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scalzifeed August 27 2014, 21:52

View From the Hotel Window, 8/27/14: Austin, TX



I am particularly pleased to have a view that overlooks newspaper offices, being a former newspaper person myself. Also, the Austin American-Statesman has been promoting the heck out of my appearance here, so it is now my new favorite newspaper.

Tonight’s event: 7pm at BookPeople. Tomorrow: Raleigh, North Carolina! Quail Ridge Books! 7pm! In both cases, if you are in the area, please come and bring every person you’ve ever met. Because, you know. It’ll be lovely to see you.

feedjaylake August 27 2014, 21:31

Last Plane to Heaven: The Final Collection.




Publishers Weekly, Starred Review
Last Plane to Heaven: The Final Collection by Jay Lake

The prolific Lake’s death in 2014, after a long, harrowing, and very public battle with cancer, gives extra weight to these 32 epitaphs. Lake’s command of language is strong and sincere, and his stories of everyday heartaches, filled with secret fears and self-delusion, whisk readers from inner geographies of mind to limitless gulfs of space. Lake’s characters emotionally embody the doomed heroism of Nordic gods sneering at grim fates, finding bittersweet redemption in dark byways of human ignorance. Reality is shattered when an alien controls a hardened mercenary’s dreams in the darkly romantic “Last Plane to Heaven: A Love Story.” Cynical humor greets oblivion in “The Speed of Time.” In surprisingly intelligent space opera (“Permanent Fatal Errors”) and a visit to the City Imperishable (“Promises”), revelations eschew oversentimentality for moral complexity. “Such Bright and Risen Madness in Our Names” injects pathos into the Cthulhu mythos, questioning identity and raising hackles. Malevolent faeries face metaphysical annihilation in a dying young woman’s cancer cells in “Her Fingers Like Whips, Her Eyes Like Razors.” And in “The Cancer Catechism,” Lake discovers faith in the inevitability of death. As he states, “In the end, words are all that survive us”; his fans and friends may find some comfort in the hope that his words will live on forever. (Sept.)

Lake, Jay. Last Plane to Heaven: The Final Collection. Tor. Sept. 2014. 320p. ISBN 9780765377982. $27.99; ebk. ISBN 9781466858473. SF

scalzifeed August 27 2014, 15:13

Today’s Thought Expressed on Twitter



Yeah. Moving on. I’m not saying you have to. Please, follow your bliss. But I’m already looking toward next year. Which should be very interesting because there are so many good sf/f books out this year.

scalzifeed August 26 2014, 19:03

View From the Hotel Window, 8/26/14: Houston



Hello, Houston! I made it into town more or less on time, had lunch at Goode Company BBQ, and am now relaxing in my suite with a view of the tennis/basketball court. Life is good. If you are in or near Houston, remember that I am having an event at Brazos Bookstore tonight at 7pm. Come be part of the first stop of the Lock In tour! Bring youself! Bring your friends! Bring every single person you’ve ever met in your life.

scalzifeed August 26 2014, 07:24

Lock In: It’s Out!




Today’s the day: Lock In is out! And because it is, now, in one handy post, here is everything you could possibly need to know about this book.

The novel is getting some of the best reviews of my career to date, include starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, Kirkus and Booklist. Io9 calls it one of my best novels yet; others have also been nicely positive.

You can read the first five chapters at Tor.com. You can also read the related novella “Unlocked: An Oral History of Haden’s Syndrome” at Tor.com.

I encourage you to buy your copy at your local bookstore. You can also buy the book at these online stores: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|iBooks|Indiebound|Google Play|Kobo|Powell’s. The electronic version of the book (in North America) comes without DRM.

The audiobook, published by Audible.com, comes in two versions: One read by Amber Benson, and one by Wil Wheaton. Both versions come with the full text of the novel and also include an audio version of “Unlocked,” read by a full cast. Click here to be taken to Audible’s Lock In page, which includes purchase links for both versions.

See Wil and Amber talk about the book in an interview here.

The book also comes with its own theme song, by William Beckett.

I am on tour supporting the book. Here are the tour dates, and a tour FAQ. Please come see me on tour!

