I sold eight-teen books in my world premiere at the World Science Fiction Convention! Which is apparently not bad for an unknown author—with an unknown book, about an unknown subject—with a lonely booth in the very back of the hall. Erle Korshak was stationed in the booth next to me, and amongst other loads of excellent advice about women and The Business, he said that selling eight-teen books was pretty damn great for a young guy like me. Erle was, 88 and the Chairmen of the 1940 World Science Fiction Convention. He was the first publisher to find Robert Heinlein, he was good friends with Sir Arthur C. Clarke, and Erle was wounded in the Battle of the Bulge fighting alongside Patton—and he married a playboy playmate! (What a life!)
I also was privileged to enjoy dinner one night at a table next to David Brin. We talked for a few minutes while he ignored his salad. His wife was amazingly gracious. His best advice was to write a mystery novel; that way a new writer can build the solid practice at establishing a detailed and complex story arch—that if done well—will provide a very satisfying and non-obvious “ah ha!” moment when everything finally falls in place. He also recommended his website for Some Informal Advice To New Authors. A worthwhile read.
Yet, my favorite encounter with fame at this convention was my first one. The moment occurred after I had arrived late to the dealers room due to a delayed flight (a group of dragon flies got sucked into the engine while we taxied). I was storming through the hallways with a fifty pound bag of books and none of the staff knew where a late dealer should check in. Once I was finally orientated along the proper direction, this old, slow guy with a big beard, was taking forever to move his feet and I was in a hurry to set up, so I blew right by “guy who looked a lot like George R.R. Martin” with some irritation and was on my way!
So funny story. GRRM was at the conference. I found out that little tidbit the next day. I had blown right past one of my heroes! From that moment on I was determined to be on a wary look out. How inspiring would it be if GRRM was the first person in the world to buy this young author’s book? Later that afternoon a nice older lady on a power scooter zoomed past my table and screeched to a halt in front of me. She backed up and zoomed closer, knocking into my table with a thud. “Sorry, new scooter. I’m still not used to its speed.” She smiled at me, “I love checking out the work of new writers. How are you doing?” We had a pleasant conversation about the difficulties of new writers, and then the philosophy of the book, and I handed her a sample chapter and she was on her way. Later I found out that was GRRM’s wife, Paris! I eventually made it to a party hosted by GRRM’s fans, but he was too swamped and I never got to say hi despite being only five feet away. Next time, George.