In Which I Meet Some Authors

Because it amuses me, allow me to recount my encounters with authors before I was a published author.

* At 10 (I know it was this age because it was the age I broke my leg), a moderately famous YA author came to speak at my elementary school, and upon seeing my leg cast, proceeded to sign it, which was nice of him. Later in the day, one of my classmates licked her finger and moved to pretend smudge it out, but then actually connected with the cast and smudged the name. So now I can’t remember the name of the author. As a small bit of irony, the kid who smudged the name off my cast would spend the entire fifth grade in a full-torso scoliosis cast. If I were back in elementary school, I would call it justice, but at age 42, I recognize that a scoliosis cast just kind of sucks for any kid.

* At 12 I met Ray Bradbury not once but twice, once at a book fair at a local community college, and once when he spoke at the Glendora Public Library, where I was a junior aide. A good friend tells me he was slightly rude to me at the community college event, but I have no memory of that myself; at the library event, which I do remember, he was in fact quite nice to me. I would later write about the Glendora event in the introduction to the Subterranean Press super-deluxe edition of The Martian Chronicles.

* In 1991 or ’92, when I was at my first job at The Fresno Bee newspaper, I pitched a story to my editor about graphic novels being the new hip thing, mostly so I could interview Neil Gaiman on the phone. And indeed he and I had a nice 30 or 40 minute chat, and then I filed the story. I mentioned this to Neil not too long ago; I believe he was amused.

* When I first got on the Internet in the early 90s, I sent Allen Steele my very first piece of fan mail, in e-mail form, and noted to him that he and I both went to Webb Schools, although I went to the one in California and he went to the one in Bell Buckle, Tennessee. His response was polite and friendly and non-committal, which is a skill I have since learned for many of my own fan letters.

* Not too long afterward, I sent an e-mail to Steve Boyett. I had picked up a used copy of Architect of Sleep, since it was out of print, and asked him if he’d like to be paid for it anyway. He very politely declined. It took me years to figure out one of the reasons he might have declined, aside from it just not being important to him, is that in the days before PayPal, you’d have to give people a physical address. And maybe it’s not a good idea to let random people on the Internet know where you live (it’s still not a good idea, incidentally).

* While at AOL in the mid-90s, I once instant messaged AC Crispin out of the blue to ask her a clueless newbie writer question. She was polite with me but annoyed at the random intrusion, as well she should have been. I have since apologized to her for it, although (again quite understandably) when I told her about it she had no memory of it whatsoever.

* Additionally, at AOL in the mid-90s there was a science fiction forum on which Orson Scott Card hung out from time to time, and in it, he posted an early electronic version of his novel Children of the Mind, which I downloaded and read with glee, and then sent him an e-mail swearing that I would actually pay for the thing when it came out. He politely thanked me. For the record, I did pay for the thing when it came out. In hardcover, even.

* One of my jobs at America Online was being an editor of a humor area, which gave me a perfect excuse to contact James Lileks, whose newspaper columns (and books thereof) I was a fan of, and ask him if he wanted to write some stuff for me. He did! It’s amazing how writers will want to write for you if you offer them money. This same tactic also worked with cartoonist Ted Rall. And one of the writers who submitted work to my humor area was David Lubar, who would also later become a published author, most prominently of the “Weenies” series of spooky stories for kids.

* In 2000, I thought about creating a site where I would interview science fiction authors about their latest books, called “OtherView,” and created a beta version of the site so I could show folks who might be interested in funding the site (don’t laugh, I created a very successful video game review site called “GameDad” just this way). I interviewed two authors: Orson Scott Card, with whom I had already once chatted, and Paul Levinson, who at the time was the president of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. I remember asking him it was like to be the president of that particular organization. Now, of course, I know.

* I sold Old Man’s War in 2002, so after that I started interacting with rather more authors and they knew of me as a writer, and that my book had been sold (if not yet published), so that changed the dynamic of things a bit. That said, I will recount one final story, which I think is amusing. My very first science fiction convention ever was Torcon 3 in Toronto in 2003; while there, I want to the Tor party, which was (as always) massively packed, so I walked into a side room for a breather and stood next to this older fellow, who either was not wearing a nametag, or was and I didn’t look at it. He was quite avuncular and charming and amusing, so he and I chatted for a decent amount of time, after which he excused himself to wander off. When he left, I turned to a guy who was standing nearby and asked him if he knew the name of the fellow I’d just been chatting with. He looked at me like I was an idiot, and said, “yeah, that guy? That was Robert Silverberg.”

And there you have it.

94 thoughts on “In Which I Meet Some Authors

  1. I can’t get behind the idea of being in awe of Allen Steele, because I remember when I was a working slob in Nashville who served as the dungeonmaster for marathon weekend-long D&D sessions, and Allen was just one of the batch of high school kids who played in the session and crashed in my one-room bedsitter. We all felt sorry for him because he was stuck in that military academy, and fandom was his one release from captivity.

  2. “Orange Mike” Lowrey:

    It wasn’t a military academy, but as I understand it was close (the Webb School of California, when I attended it at least, was far more liberal).

    And also, you know. That’s the thing about knowing people before they become notable in their field. Every once in a while one of my friends from high school or college will be around when people are geeking out about me, and they’ll be laughing their asses off because they remember me as I was in high school and college, i.e., a more than mildly clueless nerd. It’s a reminder that who we are is different to different people.

  3. I have only met Scott Sigler, and that at a reading he gave in SF at Borderlands. It was fantastic. I do hope to someday make it to one of your readings. And like WOW you had the chance to see Ray Bradbury TWICE!! I am in awe. What is it like to meet a Hero?

  4. John–
    I have no memory of that! I’m delighted to hear I wasn’t a jerk. Far too many stories of my past behavior are cringe-worthy.

    But I would not have expected to be paid for a used copy (and that you asked shows remarkable character, I think), and I would not have wanted someone to know my address (having had wacky strangers show up at my doorstep once or twice).

    I can’t believe you never mentioned this to me before!

  5. John, this past August (in Reno) I attended the Tor party… and as you said, it was massively packed! The very first individual I ran into, coming through the door, was Robert Silverberg; he was chatting with Greg and Astrid Bear, and they politely tolerated my standing around gawping. At one point I even made Mr. Silverberg laugh, and both he and Greg Bear happily signed a two dollar bill for me.

  6. I have an absolutely lovely habit of turning into a babbling, foot in mouth idiot around authors. It’s occasionally a bit of a hazard, since I’m a librarian. But, to me, authors are the coolest people ever.

