Last week, John Scalzi dropped a cryptic note on his popular blog, Whatever: “Monday will be an interesting day. You’ll know why when it happens. That’s all I’m saying right now.”
He was right. Late in the evening on May 24, The New York Times announced that Tor has signed their veteran author for a deal that will see 13 new novels from him hit print over the next decade. Scalzi will earn an astounding $3.4 million for the deal, which will include additional novels in his Old Man’s War military space opera series and a sequel to his recent bestseller Lock In (to be titled Head On). Scalzi’s deal joins the ranks of those struck by sci-fi authors such as Alastair Reynolds, who signed a 10-book deal for £1 million, and James S.A. Corey, whose Expanse series has been contracted to 9 books.
Scalzi has been publishing science fiction for over a decade. Editor Patrick Nielsen Hayden discovered a serialized version of his first novel, Old Man’s War, on his website, and acquired the novel for Tor, which published it in 2005. It went on to earn a Hugo nomination and was a runner up for the Locus Awards. Most importantly for Tor, it has sold steadily ever since, as have its four sequels (with a fifth, The End of All Things, coming later this year). Scalzi earned the Campbell Award for Best New Writer, and quickly followed his debut with Agent to the Stars, and, the next year, The Android’s Dream and the first Old Man’s War sequel, The Ghost Brigades. Since then, he’s averaged about a book a year, and become one of the most reliable, reliably selling powerhouses in the genre. Throughout his career, his novels have been cited as highly accessible and entertaining (intentionally so, according to the author), features which have helped drive his success.
In 2012, Scalzi earned the Hugo Award for Best Novel with his book Redshirts, a comedic SF romp about the exploits of a group of expendable crew members onboard the Universal Union starship Intrepid, who slowly begin to realize that they’re the background characters on a Star Trek-esque television series. Scalzi has his own ties to the TV world: From 2009 to 2011, he served as a consultant on SyFy’s Stargate: Universe, and three of his novels have been optioned for the small screen: Redshirts, Lock In and The Ghost Brigades.
According to Nielsen Hayden on Tor.com, “one of the commonest responses to reading a John Scalzi novel is to go out and inhale all the other John Scalzi novels. We see this reflected in his backlist sales, thousands of copies month after month.”
This deal demonstrates not only Tor’s faith in Scalzi’s novels, but the relative health of the science fiction publishing field. In recent years, numerous genre titles have seen breakout success, often with accompanying television and film adaptations that reach enormous audiences. Andy Weir’s The Martian, George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, and James S.A. Corey’s Expanse novels found mainstream appeal for their worlds and characters.
So what can we expect from the next decade of Scalzi? All we know for certain is that in addition to the aforementioned sequels, the deal includes three YA titles. Also, his next book for adults, publishing in 2016, is said to launch an entirely new space opera series.
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