It was PhilCon, a convention that is, ironically, held in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. I was there for the first time, one of several author guests, and in between panels I was wandering the dealers’ room. I checked out the various tables, admiring weapons and memorabilia and other geek merchandise, but not surprisingly most of my attention went to the books. Not those sold by booksellers as much as the ones offered by authors and small presses. Those I stopped to examine more closely, looking over the covers, reading the back copy, flipping through the interiors. I’m a graphic designer and a book layout artists as well as a writer, so on the one hand I was looking at the books for their production value, but I was also curious what other people were writing around me.
One table had only a single book available, but its cover was enough to intrigue me—it was a frenetic scene, showing several figures pushing and shoving and climbing over each other in front of an island sunset, each striving for a glowing jar that floated just out of reach. Finders Keepers, the cover proclaimed. “A novel by Russ Colchamiro.”
“How’s it going?” he asked me. About my height, he looked to be about my age as well, just a little gray starting to show in his short dark hair, and seemed friendly enough.
“Not bad,” I answered, which was the truth. I was enjoying the con so far. “You?”
“Pretty good.” He waved at the book. “Want me to tell you about it?”
“Absolutely.” It’s always fun to hear authors talk about their own work—who would know it better, after all?
So tell me about it he did. Finders Keepers was a science fiction comedy, he explained, about a pair of backpackers who meet and become buddies but also become embroiled in a madcap treasure hunt for a jar containing the very building blocks of the universe. A jar several other interested parties are also seeking.
Okay, sounds like fun.
“I write SF comedy, too,” I told him. Which intrigued him, so I told him about my novel No Small Bills, starring DuckBob Spinowitz, so named because aliens had abducted him and given him the head of a duck, and how in the book he gets tasked with trying to save the universe.
We then commiserated a bit about trying to sell SF comedy, and how hard it was to get books like that to the readers who wanted them. Fans were always saying how much they liked humorous SF, but for some reason publishers and editors didn’t seem to hear them, which meant nobody was marketing such books and thus most readers thought there simply weren’t any humorous SF novels out there.
“No, New York,” I answered. “You?”
“Same.” We were both pleased at the coincidence.
“Hey, I have lunch with some other writer buddies once a week,” I told him. “You should stop by.”
“Yeah? That’d be great,” he agreed. We both knew that writing tends to be a solitary occupation, so it’s nice to find other writers to hang out with and talk with. Who else is going to understand the long hours we spend staring at the screen, trying to make the words come out right?
That was almost two years ago now. Russ has become not only a good friend but also a partner here at Crazy 8. I’ve helped him re-release Finders Keepers, and release his second novel, the parallel-universe action-adventure Crossline. He and I still talk about how hard it is to write and market SF comedy, and we’re working together to get more people aware not only of our own books but also of other humorous novels in the genre.
And somewhere I picture his characters Jason and Theo and DuckBob, bumping into each other by chance. I hope, if that happened, that they’d get along as well as Russ and I do.
I like to think they would.