I am super proud of this book, and I am so very happy it is finally out there in the world. I really hope you all like it as much as I do. I think you will.


scalzifeed August 26 2014, 01:53

The Tour Baggage This Time



The Lock In tour lasts for four weeks, but the good news is that Tor arranged the tour so that I come home about once a week for a day or two. Aside from being an awesome thing that will let me save my sanity by allowing me to see my family, and thus not turn into a gibbering, insensate lump two weeks into the tour, it also means that I can pack quite a bit lighter, secure in the knowledge that I will be able to do laundry within a reasonable span of days.

So above, please find my baggage for the first leg of the tour, which takes me to Houston, Austin, Raleigh, Chapel Hill and Decatur, GA. The brown bag consists of clothes for six days (minus tomorrow’s clothes, which I have ready to deploy the instant I wake up), while the computer bag holds a computer (duuuuuhhhh), a tablet, cords, extra battery for tablet and phone, and pens. They’re both very small (the clothes bag is 17×9, and the computer bag is probably 16×4), which means that I will never have to check them or leave them at the side of the plane. This is key when you’re touring; never never never let them separate you from your luggage when you tour because if you do, you will be three cities onward when they finally locate it.

The flip side of this is that I am so tightly packed I have no room for anything else, which is why I warned people in my tour FAQ that if they give me a gift on tour (which does happen, and which is always very sweet), they may see me hand it over to a bookstore staffer or my media escort, who will mail it home for me. I will literally have to leave it in a hotel room otherwise, and nobody wants that. So please don’t be offended if you see me do that.

In any event: Thank you, Tor, for arranging my tour so I can travel light. I actually very much appreciate it.

scalzifeed August 25 2014, 16:04

The Doubleclicks Cover “Friday I’m In Love” Because I Asked Them To



And it is adorable.

Also, they let you know about their upcoming tour, which you should go see them on; the song shows up immediately thereafter.

You may recall that I also essayed this song a few months back. The Doubleclicks version is somewhat more musically competent.

scalzifeed August 25 2014, 15:34

On The Matter Of When to Buy Lock In and In What Format



Whenever a new book of mine comes close to a release date, I get emails and social media queries from folks asking me what format they should get the book in and when, in order to give me the most money/exposure/whatever. Which is very sweet. Okay, since you asked, here are some thoughts on the subject.

1. Buy it in whatever format you like, whenever you like. Honestly, you’re the customer. You want it in hardcover? Get it in hardcover. Want it in ebook? Get it in ebook. Want it in audio? Get it in audio. Want to wait until the price goes down? Get it in paperback or in ebook when then paperback comes out. As long as you pay for it, I will also get paid, and in every format I get paid a fair share of the money. The variations of what I get paid in each format are small enough that on an individual level (that’s you), it’s not worth your time to fret about it. So please, buy the book in whatever format pleases you, whenever it pleases you to do so. And thank you.

(Dead broke? Ask for it at your local library, because they buy the book, and I’ll still get paid.)

That said, if you want to be baldly strategic on my behalf about your purchasing and have not already pre-ordered a copy in the format of your choosing and/or feel like picking up another copy to give as a gift/to have for yourself/to use to prop up a wobbly table:

2. Buy the hardcover and buy it in the first week of release. Because that will be useful for the book scaling up the New York Times hardcover best seller list, which remains the gold standard for successful books, and which helps a book get immediate attention. When Redshirts plopped onto the list, I suddenly got lots of interest in the book in the media and in LA, and other opportunities opened up as well. So yes, as a practical matter, having Lock In show up on that list would be groovy for me.

And now, with that said:

3. You should still buy the book in whatever format you like. Because, one, the NYT best seller lists aren’t figured simply by raw sales (the Times uses its own secret sauce of an algorithim to make its calculations which includes sampling from specific bookstores); two, the Times also has ebook and combined print/ebook lists as well, so it all goes into the hopper; three, if I show up on any best seller list, you can be assured Tor and my agents (and I!) will be super-pleased and will promote the fact; four, you’re buying the book for you (or for whomever you’re buying it for, if it’s a gift), not for me. So come on, get it however you want to get it.

