5 questions with John Scalzi, author of The Old Man’s War series

The Old Man's War is a six novel military science fiction series.

John Scalzi's epic The Old Man's War series has been raging for over 10 years. The End of All Things is the latest epic chapter of the saga, and we thought it was the perfect opportunity to ask John to answer some of our probing questions.

1. How would you introduce The Old Man’s War series to new readers?

By giving them the first book in the series! But in terms of the one sentence pitch, the one I usually give to people who are science fiction fans is: "Starship Troopers with old people." For everyone else, I say: "The good news is, when you turn 75, you get to have a new body and go into space. Bad news is, you're in the military and there's a 75% chance you're dead in three years. Wanna sign up?"

2. Given there are 6 books under The Old Man’s War banner, do you have an overall road-map for the series or do you work on a book-by-book basis?  

I don't even work on a book-by-book basis: I make it up in each book as I go along. I'm very much of the "write the book to find out what happens" school of writing, which is a fact that my writer friends who outline consider with great horror. But for me (and that's the key, "for me"), it's what makes the writing fun and interesting. Which I think is reflected in the books. 

3. Why did you choose to have multiple viewpoints throughout the series?  

Because it's a big universe, and there's a lot going on in it! Easier to cover all that ground (and space) with more than one person. Also it's fun to be in the heads of multiple characters. Keeps me from being bored as a writer, which is an important thing in a long series of books.

4. Were there any particular inspirations for the series?  

The original was explicitly patterned after mid-period Heinlein (which is why I took care to acknowledge him at the end of the book), and I took some inspiration from video games (the Empee rifle was a direct result of noting that video game characters carry so many weapons they realistically would not be able to move). At this point, however, I think the series is pretty much its own thing. 

5. As well as novels and short stories, you also write for TV and video games – which is the most challenging?     

I don't know that any format is particularly more challenging than the others -- it's mostly a matter of learning the conventions of each, format-wise, and then pouring the story into those conventions. That said, I tend to write either long or very short, so middle-sized stories ("novelettes") tend to be the most difficult for me to write. 

BONUS QUESTION from Seth Patrick, author of A Darkness of Dragons: What’s been the single best moment in your writing life?

Hopefully, it hasn't happened yet! 

But if I have to pick a moment so far, it would be when I wrote my first novel and gave it to my wife to read and she liked it. My wife Kristine loves me too much to be nice to me if the writing isn't working, which makes her an excellent first reader. When she read that first novel and actually enjoyed it, it meant I might actually have a chance at this novel writing thing. Which was an encouraging thought. 

Old Man's War

by John Scalzi

Book cover for Old Man's War

Earth’s military machine can transform the elderly, restoring their youth. So when seventy-five-year-old John Perry is looking for a fresh start, he signs up for the army. But youth doesn’t come for free, and he is required to commit to two years of hazardous service in space. He’ll fight for his life on the front line, and discover just how dangerous the universe really is.