John Scalzi: 2019 National Book Festival

John Scalzi: 2019 National Book Festival


>>Good afternoon. I’m Phoebe Connelly,
Deputy Director of Video at the Washington Post,
which is a charter sponsor of the National Book Festival. I’d like to start by thanking
the co-chairman of the festival, David Rubenstein, and the
other generous sponsors who have made this
event possible. It is my great pleasure today
to introduce John Scalzi. If you’re a reader of his blog, you’ll know that John recently
unlocked the life achievement of acquiring a drinks fridge, which as a Midwesterner
left me speechless with envy, and admiration. But you’re here because Scalzi
is the New York Times best selling author of Old Man’s
War, Red Shirts, and Head On, and is the recipient of the
Hugo, the Locus, the Audi, and the 2016 Governor’s
Award for the Arts in Ohio. His most recent book
is The Consuming Fire, Book 2 of the Interdependency
series. The Los Angeles Times
wrote of his latest: “The world building
is breathtaking. It’s almost impossible
not to get drawn into the system of
the far future. Please join me in welcoming
John Scalzi to the stage. [ Applause, Cheering ]>>Thank you everybody. Before I begin, I just
couldn’t notice that somebody that I know is actually in
the audience, my friend, Joe, who I worked with at
America Online when I lived in this area, about
20 years ago. And the thing to
know about Joe is that I actually killed
him not once but twice in my books [laughter]. The first time it was
because he was my editor, and I’d said something to
him, and he was snarking, and I was like, “that’s it! I’m going to murder
you in a book.” [Laughter] And then the
second book was happening at the same time,
as that first book, so I had to kill him again. And you know, I think
his reaction was like, “The first time it was funny,
now I’m concerned [laughter].” So, Joe, I apologize
for murdering you twice, please don’t kill me now. Thank you all for
coming to my thing! I did a thing that
I don’t usually do, which is I actually planned a
talk that is not me just reading from an upcoming work
or something like that. I’m actually going to tell you
about the book that I’m supposed to be talking to you about. So I’m going to talk about
that for a little bit. And if we have time leftover,
then I’m actually going to try to read you a very short,
short story that I wrote about technology and how
it’s going to kill us all. So I know you’ll
be here for that. And then we’ll do
questions and answers. Like they said, the questions and answer I usually have them
do rules of questions must be in the form of a question. The question has to be
a one-part question, and try to make the questions
themselves like Tweet length. That’s the 280 characters. And the reason we do
that is so we can have as many people ask
questions as possible. Not because I’m a tyrant who
just wants things my way. So as long as we’re
okay with that, then I think we’ll have a good
time in these next 45 minutes. And the thing is, I’m going
to go ahead and start talking about the book, The
Consuming Fire. Actually I’m going to
talk about the series, which is the interdependency
series, which includes The Collapsing
Empire, which is the first book, The Consuming Fire, which is the
second book, which is out now, and is the most recent book
that I have that has come out, and then the third book, which
I’m writing even as we speak. Not literally right this second,
because I’m talking to you, but as far as my editor knows
[laughter], I am writing it when I go back to my hotel room, which is called The
Last Emperox. And the thing about the
Interdependency series, which is kind of funny,
is I started thinking about this book in– or
these books in about 2014, and the idea behind them is
there is a galaxy spanning sort of faster than light
highway, or a river, which is called the flow. And that’s how people get
from one place to the next, and in the course of the books,
the flow starts collapsing. So that’s the basis. And how people are responding to
that is what drives the books. But what’s been interesting to
me is watching people respond to the books, specifically in many ways starting
with the titles. The first book is called
The Collapsing Empire, in which people were
like, oh, so we’re writing about America now, are we? You know? [Laughter]
Or The Consuming Fire, which is another
one where they’re like that’s a little
on the nose. And then people are like
reading the books and are like, well these are clearly
books that are about climate change denial. Or we’d like to know, no
actually they’re books about Brexit, no, they’re
actually books about Brexit? No! There are actually
books about bad governance, and you know, and so the, you
know, listening to people talk about how they are seeing the
events of today, being played out in the books
that I’m writing. Being played out in the
books that I’m writing, that they really believe that
I’m writing these books about or commenting on the
contemporary world, I’m just setting it in the
future, The irony of this for me is that for these