And finally, while getting onto the NYT hardcover best seller list would be useful and nice and something that would make it easier to talk about the book to people who have no idea who I am, including some who might adapt it for a screen near you, here’s a fact:

4. There’s more than one way for a book to be successful. Did you know that Old Man’s War has never been anywhere near the NYT best seller lists? Ever? It hasn’t. And yet, to date, it’s my best selling book. That’s because for ten years it’s sold, week in and week out, a solid, consistent number of books that’s nevertheless below the “best seller” threshold. In this case, constant and steady adds up, in sales, in reputation and in terms of being able to make opportunities (other factors, like the Hugo nod it got, helped too).

Nor is OMW the only book about which this can be said — I can reel off lots of classic books, in whatever genre you like, which were never “best sellers” except that they sold for a very long time, keep selling, and have developed reputations from years of readers praising the book to someone else. Meanwhile books that showed up on the official best seller lists one week have dropped off into oblivion the next, never to be seen (or cared about) afterward, the equivalent of one hit wonders on the music charts. There are no guarantees about anything ever.

Which is why I say that you should get the book how you want, when you want to get it. No matter when you get the book, or how you get the book, if you get the book, it’ll make a difference to me, and I will thank you. And while I do appreciate when people want to help me to make any book of mine a success, at the end of the day, what you should be focused on doing, if you are gracious enough to buy a book of mine, is enjoying the book. Leave the rest of it to me and my folks. That’s our job, and we’re pretty good at it so far.

scalzifeed August 25 2014, 13:58

Pre-Tour Procedural Bits



A bit of housekeeping here for folks.

First, as most of you know, tomorrow I will be starting a fairly long book tour, one that ends on September 20 (there are a couple of dates past that, but they don’t require me being out on the road on a more or less constant basis). Here’s what me being on the road will mean in terms of this site and being able to contact me.

1. Comments will (generally) be turned off on Whatever from 5pm (Eastern) tonight until September 21st. I’ve previously explained the reasoning for this here. Comments will be left on for Big Idea posts, and occasional posts for when I have a bit of time to chat. Regular commenting here will resume September 21st.

2. All September Big Idea slots will be assigned by the 8pm (Eastern) tonight. If you have not received a September slot by then, then you may assume the slots are all filled.

3. From tonight at 5pm (Eastern) until September 21st, I will be reading email but NOT responding to most of it. Unless you are my agent, editor, publicist, wife, child or friend I’m trying to schedule a tour meet-up with, for the next four weeks, the chance of me answering your email is pretty slim. This is mostly because I’ll be traveling and being a performing monkey, and will still have to fit business and writing into the times I’m when I’m not doing wither of those two things. So responding to email goes way down.

As noted, I will still be reading the email that is not spam, so if for some reason you feel compelled to send me an e-mail while I’m on tour, go right ahead. Just don’t expect a response. If it is something you want a response for, I’d suggest waiting until September 21st to send it.

My email address will have an auto-responder on it through September 20th, reminding people of the stuff I just mentioned above.

4. While I plan to be writing here on Whatever, for the length of the tour, I’m most likely to be found on Twitter. It’s simply more congenial to the “I am rushing around the country what airport am I in now is this Denver I think it’s Denver honestly I have no idea where I am ” lifestyle I will be living the next few weeks. I have my tweetstream over in the Whatever side bar, and of course, you can follow along on Twitter either by following me or visiting my Twitter page.

That’s the housekeeping for now. If you have questions, drop them into the comments (until, uh, 5pm tonight).

peterdavidblog August 25 2014, 11:54

The “Rules” of Superheroes



digresssmlOriginally published May 4, 2001, in Comics Buyer’s Guide #1433

There are certain rules that govern readers of superhero comics and the comics themselves. Certain things that are simply “understood” as not being something one discusses in polite company. A sort of “Extraordinary Gentlemen’s Agreement,” if you will. However, I do not now, nor have I ever claimed, to be a gentleman, so I figured I’d mention the top ten topics which we generally gloss over when reading comics:

1) The Invisible Woman is blind. Here is a character who, according to the Marvel Universe Handbook, bends light waves around herself, thus rendering her invisible to the naked eye. Here’s the problem: If light waves are being bent around her, then that means light isn’t reaching her eyes. But that’s how people see: Light reaches the eye and the images are processed by the brain. If Sue Richards is—through benefit of the cosmic rays—causing light to veer away from her, then there’s no way that she could possibly perceive the world around her. Naturally, Sue can just start shouting, “Helloooo! Where is everybody?! Where’d you all go?!” That would, unfortunately, undercut the whole “no one can see her” thing, because, y’know, if she’s hollering like that, the Super Skrull or Doc Doom or whomever will be able to take her out pretty easily.

