Letters To Scalzi, pt. 2

(to John Scalzi, lately author of the very entertaining and well-written The God Engines)

John, I've noticed there is a large fairness gap in writing. While a large proportion of writers are unable to garner even 1,000 book-purchasing readers, others are routinely taking hundreds of thousands or even millions -- and most shockingly, many books are not published at all because Big Publishing is only interested in making profits not helping writers spread their important ideas. These awards are only making things worse.

Now, obviously we can all agree the government must ensure universal access to readers for all writers. My question for you is, should this be accomplished by 1) seizing these unfair profits from so-called "popular" authors and their publishers and using them to print copies of disadvantaged books which book stores would then be forced to carry, or 2) simply limiting printing and sales of all books to a proportionate share of total books published, based perhaps on the prior year's total sales of all books. I think both ideas have their merits, but I'm curious what a writer such as yourself thinks of these proposals.

UPDATE: Welcome Instapundit readers, and thanks to Glenn for linking.

John is a great writer, and I encourage everyone to follow the links above and vote for him. I just wanted to tweak him a bit with a little dystopian satire wherein there is no free market for books, which prospect I hope is sufficiently horrifyingly that he spares a neuron or two to consider the notion that other people's property rights might be important, too (it's always easy to find a reason to take the other guy's stuff in the name of fairness...).

posted by Dave on 03.30.10 at 05:12 PM


You're evil ... that's what I like about you.
(and I am one of those disadvantaged book authors with small regional appeal, so I'd love to score some major publishing swag!)

Sgt. Mom   ·  March 30, 2010 5:59 PM

Sgt Mom,

We are not against blatant self promotion around here. But if you are not going to do it I guess I will:

To Truckee's Trail

M. Simon   ·  March 30, 2010 7:32 PM

There is also a tremendous fairness gap between published and unpublished authors, with only a tiny percentage of unpublished authors ever joining the chosen few.

Obviously the claims of superior merit are nothing more than the attempts of the publishing elite to maintain a stranglehold on the ideas and information presented to the general public.

Shouldn't the unfair profits of these so-called "popular" authors and publishers go towards breaking the grip of these elite published authors on the supply of books?

(hides the sarcasm shovel under the latest unpublished manuscript, and tries to look innocent)

Kate   ·  March 30, 2010 9:16 PM

I posted this at Scalzi's blog.

He deleted it. Heh. Bad satire he said.

Here is my reply - should it last:



Will the Government make you buy a Government Motors car?

But I can understand your testiness. It looks like what ever the merits of the satire a LOT of folks are thinking along similar lines and will be voting accordingly in November.

In a way Im glad the bill passed. It will keep the Democrats down for another 20 years (See Clinton, Bill, 1994)

Just remember anything gotten at the point of a (government) gun can be taken away at the point of a (government) gun.

BTW this bill is not a health care bill. It is an insurance bill. And for a while the insurance companies intend to make out like bandits. Always nice to see Chicago Politicians at work.

And my previous comment before it goes:

The GOP is surging:


My estimate based on the current popularity of the Dems is that they win about 175 seats. i.e. about a 60 seat loss in the House.

But it is early yet. If the Ds keep dropping the numbers will go higher. My prediction is 100 seats. My top prediction is 120. I would be satisfied with 80.

Will it be enough to repeal the bill (the Senate is the key) no. Will it be enough to keep the bill unfunded very good chance.

M. Simon   ·  March 30, 2010 9:25 PM

I posted this at Scalzi's blog.

He deleted it. Heh. Bad satire he said.

M. Simon

And he claims to be for free speech and open dialog. Tut, tut, Mr Scalzi.

Isn't it funny how it becomes "bad satire" when he doesn't agree with it?

Free speech for me, but not for thee... One wonders if the statement he made a while back about supporting the right of married gays to own firearms applies only to married gays he happens to agree with?

Okay. I need to put the sarcasm shovel away and lock the closet or I may bury myself in it. My personal snarkometer is heading for meltdown and I've already broken several this week.

Kate   ·  March 30, 2010 9:47 PM

Clearly an idea for the times, but it doesn't go far enough. It needs to be applied to newspaper pundits (Krugman, Friedman, Rich, Dowd, et al.) And to academics (Robert Reich,) and the movie industry.

Victor Erimita   ·  March 30, 2010 11:38 PM

How about the income gap between Hollywood's Big stars, and the extra. Need to spread the wealth of the Big stars to the exploited little people, no?

Everyone should be treated fairly. After all an extra works as hard as a star per work hr, doesn't she? Why is she being paid less? Without her and other extras, the "stars" would have to say their monotonus monologue to themselves.

ic   ·  March 31, 2010 12:42 AM

Scalzi's comments section is the very definition of "a herd of independent minds."

M.   ·  March 31, 2010 1:12 AM

Scalzi's got his, and he's keeping all of it for himself, without thinking about those thousands and thousands of his fellow science fiction hacks who can't get published because of limited access.


In truth, Scalzi is a classic dope. He's not a very good writer and he's a worse thinker, but I will admit that he is powerfully lucky, being one of the winners of life's lottery.

