Book signings have never much interested me in the past. I’ve always been a staunchly closeted nerd, staying far away from Cons of all stripes and never wearing anything past a tastefully representative t-shirt to movie premieres. To me, book signings seem to be on the same level as cult gatherings. Then Christopher Hitchens died. Unlike with JRR Tolkien, there had been a window of time where I could have met this eminent author and perhaps showed him an inkling of my admiration by presenting him with my favorite work of his to be signed. Now I can’t. I’ve since been determined to attend any author events in my area.
Richard Dawkins was my first ever book signing, which was more a political conference than anything. So when I headed out to the Redondo Beach Mysterious Galaxy for the Jim Butcher event on November 28, featuring the release of his newest Dresden Files book, Cold Days, it was definitely not like anything I’ve been to.
Alright, let me preface this by saying I had a pretty great time, but found the event extremely trying. There were more than two hundred people at that event. That store could not hold that capacity. It was crowded, there weren’t enough seats and what seats were provided exacerbated the crowding, they didn’t provide any refreshments, and their numbering system made no sense logistically . But maybe I was just cranky from a two and a half hour drive and having to stand for over two hours in designer boots.
Now, let me get to the part that made it all worth it: the Q&A with the eminent fantasy writer, Jim Butcher. Listening to him talk, it’s easy to see where Harry Dresden’s hilarious quips and self-deprecating humor comes from. Indistinguishable from the crowd that had come to see him, Butcher sauntered up to the microphone with a Mexican coke in hand, funny T-shirt, and a humble air of a man who’s still overwhelmed with the fact he has such a thing as “fans”. And what an odd rabble we made too. It’s not like when you go to a rock concert and you only see people of a certain age group and style. Not so here.
Mr. Butcher chose not to give a talk, but instead, opened up the floor for an hour of questions. Some of my favorite quotes from him that night were, “When writing a villain I get to a point where I go, ‘That’s totally disconcerting. I want to throw up right now. Sweet!‘” and, “At the point where a society has talking cats, the cats are obviously the mafia.” When asked how he felt about the cover art always portraying Dresden with a hat even though in the series, he’s vehemently against wearing hats, Butcher sighed and gave a hilarious pantomime of a legal disclaimer of Penguin’s “intelligent and effective” advertisement strategy.
The coolest bit, undoubtedly were the many reveals he had about his future projects. Amongst them was a steam-punk novel featuring “etherealists”, an original Harry Dresden story to be published with Dark Horse comics, an American Revolution/Indian War Dresden Files spinoff explaining the origins of Americas Native wizards, the possibility of getting Michael off the bench for Book #15, and if he were ever to get the opportunity to return to his Codex Alera series (most likely due to gambling debts), a story featuring the first Kingdom Cursor. Even more tantalizing was Mr. Butcher’s hopes to start publishing two books a year. That definitely perked me up.
After we found out Jim Butcher has quite the fantasy-crush on blonde bomb-shell, Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister, we queued up in line for our the book signing. Thankfully, I finally landed a chair where me and my friend who had driven down with me sat and talked on our first fantasy series and expectations for the upcoming Hobbit movie. Eventually the #150-200 group got called up and when I officially made it up to him I finally asked the question that I was too embarrassed to ask during the Q&A: “Where did you hear about vajazzling?” Unsurprisingly, Butcher’s response was that he saw it on some unmemorable, but horrible cable television show. I was also incredibly grateful when he took the Unreal business card I pimped at him and bobbed his head affably at my meek suggestion to check us out.
All-in-all, I thought it was an event well worth the long drive and Jim Butcher’s presence pretty much trumped any logistical issues. I’ve only just started Cold Days, but given I’ve hardly gone a page without gasping or laughing out loud, I am nothing but excited. I look forward to more of Mr. Butcher’s work in the future.