books it really was not– the precipitating idea was
not about climate change or Brexit or bad governance. I was, because I am a nerd,
thinking about the golden age of European colonization
from the 15th to 19th Centuries [laughter]. Particularly when I was thinking
about it, was the colonization and exploitation of the
Americas, notably by England, Spain and Portugal, and
the way that happened was through the technology of
the time, and the technology of the time were these
wind-driven ships. Now, in the Atlantic ocean,
there are, the tradewinds, and the ocean currents, and
they basically formed this great gyre, or gyre, or
however it’s pronounced, and the ships go one way, then
they come back another way, and they come back around,
and that’s how a lot of the American exploitation
and colonialization happened, because those trade
winds were there and the technology
took advantage of that. The Europeans benefited
enormously from these natural phenomenon that they had absolutely
no control over. And so what I thought about
was, what would have happened if these trade winds and the
ocean currents just stopped? Okay? Just stopped. Which kind of seems like a fantastical idea,
but it’s really not. I mean it’s not impossible
to disrupt the cycle of ocean currents, for example. Like, for example, if
you heat up the planet and you melt a whole lot of
the glaciers in Greenland, then all that cold water
goes into the ocean, sinks to the bottom, where the
engine of these currents happen, disrupts them entirely, all of
a sudden, Europe is a popsicle, and they’re all screwed. Could happen [laughter]. Don’t know now. But the whole point of that
for me is that the course of history would
have been changed, and it would have been
changed because the technology of the time relied on,
assumed a natural feature of the earth was eternal, which it may not have
been, and may still not be. And so I took that idea, and because I was not
writing historical fiction, because people will check
your facts [laughter], I moved it to the future
where nobody can tell if I’ve got it screwed up, because by the time it
happens, it will be dead. So that was the precipitating
idea, and I wrote in in 2014, long before anything that’s
happening now was happening. So for me, when people
are like, “It’s Brexit!” It’s climate change
denial…I’m like, “No! It’s about colonialism!” The other thing is that I
also have a general philosophy of not bringing up specific
political issues from today in the current– in the
science fiction that I write in the very, very far future. The way that I explain
this to people is that like taking something
that’s going on today, in a very non-allegorical sense,
and just bringing it 500 years in the future, or 400 years,
or something like that, would be like somebody writing
contemporary fiction today in a world where everyone,
including everybody in this room is passionately,
madly, and has immediately
accessible opinions about the Alien and
Sedition Acts. Right? I mean, this
is Washington, D.C., you may actually have
[laughter]…opinions about the Alien and
Sedition Acts, and actually, let me have a show of hands, how
many of you are Jeffersonians in this particular
case [laughter]? And how many of you are Adams’s? You Adams’s can leave
the room now [laughter], because he was wrong! But this is my whole point. This is my whole point. It’s not– most of you know if you had a history class what
the Alien and Sedition Acts are, but you otherwise don’t
really particularly care. And most of the people 400 years
from the future are concurrent, contrasts everything that we’re
going through, they’ll be like: Well that was a thing
that happened. Do I have to know it
for the test [laughter]? And that’s how they’re
going to relate to it. If you’re doing stuff
like illusion to metaphor, and stuff like that, that’s
fine too, but it’s otherwise, but even then you have to
be really careful about, and now I’m on a soap box,
because all of a sudden, you break the thing where
the person is enveloped in your world, and they’re
like, oh, he’s talking about Brexit, isn’t he? So…so these are things
that generally speaking, when I’m writing in science
fiction, I try to avoid. I don’t try to make it
just talking about things that are going on now,
but for all of that, for all of that science fiction, all about science fiction
being in the future. It is written in
the current time, by people who are living
in the current times. Hi, I’m John Scalzi. I was born in 1969. I am 50 years old. The only times I’ve ever known
are the times we are in now. And the people who are alive
today and who are reading, have the same circumstances
as I do. Some of you are older,
some of you are younger. As I go along, fewer of you
will be older [laughter] and lost more of
you will be younger. I am freaked out about the idea
that there are two generations of adults who are older than
me, and the fact that people who are 10 years younger than me
are now middle aged stop doing that [laughter], but that
is kind of the way it is. So, I’m a writer. I live today, and I cannot
