John Scalzi is the New York Times bestselling author of the Old Man’s War series, which consists of Old Man’s War, The Ghost Brigades, The Last Colony, Zoe’s Tale, and the recently announced The Human Division (forthcoming). Other novels include Agent to the Stars, The Android’s Dream, Fuzzy Nation, and, his latest, Redshirts: A Novel With Three Codas. Scalzi has also written a number of nonfiction books, such as Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded and 24 Frames into the Future, and he posts essays regularly on his popular blog, Whatever.
This interview first appeared on Wired.com’s The Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast, which is hosted by John Joseph Adams and David Barr Kirtley. Visit geeksguideshow.com to listen to the entire interview and the rest of the show, in which the hosts discuss various geeky topics.
Your new novel is called Redshirts. What’s it about?
“Redshirts” is a concept that goes back to the original Star Trek series. The idea is that Kirk and Spock and Chekov go down to a planet on an away team, and they take Ensign Jones, the security ensign, with them. And somebody’s got to be killed, and who’s it going to be? Is it going to be Kirk? No. Is it going to be Spock? No. Is it Chekov? He’s going to get hurt, but they’re not going to kill him. So it falls to Ensign Jones to die horribly for dramatic effect.
When the original series first came out, people started knowing statistically it was a really bad idea to be going on these away teams with the captain, and they started calling these people redshirts, and it’s become a common enough phrase in science fiction culture and in geek culture that when I did a story about these sorts of characters on a spaceship, it was just a natural title choice.
The whole idea behind the book is that these undercard ensigns and crew members start trying to avoid going on these away teams, and trying to figure out how they can stop this thing from happening in a larger sense. And then the story goes from basically what I think people are expecting to a kind of weirder territory. Which it would have to, if you want this to be more than a single-joke novel.
Since the book is sort of a parody of Star Trek, we’re just wondering how big of a Star Trek fan are you, and what do you think are some of the strengths and weaknesses of the franchise?
I would say I’m a medium-sized Star Trek fan. I love the universe that it’s created. I’ve seen the original series, obviously. Next Generation is probably my home Star Trek fandom, if you want to call it that. And then I really actually like the brand new movie, except for five minutes where Spock—who is supposed to be a science officer—just unleashes a whole spiel of completely non-scientific stuff.
It’s a pretty good universe. There’s lots going on, people care about the characters. The science in it is frequently horrible, and that’s one of the things that I pick up on in Redshirts. But if you can live with the horrible, horrible, bad, awful science that doesn’t make sense, then it’s not a bad place to live.
Redshirts is dedicated in part to Wil Wheaton, who of course starred on Star Trek: The Next Generation, and whom you’re friends with. How did you two get to know each other, and do you know what Wil thought of the book?
Wil and I have a mutual friend in common named Mykal Burns. I’ve known Mykal since he was in junior high, and Wil knew him originally through his wife Anne.
Wil had started reading my books for Audible. He’d done Fuzzy Nation, The Android’s Dream, and Agent to the Stars. So I wrote Redshirts, and clearly it seemed like this would be a book that would be up his alley, so I sent it to him, just going, “Hey, would you like to read this?” and he comes back going, “Oh my god, I love this so much!” So that made it easier to sort of co-dedicate it to him. It’s co-dedicated to him, to our mutual friend Myke Burns, and then to the two producers of Stargate Universe who I worked with primarily while I was that show’s creative consultant.
Speaking of celebrities, Redshirts also has a theme song written by Jonathan Coulton. How’d that come about?
Back in 2005, while I was writing The Android’s Dream, it was right around the time that Jonathan Coulton was just getting started, so I thought, “Hey, this might be a thing where I can get him to write songs for this. That would be amusing.” And so out of the blue—and he had no idea who I was; I think Old Man’s War had just come out or something like that—I said, “Hey, you should do this. Write three or four songs about this science fiction book that I’m doing, and here’s the book,” and I sent it as an attached file.
