punkwalrus (punkwalrus) wrote,

Thoughts on being on the Z-List

I tell people I am a Z-list celebrity at cons. I am kind of comfortable with this status, because it's enough to get recognized by those I care about, but not so much that lots of people fawn all over you for no good reason. To be honest, I don't even know why I am on the Z-List.

My popularity comes and goes. Sometimes it's hard to judge how I will be approached at a con. Most of the time, it's just friends and people I know who know me and know I am a good person, and don't care about anything else esoteric like my Emcee work, my book, or the hundreds of panels I have been on. I think anyone could be an Emcee, write a book, or host lots of panels (hint, volunteer for those things). Once in a while, I get some friend group of people who want to hang out with me, but I don't know why. I try and learn from them, but I just end up talking too much, and they listen to me instead, and I don't learn anything.

Once in a while, though, I get bolts out of the blue. I won't name names, because that's petty, but a few times I have had to create distractions while I sneak away in an attempt to wipe off the schmooze. A few years ago, a convention head at a new con wanted me to come down to his convention, let's say it was in North Carolina. Far away enough for it to be quite a journey to get there, but not far enough to justify getting a plane. Let's call this guy Tom, head of "Esotericon," a con I just made up. Tom has asked me for YEARS to come to his convention. He won't state why, though. Nor will he pay for my travel and hotel. So I politely decline. But every year, he sends me mail, asking if I'd be a guest. For the last three years. Usually starting with, "It's that time again..." His convention, according to a website that looked like it was made in 1996, is a science fiction convention, even though all of the artwork is a slightly jagged version of anime as done by bored kids in their high school notebooks. There is never a program or guest listing. I have asked about this con among my friends, and the general consensus is, "who?" And a few grimaces that say, "I have met the guy, he's a little awkward." I checked the site again, and it's not responding, and a review I saw on LJ said it was "the product of lowered expectations."

Another time, I was asked to be fan Guest of Honor to a local college convention I only remotely heard of because they had a really good room party I once attended. I declined because when I told a friend about it, who has far higher celebrity status than I did, he said, "RUN AWAY!!! No, seriously, they are desperate for guests and the whole thing is a burning building ready to collapse upon itself. They even asked me and [list of people we knew]." So I said I couldn't get out of work, and shortly after that, the con was canceled, which I doubt was related to me declining in any way.

Sometimes I get requests to review things. I was doing reviews of Linux products there for a while, but the guy in charge of that hasn't spoke to me since January (which, according to him, is normal). But I hate it when I get manuscripts from people I don't know. Right now, I have a friend of mine who's doing a book and got some comments he wants evaluated, and that's cool, since I have known him since sixth grade and all. But a few times I get a 1mb+ PDF of some grand book someone has. This had dropped off to nothing until I started doing NaNoWriMo, and now I have to decline a few things a year. I get a little miffed because, first, who am I to judge another's writing, and second, I don't have a lot of free time to read through books that are often subject matters that bore me. For instance, last week I got a horror novel that started off with "eyeball vampires" who steal eyes with syringes from their victims... and then it got weird. After a few pages, I realized that it read like a bad acid trip with about a dozen ideas stolen from other films and TV. It surprised me it wasn't scanned from a spiral notebook of some of the goth poets I used to know in the late 1980s. I respectfully told the person to find a publisher, since I did not consider myself a judge of good work since I stopped reading Steven King, and he's still making money. I reasoned someone out there would find it brilliant. Probably someone who cuts themselves.

At Katsucon this year, I had a few people schmooze me who were far more accomplished in their field than I have ever been in any field. I responded in kind, and it was a weird dance of, "I know this guy, and he's famous!" and "So I am famous, too!" on both sides, which if I was a schmoozing type, I would consider a career move of some sort. I am not talking about people like Steve Bennett, who I have KNOWN forever since the FanTek days, but people who I don't know from squat. "You did the voice work for what? Is that a show where someone dresses in a robot suit? Ha ha... yes, good guess in anime, huh?" There have been people I REALLY wanted to schmooze with, but I have a rule that if I wouldn't approach them out of the blue because they were not famous, just because the are famous doesn't give me the right to do so, either. I am not someone who feels right asking for an autograph. Maybe a picture with them, but only if it's not bothering them in any way, like I am in line with them, or working the staff that corrals guests or something.

Balticon has the heaviest of these incidents. One of the benefits about having green room access is you can speak with anyone there, which is why really famous people don't go there often, heh. I have tried to remain quiet and respectful, but have seen some less seasoned folk get starry-eyed and stick to more famous people. People who are normal in real life sometimes turn into babbling idiots in the presence of their idols. I always like the green room staff, because most of them are so jaded towards fame, they don't give a crap who they ask to move over, they have to clean that table. Years ago, this happened:

Volunteer: Hey, can you grab this end and help me take this trash out?
Author: [points to badge] I have written several novels!
Volunteer: So now you'll have something new to write about.
Some other guest: [laughing] Ah... the dumpsters in May... Springtime for Baltimore!
Author: [sulks] I can't, I have bad ankles.
Volunteer: I am not asking you to stomp on the trash.
Author: I can't walk the stairs.
Volunteer: That's why we have elevators.
Some other guest: [Author's name], fresh air will do you some good.
Author: I hardly think the dumpsters qualify as fresh air.
Some other guest: [in jest] Well, you leaving will do us all some good.

I ended up helping the volunteer, because think the author was going to kill somebody, and the volunteer looked to be about 60 or something in a lot worse physical shape than the author.

So it's fun belong a Z-list celebrity, I guess, just to see that.
Tags: cons, convention, fandom
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