Fame and Fanboy Fails…

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.