We Could Be Heroes…But Probably Not


Not everyone is entirely comfortable with the idea of heroes. They too often have feet of clay, or in these days of the media creature, turn out to be fabricated out of whole cloth, or at least a cheap polyester. Yet we all have them, and writers are no different. The difference is in what inspires us—the words on the page, not necessarily the people behind them. Writing heroes. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt when you discover that one of your heroes, known for his gentle and optimistic fiction, is a right wing fascist at heart or another with a unique and powerful voice is a virulent racist. Such things usually kill off normal heroes. As a hero, that is. Writer heroes usually survive, not always, but usually, since it is the words on the page that matter, not the imperfect, venal, or just plain unworthy person behind them, but more so because there’s a secret that the process of writing fiction eventually teaches.

You write better than you are.

I’ve touched on this before, but it’s especially relevant, I think, in the genre today. We all do it, if we’re any good at all. What comes out on the page is smarter, wiser, usually more together than, well, we are. I don’t know how it all works, I just know that it does. So I’m not usually so surprised when it turns out that the writer behind books and stories I love is a deeply flawed human being. Someone you might even cross the street to avoid if you saw them coming.  It happens. It doesn’t matter. Any decent work we produce is, at its core, a reflection of our better selves, maybe even who we’re trying to be, not necessarily who we are. Which is probably why I’ve never been driven to meet writers I admire. Most of the writers I call friends are ones I met even before I discovered their work, and got to know and like them as people first. That way generally works. Someone you only know from their work? Not so much.

Oh, sure, there are exceptions. There are even times when I regret, say, that I never got to meet Fritz Leiber, even though I did have the chance, once, at a World Fantasy Con way back in 1987, and I will always treasure my one and only meeting with Parke Godwin, who turned out to be as grand a human being in person as he was on the page. It’s great when that happens, but I don’t expect it. No one should.

I started this blog post with the idea of talking a little about one of my writing heroes, but I got pulled in another direction. It happens, so I’ll save that one for next time. I never met her, but then again, see above, I didn’t need to. The books and stories were all I did need, or had any right to expect.

So, if you ever want to meet me and manage to do so, I apologize in advance. That is all.