2) Superman has a lousy sex life. This was something John Byrne touched on with an invulnerable character in the late, lamented NeXt Men, but it bears repeating. Here’s a guy who is not bothered by bullets bouncing off him. It’s not like when you wear a bulletproof vest, and the impact of bullets can knock you on your butt and even break ribs, but at least you’re alive. This is a man who doesn’t feel a thing. It causes about as much sensation as being pelted with cotton balls. So how much fun can he possibly be having with Lois? He’s the man of steel. If she kisses him, he won’t feel the warmth of her lips against him… anywhere. Foreplay? Forget it. He shouldn’t be able to detect her hands running along his skin, because he can’t even feel pellets of lead traveling at high speed. As for the actual act? Well, friction is certainly a big plus when you’re engaged in it. You think a standard issue Trojan can dull pleasure? Superman is a Trojan horse. With the amount of sensation he’s able to withstand without it tripping any sort of switches in his mind, it’d be like wearing six or seven prophylactics at one time. How worked up can one possibly get under the circumstances? He’s not feeling anything. He wouldn’t know whether he’s coming or going, so to speak. For that matter, I doubt that Kara Zor-El was anything other than frigid. Considering she’s dead, maybe she’s the lucky one.

3) The only couple in comics history with a lousier sex life than Superman and Lois were Ben Grimm and Alicia Masters. I don’t really have to spell this one out, do I?

4) Reed Richard could have just about any woman he wanted. Same with Elongated Man. Their body parts stretch, as long as they wish. I don’t think this one requires spelling out, either, except to note that—of the three main elastic guys in comics—two of them got married very early in their careers, indicating that even in the world of comics, women know a good thing when they see it and are very quick to grab it all for themselves. Plastic Man remains eligible, ladies, probably because he’s just too damned weird, but I bet even he could see plenty of action if he were so inclined.

5) Gotham City should be crime free. Metropolis, too. For that matter, so should New York City. One of the great unanswered mysteries of comics is why in God’s name any villain anywhere would ever commit any crime in a city where superheroes make their homes. Yes, of course, there are certain guys for whom it’s a given: The Joker, for example, would never think of relocating to Dayton, Ohio. He needs the Batman to give his own crimes validity. And the Flash’s rogue’s gallery made it their collective life’s ambition, not to commit crimes, but to beat the Scarlet Speedster. I’m fine with that. But why is there any such thing as petty theft? Why would anyone want to engage in any crime, from pickpocketing to bank robbery, when at any given moment they could be nailed by a spider web from overhead, or a Batarang, or Captain America’s shield? At least a cop car you can see a mile off, whereas superheroes tend to leap out at you from the shadows. What’s the point? What’s the purpose? There’s thousands of cities in this country, in the world. Why should anyone try to conduct illicit business in the heart of superhero central? When was the last time you saw petty criminals going out of their way to break into houses next door to a police station? Criminals are concerned about two things: Robbing people, and getting away with it. If they’re in a town where paranormal individuals are threatening the latter priority, then they’ll go where the crime is easier, just as they’ll bypass a car with the Club or visible alarm systems in favor of something less protected. When Spidey swings around the city looking for crimes to photograph, he should be coming up empty. The amount of work these guys have to do should be shrinking exponentially the longer they’re in action.

6) Superman’s X-Ray Vision Should be Outlawed. Here’s a guy with a power that presents a threat on several levels. Number one, he’s a walking privacy issue. Who wants a guy around who can see through your clothes? Superman should be a walking target for sexual harassment suits, just from women saying, “I didn’t like the way he was looking at me!” Number two, there are people who cannot and should not be exposed to X-Rays. What if Superman is scanning a building looking for criminals and his x-rays imperil the fetus of a pregnant woman? What if they interfere with a pacemaker? I’m surprised that, at the very least, a court order hasn’t been issued against him.