So basically I was the creepy dude who said, “Hey, you should work with me, and here’s my book, so why don’t you read it? And I love your stuff.” I think his entirely rational response at that time was just, “Oh, attached file, crazy dude, hit delete,” and that was the last that you ever heard of that. Years later we met, and got along very well, and I mentioned that to him, and he was like, “Oh, I didn’t know. If I had known, maybe things would have been different.” And I was like, “There’s no possible way you could have known. I did everything wrong in approaching you with that.”
Last year, when Fuzzy Nation came out, I had Paul and Storm do a song for it, and that actually worked out very well, which convinced me that this was sort of a fun thing to do with each of the books. So this time around I sent him an email and said, “Hey, remember when I was that creepy stalker dude? Now I’m going to do it again, but this time you know who I am.”
Years ago I heard you joke that you were part of a movement in science fiction called the “New Comprehensible.” Do you think that overall science fiction is too inaccessible to new readers?
We have some of the best writers in science fiction and fantasy today that we’ve ever had in the genre. That said, one of the things is that when you have people who are really engaged on the literary side of writing, as many of our current really excellent writers are, there is a question of how approachable it is to someone who is just coming fresh into the field.
I think that what I do, in terms of how I craft my words rhetorically, is fairly simple stuff. I don’t mean that to denigrate myself. I mean that in the sense of, when I write, the person that I keep in mind is my mother-in-law. And my mother-in-law reads Nora Roberts and she reads Julie Garwood, and she’s going to read my stuff because I’m her son-in-law and she loves me, and I don’t want her to get lost. So what I do when I’m writing this stuff is I think, “How am I going to communicate all the ideas that I want to communicate, and at the same time make it something that Dora—my mother-in-law—will be able to follow?” If I can make something that she’s going to be able to follow and be interested in, and have a good time reading, it seems likely to me that I should be able to get just about anybody to follow it.
For me at least that’s the way it’s worked. There’s not a week that goes by that I don’t get an email from someone who says, “I don’t read science fiction, but I read yours and it was amazing, and I was totally able to follow it. This is great.” And my response to that is always, “That’s wonderful. Here are some more writers that you should look at.”
Are there any other specific books that you tend to recommend to people who are new to the genre?
A lot of the intake for science fiction used to be younger readers, so the classic example would be the Heinlein juveniles. Right now we have an entire segment called YA, which is basically doing the job that science fiction or fantasy used to do. There’s a lot of uptake in science fiction that way. Scott Westerfeld and Suzanne Collins are both very good examples of science fiction books that have been written recently that have become—obviously—extraordinarily popular. For older readers, it’s easy to send them to Pat Rothfuss, as an example. I actually like Steven Brust’s work quite a lot. I think it’s very easy to get into if you’ve never read any fantasy before, especially because it almost has a noir-ish quality to it, so any of the books that he has in the Jhereg series, I think, are a great way to get involved with that.
Richard K. Morgan is a great way to start, because his work is filled with action and cool ideas. There’s the new book series that is coming out by Ty Franck and Daniel Abraham under the James S. A. Corey name. Leviathan Wakes is the first title in that.
I recently heard you describe Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy as an “extinction-level event for humor in science fiction.” What do you mean by that?
Star Wars was an extinction-level event for a certain kind of science fiction movie that just preceded Star Wars. Just before Star Wars, between 1968 and about 1976, most of the big science fiction films were dystopic in one way or another. You started with Planet of the Apes, you went through Omega Man, Silent Running, and Logan’s Run. And they were socially conscious, and they were sort of going, “Look, we’ll do terrible things if we don’t change our ways,” and so on and so forth. Then Star Wars came in and was like, “I don’t care about any of that. Look, I got lasers! I got guys with lighty swords and they’re swinging them at each other! I got this mystical force, and all this stuff that’s cool, and there’s explosions!” And it really just wiped off the map all that dystopic fiction.
That wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. I think that from the point of view of a viewer, eight years of dystopic science fiction is about as far as you want to go. But immediately afterwards, everything else in science fiction was, “Let’s do that thing that Star Wars did so well.” Which made perfect sense, because adjusted for inflation it made like a billion dollars at the box office. In the same way, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy was tremendously successful. It was tremendously funny. I remember reading it when I was 12 and just being certain I was going to pee myself. But at the same time, it was so successful that it basically defined what humor in science fiction was going to be for the next couple of decades. And the problem with that, in this particular case—and this was a problem that they ran into with the movies that were trying to capitalize on Star Wars as well—is that you can put all the elements there, but unless you’ve got a spark that really makes it fly, it’s just not going to work.
