Book Review: Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded – John Scalzi

HateMailWillBeGrade

If you’ve read this blog since the beginning, you already know I’m a big John Scalzi fan.  I’ve reviewed his science fiction books, mentioned his blog, and submitted short stories to his contests.  But I’ll point the finger straight at my wife for getting this book and suggesting that I read it.  Frankly, I somehow missed that this one existed until she found it.  I guess I’m not the fan I thought I was, and I am duly ashamed.

It’s a rather unusual book in that it is a collection of blog entries from Whatever.Scalzi.com (there I go again) he did from (as the cover points out) 1998 to 2008.  It’s not all of his entries.  Good lord, the man is way too prolific for that.  But it is a good sampling of his work.  The topics he covers are broad: from writing, to politics, to history, to the media, to family and beyond.  Every one of them is uniquely Scalzi-esqe – witty, acerbic, irreverent, poignant, sometimes outrageous.  Scalzi routinely challenges your vocabulary and make obtuse allusions that in anyone else’s hands would seem esoteric.  But what he writes works, and you just know, even though you don’t know the full context of the allusion,  that that was the perfect reference to make at the right time.  There is a reason he gets paid the big bucks for writing.  He knows his shit.

Scalzi leans heavily to the left, so those people who agree with him, will love this book.  Those on the right, well, they’ll probably be offended by it. There were a couple of political hot-button issues like gay marriage and creationists versus evolutionists that he spent perhaps a bit too much time on.  But it is his book, and he can write what he wants.  That’s the whole point. He wrote about and included what he feels passionate about, and I will not condemn a man for that.  I hope that someday I have the nerve to do the same.  As a writer just starting out, I know I have to avoid politics and religion in my opinion columns.  I can’t afford to lose any readers to satisfy my need to rail against the establishment.  Not yet, anyway.

If there was an aspect of the book I didn’t like, it was that perhaps he didn’t cover his writing enough.  I wanted to know more about where his ideas come from, or how he works on his books (does he plot them out, how many people review them, etc).  He provides some very sage advice for teenager writers, and a reality check for writers who are ready to give up their day job to write full time.  I think he calls them ‘idjits’, though that may have been somebody else he was referring to.

I read this book on my IPhone, since my wife downloaded from ITunes before she got her Kindle.  It’s actually not a bad book to read on an e-media device (see, still not calling them e-books).  The entries are short, and surprisingly, I liked the IPhone–IBook interface a lot better than the Kindle.  That said, I wouldn’t want to read a novel on it, but a work like this, eh, not so bad.

By the end of this book I realized that John Scalzi is not a man I would ever want to get into a debate with.  He would flat out wipe the floor with me.  I’d be resorting to “Nuh-uh” and ‘Oh yeah?” in no-time, while I slowly try to slink out of the room in sheer embarrassment.  Debating with John Scalzi would be like trying to heckle a really, really good comedian.  And I’ve done that.  Let me tell you. You don’t want to heckle someone who gets paid a hundred bucks a minute to make jokes, and you don’t want to get into any kind of debate with someone like Scalzi if you are someone like me.  Better off to sit back, drink your drink, enjoy the show, and let some other poor schmuck who thinks he is smarter than he is, become fodder for the cannons  in John Scalzi’s head.

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