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Wil Wheaton

It seems like everyone knows a blogger these days. Many people are bloggers. It's like being part of a secret club that anyone can join. All they need are computers and opinions.

I've been around this blogging thing for a long time, almost as long as John Scalzi has. I can recall with some amusement when newspapers, magazines and "real" journalists and writers laughed at us. Many of them treated us like we were a bunch of amateurs playing with the latest passing fad.

I can recall with a great deal of amusement when these horrified "real" journalists realized that the blog-o-sphere (a term we all hate but continue to use, because nobody has come up with anything to replace it) was not only here to stay, but was forcing them to join us or perish.

I can recall with supreme amusement when they finally did join us, and then started whining that we didn't play by their rules. We were raw, we gave things away (for free! as in beer and speech, thank you very much), we spoke truth to power, we were outspoken and impolite. There were regular calls by these established media personalities and companies for panels on blogger ethics. Sales of clutching pearls, smelling salts and fainting couches skyrocketed.

Eventually, the old guard got over themselves and accepted that we weren't going anywhere. These days, blogs and bloggers are squarely in the mainstream. Every news outlet in the world has several blogs. Bloggers regularly sit beside credentialed journalists at press conferences (and often ask better questions). When Scooter Libby was finally put on trial in 2007 for outing CIA agent Valerie Plame in 2003, the most comprehensive coverage came from a group of bloggers who were covering the story from inside the courtroom. Countless writers—including the author of this book—have subverted the traditional publishing process and released entire novels on their blogs. An entire generation is growing up in a world where blogs have always existed and are just as relevant to them as magazines and newspapers were to their parents. The Internet, originally designed to facilitate the easy sharing of information (not porn, as it's turned out—not that I'm complaining), has finally realized that intention. Blogs and bloggers are here to stay, until they unplug the Internet and turn out the lights on planet Earth.

So what you're holding here is more than an entertaining collection of essays, stories and insights about everything from parenting to politics to publishing. You have a piece of Internet history, and it is your solemn duty to preserve it for the ages. Oh, sure, you can read it. You can even read it twice, if you want. You can probably share it with your friends and family (I'm sure John and everyone at Subterranean would prefer you bought them their own copy, but I won't tell on you if you don't) but when you're all finished, it should really be placed in a climate-controlled nitrogen-filled museum display, or at least watched over by top men, because John is an OG blogger, and Whatever is an OG blog. The Internet is serious business, people, and you'd be wise to remember that, or I'll throw you off my digital lawn and Skype your parents.

Some of you may know John as the award-winning author of novels such as Old Man's War. Others among your number may know John as the guy who wrote The Rough Guides to Science Fiction and Space. But I'm willing to bet the cost of this book that most of you know John as the guy who taped bacon to his cat and put a picture of it on his blog.

I know John as all of these things, plus a few more that shouldn't be disclosed . . .but certainly merit a mention in passing, if only to inflate the myth behind the man and impress you with my implied proximity to his greatness.

Regardless of how you came to know John and his work, though, you don't really know him unless you've read his blog. That is where this book comes in.

John is one of a handful of people who have been blogging since the beginning. This is an impressive feat all by itself, but what's truly remarkable is how consistently entertaining and readable he's been for the last decade. I've been blogging since 2000, and I've been a more-or-less full-time writer since 2004, so I know how hard it can be to populate a blog with consistently worthwhile entries for a few weeks at a time, let alone a decade.

I started reading Whatever about three years ago, because our mutual friend Mykal kept telling me about something funny or insightful his friend John had posted. It's been a daily stop for me ever since. It's been hugely entertaining to come across some of my favorite entries in this book. (I especially like the posts where John shares practical advice for guys like me who hope to achieve some small portion of the success John's made for himself, with Fred the Cult Leader and Super Gay Happy Fun Hour! coming in tied for second.)

If this is your first time reading John's blog, however, you should know a couple of things before you read any further, lest it all end in tears.

