John Scalzi
September 19, 2023


John Scalzi

John Scalzi writes books, which, considering where you’re reading this, makes perfect sense. He’s best known for writing science fiction, including the New York Times bestseller “Redshirts,” which won the Hugo Award for Best Novel. He also writes non-fiction, on subjects ranging from personal finance to astronomy to film, was the Creative Consultant for the Stargate: Universe television series. He enjoys pie, as should all right thinking people. You can get to his blog by typing the word “Whatever” into Google. No, seriously, try it.

Q. Your latest book, “Starter Villain,” has been garnering a lot of attention. Can you tell us what inspired you to write it?

John: I was inspired to write by the need to eat and pay my bills, which sounds cynical until you don’t have food or electricity. Beyond that, however, I have always wondered about the practical issues surrounding “super villainy” as it’s portrayed in films and fiction: How does on acquire minions? How do the governments of the world not know about these nefarious characters and their plans? Why do you need a volcano lair? So I wanted to come up with (reasonably) rational explanations for it all.


Q. What does it mean to your protagonist to inherit his mysterious uncle’s supervillain business?

John: I think he’s initially confused by it, which makes sense: if someone you barely know leaves you all his wealth and power, you’re going to have questions, even if they are related by blood. Charlie is smart enough to know he’s in over his head but also is curious enough to want to see where this all leads, which is a fun combination in a protagonist.


Q. The relationship between heroes and villains is prevalent throughout the book. What message do you want readers to take away from this exploration of morality and the nature of villainy?

John: I’m less interested in overtly trying to offer a moral, and more interested in what, after reading the book, the readers come up with in their own heads. I think Charlie’s own reaction to it all might not be one that readers expect, so I imagine there will be some discussion of that. Which: Good!


Q. What was your favorite part of the writing process for “Starter Villain?” It was the cats, right?

John: I mean, I sure liked writing the cats. But the scenes that were most fun for me to write were the ones with the dolphins. I think readers will understand why when they get to those scenes.


Q. What are you reading now?

John: Gundog, by Gary Witta. And then I’ll be avoiding fiction for a while as I write the next novel; I don’t want someone else’s style leaking out of my fingertips as I type!

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Starter Villain - Scalzi

Starter Villain

Charlie’s life is going nowhere fast. A divorced substitute teacher living with his cat in a house his siblings want to sell, all he wants is to open a pub downtown, if only the bank will approve his loan.

Then his long-lost uncle Jake dies and leaves his supervillain business (complete with island volcano lair) to Charlie.

But becoming a supervillain isn’t all giant laser death rays and lava pits. Jake had enemies, and now they’re coming after Charlie. His uncle might have been a stand-up, old-fashioned kind of villain, but these are the real thing: rich, soulless predators backed by multinational corporations and venture capital.

It’s up to Charlie to win the war his uncle started against a league of supervillains. But with unionized dolphins, hyper-intelligent talking spy cats, and a terrifying henchperson at his side, going bad is starting to look pretty good.

In a dog-eat-dog world…be a cat.

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