Today I get to see a group of people, as a group, for the first time in over a year. They are the Fresno Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers, and they are having their 100th meeting. I could tell you so much about all of them but I want this post to come in under 75,000 words, so I will describe my first meeting with all its impressions, a meeting about two years ago.
My first day there is one I will never forget. We were all crowded around a few tables pushed together at Denny’s – almost like dinner and a movie, well, story. Either the air conditioner had stopped working, the collective bodies had overpowered the cooling effect of the AC, or I was nervous. We spent the meeting critiquing previously submitted works. I was the only one not prepared to critique both pieces.
There were six people who made an impression that first meeting:
Elle was the first. She was thin, but not the fragile thin – no, there was nothing fragile about her. She had an in-your-face personality – very friendly and outspoken to the point of being a little scary. And you could tell that she had a passion for what she wrote; that passion oozed out of her.
Toff was the second. He was the person I had said “Hi” to first, but I didn’t get to actually talk to him until Elle gave me a chance. Toff was the only person I had talked to (email) prior to the meeting, and he wasn’t what I expected. I don’t think anyone could expect him, even if warned. He was a great guy, he loved writing (both his own writing and other people’s writing), and the intellectual level of his conversations did not seem to be matched by the outward physical persona he presents (I wish I could have said that in a way that doesn’t seem insulting, because it isn’t meant that way – you will know what I mean if you are lucky enough to meet him).
Earl was the next one I met. I’m not sure why I had a nightmare later that week where he was yelling at me, “Your writing is so immature!” He was kind – not just naturally kind (which he is), but he also takes time to think about what he says before he opens his mouth. I wish I knew more people like him.
Roh and Mellie were the next two. I didn’t really meet them before the meeting, but observed them throughout the meeting.
Mellie was centered in the table and the conversation. It wasn’t that she had to dominate, but she didn’t want to miss out on anything. The group was important to her, the remarks were valuable. She soaked up what she could and responded whenever she had something to contribute.
Roh was odd. She had just traveled several hundred miles in three of the four previous nights, staying up until the not-so-early hours of the morning, to go see various Nine Inch Nails concerts. Someone had said something about vampires, and they were apparently talking about her writing and not her (which is how I took it at first). She didn’t open her mouth unless directly spoken to, and even then, she seemed unsure. I couldn’t tell if she wrote and I wondered why she was there.
The last person to make an impression was Ian. He came in late, announced his presence with a huge “Raaah,” and left 15 minutes later. I asked Elle about him and she simply said, “That’s Ean,” as if that explained everything.
I knew there were others there; almost all of them had introduced themselves (in a blur). I had to leave the group early, so I didn’t get to talk to anyone after the meeting. I didn’t get a chance to know the people at the other end of the tables. Those first impressions were almost right, the exception was Roh. Roh has a beautiful way of writing; she is the blending of a poet and novelist. She belongs to the group.
I can tell you more about that first meeting now in reflection than I could when I got home. My wife asked me, “How were they?” to which I replied, “I have never seen so many nerdy and geeky people in one place. I loved it.” When my wife asked if I was going to go back, I explained that I had to – I had to pay back Toff for picking up my tab after I forgot to pay <blush in embarrassment>.
I miss them so much, and it is hard to stay in my seat now knowing that I will see them and all the other friends I made in the group within a few hours.