Round Peg in a Square Hole

A repository of reference material on a variety of subjects

Monday, June 04, 2007

No "Fan-Girl"ing Allowed

Many years ago, I was offered the chance to speak with Robert Heinlein on the phone. Now, you have to understand that I read everything I could get my hands on by Heinlein, and he was very influential in the formation of my concept of what a woman should be like, what she should do and be able to do. Yet, I declined the honor, knowing that I could say nothing he hadn't heard many times before, and fearing to sound like an idiot saying it.

Quite a few years later, I met J. Michael Strazyncki, shortly after the end of Babylon 5, when we were both guests of honor at a con, and I gibbered uncontrollably. Ever since then, I have tried to stay away from people around whom I feared I would act like a moron, with the sole exception of Lois McMaster Bujold, as she was so easy to talk to (and, I admit, Kate met her first, and insisted I talk with her. Thanks, Kate!). And even though David Weber is one of my favorite authors, and we were co-GoHs at Convergence, I was very leery of going "Fan Girl" all over him, so did not talk with him very much over the course of the weekend.

Well, it happened again at BayCon this weekend. I was called out of the audience of a panel to meet to an actual astronaut, and was introduced as a rocket scientist. I said I was delighted to meet her, thanked her for the picture that was taken of the two of us, then scurried back to my panel. I had seen her earlier, and it was obvious she was not a fan (not a con-attending fan, I should say), and I was somewhat uncomfortable, standing there in one of my many bimbo costumes. I only found out later that she had geeked out when, at her panel, James Hogan (who was GoH) had asked her a question, so she obviously reads the stuff. We would definitely have had things to talk about, even though I have never worked in the manned program. I was just self-conscious enough to not be comfortable, and that is sad.

Why did I feel this way? Lotta reasons. One is that it came at me cold; I wasn't expecting it, and I'm not too fast on my feet in social situations. Another is that I wanted to be an astronaut, applied to the program even. (Later, I was told by a woman who came that close to making it that you need both a pilot's license and a Ph.D to make it into the program, neither of which I have.) Even my family of origin plays into: being the youngest of a large family, I expect to be the slow one, to know less than everyone else around, to rank less, and that becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

But I also think it's more basic than that. Most women, and I would guess quite a few men, often have a feeling that they're faking it, passing, masquerading, that if people knew what they were really like, they wouldn't trust them or hire them or give them responsibility. So many of us feel like impostors, actors, building and shoring up facades; so many have no confidence. Some pretend better than others; some actually do have the confidence they project. But, from everything I've read and seen and heard, they are few and far between.

What I can't decide is if that is a failing or a virtue on our parts. Keeping on when one is terrified takes great courage; trying things we aren't certain we can do stretches us, makes us stronger. But it would be wonderful if we could do these things with a sense of hope, and of companionship with those around us. The saddest part of all is that the fear keeps us from sharing, and so knowing that others feel the same.


  • At June 04, 2007 3:55 PM, Blogger John Dougan said…

    Tip for the future: I have never met an author that was tired of hearing "Thank you for your wonderful writing". If this is followed with a "It changed my life..." with a description of how it made your life better, they love it the more.

    No writer writes just for money, if they were they would have become an investment banker or copy writer or something.


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