Fri
Jul 6 2012 9:00am

A Note from John Scalzi’s Editor About His Next SF Book: The Human Division

Now that it’s being discussed in the New York Times, I guess we can talk about John Scalzi’s next project with Tor Books: a new Old Man’s War book called The Human Division. (Readers of The Last Colony and/or Zoe’s Tale will have an immediate inkling of what the title means; for those who haven’t, any explanation would be a spoiler.)

The Human Division will be an experiment: an episodic novel, released initially in digital, serialized form. Currently the plan is to publish these episodes weekly in, roughly, December 2012 through February 2013. Like the episodes of a good high-end cable drama, each one will have enough internal integrity to work as an enjoyable chunk of story on its own, but each will advance a “season”-long storyline as well.

Ultimately the entire work will be published as a normal printed book and a normal e-book, in the late spring or early summer of 2013. And we’ll be doing our best to make it so that buying the book in serial form costs about the same as buying the full e-book. There may be some small extra material in the full-length book, because we’re LIKE THAT.

(A digital cover by John Harris will accompany each individual installment.)

You’ll be hearing more from us about this project as it develops—including provisions for pre-ordering. Bear with us—this is all part of a broad front of Tor/Macmillan “Let’s Try Some Stuff” initiatives in digital publishing. What I can tell you as its editor is that I’ve read a bunch of what John’s written so far and ZOMG MFF MMF [redacted].


Patrick Nielsen Hayden is a senior editor at Tor Books and, with Liz Gorinsky, one of the two fiction editors of Tor.com. Read more about him on the Tor.com About Us page.

28 comments
Kate O'Hanlon
2. KateOH
Sounds great.
Will it be available internationally?
thorfiemo
3. thorfiemo
So, you guys are going to be copying Baen's Webscriptions serialization idea. Congratulations.
Rich Bennett
4. Neuralnet
Thanks for the update, cant wait to get my hands on the first episode... I loved the old man's war etc. universe. Love the Harris cover art.
thorfiemo
5. XenaCatolica
This is a bad idea. The effect of serial publication on the Victorians was not a pleasant one. I can see that it might interest an experienced author as an experiment, but I would not want to see this catch on because very few writers are going improve in this form.
Kendall Bullen
6. kendallpb
"(A digital cover by John Harris will accompany each individual installment.)"

Hopefully an unsurprising Q: If I buy the collected edition (ebook and/or print), will it have all the individual covers? THAT would be an awesome thing indeed. I hope so. :-)
thorfiemo
7. Barclays
Gosh this is great. Well done to Tor for trying something different, I really hope it is succesful. I will certainly beone of the buyers.
Ian Johnson
8. IanPJohnson
@5: Yes. Serial storytelling is ALWAYS a bad idea. That is why every TV show in the history of forever that had recurring plotlines was a complete failure. /sarcasm
thorfiemo
9. XenaCatolica
@8, no, not always, but most of the time. And I expect my sci-fi novels to aspire to be better than television. I'm pretty sure Scalzi can pull it off, but the list of people competent to do it is a lot shorter than the list of folks who will try this.
thorfiemo
10. Improbable Joe
The codas in Redshirts worked pretty well, so I'm willing to give this a chance as well.
thorfiemo
11. Natski
Did you miss the bit about "Trying New Stuff"? I think it is great that Tor/MacMillan are exploring new ways to deliver stories. Not many companies would be willing to spend this much time, money & effort on a new project. The point is that the internet creates a lot of possibilities in the way we read books but someone has to explore them first to see if they are commercially viable for both author & publisher and if the readers like them. Bravo to Tor for trying something different. PS - huge Scalzi fan:)
thorfiemo
12. Steven Howell
I think this shows a large quantity of faith in Scalzi on the part of Tor. It's well-placed. Count me in. (I think I'm nearly as chuffed about the multiple-servings of cover art as about the fiction.)
Kelly Jensen
13. sisimka
This sounds like a great project! Can't wait to read.
Irfon-Kim Ahmad
14. Maize
I enjoyed this when Tad Williams did it ages ago ("Shadowmarch"), and I like the Old Man's War series, so I'm looking forward to this. I hope that, like Shadowmarch, there will be a space for subscribers to chat online -- preferably one that Scalzi pops in on occasionally. The absolute best part of Shadowmarch was the community, discussing our ideas and theories about each installment, and knowing tha Williams was reading and would occasionally comment.
thorfiemo
15. ChazMeister
To be honest, some of the world's greatest fiction (coming from the Victorian Era even) was serialized.
Among others:
- Charles Dickens' works were almost all serialized and delivered on a weekly basis:
-- David Copperfield (Monthly)
-- Bleak House (Monthly)
-- A Tale of Two Cities (Weekly)
-- Great Expectations (Weekly)
-- Oliver Twist (Monthly)
-- Pickwick Papers (Monthly)
- Edgar Allen Poe serialized many of his writings.
- Harriet Beecher Stowe (Uncle Tom's Cabin)
- Herman Mehlville (Moby Dick)
- Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (Sherlock Holmes)
- Gustave Flaubert (Madame Bovary)
- Leo Tolstoy (Anna Karenina)
- Fyodor Dostoevsky (The Brothers Karamazov)
- Stephen King (The Green Mile)

