Your Hate Mail Will be Graded: A Decade of Whatever, 1998-2008 is a collection of John Scalzi's favourite posts from the first decade of his blog's existence. And it's quite a collection too -- of course one that is best taken in short doses, one or two posts per day over a longish period of time. Just like you you consume a blog.
Scalzi started Whatever way back in 1998 and since then it's become one of the most popular science fiction author blogs out there. His mixture of humour, politics and just general zaniness is hard to resist. Most of all, Scalzi is passionate, he has a strong sense of fairness and a basic decency that comes through in every post. He's a good guy, a guy you trust, a guy you'd want to have a beer with at a sf convention sometime. He's a guy whose funny stories you constantly repeat to your friends.
Because, oh yes, he can be funny. Even better, he can be viciously funny.
Here's a bit from his epic takedown of the Creation Museum:
Here's how to understand the Creation Museum:
Imagine, if you will, a load of horseshit. And we're not talking just your average load of horseshit; no, we're talking colossal load of horseshit. An epic load of horseshit. The kind of load of horseshit that has accreted over decades and has developed its own sort of ecosystem, from the flyblown chunks at the perimeter, down into the heated and decomposing center, generating explosive levels of methane as bacteria feast merrily on vintage, liquified crap. This is a Herculean load of horseshit, friends, the likes of which has not been seen since the days of Augeas.
Yes, that's John Scalzi at his finest. And this book is full of John Scalzi at his finest. Wthat that devil Scalzi has done, see, is select his favourite blog posts from the first decade and print them on paper and bound the paper up between two covers. And then, oh yes, he then sells the darn thing to you. For money. Selling printed blog posts for money. From a major US science fiction publisher, to boot.
Let's take a step back for a moment.
So, why would I want to even read this stuff in the first place.
Because humour and outrage aren't the only note Scalzi hits. He's passionate in his defense of gay marriage (p. 51, 55 & 189), heartbreaking talking about his wife's miscarriage (p.33), hilarious on Scooby Doo or clones (p. 83 & 49), furious taking down the greedy (125), amazingly satirical when it comes to politics (181), fair but tough-minded on religion (85), scathing on Star Wars (119) and gentle but firm encouraging young writers (213).
A terrific range.
Now, you'll notice that I reference the book's page numbers above rather than linking to the original blog posts. Two reasons, really. First of all, I'm too lazy to look up the blog posts. Second, I think you should buy the book.
After all, why pay to read a book if all the content is available to read for free on the Internet?
- I'm an idiot. I certainly don't get this "new media" thing, do I. I'm probably one of those people that still buys CDs. Sucker.
- I would never plow through a long list of links if Scalzi had just posted his "Best Of" list on his blog.
- There's also a value to reading Scalzi's own curated selection of his favourite posts. It gives me an insight into his though processes and values than a more random slice of his blogging output.
- I like the idea of sending a chunk of change Mr. Scalzi's way and this is a perfectly good way of doing it. I also get to send a chunk of change to various publishing and bookstore people, whose place in the literary ecosystem I value similarly to the way I value authors.
- And if I was just reading the original blog posts, I would probably just skim them for the funny bits and skip to the flame wars in the comments.
- I actually have a signed copy of the book. That's cool. We still haven't figured out how authors to sign their blog posts to individual readers as keepsakes.
In these reviews, I usually make an effort to recommend what kinds of libraries I would suggest acquire the book in question. In this case, it probably won't fit in too many academic collections except perhaps as an example of how a blog can be turned into a book. On the other hand, this book would be a great acquisition for just about any decent sized public library.
Scalzi, John. Your hate mail will be graded: A decade of Whatever, 1998-2008. New York: Tor, 2010. 368pp.