Ten Things You (Probably) Didn’t Know About John Scalzi

28 March 2017

By Rob Cox

You might know John Scalzi as the Hugo-winning, New York Times- bestselling author. John visited the blog to tell us ten things you (probably) didn't know about him. 

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1. Scalzi’s first job: Movie Critic

Scalzi’s first full-time job after leaving college was as the movie critic for a daily newspaper in California. His first two professional reviews: A Goldie Hawn movie called Deceived (which wasn’t good) and The Fisher King, directed by Terry Gilliam (which was very good). Scalzi was at that job from 1991 to 1996. He still does film criticism occasionally and has written two books on film (The Rough Guide to Sci-Fi Movies and 24 Frames Into the Future).

 

2. Scalzi has been on Oprah!

In 1996, before he was a novelist, Scalzi was invited onto Oprah! to talk about a book called The Rules, which purported to give women secrets to win the hearts of men and then drag them to the altar. Scalzi thought the book was "manipulative trash" and said so. Scalzi’s appearance on the show is available on YouTube. He asks you to forgive the truly horrible sweater he’s wearing in the clip.

 

3. Scalzi is a drummer

While Scalzi is perhaps most commonly associated with the ukulele, which he will play on request if someone brings one to one of his appearances, he’s been playing drums since he was a teenager and is most competent on that instrument. He wouldn’t say he’s good (he’s not that great on the uke, either). But he’s competent. He can keep a beat. 

 

4. Scalzi has an album of electronica

His 2005 album Music For Headphones is available at most online retailers and streaming music services. Scalzi estimates that since its release, it’s earned him literally tens of dollars. It’s an underground success. Very very very very very underground.

 

5. Old Man’s War (2005) is not Scalzi’s first published book

It was actually his fifth! All of the previous books were nonfiction works. Scalzi’s first published book was, of all things, a book on internet finance: The Rough Guide to Money Online, published in 2000. Copies are still findable on eBay and other such outlets. Warning: Almost every bit of information in it is now horrifyingly out of date.

Old Man's War

Old Man's War

Even if its not technically his first novel, Old Man's War kickstarted the Old Man's War series that won him science fiction's John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer.

At seventy-five years old, John Perry is after a fresh start - so, naturally, he joins the army. Earth's military machine can transform elderly recruits, restoring their lost youth. But in return, its Colonial Defence Force demands two years of hazardous service in space. This is how Perry finds himself in a new body, crafted from his original DNA. A genetically enhanced and upgraded new body, ready for battle.

But upgrades alone won't keep Perry safe. He'll be fighting for his life on the front line as he defends humanity's colonies from hostile aliens. He'll pay the price for his choices, and he'll discover the universe is even more dangerous than he imagined.

Read extract  

 

6. Scalzi is (very distantly) related to Abraham Lincoln’s assassin

John Wilkes Booth, the man who shot Abraham Lincoln, the most beloved of all US presidents, is Scalzi’s great- (several times over) uncle. Scalzi is on record as saying he thinks this was a very bad thing and no one should shoot a president ever, especially not Lincoln. (This means is also distantly related to Edwin Booth, famed 19th Century Shakespearean actor, and even more distantly related to British parliamentarian John Wilkes.)

 

7. Scalzi holds an obscure publishing record

In 2013 Scalzi’s novel The Human Division was comprised of thirteen self-contained short stories, each of which were released serially as eBooks, one per week. Each of these eBooks made it onto the USA Today bestseller list, making Scalzi the person with the largest number of bestselling titles released in the shortest amount of time (13 in 13 weeks). 

 

8. Scalzi was once covered in buttercream frosting by Neil Gaiman and a roller derby team

No, really, this happened. Google “Scalzi buttercream.” You won’t be disappointed.

 

9. Scalzi was once (partially) paid for a book in bacon

The contract for the audiobook of his novella The God Engines included a clause that specified that the publisher would subscribe him to a “Bacon of the Month” club for six months. They did. The bacon was delicious.

 

10. Scalzi has a story that makes every goth and emo person he knows jealous

Which is that when he was a film critic he got to visit the studio where The Nightmare Before Christmas was being made and got to see the miniature sets the movie was filmed on. Yes, that’s right, Scalzi has actually been to Halloweentown. He also got to have Danny Elfman sing “Jack’s Lament” to him (and to be fair, others) live at the studio. Yeah. It’s okay to have envy.

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The Collapsing Empire

The Collapsing Empire

Does the biggest threat lie within?

In the far future, humanity has left Earth to create a glorious empire. Now this interstellar network of worlds faces disaster - but can three individuals save their people?

The empire's outposts are utterly dependent on each other for resources, a safeguard against war, and a way its rulers can exert control. This relies on extra-dimensional pathways between the stars, connecting worlds. But 'The Flow' is changing course, which could plunge every colony into fatal isolation.

The Collapsing Empire is out now in Paperback and eBook. 

Read extract  

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