So. I had skipped cons for a couple of years. I was out of practice signing books, what with my last book being published digitally and all.
And now I was back, selling the Goof TPB, and I knew I had to re-remember how to sign copies. The experience brought back past traumas, ridiculous autographs, suggestive autographs, some funny autographs, and the con itself ended with my favorite autograph of all time.
Here’s the full story.
The First Year Trauma
My first year signing copies was horrible.
My first book had come out, and I wanted to make each time I signed the book to be perfect. It had to fit the person I was talking to, even is s/he was a stranger. It had to be witty, from the heart, and it had to be short.
No problem, right?
It literally took me 10 to 30 minutes to sign a book during those first months. I had to talk to the person, find something out about his/her personal life, and then spend a few more minutes staring into space, thinking of exactly the right thing to say.
Fortunately, there was no signing event during that first con, and no one had ever heard about me yet so I signed in dribs and drabs. By the second con, when there was actually a signing event, I had gotten my act together and could sign a book like a reasonable human being.
But that was just the beginning.
The Asimov Autograph
There was one autograph I was dying to try.
In his autobiography (the longer, earlier one) Isaac Asimov tells a story about how one time a young woman waiting in a line to have their books signed, along with her girl friend. Like everyone else in the line, he had never seen her before. He signed something along the lines of: “In memory of the wonderful night we spent together.”
The young women went away, giggling at the joke.
In that first year, I wanted to sign at least one book in that way. Except, of course, that there was always the fear that the woman would hit me over the head with the book and return it.
In one signing event, with my publisher present, I told him about the Asimov signature. I told him I was dying to sign at least one book that way. But he agreed that I just couldn’t do it.
Towards the end of the event, I saw him take aside one of the readers and whisper something to her. Turns out he told her the story and asked her if it was okay that I sign her book that way. She said it was. And I did.
Thirteen years have passed, and I’ve never signed another book that way again. But I still remember it and am proud I did it.
The Autograph Trilogy
One of my most memorable autographs was for a fellow author.
For my first book, I signed it the regular way, while talking about something specific to her. For the second book, however, I added something new.
I signed her book, declaring this autograph was the first in a trilogy, and that “what I wanted to say to you was–TO BE CONTINUED IN THE NEXT BOOK!”
My next book had the second part of the autograph trilogy, with the main mystery (what I wanted to tell her) still unresolved. I may finish the autograph in my next book. But then again, I may decide to pull a George R.R.R.R. Martin on her and draw it out for a few more books.
Making her squirm and enjoy it? Mission accomplished!
The Double Autograph
A few years later, I was walking out of an event with a fellow author when a fan caught us.
He had one two books in his hands: One of mine and one of the author’s who was with me. He wanted both signed.
We of course agreed, each stepping aside to sign his own book.
When we were finished, we compared notes. His autograph said that his autograph was so much better than mine. My autograph said that my autograph is so much much better than his.
The fan was ecstatically happy and so were we. Mission accomplished!
The Student’s Autograph
And now we get back to this latest con and to a signature I didn’t write.
As I was walking the booths to see what else was going on, someone called my name. I stopped, and a young man behind a booth identified himself.
I didn’t recognize his name. So he told me his internet nickname, and then I recognized him. A few years ago, he was 16 or 17 when I gave some writing exercises in an SF&F young writer’s forum for a few months, and then again a few years later for another few months. He was young but very talented and really wanted to learn.
Turns out that now he has his first book out. Of course I had to buy it, and I had him sign it for me.
It was a very touching autograph about the beginning of his path and my support of it. It was heartwarming.
The Spooky Autograph
Then came my most favorite autograph that I had written. After 3 days of signing Goof, this was not a Goof autograph.
In the last few minutes of the last day of the con, with the booth already packed and gone, I was walking out of the con when somebody called my name.
It was a fan I had met a couple of days ago, walking with his friend. He was now equipped with a book that was published 10 years ago, a YA SF adventure. He wanted me to sign it for his kids.
“Sure,” I said. “How old are they?”
“One and three,” he said.
His friend said, “They’re too young, aren’t they?”
The fan said, “No, it’s for when they grow up. You don’t think I’m going to let them grow up without reading your books, do you?”
That was touching by itself. But before I tell you what I signed, let me give you a little background on the book. It was called ‘Life: the Video Game’ and in it a 15-year-old Joel Strickland accidentally activates an alien video game intended for alien teens. That game takes over reality in a certain radius (the town) and reconstructs an entire SF settings in it, using real people as players. The game uses real life to teach you about real life, and it quite often blurs the lines between the game and life.
Which is why I usually signed it, “Hope you enjoy the game!” (as if the book was the game, which it was).
But for his kids, I signed it: “Enjoy the game! It’s been waiting for you since before you were born.”
And I was thinking how spooky and cool it would be for them to read a book that’s been laying around since before they were born (their father bought it years ago) and have inside it a game of self-exploration that tell them it’s been waiting for them all this time.
Of all the autographs I have given so far, I enjoyed this one the most.
It was the perfect end to the con, and I left with a smile on my face. Mission accomplished!