Meeting Your Heroes

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Your favorite book is not just an entertaining story.  It becomes a sort of extra life you lived, as if you were in that world while you read, and all the characters became your friends.  If you’re like me and re-read your favorite stories once a year (or even more often), you don’t just know the story.  You know the sound of the characters’ voices and the cities they inhabit.  You know the smell of the horse the main character rides and the taste of the ale he drinks.  The heartbreaking moments send you into wracking sobs even though you’ve read them a million times and know the pain is coming, because now the characters who are suffering are even more familiar to you.  The joy of the protagonist’s ultimate success is our own joy, because we’ve been with her from the beginning.  It’s no wonder that our favorite authors become godlike in our adoring eyes.   They wove together words that touched our souls, something that we all labor to do every single day but at which they succeeded.  We place them on pedestals and would be perfectly happy to fling ourselves at their feet.

In the mid-80’s, I was fresh out of college and working in a retail bookstore in a mall.  I usually manned the customer service desk (I should point out that this was before the internet, so the customer service involved knowing where every title in the store was shelved and being able to look things up on a microfiche.  I’ll bet there are more than a few of you who are having to look up ‘microfiche’ right now.)  Anyway, once a week I was handed a list of paperback books that needed to be stripped (covers removed and sent back to the publisher for credit while the bodies of the books are destroyed.)  One week, I was sitting on the floor of the bookstore working on the strips when I looked over and saw a book called “The Anubis Gates”.  The cover art wasn’t especially attractive, but something drew me to read the back copy.  I bought that book at the end of my shift, took it home and read it in two days.  It was different and wonderful.  I believed that the author, Tim Powers, had figured something out about the world, something I’d always suspected but never knew for sure.  Over the years, I’ve read everything he’s written, and I have the same reaction every time. 

Last weekend, I was a guest at Illogicon II, a small con in Cary, NC.  (You should try to attend this one sometime – it’s a small con that does everything the way it ought to, and results in a wonderful time.)   Tim Powers was the Guest of Honor, and I was utterly beside myself at the chance to meet him.  He doesn’t travel to the East Coast very often (hardly ever) so this was a lucky shot for me to meet the man who wrote the books that enhance my life like no others.  As the time grew closer, I was having trouble breathing and could hardly think straight.  My belly was in knots.  I was afraid that I was about to blow it entirely, letting myself get so nervous.  I’d just about decided to wait until Saturday to try and say hello, when one of the other con guests mentioned she was going to a panel Tim was on at 9 pm.  I threw caution to the wind and accompanied her.  We walked into the room and there was my hero, sitting with three other guests at the panel table.  I sat in the audience, and over the next hour, listened to Tim talk about speculative fiction being commentary on the real world, and slowly, my heart calmed and my breathing returned.  He was a human being, just like me.  He had the usual worries and fears that all writers have.  I ended up talking to him after the panel, and was invited to the bar with him, his wife and several others that very night.  I sat for two hours laughing and enjoying his stories, and by the end of the weekend, I was relaxed enough to give him a hug goodbye.  He wasn’t a god, but he was still my hero.  And I realized that I want to write something that will someday make him smile.  That feeling is so much better than the terror I felt before.

If you ever have the chance to meet your favorite author, take it.  And on the way to that chance, try to remember that even though your favorite author created a world that you’d happily move into, he is still a human being who’ll be honored if you compliment his work.  

me with Tim

 

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13 comments to Meeting Your Heroes

  • Ken

    That’s a great story Misty! And some fantastic (if not hard to follow sometimes :)) advice.

  • I am currently re-reading Guy Gavriel Kay’s Fionavar Tapestry, which is, despite its many flaws, my favorite piece of writing by anyone ever. (I have come to realize that I like it even better than TIGANA, though mostly because it introduced me to Kay’s work, and so was a revelation, as well as a great series.) I have met Kay a couple of times, but have never gotten up the courage to speak with him at any length about what his work means to me. I’m so glad you got to spend time with Tim. I spoke with him at WFC this year and actually mentioned to him that you were a huge fan (and that I am, too). He is warm, approachable, and a damned fine writer.

  • ::grin:: What a great story!

    I summoned the courage to meet one of my favorite writers, Nancy Kress, when she was teaching a writing class here in D.C. I signed up for the class, learned a tremendous amount, and made one of my first friends in the professional writing community. Nan and I still find time to get together whenever we’re in the same city or at the same con, even though it took me a *lot* of dinners together before I got over my awe :-)

  • Those I’d love to meet and hang with, in no particular order, though the first two were very much a part of my teen years.

