...nothing here is promised, not one day... Lin-Manuel Miranda

Authors, see friendships with
Previous Entry :: Next Entry

Read/Post Comments (3)
Share on Facebook
I am keenly aware of my good fortune in getting to know writers. Most readers, library haunters and bookstores junkies, don't get the life I've had. I discovered science fiction and the social milieu of conventions when I was still fairly young through Star Trek and its conventions (my friend Edie and I read about a Trek con in TV Guide, for heaven's sake; she headed off to NYC one weekend to go to one while my pre-surgery spine kept me back in the dorm; later we both headed off to another, it was the early 70s.) After I moved to California and found the Trek shop on Telegraph Avenue, I found Trek fandom out there and with my spiffy credentials (I attended a couple, worked on a couple, survived at least one hellish one - the Chicago Disastercon) I ended up co-chairing a couple Trek cons. But what really happened is I found "real" science fiction and s.f. fandom. NOT that Trek wasn't - it truly was full of fans and it's where I discovered "real" s.f. writing, but the straight, if you will, s.f. convention and crowd was really what I'd been looking for, and hadn't known. The smart people, the ones who read and LIKED books, ideas, the ones who were almost always the smartest kids in their classes, at least through high school and often suffered for it. What are now called the nerds and geeks but I guess back then we were the brains. One of the things I became aware of early on since, yeah, I HAD been the "smartest kid" in many ways; skipped a grade, always got good marks, blah blah - was that fandom was full of people SMARTER than I was. And oh I LOVED that. It sounds like bragging but I swear to you it isn't; being the "smartest" often meant that there were expectations of you and well, hell, if you didn't know something, you got ragged on. "I thought you were so SMART" sort of crapola. I never said that I was so smart, but everyone "knew". And I didn't try to hide it - I was fine with it. And happily, had parents who thought having smart daughters was a good thing. Of course, there WAS the art teacher who thought that all of us in the advanced program MUST be talented artists, assuming that certain abilities (intelligence, or maybe just taking standardized tests well) meant you had talent as well. Um, well, um, even I was "smart" enough to know what horse-pucky that was.

In my 20s, I moved to Oakland. I'd already met and become friends with Isaac Asimov (no kidding really - I told my mother on the phone after meeting him, yes, at a Start Trek convention and we did the "humuna humuna humuna" thing for a while) and I headed off to an appearance/signing at a San Jose bookstore by Harlan Ellison, with whom I'd fallen madly in love. And I found bay area fandom, bless it. And got married to a fan for a while, a fan who introduced me in those early years to gobs of writers. Our wedding was attended by the Andersons, the Lupoffs, the Kurlands, Fritz Leiber, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, and five of my fabulous special Trek con gofers. Oh honestly it was So. Much. Fun. Bob Silverberg was our best man. Marta Randall performed the ceremony using her handy little "universal life church" credential. (remember those?) Our wedding cake had little plastic rockets on it. Isaac, who knew both of us, sent a check (and apologies, he didn't fly). Oh, and the wedding was at the best place in the world, a hangout for all of the bay area's science fiction community, The Magic Cellar, a magic club and bar. And I met more writers and I met fans and went to conventions and parties and gatherings and wow.

People back then - I'm talking pre-internet primarily - didn't get to meet writers. As I've said elsewhere, writers are my rock stars. Writers make things good in my life; I adore books, had library cards when I was teeny, always always always read, through good and bad. But who gets to meet the folks who made their life good? Who gets to hang OUT with the sports guys they think are cool, or the rock stars they would spend money to go hear or, well, you know what I'm saying. Fill in the "ooooo" in your life; Mine was writers. And dancers (a friend and I once, when we were well past the age where we'd consider doing this, tried to come up with "who would you sleep overnight on the sidewalk to get tickets to see?" names. It was back when a night on a sidewalk wouldn't have crippled me. I could only come up with one possibility. Years ago, Mikhail Barishnikov and Judith Jamison collaborated on a performance to Duke Ellington music called "Pas de Duke". I have a book of pictures. THAT, I told my friend, I'd camp out for, if they were to get back together and do it again. Not exactly Pearl Jam, is it?

But I swear, while many of these folks are my friends, I've never completely lost the "ohmigod, humana-humana" aspect of knowing I've gotten lucky enough to know Real Live Authors. Authors. People who write the books I read. And reread. I remember describing the feeling as a bit two-personality. Here I was, having dinner out with Silverberg - which happened a few times, the man had an amazing unerring instinct for good food (introduced more than one of us to the joys of Thai cuisine when it was new and unknown). And at the same time, I'd say, there's this little voice in the back of my head screaming "do you know who the fuck that IS?" because he wrote Nightwings for gods sake. And while I know writers are real people, they're not exactly just real people for me.

