True story. This is one of those things that could only really happen at a con, and it tells a lot about the type of people who work in the fantasy/SF genres.
So there I was, hungry. It was Saturday at Dragon*Con, and I was bouncing from panel to panel like a psychotic superball. Suzy had stayed in the room to have some room service breakfast and take her time getting ready before facing the mob. I had hit a 10AM panel, an 11:30 panel, a 1PM panel, and was on my way to blow off a 3PM panel and have lunch instead, because I was starving and the restaurant at the Hyatt in downtown Atlanta has amazing fried chicken. No really, it’s awesome. And as a fat redneck, I’m something of an expert in fried chicken.
So I moseyed over to the restaurant, and asked the couple hanging around the entrance if they’re in line. They said no, and scooted over out of my way as the hostess sat the folks that were in line ahead of me. I noticed the guy had a guest ribbon, so I peeked a little closer to see if I could catch his name. I saw that his tag said “Larry Dixon,” and I blurted out, “Oh! You’re the artist!”
He smiled and nodded and extended his hand. I shook his hand, and reached into my briefcase, saying that he was one of the people I most wanted to meet this weekend, because I had a well-loved (battered) copy of Magic’s Pawn that I was hoping that he and Mercedes Lackey would autograph for me. He looked at it, chuckled at the obviously oft-read condition, and mentioned that it was the first book he and “Misty” had done together. He graciously signed it for me, giving me bookplates with his and Mercedes’ signatures on them for all three books in the series. He then gave me a couple of bookmarks, I gave him one of mine, and he asked if I was going to the Baen Books roadshow. I said no, that I was starving and was going to eat instead.
He then said, “Well come with us to the Baen thing, and I’ll get Misty to bring us some food from the room.” I wasn’t really sure at this point, but I was pretty certain that he meant Mercedes Lackey whenever he said “Misty.” Not knowing her outside of her work, I didn’t know she went by Misty to some folks. I said, sure, why not, and we toddled off to the Baen roadshow with his friend Smokie. On the way, he called Mercedes and asked her to bring down some food for him and this other hungry guy he’d just met. We grabbed a few seats near the back, and I went to grab a couple of sodas. Larry offered to buy, but I put him off, saying he was getting food, I’d get the Cokes. So I sat down, chatting with Larry and Smokie, and a few minutes later in comes Mercedes Lackey with a bag full of food! Larry passed the selection up to me, and I grabbed a Lunchables (Ham & Cheese) meal. We enjoyed the Baen show, and afterwards I got Mercedes to autograph my book, and I gave her a copy of Back in Black, the book that was very much influenced by her work. She insisted that I sign it, and I did, although I was a little embarrassed to be signing a book for one of my favorite authors, but I did, and it was all very cool.
But that’s the kind of thing that only happens at a con. I was waiting in line for fried chicken, met one of the most famous fantasy authors in the business, and Mercedes Lackey brought me Lunchables.
Side note – the reason I wanted them to sign Magic’s Pawn was because that book was the first thing I ever read that talked about gay people as people, not caricatures. Being raised in the rural South in the seventies and eighties, there were no positive examples of gays in my life. Reading Magic’s Pawn let me see gay people as normal, which has impacted a lot of my life since then, particularly my life in theatre, where there is no place for homophobia. Obviously homophobia is a big theme in Back in Black, and I honestly felt that I couldn’t have written that book had I not read Magic’s Pawn all those years ago. It changed my worldview, and I wanted her to know that. I think she got it. Another book that broke down the walls of prejudice for me was Chris Claremont’s run on X-Men, particularly an issue where Kitty Pryde rescues Nightcrawler from an angry mob that is going to attack him for the color of his skin (fur). Kitty talks about how her grandparents were sent to the camps because they were Jewish, different, just like Nightcrawler. It’s no less wrong to hate someone for their skin color than it is for their religion or ethnicity. Or sexuality. Those stories had a huge impact on me at an important age, and they have stuck with me for decades. I’m honored to have been given the chance to tell one of the creators of the impact they made on me.