Don’t be a creeper

Yesterday, via Josh Reynolds’ blog, I wandered to a post and its addendum by John Scalzi on the subject of creeping, and more importantly, how not to be a creeper. By creeper, Mr Scalzi means those people – male, female, and otherwise – who by their behaviour make others uncomfortable in their presence. This was specific to conventions and other occasions when a conglomeration of geeks – a glomp, to use its correct collective noun – are in occupance, but frankly it applies to any and all social interactions.

(Wil Wheaton and Felicia Day, I recall, both blogged about their poor experiences with creeping – and worse – fans at Comic-Con last year, which made for depressing reading)

And, as Mr Scalzi’s post did with Mr Reynolds (I don’t feel confortable calling authors by their first names unless I think there is a 50:50 chance they will remember my name  should it be mentioned. Call it politeness or awkwardness, I dunno), its got me thinking about my own behaviour, particularly as a self-described geek.

I haven’t frequented many conventions, Black Library Live! 2011 and 2012 being the only ones that come to mind, with the Black Library Weekender coming up in November. I have been to a few signings – most recently Adam Christopher’s book launch for Empire State, but looking back I’ve been to several Black Library events, a book launch by Bernard Cornwell, and – the most treasured of treasured memories – I spent maybe fifteen seconds exchanging words with Sir Terry Pratchett. And at all of these events I have been over-conscious of my behavior the entire time. Why? Because, naturally, I don’t want to come off like a creepy motherfucker.

I hate being around people like that, even if I’m not the one being creeped on (for the record, I’ve never been creeped on as a writer, though I am familiar with aquaintances who lack the requisite social skills to be allowed out unescorted). It’s embarrassing, for one thing, especially if the person being creeped on can’t deal with the situation as well as some others. Plus, it only heightens my own anxiety that I too am displaying those very behaviours that make me cringe.

I’m not very good at unscheduled social interactions. I like to think that in most circumstances I’m actually quite a sociable guy – an adolescence which featured going to every single youth group and summer activity group meant that I adapted pretty quickly to being dropped in with a group of people I don’t know – but should I bump into someone I know quite well, say a work colleague or a friend I know only from bars or what-have-you, I turn into a blithering idiot. I can’t think of anything to say, which makes me seem stand-offish and rude, I expect. But I honestly can’t help it; it’s like I can only interact with these people in the setting in which I know them.

At conventions etc, this becomes a near-permanent feature of how I act. I suddenly become nervous of approaching people lest I freak them out with my mere presence. Hopefully, this over-awareness is a good thing, insofar as it at least keeps me from being a creepy bastard. The very brief conversation I had with Sir PTerry was like the job interview from hell – Did I laugh too much at his joke? Am I standing too close? What the hell can I say to him? – but its remains one of my most fondly-recollected memories (if you want to know my feelings on Sir Terry, go back through this blog or engage me in conversation for about thirty seconds).

Hmm. That last sentence has a lot to say, I think. Because we all know what I did when I walked into the room as spotted Sir PTerry two feet from my left – I lost my shit. I completely, unreservedly, totally lost my shit. Thankfully, a friend was with me, so we collectively lost our shit at the free bar for about ten minutes.

And that’s the difference, I hope, between me and my super-anxious behaviour, and that of a creeper – I lost my shit away from the person who inspired said shit-losing (I realise that this is by far the most curse-filled post to date. I apologise for nothing – sometimes curses are the only words that have the required emphasis), rather than geeking out twelve inches away from him and most definitely creeping him out.

I have a second anecdote from that evening that also has bearing on this topic. After the event of the evening – a debate on why written sci-fi is less popular than film and TV sci-fi – I ended up chatting to Dan Abnett, one of the panel members for the debate (I also spent about fifteen minutes chatting to Graham McNeill over at the bar before the debate started. An outstandingly nice guy, who can really make the most of a free bar). Now, I’d met Dan a few times at various other events, and I was made bizarrely happy when he remembered my name (why is it that we react like that? Beats me). After a few minutes, I burst:

“Sorry, I have to say it. Dude, that’s Terry Pratchett!

His response made me so very, very happy:

“Dude, he’s talking to my wife!

Even the greatest of us are capable of geeking out when we meet our heroes. But we both did it in a way that had no impact on Sir PTerry, and thus keeps us out of the ‘creeper’ category.

I sometimes wonder how I’ll deal with creepers when I reach the meteoric fame and stardom that I’m accorded by my obvious talent (douchebag alert). Going on past behaviour as relayed above, probably not well. Until then, I’m just going to try and work on not worrying so much when I am in convention settings – ie, I’m going to work on my basic social skills.*

An odd topic of discussion for today, eh? Hopefully something more uplifting will present itself tomorrow (jesus, can you believe I’ve blogged every day with week? ‘t’ain’t natural). Peace out, and be awesome to one another.


*An apology in advance for those attending the BLW in November, in case I’m just as awkward as usual.