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Day in the Life of an Idiot

The Journal of Lyda Morehouse


January 31st, 2011

Thoughts on Fame/Authorial Constructs @ 10:00 am


Last night, at a kuk sool wan event, I had, what is for me, a very typical meeting with "fans." I put fan in quotes because my experience tends to be lacking the sort of distance required for this "authorial construct" thing (which I'm really struggling to understand/comprehend.)

What tends to happen for me instead is that I meet really cool people that I instantly identify as *my* tribe -- my people, geeks-like-me. I start bonding with them. We laugh. We joke around, and then, at some point, I attempt to be cool and let slip that I'm an author. Turns out, they already know. (Reminded me, in fact, of coming out to my high school English teacher. Very anticlimatic.)

At the end (and, frankly, from the start) what I have is a friend.

This has happened to me several times now -- where I go to a party or an event and I find out that someone who I've been desperately trying to impress is actually already a fan of mine. I suppose at the moment of the big reveal ("Uh, Lyda, I've actually read all your books. I'm a big fan"), I'm supposed to be creeped out or something. Are you kidding me? I'm honored!

I guess what people are talking about with this authorial construct thing is different, but I don't really get it. I've never known how to construct one, not even for my psuedonym. I suspect this may be why I'm not nearly as successful as some other authors. I have a hard time being clever for cleverness's sake on Twitter, for instance. So if you find me on FB or Twitter, I'm likely saying something fairly stupid/mundane about what I had for dinner or commenting on the weather. No scintliating quips, alas. I can't even report on cool events I'm attending, unless I actually want to pretend I'm at the Oscars or something utterly fake.

Sure, I've dressed up as Tate for fun at signings (though very rarely -- it's hard to walk around in those heels and make-up is such a pain). And I like to imagine Tate as this other person that I'm jealous of or with whom I might have an argument at a con. I do keep seperate web sites, etc. I'm not sure Penguin actually suggested that to me, but it seemed like a good idea, if for no other reason than that it seemed to me that readers of Tate are likely much less interested in what Lyda is up to... though, now that I actually say that I don't know that for sure.

But, the point is, I don't put a lot of effort into thinking about who Tate should be, not really. She has a slightly different bio (I pulled out my astrology and vampire parts of my life to highlight) and bibliography, of course, but that's kind of the extent of it.

Okay. I did pick a picture of me when I was sixteen. I did that, however, out of pure vanity. I looked hot back then. I looked straight. I thought those things might appeal to Tate readers. It's a bit of a lie, but who wouldn't want to be sixteen again... at least physically? Straight... well, I talk about Mason and Shawn on my Tate blog, so even though I don't say in my bio as Tate that I'm a lesbian, I don't deny it either. I suppose that bit is fake and a construct. I've noticed romance authors tend to have glamor shots, but no one in the powers that be told me I needed to do that.

I guess that's why I don't get this conversation. Anything I made up about Tate, I did myself. When I meet people in the Real World (tm), I am myself.

And, you know, when I meet people who have read my books at conventions or signings or other more formal author/fan settings, I still have no desire to run away. Maybe I'm just not Minnesotan enough or too self-absorbed or something, but I'm not embarrassed when someone pays me the ultimate compliment of saying that they like what I wrote. I like it too! We have something in common.

-----

Later additions: Scalzi is talking about this over at Whatever: http://whatever.scalzi.com/2011/01/30/being-fictional/

And I responded there with this:

"
I’ve read a bunch thoughts on Bear and I have to say I still don’t *get this. I have never run into anyone who has had an imaginary construct of me in their heads. Of course, I say this realizing that most of the readers of your blog who have gotten this far down in the comments very likely has no idea that I am a writer of science fiction and romance with literally a dozen books to my name. And even a few awards.

In fact, normally, when I tell people I write for a living the conversation goes like this.

Me: Hey, did you know I’m a writer? Full-time.
Them: What, for a newspaper?
Me: No, I write fiction — novels.
Them: Seriously? Would I have heard of you?
Me: Apparently not.

Then we go on to have a discussion where this person is convinced since they haven’t heard of me, I must mean I write for small presses. I explain, no, my publisher is Penguin USA (Berkley, NAL, etc.), and you can buy my books on Amazon.com. or anywhere fine paperbacks are sold in most countries that speak English and even in some that don’t. Then they usually decide I must be insane, and don’t believe I’m actually published until I produce a book with my name on it….

So, I don’t really get this problem a lot."

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Okay, enough of this navel gazing.

I had a really great time at my kuk sool wan cooking class last night. I met some really cool people... although I totally embarrassed myself by introducing myself to this guy, Andrew, for, like the fifteenth time. I can NEVER remember his name, and he always looks so familiar to me (probably because I've introduced myself to him six times before!) I didn't learn much new about cooking, but Mason really loved getting to chop up veggies (and I totally loved snooping out where my instructors live.) Some of the folks there tried to convincing me, once again, that the adult classes are not scary. I don't believe them for a second! Plus, and I should have mentioned this last night, they're way past my bedtime. I think the adult classes start at 9:00 pm or something insane like that. I'm usually sound asleep by 9:00 pm.

