I want to tell a story about the woman I am married to.
Before I go on I need to establish my credentials. I used to run a science fiction podcast called Escape Pod. Through that, I have met the best. I met Robert Silverberg in person, and succeeded in convincing an 80s-something self-confessed Luddite in the value of Creative Commons well enough that he sold me a few stories. I met Frederik Pohl once as a submittant to a writing workshop. He wrote that my story made absolutely no sense to him.
I met Alan Parsons backstage at one of his concerts, in an unlikely story involving a physics major I once dated, a radio station ticket giveaway, and breasts. I told him he was a deep inspiration to my life’s work. I remember him as very tall, very polite, and very British.
Jon Scalzi gave me my Gmail address. He was on the very early beta release and had gotten one of the famous invite codes. On his blog, he decided to give several to the commenters who submited the best haiku about cheese. I submitted ten. One was the winner. My haiku was this:
Some say the world will
end in fire; some say in cheese.
But most likely, fire.
It made him laugh.
Joe Haldeman liked one of my poems. I’ve received a blessing in person from the Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche. I met Peter S. Beagle at Dragon*Con. I’ve gushed at Neil Gaiman at Balticon. I had dinner with Cory Doctorow one night in London, and was — I kid you not — chased out of a women’s restroom with him under entirely innocent and blameless conditions. The poor woman was so confused. I kept wanting to point at Cory and yell “Never mind who I am — do you know who HE is?”
On my phone I stilll have Xeni Jardin’s cell phone number from years ago, though I have no idea if it’s still current, thanks to a public radio interview about my podcast. I met Gene Wolfe. I cornered Guy Gavriel Kay and his wife in an elevator once, in a moment of youthful exuberance I now regret. I’ve met James Randi and Penn Gillette. I haven’t met Neil Degrasse Tyson but I can plausibly claim I’ve come close.
I’ve been on panels with Brandon Sanderson, Charlaine Harris, Phil Foglio, and Jerry Pournelle. Three of the four were kind, genuine people. Terry Pratchett faux-insulted my former wife at a WorldCon, so charmingly and without malice that both of us bragged about it for years.
I have met a lot of storytellers.
A couple of years ago, my wife Alison and I were freshly in love and getting to know each other. (She wasn’t my wife yet, obviously.) And she told me a true story. Her father had been a restaurant owner in Michigan, and very successful until he was betrayed by his business partner. This launched a downward spiral which shaped Alison’s childhood, and she told me about it with calm articulation, punctuating emotional highlights with a couple of perfectly remembered visual details.
I listened to her tell it all the way through. She didn’t stumble or stop to consider her words once. At the end I noticed I was crying. And I realized, and told her without a trace of irony, that I was in love with the single greatest storyteller I’d ever met.
She heard me. We’ve been That Obnoxious Couple ever since. I’m reflecting again tonight that I was right and it’s still true.
Thank you, Alison. I love you.