7) The Flash is Unbeatable. Think about all the times you’ve heard about people being killed on railroad tracks. You would think that it’s a method of death that would the easiest thing in the world to avoid. You don’t want to be hit by a train? Easy: Stay off the tracks when the train is coming. The problem is, more often than not, people think they can get across the track before the train gets to the crossing. They see it coming, think, “Oh, it’s not coming that fast,” and try to beat it. Except the train’s actually moving a lot faster than it looks at first glance, and it gets there sooner than expected. And the train’s only moving… what? Forty, fifty miles per hour? Sixty, maybe? Now think about the Flash: Last I heard, he can motor at over two thousand miles per hour. Two thousand. Miles. Per hour. And that’s Wally West, who’s slower than Barry Allen was. Now think about all the times a villain has said, “It’s the Flash!” and gone for a weapon. It’s absurd. Even if you’re lucky enough to see him coming (i.e., you Just So Happen to be looking in the right direction), the moment you spot him, it’s all over. For argument’s sake, let’s say he’s a mile off when you notice a red blur heading your way. The Flash is moving at thirty three miles per minute. That’s about… what? Half a mile a second? That’s twice the speed of sound (admittedly, the crook could be alerted to the Flash’s presence by the sonic boom his cruising speed would cause, but that’s not going to help him much.) From the moment the crook sees him coming to the point where he gets out the sentence, “It’s the Flash!,” that’s gotta be about two, maybe three seconds at the very least. By that point the word “It’s—” is out of the guy’s mouth, the Flash is already there. By the time he manages to say “—the—”, the Flash has already flattened him with a dozen punches. He simply can’t be beaten, because the moment a bad guy spies him, he’s finished before his brain can fully process the information. This is one of the reasons why speedster characters drive me nuts; because if you play them to their logical limit, no one can stand against them. The one exception to that is Impulse, because he’s so easily distracted, which is why I don’t mind having him in Young Justice. Other than him, though, forget it.

8 ) The Inhumans never get a good night’s sleep. If you knew that there was a guy slumbering down the hallway who could annihilate the place if he happened to talk in his sleep, would you get much shut-eye?

9) You’ll believe a man can fly. No. He can’t.

10) Dressing up like a bat just isn’t that scary. I’m sorry, it’s not. It’s just kinda weird. Criminals aren’t that superstitious or cowardly, especially when they’ve got guns in their hands. And if you’ve got a bolt of cloth hanging on your back slowing your mobility, the odds of you dodging bullets from those non-cowardly crooks are pretty darned slim.

Peter David, writer of stuff, can be written to at Second Age, Inc., P.O. Box 239, Bayport, NY 11705.


scalzifeed August 24 2014, 16:11

A Moment Of Recognition



It’s a beautiful, sunny August Sunday, I’m in my kitchen, listening to mellow music, just before heading off to do a bit of shopping for my book tour, at which I will get to see a bunch of friends and fans all over the country. My plans for the evening: Spend it with my wife and kid and enjoy being with them, and also maybe get ice cream.

Life is really good. I think it’s worth noting that it is, and that I’m grateful for it.

scalzifeed August 23 2014, 19:36

Some Lock In Reviews for Your Weekend Pleasure



As we go into release week for Lock In, a quick look at some reviews of the book from the last several days, all positive (hooray!):

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

“[T]here must be magic (defined here as a combination of skill, vision and intuition) behind Scalzi’s talent for turning out one compulsively readable book after another. Reading his novels is like watching the finest episodes of your favorite sci-fi series, with provocative ideas, high-stakes conflicts, gripping action scenes and a leavening touch of humor.”

Austin American-Statesman (registration required): 

Lock In actually works best as a smart novel about the future of disability, about the moment when those whose physical bodies have failed them have the chance to become human-plus and the jealousy and resentment that could engender in everyone else.”

Washington Post:

“Witty banter between Shane and partner keep the novel from becoming too philosophical while exploring what it means to live a virtual existence.”

20Something Reads:

Lock In is a fast and thrilling read, with plenty of character development to support a satisfyingly twisty plot.”

