Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Fame (What's Your Name?)

Karen, Tracy and Teresa Murray, Scott Bakula, and Dimitra (Samantha), August, 1990.

Yesterday, John Scalzi had an entry about fame.  He asked whether we'd want to be famous, and referred to someone's entry about how many people one would want to be "famous" to.  I've got a little experience in this area, vicarious and otherwise, and of course it's the last night of this journal's listing as an AOL-J Editor's Pick.  No surprise, then, that I've been thinking about the fame question, off and on, ever since I read John's entry.

My own fifteen minutes of fame (almost literally) was in 1992 or 1993 at a Quantum Leap convention. I was one of about eight QL club founders and fanzine editors in a panel discussion, speaking in front of an audience of thousand-plus Leapers. It was kind of cool that a lot of people knew who I was (co-founder of Project Quantum Leap and editor of the club's newsletter) and appreciated what I was doing. It was nice - not the greatest moment in my life, but nice.

Did I enjoy getting over 600 hits this week in this journal instead of 50?  You betcha.  I work fairly hard on these entries, sometimes revising them five times or more even after I post them. (Did anyone even notice the cool PhotoShop effect I did with the mug?) I like to think that somebody enjoys reading them - as many somebodies as possible, really.  I've wanted to do my best work this week, give you my A material.  I figure I have only one chance to impress people enough that they'll to want to come back and read some more. 

Why do I care?  Well, aside from massive insecurity (as I've mentioned before), I'm a writer.  A writer wants her words to be read and appreciated.  In my case, that goes for entries in blogs and journals, articles in fanzines, the backs of trading cards, and any other writing I do, up to and including the novels I keep going on about. 

Does that mean I want to be really, really famous?  Not necessarily. There's got to be a qualitative difference between being, for example, John Vornholt-famous, Madeleine L'Engle-famous and J.K. Rowling-famous, to say nothing of the huge difference between popular AOL-J blogger-famous and Michael Jackson-famous.  (I'll explain. John Vornholt is a prolific Tucson-based writer of sf / horror tv tie-in novels.  Madeleine L'Engle, my favorite writer, has written over fifty books, including A Wrinkle in Time. And I assume you've heard of Rowling's boy wizard character.)  John Vornholt probably gets moderate fan mail, and signs autographs at conventions, where he's recognized mostly by virtue of having a name tent on the table in front of him.  Madeleine L'Engle is recognized in public, and gets a large volume of fan mail.  And Rowling - I expect that's about the same level of fame many movie stars get.

So where do I want to be on that scale of literary fame?  Probably somewhere between John Vornholt and Madeleine L'Engle. I'd love to get a small, manageable quantity of fan mail because of my books. If someone asked me for an autograph on the basis of a name tent or a book jacket photo, that would be fine, too. (I gave my first autograph over twenty years ago, signing a magazine article I'd written about John Lennon.) Meanwhile, at the not-especially-popular-blogger level, I love hearing that somebody liked or was moved by the writing, and plans to come back later and read some more. Many thanks to anybody who posted comments to that effect.

As for that more obvious kind of fame, major tv / movie / rock star fame, I wouldn't want that if I even had the option.  Some of the biggest stars seem to have terribly skewed ideas about how the world works and whether the rules of civilized society apply to them.  Doesn't it seem that Michael Jackson would benefit from being made to work at McDonald's for a couple of months, just to get some perspective?  It may be a bit late now, but when he was younger, such enforced normalcy might have made a difference in how he looked at the world.  Major fame seems to be destructive to many of its recipients. Just look at all the drug overdoses, murders, scandals, and other problems that tend to crop up in stars' lives.  Even a genuinely nice guy like Scott Bakula didn't manage to keep his marriage together through the pressures of tv fame.  (Falling in love with another actress didn't help, either.)

The next echelon down, consisting of minor stars, character actors and well-known tv writers, seems to do better than the headliners in having pleasant, relatively stable lives. I've interviewed dozens of writers, actors and others of minor fame -  Richard Herd (who's been on Quantum Leap, SeaQuest, V and several Star Trek incarnations), Willie Garson, Quantum Leap writers and staff, a number of people associated with Doctor Who--I could go on, but you get the idea.  Most of them are nice, fairly normal (albeit talented) people, who seem to be comfortable with their level of fame.  They get to do interesting, creative work, certain people appreciate them, and they get to miss out on most of the major star craziness.

That would be a nice place to be. I imagine Richard Herd fame is roughly equivalent to John Vornholt fame, maybe even Anne McCaffrey fame.  That's pretty much what I want.  I'll try to get there by getting these books edited and sold, and by doing my best to promote them without annoying everyone too much.  The main part of the plan, though, is for the books themselves to be so good that large numbers of people will read them, and be moved by them, and wait anxiously for sequels.  Ultimately, it's not my own need for fame or validation that drives me in this respect.  It's the work itself.  Having spent thirty years discovering and recording the stories of these characters that I love, I feel they deserve to get out in the world, and work their magic on the hearts of readers. 

In the meantime, as I pass the baton to whoever is set to appear on the Editors' Pick List  tomorrow, I'd like to spread a little fame to other people who have posted their journal URLs to this journal over the past week or so.  Check them out.  I'm sure they'd like their words read, too. From what I've read, they're worth a look.  I'll add to the list below tomorrow, with any journal URL you put in comments to this entry.

It's been fun, kids.  Keep reading, won't you?


Drama Queen Blog
Watching My Sister Disappear
Sometimes I Think
Everybody Knows
Lynda's Lullaby
Lori's Laurels
Smilin' Mon's Adventures
Stepping Stones and Coffee
Argument Against Growing Up
An Apple a Day
Life Saver
A Rose by Any Other Name
Better Than Kicking the Dog
Swirling Through My Mind
Keep A Love Journal They Say
N A Moments
my journey with MS


ryanagi said...

Ooo Scott Bakula! *drool* You are sooo lucky! (Didn't you just love him in the Leap episode where he sang in Man of La Mancha???) OK, snarky fan moment is over. LOL ;-) -B

alphawoman1 said...

Thanks for the links.  Some of them I have not seen before!  It's always great to find another good read in AOl-J land.  Glad you enjoyed your week in the spotlight.  I'm sure you will be there again.

daephene said...

I did notice the mug, by the way.  It's very nice.


deabvt said...

That was really insightful. and very nice of you to post these links.