    Piers Anthony—for Xanth, Battle Circle, Apprentice Adept, Kelvin of Rud, and a slew of others I’ve read over and over

    Terry Brooks—For Shannara, which I’ve read too many times to count

    Michael Moorcock—for Elric, fate screwed prince of Melnibone

    Alastair Reynolds—He seems pretty cool, by the fact he took time to talk over email about a short story of his I discovered one day, Minla’s Flowers, that got me to go out and find the others he’d written with that same character, and then buy his excellent Revelation Space books

    Robert Vardeman – for his graciousness in talking over email about an old series he co-wrote with Victor Milan that I’ve read about a million times called, The War of Powers series, that was funnily enough published by Playboy Paperbacks. I had to scour used bookstores and finally the internet to find all of the series

    Steven Brust—because he just seems like a really cool cat, to use an older term, based on his site and FB, and for his Vlad Taltos series. Maybe I can drum with him one day at a con while Misty does some belly dancing. 😉

    There are others, to be sure. Maybe one day I’ll meet that DB Jackson guy. If he’s anything like David, I’ll probably be able to just stand around and gab in the hallway at a con talking about all kinds of things, including the lack of tact of some people in the dealer’s room. 😉

    And I can’t wait to see those I’ve met before from MW and all those I’ve yet to. :)

  • Megan B.

    It’s so nice that you got to meet your hero and actually sit down and talk. I’ve only met one favorite author, and that was only long enough to get a book signed. But it was Douglas Adams, so I consider myself lucky to have met him at all before he passed away.

    Now I really want to meet Neil Gaiman. I am still kicking myself because he did a lecture in my city recently, and I had to work that night. I should have taken the evening off! Hopefully I’ll have another chance to hear him speak, if not meet him. (Had I read your advice before-hand, I am sure I would have gone to the lecture!)

  • Razziecat

    There’s nothing like meeting a favorite author in person! The first con I ever went to, I attended because Katherine Kurtz was going to be there. I fully understand the butterflies-in-the-stomach nervousness–I think I was literally shaking as I approached her table–but Ms. Kurtz was warm and very gracious. Then there was the time Patricia McKillip was a guest at a con that took place very close to my town. I was planning to attend anyway, but the day before, I happened to be in the downtown mall passing Waldenbooks and who should be there, signing her books, but Ms. McKillip herself. :) I also had the great good luck to meet Andre Norton and Judith Tarr at a WorldCon in Boston. Now, if I had the chance to throw myself at the feet of Carol Berg and Lois McMaster Bujold, I would be happy!

  • Some seventeen years ago I got to meet Marion Zimmer Bradley and thank her in person for buying my first professionally sold story. Shortly after that, I met and became friends with Mike Resnick. I bumped into Fred Pohl while standing outside in the rain smoking a cigarette at a con in California and we joked about “Pariah’s Corner.”
    I’ve met many other writers and editors since then, but those three, for me, left the deepest, most profound impressions… and kept me writing.

  • Daniel, I’d love to dance to you and Brust drumming!

  • Misty, I was cheering you on (from the warm waters of the Edisto River) all weekend. I am *so* glad you got to meet your hero and spend time with him.
    YAY!

  • I would love to meet Robin McKinley. As it is, I love that I’ve had the chance to meet so many authors as it is, especially most of the MW crew!

  • sagablessed

    Lets see: MZD and Anne McCaffery (RIP), Faith again, and Mercedes Lackey. I would also like to meet Tanya Huff. As well as some of the contributors here I have not met yet.

  • skaadi

    First time writing here. :)
    I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Neil Gaiman a few times @ comic book signings, back before he wrote any novel-length works. Nervous!

    Also met Anne Rice (though I’ve never read any of her books) when I was getting something signed for a friend who’s a big fan. I wasn’t at all nervous meeting her because I didn’t really have that awe-thing, so she was just a person. My friend was in the Army at the time and Anne was interested in that. She kept me chatting so long that I was getting dirty looks from the other people waiting in line!

  • skaadi, I had a similar situation when I met Chelsea Quinn Yarbro. My friend was completely gaga over her, so I promised to get books signed when Ms Yarbro and I were on a panel together. I loved meeting her, and it was very relaxed because I wasn’t fan-girling at the same time. 😀