Friday, September 21, 2012

suffering fools--er, fans

I've been re-reading Sharyn McCrumb's Bimbos of the Death Sunwhich is a murder mystery set at a science fiction convention, and a brilliant portrayal of the weirdness of fandom. I've read it several times, but here lately it jumped to the front of my brain, because I've been considering asking her for a jacket quote, and also because I may one day soon have to attend some cons and do some book promotion.

Now, I've done KC Planet Comicon five years straight, and I think I'm getting better at it. This year was especially satisfactory. I did well sales-wise, but more importantly, I kept myself on an even keel throughout the weekend. I was friendly and professional, I turned away the couple of creepies who might have gotten ugly, and I deflected the odd bits of ignorant criticism with firm, polite, factual responses.

This is an important exercise for me, because I have never been the most forbearing of persons. Earlier this week I managed to snap at just about everyone in my tai chi class, mostly because I was very very tired and not in good control of myself. Also because they were asking stupid questions, but mostly because I'd misplaced my velvet gloves that day.

You could say I've never been one to take criticism well. No one likes to have their mistakes pointed out, but the ones who really get my goat are the folks who insist I've got the facts wrong when I know perfectly well I haven't.

When I first ran "Sikeston" through, several reviewers took it upon themselves to tell me that soda pop wasn't invented until the 1890's, which is hogwash. IIRC, at the time I did my research, both Dr. Pepper and Coca-Cola were claiming to be the oldest surviving brand of soda pop in America, with a birth date of 1886 or so. And that was virtually the only hard data I could find in 2001. In the last decade the resurge of interest in Victoriana has spawned a wealth of new info about soda pop, and a quick Google search now shows that Vernor's Ginger Ale claims to be older than either--it was formulated in 1866. (mmm, ginger ale!)

But all of that is irrelevant, because carbonated beverages were sold by druggists from the late 1700's, and by the American Civil War "soft drinks" were widely bottled and distributed for sale outside of the pharmacy. It was not at all a stretch to have Trace buy a bottle of pop from a general store in 1880. The real question I struggled with was, what kind of a cap would it have? Cork, wax, wire, tin--some combination thereof?

But no so-called fan ever addresses that kind of question, because that would require actual knowledge of the subject matter. The average sci-fi fan tends to mistake their wealth of memorized trivia for actual knowledge, and they love to dredge up some half-remembered factoid, peripherally related to your work, and challenge you with it, only to prove their own intelligence.

I do not suffer this kind of fool lightly.

And that could be a problem, when I'm out trying to win fans and influence readers.

In Bimbos of the Death Sun, there's a scene in which the two guest authors--one famous, the other unknown--are doing signings at adjacent tables, and the so-called fans keep approaching with breathtakingly rude questions, criticisms, and outright insults.

"What's your agent's name and phone number?"

"Why did you end your book like that? I didn't think you should have done that."

"Is this a dirty book? The cover looks really raunchy."

"Will you sign this enormous stack of books so I can sell them off after you're dead?"

I'm reading it like one of those books that tell you how to prepare for an interview. Rehearsing diplomatic responses in my head:

"Amy Boggs--you can look her up on the Internet."

"Seemed like the thing to do at the time."

"It's as dirty as you want it to be..." (With a wink and a coy look.)


Still hoping I can get my husband to attend conventions with me. He's much more gracious than I am. Also funnier.


Tygepc said...

I've caught myself in the factoid trap. I'm doing it less since I started writing and understand the difference between research and memorizing facts (thanks for nothing school).

Don't go too hard on yourself about criticism. I've seen you take harsh crits.

Tai Chi on the other hand? I had this lazy kid in class yesterday who actually told me he doesn't ever give 100% to teachers. . .

Holly said...

Thanks Ty. It's a very different matter to take crits from people I know and respect!