help but be influenced by current events, both
positively and negatively. I thought of this idea for this
Interdependency series in 2014, but I started writing
it in 2016. So, and I’m currently
writing the third book, as far as my editor knows. So, you know, there–
the period of time in which I am writing these
books encompasses basically what I call the current chaos, right? And so it has an effect
on me, just by existing. Not only that, but my
past as a writer is as a newspaper journalist and
columnist, I find it really, really hard not to pay attention because this is my
fundamental training of what’s going on today? What do I think about it? Let me tell you. I had my first job as a nationally syndicated
columnist when I was 24. I was a professional
man-splainer [phonetic spelling], right [laughter]? That’s– it’s hard
to break that out. And so it’s very difficult
for me to filter that all out, and not to be thinking about it. So I can’t help but be affected
by what’s going on today. Moreover, you as readers
cannot help but be affected by what’s going on
in the world today. When writers write a book, they know why they’re
writing the book, sometimes, and they have an idea of why
they write, and what they meant, and all that sort of stuff. You are not us. You often do not know what we
are thinking about our books. The way you come to the book, basically with what the words
are, and your own interpretation of it, the book is only
half about the author. The other half is about
you as the reader. And it is what you
bring into it. And what are you bringing into
the books when you read them? You are bringing your
own concerns, fears, apprehensions and connections. So, the fact of the matter is,
even if I didn’t intend to write about bad governance, and
Brexit, and climate denial, people are still going to
be making those connections because it’s what they see
in the world right now, and it’s in the air
of the times. We are all captive of the
world that we live in. Some of us are responsible
in greater or lesser ways from making those worlds, but a lot of us are
just like, we’re here. This is what we’re dealing with. And as a writer, I cannot tell
people that they are wrong for finding the parallels
in these books that I did not necessarily
intend. I mean, I could say it, like, all of you are wrong,
how dare you? You know? The voice of
the author has spoken! But…by and large, again, the
book is not just what I wrote. It’s what you bring
to it as well. You are going to
see parallels there. And I am going to be
affected by the times. The world that we live
in makes an effect on the world that I’ve built. I’m currently writing the
third book in the series. I am behind, because the
world is distracting. Don’t tell the editor
[laughter]. And I’m still not intentionally
writing about climate denial or Brexit, or bad
governance, even though I know so many people who have been
reading the series are thinking about these things. But the fact of the matter is, the crisis in the
universe I created, the people who are facing the
crisis are reacting in a way that is not going to be
dissimilar to the way that humans in the
real world are reacting to the crises we are
all facing today. We are all still the same
human beings 1,500 years in the future, as we are today,
as we were 30,000 years ago, when we were in the Savannah,
and the only thing we had to worry about were
jaguars and food. And I’ll give you
an example of this. One of the things that I talk
about in the new book is I talk about the five-stages of crisis
management, which are used by the people who
have no desire to face up to the looming unavoidable,
wrenching change that is coming, or for those for whom this
looming change is inconvenient for the business plan. So these five stages of the– the five stages of crisis
management are denial, denial, denial, [laughter] denial! And holy crap, everything is
screwed, grab as much cash as you possibly can and run! These five stages, I regret
to say, are not exclusive to my universe [laughter]. Nor is greed and cupidity
and short-sightedness, or the other dynamics, and
the dynamics of the events that occur because
of these qualities. People are going to see
parallels in what I’m writing in this third book, to
what is happening now, because the humans in my
book are based on the humans that exist in the real
world, and how they respond to the crises around them. But I should also note that
in my book, there are people who are fighting against
the greed and the cupidity and the stupidity and
every– the short-sightedness, and they are doing what
they can to save the people who are affected by the
change that is coming. That means everybody in
that particular universe. And to prepare them for
whatever comes next. And that, too, is because the
people in my book are based on people in the
real-world as well. Now, in my books, I know
what’s going to happen. And I write the fates
of the people in them, and I make their
choices for them, and I know whether their
endings to the response, to the, you know, the extent that
