Will McIntosh is a Hugo award winner and Nebula finalist whose short stories have appeared in Asimov’s (where he won the 2010 Reader’s Award for short story), Strange Horizons, Science Fiction and Fantasy: Best of the Year, and others. His debut novel, Soft Apocalypse, based on a 2005 short story that was nominated for both the British Science Fiction Association and the British Fantasy Society awards, has just been released by Night Shade. His story “Followed,” which was published in the anthology The Living Dead, has just been produced as a short film. A New Yorker transplanted to the rural south, Will is a psychology professor at Georgia Southern University, where he studies Internet dating, and how people’s TV, music, and movie choices are affected by recession and terrorist threat. In 2008 he became the father of twins.
Most of my heroes are writers. Before I started writing I got to meet almost none of them. One exception was in the 1980s, when I got to meet Stephen King, who made an appearance at Fordham University while I was a Freshman there. By meeting him I mean I stood in line with three hundred other fans, and when it was my turn I got a book signed and then moved aside for the next fan. I still remember those one or two minutes very clearly, though. I remember the woman behind me telling Stephen King that he was like a god to her, and King replied, “That sounds serious.” He struck me as an extremely gracious, funny guy, and I’d still love to have a beer with him. (So, yo, Mr. King, if you’re reading this, let’s have a beer some time).
Since I began writing and consequently going to cons and writers’ workshops I’ve had the opportunity to meet many of my heroes. I never know what to say to my heroes when I meet them (I guess I could go with “You’re like a god to me”…), so usually I’m saying pointless things about the little quiches we’re eating off Styrofoam plates, or listening to the conversation one of my heroes is having with someone else, nodding at the appropriate times to seem like I’m part of the conversation.
What I love is when I admire a writer and then discover that he or she is also an incredibly cool and interesting person. At Aussiecon last year I got to meet Kim Stanley Robinson after hearing him say astonishingly perceptive things in a conversation/debate on environmental issues with Robert Silverberg, and he was a great example of this. At this stage of my life I don’t as often walk away from someone wishing I was much more like him or her, but I felt that way after meeting Stan Robinson.
Nick Hornby is a writer I’d love to meet. I’ve read all of his novels, and marvel at how crisp and unadorned and damned entertaining each and every one of his sentences is. When I was brainstorming with the Night Shade publicist about writers to ask for blurbs for my first novel, Nick Hornby was on my shoot-for-the-moon list. I couldn’t locate an email address for his agent, let alone for him.
I had an opportunity to meet Jonathan Lethem when we were both at Readercon a few years ago, but I couldn’t think of anything interesting to say so I never went up to him. We passed in the lobby a few times, if that counts.
I keep hoping I’ll get a chance to meet Michael Bishop, especially since he only lives three hours away from me (as far as I’m aware, he’s the second-closest genre writer to my remote location. Jack McDevitt lives ninety minutes away). As a lifelong baseball fan, Brittle Innings just knocked me out. You know that shelf that holds your five or six all-time favorite reads? Brittle Innings is on my shelf.
What strikes me as I think about meeting my writing heroes is how accessible they seem–much more than other celebrities. There are quite a few musicians I’d love to meet, but I’d be lucky to get within a dozen feet of any well-known musician. There are only a few writers (J.D. Salinger comes to mind) who you couldn’t meet if you really put some effort into it. Stephen King makes plenty of appearances each year. I’d likely have to buy a plane ticket to meet Nick Hornby, unless I timed it right. If I nagged Michael Bishop or Vonda McIntyre (another of my heroes), either might conceivably let a lucid-sounding fan stop by for a chat. Maybe it’s the nature of celebrity, that musicians have to guard their privacy more aggressively because they have more fans seeking their attention. Or maybe it’s just that famous writers are nicer.