I got to see some ancient Roman(?) coins, and I showed off the forgein coins I always keep in my pocket. All and all a ton of fun.
 
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(no subject) - (Anonymous)
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From:lyda222
Date:January 31st, 2011 06:40 pm (UTC)
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This is an interesting addition to this conversation because, as I've told other people before, I think that getting to know authors I admire as REAL people actually helped me in my process of becoming pro myself. I very much think that the "secret handshake" of our business comes down, in part, to knowing other professional writers. I had a mentor (actually several.) Straight up. And I learned from listening to them and intruding on their lives, at least as writers.

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From:zippyfish
Date:January 31st, 2011 05:47 pm (UTC)
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I think -- if I'm reading this (and Elizabeth Bear's post) right -- the idea of the "authorial construct" is completely independent of anything that you, yourself, may do. It's not an image that you project; it's an image that is projected onto you, completely outside of your control. It's the same phenomenon wherein people daydream about their favourite film stars or write elaborate "real person" fanfics. The scary part about meeting fans (and, um, I'm totally not famous, so take this with a grain of salt) is, I think, meeting strangers who /already/ think they know you and have constructed elaborate images of you inside their heads. You don't know what those images are, but if you don't live up to expectation, these fans are going to be disappointed or angry. I imagine it must be nerve-wracking for a lot of celebrities, so if your experience with fans is only positive, awesome.

And I agree with joncwriter that the internet is breaking down a lot of these barriers -- Twitter, for example, is letting some celebrities talk directly to fans. Of course, that's also leading to the weird impression that everyone on one's Twitter (or LJ, or Facebook) feed is a personal friend, to be addressed casually -- I mean, I know stuff about your life, because I read your posts, but I've no idea if you read mine and I don't post that often anyway. There's a whole "heeeyyyy, let us remember the person we're addressing is actually pretty much a stranger" element that gets glossed over -- and then we're right back to authorial constructs.

Sorry, I'm rambling. 10:45am and no coffee yet. God help me.
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From:kellymccullough
Date:January 31st, 2011 06:12 pm (UTC)
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Thank you.

Lyda, This covers a lot of what I get out of Bear's idea, though not all of it. I'll try to knock out a response to your post on the Wyrdsmith's blog later today or possibly tomorrow. Depends on how the writing and other have-to stuff goes today.
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From:lyda222
Date:January 31st, 2011 06:42 pm (UTC)
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Eek, no coffee by 10:45! That is bad!

I actually UNDERSTAND that part of what Bear is talking about, but still don't get it. I have never in my life run across anyone who has constructed such a thing of me.... again, I this has to do with not being Neil Gaiman or Elizabeth Bear. I just don't run across people for whom I'm such a big f*cking deal, as our Vice President might say.
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From:pantryslut
Date:January 31st, 2011 07:14 pm (UTC)
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I think it has a lot more to do with personality types, for lack of a better way of putting it, than fame levels. Fame levels *might* influence how many people you run into who have gone through this process.
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From:lyda222
Date:January 31st, 2011 06:43 pm (UTC)
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Maybe if someone writes fic about *me* the way they do members of rock bands... but I'm just not at that point in my career, I guess. ;-)
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From:naomikritzer
Date:January 31st, 2011 06:58 pm (UTC)
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::gets out notebook:: heh heh heh heh heh.
(no subject) - (Anonymous)
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From:lyda222
Date:February 1st, 2011 03:51 pm (UTC)
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Your thoughts about how we present ourselves (thinky thoughts, etc.) makes a lot of sense to me. One of the things that's been bugging me in this argument is that some of the authors seem to want to imply that they have no control over how people see them. I think that's bull. Because if you write thinky-thoughts and clever quips in blogs and on Twitter, people are going to have an image of you that, in point of fact, may be harder to live up to.

And you know, I think Sa bum nim decided to show us what an adult class was like yesterday at 5. We ran through EVERYTHING. It was like a test almost! :-)
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From:stephen_dedman
Date:February 1st, 2011 06:07 am (UTC)
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I sympathise with the "what, for a newspaper" thing. When I first had a newspaper column published, he sent copies to most of his extended family, who he had never previously told I was a writer.

At that stage, I had two novels and a non-fiction kid's book in print, and had had dozens of stories published.

I've also had a fan comment on the fact that I wasn't wearing what the protagonist of my first novel wore, but most people who've read my stuff know I'm not my characters and don't expect me to cosplay them. Fortunately.
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From:lyda222
Date:February 1st, 2011 03:48 pm (UTC)
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No one seems to expect me to be an angel either, at least.

Hey, in a fan grrl moment, I _love_ ART OF ARROW CUTTING. Great book, my friend!
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From:stephen_dedman
Date:February 2nd, 2011 02:33 pm (UTC)
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Thanks!

Day in the Life of an Idiot

The Journal of Lyda Morehouse