So there has been a lot of talk on the net lately about the incident of harassment at Readercon this year.
Readercon Public Announcement
All this has had me thinking about fans and fandom and conventions… and most notably my first meeting of Wil Wheaton at Supernova in Melbourne – now to get it clear up front I didn’t freak out or go all fan crazy at him – in fact I made sure I was polite, honest and respectful or his personal space. But that aside I had the pounding heart rate and blood rush of excitement – because hey I have followed this guy’s blog, twitter, books, film and television career for so long I do honestly feel like I know him – or at least that part of him that is in the public eye. I also had some sense of entitlement to meet him – I had driven 10 hours to Melbourne, bought the con ticket, paid the extra to be able to get an autograph and lined up for a not short period of time… I had also brought my copy of The Happiest Days of Our Lives with me.
Lets step back in time a while – we find myself, wife and two friends, after our drive to Melbourne and the tram trip, at the convention centre…
After we arrived and got our wrist bands, and lined up… we waited for what seemed eternity to be allowed into the hall – I had checked out the map and knew where the autograph ticket could be bought – then saw the line… it ran the length of the hall. I decided (rightly or wrongly) to wait and see if it died down, instead lining up for Brian Michael Bendis (who was tweeting like crazy and even replied to my picture of his line up). We then hit the stands always watching the line for autographs to lessen – it never did.
So biting the bullet I moved to the end of the queue and shuffled forward. That took up a good 2 hours time waiting in that line… but it was worth it – I had come all this way to meet Wil (and Summer Glau but we are re-living my Wil experience here people!) and a simple wait in line was not going to stop me – especially when my wife would bring me pizza and coke!
After getting my tickets we moved across to the signing area and noticed that Wil’s line was empty (he was due back in an hour) so we moved into another line – this time at the front! I must say the con volunteer who was manning that line was a hoot! We talked exchanged Twitter accounts and generally had a nice time chatting and waiting for Wil to start his next shift.
Here is where I managed to hold my shit together and (hopefully) came across as a normal human being!
Wil came out – said a fond hello to Chandler Riggs – he moved to his seat set aside his hand sanitizer and arranged the pens, checked with this assistant about something then looked up straight at my wife and I, smiled and nodded us forward.
I smiled back, laid my con photo down and copy of The Happiest Days of Our Lives “Hi Wil, I’m not sure if you can but I would like this signed instead” I gestured to the book. Holding in-check my inner fangaism.
Wil geeked out!
He grabbed the book hugging it close to his chest “My book!” I’m sure he almost squealed “My book has come back to me. You know I had this at my house! My wife wrote the front cover! I cannot believe this has traveled the world and come back to me!” He may have sqeed then I’m not sure.
Trying to keep the conversation going I said “Yeah I follow Anne on twitter, man she is funny!”
“My book!” He almost had a Golum look in his eyes – I was actually worried I was not going to get my copy back, he was still hugging it tight against his chest. I had a vision then of his running his pen over the con photo before racing back out to the guest area – taking my book with him.
Then taking a deep breath he placed the book down, open the cover, flicking through a few pages (maybe a tear welling in his eyes) and settled on the title page, pen now at the ready. “Who is it too?”
“Ben and my wife Anji” (I spelt it for him) I finally got to introduce her (she had been avoiding eye contact with the crazed Wil and talking to his assistant). “Hi” she said (keep the strange man happy, running through her mind)
Wil, still smiling, wrote
That explained it all and made me realise that fans, like us, and our actions (buying a book from a guy on the internet) can mean just as much to the artist/creator as their work means to us. Our buying this book that he created, self published and even posted out meant so much to him and his career as a writer.
I managed to keep my shit together the day I met Wil – Wil on the other hand didn’t have a chance the day he met his love, his work, his life carried in the hands of a fan…
Note: some literacy licence was used in writing this post… truth may or may not be totally represented.
Note (the second): John Scalzi has a great guide for fans (and others) to avoid creepiness on his blog Whatever