  7. I grew up meeting famous authors several times every month. I had the advantage of living in the literary heart of Brooklyn Heights, less than a block from W. H. Auden, Carson McCullers, Jane and Paul Bowles, Benjamin Britten, and Gypsy Rose Lee, Under One Roof.

    My father lit T.S. Eliot’s cigarette.

    Wild parties at Norman Mailer home around the corner.

    Poetry read aloud by Marianne Moore.

    Chats in Sam Colton’s bookstore with Norton Juster.

    Weird junky friends of my babysitter Mary Woronov, one of Andy Warhol’s Girls, shooting movies (and shooting up) in the penthouse of my building.

    The Science Fiction authors my Dad was publishing in paperback. They all told funny stories, drank too much, and were short of cash, begging Dad for bigger advances.

    I’ll be one of those guys, I said to myself. But ‘ll have a day job as a scientist, or in the space program.

    And so it came to pass…

  8. @Shayera: Yes. Yes, that’s me, too. Every time I get ready to go to a conference or convention, I assure myself that this time I’ll be sane and sensible, witty and wise, and have good conversations with people I admire, and it never happens. This is especially embarrassing in my case because I’m married to a man who has published 10 books and has several more in the works (i.e., under contract), so I know quite well that authors really do put their pants on one leg at a time, just like the rest of us (he doesn’t write science fiction, fantasy or horror — yet — but having one’s name on the spine of a book is all that it takes for me to geek out entirely about you).

    My favorite author experience was spending an entire week at a bed and breakfast in Valdez, Alaska, with Edward Albee. Ultimately this included my informing him that he was entirely wrong about women being treated equally in the workplace in this day and age. I guess that the “breakfast together every morning” thing eventually made him merely human to me.

    In March I’m going to the International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts. Let’s see if this time I can really keep my resolution to be witty and charming and not stare at my shoes whenever an author speaks to me.

  9. One of my mother’s best friends drove Eleanor Roosevelt somewhere in New York once. My Mom and her friend were having a fine conversation, but Eleanor Roosevelt dozed off, head sagging, snoring. When they arrived, my Mom said: “Sorry you fell asleep, we had a nice talk.”
    “Oh yes,” said Eleanor Roosevelt : “Yes, I was asleep, but listening,” and then summarized the high points of the conversation.

  10. I had the chance to meet Terry Pratchett, when he was doing a signing in D.C. a couple years ago. I spent the whole drive down 95 trying to think of something clever to say, during the brief time I’d get to meet him. Worked myself up so much I couldn’t say anything but my name. Then I spent the drive home kicking myself, and eventually laughing about it. Now I’m just glad I didn’t manage to make an ass of myself, and that I got to meet him.

  11. I’ve been to several of Douglas Preston’s book signings. I’ve also had some nice correspondence with him via email. Ditto with James Rollins. I hope I haven’t made a complete fool of myself, I try to keep the “squee!” factor as restrained as possible because I do understand that, to me, they’re geniuses, but they probably get tired of basically reading the same fan letter from thousands of their adoring public.

  12. Well, I met you last summer along with Mary at the book signing in Seattle last June. I don’t think I babbled excessively, but you never know.
    I do remember the funny look you gave me when I said the “Enzo” chapter was not the part of Zooey’s Tale that I really liked. I think I said “no” rather sharply and tried to explain that part I meant.
    Don’t think I really got that right. It was a great time though.
    Meeting a favorite author in person can be an extremely traumatic experience. Trying to be cool and failing miserably…

  13. For what it’s worth, Ann (A. C. Crispin) spent more than a decade as an unofficial publishing informant in the AOL writer chat rooms, warning writers about writing scams and giving publishing advice to the participants there. There was a continuous stream of totally clueless newbies, mosty, I’m sure, much more clueless than you, so it was a good place to do Writer Beware business. Back then, I thought more than once that AOL should be paying her for the valuable service she was doing, especially since there was also a steady stream of abusive wackazoids who resented her presence as a published author and sent her obscene and threatening messages. AOL offered little help. For years I told her that she should get off of AOL and stop exposing herself to the nutjobs there. Finally, one of them managed to hack her AOL account and lock her out, accessing all of her email in the process. That was the final straw, and she finally left AOL a couple of years ago.

    Which is just a long way of giving some context for Ann’s response to you way back when.

  14. I get to meet Jo Walton tomorrow at Uncle Hugo’s in Minneapolis. I wouldn’t have known a thing about her except I read her Big Ideas on the book “Among Others.”

  15. Scared Ray Bradbury when I was 17. Rode my motorcycle up a staircase he was climbing. Argued with Sir Arthur C. Clarke about the feasibility of multistage nuclear-powered spaceships, until he read the documents, and admitted that I was right.

    Isaac Asimov complained that nobody’d every cited his PhD dissertation on Enzymology in a refereed paper. So I did him that favor.

    Blurbed a book by Fritz Leiber’s second wife, Margo Skinner. Identified a hair on Robert Bloch’s coat as cat, as opposed to dog. He said I had the makings of a Mystery author.

    Wrote a 30-page thank you letter to Robert A Heinlein when he quoted me my name in a book.

    I dug hanging out talking poetry and fiction with Bukowski. I’d bring the 6-pack or gallon of wine. I’d have one drink for every 10 that he had.

    Tried to get Bucky Fuller and Paolo Solari face to face an an Architecture conference. Each was willing, but each had an entourage who insisted that the other guy should come to THEIR guy.

    In 2011, I only sold 5 short stories, one book, 13 nonfiction magazine articles (not counting my usual academic Math and Science publishing), and I taught less than one semester. Plus was seriously injured in a car crash, and when criminally beaten by a gangster. Otherwise, a normal year.

  16. I have only written one fan letter in my life and that was at age 16, while in the process of writing a paper about ‘Lord of Light’ by Roger Zelazny for my high school English class. This being the mid 80’s, it was 3 pages of incoherent scrawl, snail mailed to his New York PO Box. There was allot of begging and pleading for more Amber books…please, please. He REPLIED!?! by hand written post card, thanking me for my kind words about his stories and assuring me there was hope for more Amber goodness. That card was posted for years on my wall in my room, until lost in a move. Rest in peace sir, you were and still are my favorite author, and thanks for the second set of Amber books, I am sure my letter is what tipped you over the edge :)

  17. I’ve met a number of authors in my time and I am always amazed that they all have been polite, charming, gracious folks. The thing that makes this remarkable to me, is that I have met most of them at readings/signings and I have to imagine that being all those things for that amount of time while people are geeking out about them has to be, well, difficult. Not that we fans are universally poorly behaved or anything, but it has to be at least somewhat surreal to be the focus of that kind of attention.

