Wednesday, October 2, 2013
You probably know somebody like this. If so, you have my sympathy. They’re not evil, they’re not dangerous, they’re not necessarily threats to society. They’re just, well, damned annoying. And they make such wonderful blog fodder.
My story begins last Saturday, when I made my annual appearance at a writers’ group I sort of belong to. (Annual because they’re based in Philadelphia, which is a two-hour drive for me. Except when they meet at the one member’s house in King of Prussia, which is only a little over an hour away and doesn’t include all the traffic. That’s the one I go to.) There were only a few people present when I arrived, including one long-time member whom we’ll call Darrell. That’s his real name. No way I’m protecting this putz. If you’ve been even marginally involved in science fiction/fantasy fandom over the last 20 years, you probably know who I mean. If so, you’re probably nodding already. Yeah, that Darrell.
So anyway, we’re chatting about who’s writing what and I mention my entry in the Harlequin writing contest and how it’s the first time I’ve ever been able to use the phrase, “The dingo ate your baby” in a romance novel. I get the expected smiles and polite laughs and a good time was had by all. Until Darrell, who’s hovering at the edge of the group, steps forward and remarks, “You know, that actually happened several years ago,” and proceeds to relate the story, regardless of whether or not we’ve heard it already, or care.
Yes, Darrell. I know the story. Everybody knows the story, or at least knows of it. It’s been told so many times it’s become urban legend, to be used as the punch line in jokes. Which is why I used it in my story. Since the speaker is a demon who takes the form of a dingo and who’s possessing my hero, it seemed appropriate.
Not that my choices as a writer matter a whit to Darrell. He’s achieved his true objective: he’s successfully hijacked the conversation and made himself the center of attention by setting himself up as an expert. Not just on dingoes eating babies, but on everything.
I used to go to SF conventions, and I saw a lot of Darrells in attendance. No matter what the topic is, they’ll happily hold forth on it, whether they know what they’re talking about or not. Experience doesn’t really matter. What matters is, they’re talking. The spotlight is on them. All the world can clearly see how intelligent and knowledgeable they are, so much more so than everyone else.
Somehow I don’t believe “intelligent” is the word their captive audiences ascribe to these pompous motormouths. The word I was thinking during the dingo incident started with “a” and ended in “hole.” “Tiresome” also comes to mind. So does “attention whore.”
I don’t mean to single out SF fandom as a hotbed for these morons, but it does seem to attract this personality type. They’re very literal-minded. They don’t appear to understand humor, or irony, or sarcasm, unless they themselves are using it. They’re also oblivious to the phrase, “Will you shut the hell up already?” Darrell’s been with the writers’ group since before I started attending in the 1990s. He was this way back then, and he’s this way today. Yes, he has been told about it. He’s been ridiculed by others for it. It just slides right off. A willful lack of self-awareness also seems to be a trait of these people.
And yeah, there are female versions. It’s been my misfortune to know one. In fact, she’s also a member of the same writers’ group. Her schtick is to make every conversation be about herself. At least she knows her topic. One time, stuck in conversation with her, I deliberately kept switching subject matter, just to see what would happen. On average, it would take her only three sentences to redirect the conversation back to her favorite subject. A classic example: I was telling her about Stephen King’s then-recent accident, the one where a careless driver hit him with a van. Her immediate response: “I had a van once.” I kid you not. This is narcissism at its finest.
I don’t talk to her any more. It would be different if she was an interesting person, but she isn’t. She’s a major whiner. So not interested. Same for you, Darrell. You and the drive are the reason I don’t go to more of these meetings. I want to talk to and learn from people, plural, not just you. All I’ve learned from you is to steer clear of you, and try not to say anything at all when I’m within your earshot.
I’ve also learned the best thing I can do for my career is to skip these meetings entirely and spend the time writing. It’s a helluva lot more productive.
Which brings me to one of the best possible uses of the Internet. We can get up on our soapboxes and expound for pages on end on any topic at all, including those we know nothing about. It’s called “blogging.” Look at my spotlight, with me in the center! Hey, where you going? Come back!