In this particular case, Douglas Adams had something that most of the folks who were trying to replicate his humor didn’t. He was British, he was a farcisist, and he knew what he was doing in terms of having that particular type of humor. Other people can ape that sort of humor, but if it doesn’t work then it just fails miserably. And I certainly know that with, for example, Agent to the Stars or The Android’s Dream, those are pretty funny books, and I consider them basically comedies, but we didn’t market them like that, and part of the reason that we didn’t market them like that is because there was the concern that if they were marketed as humor, that they just wouldn’t sell. I mean, my publisher in the UK at the time, Tor UK, passed on Fuzzy Nation because they’re like, “Oh, it’s a humor book, and humor doesn’t sell.” One of the things I say about Redshirts is that it took me eight books to finally be at a point in my career where I could come out with a book and say, “This is meant to be a funny book,” and we didn’t have to make any bones about it.
Given that, do you have any advice that you would give to new writers who want to write funny science fiction?
Well, one, I would encourage people to attempt to write amusing science fiction. I think it’s much easier to sell amusing science fiction in a short story market than it would be for the novel market. The dynamics of those markets are separate things. I think that the way that it worked for me was that I spent, like I said, eight novels—not just getting to a point where I could write a humorous novel, but each of the novels that I write have moments of humor and levity and sarcasm and everything else, and that people got used to the idea that this was something that I did.
I think things are changing. I mean, I do think that we are in flux. And this is going to sound obnoxious, but I think that one of the nice things about Redshirts getting onto the actual best-seller list and doing as well as it has been doing, is that it is kind of a wake-up call that the science fiction audience—regardless of the long-held superstitions or beliefs of those who publish the stuff—is more than happy to entertain the idea of humorous science fiction.
You described Douglas Adams as a “British farcisist.” Do you see Redshirts or any of your other books as falling into a particular style or tradition of humor?
I’m an American sarcasticist. [laughs] No, I think my sense of humor comes from a long trail of American humorists that stretches all the way back into the ’20s. I mean, some of my touchstones for humor are James Thurber, Robert Benchley, and Dorothy Parker, and a lot of the humor that I have comes through dialog that comes through screenwriters like Ben Hecht or William Goldman or Elaine May or Larry Gelbart, who wrote Tootsie and MASH. A lot of my humor comes from newspaper columnists like P.J. O’Rourke, or Molly Ivins, or Mike Royko. To a lesser extent, Dave Barry. Also outside the science fiction genre. For example, Carl Hiaasen, or Gregory McDonald, who wrote the Fletch books, and Elmore Leonard.
Your blog, Whatever, has been described as having one of the few readable comment sections online. Why do you think that is?
It’s because I will mallet into oblivion anybody who gets out of line and is too obnoxious. I have a long-standing comment policy where I say, “Here are the rules, stick to them, and you won’t have any problem.” So that’s part of it, too: If you have rules, and everybody knows them and everybody can see them, and they’re easily referable to, then most people are going to follow them.
The second thing is that I do actively moderate. If people don’t follow the rules, then I will either tell them to straighten up, or if they don’t straighten up I will remove their posts. And if they become too much of a problem, I will moderate them, or eventually ban them. And because I don’t tolerate people trolling or being horrible to each other, or making just absolutely cookie-cutter arguments that they got off of talk radio, or wherever else they got them from, it means that the people who do that sort of crap don’t stick around on my site too long.
I mean, when I write something that is controversial, and goes outside my usual sphere of people who read and comment and link in—for example, the thing about the lowest difficulty setting, which happened very recently—occasionally, we will get people in who are not the usual gang, in terms of commenters, and when that happens a lot of them don’t pay attention to the comment rules, and the comment threads can get kind of funky. And like I said, that’s when I have to go in swinging the Mallet of Loving Correction, as I call it, and clearing it out.
