Wednesday, May 09, 2007

John Scalzi

Sci-fi author John Scalzi was signing books near Dupont Circle last night.

I first learned about him from this comic strip.

I ran out and got the book. "Old Man's War" is one of the better modern science fiction books. The overall story resembles Heinlein's "Starship Troopers" but with more aliens and less preaching.
In short, humans have left Earth to find the galaxy filled with alien species, they all need pretty much the same kind of planet to live on, and nobody wants to share. Humans have to fight for their planets so they've established a space corps.
Now here's the unique part. Instead of taking young whippersnappers and sending them off to die in the cold vacuum of space they're taking 75 year old people, growing genetically engineered super bodies based roughly on their original DNA, and putting their minds in the new bodies. If they survive their term of service they either get to sign on for a new term of service or they're given a plot of land on one of the planets they've been protecting and given yet a third body grown from their original, unmodified cells.
Our hero lost his wife after her cells were collected, but before she could have her mind transferred. But the Corps doesn't waste flesh. The body is placed in the Ghost Brigade. She has no memories but with the help of a built in Palm Pilot she and others like her are an elite force of super warriors with none of the hangups of people who grew up with inferior bodies.
Of course, they meet and something clicks. That's enough spoilers.
The technology is good and when it isn't the author admits it.
The author also writes great banter.

Anyway, he was talking and signing last night. The book store was not at all equipped for an audience situation. We all just squeezed in wherever we could see the raised platform.
It didn't take long to realize that he knew most of the people there in some manner. They mostly hang out at his website and seem to be an active and close knit community. The in jokes were thick. A few were explained for those of us who just read the books. Including the story behind this picture.

Instead of reading from one of his books he read an unpublished short story. It was about a very angry alien who works as judge on Earth and has been banned from every golf course except for the second worst golf course in the United States. During one particularly good round he finally sees what he's been doing wrong with his life and this round of golf is healing his damaged soul. That's when one assassin after another starts showing up trying to kill him. I liked it, but it was probably a bit long for a reading.
It's not up now, but you can probably expect it to show up with his other free stuff at

I don't have a picture of him, but he has a picture of us.
Guess who I am.

You can find more of the comic strip "Unshelved" at


honeykbee said...

Are you Mr. Pit stain or the girl cringing away from Mr. Pit stain?

Sorry, I'm just a little bitter because I desperately want to know what the kitty-bacon is about.

Ibid said...

I'm more central to the picture.

The author has a very active website. He was trying to come up with reasons he wasn't interacting as much as usual and said something about taping bacon to his cat. This resulted in a heated debate about whether it's possible to tape bacon to a cat.
Finally he had to actually do it. He called the wife.

John: So, would you mind if I tape bacon to the cat?
Wife: That's a fairly interesting question. What's the purpose here?
John: I put taping bacon to the cat on a list of things I said I was going to do today and people seemed to be skeptical.
Wife: You said you were going to tape bacon to the cat on the Whatever.
John: Yeah.
Wife (audible sigh): Since you are going to do it, and take a picture of it, all I ask is that you take the bacon off right after. All right?
John: Okay.
Wife: You're a strange, strange, strange man.

So first he accidentally tapes bacon to the kitchen counter. That goes to the very interested dog.
Next he works out the engineering and approached the wary cat with the bacon and tape mix. He gets it on the can and starts snapping pictures. The dog is freaking out because goD had granted his wish for a bacon/cat combo. The cat gets up and walks around a bit so pictures can be taken that prove the adhesion and not just gravity in action. John posts the pictures to the website. In a few minutes the link is on some SlashDot type site and the hit counter is going nuts.
The Nielson ratings for websites say that for that day his site was the second most visited site in the world. Number one was in China somewhere.