Then I re-found mystery fandom (the first Bouchercon I ever went to was SO boring, I didn't go back for years) and mystery writers. When you work on a convention, which I did soon after rejoining said fandom, you sort of have to make sure writers know who you are if you're dong program, which I was. So quickly, I got to know lots of writers. It didn't hurt that I already knew two of the best; Bill Pronzini and Marcia Muller and that Marcia was our guest of honor. These are exactly the sort of writers you WANT to get to know because they're dinner companions and friends as well as excellent writers.

But it's hard balancing the gratitude (oh, she's willing to spend time with ME!) with normal behavior. Real people - real writers - don't want you fawning any more than real fill-in-the-blank-here. Sure, lots of writers (and actors and sports stars) adore fusses and have entourages and pretend to fake humility and don't have a clue what reality is anymore. But writers - mostly - thank god - like to have real conversations with normal people too, and not just about their books.

The other day I was reading ABOUT a book and I suddenly wanted so to read it. In fact, it sounded just like a book I should review, as it touched on some strong interests of mine. So I went on line, found the author's web page and, poor guy, I wrote him probably FAR more than he needed to know about how I found him and why I wanted to read his novel. And this very nice guy wrote back saying, essentially, wow, it's amazing to hear from people who are interested in my book. And I wrote back far too much about "oh, man, you should write in a genre, it's like this all the time" because his book is mainstream fiction. But hey there IS the net now, so he will at least hear from readers. And maybe meet some of them because he's got a small tour happening and he's going to be in the Puget Sound area. Of course, I haven't read the book yet, and have no idea if I'll like it. I suspect I will, and if not, I still want to meet this guy because the IDEA of the book is fascinating. And then I thought "oh my GOD, I'm like SO overwhelming this guy" and I realized I've gotten spoiled. Spoiled by my s.f. and mystery communities where I DO know and am friends with writers. I forget not everyone is LIKE this. Not everyone even in those genres is like this - they're not all interested in having a long email conversation with a fan. And I worry that I've overdone it. (But I tried to keep it light, explaining to this guy that it's a rule here in the Pacific NW that no one gets out of town without someone buying him a latte, and he was nice enough to say that sounded fine. Phew.)

Um, so where was I going with this? Uh, I'm not exactly sure. I'm rambling. (And this is new how? Because I'm in avoidance mode again today?) Because I do worry at times about being a pest, and I do worry at times about name-dropping even if I do know these wonderful people. And I AM grateful for their time. And I assume at times, they're glad to have someone to talk to who isn't going to talk about their book, or their advance, or their deadline. Or we can, because I'm familiar with these things, but you know what I mean. There's one writer out there who is extraordinarily nice to me and said once it was easier because I hated this author's books. NOT TRUE, I yelled back fast. "You're a very good writer" I raced to say - because I believed it, not to suck up. I do have problems with the author's books, but I got why this author said that. At least we don't have to worry about the friendship being based on the books. Or something.

When I began reviewing in '99, I did worry about messing up a friendship if I wrote a not-so-positive review of a friend's book. Didn't happen often and as I've learned, most writers can be very reasonable if they feel that your review was fair. They might think you're WRONG, but that's okay. As long as you aren't mean and you say what you think they mostly are okay with it. There ARE a couple writers whom I think were very peeved at me when I said "sorry, I didn't like that book" and I don't know if they didn't respond because they're pissed off or because they simply had nothing more to say. And I ain't gonna ask. The friendships have sometimes paid off because I can reach someone relatively quickly - they'll read email from me and sometimes that means that we can schedule an interview or (as I used to do) an on-line chat, or get a copy of book to review, or even set up a cool panel at a convention. And that's in the writer's best interest and in mine, because that's what I like to do. CAN do as one way of paying back. I like finding ways of saying "thank you" to all the writers out there.

So I guess this is my way of saying "thanks for your time". Thanks for your friendship. Thanks too for often trusting me with your book. It's not something you can look someone in the eye and say because it's so phony-sounding; the sort of thing you might say JUST for the reassurance, and I don't want to sound desperate. It's just SO cool.

Read/Post Comments (3)

Previous Entry :: Next Entry

Back to Top

Powered by JournalScape © 2001-2010 All rights reserved.
All content rights reserved by the author.