  18. Michael Capobianco:

    Heh. That does explain a lot, actually. Although to be clear, she was in fact polite to me — and rather more polite than *I* would have been at a random IM intrusion.

  19. Michael Capobianco and Ann (A. C. Crispin) did more for SFWA than SFWA could have paid. I wonder if the PayPal co-founder as new CEO can save Yahoo, by the way, speaking of vast amounts of erased emails, and brandnames circling the drain.

  20. Back in the eighties, I was browsing in either Waldenbooks or B Daltons in San Diego and a guy struck up a conversation, asking me what I thought of “The Killer B’s”. (Bear, Benford, Brin.) Fortunately, I said I quite liked “Startide Rising” as it turned out to be David Brin.

  21. I worked with Carrie Vaughn for a while, back when she was famous but not yet rich. :)

    If Ann was polite, how could you tell she was annoyed?

  22. Ditto what Terry and Shayera said. As a librarian, as much as I want to geek out when I see an author I like and respect, I also have to remind myself that they are human too and need their morning OJ or caffeine and space to operate. I’ve been lucky enough to meet Ben Bova, Roger Zelazny, and a few other authors in person, plus the ones who kindly post and respond online. Hopefully I’ve not made a poor impression by staring and mumbling before doing a full-on Wayne’s World “We’re not worthy! We’re not worthy!!”

  23. I went to a number of signings back in the mid-80s to mid-90s for a wide variety of authors. I got to meet Robert Bloch, twisted Barbara Hambly’s arm about whether Antrygg Windrose was based on the Doctor, and once ignored Steve Barnes (which I now greatly regret) because he was there with Niven and Pournelle. But two author encounters stand out for me: Kim Stanley Robinson was my freshman writing instructor at UCSD, so I interacted with him at least twice a week for a full quarter and talked to him occasionally for a year or so after that until he finished his PhD dissertation. And David Brin crashed my freshman orientation barbeque, just sitting around listening to a bunch of talk, before asking a few pointed questions (the way he does) and then telling us about his brand-new book about a journey into the sun.

  24. I’m also going to have to control my “geek out” impulse next month. Carrie Fisher is coming to my library to do a program.

  25. The meeting I never had is the one that sticks in my memory. I read a collection of short stories by Heinlein that had his comments between stories. He complained in a couple about having all these stories and all these bits of info strewn around but not enough time to deal with all of it. I determined that over summer vacation I would thumb my way out to his house & offer myself as an apprentice. In exchange for organizing his notes, keeping his schedule, changing the ribbon in his typewriter he would serve as a ‘writing tutor’ and give me a pallet to sleep on in his garage.

    I guess when you are 16 these sorts of things sound like they make sense. WHile I always regret not doing it I can’t picture it as having been warmly received on his end.

  26. You are the only author I have met. Funny thing is I was prepared to not go all fan boy on you. Say hi, hand shake, get book signed, and move along. Problem is you brought your family. It’s San Diego, why wouldn’t you bring them. I think/hope I held it together.
    I find it fascinating how a comment, frequently an off hand comment, can have a huge impact on the listener while the speaker may not even remember the incident. I have been on both sides of this phenomenon. I wish I had something fascinating to say about it.

  27. Killer B’s, yes! If one includes Baxter and Barnes (John and Steve), Robin Bailey, James Graham Ballard, Lee Ballentine, Iain Banks, Clive Barker, Neal Barrett, Jr., John Calvin Batchelor, Barrington J. Bayley, Peter S[oyer] Beagle, Gary L. Bennett, Alfred Bester (distracted by memory of how angry he was the last time that I spoke with him, not because of me, but because of the fan who had just dumped a big glass of iced adult beverage in his lap).

    I was friends at Caltech with David Brin before either of us were very published. My wife and I appear by full name in Greg Bear’s “The Forge of God” [long story]. I got my Astronomy Adjunct Professorship when, in the interview, I asked the department chair: “Do you happen to to know Dr. Gregory Benford?”

    “I hope so,” said the Chair. “He signed my PhD dissertation where it said “Adviser. Can you start Monday?”

  28. I was at an outdoor event and sat down at an open table, where a pleasant-seeming lady was sitting. My oldest daughter had just been born, and we struck up a nice conservation about kids and she held our daughter so my wife and I could wolf down some food while it was still hot (something a parent always appreciates). I asked her what she did for a living, and she said ‘writer.’ Turns out we were sitting next to Tess Gerritsen and didn’t realize it. Very nice lady, and a fun memory.

  29. I met quite a few authors at a small convention (NOT Armadillocon) in January of 1991. Among them were Orson Scott Card, Barbara Hambly, and Walter Jon Williams. I made a fairly complete fanboy ass of myself, unfortunately, but all were gracious and patient with me.

    Since then, I’ve been lucky enough to meet some others, including our esteemed host, and I would hope that I comported myself with more panache. Please note the word “hope” in that sentence. (As a very minor celebrity in the world of tabletop game design, I’ve been invited to a few conventions as a guest, and several times now I’ve been on the other side of the “complete fanboy ass” conversation. It confirms my belief in karma.)

    One non-author celebrity I’m glad to know is John Picacio, whom I met at a social gathering in San Antonio when he was still an architect and I was still a teacher. John’s a great guy whom I see far more rarely than I’d like, and I’m thrilled by the success he’s achieved.

  30. re: wanting to pay the author when I buy a used book.
    I am so glad that I am not the only person who thinks this.
    Whenever I buy an out-of-print book I feel that I am some how short changing the author, especially if the book is a paperback or the author never made it to the big leagues.

  31. … and David Bischoff, Michael Bishop, Terry Bisson, James Blaylock, Bruce Boston, Ben Bova (who writes as energetically as a man half his age), Stephen Bowkett, Steven R. Boyett, Michael Bracken, Scott Bradfield, F. Alexander Brejcha, Poppy Z. Brite, Damien Broderick, Terry Brooks, Molly Brown, Mildred Downey Broxon, Edward Bryant, Lois McMaster Bujold, Emma Bull, Chris Bunch, Steven Burgauer, Michael A. Burstein, Octavia Butler (whom we lost too soon)…

    Did you know that I was the last Literary/Film/TV/Multimedia Agent for John Brunner (1935-1995)?

  32. I have to say that Terry Pratchett rocks; my husband, at my request, asked him to add an inscription as well as his autograph:

    ‘to Stevie on her 45th birthday’

    Terry looked up from the book and said:

    “Are you sure this is wise?”

