Is your hate mail worth an A+?

A couple of weeks ago, I set out on an adventure for a book. I didn’t know what sort of book, and I didn’t care — I had a shiny new gift card from Chapters and I was gonna use it! That was my mission, and I completed it by buying a book that I’d never heard of, by an author that I’d never heard of. To top it all off, the book was a compilation of blog entries from a blog that I’d never heard of either, which meant I was going in completely blind, about to read something that could very well be terrible.

Here’s the catch, though: I knew it wasn’t going to be terrible without even having read the first page. How? The title.

90% of pictures I take of myself are in sepia -- it's a thing.

The book of which I speak (and that I’m now over half-way through reading) is called “Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded: A Decade of Whatever, 1998-2008” and is written by John Scalzi. The title is the whole reason I picked up the book. There was a single copy of it lying on one of the tables that run up the centre aisle of our big-box Chapters location, and it being a white book with red lettering on it, it caught my eye. “Your hate mail will be graded? Huh, I should check this out”, I thought. The idea that someone would GRADE the hate mail they received seemed hilarious and deeply appealed to the “eff off” mood I was in, that day.

Ultimately though, it was the other writing on the cover that sold me on this one:

I’m sorry, I lost interest in your message after the first paragraph and couldn’t be bothered to finish it. No doubt it was very clever and devastating and if it makes you feel good, please consider me abashed or chagrined or whatever it was that you intended me to feel after reading your brilliant, scintillating words. In the meantime, allow me to congratulate you on your decision not to breed, as clearly a person of your qualities represents a full stop on the genetic paragraph; the evolution of your line need go no further.

Yeah, that did it — I promptly paid for the book and, curious to find out more of what this chap was all about, started flipping through to see if any of the entries caught my eye. Feeling in a terribly linear frame of mind, I dove in at the beginning and, floored by the hilarity of the first couple of entries, kept going. It was entry number four that really had me hooked: the entry that explained his philosophy on hate mail. You see, Scalzi actually grades his hate mail (if he thinks it’s worth paying attention to at all, it seems). If you write him hate mail (and evidently, people do, as he writes about some touchy subjects from time to time), he may sit for a while and make suggestions on how it could have been more effective, or cutting, or rational even! He figures that, if you’re going to write hate mail, you should put some effort in! No one-liners, no weak insults — he wants you to add some gusto to your axe-grinding!

Really, you’ve got to admire a man who effectively cries, “Bring it on, bitches!” to his detractors. This is likely to do one of two things: disarm them, or really get them all hot and bothered, which means they’ll pay more attention to what they’re writing. Scalzi’s been blogging for a long time (longer than just about anyone, really, having started in 19-freakin’-98), and so I’m sure he’s gotten some pretty choice hate mail in the time between then and now. Given some of the entries I’ve read in the book, I can only imagine the comments and emails he’s gotten. I’d love to see some of this grading in action, let me tell you.

Now, don’t let me give you the wrong impression, here: Scalzi has totally impressed me in every way when it comes to what he writes and how he writes on the blog; not to mention the fact that he’s somehow managed to get a self-professed non-sci-fi fan to seriously reconsider her stance on the genre. He writes anything and everything on Whatever (which is really why it’s called that in the first place), and I’ve laughed and cried; felt angered, touched, happy, sad and any number of other things while reading “Your Hate Mail”. I really can’t say enough good about it. Needless to say, I am now all over reading the blog on a regular basis, and it has helped spur me on to get back to work on my own blogging (as at least one or two people have noticed, I’m sure).

Many of the entries in the book are available online, and I will post a few of my favourites here for you so you can have a taste. Of course, I also recommend that you check out the blog anyway, since you really do never know what he’s going to write on next.

Leviticans (from February, 2004)

Point of Privilege (from January, 2008)

What Authors Know About Their Characters (from October, 2007)

The Lie of Star Wars as Entertainment (from October, 2006)

Note: These four entries are fairly serious ones, but they are really well written and show some great sarcasm and wit. While searching for the links, I found endless numbers of entries that included lolcats, an entry about how tasty a crisp apple really is, and a whole lot of other truly light-hearted stuff, which is why Mr. Scalzi is well on his way to becoming one of my favourite bloggers.


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