Tuesday, April 04, 2006


John Scalzi and his novels Old Man's War and The Ghost Brigades (his latest) have gotten loads of attention recently--John is currently a Hugo Finalist. He also runs an amazingly energetic and wide-ranging blog that I highly recommend.

I have to admit I've only just cracked open Old Man's War, but I like what I've read so far--muscular, economical prose and a no-nonsense sensibility. (I've got a good excuse for not reading more yet: World Fantasy Award judging...) A lot of people talk about "transparent" prose, which often times is just prose that lacks energy. In this case, John's style and voice are very much "transparent" in the positive sense of the word.

John was kind enough to take time from his busy schedule to walk the plank and answer the five/six questions (not to mention provide me with the URL to one of my favorite author photos of all time).



Why should readers pick up your book as opposed to, say, just about anybody else's book?

Well, I wasn't going to say anything about it, but when all us authors got together the other night, all of them were saying really mean things about the readers, like how they smell and how they move their lips when they read. And I was all, like, come on, guys, you know that's not true, our readers rock. And they were all like, well, if you love them so much, why don't you marry them? And then they all said some more bad stuff and then ate live kittens. So, you know, readers can read those other books if they want, if they want to support kitten-eating bastards. But I don't eat kittens, and I also stuck up for the readers. Because they rock. That's all I'm going to say. I've said too much. Don't tell the other authors I told you.
We're supposed to go out for pizza tonight.

Does your book have any socially redeeming qualities? If so, what are they?

My books have socially deceiving qualities, in that anyone who is seen with them is generally presumed to be 10 to 35 percent smarter, funnier, and more attractive than they actually are. Financially they are not seen to be any different; however, as many dining and entertainment establishments will offer free or greatly price-reduced services at the sight of my books, most people do find themselves with more disposable income, and are often moved to donate it to charities, particularly ones involving orphans. So if you see an orphan with shoes, or a Harvard education, it may be due to my books.

Does your book have any medicinal or mental health value to readers?

Aside from spontaneous remission of tumors and boils, increased sexual response and fertility (most obviously shown through the existence of the adorable Johnson sextuplets of Grand Rapids, Michigan), selective synesthesia leading to increased creativity, sleeker hair and more supple skin, stronger cartilage and stretchier
tendons, wattle reduction and increased oxygen absorption in the bloodstream? No, not really. And frankly, even if there were, and people lived healthier, richer and better lives simply by having the books in a 30-foot radius, emitting joy in rays that produce happiness in humans as the sun's rays help create vitamin D , I wouldn't wish to market the book in that way. Because, gosh, all I want to do is entertain. Extending lifespans by a decade or two is merely a side benefit.

Assume your book has been filed under "Ages 8 to 12" in the children's section, perhaps by mistake, perhaps not. How horrified do you imagine a child would be after reading your book, and why? How many years of therapy would the child take to recover from the experience?

I asked my own daughter, aged seven, to take a break from her current book, A Child's Guide to Sein und Zeit, and give my book a go. Her response: "Daddy, your book is fundamentally trite and in- authentic and its banality serves only to remind one of the yawning chasm of nothingness that awaits us all." She got no dessert for that one, I don't mind telling you. As for other children, well, look at the cover! It's got spaceships! They'll be fine.

Why don't you write more about cute stuff?

Clearly you are not familiar with my series of "Fluffy Ferrets" picture books for children, whose titles include "The Fluffy Ferrets go to the Zoo," "The Fluffy Ferrets and Magic Abattoir," "The Fluffy Ferrets Meet the Ravenous Eldritch Beasts of Yore," "The Fluffy Ferrets and the Auto-Vivisection Adventure," and the most recent book in the series, "The Fluffy Ferrets vs. the GE/Pratt & Whitney GP7277 Jet Engine." Each of these books are downright adorable, and also offer positive life lessons about zoos, slaughterhouses, and the danger of taunting ancient chthonic gods and/or machines capable of 81,500 pounds of thrust on take-off. Collect them all!

If no one buys your book and you are unable to continue publishing your fiction due to the intense vilification that occurs in the media, what line of work will you go into?

Radio. Or dentistry. Or something involving aquatic mammals in some significant way.


At 7:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

All those loud whooping noises I made while reading the interview were wasted, as I already own a copy of the book. I have collected up the excess amusement and saved it in a bottle in the fridge, and will take it to the office for our next slush session. I have faith that any misjudgement made while under its influence will be caught before we go to contract; and in the meantime it will keep me from blindly and repeatedly stabbing bad fantasy submissions with my knife Slushkiller.

So that's good.


At 12:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

finally a straightforward and honest Scalzi interview. And I happen to know that he has NEVER eaten a cat less than 2 years old.
So buy and read his books.

At 9:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

}and in the meantime it will keep me
}from blindly and repeatedly stabbing
}bad fantasy submissions with my knife

No, it won't.

At 7:42 AM, Blogger Jason Boog said...

Fantastic interview, Jeff. It was just what I needed on a Friday morning.


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