Last night, my friend John Scalzi was in Concord as part of a book tour for his new novel “Lock In”, so I went to see him and attend the reading.
A few weeks back, we were talking about signings and stuff, and I joked that my first book store signing event would probably be a pitifully empty affair—like, two people in the chairs, and both of them book store employees. So he said, “You know what? Bring something to read with you, and I’ll have you be my opening act. That way your first reading at a bookstore is sure to have a few more people than two, and you won’t have to get nervous in the future because you’ve already done this thing in front of a bunch of folks.”
So I opened for John by reading an excerpt from “Cake From Mars”, my humorous SF short story that was published in the Unidentified Funny Objects anthology. It went really well, and quite a few people came up to me later in the store and told me they enjoyed the bit. I’ve done two readings so far—one at Boskone, one at Readercon—but this was the first one I’ve done in a civilian setting, so to speak. John’s reading was far better than mine—he’s a seasoned pro with lots of experience, and you can tell that he knows how to entertain a crowd, which was a reminder to me that writing is part of the arts, and the arts are largely a business of entertainment. Note to self: work on presentation and public speaking skills.
(SIDE NOTE and GRATUITOUS ENDORSEMENT: Gibson’s in Concord is easily the nicest independent bookstore I have ever seen, and the people who run it are super-nice and friendly. It’s about an hour away from Castle Frostbite, but it’s such a lovely place that I am going to claim it as my home base bookstore for all future brick-and-mortar needs and events.)
I’ve not said much about the whole Hugo/Sad Puppies kerfuffle online because I have friends on both sides of the perceived divide, and because I think that the whole affair was largely people on both sides talking straight past each other. But what I will say is this: I don’t divide my social circle along political lines. My circle of friends includes liberals, card-carrying Marxists, conservatives, libertarians, and more than a few people with anarchist leanings. Politically speaking, I’ll never be entirely in sync with anyone in the room. And you know what? That’s totally fine. I don’t have to agree with you to like you. If your circle of friends only consists of people who are ideologically in agreement, you don’t have a social circle, you have an echo chamber.
Friends with diverging political opinions are like Amazon three-star reviews. They’re not fawning or flattering like the 5-stars, and they’re not clueless or unconstructively negative like the 1-stars. The 3-stars frequently offer the most incisive, insightful, and useful criticism of your work—those are the ones that often give you material to think and really evaluate the criticism. I have the best political discussions with people who are neither totally opposed to my political views and dismiss them out of hand, or in complete agreement with me on everything.
I have all sorts of political viewpoints in my circle of friends because I don’t sort people by Conservative or Liberal or any other political label. I sort them into two categories: good people and jerks. And both varieties come in all kinds of ideological flavors. I’m friends with John Scalzi not because we agree on politics ALL THE TIME AND FOREVER, but because he’s a genuinely nice guy who’s generous with his time and encouragement, the kind who will share his podium with a relative writing newbie to get acclimated. He’s never been anything but kind to me, so I have no reason to talk or think badly of him because someone else disagrees with him on the Internet. And I do my level best to be as kind as I can be to others in return, because when my name comes up in conversation, I would much rather have it make people say, “Oh yeah, I know him—he’s a nice guy,” and not “Oh yeah, I know him—he’s a total dickwaffle.”
(There are undoubtedly people who consider me a dickwaffle despite my best efforts, of course, but you can’t ever avoid the one-star reviews, folks.)
But when in doubt? And especially when it comes to Internet arguments? I’ll always tend to side with friends, the people I know personally to be Good Folk Indeed, even if I don’t line up with them 100% when it comes to political viewpoints.
Aaaaaanyway, that’s enough on politics and Internet slap-fights for a while. Have some serious author pictures from the reading instead:
Some dude randomly defacing the existing stock of John Scalzi books.
“Let’s talk about something called an Adjustable Rate Mortgage.”
This woman is pleased. John Scalzi just saved her a bunch of money on her homeowners’ insurance.
Kloos, Scalzi, and Master Chang.
Serious author picture.