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Fame and Fanboy Fails…

Snoopy

MythBusters is coming to East Lansing next month!

When my wife was looking at tickets, she noticed that for an additional dungload of money, you could get into a backstage reception with Adam and Jamie.

My initial reaction was a kind of dignified Kermit flail. Of course I want to meet the MythBusters!!! Then I stopped to ask myself why I wanted to meet them. I mean, it would be nice to be able to say how much I enjoy their show, but why would introverted me want to cram into a room full of strangers, all trying to get a few minutes of Adam and Jamie’s time? What is it I really think is going to happen?

Yeah, probably not.

I bumped into Neil Gaiman at an event five years or so back, and blurted out something like, “Hi, I’m flarglsnuffpumps. Glablestib Neil Gaiman!!! Bububububbb.” I might have also peed myself a little. He gave me a polite nod and promptly fled. I retreated to the nearest room, which I dubbed my Broom Closet of Shame, and didn’t come out until it was time to go home.

Okay, maybe it wasn’t quite that bad, but I suffered a definite verbal and mental derail.

Why? Gaiman is a very successful author, but so what? He’s a guy who writes highly popular books and comics. I’ve met hundreds of other authors. Why was this any different?

Since then, I’ve been on the receiving end a few times. Sometimes it’s online: a Twitter comment like, “OMG, @jimchines answered me!!! BEST DAY EVER!” Once it was a flying hugsquee as I stepped off the elevator and someone saw my nametag. It’s flattering and good for my ego, but each time, I end up feeling a little baffled. I’m just a geeky 37-year-old guy who writes books, cracks the occasional fart joke, and spends too much time online.

I’ve become friends with some pretty well-known authors over the years, including New York Times bestsellers and folks who’ve won pretty much every SF/F award out there. When I see them at conventions, I don’t think, “Yay, I get to hang out with Famous Big Name Author!” They’re just friends, people I haven’t seen in a while who happen to write great books.

That’s the disconnect.

When we think of Famous People, we’re generally not thinking about people. We’re thinking about the idea of those people, our mental constructs of the people who gave us a favorite show, movie, song, book, or whatever. Everything we love about their work gets imbued into this glowing icon of awesomeness.

This can be … problematic. The brain shorts out when trying to reconcile that construct with the real person standing in front of us. I feel bad for Gaiman, and I wish I could apologize for adding an uncomfortable interaction to his weekend.

And then you get people who start to feel a sense of ownership, which can lead to truly vile outpourings when and if their celebrity does something they disapprove of…

I think I’ve got it mostly sorted out in my head. I think about Fandom Fest, where I’ll be a guest of honor alongside folks like Bruce Campbell and James Marsters, and I’m fairly sure I won’t spontaneously wet myself when and if I bump into them. I’m hopeful that I could meet them, shake their hands, and simply tell them how much I’ve enjoyed their work.

We ended up passing on the MythBusters reception tickets. Much as I love and appreciate their show, I’m still an introvert, and I don’t generally like trying to mingle through a room full of strangers. So we’ll just go and see them do some experiments on stage, and that should be a lot of fun.

Fame is weird. It creates bizarrely obsessive and possessive dynamics. It’s a barrier, even as it builds an illusion of familiarity. (If you don’t understand how it’s a barrier, imagine Gaiman at a con, trying to hang out at the bar and chat with other writers…)

There are times that my very low-level “celebrity” as a fantasy author has been a lot of fun. But overall, I’m very happy to not have to deal with rock star levels of fame.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

Comments

( 85 comments — Leave a comment )
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adelheid_p
Feb. 27th, 2012 07:25 pm (UTC)
My favorite moment at Confluence in 2010 was when I was in the consuite on Saturday morning before programming opened and the Featured Filk Guest was Peter S. Beagle and he came in to get something to eat and sat down near where I was sitting and started telling stories about something. Some of it was reminiscences but some of it was about the Ralph Bakshi production of The Hobbit and I don't remember saying much but just listening with awe because, hey, he was more or less talking to me (no-one else was around) and it was fascinating listening to the stories. As I work most of Confluence in the Art Show and don't get out to see the programming much, this was an even more treasured moment to me. I'm a bit introverted, too. So a vying for a moment with a roomful of strangers wouldn't be attractive to me either. I would love nothing more, though, than to spend a dinner or evening with one or two of my favorite authors. I'm sure many are natural storytellers and would be fascinating when asked the right questions.
klwilliams
Feb. 27th, 2012 07:33 pm (UTC)
At World Fantasy last fall, it seemed like two conventions. There was the regular convention full of fantasy authors, and the Neil Gaiman convention, where his line for the group signing was so long it wasn't allowed in the main room, and there were special areas away from the rest of the convention for his talks, and so on. For WFC 2013 the artist guest of honor is a famous comic book artist, so I wonder if there will be two conventions at once again.
snapes_angel
Feb. 27th, 2012 10:50 pm (UTC)
Two in one, huh? I remember the one PhilCon where the hotel also had a funeral director's convention (something like that). At some point late Friday night, though Sunday, people started referring to PhilCon as DeathCon, thanks to it. ;3 I don't recall the year, though it was SO last century; but I recall the DeathCon bit.
lissibith
Feb. 27th, 2012 07:56 pm (UTC)
I thought I got all the useless fangirling out of my system when I spent two summers working in a sport I love. When you've cracked wise with an international sports star over the quality of the coffee in the green room, you start feeling like "yeah, I got this. Meeting famous people, just another day in the life."