Your career as a novelist seems to have benefited enormously from your online presence. How important do you think it is for writers these days to post photos of bacon taped to their cats?
The bacon on the cat thing has been done. [laughs] I would suggest that they try something else instead. If you are someone like me, who really enjoys writing in an extracurricular sort of way about a whole bunch of other stuff, and having your own website makes it easy to do it, and you have time and the interest to build the site over many, many years, and maintain it so it doesn’t just become an outlet for marketing, marketing, marketing, then it’s great. If you are doing it because a publicist or marketing person said to you, “Oh, you should have a blog,” and you go, “OK, well, I guess I should do that,” and sort of dutifully put things on your blog, or dutifully put things on Twitter or Facebook or whatever, then it’s not going to work for you at all.
The simple fact of the matter is that there’s no right way to market yourself—or no one right way. There’s not something that’s just going to work for everybody. There are very successful writers who have almost absolutely no web presence at all. Neal Stephenson is a perfect example of that. His website, as far as I recall the last time I was there, was basically, “This is why I’m not on the web, this is why I don’t answer mail, this is why I don’t do any of this crap.” And it doesn’t seem to have had a negative impact on his career at all, because ultimately his books are fantastic and people are interested in the books. On the other hand, you have people like me and Cory Doctorow, who are these sort of public internet individuals, and there’s definitely a benefit for us to having our online presence in terms of what we do in our fiction.
But at the same time, there are also people who have huge web presences, or huge Twitter presences or whatever, who don’t particularly see the benefit of it for anything else they do, because the books are not necessarily of interest to anybody else, or just for whatever reason the fame doesn’t transfer. And the fact of the matter is that even with what I do, there’s a large circle of people who read my website, and there’s a large circle of people who read the science fiction, and there’s overlap between those two circles, but the overlap is not as big as a lot of people think. There are some people who have read my blog for 10 years or more who haven’t read any of my books, because they’re like, “Eh, I’m just not interested in that,” or “I would have to pay money for that.” And then there are other people who I know read my science fiction, and they’re like, “I know you have a blog, but I never read the blog because I don’t want to know too much about you, because inevitably you will disappoint me.”
Which is a totally valid thing. I think there are science fiction and fantasy writers out there who, you know, people have read their prose and loved their prose, and then have gone to seek them out online and discovered that their political opinions are completely anathema to what they believe, and now they can’t enjoy the prose as much. That sometimes happens to me. I mean, Old Man’s War came out and was championed by Instapundit and a bunch of other conservative folks, and it’s military science fiction, so the assumption was that I was this at least vaguely conservative writer. And then they come over to my website and—surprise!—I’m basically a generic United States screaming liberal.
I’ve literally had people leave messages—emails or posts—that go, “I’m disappointed that you feel this way. Now I can no longer read your books.” And my response to that is always, “One, kiss my ass. I’m not going to stop saying what I want to say just because you won’t read my books anymore. And second of all, what do you expect? I’m a human being. I have opinions. It doesn’t matter where you are on the political spectrum, I’m inevitably going to have an opinion or I’m going to say something or I’m going to do something that’s just going to annoy you.” If the only people that you ever read are people who completely line up with you on every single social/political/technological thing—I mean, I had somebody stop reading me because I snarked on Apple products one time. But if that’s your criteria, the number of people that you’re going to eventually allow yourself to read is very, very small.
I’ve heard that your editor, Patrick Nielsen Hayden, first got interested in your fiction after reading an essay you wrote about Robert Heinlein. Can you tell us what that essay was about?
The essay was talking about lessons from Heinlein in terms of storytelling. His dialogue was believable as things that people would say to each other, as opposed to exposition being hidden as speech, for example. He was also concerned about entertaining people and making them have a good time with the reading.
The reason that I brought that to his attention at the time was that he had mentioned something on his website prior to me writing this piece on Heinlein regarding Heinlein and his ability to write good transparent prose and characters and so on and so forth, and so I sent him the email apropos to that.
