I’ve been John Scalzi for the past month, and you didn’t notice.
EDITED TO ADD: For those of you arriving late, this was my Alternate Reality Day prank.
Did you miss me? I took the month of March off from the internet and behold! I have returned triumphant.
Kind of not at all.
It happened like this. John Scalzi, Pat Rothfuss and I were sitting around in the bar at a con, and Scalzi was kvetching about how he couldn’t get his twitter account verified. Like, seriously, the man has nearly 60,000 followers and Twitter won’t verify him.
I said, “You should let me take your account over. I got Pat’s verified.”
Scalzi said, “Yeah, during a GAME.”
Pat cleared his throat and looked a little sheepish (which is totally adorable, by the way) and made a very thorough study of his drink. “Actually…. Funny thing about that. See, after the game was over I still couldn’t get my account verified so I let Mary take it over again and…. well.”
Yep. After the Beautiful Game was over, Pat couldn’t get his real actual account verified, despite the fact that Twitter verified my fake account four times during the contest. So, I took his real account over for two days and… verified. Smug? Me? Well, yes.
So I bet Scalzi that I could get his Twitter account verified. As you do.
I am sorry to report that I could not. I suspect someone at Twitter hates him. But none of you noticed, even when I got blatant. So, you know, it only seemed natural for me to take over his Facebook account. Just to see. For science.
Again, with the not noticing.
So then, feeling cocky, I asked if I could try the blog. The last two weeks? That’s been me, starting… here. Sorry. One of the techniques I used was to hang a flag on any inconsistencies in character by pointing out that the online Scalzi is an invented persona. I even listed what my game plan was: “The online version of me is (usually) friendly and engaging and funny, tells clever stories about his family, friends and pets, and so on.” After that, I just had fun and tried to be careful about not pissing people off. The Mallet of Loving Correction is not as fun to wield as one might think.
Want some irony? Here. I wrote about the “epic literary feud with Brandon Sanderson” while actually sitting in Brandon Sanderson’s basement, because I was out there to record Writing Excuses. I laughed and laughed and laughed.
Now, I’ll grant that biggest thing that I had going for me was that, unlike the Rothfuss game, no one was looking for an impostor here. I just had to be plausible. Part of the key, honestly — sorry, in Scalzian, that’s “I’m not gonna lie”– but part of the key, I’m not gonna lie, is to OCCASIONALLY use all caps for EMPHASIS just because John tends to rant a WEE SMALL TINY LITTLE BIT WITH A SIDE OF HYPERBOLE more than I do.
Also, Scalzi was feeding me Ghlaghghee photos. By the way, spelling his cat’s name right consistently? The hardest part.
But then… just to see how thoroughly I could pull off writing like him, I wrote a sample chapter of a novel, which made him laugh. The differences in our styles are really interesting. He uses dialog tags all the time and I almost never use them. I actually had to go back and add them in.
Anyway, Scalzi was sooooooo sure that his editor would know that he emailed Patrick my sample with just, “What do you think?”
Again, with the smug.
Although, to be fair, I don’t think I can take much credit for that one, because it was coming from John’s official email address. This was, by the way, a serious miscalculation. John and I both forgot that Patrick and Teresa were on vacation in Italy until the 9th. So Patrick got the sample chapter but it was a day or so before he got the “No, really. Not a John Scalzi novel” email.
He thinks it’s funny now. But, this is toooootally not a stunt I recommend trying with just any editor.
Ahem. So! I’m sorry to report that there will be no Young Man’s War: First Contact.
But you can read the opening chapter the Scalzi novel that never was.
I hung my EVA suit up in my locker, checking over it to make sure there were no new signs of fraying. The far end of the locker room had a group of newbie passengers crowded around Brokedown Sal.
“Reliable,” Sal said and nodded his head ominously. “That’s what we all thought of Starky. When the dude missed last night’s roll call, there was more than panic, there was fear. You see…”
“Oh, what utter bullshit,” I said and slammed my locker door a little harder than strictly necessary. I had to hold a handstrap so the momentum wouldn’t push me across the room. The clang echoed through the room. “You aren’t going to start the newbs out on the station with a goddamn ghost story are you?”
One of the newbs had drifted free of his footholds and was pawing at the suit of a friend, trying to pull himself back down to the floor. The station wasn’t zero g, but it was close enough this far into the hub that it would take him a long ass time to fall back down.