  33. I met Madeleine L’Engle when I was about 9. I had spotted an announcement in the paper saying that she was coming to town to deliver a lecture — which was not actually targeted at kids (according to my mom, it was a “how I got published” sort of talk, for adults) but I didn’t care because “A Wrinkle In Time” was at that point my favorite book ON EARTH.

    I had recently read “A Wind in the Door,” and during the Q&A, I raised my hand, because I wanted to know what happened to a particular character at the end. He disappears, and I feared/suspected that he was dead, and I wanted her to either confirm my worst suspicions or reassure me. She called on me IMMEDIATELY, and … every adult in the room turned and looked at me and although I was still able to ask my question, it came out very, very, quietly. She asked me to speak up. I tried, without success.

    So, she had me come out to the aisle, and she came down from the lectern and met me in the aisle, and we had a little quiet conference once she could hear my question. She listened carefully and then said, “Do you remember the wind, at the end? That blows open the door? That’s the character, coming back.”

    My Mom was very impressed at her willingness to give me a straight answer (as opposed to just saying, “ohhhh, what do YOU think?”) Thinking back, I am touched by her graciousness and how much she prioritized MY question, even though this really wasn’t an event for kids.

    I did write to her, at one point, to thank her; I got a form letter back, explaining that she was severely disabled and in a nursing home and not really able to read mail anymore. But, someone had added a handwritten annotation saying that her family had been touched by my story.

  34. Re Webb at Bell Buckle: Nashville fandom at that time always understood it to be a military academy; in CLARKE COUNTY, SPACE Allen describes it as “a boarding school in Tennessee for young southern juvenile delinquents.”

    I’m not really blase, but I will admit that I’ve been spoiled by 34.5 years of attending SF conventions. After peeling a grape for Vonda M., and arguing politics with Poul Anderson (polite) and J. Pournelle (drunken and nasty), and having Gordy Dickson coach me on how to more convincingly impersonate a drill instructor, I like to think that I’m not a total geekout when I meet a respected writer I’ve not encountered before. Mundanes, and readers of SF who don’t attend cons, have really missed their chance to interact with writers in a non-worshipful venue.

  35. In addition to the merely clueless and (often hostile) unpublished newbies, PublishAmerica also used to sic sockpuppets on me on AOL. Many PA authors were happily slurping the Kool Aid, and just didn’t want to hear that PA wasn’t a real publisher. Martha Ivery (one of the most notable scammers, who is now [finally] out of jail for defrauding authors) was also on AOL and popped into the Authors Lounge a few times to bluster at me (and one time to threaten me with rape and murder). No wonder I grew cautious very quickly.

    I taught two free online writing seminars for years on AOL but stopped after some AOLers who weren’t part of the class reported that I was charging for them. Things went from bad to worse over the years. People who have little chance of getting published can get really pissy at people who write for a living. I never knew that until AOL. I wasn’t prepared for the pettiness and outright hatred.

    I really wish we’d struck up a conversation that day. Might have been fun, eh?

  36. While I’ve not yet had the chance to actually meet any authors, I did have a chance to correspond a couple of times with Brandon Sanderson (before he got bogged down trying to knock out A Memory of Light). In each instance he was very cordial and actually took a few moments to address the things I had mentioned in his writing and even discuss a few books we shared in common as favorites. Even though you can’t get to know a real person from just a few emails, I was impressed that he took the time to actually/personally address my comments… in his shoes I could easily see him just sending a formish type letter: Thanks for your comments I’m sorry you didn’t like the book/I’m happy you liked the book.

    My one touch with greatness I guess… bwahahaha!

  37. I forgot to mention than in fifth grade, my well-meaning teacher dispatched the lot of us on “Send a very nice handwritten letter to your favorite author, and we’ll post a copy of your letter and the reply you get” projects. (I have since learned that many authors DETEST such correspondence, especially as your typical fifth-grade letter-writer can be, umm, artless.)

    Many of my classmates chose such grade-school staples as Judy Blume and Beverly Cleary, and they received polite form responses that broke a few hearts. I, however, had just read THE GREY KING, so I sent a nearly indecipherable southpaw-scrawled letter to Susan Cooper. I laid on the praise a bit thick (I was ten and I REALLY wanted to make a good impression), so Ms. Cooper could have been forgiven for dismissing my note. Instead, she sent me a short typewritten letter in response, that (a) referred to a specific thickly-lain bit of praise from my letter, and (b) HAD A HAND-CORRECTED TYPO. I was in heaven.

    Yes, I still have it.

  38. A friend of mine was the in-house video guy for the Albany Writer’s Institute for a while in the 90’s, and he met a lot of literary types. I did extra camera work for him once or twice, which is how we ended up spending the afternoon in Hunter S. Thompson’s hotel room, when his collected letters were coming out. It was quite a carnival, and I can’t say Thompson was a pleasure to meet; in fact I never actually met him, despite being in the room with him for hours, what with all the entourage. There was a case of Chivas Regal in the corner of the room, Thompson was constantly smoking something aromatic out of a cut-off briar pipe, a couple of young female assistants just hung out looking decorative, congratulatory faxes kept coming through from John Cusack and Johnny Depp.

    We were there to interview Thompson, but it didn’t go too well; he uttered maybe eight or nine coherent sentences, some of which he’d obviously come up with years before, and had been trotting out when he needed them ever since. But it was interesting to see how people, including us, fell right in line with the aura of celebrity he projected. At one point Thompson looked wonderingly at his glass, as though baffled how it could be empty, and the head of the Creative Writing program at Yale–who happened to be in the room–said, “Oh, let me get that.” For the rest of the afternoon the Yale prof was the drinks boy, anxiously making sure Thompson’s glass was topped off at all times.

    That night, at the release party, Johnny Depp showed up, and stood on one side of the room, absently sipping a drink and looking–and I’m being completely literal–supernaturally beautiful. He actually seemed to glow. And that’s my brush with celebrity culture.

  39. Working at a bookstore has given me a few opportunities to meet wonderful authors, and one mind-blowing opportunity to meet, assist and briefly chat with the author whose name I regularly bring up under the category of “my hero”.

    Working at my store’s table in the dealer room at KeyCon, a regional con in Winnipeg, has given me the chance to chat with Robert J. Sawyer and L.E. Modesitt Jr, as well as a host of up-and-coming Canadian authors. Rob in particular, as he comes to KeyCon every year, and has a great rapport with my store. I also got to talk to Kelley Armstrong for a few minutes when she did a reading at the store.

