I went to the annual Science Fiction Writers Association party this year, for the first time. I’d only found out about it a few weeks before. As I moved toward publication in the last two years I was also running across mentions in my research of regular readings at various locations around town, the Fantastic Fiction nights at KGB bar, and the New York Review of Science Fiction series at the South Street Seaport, both monthly.
I‘d been introduced to the NYRSF series when I was one of three readers in 2006, in an evening guest-curated by the delightful Sheree Thomas. It was a great night, great fun and one of my first experiences reading in public, if not my first, and for some reason, I didn’t realize it was a regular monthly event for years. I can be slow in social areas. I often overlook the obvious while obsessing over the pointless, but was also immersed in finishing my first novel, and was oblivious to much of the outside world that year.
I’ve been attending both regularly for the last two years, meeting members of what I now know to be a real and literal “science fiction community”. It’s been an education, both in the history of science fiction and fantasy writers and writing in New York and nationally, and in the social life of creative people and the editors and publishers who work with them.
I am a loud and often overblown personality in public, largely built up as the defense of a shy recluse who knows it’s not good to spend too much time alone, and makes himself go out and spend time with other people so I remember what real ones are like when I'm writing. My social skills run from clumsy to charismatic, and everything between. Spending time in rooms of writers who share not only the same proclivities, but eccentricities, has been freeing in many ways, and encouraged me to be more social as I move into a new place with my writing that requires spending a LOT of time talking to people I don’t know. My least favorite thing in the world. The thing that scares the horror writer.
So I went to the annual SFWA party as a new member, dressed up, wore my fedora and embraced my new reality as a published novelist with one book out and another on the way. It was held at Planet Hollywood this year, evidently less austere than usual. I made my way through Times Square, which I usually avoid; too media heavy even for my stimulation hungry ADHD mind.
I met many familiar faces there, had drinks and ate food, made jokes with everyone else about how loud it was, compared outfits, gossiped, gabbed, and had an overall good time. I felt more comfortable than I usually do at large events, and stayed late, as stragglers swayed with free drinks. It was only later that I figured out what it was about my new world that I had never been able to put my finger on.
Everyone there, including me and all the people who’d befriended me, had dual identities -- one their daytime personas, the jobs we all have to pay our bills, and enjoy nights out -- the other as beings of godlike power over life and death, creators of lives, wielders of worlds, peddlers of philosophies and physics undreamed of by mere mortals. We all lived like super heroes, our every day lives only covers for the superheroes we are in our off hours -- except those lucky enough to be making a living at their work, like the Fantastic Four, publicly ensconced in the Baxter Building.
It was a realization that made the night that much more fun as I saw that my work is filled with the paranormal, but my world is as well. I've found a new place to play, and now I see that the playground is far bigger than I ever dreamed, my playmates even more magical.
And I am one of them. Excuse me, while I go warp reality with the power of my mind...