Tag Archives: Gaiman-Day Units. Cool unit.

Meeting Terry Pratchett

So as I mentioned yesterday, while I was at NADWcon this weekend, I got the chance to get a book signed by Terry Pratchett.

The thought of getting a book signed is an odd one to me. In these last several months, it’s possible that I’ve signed thousands of books. Many thousands. I’ve signed books to families, to kids, to grandparents. I’ve signed books in warehouses, libraries, bookstores, and colleges….

But honestly, I don’t know if I’ve ever approached someone to get their autograph. Not in a formal setting. And certainly not anyone of Terry Pratchett’s status. Not someone I’ve been reading since I stumbled onto a copy of Sourcery in Shopko in 1989….

By the time Monday rolled around, I’d been at the convention for three solid days. And truth be told, I was kinda hoping that I might run into Terry at some point in that time. Maybe we’d be in the elevator together. Maybe we’d meet in the hallway on the way to a panel. Maybe someone would introduce us and I’d get a chance to say a few words….

But it didn’t happen. I wasn’t surprised or disappointed. I know how these things work. It’s a big con, and Terry’s the star of the show. They have to work hard to protect the Guest of Honor at events like this or they’re mobbed by fans. If they aren’t careful, a guest like Terry will have a hard time finding a moment’s peace to eat. I’ve seen some titan-level writers who have trouble simply walking down a hallway at a con without a handful of people asking for an autograph or a picture.

So I didn’t stalk Pratchett. I didn’t arrange an introduction, or just happen to bump into him somewhere. Even when I found out that his room was right next to mine in the hotel, I didn’t do anything like leave a copy of The Princess and Mr. Whiffle outside his door. I didn’t want to be that guy.

The signings were carefully controlled, too. They have to be. Terry has written more than 50 books, and everyone there would like nothing more than to get a bunch signed. If they let everyone get as many books signed as they’d like, Terry would have spent the entire length of the four-day convention signing books.

I’m not being hyperbolic here. It’s the literal truth. He could easily have spent 70 hours signing books if the convention didn’t work hard to control the situation.

This is something I understand only now that I’ve been on my first signing tour.

Take me, for example. I’m a newbie author. I have two books out (compared to Pratchett’s 50+). I’ve been published for four years (compared Pratchett’s 40.)

To put this in different terms, I am currently hovering around 2300 Gaiman-Day units of cool, which isn’t bad.

But Pratchett probably ranks in at more than 60,000. I mean, when you write so well they actually knight you, you’re kind of a big deal.

Despite my relatively newbie nature, when I showed up in Houston back in March, I signed books for 9 hours straight. Given that I’m about 2% of a Pratchett, you can see how quickly one of his signings could spiral into madness if it wasn’t carefully controlled.

My point is, I knew Pratchett wasn’t going to be signing books all higgledy piggledy at the con. Even if he signed a single book for every person there, it would take him 12 hours. Because of that, I knew I probably wasn’t going to have a chance to get anything signed.

That said, I was pleasantly surprised when the guest liaison for the convention told me that if I wanted, he might be able to pull a few little strings for me. Maybe enough for me to get a book signed. Maybe.

I was honest, and said I’d be grateful for the chance. If I could get a book signed, I’d be able to use it for the charity I run every year.

He said that if the book was for charity, we could almost certainly make it happen.

So I bought a copy of Nation from Dreamhaven in the dealer’s room, and on Monday, I wandered to the hall where Terry was signing. He was mostly autographing stuff items that had been sold at the charity auction the day before. I’d had to miss the auction because I was doing some paneling. But it was probably for the best, as I’d already spent more money than I should on swag.

The guest liaison motioned me over and told me it was cool if I got something signed. It really didn’t have to be for the charity, either, he said. I could just get something for myself.

Suddenly I was really conflicted. I’d brought a copy of Where’s My Cow? to the convention, because whenever we travel with Oot, we need to bring about a dozen books to keep him happy. (He’s like his dad that way.)

I’ve been reading Where’s My Cow? to Oot since before he could talk. It’s a great book, and the ending makes me a little weepy, because I’ve turned into a total soppy git ever since I became a dad.

Oot knows what noises the animals make, even the  Hippopotamus. He really likes the page with Coffin’ Henry on it, too, and asks to see it again and again.

He also enthusiastically says, “Buggrit!” Which is a little troubling to Sarah, but pleases me to no end.