So far so good.

scalzifeed August 23 2014, 17:06

Henry Rollins Shows His Ass, Gets Told, Owns It



So, in the wake of Robin Williams’ suicide, Henry Rollins wrote a piece in LA Weekly called “Fuck Suicide,” in which he basically engages in a bit of “tough love” victim-blaming. This caused the world to drop on Henry Rollins’ head (here’s a fairly representative sample). Henry Rollins, to his credit, has offered up a reasonably decent apology, and plans to follow up in the same forum where the original piece ran. So that’s good, so far. Apologies are hard and hard to do well, and I think he hits the basics (and for those who don’t know, here are what I think are the basics).

A number of years ago a girl who I knew in high school committed suicide in college, in a way that at the time I thought was astoundingly dramatic. For years, when I thought of her at all, I was kind of pissed off at her. I thought of all the people she hurt with her actions, and I thought that fundamentally, what she had done was selfish and stupid and designed to get her attention that she thought she was owed and now would not be able to appreciate because she was dead — not that I thought she had thought about what would happen after she committed suicide. So that was my thinking about her, like I said, for years.

And then somewhere along the way, and I don’t remember when precisely it was, I realized that someone in this scenario was indeed an asshole, it’s just that I was putting the finger on the wrong person. The asshole was me. Because in fact I knew nothing about what was going on her head, or how much pain she may have been in, knew very little about depression or how it works on people — basically I knew nothing, period, about anything relevant. All I knew were my own opinions, based on my own life experience, in which neither suicidal thoughts, nor depression outside of a few occasional bad days, had ever featured. I wasn’t qualified to judge. Life is one long process of discovery about just how little you know about pretty much everything, and that includes people and the insides of their heads.

When I think of this young woman now, I mostly, simply, feel sad. I wish there would have been a way she could have seen her way through to sticking around. And I’m sorry that I spent years generally being pissed off at her. It was wrong of me, and it didn’t do either of us any good.

This is my way of saying that I get why Henry Rollins wrote what he did, and why he was the asshole in that scenario, and why I’m pleased, in that vague way that one is when thinking about people more famous than you, whose work you’ve enjoyed, that he’s accepted that he blew it and is trying to walk it back. As I’ve said many times, we all show our ass from time to time. I certainly have. What you do after you show your ass matters.

scalzifeed August 22 2014, 17:05

Things To Do Before the Book Tour, for Both You and Me



Things I need to do before I start my book tour next Tuesday (in no particular order):

1. Get a haircut

2. Finalize my reading selections (currently: A deleted chapter from Lock In, a sneak preview of the upcoming sequel to The Human Division, and… see, this is why I have to finalize selections).

3. Finish up a couple more promotional pieces/interviews

4. Go shopping for travel-related items

5. Sleep as much as humanly possible

6. Decide whether or not to keep the beard or go out on tour clean-shaven

7. Finalize tour commitments

8. Make plans to see friends and such at various stops

9. Pack

10. Something I’m no doubt forgetting at the moment which I will remember at the last minute, or not, in which case I’ll be on my way to Houston when I loudly proclaim, “oh, fuck,” on the plane, causing the incognito US Marshall to take me down with a taser, followed by an emergency landing in, oh, let’s say, Omaha.

Things you need to do before I start my book tour next Tuesday (in no particular order):

1. Find out which tour stop of mine is closest to you

2. Procure a large van and shove every person you have ever met into it

3. Drive them all to the tour stop of mine that is closest to you

4. Enjoy me be a performing monkey for you

5. Get a copy of Lock In or another one of my books for me to sign

6. Have me sign it for you and share a very special 30 seconds with me and also a picture and possibly a soda

7. Drive yourself and everyone you know back home in the procured van, stuffed with happy memories and signed books and maybe some Taco Bell because you all got snacky

8. Return the van, remembering to wipe away any fingerprints

9. Act surprised the next day when your neighbor rants about the damn kids who stole his van and returned it smelling like chalupas and Baja Blast Mountain Dew

10. Floss. Because that’s just always a good idea.

Let’s get these things done, people!

scalzifeed August 22 2014, 13:35

The August 26 SF/F Line Up



In case you’re wondering what other science fiction and fantasy books are coming out on the same day as Lock In, here’s a fair (but by no means complete) sampling of the day’s releases:

Again, this is not a complete listing — there’s also a bunch of paranormal romance and urban fantasy that shares the same book birthday, plus lots of smaller press and self published SF/F that will arrive in the world next week.