    The mind-blowing opportunity is, of course, a longer story. Back in 09, Neil Gaiman held a contest for independent and small town bookstores; the places that an author like him pretty much never gets the chance to visit. This was shortly after the release of “The Graveyard Book”, so the contest was themed accordingly: Whichever store put on the best “Graveyard Book” themed Halloween party got a visit from Gaiman, complete with a reading and a signing. We worked our asses off, and tied for first place with another store in Georgia.

    To illustrate just how important this event was to me: When I was 20, I very nearly gave up on the idea of writing. Then I read “American Gods”, and knew I didn’t want to do anything else. I want to be Neil Gaiman when I grow up.

    When Mr. Gaiman came to Winnipeg for his event, the staff who had worked on the party naturally got first dibs on working the event. That meant a couple hours of crowd control (roughly 900 people turned up), up to and during the reading, followed by six hours of either standing within ten feet of Neil Gaiman, and occasionally sitting directly beside him and passing him books. It was six hours because he did not stop signing until all 900-or-so fans had gotten a turn. It was incredible.

    After the event was over and it was just Neil, his publicist and the staff, I begged a moment of his time so I could ramble on about how much he influenced me; the usual fanboy stuff. He was incredibly, unbelievably nice, and recommended that I check out one of his great influences, Roger Zelazny.

    To summarize: I got to bask in Neil Gaiman’s presence for six hours, and then he gave me a book recommendation.

    I fucking love my job.

  40. I very briefly met Neil Gaiman when he was in Wellington two years ago (well, if “got a book signed by him” counts as “met”). I’d been standing in line for about two hours, he’d been signing for about two hours, and I had to ask him what he’d just written in my copy of American Gods (it was “believe”). Cue much red face on my behalf. I wish I’d remembered to bring the book to the event the previous day (where he was talking with Margo Lanagan) – the queues were much shorter then.

    I did however meet Simon Schama that day, where I expressed my disappointment that the “History of Britain” TV series covered all of British history from the mists of antiquity to the fall of the Roman Empire in one episode; he explained that that was all the time the BBC had given him, and signed my copy of the first book of the TV series.

    Australian author Max Barry sent me a signed hardback copy of his novel Company; I’d say it was free, but I’ve spent seven years now helping moderate his website, so in terms of time/cost analysis Max probably comes out ahead there!

  41. When I read your tale of contacting Steve Boyett, my immediate thought was “I’m guessing he didn’t want you to know his address because he wasn’t sure if you were another weirdo about to show up on his doorstep.”
    (Me, I met Steve at DragonCon on the balcony in the green room back when you could still go out there. Strange night, that was, and not one I’m likely to forget.)
    Suffice to say list of Writerly Types I’ve Met would get a bit long and tedious, so I’ll just drop the one that tends to get the most interesting reaction from people:
    Harlan Ellison was the best man at my sister’s wedding.

  42. I totally recommend getting to know a Very Famous Author. That inoculates you to meeting other Very Famous People (which you will, if you know said Very Famous Author).

  43. Years ago, I was in Maine and drove to Steven King’s house and took a picture. I was reading the first books in his “Gunslinger” series at the time. Good stuff. It was also at a time in my life when I needed something that King’s books provided. I think of the authors that I would “squee” over and it isnt just good writing. It’s good writing that happened to find me at a time when it resonated profoundly in my life. I read 2001 when I was a kid and it opened a whole world to me, so Clarke would have made me squee had I ever met him. Another author that resonated with me was Hemingway and I imagine I would have been struck in silent awe had I ever met him.

  44. At one of the early Marscons in MN, I went to a panel where the panelists, all authors, outnumbered the non-panelists, 4-2. Lyda Morehouse suggested we all go down to the bar, so we did, and they all told amusing stories. I think it was different Marscon when Walter Hunt and I wandered over to IKEA for dinner so that he could pick up a catalog for his wife, and we talked about publishing and baseball and other stuff. I agree with OrangeMike that cons are a great place to meet and interact with writers, but I will have to recommend going to smaller conventions. You’ll have a much better chance to chat and otherwise geek out at a convention with 500 attendees than you will at a large convention like a Worldcon, Dragoncon or large regional convention with 5000+ attendees. It also helps to be friendly with everyone, because you never know when you might be invited to dinner by someone who just happens to be going off with their friend, one of the authors attending the con.

  45. “AOL in the mid-90s”?? I spent the second half of 1994 trying to get Rainman to be useful. I don’t recall any success, but I have plenty of weird stories about Sunnyvale.

    Yeah, KnewHimWhen stories are rife in fandom (I ran into Craig at the SF Book Fair when he had just arrived in SF and was trying to him of a project to get himself a little local profile . . . It was a little email calendar before it was a listserv before it was the list).
    And I-was-just-hanging-with-W!H!O?!?! stories.

    Everyone was a neo once.

  46. I’ve met a bunch of authors here and there. Some (like you and Connie Willis) I’m glad I met. Some others (not naming them!) not so much. I don’t think I’ve ever met Orson Scott Card, and I hope to live out my days in that state.

  47. I met Douglas Adams once at a book signing in the early 1990s when I was an undergraduate. He signed my copies of his two Dirk Gently books.

    He must have been in the middle of a signing tour then. He looked pretty durned tired– I was one of the first in line, but there was a L-O-N-N-G line of people waiting for their chance to geek out.

  48. You were my first. I snatched the last copy of Zoe’s Tale at Armadillocon 30 and sat down in the lobby to read it. I looked up and you said “What do you think?” I blathered about you getting the voice right, because I coached some girl softball and new the lingo.
    Then I asked you to sign it, you said that the book signing was scheduled on Sunday.
    I said “This is Texas, I have a gun show to go to on Sunday.” You signed it and quickly walked away. I think I scared you a little.

  49. I worked in publishing sales for too many years, and I’ve met lots of authors in various capacities. My favorite author story, though, concerns Matt Ridley, who was going to be in Santa Barbara for some conference. While Santa Barbara was part of my territory, it was a week-long away trip for me, three times a year. I had a tendency to eat at this one Italian restaurant on State Street, just me and my book, and I always ordered a glass of champagne.

    So, Matt Ridley. I arranged an author event for him at Earthling Books, and then took him out to dinner afterwards, at that Italian Restaurant. I am not sure why, perhaps because they had gotten to know me and here I was with someone else, a male someone else, possibly on a dinner date, but they comped me a bottle of champagne. Matt was impressed.