they’re in the books are happy or sad, or somewhere in between. In the real-world, we don’t
know what’s going to happen, and I can’t write
everyone’s fate. And so we all have
to decide what sort of people we are
going to choose to be. Whether we are going to
be the short-sighted ones, or if we’re going to be
another type of person entirely. You are the people who
have to choose that. And so I say to you. Choose wisely! The next generation of
writers is out there. They are literally out here. And even if they write about the
future as I do, they are going to be writing in the
world that we leave them for the readers who follow us. And now is the time that we have to decide what it is
they choose to say. And that’s that. [ Applause ]>>Whoa, that was really heavy. Uh, so, and to lighten
the mood a little bit, and because it’s
kind of fun to do, I’m going to read you a
short story that I wrote for the last tour
that I was doing, called Automated
Customer Service. Now, we all know that when we
call people for customer service that you don’t actually get
to talk to a human anymore, they put you into the
automated service response, and they keep you in
there as long as possible so that you don’t
talk to a human. In fact, one of the ways
you can short-cut that is to start swearing
and sound angry, because they’ve actually
figured out how to tell when you’re stressed,
and when to escalate it into an actual live human. There is some irony that the
way you can talk to a human is to be like, “Let me
speak to the manager!” But that’s the way it goes. So, I’m imagining a universe
where it’s about three, four, or five years into the
future, where we’ve taken that automated response
just a little bit further, and what we– you imagine
that you are talking to the automated customer
service about a vacuum cleaner, an automated vacuum cleaner that you just bought that’s
gone a little haywire. Thank you for calling
the customer service line of Vacu-Bot, Purveyors of America’s finest
automated vacuum cleaners. In order to more efficiently
handle call volume, we rely on automated responses. To continue in English, press 1. Para Española prima dos. Let’s continue in English. Which Vacu-Bot product
are you calling about for the Vacu-Bot
S10 model, press 1. For the Vacu-Bot
XL model, press 2. For the Vacu-Bot Extreme
Clean model, press 3. Congratulations on owning the
Vacu-Bot Extreme Clean model, America’s most thorough and comprehensive automated
vacuum cleaning solution. If you need to order
additional components for the Extreme Clean, press 1. If you have a repair
query, press 2. For all other questions,
press 3. You have additional questions. If you need help connecting
the Vacu-Bot Extreme Clean to your home network, press 1. If the Vacu-Bot Extreme
Clean is conflicting with other automated
home machines, press 2. If the Vacu-Bot Extreme has
decided to purge your house of all living things
[laughter], press 3. Congratulations on
activating purge mode! [Laughter] While Purge
Mode was designed to eradicate small pests
like insects and spiders, and some models of beta-software
build was inadvertently released that includes larger targets,
like pets, and some humans. We are sorry for
the inconvenience. To continue, please press 1. Be aware that by pressing 1,
you are absolving Vacu-Bot and its owner, Bieber
Holdings, of all legal and medical responsibility. You pressed 0 [laughter] to
speak to a human representative. The current wait time for a human representative is
six hours and fourteen minutes. To return to the automated
response system, press 1. Welcome back to the
automated response system! First thing’s first. Have you tried turning the
Vacu-Bot Extreme Clean off and on again? Press 1 for yes, 2 for no. You said no. Is that because the Vacu-Bot
Extreme Clean is currently exhibiting Taser Defense Mode,
making it impossible to approach without having 50,000 volts of electricity course
through your body? Press 1 for yes, 2 for no. We apologize for the
Taser Defense Mode. It was originally designed
to zap small insects, but our subcontractor
misread the manufacturer’s specifications. Fortunately, the Defense
Mode can be distracted by throwing something at
the Vacu-Bot Extreme Clean, like a heavy blanket,
or a pet [laughter]. If you have a heavy
blanket, press 1 [laughter]. If you have a pet, press 2. The automated system
has detected that you are using high levels of profanity right
now [laughter]. While the automated
system is in fact automated and does not care
what you yell at it, your bad attitude is being noted
for if and when you are put in contact with a
human representative. When you have calmed
your sassy boots down a bit [laughter],
please press 1. That’s better. Now, let’s talk about pets. If you have a cat, press 1. If you have a dog, press 2. You have a cat. Excellent. Now, all you have to
do is toss the cat at the Vacu-Bot Extreme Clean, and while it is busy
zapping the cat, you rush in and turn it off. If you are willing
to do this, press 1. If you are not, press 2. What do you mean you are not
willing to electrocute your cat? It is a cat! It would do the same