So when the guest liaison says I can get any book signed, I realize I have Where is My Cow? in my backpack. I could get Pratchett to sign the book to Oot….

It’s a hard moment, but I decide to get Nation signed for Worldbuilders instead. Because personal isn’t the same as important. The signed book will be a nice draw for Worldbuilders if we throw it into the general mix of prizes. And if we auction it, I’m guessing it will bring in at least a couple hundred bucks. That’s enough for a couple of goats….

I consider trying to get both signed, of course. Because I’m only human. Terry is a nice guy, and accommodating, so I’m guessing if I pulled a second book out of my bag when I was at the table he’d go for it….

But I shake off the thought fairly quickly. I am not a special snowflake. I don’t deserve to get two books signed when everybody else gets one. If everyone tried to pull that shit, Terry would have an extra 2000 books to sign.

The guest liaison brings me up to the table and introduces me, explaining that I’m fellow author and that I’ve hit the New York Times with both my books. That’s nice of him. It lets me stand a little taller.

Terry looks up at me and says, “I’m guessing you’re fantasy, not science fiction.”

I grin and nod. “We do have a certain look, don’t we?”

I’m pleasantly surprised by the fact that I don’t feel terribly tongue-tied or shaky or awkward.

[Author’s note: Sarah just brought Oot in after his shower. He grinned at me and, “Bugit! … Hand and shrimp! Fow Ron!” (This will only make sense if you’ve read a lot of Discworld or Where’s My Cow?)]

I hand over the copy of Nation and say, “This book was absolutely gorgeous. It might be the best book I’ve ever read.”

“I got a lot of letters from children,” Terry says. “They were upset because it didn’t have a happy ending.”

He opens the book and signs his name. His signature is way loopier than mine.

Terry keeps talking as he signs, “But I always reply, ‘It has a ending. It has the right ending.”

“It has the perfect ending,” I say. “It was beautiful. It absolutely broke my heart.”

And that was it. I moved away and made room for the rest of the folk who had things for him to sign.

Would I have liked to talk longer? Maybe chat about writing and the art of ending? Of course. Who wouldn’t?

But there’s only so much time. And honestly, I was happy to wrap things up before I accidentally made an ass of myself.

Besides, though Pratchett didn’t know it, he’s said about the best thing possible to me. I worry about the ending of my story sometimes. I worry that people won’t like it. Most of my readers are hoping for a particular type of ending. They e-mail me with their theories and their hopes. They want X to hook up with Y. They want Z to get his comeuppance. They want such and such story tied up in a certain way….

I know it comes from a place of love. But it makes me nervous.

After talking to Terry, I’m less nervous. I can’t give each of you your own personalize ending, containing everything you specifically wanted out of the story. That’s impossible.

But I can give you the right ending. A perfect ending.

That’s all for now. If you have a spare moment, send a good thought this way tomorrow.

I don’t want to give any specifics, but tomorrow is going to be a little rough for us. If everything goes well it won’t be a big deal. But still, if you have a spare thought, Oot and Sarah and I could use it, just for luck.

Later,

pat

Posted in conventions, meeting famous people, Oot, signing books, Tales from the Con, Things I didn't know about publishing | By Pat100 Responses

Fanmail Q & A: Coolness

It’s been a while since I answered an e-mail from a reader. How about we do that?

Pat,

I just wanted to say I’ve loved The Name of the Wind for over a year now, but I just recently found your website. Your blog has kept me laughing for almost two solid weeks as I go back and read the archives. That’s something I’ve never done with a blog before.

Even better, your fundraiser was seriously amazing this year.

Seriously, how cool are you?

Jake

Jake,

You strike on a topic I’ve been curious about for some time. How cool am I?

As I’ve mentioned before in the blog, growing up, I wasn’t one of the cool kids. But things change, and these days geek is chic. I’m willing to admit to the fact that these days, I might actually be a little cool.

Your letter poses an interesting problem though. If you’d simply asked, “Are you cool?” I could have gotten away with answering “maybe” or “kinda.” But you’ve asked for a _degree_ of coolness. What’s more, you’ve requested that I *seriously* consider the problem.

That means we need to use science and shit. We need quantifiable units of coolness that we can plug into formulas. We need to be rigorous.

Unfortunately, to the best of my knowledge, the BIPM hasn’t established a standard unit by which we can measure coolness. I can’t just tell you that I’m say, 85 pascals of cool. Or 158 newtons. Or whatever.