  50. San Francisco 1977, late Saturday morning. Chronicle says there’s a Star Trek/SF convention downtown that weekend. I grab an N Judah to Market Street even though I’ve already missed at least half the event, because I love Star Trek (obviously) but I really had gotten into science fiction in the previous few years and they promised AUTHORS. Like Heinlein. And Ellison. And Silverberg. And Ted Sturgeon IIRC. I get there and chat up a few vendors who proceed to grab Harlan on his way to dinner so they can tell him what a huge fan I am (which was true, BTW.) Harlan invites me to join him. He undoubtedly has ulterior motives (I was a not-unattractive 17 year old girl by myself, slightly out of the usual demographic for a sci-fi con in 1977) but after ascertaining my age, does he give me the polite brush-off? Is he rude? Or worse? Nope, he’s charming, funny, interested, attractive, vulgar, fascinating… y’know. The usual Harlan. After dinner, he suggests that I might want to join him since he’s been invited to a party in one of the hotel rooms. There I am introduced to Robert Heinlein and his wife, Robert Silverberg, and many more people. Needless to say I am struck dumb with awe. Harlan drifts away after putting me into the keeping of Robert Silverberg. I decide it’s time for me to make a strategic retreat (feeling quite over my head) and the gracious, avuncular, gentlemanly Mr. Robert Silverberg chats with me for a while, then safely delivers me to the MUNI stop. So, all in all, a red letter day in my book even now!

  51. Xopher: When I met him in 1991, OSC was charming, witty, and not entirely what I expected, knowing he was Mormon. When I hung out in Hatrack on AOL, he was much the same (and startled me by being a fan of Pink Floyd). I find it hard to equate the man I knew back then with the somewhat embittered man I infer from his more recent political writings.

  52. My wife ran the Barnes & Noble in Cleveland in the late ’90s. Among the author signings she hosted was one Drew Carey. Because Drew was (is) a hometown hero, the line went for something like three hours (and it was only one of several signings for him around town that weekend). He entered through a scrum, sat right down and picked up a pen. One after another people would step up, present their copy of Dirty Jokes and Beer to him for signing, hand their camera to me, then step behind the table and I’d take the snap and hand it back.

    Next. Sign. Snap. Next. Sign. Snap.

    Did I mention this went on for three hours? After the last fan, Drew jumped up and said “I gotta take a leak.” He was shown the way to the men’s, and when he returned was hustled out to a waiting car by his handler.

    Yep. Drew Carey and I had smiled and gazed into each other’s eyes through a long summer evening, and we never exchanged a word or a handshake.

  53. Somebody I used to know in L.A. was co-writing something with Ted Sturgeon and George Clayton Johnson (never published), so I hung out around them awhile, but I was mid-twenties, tongue-tied and totally stupid about it. (Now, of course, I’d be mid-sixties and totally stupid, but I’d probably be more verbal.) Moved to the Bay Area in ’79 and met Poul and Karen Anderson, Marion Zimmer Bradley (got married in her back yard once: fine wedding, but the marriage was a total train wreck), and Diana Paxson (whose household throws cool parties). During my last 10 years working for UCBerkeley I was doing payroll/HR for the Graduate School of Journalism, and among the
    visiting faculty we hired were Clay Felker, Christopher Hitchens, Barbara Ehrenreich, Rebecca Solnit, and among the permanent faculty there are Michael Pollan, Lowell Bergman, Jon Else, and we hosted events with Bill Clinton, Molly Ivens, George Soros, Jimmy Carter, Robert Redford… Wow. I never really stopped to think about it before; I guess I’ve seen a few up close, and that’s not even counting cons and book readings. The late and very lamented Cody’s Books was two blocks from my apartment, and there I saw Kurt Vonnegut, William Kotzwinkle, Terry Pratchett. Oh, and I heard Lawrence Ferlinghetti read at Moe’s a few years back. I love this ridiculous town. But my favorite is still Lenora Mattingly Weber, who wrote the Beany Malone books, and who came to a tea given by my Camp Fire troop in Wheat Ridge, Colorado, at my request, when I was probably 12 years old, which would’ve been 1960. She got dressed up for it, and answered all my inane questions very graciously — I still have a picture of the event in an old scrapbook.

  54. Looking forward to having an opportunity to get tongue-tied and awe-struck when I finally meet you somewhere! Don’t have much of a track record for meeting stars – my only claim to such was years ago when I one met Johhny Depp at a reception in New York and asked him what he did….

  55. Back in 1989 or 90 I asked Neil Gaiman to forge Grant Morrison’s signature on a dollar bill. It was in reference to a joke Morrison had written in one of his comics about the value of a dollar bill with an Andy Warhol autograph. Or a forged Warhol autograph. Luckily, Neil knew what I was talking about so at least I came off as less of a weirdo than I could have. Still have that bill tucked into the bag with Sandman #1.

  56. My claim to fame is that Scalzi himself has responded to me on his own blog! ;)

    But no, seriously, it’s cool when that happens.

    In real life, I’ve met Robert and Harriet Jordan (had dinner with Harriet, and chatted once with Robert about his old D&D adventures he wrote for his kids), George RR Martin (nice guy!), Brandon Sanderson a couple times (had dinner with him and Harriet – they’re both awesome people), Lev Grossman, Jacqueline Carey, Kim Harrison, and oh, hell, a lot of authors who’ve been at Comicon.

    All of them were universally nice and gracious though I do think I annoyed one of them when I told her her book was one of my favorites in 8th grade (as she stared at my grey hair =).

    Oh, David Brin once came up to me when I was playing D&D at Game Empire in San Diego (it’s right next door to Mysterious Galaxy) and tried selling my group his Uplift War GURPS book. That was kind of a surreal experience.

  57. I’m pretty sure I would just sob uncontrollably if I got to meet Ray Bradbury. Not many authors make the trek out Newfoundland, but I did attend the World Horror Convention in Toronto a few years ago, and I was in awe of many of the writers there. I was there to help promote Evil Dead: The Musical, which I was working on, but I went to as many of the panels and readings I could.
    Steve Boyett was lovely and informative when I tracked him down a few years ago to ask whether I’d see a sequel to The Architect of Sleep.

  58. I forgot to mention that I attended a reading by Ramsey Campbell at that con, and in the warm closed room I was struggling to stay awake. I really hope he didn’t notice. He was telling a great story and I hope my head bobs weren’t distracting him.