John ignores the oft-given advice to avoid discussions of parenting, religion and politics, and posts about these topics frequently. Unlike most who tackle these topics, John addresses them intelligently, with great humor and insight. However, if you're very sensitive or easily offended, John's going to mock you as he skins and barbecues a barn's worth of sacred cows. I speak from experience on this point. John once wrote about one of my most beloved movies of all time, thusly: "Star Wars is not entertainment. Star Wars is George Lucas masturbating to a picture of Joseph Campbell and conning billions of people into watching the money shot." My natural geek instinct was to grab a pitchfork and convert a slide rule to a torch, but before I could summon my fellow outraged Jedi (or find a slide rule), I read the rest of John's post. Goddammit if he didn't make a lot of sense. Sure, it helped that John hated the prequels as much as I did, but his larger point about what Star Wars really is, versus what a lot of us want it to be, was made with humor and logic, and I eventually put my lightsaber away. I don't know if fundamentalist Christians (John calls them "Leviticans") or asshole parents are as easily mollified, so you should absolutely track one down, give the poor devil a copy of this book and grab some popcorn.

I'm close to my maximum word count (we bloggers struggle with this limitation when we write things that will be printed on dead trees; we're just not used to having space-based limitations) so let me get to the bit that I hope will be quoted on the jacket: This book captures everything I love about blogging. This book is filled with awesome. In the vernacular of the damn kids today, this book is made of EPIC WIN. John is funny, John is sarcastic, John is thoughtful, John is insightful, John is provocative . . .in other words, John is John, and I hope he never stops writing about and within Whatever.

Finally, I would like to note, with glee, that most of this introduction was written on a laptop while in a coffee shop. Contrary to what John says, I'm pretty sure I fooled at least one person.

Wil Wheaton actor,
author, blogger
Los Angeles, CA


John Scalzi


Decoding Hate Mail

Hi there. This is the part of the book where I get to explain to you what the hell this book really is. In one sense it's simple enough: This is a collection of selected entries from "Whatever," an area on my personal site where I write daily on whatever subjects catch my eye (hence the name). I started writing it in 1998, which in Internet years means I began writing in the Cretaceous Period—a time so far back in the mists of the Internet that the word "blog" wasn't in common use. We called these online daily writey thingies "online diaries" or "Web journals." I could tell you stories, but I sense your eyes glazing already. Let's move on.

People who aren't familiar with blogs/online diaries/Web journals, aside from being stuck mentally or otherwise in the early 90s at best, still tend to think of them as written by one of three types of people: Frothing political junkies, angst-filled teenagers, and people unnaturally obsessed with their cats. I wouldn't deny you can find all three, of course (often in tantalizing car-wreck combinations), but there is naturally more to the world of online writing than that. Several million people "blog" in one form or another; tens of thousands of people do it on a more or less daily schedule. Many of these folks are strictly amateur, but then many are not—along with the cat lovers and the angsty teens are scientists, academics, lawyers, sports enthusiasts and others who write intelligently and knowledgeably about their primary subjects and write entertainingly on others. There are even folks who started out as writers in other fields and found themselves pecking away online.

I'm one of those. A few years before I began writing "Whatever," I had been a newspaper columnist, and then after that I had written a column for America Online. In 1998, I was, shall we say, between column gigs, and decided that I need somewhere to write daily to keep sharp. You know, just in case someone came banging down my door, demanding I start up my column writing ways again.

In this respect "Whatever" was a miserable failure: Look, ma! Still not a newspaper columnist! However, the Whatever was directly responsible for my publishing four books (including this one) and indirectly responsible for several more, and it's helped me land a number of writing gigs online and off. And it in itself has become popular enough that it's afforded me a certain narrow level of online fame and celeb-rity—not to be confused with real fame and celebrity, mind you (there's very little money involved, alas), but still interesting to have. In short, it's been incredibly useful in ways I couldn't have imagined when I started it in the hopes of getting a column. It is a prime example of something that John Lennon once said: "Life is what happens to you when you're busy making other plans." A decade on, I can't imagine not writing the Whatever.

