John Scalzi Interview - SFWA President

Uploaded by buzzymultimedia on 23.06.2011

JMW: This is Jean Marie Ward for, reporting from
the 2011 Nebula Awards Weekend in Washington, D.C. With me today
is John Scalzi, author of seven novels, including "Old Man's
War", "Fuzzy Nation", and Creative Consultant to the late
lamented Stargate: Universe - not to mention, President of the
Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. Welcome, John.
John Scalzi: Thank you.
JMW: Okay. I don't know whether to congratulate you on the deal for
"Old Man's War" or commiserate with you on the death of
Stargate: Universe.
John Scalzi: Yeah.
JMW: But dealing with Stargate: Universe, I know this is something
Buzzy's folks would be very interested in, what's it like being
a creative consultant to a TV series? What does it entail?
John Scalzi: Well, what it means is they send me the early versions of the
scripts, and I go through them and I look for things that need
help, in terms of the science. I keep track of characters. In
Stargate: Universe in particular, I did little nit-picky things,
like every time they used a bullet that was a bullet that they
no longer had. Somebody had to keep track of those sorts of
things, because it was a ship far away.
So, I did a lot of that stuff. The way I explain it to someone
is, science fiction fans will go to a convention and they will
go, "In episode four, you had this and that was clearly
illogical." I get to be that guy before that guy gets to be that
guy. I say, "Hey, this is going to be a problem. You need to fix
that." So, in many ways, it was a lot of fun for me.
I got to spend time looking at scripts, seeing how basically
television got made, and it also gave me sort of insight on what
it takes to put together what was actually a very good science
fiction series. It's unfortunate that it only lasted two
seasons, because it was really good. But during its time, I
thought it did a very good job.
JMW: Yeah, I would agree. I watched it quite a lot. Are you working
on a similar arrangement for "Old Man's War" now that it's had a
movie deal?
John Scalzi: Well, what I told the people who are putting together "Old
Man's War" is that any time they want to pick my brain they're
certainly more than able to. I'm more than happy to talk to them
about what I was thinking when I was writing it, what I think
about the characters, their motivations, so on and so forth. But
one of the things that I think that you have to have as a writer
and as a creative person is the understanding of where your own
competencies lie.
For example, I write novels, and I'm good at writing novels, I
think. I've never written a script, and I've never adapted one
of my books into a movie. So, in that case, I'm happy just to
let them take the lead. I mean, we have a very good
screenwriter. His name is David Self. So, he knows what he is
doing. He's adapted books before. He did "The Road to Perdition"
which was a very good movie.
So, I'm kind of confident that they know what they're doing. I
told them, "You have any questions, let me know. Otherwise, we
went with you guys because we trust you to do a good job."
JMW: With so much going on in your writing life and your blogging
life, which we didn't even mention, what prompted
you to reboot the "Fuzzy" franchise?
John Scalzi: It was one of those intellectual exercises. I thought that it
would be fun to take a classic Golden Ages science fiction story
and apply a 21st century sensibility to it. Because while the
stories are still good in themselves and they're very enjoyable
in themselves, they're also a product of their era, 50 years old
sorts of things. So, the way that a similar story would be
written today would be different than it would have been written
50 years ago.
So, for me that was really the challenge was to just take one of
these stories and sort of move it forward 50 years from the
writing perspective. "Fuzzy Nation" was a good one to do it
because among other things, it was in the public domain, so
there were no copyright issues involved. That said, once we were
finished with it, we went to the Piper Estate and said, "This is
what we've done. If you don't like it, we will put it in a hole
and no one will ever see it," because I originally didn't write
it to sell it. I wrote it strictly for fun.
It was only afterwards that my agent said, "Hey, I can sell
this." I was like, "Okay, go sell it." That's one of the reasons
it's co-dedicated to him, because he actually managed to get it
out in book form.
JMW: That's always wonderful.
John Scalzi: Yes.
JMW: Is it good to be president?
John Scalzi: It has been good to be president. Often in this position,
people have said, "Oh, you're president of SIFA, I'm sorry." I
haven't had that feeling about it at all. I've been blessed with
a couple of things. The first is I have a really good board of
directors. These are committed people. These are smart people.
Everybody wants what's best for the organization and for its
members. So, we all have that common ground.
The other thing is that I think, mostly speaking, I have the
good faith of the membership. They seem to want our board and
the organization to succeed. So, they've been willing to let us
do things at a good pace, and so I've actually enjoyed it quite
a bit. To be clear, it's a lot of work. But it's been worth the
effort, and it's been worth the time.
JMW: What's next on your writing and organizational horizons?
John Scalzi: Well, I just finished a novel, which has gone into tour, which
will hopefully be out in 2012. The next thing I do, once this
tour is done - because I'm in the middle of a tour - first I go
home and I sort of recuperate for about a week or two. Then, I
start thinking about the next novel, what will hopefully come
out in 2013. Later on in the year, we'll have the World Con,
where I will be at. Then after that, I'm going to go to Germany,
actually, for two weeks on a book tour that is in part hosted by
the State Department.
JMW: Wow.
John Scalzi: So I get to go out and show Germans what American authors are
really like.
JMW: Scare them.
John Scalzi: It should be interesting. It should be interesting.
JMW: Yeah, it will be, and depending on where you go in Germany.
John Scalzi: Yeah.
JMW: I lived there for a while.
John Scalzi: Oh, okay.
JMW: Yeah. Anything you'd like to add?
John Scalzi: I don't know. I think the thing that I mostly think these days,
I've been on tour and I've gone basically all over the United
States. I've gotten to see fans and they've been really happy to
see me. I've been enjoying myself telling them about the new
novel and so on. Basically, the way that I feel these days is
that I'm just really lucky. When I was a kid, I wanted to grow
up to be an author, so I got to be what I wanted to be when I
grew up. How many people get to say that?
JMW: It looks like our battery is running out too. At this point,
where can your fans find you on the web?
John Scalzi: At, or just type "whatever" into Google.
It'll take you straight there.
JMW: Great, thank you so much.
John Scalzi: Thank you.