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Have you ever met a celebrity in real life? Who was it and how did your paths cross?

Quite a few -- science fiction writers. I went to conventions starting around age 21. I met Gordon Dickson in a bar, had several drinks and hung out with him for about a six hour writing workshop punctuated by cartoons drawn by a bloke who may also have been famous. I met a number of other writers too, Gordy stands out in mind and so does one thing he taught me.

It does not matter what you decide the Maguffin is in a fantasy novel, as long as you are consistent with it throughout every word of that novel. If a blue feather gives people telepathy, the feather has to be there even concealed anytime anyone uses it, that was his example. I had been thinking of doing fantasy about like science fiction -- painstakingly researching real world magic from tribal practices to Cabalistic ritual. He said that would be fine but was really a grace note because I could do just as well with the blue feather as long as I kept continuity.

He was of course completely right.

I met Jack Haldeman -- not the more famous Joe Haldeman of The Forever War, but his brother who was just as good a science fiction writer who wrote some brilliant books and was also full time. I was at a con in Florida in the 90s and I went out into the hallway to smoke because this one party or whatever didn't allow smoking. I needed a light.

Jack was sitting in the hall with three or four other smokers, gave me a light and was so fun to hang around with that it took me about an hour of shooting the breeze to realize he was a writer and a guest. He was lean and thin with a long glorious beard he could've tucked into his belt. He had dancing dark eyes and if I were casting for a great wizard, I would've put Jack in the movie in a heartbeat. He was married to an artist and textile artist who did quilting and cool crafts things.

I met any number of actors from SF movies and shows, one of them did a dramatic reading of the phone book that brought down the house at a con.

At those earliest cons in the seventies though, I got into the Pro Room because the registration desk volunteer asked if I was pro or amateur as an artist. I had a great wad of drawings that I intended to sell to get back the cost of the con under my arm (and did, and ate, and everything). So I said "Hey, I'm here to sell this art and I already sold a couple of dragons while I was waiting in line. I'd say professional." I got a purple pompom on my badge -- and got let into the Pro Room, a special hospitality room set up for authors and artists.

It was a cheat because I was there to talk shop with writers more than artists. There were some artists there that I wish I'd had time to talk to because I did admire them. But that was life-changing for me -- I met Leigh Brackett. She was old, in her seventies or eighties. She wrote good SF novels six to ten times a year and lived on it during the Great Depression quite happily with her husband Edward Hamilton, also of pulp fame.

She was the one who broke the illusion that writing a novel is the labor of love of a decade. I asked her how long it took to write a novel.

"Oh, about a month for the first draft, then another month or so to edit it. Less if I'm backed up and fighting to make deadline of course."

Magic words that changed my life. I knew it could be done. It was one thing to see Isaac Asimov's stack of titles climb and climb during my life. Another entirely to meet a person who'd done it, lived, wasn't insane and didn't have an army of helpers. She gave me some very good advice -- know my length. Every writer has a natural length and will always find their best work happens at that length, it goes easier, it's more fun to do and generally comes out better even long after you master all the lengths.

Ironically, at the time I beleived I was a natural short story writer because that was all I'd ever finished. The result of finishing my first actual novel was still way ahead of me -- she was absolutely right. I found writing a whole lot easier when I started doing it in great big chunks and became prolific because I wasn't trying to jam a whole novel's worth of plot and character and theme down into a chapter-size chunk.

Much later on, I occasionally met actors or musicians who had some fame and was not particularly fannish about it. Those early cons left me breaking the backstage line, not thinking of celebrities as special or anything. I knew that I was myself on my way to a career just as exciting and that most of them, we had more in common than not. Quite a few of the people I hung out with at random at those cons went on to become famous SF writers. I drifted out of that crowd by leaving town and I had much larger barriers in my life to just survive than they had. It's taken me longer.

But it's proved worthwhile and my books flow easily now, one of them is available online and I've sold pro short stories. I crossed that line some time ago and now I'm doing my art instruction website. The current gang of celebrities I hang out with are professional artists who easily get thousands of dollars per painting and hang out at WetCanvas.com -- and it's fun, I get into it with them and take classes.

I just don't have that sense of celebrities as anything other than people who do interesting things. I met Harlan Ellison, liked him a lot and understood he met so many cool people throughout his travels that he literally wouldn't have time to write if he stayed in touch. I wound up with too big a reputation as a fan artist and experienced the same time-and-people crunch myself a year later and really understood why he didn't want to stay in touch, because I honestly did like them all.

So I learned a lot from the experts in various arts fields that I admire, that's about my only interest in celebrities. I wouldn't go out of my way to try to meet someone just because he or she was a famous actor or singer, mostly because I'm not into music and don't spend much time watching movies -- and also because I know that the performance is not the performer. It's not like I'd be spending the evening with Captain Jack Sparrow or something, they're people who have a job and when they are not on the job there comes a point where they'd much rather talk about gardening or the new car they got or their personal interests as someone quite unlike the hero on the screen -- in a strange way I can see why actors go a little crazy because this character they created is what's famous. They are ignored at the same time as they're being praised and clung to, overwhelmed and negated at the same time.

Some handle it better than others. Most will, if I get down to asking about the technical details of acting, relax and get into sharing school exercises, fun stuff like reading the phone book dramatically. That actually shows respect for skill and the years of training the best ones had in order to get to that level of fame. Musicians go right over my head though, since I'm neither an audiophile nor do I play an instrument or sing. I have to have actually tried the art in question to really connect with anyone who's good in the arts.

Then I wind up being an author and pumping them for details so that when an actor character comes up in one of my books, he or she is real. I get the same way about cops, firefighters, soldiers, people who manage bookstores, blacksmiths, furniture makers, construction guys, truck drivers -- anyone who does something that takes real expertise is part of a subculture and has so many cool little stories to tell. Then they get the serial numbers filed off and wind up in my books as much richer, truer characters. The actors do that too to help build richer interpretations of their characters.

So I'm a fan of all the experts that I've ever met, in the same way as I am with celebrities, and whether they get famous or not is just one of the random conditions of their lives. I'm puzzled by billionaires though, the closest I ever came to poking into the mind of one was a young, competitive commodities trader in Chicago who was making ludicrous amounts of money wheeling and dealing at the speed of a country auctioneer and occasionally got into a scrum on the trading floor. He was tall and muscular and said that helped a lot in being able to get attention and see what was going on.
Explore-Oil-Pastels-With-Robert-Sloan.com Articles at eHow.com, ETSY shop, My Bonanzle Booth, deviantART gallery, SFFmuse and look for art by robertsloan2art on eBay. Listed on Art Blogs 4 U
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Interesting art blog: Patrick's Art Blog focused on realism!
New Topical Blog: www.robs-art-supply-reviews.blogspot.com for all the cool art stuff that isn't oil pastels!


2013 Nano Winner
Robert A. Sloan, author of Raven Dance

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