DelD   ·  March 31, 2010 1:16 AM

What would be really fun is to use the same logic with music and direct a similar request toward Bono or Springsteen or Johnny Cougar Mellencamp or some similar poseur.

Buck Smith   ·  March 31, 2010 1:22 AM

You know, when Ayn Rand wrote this particular piece of bad satire in Atlas Shrugged (the party at Reardon's house), people said that the characters were one-dimensional caricatures.

Ed Minchau   ·  March 31, 2010 1:45 AM

"In truth, Scalzi is a classic dope. He's not a very good writer and he's a worse thinker, but I will admit that he is powerfully lucky, being one of the winners of life's lottery."

I don't agree much with Scalzi's politics, but calling him a "dope" is just plain ignorant. He's a helluva good writer & worked damned hard to become one - success from hard work is not a lottery prize. Those of us who extol the virtues of hard work should be the first to give him credit where it's due.

Chris G   ·  March 31, 2010 1:51 AM
M. Simon   ·  March 31, 2010 2:15 AM

As long as we are doing bad satire anyways: I'm sure he doesnt mind if someone shares his books in ebook format as long as they are in a disadvantaged position. I certainly appreciate the gift.

Daran   ·  March 31, 2010 4:15 AM

"a herd of independent minds."

Very True.

I read Scaliz's site almost daily, I've just learned that since I don't agree with him politically, I don't bother diving into the comments section for those political threads at all. IF you go looking for an argument, that's not much differnet than trolling, IMO, and what's the point? You can spit into the wind or face another direction.

I do agree that John Scalzi's success is the result of writing a lot, he has written all sorts of fiction and non-fiction, IIRC, technical writing, etc. He works hard to ensure that writing pays the bills, and is hardly an overnight success. HE was smart to post "Agent to the Stars" and part, if not all of "Old Man's War" online and still selling a large amount of books, thereby proving you can make money by giving soemthing away if it is of sufficient quality. He was also lucky, but he knows it and acknowledges it.

He's also offered ebooks to deployed servicemembers, which I greatly appreciated when I was in uniform.

Still, I'd like to know what his response to your email is, if any.

Rob   ·  March 31, 2010 4:34 AM

"My name is _Balph_."

Colin Fraizer   ·  March 31, 2010 5:59 AM

Scalzi is a jackass to commenters who don't agree with him and always has been. His SciFi is OK but not that memorable. I don't know why Glen Reynolds continues to promote him. When the Dems go down to defeat this fall we could go back over there and gloat but he'll delete all that too.

Locomotive Breath   ·  March 31, 2010 7:07 AM

Ok this is a joke right? You can not be serious that the government is somehow responsible for determining what I read and what I buy for my book money?

Anonymous   ·  March 31, 2010 7:57 AM

Funny, where have I read this before?

bandit   ·  March 31, 2010 8:13 AM

John is a great writer, let there be no debate on that point. I'm only trying to broaden his horizons.

I'm just tweaking him a bit here because when I pointed out that "universal health care" means healthcare paid for by someone else, he suggested I must be against Social Security, too, and then claimed many people against HCR were hypocritical because they were recipients of government aid -- which is itself extremely hypocritical because John has benefitted greatly from the free market he wants to deny to people working in the health care industry.

So, fine, then. If you want to argue on the premise that every gov't program is just like Social Security then how abouts we attack YOUR intellectual property rights in the name of fairness, John, and see how YOU like it?

I just hope it makes him think, at least a little. I know John's a smart guy who can see the conflict here.

TallDave   ·  March 31, 2010 8:23 AM

Easy as pie, I think it's already in one of the recent bills: you just require a moratorium on the writing of new books, and require publishers to continue to print the same number of books as the previous year- viola, they will have to reprint titles from years past, giving the people access to all the older books.

There are many very worthy books that have never had a fair chance.

commenter   ·  March 31, 2010 10:12 AM

Scalzi is yet another example of someone who supported the healthcare takeover... until he finds out what it really does. Then we'll hear all sorts of "This was a mistake" excuses, without a single word about how it might not have happened if not for willing dupes like him.

RebeccaH   ·  March 31, 2010 10:20 AM

Here is a discussion by the Colorado Attorney General about why he is filing suit against the law. He makes his legal case.


M. Simon   ·  March 31, 2010 11:47 AM

I worry about literacy rates in this country.

We should force all citizens to buy $100 a year of Government approved and vetted books or pay a fine for not having purchased their properly allotted and required amount of books.

What? We can do it with Health Care but nothing else? Once we start down the road of deciding how other people spend their money; why stop here?

Isn't literacy important? Don't you care about people being able to read? Are you heartless? Of course not.

So lets force more spending and remove people's choices for their own good. We can have the IRS arrest people who aren't buying the appropriate books; and I can bribe congressmen (sorry, "lobby" congressmen) to get my book on the short-list of required reading. My sales will skyrocket.

Ertdfg   ·  March 31, 2010 2:28 PM

Yes! Do it for the chiiiiiildrennnn!
(And since M. Simon brought up the shameless self-promotion thingy - I also have the Adelsverein Trilogy out! On Amazon and everything!)

Sgt. Mom   ·  March 31, 2010 4:43 PM

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