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angeles

January 2012

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be nice to people

I recently attended two fantastic cons: World Fantasy Convetion and BizarroCon.

I love going to a good con. They're a perfect chance to see dear friends, make new ones and explore industry contacts. They're perfect for having tons and fun and providing access to new books.

They're also a great chance to practice your social skills.

When I was at Clarion West, Cory Doctorow (my third week instructor) told the class it was important to be nice to people. Connie Willis (my fourth week instructor) put it another way -- don't be an asshole.


What excellent advice! As Cory Doctorow told my CW class, you never know who you're talking to. Sure everyone is theoretically wearing name tags, but name tags can be deceiving. I wore Rachel Swirsky's name tag for about an hour at WFC, for crying out loud. So maybe you know you're talking to some hot shot editor or agent or writer. But do you know if you're talking to their partner or spouse? Or best friend? Or favorite fan?

And sure. Maybe you're talking to some young kid, and he's coming off as a complete loser. Maybe he's like that now, but you don't know who he will become. Spec fic writers are in a unique industry -- today's fan may be tomorrow's grand master.

Besides, there's nothing wrong with just being nice to people. I'm not saying it's easy, but it sure makes the world a better place.

Let's have an anecdote, shall we?

Recently, at one of these cons, I had a conversation with several writers. I'm a fan of one of the writers involved. I hadn't yet had a chance to tell him how much I loved his work before the conversation started, but it was a definite plan for the weekend.

During the conversation, however, the guy was a complete jerk, and continued to be afterwards. One person commented that he had poison going through him.

Now, if he were a curmudgeon or opinionated, that would have been fine. The truth was he came off as a mean individual, partially because he doesn't know who I am or who my friends are. (Not that I'm someone to know and he was clueless, but in the sense that he didn't recognize me from anywhere.)

Even though two of my goals for the weekend were to buy this author's new book and plug his work, I immediately changed my mind. I will never buy one of his books again. I will never endorse him again. I will be nice to him if we ever meet again, because that's what you do, but I am no longer a fan.

So he lost one fan. This isn't a big deal if you're George R. R. Martin or Neil Gaiman. However, as one of the author's editors mentioned during an unrelated conversation, the author has about twelve people who consistently buy his books.

Strike that. Now he has eleven.

Unless I am able to be a better person myself and separate the person from the art, enjoying his stories even if I don't want to develop a friendship with this author.

Be nice to people. Be nice to people for the sake of being nice to people. What can it hurt?

Comments

Cory gave us the same advice at VP. Definitely a good one to try and live by.
I love that so many of the people who teach workshops give writing advice and practical, life advice. Cory is one person who is particularly great that way.
I so agree with that advice. I met two writers at a conference whose work I had admired and whom I knew slightly online. They were both unneccesarily cold and unprofessional to me. I didn't ask anything of them besides a bit of friendliness. They were both agent-shopping--so was I, as a matter of fact--and I suppose they didn't see me as "useful." They've lost me as a reader.
Gah. That sounds frustrating :(.