As I mentioned here earlier, I went to Worldcon in Montreal a couple of weeks ago. I met lots of folks and had some great conversations, including one with a more-established pro author I couldn’t help fangirling at because I loved her work. Thinking that she was probably sick of people gushing at her, though, I stopped after the initial babble of praise and related my own recent experience with being fangirled, which had happened in the Dealers’ Room a few hours before. Totally floored me; someone gushed at me about one of my short stories. (It ended up happening twice more before Worldcon ended; whee!) I was still a bit dazed in the aftermath. “But you must have gotten used to that,” I said to the more-established pro.
“No,” she said. “You never get used to it. It’s always a surprise, and it always feels strange, and you never really stop loving that reaction. It never gets old. If it does, something’s wrong.” (Paraphrase, but I think I’ve captured it for the most part)
Have been contemplating this for the last 24 hours, as the first couple of reviews of The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms have come online in the wake of my ARC giveaway at Worldcon. These aren’t professional reviews, published in big-name markets and full of big words like “deconstruction” and Derrida — so I find them especially heartening, in a way. After all, professional reviewers have reputations to maintain, political considerations, and so on. Not that they can’t be impartial — most can be, and are — but there are still some things they can’t say without in essence damaging themselves. They can’t gush, for example. They can be effusive in their praise, but not giddy. They can trash, but even then they can’t really resort to the kind of language that readers tend to use. (Incoherent rage-frothing probably wouldn’t make it into, say, Publishers’ Weekly.) So, rightly or wrongly, I tend to regard reader/fan reviews as… hmm. I was going to say “purer” expressions of feelings about my work, but that’s not correct. Readers are just as likely to be swayed by peer pressure and other external motivations as pro reviewers. But their expression of those opinions/motivations does tend to be unfiltered, or less so. Yes, I think that word fits better.
Both of these reviews are nicely positive, so naturally my head is in the clouds today. But that does make me wonder about the lattermost part of that pro author’s statement: if it gets old, something’s wrong. Could there ever come a time when this kind of review elicits a “ho-hum” reaction from me? I can’t imagine it. I might not publicly respond to all reviews (in fact, I probably won’t; it’s usually not a good idea for authors to publicly respond to reviews, IMO), but in private? I’m going to giggle and squee and PM my friends to say “Look look look look!” If I ever get to the point where I don’t respond that way, what will it mean? What kind of author will I be when I no longer care how my readers react to my work?
I hope I never find out.
In the meantime, back to squeeage. And hopefully there will be more positive reviews over the next few weeks and months, and I’ll get lots more opportunities to feel delighted and strange.