And then... yeah, I met Peter Beagle. Like so many other people in these comments, it was him. He was so kind and patient. I don't even like to think how incoherent I probably was. He, on the other hand, was very kind, taking his time on my items and talking about how he spent time in Japan during work on The Last Unicorn.

((Its sort of funny, looking back, because my friend and I went to that con for the guests of honor - me for Mr. Beagle and she for none other than Mr. Gaiman. I, at the time, had read nothing of his and didn't understand until later the weird looks I got from the rest of the line when I passed by Mr. Gaiman's spot at the table with a polite greeting so I could thank Mr. Beagle for sharing his work with us and ask for his autograph))
alicetheowl
Feb. 27th, 2012 11:34 pm (UTC)
Peter is such an awesome guy, isn't he?
lissibith
Feb. 28th, 2012 08:12 pm (UTC)
omg, yes! And one of the cons I attended that he was a guest at, he did this live commentary over a playing of The Last Unicorn, which might be the best and most informative thing I've gone to at a convention ever. It was such a clever, interesting idea, and maybe I'm just sheltered, but I'd never seen another creator do something quite like that, live at an event.
alicetheowl
Feb. 28th, 2012 08:16 pm (UTC)
He did that at Dragon*Con, too. (Or maybe you were at the Dragon*Con, too.) It was definitely an enriching experience. ^ v ^
serialbabbler
Feb. 27th, 2012 09:52 pm (UTC)
I can't imagine giving somebody I've never actually met a flying hugsquee even if I do like their books. Well, okay, I can't imagine giving somebody I have met a flying hugsquee either...

I can imagine tripping over my own feet and giving them a flying headbutt.

Hmmm... maybe it's a good thing I've never knowingly met anybody famous.
huit
Feb. 27th, 2012 10:20 pm (UTC)
Setting and mental focus really do play a big role when meeting a "celebrity" of any caliber. Going to a signing or event JUST to meet a specific celebrity is going to be different than just bumping into them when you aren't in super-fan mode.

I've had one nervous fangasm attack at a book signing for T.A. Barron (who I've been a fan of since I was about 12) and the event was sort of like a birthday present to myself so I was all pumped up about it. But the big nervousness is because you want to have a meaningful encounter but instead you feel like a deer caught in headlights. I was even a little nervous meeting you at Windycon, though I guess THAT was more fear I wouldn't see you at all - plus it is very different than talking through your blog.

At comic and anime conventions I find myself around these (relatively famous) actors who I know and admire, but it's not a big deal to see them in the elevator or hotel lobby or play guitar hero with them, while I know some of my friends would freak out in a similar situation.
galeni
Feb. 27th, 2012 10:27 pm (UTC)
During their show they get volunteers from the audience -- didn't go so I don't know how it works, but I thought I'd give you a heads-up.

And I didn't go for exactly that reason -- I like them on tv but it's "free" -- they'd still just be Adam and Jamie, after all, but paid for.

(LOVE your stick figures of them. You captured them perfectly.)
jimhines
Feb. 28th, 2012 01:44 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I spent way too much time working on those stick figures, so I'm glad *someone* appreciated 'em :-)
swan_tower
Feb. 27th, 2012 10:39 pm (UTC)
Somebody may have related this story elsewhere in your comments already, but in case they haven't: Gaiman posted a great anecdote about this kind of thing once. He said some fan expressed embarrassment to him about not being able to think of anything to say other than <squee>"I really like your work!"</squee> And Gaiman verbally patted this fan on the head, explaining that it's okay, authors don't mind hearing that sort of thing, and y'know, if you come up and say "I really like your work" then you've started a conversation and maybe it will continue onto other topics and good things happen, etc. So there's no reason to be embarrassed; it's all good.

. . . and then Gaiman, having said that, promptly turned around and saw [Some Author Gaiman Is a Total Fanboy For]. Whereupon he basically collapsed into <squee>"I really like your work!"</squee>

So my impression is that he's very understanding and forgiving of such things, having been on the gibbering end of it himself, as well as the gibbered-at.
jimhines
Feb. 28th, 2012 01:43 pm (UTC)
I hadn't heard that particular story, but I like it :-)
snapes_angel
Feb. 27th, 2012 10:44 pm (UTC)
Many, many, many years decades ago, I had a "thing" fro David Cassidy and would probably have reacted like that, until the time that, I think it was my mother, told me that one of my aunts had married one of his uncles. I may not seem like it, even when people meet me (not that anyone really knows me from anyone else on the sidewalk, but that's another tale), but I'm a bit of an introvert. Had to struggle with myself to get to the point I'm at now, and even then, I'm not always too good with people. I used to be terrified of crowds, even. Still am, but it's manageable, now. I spent years working on it. But, back to the point with David Cassidy. When you find out that one of your relatives married one of their relatives, it sort of puts a new spin on things. The person is actually human. You're not quite related, but the other person is human enough to be not quite related to you, too, even if they have absolutely no clue who you are.

