Monday, December 14, 2009

The Arrogant Bastard

Writers and Assholes and Jerks! Oh, my!
Copyright 2009 by James Robert Smith.

When I was younger and supposed that other writers must all be very neat people to meet, I would go to various science-fiction and fantasy conventions in an effort to encounter these folk.

Initially it seemed a good idea. I thought that I'd meet other people who shared the same passion not only for writing, but for the same type of fiction that drove me to create. In short order, though, I found that what drove almost all of these other writers was not so much a passion for writing as a passion for attention. This is, of course, a common thread among writers. It's the same thing, essentially, that drives athletes, painters, dancers, actors, sculptors, illustrators...the thirst for attention. The act of creating for most of these people is a shrill "LOOK AT ME!".

For me, that part of the attention-grasping stops there, with the creation of the work and the submission process. I create and try to distribute, but I don't wish to labor on and on about the merits of the work, its creation, or the personality behind it. I don't work that way and generally can't stand the kind of person who does.

I quickly tired of hanging out with writers. It's hard to hold a conversation with people who only want to talk about themselves. I wanted to talk shop. They wanted to talk about THEIR shop.

The first time I realized that I might have a problem in dealing with these creeps was when I got the chance to meet a particular writer I'd wanted to encounter for some time. He wrote mainly fantasy--sometimes horror--and he occasionally penned some really interesting work. I'd heard that he would be attending a specific show where I'd bought a ticket and so I looked for him.

It didn't take long, and I soon found this writer sitting behind a table selling chapbooks and magazines and a few anthologies that contained his stories. Like myself in those days, he was a short story writer. I longed to break out of the magazine and anthology markets and into novels. I'd already written a couple of novels at that time, but I didn't yet have an agent. I wanted to talk with him about the problems a young writer encounters in selling novel-length fiction.

I was standing on the customer side of his table. He was sitting on the other side, of course, but remained seated while we spoke. I asked him about his stories sold but not yet published so that I could look out for them when they appeared. Eventually, the conversation moved to novels. I asked him if he was going to write anything of that length.

"Two editors recently called me to ask for a novel," he said. He stated this with some boredom.

"Which publishers?" I asked.

"Let's from Pocket Books, and one from Bantam Books. But I told them both that I haven't yet mastered the short story form so who was I to try to write a novel?" He all but sneered this last bit.

" who was I.."

Now...all I wanted to achieve in those days was a novel sale. It was my consuming passion, and remains so to this day. In all of my years as a writer I have managed to sell a single novel. And that took me almost two decades to achieve. In that particular moment, as I listened to this self-obsessed jackass, all I could feel for this fellow was an overwhelming sense of contempt. He was everything that I loathe in this world--his personality dripped with self-importance and arrogance and conceit. He was so presumptuous that all I could think of doing was fleeing from his general area.

Which is precisely what I did. I hope that my expression of loathing made some impact on him as I turned and left.

I've heard that he's still writing. But I never again looked for any of his work, so I can't say if he ever wrote and sold a novel. And, frankly, I couldn't care one whit less.

After that, I need a good laugh...

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