nazis, whatever you want to call them — today we’re calling them “alt-right,” although that appellation is already past its “sell-by” date and no doubt some of the more marketing-savvy in that crowd are already casting about for a new label to brand their strain of racist fascism — repulsive, and the whiny, privileged, smugly awful, college dorm devil’s advocate alt-right variation of it particularly annoying. They’re assholes. So when one of their number gets punched, I feel pretty good about it, like I would when any asshole who deserves a punching gets what they deserve.

Are these two positions reconcilable? Well, I don’t know that they have to be reconcilable. There are lots of gaps between that things I believe intellectually and the things I feel emotionally. I know intellectually speaking that broccoli is nutritionally better for me than gummi worms, but emotionally gummi worms make me happier. I know intellectually speaking my preference for Levis over Lee jeans is pointless as they are essentially the same product with the same intent, but emotionally I don’t want to be seen in Lee jeans because they’re not me. Intellectually there is no superiority of the music of Journey over, say, that of Big and Rich, but I know which band’s greatest hits album emotionally affects me more.

Do these positions need to be reconciled? I don’t necessarily think so. I acknowledge them and accept the dichotomy. Now, there is an argument here is that there’s a difference between preferring gummy bears to broccoli, and believing Nazis have a First Amendment right to assembly and yet still being happy with them being punched. I wouldn’t disagree, although I note in this formulation, it’s a difference in degree, not kind. Fundamentally, I think we all have various places where we recognize and should acknowledge we have a gap between what we believe is correct intellectually (or philosophically, or morally), and what feels good to us emotionally.

This is one of mine. Nazis’ right to peaceable assembly is guaranteed under the First Amendment and they should not be punched merely for existing and being Nazis, and when they do get punched in public for being fucking Nazis, I feel just fine about it.

Now: Should there be consequences for the person who is battering the Nazi? Sure; they should be prosecuted for battery, assuming they are caught, and if convicted, they should do their time. On the flip side: Is it possible my intellectual and philosophical position re: the First Amendment right of Nazis to be in the public discourse is grounded in the fact that as a well-off straight white dude, I’m near last on the list of people that (specific obsessed and envious loser stalkers aside) the Nazis or other bigots are likely going to have a problem with? Again, sure. It’s easy for me to be sanguine about bigots and racists when I’m not directly in their line of fire. I don’t feel the same level of threat — and I don’t factually have the same level of threat — from them that other people do. It’s easy to say “even the hateful have a place in the discourse” when the hate isn’t focused on you, or is likely ever to be in a very serious way, and that is a thing I don’t think people like me appreciate on a gut level. We are free riders, in a very real sense, regarding the intellectual question of how the principle of free speech interacts with a philosophy founded on the idea that you are less than human, and deserve less than full human rights.

And yes, we here in the US are in a moment right now, thank you Trump voters, where everyone who isn’t a well-off straight white male can be seriously asking themselves whether this administration and its enablers actually believe they should get all the rights someone like I have as a matter of course. I’m not the one who is going to be asked to give over his phone and passwords coming back into the US. I’m not the one whose ability to control what happens to his body is being questioned, again. I’m not the one whose ability to pee in safety is being hauled up for discussion. I’m not the one who will have any difficulty being able to jump through state-erected hoops in order to vote. And so on. The Trump administration has racists, sexists and bigots whispering into the president’s ear (and the president himself is a real piece of work on these scores as well). So many people who kept their active racism, sexism and bigotry under a rock are now gleefully exulting in it. Is it a threat? Is it a threat that needs to be met with a punch or two? Not for me. I think other people might have a different thought on it, and an argument that the threat to them isn’t just one that exists in their feelings.

I think the next obvious question here is (and one I think that’s implied): Would I punch a Nazi? Unprompted, probably not. If one was coming at me or people with the intent to start a fight, I would feel fine defending myself or those near me. But again, that’s not peaceable assembly, now, is it? We move off the First Amendment square there, into another area entirely. Short of that, I’m not likely to be the one to throw the first punch. I might think about it, and how fun it would be. But I’ll stick to enjoying the YouTube videos. They are indeed lovely.

(There is still time to ask a question for Reader Request Week. Go here for all the details, and to ask your question.)

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