The Whatever selections you'll find in this book can be approached in several ways. For the sociologists, it's an example of early American online writing: The "blog" in the first decade of the form. You'll find this particular blog does in fact read a bit like a newspaper column, because that's where some of my early writing experience was. However, these entries differ rather a bit from most newspaper columns as they exist today, primarily because there's no set topic or length: I can write 250 words on politics or 2,000 words on the meaning of life (or vice versa). No newspaper editor in his or her right mind would give a columnist that sort of flexibility; one may argue this is to the detriment of newspaper columns, but I think it's more accurate to say that's just the difference in the medium and let it go at that.

For the historians, this is a time capsule: observations on the great events between 1998 and 2008 (as well as many not-so-great events), including a three presidential elections, 9/11, gay marriage, Hurricane Katrina and the Iraq War. It's also a personal history, because interesting things happened in my life as well, and while I avoid going into embarrassingly personal detail, either in the book or in Whatever generally, nevertheless this is a very personal mode of writing, and there's no avoiding the fact this is—to get Mailer on you about it—me observing me observing life, the universe and everything. I can be cranky sometimes and sentimental other times. Humans are like that.

But since most readers aren't sociologist or historians, there's another approach, which is reading it for the fun of it. The selection of entries you'll find covers a wide range of topics, tones and time, but the idea for all of them is that they are (or should be) entertaining—because if they're not keeping your attention, why would you come back to read any more? I'm not a precious writer; I don't usually write for the art's sake, because I'm really not that good. I write because among other things I like the idea of people reading my stuff. I write to be read. This is not to say that I write blandly to keep from offending—with a book title like Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded that should be obvious enough—but I do try to write so that even if people disagree vehemently with me (and if you read the comments at Whatever, you'll see that they do), they'll still get something out of the reading experience. It's my hope that even when I write something that pisses you off, you'll still get some enjoyment out of how it was phrased.

Time capsule, new media, entertainment: However you approach the writing in the book, I hope it speaks to you. And remember that if you like what you read, there's more where that came from: I'll be there. Swing on by.

Until then: Enjoy.

John Scalzi
May 11, 2008


Thanks to Bill Schafer and all at Subterranean—publishing a book of online entries is still a new enough idea that this qualifies as a grand experiment. Thanks for being experimental.

Thank you to Kristine and Athena Scalzi for making my life more than the grand sum of what I write online.

Thank you to the readers of Whatever. Reading this book provides you with only half the experience of the site—the other half comes from the witty and something remarkable responses the entries garner from the readers. This is why I encourage you to come read the site after you read this.

Thank you to Tim Berners-Lee for inventing this whole Web thing. It's awfully handy.


This book is dedicated to the following:

To those who blog, for giving me things to read when I should be writing.

To H.L. Mencken, who I'm sure would be either amused or appalled by the dedication.

To Ghlaghghee, Lopsided Cat, Zeus and the dearly departed Rex, my cats, because dedicating a book of online entries to cats is the ultimate in petblogging.

Finally, to Joy. Just because.

A Note On The Organization Of This Book

As you flip through this book you will notice that the entries are apparently not organized in any particular order: entries from a decade ago butt up against entries of recent vintage, and there is no rhyme or reason to why one topic follow another. But in fact there is a reason: Because arranging it so is very much how things are at Whatever. The whole point of the site is that I write whatever I want, whenever I want, however I want to. Readers never know what they're getting next (and for that matter I generally never know what I'm going to write next). As goes the blog, so goes the book. I hope you have fun with it.


For everyone who needs one, the following disclaimer:

Everything here is my opinion, and mine alone.

Occasionally, I am completely full of shit.

Well, all right, fine, more than occasionally.

On occasion I will also opine on things I know little or nothing about.

Which is fine, because the US Constitution says I can.

So there.

I'm not interested in being fair.

I am occasionally petty, nasty, snappish and rude. I'm also occasionally a tremendously sweet guy. You never know which you're going to get.

Unless you have been told specifically by me otherwise, no, as a matter of fact, I don't care what you think about me or my opinions.

I do try to be polite when I tell you that.

But I can't promise anything.

This is done by me for the purposes of my own amusement, and exists and updates entirely at my whim. If I decide to go away for a day, or a week, or forever, then I will.

I think that's it for now.

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