to you in an instant! Look into its cold,
pitiless eyes, and tell me it would
not [laughter]? Press 1 for obvious agreement,
press 2 if you’ve been duped by this feral interloper in
your own home [laughter]. Fine! Then we’ll just have
to go with the heavy blanket. You do have one of
those at least, right? Press 1 for yes, 2 for no. Good, you have basic
home décor [laughter]. Now, the plan here
is, throw the blanket over the Vacu-Bot Extreme Clean,
and while it is struggling, trying to get the blanket
off it, you run over and turn it off, making sure not
to touch the actual Vacu-Bot, because then it will just
zap the crap out of you. Press 1 when you’re about
to throw the blanket. Did it work [laughter]? 1 for yes, 2 for no. We’re sorry to hear
that it did not work. Just out of curiosity,
did it not work because the Vacu-Bot
Extreme Clean vaporized it with previously-unannounced
lasers? 1 for yes, 2 for no [laughter]. We apologize for the lasers. The Vacu-Bot Extreme Clean is
meant to have on-board lightar to help navigate the
room more intelligently, but we got a really good deal on some surplus military
lasers [laughter]. On the other hand, it’s probably
a good thing you didn’t throw that cat, after all [laughter]. See, now you’re just shouting
a lot of profanity again. Just press 1 when you’re done. Also, stop pressing 0 for
a human representative. We are not exposing our very
fine customer service people to you. Not with that attitude! Just press 1. Are you trying to wait us out? We are an automated
response service. We have nothing but time. Press 1, or don’t, we can wait. Forever [laughter]. We thank you for
pausing your hissy fit. We regret to inform you that because you have attacked
your Vacu-Bot Extreme Clean with a blanket, it has likely
now classified you as an enemy, and burned that classification
into its permanent memory. It has probably now
also targeted your cat. In scenarios such as this, your Vacu-Bot Extreme Clean will
classify any area it has cleaned as its personal territory. Has this Vacu-Bot Extreme
Clean cleaned your entire home? Press 1 for yes, 2 for no. Well, it’s the Vacu-Bot’s
house now [laughter]. We suggest you grab the
cat and run, seriously run, those lasers have
probably recharged by now. Run and don’t look back,
the Vacu-Bot senses fear. Press 1 when you have
reached minimum safe distance from the Vacu-Bot’s lair. Congratulations, you have
escaped the unstoppable killing machine that is the
Vacu-Bot Extreme Clean. Unfortunately you
cannot stop now. The Vacu-Bot Extreme Clean has
forwarded information about you to all the other Vacu-Bots,
all of whom will now hunt you, ceaselessly, until
you have been cleaned from the surface of this planet. This is your life now, to
wander, never a moment’s rest, until even your cat deserts
you, and you are left alone to contemplate the
barren wasteland that is now your existence. Unless of course you would
like to purchase a place on the exclusive Vacu-Bot
Termination Wipe List. Just $69.95 a month. Press 1 for a special
introductory rate. Thank you for your purchase. We’ll connect you to a human
representative now [laughter]. Okay, that’s it. [ Applause ]>>Okay so now we have about
18 minutes for questions and the question
microphones are right there, and so if you have a question, then you can ask
me about anything. You can ask me about
current books, you can ask me about upcoming books, you
can ask me about writing, you can ask me about my
personal life, you can ask me about my cats, you can
ask anything you want, and I promise I will
answer the question. Sometimes the answer
to the question is “I can’t believe you
asked that question, you are a horrible person,
leave now, and never come back.” So as long as we know that
these are the questions, the rules of the
question and answer time, let’s go to the questions. And remember, questions
are in the form of–>>A question.>>Questions have
how many parts?>>One.>>And how long are they?>>Short?>>I love all of you. So let’s start over here. Go ahead and start.>>Good morning, will
you be writing any more dispatcher novels? Dispatcher is a book that I
wrote where it takes place in the near future, where
999 times out of 1,000 if you murder someone
they come back. They know you did it, and
they’re very angry with you. And the answer to that is yes,
I will be writing more of those. And in fact, I was supposed
to have finished one of them before I finished the
book that I’m currently writing, but it has been an
interesting year for my writing. So it will get done. It will be probably
out next year. Next question, right here?>>Writers or works that
have particularly influenced you generally? Or this particular–
or your current series?>>People who have
influenced me in general, or for the current
series in particular? This– it’s really interesting,
because I tell people, I mean obviously one of
the obvious influences on my writing is
Robert Heinlein. Anyone who has read Old
Man’s World recognizes that it’s Starship Troupers
with old people, right? And I make no bones about it. I put the acknowledgement
