About ten years ago, I had the good fortune to meet Jim Butcher in Atlanta at DragonCon. At the time he had completed four of his Dresden novels, none of which I had ever read or even heard of before, but I discovered that the audio book version of the first book, Storm Front, was read by James Marsters. I happen to be a big fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Spike in particular, and Mr. Marsters was also attending DragonCon that year, including performing in concert with his now-defunct band, Ghost of the Robot. Being a fan, I decided to check out the books.
I stopped by the little booth where a somewhat nervous looking man sat quietly with piles of paperback books arrayed before him. His hair was long and frizzy, held back by a leather strap probably bought at one of the many leather goods booths nearby, his eyes half-hidden behind glasses, but there was a smile on his face as I picked up the CD case for Storm Front.
“I’m a big fan of James Marsters,” I said, assuming the man was a representative of ROC publishing, or maybe Buzzy Multimedia who produced the audio book.
The man smiled back at me. “Yeah, he’s great. We were really lucky to get him for the audio book. He’s working on the second one already.”
“Oh nice,” I replied and picked one each of the paperbacks. “I’ve never heard of these, are they kind of like…” I paused.
“Harry Potter?” he offered, a bit of a frown crossing his lips.
I shook my head, “World of Darkness.” I was reading the back of the first novel. “This sounds a bit like it, but different.”
His smile returned, “Yeah, that’s closer. Or a grown up Harry Potter, that’s what I always tell people.”
“Neat, well, I think I’ll give them a try,” I said, taking out my wallet.
“O.k., awesome. Would you like them signed?”
I blinked and realized I was speaking to the author himself. “Yeah, uh, yes, please! Wow, you wrote these?”
“Yep. I hope you like them,” he replied gregariously.
“Well, yeah, they look great. I play World of Darkness games online, text based games, MUSHes,” I said, figuring he’d have no idea what I was talking about. At the time I was running my own online MUSH, sort of a text based precursor to MMORPGs.
“Oh yeah,” he said with a grin, “I used to play MUDs and MUSHes all the time. I got some of my ideas from them.”
“No way? Really? That’s awesome!” We proceeded to talk for maybe ten or fifteen minutes about MUSHes and the books while he signed my copies.
Later, after reading the four books, I contacted Jim via email to see if I could get his permission to start a Dresden Files MUSH. He was happy to allow it, though unfortunately I never built the place (there are a few around now, though).
I look back now and I realize that my little encounter with Mr. Butcher was an inspiration for me to try to write, an inspiration that wouldn’t take hold for another half-dozen years or so, but a seed nonetheless that grew in me. It was as much a, “if he can do it, so can I” as it was honest admiration for his work.
I hope some day I will meet him again, and if I do, I’ll shake his hand and thank him for taking the time to talk with me that day, and thank him as well for giving me a gift, the gift of hope that I might one day be an author as well.