On Being Blown Off

Maybe it was the number of people, but I’ve heard or read more stories about people feeling blown off at Worldcon than just about any other con I can remember.

You know how it is. You’re sitting there in a group, when along comes Big Name Author Robert J. J. Muttonchops. Bob to his friends. He says hi to the person on your left, grins and jokes with the person on your right, glances at your name badge, and then wanders off without saying a word to you.

Your friends may or may not even notice your newfound powers of selective invisibility, but you’re left wondering what the hell just happened.

It’s not something that happens to me very often these days. I know that sounds a little egotistical, but it’s also the reality of being a moderately successful author and blogger. Anyway, after several of these conversations at Worldcon, I started watching for the blow-off. And damn if I didn’t start seeing it happen.

And then I got to wondering if I had done the same thing to people.

It’s possible. There were a lot of people I wanted to say hi to, and for much of the weekend I was running around in high gear, barely stopping for breath. On top of that, my social skills and my ability to fake extroversion are inversely proportional to the number of people in the immediate group.

What I can say is that if I blew you off, I didn’t do so intentionally. There are only two people I would have deliberately brushed off or ignored at this con, and happily, I didn’t run into either one.

If I did do something to make you feel blown off or unimportant, I apologize. I’ve been there, and it sucks. Thirteen years later, I still remember the annoyed brush-off I received from one Big Name Author who clearly had more important things to do with his time.

I know there are people out there who check name badges to determine whether someone is worthy of their time. (Me, I check name badges because I suck at names.) I don’t get that. Partly because whether or not you’re famous in the SF/F community has absolutely nothing to do with whether or not you’d be an interesting person to talk to. Heck, if you’re only there to figure out how to get ahead and what “important” people you can use to boost your career, I probably don’t want to talk to you anyway.

But even if you’re being That Guy, it’s a stupid strategy — the person you shun today could be next year’s hot new author, or could be running that big convention you’re hoping to attend.

Sometimes it’s accidental. In the rush to see old friends or talk to a writing buddy about the business, it’s easy to focus only on the people you already know, and to exclude those you don’t. I’ve probably done this before, which can make people feel shut out. I apologize if I’ve done it to you.

I do think sometimes we mistake the unintentional brush-off for deliberate dismissal. But speaking as an author and HUGO-AWARD WINNING BLOGGER (sorry – the squee is still slipping out occasionally), I also think it’s on me to be more aware of how easy it is to make someone feel blown off, and to try harder to avoid doing that.

What do you think?