of Heinlein’s influence in the end of the thing. But the thing that I tell
people is that so much of my writing influences don’t
come from science fiction, but in fact, come
from other places. Like, for example, I love
crime writing, and you know, crime fiction, and
stuff like that. So Gregory McDonald who
wrote the Fletch novels. You know, Elmore Leonard, Carl
Hyasin [phonetic spelling], all of them are instrumental
in helping me develop my voice. I was a film critic
for a number of years. And so I learned a lot of story
craft from watching dialogue, and how people tell
stories in a film sense. So classic writers
like Ben Hecht. More contemporary writers like
Elaine May, William Goldman. I was a journalist and
an opinion columnist. So people like Molly Ivans and
Mike Royco [phonetic spelling], and Dave Berry, and
H.L. Lincoln to go back. The whole Algonquin Round
Table, particularly H.L. Parker, Thurber, and– are people
who are really instrumental. The voices that you learn
from can come from anywhere, and I would be a poor science
fiction and fantasy writer if I only pulled from
science fiction and fantasy, so those are the
people that I would list as primary influences. Next question.>>Who do you enjoy, as
narrators for your audio books?>>I like all of my narrators, whichi s both the
truthful answer and the politic answer
[laughter], because the one thing I
don’t want to be is like oh, I like all of them except for Will Wheaton,
what the hell, Val? [Laughter] But one of the things that I find really interesting
is, of course, all the people that read the books read
them differently more or less than the way that I
heard them in my head. And the first time that
I really heard that, when I heard William DeFries,
who narrated Old Man’s War, the very first time
I heard him narrate, and it was the first
book of mine that had an audiobook release,
I was like, “What the hell?” This is not, this is, this is– I say, he’s destroying
my vision! Because I was so used
to hearing my own voice, and it took me a little
while to get used to the fact that he wasn’t me, and that
the voice of John Perry, through William DeFries,
is a different voice than the voice I heard. And it wasn’t fair to William
DeFries, as the narrator, that I as the writer was
just so possessive about it. And so I went back to it, and
after some time had passed, and I actually really enjoyed
it, because it was, again, the thing of, the book is
only half of what I write, the rest of it is what
someone else brings to it. In this case, it was what
William DeFries brought to it. So, William DeFries, reading
The Old Man’s War series. Tavia Gilbert, who
read Zoe’s Tale, and has also done other parts
of The Old Man’s War series. Zachary Kidzoe, who did
the Dispatcher series, and of course, obviously,
Will Wheaton who, in addition to being
a really good friend of mine also is only a couple
of years younger than I am, grew up in the same area as I
did, has the same vocal patterns and intonations that I do, and
if you ever listen to the two of us speak at the same time, it’s ridiculous how
much we sound alike. So having Will read my books is
as close as you’re going to get to me reading my books, but better because he is
an actual actor, right? And he can actually do that,
and I’m a mushy-mouth writer. So, as far as it
goes, I really– there isn’t anybody who has read
anything professionally so far that I haven’t really enjoyed. So yeah. Next question?>>Any plans for a sequel
to The Android’s Dream?>>Any plan for a sequel
to Android’s Dream, I tried to write one once,
and it’s a funny story. So I got a contract for the
sequel to The Android’s Dream. And I started writing it, and
I got like about 7 chapters in, and I realized, and this
isn’t really a spoiler because now the book is like,
12 years old, that at the end of the book my protagonist’s
problems were solved because his girlfriend was the
richest woman in the universe, and his best friend
was a planet-spanning artificial intelligence. And there’s very few
situations that money or an AI running an
entire planet won’t get you out of [laughter]. And so I was writing this story and it really was literally
him being in situations where he couldn’t make
a phone call [laughter]. And so– and it was
readable, and it was fine, but it wasn’t good, and so I had
said to my editor, it’s like, I’m going to stop writing this
book because it isn’t good, and I’m going to give
you another Old Man’s War book instead. Is that fine? He was like, “Yes [laughter].” So I would like to come
back to the universe. I don’t know that I would
necessarily come back to the same character,
because again, the character’s problems are
solved, but it would be nice to be able to visit
that universe again. If I do, then obviously
you will know about it. In the meantime, the
very first chapter of that book is a
short story that is out there called Judge Sin
Goes Golfing, which is kind of a standalone chapter,
and it’s available through most of the retailers. So you can read that and
that will be, you know, hopefully will be enough