The point is: For every one of these authors, next Tuesday is a nerve-wracking day, not only because their book is out in the world, but because they know so many others are fresh out in the world, too, waiting for readers (and buyers). It’s a miracle we’re not all puddles of neurotic goo.

Now, certainly I want you to buy Lock In starting next Tuesday, if you’ve not already pre-ordered it. I want it to be successful, hit the best-seller lists, get optioned in Hollywood, and become a non-stop marketing monster to the point where there are such things as Lock In chewable vitamins. I mean, I’m not gonna lie about that. But I also hope that next Tuesday your book buying menu also includes another book or two, not neglecting the examples above. The best possible way to support the authors you like is to buy their books. It’s pretty simple, actually. And this August 26, at least, you have some pretty great choices for your bookreading dollar. Happy reading.

peterdavidblog August 22 2014, 11:59

The CBLDF: Perception vs. reality



digresssmlOriginally published April 27, 2001, in Comics Buyer’s Guide #1432

So we’re talking about the CBLDF this week.

Now of course, it’s not as if I’ve never discussed it before. Indeed, the last time I did, it prompted J. Lyle of North Carolina to wonder in “Oh, So,” in part:

I’m very glad that someone brought up this particular point about CBLDF. It certainly seems to me that CBLDF mostly defends the right of retailers to carry pornographic comics. I know that is not always the case, but it is a strong impression that CBLDF gives to the public.

That’s too bad. I feel that this is part of the reason that our industry is in decline. Whenever comics are given any publicity in the popular press, it seems to focus on “adult-oriented” comics. Imagine the poor parents who, remembering the comics of their youth, take their child into the local comics shop to pick up a copy of Scooby Doo, only to find that same shop catering to an entirely different type of client: the pornography buyer. So retailers have the right under the law to sell pornographic comics, but is it a good idea?

And he goes on to ask:

Why does CBLDF seem to cater to the pornographic comics publisher? Does the CBLDF have any interest in the publishers of “family-friendly” comics? If so, why would it choose Cherry Poptart as “spokesmodel” for fund-raising efforts? And why is the CBLDF table at conventions littered with pornographic comics? (I realize that they carry a wide range of comics for fund-raising purposes, but pornography is at their tables in abundance.)

I find that I’m forced to acknowledge that Lyle has a point: It must seem to the average fan that the CBLDF does indeed “cater to the pornographic comics publisher.” As a result, it must give the average fan a rather unsavory feeling. Make him or her feel—well—yucky defending the cause, because it takes a hell of a lot of character for people to really, truly, believe in the First Amendment. To support that which they themselves find unpalatable, based purely on that most ephemeral of human motivations: Principle.

The short answer to Lyle’s question is to say that the CBLDF caters to porn publishers in the same way that firemen generally tend to cater to people whose houses are aflame. If Lyle is at home, minding his own business, he’s not thinking much about the fire department. But just imagine if Lyle’s neighbor’s house was on fire. Suddenly the presence of the fire department would be highly desired, because he’d want that blaze extinguished before the wind carried the flames over onto his house.

That’s what the CBLDF is. We’re the firemen. We’re the ones who hop onto our shiny red firetrucks and dash to the scene of the conflagration in hopes of smothering the flames with water before it gets a lot worse.

Now Lyle may think his house his fireproof. As for the neighbors, well—they’re noisy and disgusting and do lewd things day and night. If their house goes up, secretly that’s just fine with him. And it could never spread to his house because his house is impervious to it.

This is the sort of thinking that underscores the great divide between adult material and kiddie material. Booksellers have the right to sell pornography… “but is it a good idea?” Lyle asks. In order to make his point, he describes a comic book store that matches up with none I’ve ever been into. Every comic store I know of, if some parents walk in wanting to buy Scooby Doo comics, old Scooby’s right there, in the kid rack or the dollar rack or alphabetically nearby old standbys like Spider-Man and Superman, if they’re racked alphabetically. And if the store does indeed carry adult material, you’re no more likely to find it next to kiddie fare than you are to find the works of Anais Nin next to those of J.K. Rowling in your local Borders, or The Red Shoes shelved next to The Red Shoe Diaries in Suncoast video.

