Thanks to everyone who contributed to this year's Rarely Asked Questions. Hopefully I'm in a cake-coma right now, but rest assured when I regain consciousness I'll be very grateful to you all. Cheers!
Jihan asked: Have you ever wished you were a girl?
Jihan asked: Have you ever wished you were a girl?
Certainly! What man hasn’t stood in a long line for the Men’s Room, seen the empty door to the Lady’s Room, and pondered a temporary swap?
Jamie Cameron asked: You are briefly transported to a universe where everything is the opposite of what it is in this universe. (Everything in this universe still exists in that one, however. So, for the case of this question, the opposite of here is there, not nowhere.) You track down your parallel self. What is your parallel self like?
Parallel John never shaved his beard. I watch him from afar for several days, in mixed awe and disgust. He walks away in the middle of most conversations, not out of deliberate rudeness, but because he's bored and uninterested in pretending otherwise. He's at least a hundred pounds heavier than I am, having clearly indulged in every food I've weeded out of my diet. He's made quite a living writing formulaic Genre fiction with no prose style on the Kindle, and using a pseudonym to sell positive reviews to self-published authors. He's never gone bankrupt over a surgery like I have, though he's needed more surgeries. He talks to himself so much that even I feel sorry for him, though he seems to enjoy his imaginary friends more than I do. I think our crucial difference is that a decade ago when he started serious critical thinking, he applied it outwards to the world rather than inwards. I can't be certain, though, because a decade ago I focused my criticism inward and thus suffer from irrational degrees of self-doubt.
Karen Wojcik Berner asked: What's your favorite vegetable?
Every one that came to mind is actually a fruit, so I’ll say fruits are my favorite vegetables.
Tony Noland asked: Has your life turned out the way you expected it to? So far, anyway?
I’ve developed far fewer superpowers than I’d expected at age 10. Certainly, with the neuromuscular syndrome, none of my adult life has been what I anticipated. But I think by the end of my teens I developed a reasonable outlook, if a little pessimistic, and where I’ve deviated from there has largely been positive. I’ve been more successful in publishing and making friends than I’d imagined, for instance. Also, I really can’t undersell how much I did not expect dieting and exercising to destroy my gallbladder. Healthy living, baby!
The Elephant's Child asked: What is your biggest regret? And thank you so much for giving us your birthday present. A truly generous gesture.
My regrets can be funny things. My biggest regret ought to be letting the doctors perform such egregious malpractice that they crippled me at 13, or exercising myself into a gallbladder failure, or at least not figuring out my girlfriend was cheating on me sooner. But I’m at peace with those, possibly because they were so big that I’ve thought them through. My long-festering regrets tend to be petty, like not thinking of a clever thing to say until an hour after an argument ended. I’m writing this before going to a major literary convention, and I almost guarantee you that as of this posting, on that day, I’ll more acutely experience regretting not asking another author out to coffee than I do never getting to know my paternal grandfather before he died. I can be a petty little beast, even in hindsight.
Joshua Londero asked: Will you remember the little people when you are famous?
Never. Godzilla was an early and profound influence on me.
Ross Dillon asked: Which 21st century technology are you most intrigued by for its future?
Digital data storage might be it. If cognition, of a human, transhuman or other stripe, can be stored, invented, duplicated and modified as such, we’re looking at a punctuation in our evolutionary equilibrium. The problems it poses, for the replication of self, the loss of the analog original, and a suddenly laterally expanding society, are only rivaled by the wonders it offers. Never in medical history would we have such a shot at isolating and treating mental illness. Is your knee inoperable? Try this new prosthetic body. And just imagine where fetishes will go once Dad’s midlife crisis causes him to download his consciousness into a Corvette.
Helen Howell asked: What is the best lesson you have learnt so far in your life?
By far, it’s how to be alone. I’m at my worst when I forget that one.
Tim Van Sant asked: If we describe the best of the questions you get as being well done, how will you resolve the paradox of something being both well done and rare at the same time? And what medium will you use to resolve it?
High quality does not require high frequency, so there is not actually a paradox to begin with. There is some coping necessary, though, to handle persistent mediocrity or poor quality. This I will remedy through passive aggression and ice cream cake. I’m told there’s an ice cream cake in the house right now, so I’m ahead.
Tom Gillespie asked: When is it due?
The doctor has begun drilling into Dustin Hoffman’s teeth, so I should say it will only be a minute.
Susan Cross asked: Do you take your cell phone into the bathroom with you?
I only have my cell on me when I go out, and it would be suspicious to leave the phone outside a public rest room. Historically, I prefer talking to myself than listening to messages while on the can.
Peter Newman asked: Right, so a question I wouldn't ask of anyone... On judgement day (or equivalent), what crimes would be weighed against you?
My sense of humor. I imagine cheating on my diet so often will come up, especially when I kept claiming to strive on it. The money I spent on anything except charity, I imagine, is something I’ll get hit with, just like every other human being. We’re all going down for that.
Samari Smith asked: How much wood would a wood chuck chuck if a wood chuck could chuck wood?
There is no way that this is a question you ask rarely. I’ve only reproduced your question here to publicly shame you.
Marc Nash asked, with his own unique choice of capitalization: who wrote THE post-war Epic American novel, Don Delillo ("Underworld") or Philip Roth ("American Pastoral")?
Don Delilo strikes me as likely to live longer, thus sucking up to him has a better chance of bearing fruit. Thus: Don Delilo’s evanescent masterpiece, Underworld, best captures the post-War heart of America.
Larry Kollar asked: Indie or trad?
In a decision between a major publisher or an independent publisher, it’d probably go to whichever had the healthier marketing plan. It’d be something of a dream to work with Tor, and they have such admirable editors that I think I could get a lot out of the collaboration, in addition to giving them someone who is to the left of Scalzi on the Goofy Scale.
Anonymous Sylva asked: As you are someone who would be categorized as 'awesome' by even the most conservative estimates, I believe you to be uniquely qualified to answer this two-part question. First, what do you consider the most radical of dinosaurs? Second, how would you have made said dinosaur even more better on a redesign?
It’s hard to deny that Grimlock am king. I’d make him even more better, and perhaps demonstrate finesse, by granting him the Autobot Matrix of Leadership and putting him in charge of the good guys in my new robot cartoon, The Incompetons.
Beverly Fox asked: What's the most messed-up ill fate you've ever wished upon someone? (This someone, BTW, can be a fictional character you really hated or a superhero that was too cocky for you to stand- it doesn't have to be a real person.)
I’ve routinely wished evil fates on hard bosses in videogames. The one that amused and horrified the most bystanders was, “I hope your kids need things you can’t pay for.” I feel like that’s at least a start.