WorldCon Fallout: Steve Eley Can’t Dance

SFFaudio @ Worldcon 2006

Hector with his signed iPod During WorldCon 2006 I got to meet a boatload of people I knew only through the internet or from their writing. But I also met some people I didn’t know about beforehand. One such was Hector from Hector is a fellow fan of Escape Pod and I met him during one of the suite parties. He’s posted a particularily passionate entry about what the event meant to him on his blog.

Hector writes:

“Steve’s calls his podcast Escape Pod, and it has consistently delivered awesome science fiction for quite a while now. Steve pays for the stories he uses. In the beginning he only paid $20, but he is up to $100 thanks to donations from his listeners. He has been able to expand his array of readers, and to do cool things, like publishing the five Hugo nominated short stories for 2006.

When I found out that Steve was going to be at World Con, I knew that I wanted to meet him, and to thank him for his work. Jokingly, I told my one of my friends that I was going to get him to sign my iPod. I went to one of his panels, and I did it. I had Steve sign the back of my iPod. He said it made his day, and I’m glad. The trouble started when I went to the podcast party suite in the convention hotel. Don’t take me wrong, I meet the coolest people ever, but, at one point, one of the new editors of escape pod–it has an actual editor now, cool guy– introduced me to the editor of Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazine as “Steve’s groupie.” I didn’t like that. In my mind groupies are bellow every other level of geekdom I’ve reached, and believe me, playing Dungeons and Dragons while reading Spider Man in not as low as you can go. I know. I’ve been there, but a groupie?

As time went by conversation made me forget the new low I had achieved. The Escape Pod team is great. The party suite was filled with incredible and intelligent people, like Steve’s wife, Anna, who briefly encouraged me to go on with my Sci -Fi podcast in Spanish. She is as cool as Steve, I was beginning to see why I’d want to be a groupie, or a hanger-on, or whatever.

I was uncomfortable with the groupie thing though, I was uncomfortable because, in a way, I confess, it was true. I wanted to walk up to Steve and thank him for what he is doing. I wanted to thank him for doing something for speculative fiction out of love, not profit. I wanted to thank him for keeping me company with his podcast when I had no friends in NJ, and for filling his introductions to the show with the kind of long-gone idealism and élan only people like Robert_A._Heinlein, and Ray Bradbury seem to have. I didn’t though. I didn’t say anything because I didn’t want to be the weird fan-boy who makes authors feel weird, so I barely spoke when he was around.

As the night wore on, and after I met more amazing people, I saw Steve dancing. He can’t dance, but he was doing it anyway. He was standing on one foot doing the twist. For a second, I thought that he was having convulsions. And just when a clear insight about the nature of the Universe and humanity was about burst in to my mind like an explosion of shinning stars, that stupid, stupid country song about dancing by Lee Ann Womack burst in to my consciousness, and it ruined the moment.

I was in a suite surrounded by strangers. I had asked Steve to sign my iPod, and I was embarrassed. I mean, everyone greeted me as the ‘iPod guy’. But Lee Ann wouldn’t give up on me. Her twangy melodies overcame my own mental processes, and I realized what being a groupie and a fan-boy is all about. It is about taking the time to listen to what the back-bone of science fiction has to say. It’s about learning to tell stories though short fiction, and about having the guts to hold on to the values that people like Heinlein displayed so valiantly. It’s about creating something out of love, not profit. It’s about sharing your passion. It’s about doing something for your community even when you don’t know if you can do it well or if it is going to make a difference. I didn’t have to be embarrassed by my fan-boyishness. The people in the suite paid $200 plus accommodations and travel to be there. They had bleed their hearts on the page by reading it or writing it. I realized that I wasn’t the only fan boy there. Everyone else was a fan, and Steve was one of the biggest ones. Scott, the editor who called me a “groupie” turned out to be one of the nicest and friendliest people in the whole party. (Plus, he got my jokes).

I think I was embarrassed because since I was little, people–the big meanies– made fun of me for liking, no not liking, LOVING imaginary worlds. Even when I finally quit trying to be cool, and embraced my geekiness, there still was an undercurrent of shame running though me. A speck of conciseness that still wanted to be some one else, but that night, it went away. That night I didn’t care that my favorite reality show is about super heroes, or that I carry a sci-fi or fantasy book everywhere I go. I was in good company, and that’s all that mattered. The funny thing is that I saw the parts of myself that are not geeky. I saw the teacher, and the Buddhist. I saw the future husband and father, and I saw how important my choice of literature has been in my life. I saw who I am, and was okay with that.”

I’m okay with it too. There’s a bit more to Hector’s post over on his blog. Steve Eley even posted a comment that about sums up my feelings as well. We won’t be strangers next time Hector!

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