I am, and always have been, a book lover and a fangirl. I admit it - I don't just get enjoy books - I get obsessed with authors, devouring everything they've written, dreaming up fantasies of somehow being transported into their worlds, meeting and befriending their main characters, and generally writing epic Mary Sue fanfics in my brain long before I'd ever even heard of fanfiction.
People like Susan Cooper and Robin McKinley were queens in their distant palaces, sitting on their finely crafted literary thrones and generously dispensing amazing tales for my grateful and worshipful enjoyment. I remember vividly a point in middle school where I had to do a report on my favourite author who was, at the time, Anne McCaffrey. Being that she was a contemporary genre writer, I had a hard time finding some of the biographical information I needed. So I sent a letter to her publisher, asking for the information for my report. Several weeks later I received a rather stuffed envelope from Ireland - Anne herself had written me back. Ok, so she included her standard FAQ (although it wasn't called that at the time), but she also included a letter just to me, answering my specific questions and wishing me luck on my report. The letter was type-written, but it was also *hand-signed*. I was over the moon. I still have it. It was this incredible moment of connection between me and someone I viewed as being the next best thing to royalty.
Today, responded to a post on Peter S. Beagle's Facebook with a question, and two minutes later, Peter himself responded with the answer. And yeah, I gave a little fangirl squee, but nothing like the reaction Anne McCaffrey's letter evoked twenty years ago.
What has changed?
The short answer is "the internet." Ok, so the internet existed when I was in middleschool. But it wasn't something *ordinary* people used. It wasn't until the early nineties with the development of internet service providers like America OnLine and Prodigy that the general public began to interact online. I was, unsurprisingly, an early adopter - my family had AOL (one of my friends had Prodigy, and we had long arguments over which was better). The internet, for me, became more than anything else a way for me to indulge my inner fangirl. I'm embarrassed to say that there are still floating out in cyberspace posts I made on the Mercedes Lackey fan list in the mid-nineties signed "Gwyn'he'far shena Tale'sedrin."
Of course, the fact that the fans were online meant that the authors would eventually follow. The invention of Web 2.0 technologies like blogs, Facebook, Twitter, etc. meant that the social gap between celebrity and fan as narrowed to the point that in some cases it's nearly non-existent.
This is the world we live in now. And it's *incredible*! The revelation that authors are real people too sounds like it should be obvious, but it's something I just didn't *get* before things like author blogs. However, when you spend your time reading about the latest antics of Poppy Z. Brite's many cats, Patrick Rothfuss complaining about the all the folks who keep asking when the new book will be out (It'll be out when I'm finished, dammit!), Robin McKinley grumbling about reading proofs and wondering why she thought writing would be such a great career after all, and Neil Gaiman posting pictures from *inside* the Academy Awards, well . . . it's hard to maintain that difference.
And that's not even mentioning the wonderful published authors I have actually following and commenting on this blog. *waves*
Is my fangirl squee gone? Hell, no. Hey, Will Shetterly is following me on Goodreads, and did I tell you - Peter S. Beagle actually answered my question! *squee*
But the artificial divide is shrinking. And I'm glad. Reading about writers I admire and respect talking about writer's block and recalcitrant characters and days when they spend four hours writing 100 words is what gave me the courage to actually start writing myself.
There was a time when I thought being an author meant you were somehow touched by Grace, above the rest of us puny humans. I have to admit, all things equal, I like them down here on earth better.