In a departure from what I generally review here at Alex Can Read, I had the opportunity to review Virtue Signaling and Other Heresies, a collection of essays from John Scalzi’s Whatever blog. It is political, thoughtful, funny and searing. Scalzi impresses me with his introspection and self-awareness.
“‘Virtue signaling’ is a phrase the dim and bigoted use when they want to discount other people expressing the idea that it would be nice if we could all be essentially and fundamentally decent to each other.” — John Scalzi
For twenty years now—yes, twenty—John Scalzi has been writing on his blog Whatever, writing about, well, whatever: Politics, writing, cats, the internet and the great social and cultural events of our times. In that time he’s gone from being just another crank online to being a bestselling, award-winning crank, i.e., the very best kind of crank there is.
With Virtue Signaling and Other Heresies, Scalzi looks back on the years 2013 through 2018. In this volume, Scalzi delves through the final term of Obama and the ushering in of the Trump years, surveys the increasingly-hostile online landscape, goes to the movies, and talks on subject ranging from #MeToo to the teachers who shaped him growing up. Through it all, Scalzi’s distinct voice—funny, sarcastic, passionate, sometimes angry, and honed by two decades of daily writing served up to hundreds of thousands of readers monthly—is on full display.
Virtue Signaling: A chronicle of a turbulent, momentous moment in time, from one of the most acclaimed science fiction authors of his time.
Limited: 1000 signed numbered hardcover copies
If you’re like me, and find reflecting on the 2016 presidential election and its aftermath painful, you’ll also find that parts of Virtue Signaling are very painful to read. There are essays from before the election where Scalzi exclaims that a Donald Trump presidency Cannot and Will Not be. There are essays ranking the Republican nominees and essays making the case for Hillary Clinton. How wrong he was, and how painful it is to revisit that hope.
That being said, there are really thoughtful and provocative essays about male privilege, sexism, allyship and being a good parent and partner. Scalzi recognizes that he’s been dealt a really great hand in life and that he played his cards well. He also acknowledges that his understanding of the world and his privilege is imperfect and that he has room to improve. These essays are where the gold of this collection are mined.
It’s absolutely worth your time to read this collection of essays.
Virtue Signaling and Other Heresies is sold-out in hardback, but the ebook is available now from Subterranean Press.
Thank you to Subterranean Press for providing me with an eARC in exchange for my honest review.