Sal folded his arms the way he always did when he got stubborn. He said, “Dude. Not a ghost story, Chet.”
“Dude. Starky is in his bunk nursing a hangover,” I said, pushing off and aimed my long leaps for the door. “Teach your passengers how to hold on instead of trying to scare them.”
I should not let Brokedown Sal get on my nerves. I know I shouldn’t. The man couldn’t help being a chronic liar and it didn’t interfere with his skills as a shuttle pilot, but still, it made me crazy. Especially when rotation put Sal in charge of giving newbs the tour. I hop-floated through the corridor until I got to the down tube. Snagging a rung, I started climbing down to the next level. I wanted some real gravity and a drink.
Crammed into a single room on level 4, the Sheltered Fish had tried to create the ambiance of a down-planet bar through a clever use of paint. If you didn’t look too closely, the plasteel counter gave the impression of a fine oak grain and the ducting overhead could pass for brass. They’d painted the airlock dog wheels to look like giant gears so the whole thing almost, almost looked like it was an early twenty-first century bar.
I sidled up to the bar and ordered a wetpack of brandy. They couldn’t do anything to disguise the serving containers. Even in the gravity portions of the station, everything came in low-grav packaging, just in case they lost spin. I hated drinking beer with a straw, so brandy had long ago become my drink of preference.
Drink in hand, I turned to see who else was holed up here. Across the room, Mbali stood at one of the bar tables talking to Gerhardt. Even from here, the way the slender black woman leaned back, arms crossed, obviously meant that she wanted to escape Gerhardt’s company, but on a station with a population of 352, you couldn’t risk alienating anyone. Not even a sixty-year old physicist who would hump a water line.
“Howdy, folks,” I said, sliding between Mbali and Gerhardt as unobtrusively as I could.
Mbali latched onto me like a shuttle to a loading door. “Chet! Gerhardt was just telling me that Starky saw an alien last night,” she said.
“Been talking to Brokedown Sal, huh?” I asked and sipped my brandy, trying to pretend that I could smell it.
Gerhardt shook his head. He said, “Heard it from Starky.”
I squeezed the wetpack in surprise, spraying my drink in my face. Damn waste of brandy and stung like the blazes. When I finished sputtering, I said, “You’re kidding me.”
“Nope.” Gerhardt said, and put his hand on my chin, delicately wiping the brandy off. He licked his fingers, smiling at me the way he does. “Come back to my bunk and I’ll tell you all about it.”
At least the man was equal opportunity. I exchanged glances with Mbali and said, “You know I wish I could, but seeing Mbali has reminded me that we need to prep for the influx of newbs. When you have time?”
“Now’s good.” Mbali said, pushing away from the table with a tad too much eagerness for subtlety.
I capped the straw on my drink, slid it into my pocket and said, “Great. Come on.”
“Anything I can help with?” Gerhardt said and rested his hand on Mbali’s shoulder. “You let me know.” He just brushed her breast as he pulled his hand away.
She smiled tightly and said, “Great. Thanks. I’ll keep that in mind.”
The moment they were in the corridor, Mbali let out her breath in a long string of curses. I raised my eyebrows with deep admiration and asked, “How many languages was that?”
“Six. If you count Middle English and Early Modern English as separate languages,” she said, running her hand over her cropped hair. “Which you should.”
“I’ll keep that in mind,” I said. “That’s the second time I’ve heard Starky’s name today.”
“Where’ve you been? It’s all over the station,” she said.
“I was out doing EVA repairs on the solar panels for most of the morning. First I heard was from Brokedown Sal,” I said.
“Yeah, well, he’s telling the truth for once. Probably. What did he say?” she asked.
“Just starting to tell a bunch of newbs that Starky didn’t show last night,” I said.
Mbali’s eyes lit up and she said, “I’d forgotten they were coming on board today. Sam Brooke is supposed to be in this batch.”
“And he is?” I asked.
“She. She is the other prog–”
A klaxon sounded and the hall jolted under us. I grabbed for a handrail, but inertia hurled me away before I could snatch hold. Thank God, Mbali grabbed my foot as gravity faded and died otherwise I’d have bounced off the ceiling. Up and down the corridor, people cursed and shouted questions.
The intercom cut in with a buzz of static. “All hands. All hands. Unidentified boarders. Recommend full EVA gear. This is not a drill. Repeat. This is not a drill.”
Mbali hauled me in so I could grab the handrail. I clenched it, palms sweating and asked, “You said aliens?”