I warned him at the time, I was like, “I’m sending this to you because this is relating to this Heinlein thing that you did. It appended when I serialized Old Man’s War on my website, but don’t read that, because if I’m going to submit it to you, I’m going to do it the way that you’ve already asked me to do. But this can be read on its own.” Patrick didn’t listen to me. He read the essay, and he was like, “OK, now I have to see if this book that he’s appended this to is actually anything like that,” and then he read it, and that’s when he made me the offer.
And so in retrospect people are asking me, “Isn’t that sort of daring him not to read your book? So you were trying to do some sort of three-dimensional chess with him?” And my answer to that is, no, actually, I assumed that someone in Patrick’s position actually has no interest in randomly reading everything that gets put up on the web because, you know, who has time? I just didn’t realize that Patrick had that particular sort of curious behavior of going, “Well, now I have to see if what he’s written here matches up with what he wrote in his book. Oh my god, it does. I think I should buy this.”
You mentioned earlier that you served as a consultant for the TV show Stargate Universe. How did that come about, and what was your role in the show?
Basically, one of the producers had sent me an email going, “I read Old Man’s War and I loved it. It’s perfect. Write for us for Stargate Atlantis.” And my response to that was, “Thank you very much, you’re very cool. I can’t write for Stargate Atlantis because I don’t watch it.” And if you don’t watch something, and you come in and you write an episode for it, then it’s basically going to be terrible, and I didn’t want to be the guy who wrote a script that was terrible and just got put out anyway because the producer thought I was a cool dude.
Then he said to me, “OK, that’s fair enough. If we do another Stargate television show, would you like to be involved with that?” And I was like, “Yeah, absolutely.” Because to start on the ground floor of an established universe and build it up from that foundation? That’s totally something that I would want to be behind. And he says, “Great.” And then I didn’t hear from him for about another year, and I completely forgot about it, because really that’s one of those future things that’s along the lines of, “Hey, let’s do lunch sometime,” right?
And then a year later, he’s like, “OK, remember when I said that we were thinking about doing another Stargate TV show? Well, we’re going to do it, and it’s called Stargate Universe, and here’s the first script. Is this something you want to be involved with?” And basically what we decided that I was going to do was—for the first season, at least, and it eventually went through the couple of seasons—that I was going to act as their creative consultant. And that meant looking at all the scripts and offering them opinions about stuff relating to a) the science of what they were doing, because I have a little bit of a background in science stuff—I had written a book on astronomy and had done science-related articles for a while—and then b) give them character and script notes so that they could make sure that what they were doing dramatically was working as well. So basically what would happen is that they would send me a script, and I would go through it and go, “OK, here in this scene, this scientific thing that you’re trying to do here is wrong. Here’s what actually happens in the real world, and here’s a way that you can fudge it so that you can do what you’re trying to achieve without having to completely overhaul the script.”
In Stargate Universe, the idea is that there’s this spaceship that gets flung billions of light years away from anything, and there’s no way for them to return home. One of the things that I told them that they needed to do was actually not do the thing that everybody else does, which is kill off their crew members and just shoot things indiscriminately, or use resources indiscriminately. I was like, “Every bullet you use is a bullet you don’t have anymore, and for this ship that actually matters.”
Or as another example—and this is a great story because it relates to Redshirts—I’m reading a script from the first season, and it has a crewman walking down the hall, and it literally says in the script, “Redshirt walks down the hall.” And you’re like, “Okay, that dude’s not making it to the end of that hall.” And true enough, a couple sentences later the hall explodes and the guy dies. And I pointed out to them, “You can’t kill off all your crew members in a very casual way, because the way that this television show is designed, you can’t replace them. And so eventually, if you kill them off at the rate that you’re killing them off, by the end of the season there’s just going to be the five main stars and that’s it.” So my innovation for redshirts in Stargate Universe—and if you watch the two seasons you’ll see that this actually bears out—is that relatively few people die, but a lot of them are really horribly maimed. I don’t know if that’s necessarily a better thing for a redshirt, you know, that instead of being dead it’s like, “Oh, he merely lost all his blood,” or whatever it was that happened to them, but we didn’t kill them off indiscriminately.