Unfortunately, there’s a common mistake made by many critics of anti-censorship organizations such as the CBLDF. They think that censors come after material because it’s pornographic. Wrong. Censors come after material because they don’t like it. That’s the only reason. The only reason.

What are the most censored works of literature in American history? Huckleberry Finn. Catcher in the Rye. The classification that one would ascribe to the subject matter is secondary. It’s the handy excuse, it’s the buzzword, it’s the means by which censors get people riled up so that the censors can accomplish their aim, namely to decide on your behalf what you should and should not be allowed to read.

The major problem the CBLDF faces is that the format of comics—despite Maus, despite Jimmy Corrigan, despite Sandman, all of which get copious mainstream publicity and are not remotely “pornographic”—is still regarded as the province of the child. As Neil Gaiman has pointed out, words by themselves remain adult fare, and pictures by themselves are art. But the moment you combine words and pictures, the result is considered kiddy fodder. Which means that the bar for our little venue is lowered even further than it would be for novels. Anything, anything above the level of a Scooby-Doo, runs the risk of posing a danger to the only acceptable audience that the general public will ascribe to comics: Kids.

Is there a public perception that CBLDF equates with porn? Lyle says yes. He may be right. Does that indicate that there’s something wrong with the cause or the organization? No. It just indicates that the public wasn’t paying attention. Wow. There’s a shock.

In this column alone, I’ve discussed instances where such “pornographic” fare as Elfquest, Spawn, and Spider-Man were targeted by individuals with axes to grind, who tried to make life difficult for various retailers. I’ve also discussed Legend of the Overfiend, material that is considered art by scholars and probably most of Japan. But a wink and a nudge from a prosecutor and a reminder that “comics are just for kids” got the retailer found guilty of selling obscene material… not to minors, but adults.

Lyle only makes mention of Cherry Poptart. Curious. With an array of “spokesmodels” including Evan Dorkin’s Milk & Cheese, Dave Sims’ Cerebus the Aardvark, not to mention t-shirts with graphics by Terry Moore, Mike Kaluta, Chester Brown and Frank Miller, why is it that Larry Welz’s Cherry is singled out? I don’t know. I do know that we can’t be held responsible for the public’s misguided perceptions. All we can do is correct it, over and over and over again.

Perhaps the CBLDF might be more palatable if Scooby-Doo were our symbol. But hey, what about that Scooby Doo, huh? What an unwholesome bunch. The dog talks; probably the work of the devil. He gets high on some sort of snack, which is an obvious endorsement of drug use. And the relationships of the humans! Look at the way Fred dresses, and the fact that he hasn’t hit on Daphne. Gotta be gay. For that matter, Daphne and Velma are probably a couple, and we don’t even want to know what’s going on between Shaggy and Scooby. Drug-addled dogs and perverts. It’s enough to make you sick. Out, out damned Spot, or Rover, or Scooby, or whatever the hell your name is. You’re almost as bad as that Harry Potter, encouraging our children to worship Satan.

Bottom line: The CBLDF doesn’t defend pornography. The CBLDF defends what needs defending. Because someone, somewhere, is capable of being offended by absolutely anything. Now you can either contribute to the volunteer fire department… or you can wait around until the fire gets to your home, and wonder why no one is coming when the alarm bell sounds.

(Peter David, writer of stuff, can be written to at Second Age, Inc., PO Box 239, Bayport, NY 11705.)


scalzifeed August 21 2014, 19:04

Two Truths and a Lie With John Scalzi



First, yes, that’s supposed to be me with an old-timey mustache. That’s one hipster moment I’ll never have to have now!

Second, over at Google Play, I’m playing Two Truths and a Lie, in which I, on video, tell two stories that are true and one that is a lie, and you have to decide which is which. And while you’re there you might note all of my ebook backlist is 50% off at the moment. So, you know. Pig out.

(Also if you scroll down to the bottom of the linked page you’ll discover the answer, as to which one is the lie. It might surprise you! Or if you’ve been an obsessive reader of this site since the early days, possibly not.)

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