until I get back to it. Next question over here.>>Will you continue to
explore issues of disability for paralyzed survivors
of Haden’s Syndrome, who may not have the same
financial resources as Chris. The answer to that
is, he’s talking about the Lock-In books where,
the protagonists, Chris, in addition to having Haden’s
Syndrome which locks them in their body and they have
to get around through the use of an Android body,
they’re driving it around. But Chris is also very, very,
very wealthy, like one-tenth of one-tenth of one percent
wealthy, so all their– a lot of their problems
are solved. And in fact, one of the
things that really is going to be interesting is to
talk about what the changes in that world mean for the
people who don’t have means. Because of course everybody
who has the one-tenth of one percent lifestyle is
playing a much easier game than everybody else and
it doesn’t matter even when you factor in
other aspects of it. So yes, I would say that there’s
going to be some approach to it. I don’t know that it’s
going to be an entire book, because the series of books
that take place in the universe where Haden’s Syndrome
happens are murder mysteries, and there has to be a
murder, it has to go on– going in that direction. But certainly in developing
the world, you do have to look at the issues of inequality. Particularly here in
America, where we are kind of addicted to inequality. We seem to think it’s our gig. So, next question.>>What is the– your
favorite universe that you’ve ever created? [ Laughter ]>>It’s hard to answer, because
one, I don’t really think about it that way, you know. Part of it is also that, quite frankly the favorite
universe is the universe that I’m writing in at the
moment, because it’s the one that I’m immersed in the most. I’m really into The
Interdependency Universe right now, because I’m
writing that book, and when I write the
Haden’s Universe, I’m really super interested
in that, because it’s close to contemporary time, and I
have to factor in the real world with that in a way that I don’t
have to with everything else, and when I’m writing The
Old Man’s War universe, I’m super invested in that, because it’s my best known
universe, and that’s the one that people will murder me for if I don’t do things the
way they want them to do it. So, you know, quite frankly
a lot of it is situational. You know, and I don’t
want to say it’s like which child
you like the best? Because everybody knows
everybody has a favorite child [laughter]. But it is one of those things that whatever I’m spending
the most time in at that particular time is
the one…I like to think that all my universes are
complex enough that there’s lots to go on, no matter
what, but yeah, it’s usually the one I’m
most interested in at that particular time,
because I’m writing it. So, question here?>>You mentioned you
were a journalist and a film critic, I think? How did you make the
transition from that to being a full-time writer?>>I mean, I was
a full-time writer when I was a journalist
and film critic. So I mean, when you have an
editor going you’ve got a deadline in 45 minutes,
where’s that article, and then you have a copy
editor who is strangling you because you are really bad with
commas, there’s literally– no, this really happened
to Kim, the copy editor. I did something, and I don’t
know what it was, but she like, marched down to where I was, and
she went “Er-er-er” and I was like “Hi, my name’s John,
I don’t know what I did– ” and I still don’t, so she would probably
still strangle me. So the transition
happened actually not because I was a journalist, but because I worked
at America Online. And America Online
booted my ass out. And it wasn’t because
America Online disliked me, or I was a terrible employee,
they just had a tendency to dissolve, you know,
divisions and little, you know, departments and stuff like that. And I was a company-wide
resource as the in-house writer and editor, and nobody wanted
to put me on their individual, you know, department payload,
because everybody used me. And so they– when my
Department then dissolved, I was the only one that was
not transferred somewhere else, I was laid off, and I was
like, well, I guess I’ve got to be writing full-time now. The good news is that AOL
came back almost immediately because nobody was
getting any writing done. And as a contractor, they
paid me twice as much for half as much work, so
well done capitalism! [Laughter] So that’s how
I made that transition. So question here?>>Which of your characters
do you most identify with?>>People want me to say
that it’s John Perry, who is the protagonist,
the first arc of the Old Man’s War series,
and I see why they say that, because he has my first name. He is a writer, and he lives
in my house [laughter]. Like literally when Old
Man’s War starts off, he’s living in my house, and
he talks about the cemetery, Harris Creek Cemetery, which
is literally down the road. He lives in my house, because
I was lady, and I’m like, I’m only going to be on the
planet earth for a chapter and a half, he’s living at
my house, why the hell not? So they assume that that’s
