Saturday, August 15, 2009

Michael Stackpole Is an Awesome Human Being

Have you looked at 25 Years yet? I haven't seen it yet.

Michael Stackpole
directly to me

If you're not a fan of science fiction, you might not have any idea who Michael Stackpole is. To save you the thirty seconds it would take you to do a Wikipedia search, he's an author and game designer. He's probably best known for his work on Star Wars novels, but he's been far more prolific as an author in my beloved Battletech universe. I read my first Stackpole novel when I was twelve years old, and have been reading Stackpole books ever since.

Why does all of this matter? Because I met him on Thursday, it was awesome, and you're reading my blog.

So anyway, I went to GenCon (the biggest dork convention west of the Mississippi) in Indianapolis on Thursday. I spent the day with some friends, checking out some gaming stuff, and generally having a good time. One of the things I intended to do while I was there was visit the Catalyst Game Labs booth, home of the guys who are currently running Battletech, and see if I could get some of them to sign my copy of their core rulebook. As I'm wandering around the booth, two guys with exhibitor badges walk by, and as they were pausing for one of the pair to quip sarcastically about how "subtle" their floor space was, I got a look at the names on the badges. The duo consisted of Loren Coleman, the owner of Catalyst, and Michael Stackpole himself.

The two left the exhibitor hall, and after a few seconds of internal debate, I set off after them. Turns out they were just going to a line that the exhibitors had to wait in to get something. I ambled up to the line, bothered them for their time, then shook their hands for, respectively, resurrecting my favorite board game and for writing so many great books. Then I went about my business for a few seconds before I remembered I wanted autographs. I got into my backpack, got out my sliver Sharpie, and headed back. I apologized profusely for bothering them again and asked them for an autograph, and they happily obliged (although they were a little stunned that I asked them to just sign right on the front cover).

Autographs obtained and emboldened by Loren's suggestion that I go in and find another of the Battletech bigwigs, Randall Bills, to get his autograph, I headed back into the hall and started acquiring more names on the cover of my book. I get a few more autographs, and while I'm waiting to actually get to Randall, I pass the time by looking at a distance at their new Battletech coffee table book, 25 Years of Art and Fiction. They got some of the seminal authors of the Battletech universe, Stackpole included, to write new stories covering all the years of Battletech history and commissioned a bunch of new art. It's a fantastic looking book.

While I'm waiting, Stackpole comes up next to me looking at the same book, and I thank him for his time earlier. We start talking, I explain how I've been reading his work since before my voice started changing, and he proved to be a genuinely cool, nice guy. He had no reason to talk to me, but still spent his time yapping with me like we were old friends.

Then he dropped the hammer. He said to me, "Have you seen 25 Years yet? I haven't seen it yet." I responded in the negative, not having seen the innards of the book yet. So, being Michael Stackpole, he just kind of barreled through the line that was in our way, grabbed a copy of the book off of the stand, and brought it back to me. He opened it up and we started flipping through it like I'd do with another fan. We sat there for a good ten minutes gawking at the pictures they'd collected, talking about our history with a game that we both obviously love, then they get to his story, which is about Devlin Stone, the lead protagonist of the current Battletech storyline.

Then he dropped the hammer again. He started talking about how he got into the project kind of late, and they were letting people pick their stories from a list they wanted to be in there. So a lot of the stories were gone when he picked, but the story about Stone was still avaialble. He said the best he could figure is that nobody wanted to take a crack at writing about Stone because he was so important. Then Stackpole noted that since he created Stone in the first place, he was happy to do it, and signed up for the story. We flipped through his piece - the first time he'd seen his story in print, mind you - and gawked at the art they added. He then told me he was going to go tell Loren he was stealing that copy and excused himself.

I have heard a maxim lately that I actually find to be one that's very true: "Never meet your heroes." The idea behind it, of course, being that they usually disappoint you because they're usually jerks. Being that I've been reading Michael Stackpole books for two decades now and plan on reading them for as long as he writes new ones, he's probably as much of a hero as I have. He did not disappoint. Not only was he totally accommodating and nice to a fan, but he actually proved to just be a nice, cool guy and bothered to spend some time with and share some anecdotes with me. It was by far the best celebrity experience I've ever had.


EastwoodDC said...

Very cool experience. Stackpole really created a great core storyline for Battletech, one that will probably outlive all of us. I'm looking forward to 25 years too.

PS: Indianapolis is East of the Mississippi (or maybe 24,500 West). :-)

Larry Swank said...

I am, regrettably, aware of Indy's geographic location in relation to the Mississippi River. Honest I am. It's just that, well, I'm often dumb when I write here.

I will leave my error up in uncorrected format as a monument to my colossal failure.

Thanks for stopping by!

Larry Swank said...

Also, my apologies to both PAX and the San Diego Comic Con. I'll let them fight it out over which is truly the biggest dork convention west of the mighty Missisip.