Well, okay so the last is NOT an example of Victorian Era serialized fiction writing but it was quite successful for him.
thorfiemo
16. Jenchem
This is disappointing for us "library" folks. Loved the Old Man's War series, but won't pay to get it in installments. Well, I suppose this could be cool if they are releasing them to Overdrive too.
thorfiemo
17. Big B
Nothing against serials, but I might have to wait until the whole thing has been published. Once I start a Scalzi novel, I have to finish it. Now!
Rex Schrader
18. SaintPeter
Totally stoked! I love the form, which has had a resurgence on the web. I read a number of "serial" stories by web authors.

I'm a huge Scalzi fan, too, so this is double good.
thorfiemo
19. DennyA
I'm jazzed about the serial, but concerned about the comment about additional stuff that might be added to the books. I'm totally excited about it buying it serialized, but only if I can get *everything*. If there's added fun in the collected editions, then hopefully that added fun will be avaiable at a small cost electronically for us completists in the crowd. Otherwise, you might get a lot of people who otherwise would buy the serial holding out for the collection instead.

(And Jenechem, if publishers catered to "library folks," they'd go bankrupt. Libraries are great things, but people who only get their favorite books from libraries do very little to support their favorite authors.)
thorfiemo
20. Zippy66
How about giving the final e-book to anyone who has purchased all of the serialized chapters?
John Hardy
21. screwtape
@5 I think the effect on the Victorians was due more to other factors than the serialization itself:

1. Method of payment: stories published in newspapers or magazines in the Victorian era were paid either by the word or by the column-inch. This naturally increased the temptation for writers to shove an extra descriptive phrase in anywhere it might plausibly fit, which was easier to do when the story was a serial than when it was a short story complete in one issue. It was also easier to do when

2. The general writing style was more 'florid' anyway, frequently tending towards 'purple prose'. For example, I don't think Bulwer-Lytton was ever serialized, yet he is still considered by many to set the gold standard for bad 'Victorian-style' writing.
thorfiemo
22. RalphB
Oh, this is great! I love Scalzi`s works, The Old Mans Universe is my favourite so far! Yet, I`ll probably wait to buy the complete book. Just because when I start one of Scalzi`s books I don`t want to stop! I`m kinda egoistic, I know.
thorfiemo
23. JohnLaudun
I love Scalzi's work, but I would like to point out that, historically, the serials were published in newspapers or magazines and were thus available either for free or for a small fee. In some ways, they satisfied both casual readers and dedicated readers, the dedicated readers here being something like Kelley's "1000 true fans" and the serials acting as an invitation to casual readers to become more dedicated.

That noted, as long as the serial price is low, I'm in. But if I end up paying twice for the same content ... hey, Scalzi is a marvelous writer but "times being what they are" (indifferent), I don't think I can afford to pay twice and thus please don't put us dedicated readers in the position of having to choose one form or the other.
thorfiemo
24. BoltWalt
I thought that Scalzi said after his last book in this series that he was done with this universe? Not that I am complaigning or anything, I love The Old Man's War universe and I am pleased to see another story will coming out in the series.
thorfiemo
25. Rob Green
Hey, that starship on the cover of "The B Team" is a re-tread of the one from OSC's "Shadows In Flight"... TOR needs to pay John Harris to come up with some new starship designs!
Hank Roberts
26. hankroberts
so, somewhere, somehow, one can sign up for this
Hank Roberts
27. hankroberts
oh, I see, got to buy one of the big company formats and then strip it down to text so I can read it on something I own.
Irene Gallo
28. Irene
Hankroberts,

All Tor books are DRM-free from all retailers.
thorfiemo
29. arjaybee
Although I'm a Scalzi fan, no thanks on the serial format. Dribbling the new book out over 13 weeks is counter to the way I like to read, and cluttering up my Kindle with 13 separate pieces is just annoying. Hopefully this experiment will fail (just the serialized form, I hope the full book is successful), I'd hate to see this become the standard way of releasing books.

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