On my way back from New York. It was my first visit in five years, and the first one where I felt like I was in control of where I was and what I was doing. It was great to see some old friends and to just take in the city. I definitely see what all the hype is about.
I ended the visit by going to the Science Fiction (and Fantasy) Writers of America’s annual reception. I’d been told it was a good event for meeting people in the business. I don’t particularly need to meet people at this point, since I’m not looking for an agent or pitching a book. However, the best time to meet people is when you don’t meet them! I think some of the most successful people in the science fiction world are the ones who spent years meeting people as fans and just generally being pleasant and interesting, so that when they finally had something to pitch, all they had to do was reach out to their friends.
Wasn’t sure what to expect, but I had fun and didn’t have too much trouble talking to people. It helped that I had my friend Becca along with me to make me look like a person who is capable of having friends and maintaining normal relationships with human beings.
When I talk to new people, I really only have two moves. If they’re by themselves, I make eye contact and say, “Hi, I’m Rahul.” And if they’re in a group, then I step up to its edge, make eye contact with someone and say something like, “Can I break in?” and then introduce myself.
No one will ever say that you cannot break in. However, sometimes they tell you with their eyes! But that’s no problem, and it doesn’t really offend me. There are plenty of times when people have tried to talk to me and I have not wanted to talk to them. In those cases, I break contact after a few moments and float onwards. Perhaps there is some way to figure out in advance whether people are receptive to someone breaking in or not, but I have not yet found it. My techniques might not be the best, but what can you do other than attempt to learn by doing? If I waited until I’d figured out a non-awkward way of talking to strangers, then I would die alone and friendless.
As for the actual talking, I used to have a whole suite of early-conversation questions, but I am starting to question whether that’s really the thing to do. Most of them had to do with occupation, and there are some weird status connotations involved in asking someone where they work. Also, people oftentimes don’t want to talk about their work. I also have regular small-talk questions about the location: where people live, where they’re from, how they like it here, etc. And those work too, but they’re not exciting. Also, in general, there is a point at which I just don’t want to have another conversation about whether or not it’s dangerous in any particular neighborhood of Baltimore.
At the beginning of the semester, I had a blinding epiphany that I could just talk about whatever stuff I’ve been thinking about. So now I just do that. For instance, recently I’ve been thinking about the movie Pretty Woman. It’s one of my favorite movies. But it’s also insane, and I can’t believe that it exists.
Richard Gere is a businessman who’s tired of all the women who like him because he’s handsome and charming, so he decides to go out and hire a streetwalker and pay her to do exactly what he wants. There’s obviously some very twisted psychology at work here, but the movie just doesn’t care. Like, in the end of the movie they begin a real romantic relationship, but what is that relationship gonna be like? Like, this movie began with Gere literally buying her. What is going to happen when they have their first fight? It’s gonna be like, “This isn’t what I paid for! Go back to being simultaneously sexy and mothering!”
I feel like this is the kind of movie that could only be made in 1990. If Pretty Woman came out today, it would be much darker.