Speaking of superheroes … weren’t we? I’ve made a decision to stop following authors on social media whose books I especially enjoy. I love science fiction (not so much fantasy), cleverly plotted mysteries, and action adventure. My favorite contemporary authors in that order are John Scalzi, Stuart Woods, and Clive Cussler. They are all clever, humorous, and prolific. I noticed at some point, the three share an orderly, unassuming writing style that is close to my own style (or at least my target style), which goes a long way in explaining why they’re my favorites. Their public images are a different matter.
Stuart Woods’ most famous character, Stone Barrington, is as close as you can get to the “most interesting man in the world” and not be preposterous. Woods himself, in the interviews I’ve seen (he has limited social media presence) is uninteresting, tedious, dull, dreary, mind-numbing … my Thesaurus fails me. It’s surprising, since Stuart Woods and Stone Barrington share the same Bondian interests. They’re pilots, boating enthusiasts, food and wine connoisseurs, and just all-around sophisticates. Woods has to be more interesting in his private life than his public one, because, if not, he’d be comatose. The only remarkable note, which he discloses in such an uninspiring, monotonous tone one might miss it altogether (assuming you’re still awake) is that he writes for one hour a day, from 11:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m., six days a week, and produces four books a year. Holy crapola! Way to go, Stu.
Clive Cussler’s Dirk Pitt is not as suave as Woods’ Stone Barrington but, he’s a hell of a lot more physical and sexier. Cussler also shares many of his character’s interests, most notably deep sea treasure hunting and collecting classic cars. His personal adventures are as remarkable and harrowing as Pitt’s fictional ones. I was fortunate to have lunch with him once—this was back in ’95. My antique store in Ahwatukee was next to Pages bookstore where Cussler was signing books. On that day, Pages held a raffle for lunch with the store owner and Cussler. At the last minute, the lady who’d won couldn’t make it and I was invited to go along. Hmm … how do I describe my personal impression of Cussler without committing slander? As they used to say in the old days: OMG. Let’s just leave it at he’s conservative in the extreme. Clive has since passed the baton(s), although he still holds one end, to his son, Dirk, and multiple other co-authors with surprising success. In particular, I like his Isaac Bell adventures, co-authored with Justin Scott.
John Scalzi has embraced social media with a dynamism not matched since 1066. I’ve followed him for several years and, despite the most endearing cat pictures ever posted, I recently chose to unsubscribe to his Twitter account, and regularly delete all blog posting alerts except his “Big Idea” series, in which he gives traditionally published authors an opportunity to promote their current books. The man’s ego is out of this world, and not in an entertaining, sci-fi way. His success at self-promotion is possibly unmatched. I just wish he’d restrict it to his writing. (If you haven’t read Redshirts or Lock In, run, do not walk, to Amazon or your favorite equivalent.) The first couple postings discussing his financial success in real $$$ were interesting and, frankly, a little refreshing. They have long since become incessant and crass. And his ongoing feuds with various internet trolls, plus the whole Hugo-award-take-over fiasco, are tiresome. He constantly emphasizes how fucking little he cares about these matters, then proceeds to write another 1,000 words describing why he doesn’t give a fuck. Excuse me … the man obviously gives a FUCK!
My advice (you asked, right?), based on personal experience: Purchase the books written by your favorite authors, but don’t hang with them virtually or otherwise. You’ll probably be dissappointed, and they won’t notice your absence.
Disclaimer: Of course, I could be wrong.