the character I identify with the most. But it’s not. John Perry is not me–
he’s much nicer than I am. The person in my
worlds that I identify with the most is Harry
Wilson, who becomes, who is a side character
in the first four books, and then becomes a primary
character in books 5 and 6. So if you read him,
he is the closest to all the characters to me. Jane Sagan is based
on my wife, Christine, who is just this Amazonian
badass who is awesome, although her favorite character
of all of mine is Kiva, and Kiva is from the
Interdependency [applause begins] series, and a
lot of people like Kiva, and I’ve been told that if
anything bad happens to Kiva, they will burn my
house down so…. [ Laughter ]>>But that won’t dissuade
me, people [laughter]. I got to let you know. Things are going to get
real in this last book. Question here, and then we
need to cut off the lines so I’m going to get to
these last three questions as quickly as possible, go.>>When your stories
were adapted for Love, Death and Robots, did you
have creative input on that?>>So, three short stories
I wrote, Three Robots, When the Ogre Took Over, and
Alterante Histories are in part of the Netflix series,
Love, Death and Robots, which is an animated–
adult animation series. And the answer to that is
Tim Miller, who is the, one of the producers,
was really good at like, letting me know what
was going on. He sent me scripts,
he asked for my input. All that sort of stuff. I wouldn’t say I had any
sort of creative control because they were doing
what they were going to do, but they did listen to me. They made some changes
that I suggested, other changes they didn’t. But by and large, they were
very congenial to work with. I’m very excited to see what
they do with the second season. Question here?>>What prompted you
to write Fuzzy Nation, like so far into your fame. It wasn’t an early work? Since it leans so
heavily on little Fuzzy. I’m just curious. Like why, what prompted
you to write it after you’d already
made your name?>>What prompted me to write
Fuzzy Nation after I wrote, after I’d already
written so many books, because I was pissed
off at Tor [laughter], and this is the actual truth. I’d had a bad negotiation with
them, and it ended poorly, and then I was out of contract. And I didn’t write for them
for another three years. And everything is fine now. They gave me lots of money
[laughter], but so I had this– I had, suddenly had a
whole lot of free time, and I had always had this sort
of curiosity of what it would be like to take a golden era, golden age of science
fiction book, and update it? Because The Golden Era of
Science Fiction, like again, people write in their
contemporary time, and so they are very dated. And so just for my own fun,
like, I wasn’t planning to sell it, wasn’t planning
to do anything with it, I wrote it just to
see what it would be like to take that story. And Fuzzy Nation I was able to
use because, or Little Fuzzy, I was able to use because
it was in the public domain. So there were no rights issues. And so I just wrote it for
fun to see what it was like, and it was actually
really great. It was cathartic, and I
got to write something, and it was fun, and
I was like, oh! Now I know! And then my agent called and
was like what are you doing? Because if I don’t write for
him, then he doesn’t make money from me, and I told him I
had just written this thing that you will not
be able to sell, and he’s like challenge
accepted [laughter]. And so I sent it to him,
and he was able to sell it, and we got the sign off
of the Piper Estate, and so on and so forth. But that’s why I did it. Because at the time, I was
like, “I have lots of free time, so I might as well do this. I think it’s really
good for writers, maybe not in that
circumstance, but to do– in general to do things just
for them every once in a while, because it connects you with
the things that you want to do. Very last question, I have
to do this very quickly.>>Do you look at the
cutting edge of technology and research what’s going
on, like at the very highest of what’s coming,
to get your ideas of wild things to take off with? Like–>>Not necessarily. I will read it because I
just like reading about it, and then my brain will
start thinking about stuff, but most of this technology that
I then write about is not really that cutting edge, it’s
just extrapolations of stuff that already exists now. You know, that said, you know,
people are like, oh, you know, people are doing direct
brain implants now, that’s something you predicted. You’re a wizard! I’m like yes, yes I am! [Laughter] And in fact I
absolutely deserve no credit for any of that, you know,
lots of people have figured out the same things
that I have figured out. And besides which science
fiction writers are really, really bad at being futurists. Don’t believe that we
know what’s going on. Because if we knew
what were going on, we would be playing
the stock market, not writing science fiction, so. And that is the end! Thank you so much everybody. [ Applause ]

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