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This Was Unexpected; What Do I Do Now?

I've been dipping my toe in twitter as an experiment. Mostly, I'm finding, it's a useful venue for hearing about the news you wouldn't normally hear about because nobody has the time to check 100 news venues every day. Other than that, it seems a bit navel-watchy.

But I did see a twitter by one of the few "real people" I've got on my following list. It had to do with questions asked an author and authors talking to readers. And that kind of hit a chord, because... well....

OK, when I first went back to specfic to write, there was a very very very short list of authors I actually read four years ago. Not for lack of respect, mind you, but my work and my research limited me to very few non-non-fiction authors, so I was very picky about what I'd invest the time in. I'm trying to correct that now, but finding it very hard to make the time for all of the fine writers out there that I really desperately want to read (E.G. desperance, aliettedb, brenth, cybermonklives). Also, because, following the Gene Wolfe dictum that I should read what I want to write, when I DO read fiction outside of my professional life, it's largely huge meaty volumes of fantasy with maps and extremely detailed world building. In other words, I'm reading sartorias for the foreseeable future (Wow, that Inda series is LONG!) Largely because I've finished all the robinhobb in the house. I'm also reading a lot of CZP authors, but that's partly work-related, so some of that counts as research.

So, back to the point. This WorldCon, I'm going to get a chance to meet one of these three authors whose work I considered the pinnacle of the art. I met one of them a couple of months before he died, was horrified at the wasted, injured man that he had become, and couldn't muster a single question to ask him, I've never met the other two authors, and I find myself thinking "what the heck do I have to say to this person?" And that's the rub: nothing. The books she wrote speak for themselves, and asking questions about them actually detract from them rather than enhance them.

So, acwise, my answer is: nothing. Maybe this new world of being able to get close to the authors you read is phenomenal, something spectacular, but the real hard honest-to-goodness relationship I feel I have with an author is their work, not the person who wrote them. We are too complex in our selves. Our work is just another facet of who we are, and mixing the reader-to-author relationship and the reader-as-person-to-author-as-person relationship is a bad idea. Which is not to say one should avoid authors one likes, but that the relationships need to be understood as separate.


( 12 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 31st, 2011 02:49 pm (UTC)
I was thinking "no, no, no!" and then I thought some more. Authors that shaped you when young can be difficult to meet IRL. But as a writer, I want to know what shaped them, not ask them questions about their world. I don't have questions for them but I want to listen to them read their own work and talk about the tricky bits. And I also realized that while there are authors I love nowadays and I like to hang with them, I don't ask about their work. If I like a story they read, I say so. But in general, we talk more as peers, or as student to teacher. Not as fan to creator. I wanted to hear Ray Bradbury speak about life and I did. He's an odd duck and that must have affected his fiction. But I didn't have any questions for him. I stood in line to have McCaffrey sign my battered copy of "Ship Who Sang" but other than telling her it had been mine since it was new, some 40 years, I had nothing else to say. As a fan I wanted her to know that I had cherished her words. But they were her words and it was up to me to put my own interpretation on them.

I like getting close to authors but more because it's my tribe than because I've read their work and wish to discuss it with them. That's a tricky thing to do and maybe that's why you're hesitant.

Aug. 1st, 2011 05:53 pm (UTC)
Yes, that's sort of what I'm getting at. I'm not interested in discussing this work or that work, since what I took away from it is different from what the author put into it, and that's always going to be an important thing, separate from any direct one-to-one relationship would be. I'd love to learn from an experienced author about the craft, but I wouldn't know what to ask and I wouldn't know what it is that i want to hear from them. So I think I'd just like to listen, and maybe ask a question or two if they occur while listening.
Aug. 1st, 2011 08:46 pm (UTC)
A lot of writers will turn the topic to you and your writing once they know you're a writer. They ask what you're working on. It's a good time to ask about issues you're having, plot giving you trouble, research, etc. You can't hog the conversation, but they often prefer to ask you about your stuff over talking about theirs. And there are some failsafe questions such as what length they find easiest to write at, were they always a novelist, etc. Asking about process is very safe. Some can't explain it, but a lot of them can.
Aug. 2nd, 2011 02:24 am (UTC)
Ack! Deer in the headlights. I don't know if I'd want to blather on about my current issues. Besides, I need to post on anticiworkshop just before Reno, so hopefully, they will be history by then.

