I sat on the floor of Borderlands Café in San Francisco, doodling mountains on a manila folder as I listened to one of my favorite living authors entertain a crowd of fans. It was last night, and it was Patrick Rothfuss, author of The Name of the Wind and The Wise Man’s Fear.
I’d gotten there a little early, but not early enough to be able to see the stage and microphone. I did see the man himself—appearing in every respect just as I thought he would, just as anyone who’s seen his YouTube podcast The Story Board would expect—and that was enough. He was walking around before the main event, getting coffee, etc. For the rest of the reading/Q&A I just took a load off and staked out a little spot on the hardwood. I could hear just fine.
There were a few overweight sci-fi fanboys in attendance, yes, but overall the crowd (which was thick—many dozens of people) was wonderfully diverse: grey-haired San Franciscans of distinction, possibly literary; hipsterish Mission district denizens whose coolness was osmotically acquired, I’m sure, rather than affected; some children; and some die-hard fans who’d driven at least three hours to attend. Many had freshly-purchased novels, ready for signing, tucked under their arms. There were many women.
Pat held the crowd in his hand with a gentle, charming confidence born, perhaps, of years teaching unruly teenagers, or else of appearing on panels in front of fantasy convention crowds. He took many questions, dodged a few, and managed to neither spoil anything from the upcoming third novel nor say anything remotely offensive. A professional performance it was, and I can’t fault him for being so focussed as to refrain from dropping any juicy details.
I’d wondered if I had any questions for him. A few had popped into my mind that day, but none seemed worth asking. Idly, in a daydreamy mode, I imagined getting into a conversation with him. Maybe we’d get a beer at a bar there in Hipster Valencia. Maybe we’d get coffee and talk late into the night about world-building aspects of magic systems, the genius of Joss Whedon, the power of clean and concise prose, or the methods for evoking vivid characters. Then I decided that it was likely that many of the other people in attendance at the reading had similar fantastic hopes, so I took off when the long book-signing session began. I’ll have to save those discussions for when I’m not just a fanboy, but a fellow published author. Who knows? Maybe he’ll be a fan of mine some day. We can all dream.