  59. Fun post. Thanks for the mention. Three things come to mind. One: When you first started blogging, I was sure the whole personal web thing was a passing fad. (I have similar predictive powers with penny stocks and chapter-book series ideas.) Two: Beyond the writers, you also highlighted some amazing cartoonists on AOL. I was thrilled to be in the same space as Caldwell. Three: I have the same Robert Silverberg story, except it was Judy Blume.

  60. Bruce: I don’t count Dragon*Con or SanDIegoComicsAndWhateverBloatFest as SF conventions within the meaning of the act. I concur, though, that one should start with nice regionals (I was lucky enough to start with Midwestcon and then Kubla Con) and work one’s way up from there.

  61. My first fan letter to an author was to Tom Godwin after i read “Gold Equations”. I begged him to write a sequel where it turned out that the little sister survived somehow. I was young enough (11) to still believe that there was a way for everything to turn out OK no matter how bad it looked. I wrote to Astounding but got no answer. And things didn’t turn out OK no matter how bad they looked..

  62. I saw John Scalzi from a moderate distance in 2009. As I recall, he was winning a Hugo. I considered rushing the stage to introduce myself, but thought better of it. I ordered “Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded” from Subterranean Press as soon as I got home from Montreal.

  63. You people have no idea how lucky you all are, living in a country where you can simply go into a convention (or even a bookstore!) and meet all the genre’s greats just like that. Living in Israel, the only genre’s greats I got to meet were Orson Scott Card, Guy Gavriel Kay, Tim Powers, Neil Gaiman, Steven Brust and Carol Berg. Ok, looking back at the list, I guess we aren’t that deprived here in Israel (and that’s not even the full list of international guests who popped up here in the past few years).

    But for me, the most interesting interactions I had with genre creators I admire happened online. About eight years ago, when I was just out of university, writing for local genre websites and organizing local conferences instead of making a living, I sent an email to Rick Sternbach, the chief designer of most “Star Trek” shows, and asked if he would be willing to do an email interview. I didn’t expect him to say yes – I didn’t expect an answer at all, thinking that this guy with the big Hollywood career will never bother with some readers on the other side of the world. To my big surprise, he answered my email within two minutes, and said he’d love to answer my questions. I sent him many (many-many) questions, and he indeed answered all of them, even the stupid ones. For a while, this interview made me something of a celebrity in the local fandom community. Who ever thought you could just email a major production figure on Star Trek – and that the guy will actually answer! To someone from Israel! Several months later, the whole thing gave me enough confidence to email Jane Jensen when news broke out about her then-new novel “Dante’s Equation” and the fact that she began working on a new game, andI decided to email her and ask her for an interview. My fingers were trembling when I typed the email – and if you don’t understand why, the “Gabriel Knight” games probably weren’t an important part of your life as they were in mine. And Jane answered. She agreed to do the interview, even though she was very busy (she was aware of the many fans she has in Israel). Again, I sent a lot of questions, and at first she asked me if I could give up a few because she had her hands full at the time, but she ended up answering all of them, saying that they intrigued her.

    This should have probably taught me that when you email people and ask nicely enough, sometimes they answer. And yet, when I sat down to do my first Hebrew translation job of “Old Man’s War”, I ran into a problem of translating some obscure term* at a very early point. For some reason (my stupidity), it never occurred to me to Google “John Scalzi” and see if there’s a way to contact the author. Well, my loss.

    * No, it had nothing to do with the name of John Perry’s Brainpal.

  64. My first encounter with a well-known author occurred many years ago, at the 1968 Midwestcon (I was 15 and it was my first con),when I attempted to have a very tongue-tied (at least on my part) conversation with Fritz Leiber. As “Orange Mike” notes in in his January 7, 4:08 pm comment, attending traditional SF Cons for more than 40 years has given me an opportunity to interact with a number of writers, and I like to think that I have gotten better since then.

    What was probably my worst interaction was with a writer outside the fantasy/sf genre. While working on my college paper, I volunteered to interview poet Diane Wakoski, because I was (and remain) a fan of her writing (and, in all probability, may have been the only person on staff familiar with her). Her first comment to me was that she wished that they had sent a woman to do the interview, and the interview went downhill from there. Though, to be fair, we had a much better conversation when we ran into each other at a bar after her reading.

  65. I’ve actually met a great number of authors, probably because I’ve gone to the sorts of places which are their natural habitat (conventions and bookstores.) A few anecdotes stand out:

    Terry Pratchett. The man is a class act. The first time I met him was at ConFrancisco in 1993. My mother snagged him in the hall and asked if she could take a picture of the two of us, and he immediately put his arm around my shoulders and said, “Of course you may take a picture of me and my dear friend, what was your name again?” Later that evening, a group of locals and semi-locals took him to dinner. At one point, I used the word “zonked” and he inquired if I were a Valley Girl. I also saw him in 2002 and am sad to think that may be the last time, as his travel has been sharply curtailed.

    Authors at ConJose in 2002. I made up some shirts for that convention, got a bunch of fabric pens, and started begging autographs from authors and artists. After the first signatures, one of which was from a gracious Kelly Freas, I started noticing that the male authors were nervous about signing the shirt of a female fan, even on the back. (Michael Kaluta, in fact, said “This is the most erotic thing I’ve ever done at a con.”) In contrast, all of the female authors signed with an attitude of “Hey! I’m a ROCK STAR!”

    Maybe I hadn’t thought the implications through. ;D

    And this last Worldcon had a lot of meetings, planned and not. I think my favorite unplanned Moment of Awesome was a result of going to the Tor party. I ended up gravitating towards somebody I knew from online and as a result, was invited to the Nielsen Haydens’ hotel room (I am vaguely acquainted with them online) for time sitting around listening to notables such as the artist who designed the Montreal Worldcon Hugo. Great fun.

  66. I love Koffeeklatches at SF cons. I’ve spent an hour with just about every SF writer who regularly goes to cons that I really want to speak with. I even won the lottery for Neil Gaiman in Montreal. Look out for me at Boskone!

    Volunteering as an autograph line wrangler at cons is another good way to meet authors. Not to mention get all your books signed.

  67. All my encounters with writers have been favorable [at least, for me].

    In fact, John was so incisive yet genial on his panel about parallel universes [the basis for the Old Man's War starship drive] that Greg Frost and I hightailed it after the Sunday morning panel to buy copies of all his SF books available in the Dealer’s Room.

    JJB

  68. I met Brian Aldiss at a bookshop launch in London in the 80s, and I gabbled inconsequentially – odd, as my job at the time was bookshop rep for a big publisher (college & academic, not fiction, though) and I spent my working life talking coherently to people in bookshops.

