John Scalzi – “Redshirts” Book Tour – 6/6/2012
Certainly not a concert, but a great event nonetheless. Had the opportunity to attend a reading and books signing with John Scalzi, one of my (new) favorite authors. Normally, this is the type of thing I’d manage to talk myself out of going to, but I wasn’t able to muster up an argument against attending that I could believe.
Initially I’d planned to drive in, but there were two very good reasons not to. First, parking in that area of the city would’ve cost at least $18. And second, since the event was at 6:30 and I get out of work at 3, I would’ve had to kill at least three hours wandering around. I’m quite happy to do so with a friend, but without someone to bounce snark off of it would have been boring.
The train was $11 round trip, and didn’t take substantially longer than driving, particularly with the construction on the Platt bridge. I still had a bit of time to take a walk & grab a slice.
I got there around ten to six, bought my book on the way up, and grabbed one of the last chairs. The sixty or so people completely filled the small space. I could be wrong here, but I’m guessing that if anyone had stuck their head in and asked if someone knew anything about computers, at least fifty of the sixty heads would’ve turned. Two surprises: the crowd was much older than I would’ve expected, and the gender balance was backwards – more female than male.
Despite having tweeted he intended to show up in a blaze of laser light, no one was disappointed as quietly walked out at exactly 6:30 to a solid ovation. Noting that we were the official first stop on this book tour, he began by reading Ray Bradbury’s “There Will Come Soft Rains” – a particular favorite of mine anyway, and made all the more poignant by the obvious emotion displayed during the reading. There were few dry eyes left at the end.
At this point, he gave the audience a choice – he could either read from “Redshirts” or read parts of a new super-secret project. Yeah, a roomful of sci-fi geeks – “Oh please, read to us from the book we just bought”. Naturally, and to no one’s surprise, we went for the secret. He pointed out that on his last book tour, he’d spoken at 16 different locations to what amounted to hundreds of people, and not a single person had mentioned anything about that particular project. After swearing us to secrecy with a completely ridiculous and funny oath, we had the privilege of hearing a chapter of the newest work. And no, I’m not telling!
The special guest previously hinted at turned out to be Paul Sabourin of the duo “Paul & Storm” and previously “DaVinci’s Notebook”. He took part in an absolutely hilarious reading based on the concepts in “Redshirts”.
The Q & A session was equally funny. His discussion of trying to write from the perspective of a 16-year-old girl for “Zoe’s Tale” had everyone rolling – hanging out with teen girls at the mall turns out to not be such a great idea. Who’da guessed?
One of the things I’d always wondered about had to do with plotting story arcs, and as it turned out he said that while the basic idea for a story may be in mind, when he starts to actually write he has no idea how it will end or how plot points will resolve themselves. “Old Man’s War” was written this way, and was never intended to be part of a series. This led to the problem of later books contradicting points made earlier, but he treats those as further opportunities instead of nuisances.
He also explained that he intentionally cultivates a likeable, approachable public persona but is very careful to keep his private life private. Despite that, I got the distinct feeling that if I lived next store I’d have no hesitation in asking to borrow his hedge trimmers.
Since I was up front, I was one of the first to get my book signed. I thought it was very cool that he incorporated things from the interactions into the signatures. In my case, I mentioned that I came across his work by accident.
Having missed the 8:08 train, I took some time to grab a frozen yogurt and talk a leisurely walk up to Market East. Apart from the fact that I can never remember which street the entrance to the station is on, it was uneventful & I got back home around 9:30.
All in all, a great evening, and I’m really glad I went!