A lot of great things happen at readings, enough to make it more than worth my while to step up to the mic. I like hearing that someone loved my book—it made them laugh, cry, whatever. One guy even told me that he read my first novel, Waylaid, in one sitting. On the toilet.
Hey, it made me laugh.
The only downside to readings is when the Weirdies show up. Weirdies love mouthing along during the reading; asking many, many questions during the Q&A; and following the author for blocks afterward.
The reading at Elliott Bay on February 26 for my second novel, This Is a Bust, went great. But then, at the Q&A session, a Weirdy made her presence known.
"Is there a particular snack food associated with the book?" she asked.
"I'm not a real snacky person," I said. "But I drink like 40 ounces of coffee a day."
"You know you have to drink five ounces of water for each ounce of coffee?"
And with that reply, I knew for sure she was a Weirdy. The attempt to form a public one-on-one dialogue had given her away. But as an author, you have to tolerate and even coddle the Weirdies. Give a simple brush-off and the entire audience brands you an asshole. Even worse, it could end up completely out of context on YouTube.
It got worse with her next question.
"To whom is the book dedicated?"
I explained how the dedication, "For all the blue guys," had two meanings. She cut me off, saying that the dedication would make a great T-shirt.
"That's a bad idea," I said.
"How about, 'For all the blue guys and Pop-Tarts'?"
"No, no," I said. "But you can go ahead and make that shirt if you want." Jesus, I thought, I'd rather go topless in winter than wear a T-shirt you made.
I managed to bring it to a close. And after friendly chats and the signing, I noticed that my wife, Cindy, was being accosted by the Weirdy.
"She says she knows you," said my wife, plunging me into terror.
"Well, I've read your movie reviews," said Weirdy.
"My movie reviews?"
"You used to write them for Asian CineVision's newsletter."
"No, you're thinking of Asian American Arts Alliance's newsletter." Jesus, that was 16 years ago!
"No, it was Asian CineVision!" she insisted, closing her eyes and mumbling to the floor.
What's the point, I thought. I know I'm right, mainly because I had enemies at Asian CineVision. Do I want to tell Weirdy that? Not really. I want to withhold as much personal information from her as possible.
I had a sudden flashback to being accosted by a man after reading a section from my first novel, which featured a horny 12-year-old kid as the narrator. He looked like Comic Book Guy's older brother who was into Poison Idea. He wore glasses and was sweating. "Ed," he gently admonished me, "you have to be careful about Asian teens and sex. There are laws." He gave me a knowing look, as if he had some tips to intimate to me.
"Laws are great," I said. "They prove we live in a good society." Then the dude rattled off a list of Asian porn stars. Did I know any of them? I looked around. No one was around to rescue me. Later on, my friends claimed that because he seemed to be speaking to me with such familiarity, they thought that he and I were old friends.
It was happening again at Elliott Bay. My wife had slipped away. My pal Hannah Moon was huddling with her friends.
Weirdy's eyes were closed as she mumbled away. I couldn't understand what she was saying.
I stepped around a row of empty chairs to get back to my wife. Next thing I knew, Weirdy comes up to us with a camera. We're good sports, Cindy and I, so we posed for a few. Her camera's fucking up. The flash isn't working. Then it is.
She's taking a lot of pictures. What's she going to do with them? Turn off the lights, throw them into a slide projector, and eat Pop-Tarts in the dark? I don't want to know. But one thing becomes apparent as we're all heading up the stairs from Elliott Bay's cafe/reading area.
True to the nature of Weirdies—after all the questions, passive harassment, and pictures—she didn't even buy my fucking book.
Ed Lin is the author of This Is a Bust and Waylaid (both published by Kaya Press).