Science fiction author John Scalzi doesn’t think his fans are weird – but the things they bring to his readings are. Like on his last book tour, when the award-winning writer, who’ll be appearing at Quail Ridge Books on Wednesday, joked on his blog – whatever.scalzi.com – that if he got 30,000 Twitter followers, he’d strip naked and cover himself with buttercream frosting.
So naturally, fans started showing up with offerings of you-can-guess-what.
“What was I supposed to do with it?” laughs Scalzi, who’s in town to promote “The Human Division,” the fifth book in his “Old Man’s War” series. “I was on a book tour. It’s not like I could take the stuff onto the plane with me.”
A California native, University of Chicago graduate and former newspaperman, Scalzi broke into the big time with his 2005 novel “Old Man’s War,” a blast of military sci fi that told of a future universe in which 75-year-olds are given new bodies after they sign on to defend human space colonies from alien attack. The book featured strong dialog, macho humor and a moving romance, and was nominated for a Hugo Award – the industry’s Oscar – as Best Novel of the Year.
“One of my friends said it reads like an action-adventure story, but it’s really a love story,” says Scalzi, “and that’s exactly right. One of the things I’m proud of is that in this most manly of subgenres, I managed to put in people who are actively caring about each other.”
Scalzi has since been nominated for other Hugos, and was named best new science fiction writer of 2005. He has developed a following for his opinionated, erudite and funny blog, and along the way has become something of a poster child for how hip and full of real depth science fiction can be.
“Genre, the best of any genre, is as complex as any literary fiction,” says Scalzi. “Sci fi gets a rap because it’s not set in the real world, but what that says is that the people who are saying that don’t read enough of it to speak knowledgeably. There are literary critics who have respect for the genre, and it’s been taken up in academic circles.”
“The Human Division,” written after Scalzi took a five-year break from the “Old Man’s” books, began as a series of digital e-book episodes that could be enjoyed as separate entities. They’ve now been published in a traditional book format, and, says Scalzi, the whole idea “excited me, because it gave me a lot of flexibility, it was kind of a sprawling thing. You could write from multiple viewpoints, but it wouldn’t seem disjointed. I had new stories to tell and a brand-new way to tell them.”
Scalzi has been nominated for yet another Hugo for his last book, “Redshirts.” As his tour rolls along, he is not so much interested in prizes as in what his fans might be bringing with them. Scalzi admits he’s been obsessing a bit on his blog about a Mexican sweet.