“Never meet your heroes.” Hero, of course, is a turn of phrase, as I have very few real heroes and most of them I’ve known all my life. I’ve used that phrase though, especially recently as my activity on social media has increased. I also wrote a related piece recently, about professionals that have taught me how not to act online, when fans may wind up on the receiving end of such behavior. I’m not usually so cynical, but I think everyone is affected drastically when they see things like this, and my optimism was certainly shaken over the last few months.
My recent visit to C2E2 restored a great deal of my positive view on people in general and confirmed my belief that no amount of celebrity makes a person any more or less human. People in the spot light are just that, in the spot light, and their failings and virtues seem to be augmented by that. It’s partly the fault of our media, who feed like sharks in bloody water anytime a celebrity does anything they can spin into chum. It’s partly the fault of those celebrities themselves, the ones that behave like ingrates. It’s also our fault; those of us who read the Gawkers, Jezebels, and Enquirers of the world. We are like the smaller fish that swim around those sharks, snapping up whatever little tidbits that escape the feeding frenzy that is entertainment media.
One of the people I met on Saturday that helped get me back on track with this was Peter V. Brett, bestselling author of The Demon Cycle series. I’ve talked with Mr. Brett a few times on Twitter, one face among his many fans. I was surprised that he takes the time to do that. It’s not that I expect it, but writers are busy, especially in a market where a book a year is becoming more commonplace. They also have a lot of followers, almost 14,000 in Mr. Brett’s case, so their notifications must be incredibly chaotic. Our few conversations have revolved around books, bookshelves, raising geek children, writing, and even online controversy. For the last one I know that Mr. Brett and I don’t agree on a lot, though I bet we both agree on a lot more than we both expect. Despite the disagreement the conversations have been respectful, informative, and pleasant.
The real point I’m getting at though, is meeting Mr. Brett at C2E2 on Saturday helped me reevaluate my cynical view of celebrities. I was in line to get The Warded Man signed, along with a lot of other people, in a sea of faces, geek shirts, cosplay, comic books, games, and marketing. When it was my turn I stepped up to the table and set my book down and Mr. Brett looked at me and started to say something but paused and looked at me again. It was different than most guests at cons have looked at me when I set a book, comic, or a photo down to get signed. Then he opened the book to the title cover and asked my name. I told him and he stopped again and looked up and said, “We’ve talked on Twitter haven’t we?” After I recovered (I’m actually a very shy person so this got me a bit flustered) he signed my book with a note that it was good to meet ‘IRL’ and we spoke for a minute or so about the book, writing, and our shared trouble of overflowing bookshelves. It’s a story I’m not likely to ever forget.
I don’t begrudge panelists and celebrities when they smile because it’s what’s expected and say nice things because it’s what you do. I know most of them appreciate their fans, but at the end of the day they see hundreds of people and one can’t expect them to remember everyone. The good ones smile, look engaged, listen, and treat their fans graciously and with respect. Now I know from personal experience that it’s entirely different when that author, actor, or artist you’ve been following, actually knows your name and face.
Among all the great artists, creators, and writers I also had the pleasure to meet Ivy Doomkitty for the first time (ignore the weird-looking guy standing next to her I always look like that in pictures). Ivy is a cosplayer who has taken a hobby she loves and turned it into a business, something we should all be so lucky to be able to do. Her confidence and skill have made her popular among fans of cosplay, but it’s her attitude that stands out to me. She’s always so positive when talking to her fans, and when sharing her love of the art. She supports the idea that anyone who wants to cosplay should, and is always so sweet with her fans and visitors.
We saw that first hand Saturday when my wife and I passed her booth and got in line to meet her. The line was slow, but her assistant, and she, stepped away from the booth to talk to everyone waiting and let us know that she likes to spend time with each visitor and talk, and she does just that. When we stepped up and got our prints signed, and a calendar, she asked about our day at the con and how long I’d been following her work. We talked about my shirt, Loot Crate, and that she was looking forward to the platform 9 3/4 luggage tag waiting for her at home. It wasn’t a long conversation but it was genuine, not just someone being nice to her fans for the sake of being nice.
So that said, I have to amend my previous statements a little and say, just meet your ‘heroes’ with an open mind and heart. Don’t hold them up on a pedestal, most of them don’t want that anyway. Some of them will disappoint you, but many won’t. Don’t let the negative experiences make you cynical, or shadow the good people you meet. The celebrities you meet are just people, with all the same flaws, failings, hopes and dreams. As much as I’ve learned what not to do, I’ve learned far more how to treat other people and that’s a lesson I’ll take with me through my career as a writer online and IRL.