You know, one of the things that I haven’t done, because I had no experience with it, is script writing. And basically I was paid for two straight years to look at scripts and see how they function, and see how they work. And as a result of that, now when I get to the point where I feel it’s time to write a script—which I hope to do in the reasonably near future—I have real world, practical experience.
Is there anything that you can say about the upcoming scripts that you might want to write?
Well, no. I mean, if I’m going to write a script, I’ll basically write a script like I wrote my very first novel, and the very first novel I wrote, which was back in the mid-’90s, I was like, “I’m going to write this novel. I’m not going to worry about whether it’s good. I’m not going to worry about whether it’s something I can sell. I’m just going to write it to see if I can write it, and when it’s done, I’m going to take a look at it and say, ‘Okay, these are the things I did well. These are the things I need to improve on,’ and then use that to write the second novel.” And in fact that’s what I did. The first novel was really a lot of fun to write because I didn’t put any pressure on it to be good. It didn’t have to be good, it just had to be novel-length. I did learn quite a lot, so that the next novel I wrote was Old Man’s War, which I was able to sell.
So in that case, the first script that I write will literally be something that will be fun, something that I’m not planning to sell, and something where I’m just going to write it to see what I do easily and what things are difficult for me, so that the second one will be easier. At this moment I sort of have it in my brain to adapt The God Engines into a script, because out of all the things I’ve written, that’s the one that’s the most appropriate length for a feature film. But as I said, if I’m going to do it, the one thing I would caution everybody would be not to expect me to then sell that. It would be more of, “I’ve written this script for The God Engines, and oh my god is it horrible, but now I’ve learned something, and I will try something else.”
Last year you published a novel called Fuzzy Nation, which you described as an “experiment.” In what way was it an experiment, and what did you learn from doing that experiment?
It was an experiment in the sense that reboots happen all the time in movies and television and comics, but they don’t happen that often in literary stuff, and so it was an experiment to see if that was just because practical considerations make it difficult, or if it was really just a horrible idea, and the reason that it doesn’t happen very often is because it’s a horrible, horrible idea.
What I did was I picked a Golden Age science fiction story that I really enjoyed, which was Little Fuzzy. It’s a great story, H. Beam Piper did a fine job with it, and it was nominated for a Hugo in 1962. But it’s also very much a piece of its time. You can tell it was written in the early ‘60s by the way that the men acted, and the way that the women acted, and some of the cultural assumptions of the story at the time. So I thought it would be fun to take the basic story idea of Little Fuzzy and bring it into current time and current sensibility, not just in terms of socially, but also in how we craft our protagonists these days, how we frame the fundamental issues of story, and so on and so forth. So that was part of the experiment, to see if the story itself—the idea of, here are these cute and fuzzy creatures, they could be sapient, and if they are sapient there are going to be huge implications—to see if that story itself was durable, or if it was a creature of its own time.
Now, one of the nice things about doing this with Little Fuzzy is that Little Fuzzy, the novel itself, was in the public domain, so that there was no question about copyright, and that’s one of the reasons why these things are so infrequently done. For example, rebooting Star Trek wasn’t a problem because Paramount owned Star Trek, and it was in their interest to keep that property out there and moving and going forward. However, most books are not owned by corporations, they’re owned by individuals, and to be fair, if somebody came up to me and said, “Old Man’s War was great, but I want to reboot it and start from scratch,” my response would be, “Mmm, probably not.”
In this particular case, it helped that since it was in the public domain, that wasn’t a concern. And again, this was something that I wrote just for my own amusement. I honestly didn’t have plans to sell it to a publisher at all. What happened is that as I wrote it, I thought, “This is good,” and then my agent called me and said, “What are you doing?” because I was uncharacteristically quiet and he hadn’t heard from me, and if I don’t send him books he doesn’t make money from me. And I said, “Well, I just wrote a novel, but I don’t think that you’re going to be able to sell it.” And his response to that really was, “Challenge accepted. Send it.”
Even though the book was in public domain, which meant that there were no copyright issues, the H. Beam Piper estate still exists. We let them read it, and they liked it, so we worked out a deal where the H. Beam Piper estate gets a cut of the profits, and they also gave us an endorsement. So that made things a lot easier to sell. So it was an experiment. It was an experiment in updating a story, it was an experiment in the feasibility of rebooting a science fiction classic, and it was also sort of an experiment in how people would respond to a classic of the genre being rebooted in this way. And the good news is that on all fronts it worked out very well.