Who have been some of your favourite hosts at kaffeeklatch? Maybe that's a question for the wider world.
Aug. 2nd, 2011 10:13 am (UTC)
It depends. I go to kaffeeklatches to be support for someone who doesn't get anyone signing up, an acquaintance I want to spend time with or a pro who's a friend. They're not a bad place to start, though mostly the kaffeeklatch is about talking about their writing. Walter Hunt reads from his latest work and talks about it, for example (he's also a friend). My sister stood in line to get to Lois McMaster Bujold in Denver and loved every minute of it as an intimate insider discussion of what's coming down the pike.

You need posse. Have you got one? A group of people you can hook up with who know a few pros to talk to casually?

Aug. 3rd, 2011 12:38 pm (UTC)
To be honest, I don't know who all will be there this time around. I'll also be with a Tahoe friend of mine who is mostly there to observe the cosplay, and of course there's the workshop folks, and a couple of people to see in person, so I'm probably going to be my usual scattered self, jumping from thing to thing.

But we need to talk workshop get-together soon. Maybe bring Sheila into the discussion so we know what we're doing. So far, I have only a room to offer for Wed night but I could probably bring a thing or two from Tahoe if need be.
Aug. 3rd, 2011 12:43 pm (UTC)
I'll introduce you to Lou and Danielle who will be there Wed night and will be my workshop greeters. They're great posse. It will put you on the edge of the Taos Toolbox posse. We had Rich Baldwin in our TT workshop last year.
Aug. 3rd, 2011 12:55 pm (UTC)
Thank you; I look forward to meeting them and seeing everyone there.
Aug. 1st, 2011 02:19 am (UTC)
That's an interesting take on my question, and I can definitely see both sides of it. On one hand, ideally, an author's work will speak for itself, and sometimes knowing more about an author can negatively color their work for me. On the other hand, I'm interested in the craft, other people's process, and the behind the scenes stuff that goes into making the work I love. Interviews, or a single question asked while getting something autographed, is a very surface kind of interaction, and not the same as getting to know an author as a peer as birdhousefrog mentions above, but I still find those tidbits interesting. On the other hand, I'd have no idea what to ask an author I admire either, if I got the chance to meet them. Though, that could also be because I'm generally shy, and bad at talking to strangers :)
Aug. 1st, 2011 05:58 pm (UTC)
LOL. Well, I've got to admit I'm nervous about meeting people. Always have been. But an author isn't their work by any means, and although it might be fascinating to hear what events prompted an aspect of their work, or who they were thinking of when they introduced a character that seems so alive in their work... I'd almost also not like to know, because once you've learned something you can't unlearn it.

It's also why I often go into a movie adaption of a book with some trepidation if the book is one I have liked enough to know well. For the longest time, my Aragorn was replaced by the animated one from the original LotR movie. And now it's someone else's face from the latest LotR. I've forgotten what Aragorn looks like, and that's a little sad. Like forgetting what an old friend looks like.
Aug. 1st, 2011 10:01 am (UTC)
There's always the possibility of learning too much about your favourite author. Most of those I've met have been wonderful, but there's one great writer I refuse to read now having been shocked at his personal beliefs.
Aug. 1st, 2011 06:03 pm (UTC)
No worries here in this case. There's a lot I know we don't see eye-to-eye on, but that's just because of a different set of life experiences. And you have to develop a good bit of tolerance if you grew up with a lot of elderly southern relatives with strong opinions of their own that don't quite match what you're comfortable with.

But the shock I had at meeting the earlier author, the one that died, was a little hard to get over. In his official pictures, he was very robust, a real hands-on kind of guy and his fiction was purposeful and textured with deep emotional nuance. I could not put his fiction together with the frail, somewhat timid and fractured gentleman signing books in the dusty basement of Moonstone Bookseller.

Edited at 2011-08-01 06:04 pm (UTC)
( 12 comments — Leave a comment )