October 29th, 2010

Saturn Ring Blues

You Can't Tell Authors You Love Them

My social/antisocial tendencies have gotten the better of me for most of the day so far.  I went down to the convention at 10:00 or so, wandered in the dealers' room, talked to Eric James Stone, Brenda Cooper, and several others briefly before going to an interesting panel on "Supernatural Horror of the Machine Age."  Tim Powers, Steve Ransic Tem and Michael Shae provided most of the fireworks.

After that, though, I felt a little off.  I know that what I should be doing at a convention is talking a lot.  After all, hundreds of interesting folk are here, and there are so many opportunities to make meaningful connections, but I found myself seeing people while thinking, "Run away!  Run away!"  Pretty pathetic.  Classic introvert reaction.

But I decided to go with the impulse--trust the instinct--and went up to my room to write a bit.  Housekeeping chased me out after an hour, so I took Jay Lake's  The Specific Gravity of Grief down to Einstein's Bagels and read it while I ate lunch.

Oh, my, god!

My immediate reaction was to find someone, anyone, and make them read it right then.  I saw Brenda Cooper talking to a friend at another table, and I almost interrupted her, but I realized if I tried to explain how Jay's little book had effected me, I might start crying or collapse in some other embarrassing manner, and instead I decided I had to quickly write Jay a note about my reading experience. 

The more I thought about his little book, though, the more it occurred to me that there's a separation between the author and the work.  I could thank Jay (thanks, Jay!), but his story sort of exists now all on its own.  If Jay is anything like me, he looks at his work just a little amazed that it came from him, because there is the person he was while he was writing it, and there is the person that writing it made him become, and they're not quite the same.

I made a similar realization last night while I was at dinner with Ted Chiang.  His stories have rattled my world several times, but I've never had a chance to tell him so.  Last night I did.  I think I just made him feel awkward because I know his stories, and I love his stories, but his stories aren't him.  He's closely connected to them, of course, really closely connected, but they stand on their own.

At any rate, that was my epiphany today.  I wanted to get it written while I was feeling it. 

If I'm a bit incomprehensible here, sorry.  It's tough to explain exactly what I'm feeling about an author and the work.  If you need one takeaway thought, try this one: get a copy of The Specific Gravity of Grief.  When you're done reading it, thank Jay.  He was nearby when it came into being.