That means if we want to determine how cool I am, we have to measure me against some sort of universally accepted standard of cool. We need to develop our own yardstick, as it were.

So, let’s pick two people who are undeniably cool. The king and queen of geek cool: Felicia Day and Neil Gaiman.

Now we need some numbers. While popularity isn’t quite the same thing as cool, you have to admit they’re closely related. Since I don’t have access to things like book sales or website hits, we’ll have to go to the lowest common denominator: Facebook.

(Yes, I know. Technically, Myspace would be the lowest common denominator. But there’s only so low I’m willing to go, even for science.)

A quick search of fan pages reveals the following stats.

Felicia: 192,000 fans.

Neil: 90,000 fans.

Me: 10,000 fans.

Now we could stop here and say, that I’m about .05 as cool as Felicia. Or that I’m roughly .11 of a Gaiman. Or something like that.

But drawing data from only one source strikes me as slipshod. To round things out, why don’t we take a look at Goodreads rankings?

Here’s a screenshot of their list of most-followed people.

[Edit: Yes, I know these numbers have changed since I took the screenshot. I’m not redoing the math.]
(Click to Embiggen)

As a side note, you can see that according to Goodreads, I’m ever-so slightly cooler than Wil Wheaton. I like how it looks like his little Lego man is pissed at me for being above him.

“Curse you, Rothfuss,” Lego-Wheaton says. “How dare you get between me and Felicia day?”

“Takest not that tone with me,” Russian-dictator-looking-Rothfuss glowers from above. “Lest I crush you with my manly, blue-lit beard.”

“Bring it Hagrid,” he replies. “I’ll beat you like a redheaded stepchild.”

“What are you going to use?” I say. “Your kung-fu grip? Hell, you don’t even have any elbows!”

Wait… Sorry, what was I talking about again?

Oh. Right. Coolness. I guess I lost a few points just there.

Anyway, as you can see things stand like this:

Me: 383 friends, 308 people following my reviews.

Felicia: 2,710 friends, 380 people following her reviews.

Not pictured above, Neil Gaiman sits at #1 on this list. Topping the chart on a mountain of cool with 5,175 friends and 3,133 people following his reviews.

Let’s just combine these for simplicity’s sake:

Gaiman: 8308

Felicia: 3090

Me: 691

Because the Facebook numbers are really high compared to Goodreads, we have to normalize them by multiplying by .045. (Don’t ask how I got there. It’s boring. If you understand statistics, you know how it works.) That gives us:

Gaiman: 4050

Felicia: 8550

Me: 450

So we add these together and apply the bonus multipliers.

Gaimain:
Medium Bonus – Novels, Comics, Movies, Audiobooks: *1.4

Association Bonus – Engaged to Amanda Palmer *1.5

Flair Bonus – Accent *1.4

Appearance Bonus: Sexy *1.5

12358 *1.4 *1.5 *1.4 *1.5 = 54499

Felicia:
Medium Bonus – Television, Webisodes, Comics: *1.3
(The Guild comic is coming out soon, in case you didn’t know.)

Association Bonus – Works with Joss Whedon *1.6

Flair Bonus – Smells like flowers and PS3 *1.3

Appearance Bonus: Sexy *1.5

11640 *1.3 *1.6 *1.2 *1.5 = 47212

Me:
Flair Bonus: Beard *1.2

Penalty: Engaging in imaginary smack talk with Lego-Wheaton. *.09

1141 *1.2 *0.9 = 1232

You still with me? Now we have to create our yardstick for the measurement of geek-coolness. Imagine if Neil Gaiman and Felicia Day were somehow alchemically combined into one creature. Some ubercool, sexy, hermaphroditic, webisode-creating, rockstar, gamer, author thing.

I think it’s safe to say that godlike creature would be the ultimate amalgam of geek cool.

So if we add together the scores of Neil Gaiman and Felicia Day, we get roughly 100,000 units. These I hereby term Gaiman-Day units. They will hereafter be used to determine how cool someone is. 100,000 Gaiman-Day units is the coolest you can be without collapsing into some manner of singularity.

So there we go. Now we have a way to quantify how cool I am, Jake. I am exactly 1232 Gaiman-Day units of cool. Only about one percent as cool as it’s possible to be.

I hope this answers your question, Jake.

pat

Posted in facebook, Fanmail Q + A, Felicia Day, Goodreads, Neil Gaiman, Science, Wil Wheaton | By Pat113 Responses
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