In other words, you're human, with thoughts, feelings, likes, dislikes, and vulnerabilities. So are they. Kind of puts a bit of a humanistic spin on the celebrity bit.

Of course, some of us may not so readily admit to being human, but that's another story. ;3
writerjenn
Feb. 28th, 2012 12:52 am (UTC)
That's one nice thing about being an author: our words go out in the world, but our faces and personas, not so much. Even writers who are doing very well are not likely to be stalked by paparazzi.

deire
Feb. 28th, 2012 04:02 pm (UTC)
Sounds weird, but what I want when I admire people's work is not to get autographs or meet'n'greet handshakes. What I want is to have conversation. I don't want to tell Gaiman how awesome he is so much as I want to hear about what he thinks of a particular set of regional folktales. But I have to admit, hero worship is surely there too, so I'm not sure how that balances out when tires meet road. I hope more on the side of "I get to meet the coolest people" spread out over lots of people, but I'm never sure how it comes across. I know I bibbled madly when I met Stephanie Pui Mun Law. I know I managed to actually talk when I met Larry Elmore. Consistency, thy name is not Deire.
rikibeth
Feb. 29th, 2012 06:29 am (UTC)
I sometimes feel like there's three categories of my fangirliness: Authors, Musicians, and Actors.

Authors, I usually do okay with. I did sort of fangirl all over Ellen Kushner the first time I met her, but she was patient with my excited babble, and very kindly gave me a few tidbits about the Further Adventures of Richard and Alec (all of which proved true in the sequels for which I waited nearly twenty years) and didn't seem to mind my puppy eyes when I implored her to write the next bits. And I've had the chance to meet her a few times since then, and she's been unfailingly lovely. And I had advance preparation for meeting Steven Brust, because I'd read a thing he'd written where he said that the best way to approach an author was to say "Hi! I really like your work! Can I buy you dinner?" or, if you didn't have time for dinner, "can I buy you a drink," and in his case he liked single-malt Scotch. And so my ex and I wound up having dinner with him at a small con, and we had some nerdy detail-oriented questions about things in his books, and he was gratified that we'd paid such close attention, and from there it went on to mutual appreciation of Zelazny and him recommending Patrick O'Brian to me, for which I have never thanked him properly. So, authors, I may gibber a little, but it's mostly about their work, and the ones I like best seem to like having such attentive readers.

Musicians... there the attraction is partly to their work (which can be very meaningful to me) but sometimes also includes a strong attraction to their persons. If I get to a meet-and-greet, I try to make it about their work -- the guys in Alkaline Trio were incredibly gracious when I turned up to a (very small) pre-show meet-and-greet with a STACK of compilations that had one song of theirs apiece. They seemed to get what a lifeline their music had been for me. And I think Andy Deane of Bella Morte is not unaware of the effect his physical presence has on fans, and was really sweet after the show about giving hugs and posing for pictures with anyone interested, and that moment gives me a little happy glow when I think about it. I don't even TRY to get near the arena-level names; they have quite enough to deal with!

When it comes to actors, though... I really feel like I'd be awkward as hell. Because it's partly about loving their characters, and they are not their characters, and it's partly about being attracted to their physical presence, and my attraction is not really relevant to their lives except as it makes me buy tickets to their movies or watch their shows and therefore keep them working and fed. With an author, it's all right to say "so, that bit with the silver tea service, and Lord Nicholas shuddering at milk or cream and asking for water, that was BRILLIANT, and I was nearly gnawing my wrist open in envy because I wrote a thing with a hearth kitchen and I was so damn proud of myself for the toasting fork and then you went and did THAT..." and they go "hey, you noticed that! Well, Delia had those tea services left over from another book, and they were going to waste, and..." and it's awesome. Or if you say to a musician "That cover you did of Wait For The Blackout, with that chime effect as you go out of the bridge, that was a GREAT spin on the original," and they go "you liked that? awesome," but if you go to an actor and say "so, that guest appearance you did on Ghost Whisperer, it must have taken forever to get into the zombie makeup," there's probably going to be some backing away, because let's face it, that guest spot was NOT a creative high point, it was something to pay the bills, and if I went to the bother of watching something that obviously dumb, it's a little stalkery, and... so I have no idea of what to say to an actor if I'm that much of a fangirl. "I was so upset when Matt Devlin died that I wrote a ten thousand word fanfic explaining how he lived and just had to retire on disability" is really probably not what they want to hear.

So it's probably good that I haven't met too many actors, because I have no idea how not to be an idiot.
cissa
Mar. 3rd, 2012 06:28 am (UTC)
OK, I don't want to be oppressive- but in the past couple of weeks you replied to a comment I left on your LJ, and I value that.

I promise i will not become a scary stalker, though!
jimhines
Mar. 3rd, 2012 02:21 pm (UTC)
:-)
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