Saturday, January 19, 2002

Today’s pet peeve: Autograph collectors.I got e-mail today from someone who says he’s my biggest fan, he loves my work, and by the way, “If you don’t mind I would love to have an auotgraphed photo or comic to hang on my wall.” (That’s his spelling, not mine.)

Notice that he hasn’t said anything specific about any of my work, or named any titles.

That’s because he doesn’t actually know who the heck I am.

What’s happened here is that he’s taken a list of names and e-mail addresses from a website listing comic book professionals and spammed us all, hoping to get some cool free stuff in the mail. He hasn’t written to each of us individually, and has no idea who most of us are, and doesn’t care; he just wants autographs for his collection, or to trade.

This happens fairly often.

Oh, it’s not always comic book professionals; sometimes someone’s found a list of writers somewhere. I’m on several of those, too.

It’s fairly easy to spot these letters and distinguish them from real fan mail, because they’re always written in vague generalities, where real fans will name titles or characters — instead of “I love your work!” a real fan will say, “I loved Valder in The Misenchanted Sword!”

Some of them are especially obvious — “I love your artwork!” Hello, guy — I’m a writer, not an artist. Not every comic book professional can draw.

New writers get taken in by these sometimes; I’m on a couple of mailing lists for writers, and every so often someone will ask, “Hey, I got a request from a Joe-Bob Smith who wants an autograph — any of the rest of you get that one?” And it’s not unusual for someone to admit that they’d gotten it and sent an autograph.

What I wonder about is why these people want all these autographs, since they don’t know who we are. The mindset that finds value in collecting autographs from strangers one has lied to eludes me.

And it seems a sort of petty cruelty. Here are these eager young writers who have just accomplished something they see as supremely difficult and satisfying in getting their work published, and they think they’ve done it so well that they actually have fans — and then the realization sinks in that it’s just some damnable collector trying to scrounge freebies, someone who hasn’t even read the writer’s story…

I hate autograph collectors who do this stuff.

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