What Was the Last Author Reading You Attended?

Tonight I had the good fortune of attending a reading by one of the most highly acclaimed sci-fi authors in the business right now, John Scalzi, at the St. Louis County Library. He’s most known for Old Man’s War, but he’s written a lot of other fantastic books. I’ve read all but one or two of them.

I showed up alone, not knowing what to expect in terms of attendance. A handful of people? A throng? The photo has already spoiled the answer for you: There were around 200 people.

Scalzi is an excellent, experienced speaker, and he didn’t disappoint. He also did something I really appreciate: He figured most of us there were aware of his work and had probably either already bought his new book (Head On, released last week) or that we were going to buy it at the event. So instead of reading from Head On, he read the first chapter of a novel he’s currently writing, as well as two unreleased short stories.

It was like being in on a secret, and it was brilliant. Why don’t other authors do this? (It also makes me wonder why authors even do book tours anymore if most of the people who attend already have the book or are going to buy it, but that’s another topic.)

My experience at the event wasn’t entirely pleasant, though. Before I say this, I want to note that nerds and geeks are my people. I make board games for a living, after all. I am a nerd and a geek myself.

However, there are nerds who are socially aware and there are nerds who are completely oblivious to the world around them. Honestly, I’m sure we all have at least one weird little thing we do, some tic or habit, that we’re not entirely aware of. But some take it further than others. Case in point:

  • There was a guy who stood up a few minutes into the reading–in a room of 200 seated people–leaned against the wall, and started moving up and down to rub his back on the coat hooks lining the wall. He then approached the front of the room, just wandered up there. For a second it looked like he was going to go say hi to Scalzi, but then he veered to the right and very slowly sat down in a chair.
  • The guy sitting next to me spent the entire hour alternating between emailing/texting on his phone (with the keyboard sounds on) and having the most intimate relationship with his fingernails, complete with slurping sounds.
  • During the Q&A, a man in the front raised his hand and did not lower it for the next 45 minutes. Not when someone else was asking a question, not when the author spent 5-10 minutes answering each question. I thought Scalzi dealt with it well: He didn’t call out the man, but he also didn’t acknowledge such behavior. Presumably the man had the chance to ask his question during the signing that followed.

So, a mixed bag of an evening, but overall, it was really cool to listen to one of my favorite sci-fi writers in person.

What was the last author reading you attended? How was your experience?