    I sent Arthur C Clarke a letter with a copy of Interzone with my first published story in it in 1998, to tell him what an inspiration he had been to me as a kid in 1960s. The reply was a printed form letter for the most part – he must have had a lot of mail, and he was getting on a bit (I always knew how old he was as he was born within four days of my father, in December 1917 – and in the same county, Somerset). But the letter also had a few handwritten notes on it, thanking me for the magazine – though he already subscribed, of course – and making a small joke about my address, and he signed it.

    At a very small sf convention in Bristol a couple of years ago I met Alistair Reynolds, who lives just over the Bristol Channel in Wales, and who is a normal, friendly and chatty sort of chap. Cheryl Morgan came and took him away as he was supposed to be doing a panel, not talking to me.

  69. I’ve been going to conventions for over forty years, met a lot of writers. (And it’s always been interesting to me that how I relate to someone as a person has no connection to my view of their writing. Examples will not be given.)

    But this posting is really to tell a story that makes it clear John not recognizing Silverberg was very minor. Always been a big fan of Wilson Tucker’s work (Lincoln Hunters etc,) and wanted to meet him. At the same time kept on running into two time Worldcon fan GOH Bob Tucker at cons. It took me just under a year to realize they were the same person. Admittedly this story is old but such idiocy/naiveté deserves to be remembered.

  70. Poor Michael Swanwick actually complained during one of his panels at SFContario that he was getting a lot of folks asking him who he was. It’s a strange world sometimes.

  71. Ray Bradbury came to my town’s library for an event lo! these many years ago. I was in high school but couldn’t drive, so I had to beg for a ride. It was my time ever to meet… er… look at… an author and get a book signed. I still have my signed Martian Chronicles! And while Sir Terry has signed my copy of Good Omens, I have not managed to get Mr. Gaiman to do the same. I have Heard Stories about the results, however, and will persevere.
    And library conferences are a marvelous place to meet authors, including Scalzi and Pat Rothfuss. Very short lines and time for a chat. I must go to more!

  72. My guess is that the ‘moderately famous YA author ‘ was Richard Peck. I remember him speaking at Northview when I was there in the late ’70’s.

  73. I have met more than a few authors and usually found them charming people, when approached respectfully and at the right time. I’ve only encountered Neil Gaiman once, back in the 1990s when he was simply ‘that guy who writes Sandman’. He was amazingly nice and hard working then. By all accounts he remains so. Glen Cook was always more than willing to carry on a conversation about his works (and his wife was particularly nice).

    I only wish the one time I encountered Isaac Asimov at a convention in the 1980s that I’d appreciated it.

  74. One of my favorite encounters was tracking down Gregory Feeley at Boskone several years back. He wasn’t scheduled to do a signing, but I mustered up my courage and asked, after a panel, if he would be willing to put an inscription in my copy of Arabian Wine.

    His son (maybe ten?) happened to be with him, and his jaw dropped. “Dad!” he cried, incredulous. “You have fans?”

    Rather broke the ice, that.

  75. John,

    I read GameDad back in the day! Had no idea it was you and, to be honest, hadn’t remembered it in quite some time. What a small Internet though!

    All the best,
    Paul

  76. When I was four years-old, I had the opportunity to meet Margaret Rey, co-creator of the Curious George series. She was speaking at the main branch of the Boston Public Library, along with presenting a screening of a stop-motion Curious George film. Honestly, I remember more about the Curious George doll that was used during filming than Mrs. Rey. In my defense, I *was* four years-old.

    As an adult I’ve met: Wil Wheaton, George Carlin (both in their capacity as authors), Harry Turtledove, Michael Burstein (who became a good friend, truth be told), and Cory Doctorow.

  77. Ray Bradbury came to my college and gave a lecture. It was right after chem lab, so I wore my lab coat and got him to sign it. Afraid I fell asleep during his talk, but, in my defense, afternoons after lab were prime naptime.

    Shared an elevator with Neil Gaiman in China. Thank God I was too jet-lagged to say anything embarrassing. Wish I hadn’t been too jet-lagged so I could’ve thanked him.

    But my favorite I Met One Of My Favorite Author stories: Wordcon ’06 in Anaheim (where, by the way, I got to hear the first chapter of The Android’s Dream in a room straight out of Being John Malkovich; Jebus, I don’t think I’ve laughed that hard since), I was tending bar at the Interzone party, when a man walks up to me and says, “What’s a limp-wristed liberal have to do for a glass of white wine around here?” And I says: “Well, just how limp-wristed a liberal are you?” And he lets that wrist go limp, like someone’s turned off his tendons, and I crack up and pour him a chardonnay. And I look at his nametag, and he’s Kim Stanley Robinson. We had a brief discussion about how much Orange County had changed and how cool Pacific Edge was, and I had a fuzzy glow for the rest of the night, right until someone from con control read me the riot act for serving an underage narc (in my defense, the party was going to close in twenty minutes, and I was tired, and I wasn’t in the mood to be That Guy Who Told Someone To Get Lost).

    …and that’s all I’ve got.

  78. [Deleted because Ted Rall is a friend of mine, so calling him names qualifies as rude behavior. If you want to repost without the name-calling, Scorpius, you're welcome to try again -- JS]

  79. When my family was in England for a year (Dad was a professor) we rented a house about four doors down from the one in which Tolkien wrote “The Hobbit”.

    I saw JRRT once that year. He was coming out of the Radcliffe Camera wearing academic robes. I suppose he must have been at some sort of formal event.

  80. WizardDru, ambyr, and Ari B. read in quick sequence jarred a memory of a secondhand tale.

    My son, in 7th grade English in 1997, listened to his teacher rhapsodize over the achievements of the late Isaac Asimov to the class. When he related the story later that day, he saw that quite a few of his classmates reflected the teacher’s enthusiasm. She singled out Math, whose attention was less than rapt.

    “I thought you’d be more interested. He writes about things you like,” she said.

    “I met him when I was five. My dad has photo of him signing a book for me. Yeah, he was cool.”

    Math, veteran of a dozen or so cons at that point, told me that was the first time that people in his “regular life” were impressed with someone he took for granted knowing.

    JJB

  81. At the Fifth Street con in Minneapolis two or three years ago, I was chatting with this wonderfully erudite and super-interesting lady before a panel. I had a glass of water in my hand. After about ten minutes of conversation, I looked at her nametag and realized she was only one of my favorite authors ever, Lois McMaster Bujold — and promptly spilled my drink down my front. She was really nice about the whole thing…

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