One of the perks of being an author is the opportunity to prostitute—er, I mean, promote—your work at various conferences throughout the world. Over the past five or six years, I’ve attended events as close to home as the L.A. Times Festival of Books on the UCLA campus, and as far away as Worldcon in Glasgow, Scotland. One of my favorites is the annual San Diego Comic-Con. To fully appreciate this pop culture zoo, you really have to experience it for yourself. I won’t bother trying to describe it here. What I will do, while counting down the final days to this year’s event, is share my all-time favorite Comic-Con moments. I’ll kick it off here with an “honorable mention” moment that just missed the Top 5 cut…
Panel and Signing with George R. R. Martin
George is one of the best known fantasy authors writing today. He’s been called the American equivalent of Britain’s J.R.R. Tolkien, and deservedly so. He’s one of the few writers whose work I truly envy. (Meaning, when I read it, I’m thinking, “Damn, I wish I’d written this!”) His A Song of Ice and Fire series is already going down as one of the all-time great works of fantasy literature. It’s the kind of sweeping, unpredictable saga I’ve always wanted to write, only he’s writing it so well that I’ll never have to.
Imagine my delight when, in 2006, I had the pleasure of participating in a discussion panel with George. I’d met him three or four times previously. In Scotland in 2005, when I first met him, he referred to me as “Padawan.” But the first funny thing about George is, every time I meet him is like the first time. I honestly think he has no clue of who I am. With all of the folks he meets on the road, I don’t blame the guy. Or maybe I’m just that forgettable. The second funny thing was that, during the panel, he stole half of my answers to the questions that the moderator posed to us. Great minds think alike? Okay, that’s probably too self-flattering. In all fairness, he articulated his responses much better than I probably would have had I uttered them first.
Anyway, I happened to sit next to him at a group autographing session afterward. That was where the real fun began, as I got to listen to the questions and comments posed to him by his legions of fans. For example, one young man told George that, when he meets new girls, he likes to introduce himself with a line from George’s books: Valar Morghulis (“all men must die”). He does so hoping to hear the secret response: Valar Dohaeris (“all men must serve”). George just laughed and wished the man luck with that. I couldn’t help but interject. Yes, the man must get some bizarre looks from women, and has probably been turned away dozens of times. But hey, when he does find the girl that can respond correctly, he’ll know he’s found his soulmate!