And now of course people are like, “Well, now you should reboot . . .” and they give me the idea of some other thing that they want to reboot. I’m like, “Yeah, but I’ve done it once, it’s time to move on to something else.” This is the proof of concept that this doesn’t necessarily have to be a horrible idea. That doesn’t mean that I want to keep doing it again and again and again. I might write a sequel eventually to Fuzzy Nation, the book I wrote, but if I do that, that’s going to be something else again entirely, separate from taking another classic of science fiction and rebuilding it from the bottom up.
When we solicited questions for this interview, about 20 people wanted us to ask you if you intend to chain your laptop to your wrist. What’s the deal with that?
I lost my Mac Air at an airport for the second time in a month, last Tuesday. The first time I was furious, I was stomping around, I just couldn’t believe it. But the second time it was more of just, “I cannot believe I have just done this again.” Because really, it just makes you feel stupid. And I can see the computer, right? I know exactly what happened, which was I’m working on it at the LaGuardia Gate 5 US Airways Terminal, and they’re calling our flight, so I go and I unplug the cord from the outlet, and I wrap up the cord and I put it away, and I zip up my bag and I’m ready to go, and I forgot that I left my computer there. I didn’t close it up and put it in first, so I’m just—ugh.
So I’ve called LaGuardia, and I’ve called US Airways, and they’re both looking for it. The nice thing about the Macs is that they have the “Find My iPhone” on the iCloud, so I can see it, right? It hasn’t been opened. It’s just sort of there somewhere. As soon as it opens up and someone tries to access the internet with it, it’s going to lock up and it’ll put up a message that says, “Hi, I’m a locked computer, please return me to . . .” and gives all my contact information. But the problem is that until that happens, it’s lost. Now, when I lost my computer the first time, three weeks ago, at the Nebulas, I went and bought a spare laptop, a little Acer netbook. It was like 250 bucks. So that’s what I’m using now, and I think that was also the case of, you know, “Oh, well, I’ve got a backup.”
But it doesn’t change the fact that I managed to lose the same computer twice in a month. And people are like, “Now you’re going to have to Crazy Glue it to yourself! Handcuff it to yourself! Graft it into your brain like a BrainPal!” But I think that the real key may just simply be to not be as frazzled as I have been. I mean, my tour started June 3rd, and it is now the very end of the month. My tour officially stops on July 1st, so I will have been—you know, with the occasional day at home to do laundry and make sure my pets and family recognize who I am—I will have been on tour for a month, and I think that the whole thing of being a little frazzled meant that my Mac Air was lost at LaGuardia. Hopefully I will get it back, and if I don’t . . . that’s the worst part, because part of my brain is like, “Argh, I can’t believe you’ve lost your computer again,” but then there’s a little part of my brain that goes, “But now you can get one of the new MacBooks with the retina screen! Woohoo!” I really want to get my old computer back and not have to spend more money.
Are there any new or upcoming projects that you’d like to mention?
I’m working on a video game right now with a company called Industrial Toys, which is headed by Alex Seropian, who’s one of the cofounders of Bungie and who helped make Halo. So that’ll be cool. We haven’t made the full announcement of the name of the game and everything else like that, but that’s been a lot of fun. And when we can finally announce it, that’s going to be awesome.
I’m also hard at work on a new project for Tor, which I’ve sort of codenamed on my website as The Spank Chronicles: Part 1, The Spankening. Actually, the thing itself has nothing to do with spanking whatsoever; I want to be clear about that. But again, it’s not something that I’m fully comfortable talking about, partly because it’s better to talk about things when they’re actually finished, and partly because it’s just not time, but again, as soon as I can talk about that, I’m more than happy to. But in both of those cases, the really important thing is, yes, I am working on new stuff. Yes, it will be cool when I can tell you about it, and yes, it’s in the pipeline. You will not run out of things to read from John Scalzi.
Spread the word!