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The Last Colony

Awards: Hugo Award - Nominee

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John Scalzi on The Last Colony

John Scalzi on The Last Colony, sequel to Old Man’s War and The Ghost Brigades.

Hi, I’m John Scalzi, the author of “Old Man” trilogy, which includes Old Man’s War, The Ghost Brigades and the just-published novel The Last Colony. With me today I have someone who plays an interesting role, of a sort, in that last book. Let me have him introduce himself now.

Sameer Desai: Hello, I’m Sameer Desai, and when John started writing The Last Colony, I was his main character. In the original story, I was an American of Indian descent who had run afoul of some bad folks, and hustled off to relatives in India to avoid getting killed. While in India I and my relatives were forced to emigrate off-planet, and I was to land on a colony whose leaders were John Perry and Jane Sagan. That was the plan, anyway.

John Scalzi: That’s right. But what actually ended up happening?

SD: About four chapters in you walked me out into your yard and pushed me down a well.

JS: That’s right.

SD: Where you still keep me.

JS: Right again.

SD: It’s kind of damp.

JS: Well, it’s a well.

SD: I’d like to come out now.

JS: Maybe later. Tell the folks why you’re down there.

SD: Hey, man, you’re the one who put me here. As far as I knew, I was doing everything right.

JS: And so you were, Sam. During those first four chapters, you were indeed doing everything right – you got yourself in trouble, you fled just ahead of some bad men, you had amusing cultural misunderstandings with your relatives, and you were appropriately confused when you found yourself hustled off to a colony. But there was one problem with you, Sam: I found that I didn’t actually like you.

SD: I figured this out when you pushed me down a well.

JS: I never said you weren’t smart. Just that I didn’t like you.

SD: But you wrote me.

JS: I know! And it was killing me! Here was this character, who I meant to be a charming, hustling rogue, and you came out… well, like a twit. An annoying, whiny twit. And the more I wrote you, the worse you got. After four chapters, you had to go.

SD: So you’re blaming me for your own deficiencies of character building. Brilliant.

JS: Well, that’s just the thing. I don’t actually blame you. I blame myself. It’s not your fault that you were this annoying, whiny thing, Sam. As the writer, I should have been able to fix you. But eventually I realized I couldn’t – I didn’t have the time, and the further along I got in the book, the more I realized that I wanted John and Jane to be at the heart of the novel. The only thing to do was to throw out your character and every chapter you were in and start over. Oh, and push you down a well so no one would ever know you existed.

SD: Swell.

JS: Be that as it may, you were actually critical in helping to write the book. In writing you, I discovered what I didn’t want in The Last Colony. The final book wouldn’t be nearly as good without you showing me what wasn’t working with my writing and why. So, thank you, Sam. You were essential to the writing process.

SD: You’re welcome. Can I come up now? The lack of sun has given me rickets.

JS: Maybe later, Sam. Maybe later.

(from the Tor/Forge May 2007 newsletter)