I’m a fan of a lot of people. It’s good to be a fan, to have so many game designers, artists, editors and publishers who I appreciate dearly. Waiting for stuff to come back into print (or to hit print) isn’t a downside of being a fan. Pricing isn’t something I really shake my fist at, and I learned years ago that I won’t get to see everyone I want to at a convention.
The thing that gets me down about being a fan is that I turn into a pile of pink confetti when I meet a lot of my heroes. To add insult to injury, I become a pile of wordless pink confetti that cannot speak. It’s more than a little mortifying, I’m not going to lie. I’ve also been introduced to enough of my heroes that I have advice for my fellow shy fans, as we embark upon our cons for the year.
Use The Buddy System
If you have a friend who isn’t a shy fan, and retains their cool in social situations, ask them to be your buddy if you’re going to a signing at a booth or standing in line for photos with one of your heroes. My socially competent friends don’t always keep me from turning new shades of pink, but they’re often a calming presence. I can use all the calm I can get when I go to shake hands with writers I’ve been reading since I was 12. I can usually manage actual sentences if I have a friend with me, and have yet to burst into any too-eager, overly profuse speeches about how much I love their work. It’s okay to tell people you like what they do. It’s not as okay to try and deliver a twelve minute analysis of their projects and their deep philosophical underpinnings. I’ve never done it, but I’ve seen it happen, and I feel bad for everybody involved.
You may squeak out your opening greeting, drop books, or legitimately freak out for a minute in an elevator when encountering your artistic heroes. It happens. Some people will roll with it, and it’s easy to laugh it off in those situations. If you do initially freak out enough to make things genuinely awkward, whether or not you have your buddy with you: do not apologize profusely. If you caused them to drop something, or inadvertently made a scene in a con hall, short sincere apologies and high tailing it out of the situation is okay. Then let it go. Later it may become an embarrassing but funny anecdote, but you can ruin your own time and theirs if you spend the entire day following them around to apologize—something I’ve seen happen to writers with over-eager fans. If you do spontaneously bump into one of your artistic greats, a brief “Love your stuff” is good. If they’re embroiled in conversation, look ready to commit homicide, or otherwise appear to be in a heightened state of emotion, it may be best to let the urge to say hi pass.
It may be tempting to ask for pictures with every camera you have, or to present a baker’s dozen of books to sign, but keeping things short and on point is the best way to do good by your favorite creative professionals. Get one to two things signed, get a photo if that’s something they’re at the con for (some cons have photo booths for fans to take photos with actors, writers, etc) say thank you for their work, and vacate. There are a number of writers, artists and actors who have lower profiles and may be available for a ten minute chat, but if the people you’re seeking out as a fan have high profiles or a number of duties at the con, try to keep the time you take up to a minimum. Whether it’s a busy panelist whose blog you love, or a favorite well known geek, keep appreciation brief and sincere. We’ve all got a lot we want to see and do at cons, but a short and sweet meeting with a fan can meet a lot—for the fan and the pro alike.
Have a story about meeting your heroes at a con? Tips about keeping your cool while meeting your greats? Leave them in the comments!