Wednesday, June 1, 2011

An Origin Story

New York Times best-selling author Patrick Rothfuss reminisces about the origins of Fantasy Matters:
The Name of the WindBack in May of 2007, I was the newest of new authors. My first book had only been on the shelves for a month, and I was proud, terrified, excited, and shellshocked in roughly equal amounts.

It was at this time that I got an e-mail from a couple grad students in Minneapolis. They invited me to a convention they were starting up.

They were very flattering and their e-mail said something along the lines of, “We’re just getting started, so we can’t pay you or anything, but if you check out our home page, you can see that if you come, you’ll be getting not-paid with the best.”

So I hopped over to their webpage, and what do I see? Neil Gaiman and Jack Zipes.

Zipes is one of the few scholars whose name I happen to know off the top of my head, and perhaps the only one whose name doesn’t fill me with the urge to curse wildly and wreck up the place. He's a folklorist and faerie-tale theorist. I actually enjoyed reading his stuff when I was in grad school. The man is brilliant.

And Gaiman... Well... y'know. Gaiman...Neil Gaiman and Jack Zipes

Apparently I was the third person they'd invited. Neil Gaiman, Jack Zipes.... and me. It was one of the earliest clear signals that I might have done something right in my books....

Needless to say, I got back to the lovely ladies who were organizing the conference and told them that I’d love nothing better than to come. That, in fact, I would be happy to do just about anything in order to hang around breathing the same air as those two.

The convention was an eye opener. It was there that I heard Gaiman speak in person for the first time. He talked about fantasy, and why fantasy matters. He told stories and jokes.

I'm no stranger to public speaking, but still, I was impressed. Later on, he read a chapter of the Graveyard book, and his skill at reading his own work left me rather green with envy. Interacting with his fans, Gaiman was gracious and charming. On top of it all, he took time to hang out with the crew of newbie writers there, myself included. He was funny and gently geeky, and I found out we'd both played Infocom's Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy in the past.

All of this made a huge impression on me. Looking back, I realize that I learned a lot that day. More importantly, I made a lot of decisions about what sort of a writer I wanted to be....

Pat's most recent book, The Wise Man's Fear, debuted at the top of the New York Times' Bestseller list.

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