How self centered am I? Very, very yes
I went to a signing by Neil Gaiman last night. In the pantheon of writers, I have this holy trinity in my head. William Gibson, Neil Gaiman, Tim Powers. China Mieville is crowbarring his way in, but so far those are still the big three. And as of last night, Powers is the only one I haven't met.
Something occurred to me, however, as I was standing around outside the venue, waiting for the doors to open. There was a congregation of the faithful, maybe about fifty or so. They represented, in its purest most undilluted form, Gaiman fandom. Goths, mostly. There was a lot of clove smoke in the air. Blue hair, piercings, tribal tattoos. That sort of thing. And it was also the autumnal equinox, so there was a lot of talk of mumblehain. I didn't really catch the exact wording.
The point is, this got me to thinking about fandom. I understood these people, I agreed with them on the quality of Gaiman's work. When he signed my book I was too dumbstruck to say anything other than, "Yes, I'm Tim. Hi." and then I nodded and, well, managed to not make an idiot of myself. It went better than meeting Gibson, I'll say that much. So, yes, I'm a fan of Gaiman. But I'm not part of fandom. I don't devote any of my time talking about Gaiman's work with other people, I don't devote time or energy thinking about the man, my affection for his work extends to the work itself and no farther.
It's hard to explain, but what I'm trying to get at is that I've never been a *fan* of other things. I liked Star Wars, but I've never wanted to be a part of that universe. I enjoyed LotR, but I don't hold much nostalgia for the work itself. Same with other books, other authors. I enjoy the work, but I don't participate in the Fan Thing.
When I was a serious gamer, it wasn't enough for me to just be a gamer. I couldn't just play the games. I had to extend beyond that. I knew people who measured their value by how many of the books they owned, how well they knew the rules. At the time, I measured my worth by how many of the books I had written. And even then, when I was writing the games, I wasn't as much of a gamer as most of the fans.
And now it's become writing, only really it's always been writing, hasn't it? At most cons, there are two events going on at once. There's the industry event, where the writers and editors and publishers get together and talk about the craft and business of writing. And there's the fan event, where the fans get together and talk about, well, being fans.
I think I summarized it best last night when I turned to the friend I was with and said "You know, I've never wanted to be a fan of someone else. I've always wanted someone else to be a fan of me." And I guess that's a little fucked up, but so be it.