Several years ago we somehow ran across John Scalzi’s excellent book Old Man’s War. Probably because it was nominated for the Hugo Award that year and our household tends to take note of things like that. And behold, it was good!
As a side note, if you can tolerate science fiction at all, meaning if you’ve watched anything from Edge of Tomorrow to the rebooted Star Trek movie series and liked it, much more classic gems like The Terminator or Blade Runner or the brilliance that is the original Twilight Zone series, go find yourself a copy of Old Man’s War and give it a shot. I promise you’ll be entertained, amused, and intrigued by the story. Plus it’s a quick read so you don’t even have to possess a long attention span.
Anyway, that’s what got us onto reading stuff by Scalzi. We happily mowed through the rest of the OMW series, caught up on his other works like the Hugo-winning Red Shirts, and signed up in advance for anything he decides to publish from now till he meets his unfortunate end.
It’s not that Scalzi is a brilliant writer whose gorgeous prose will change the face of literature… But he’s witty. And thoughtful. And opinionated, which means you can actually disagree with him and it’s fun. And he creates interesting characters who inhabit interesting worlds.
But that’s not actually what I came here to say.
A couple days ago, on a lark, I decided to order a used and cheap copy of Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded, a print compendium of Scalzi’s blog posts from Whatever, the site where he posts something (usually short) daily. He’s a writer and these are his daily training exercises, if you will. Keeps him limber.
The book has been delightful for several reasons. One, Scalzi is hilarious. It’s true in his fiction, and it’s true in everything else he writes, from commentary on current political messes to acerbic responses to angry readers.
Second, Scalzi writes every day (more or less). I really respect that. And he doesn’t let some weighty sense of “I need to write about stuff that’s important” drag him back from accomplishing what is really a very straightforward goal: Put some words on the blog. Every day. Words that are worth sharing with others.
I don’t write for a living (er, to make a living) so I don’t feel the drive. But I’d like to borrow a cup of Scalzi’s self-discipline and push myself to write regularly, for my own good. And to get better at it.
By the way, here are a few of my favorite posts from Whatever. Prepare to be entertained and probably offended.
I Hate Your Politics (in which Scalzi skewers every political viewpoint equally)
The Existential Plight of Chester Chipmate (in which Scalzi imagines a terrible void in the life of a store-brand cereal mascot)
Leviticans (this one will make most of the Christians I know angry, but he makes an excellent point: following rules =/= following the Gospel… and this from a man who considers himself non-religious)
The Lie of Star Wars as Entertainment (in which Scalzi dispenses with the notion that George Lucas has anyone in mind besides himself when making these movies)
The 10 Things Teenage Writers Should Know About Writing (a fantastic post that you should share with all the young writers in your life, even though his honesty will probably piss them off)
Being Poor (a great piece for understanding the nitty gritty realities of being poor)