Show Your Work: The Pinocchio Test

While Politifact rates acts of fiction by public officials on a scale of True to Pants on Fire, WashPo uses the Pinocchios: how many wooden noses does it rank?

U.S. Sen. Katie Britt’s rebuttal to the State of the Union ranked four Pinocchios for bizarrely conflating a sex trafficking horror story with the policies of President Biden. WashPo dug in and found that the woman whose story she told – and who was brave enough to testify about the horrors she endured before Congress – was trafficked in Mexico, not over the border; had nothing to do with immigration but of a woman being tricked into sex slavery by a man she loved; and it took place in 2004-2008, which was during President George W. Bush’s tenure. It also had nothing to do with cartels, despite Britt’s later protestations that basically amounted to, “Facts? What facts?” Politifact also rated the claim false, with a great deal of detail.

Also, the lady involved is a tad peeved about it.

Biden’s speech took a few hits from the fact-checkers. One I find a tad nitpicky: WashPo points out that Biden was comparing the massive job creation in his first three years to the full four years of his predecessors; “he has no idea what will happen in his fourth year!” Okay, but I think we all get that he’s not psychic. However, his inflation numbers are a tad… inflated? (sorry.) And there are a few other Pinocchios in the numbers on the wealthy and taxes because corporate/millionaire taxes are complex. The poor poor dears. Here’s the roundup from WashPo.

Elsewhere this week, ProPublica dove into railroad safety and how the Federal Railroad Administration…. er, doesn’t. More than 130 deaths of workers never even reported, with no consequences.

Reuters found the darker side of OnlyFans: more than 120 cases of people being featured in explicit videos without consent, including a woman who was raped and the video sold on the site. Cases of stalkers and revenge porn are on the rise on the site. What makes this different than YouTube or other places where human monsters post this kind of material? OnlyFans’ paywall makes it nearly impossible for law enforcement to do anything.

Government: A.I. could pose an extinction-level threat to people who aren’t writers. Writers are already there.

The Detroit Free Press found that the people of Flint, Mich. may have clean water now, but still haven’t received a dime of the $600m+ they were awarded in the lawsuits.

Editor and Publisher dug into the upcoming merger between Mother Jones and the Center for Investigative Reporting/Reveal.

Poynter examines how political campaigns are pivoting away from the press to take their messages directly through social media, and how that dovetails with the rising anti-media hate on the right.

The two McClatchy papers in the Seattle area are moving to printing only three days a week. I wish people would stop seeing these moves as death knells. In an era where more than 80 percent of readers get their news from a device, continuing print editions is clinging to nostalgia. The best explanation I ever heard for it came from a newspaper editor and colleague, who was asked the question by my students a few semesters ago. He told them that we all know the print edition is going the way of movable type, not that any of them knew what that is. But there is a generation that still prefers paper newspapers, and it would unethical to leave them without news at all. But not to put too fine a point on it, that generation won’t be around forever. One interesting legal point: can you be the paper of record if your publication is online only? Some lawyers and scholars say no, but what will they do for legal ads when everyone is online?

Sadly, the Online News Association is making major programming cuts, including its Student Newsroom and Innovation Lab. They point out that there are fewer journalists in the U.S. and fewer still with time and money for professional organizations. As one who has been deeply involved with the venerable Society of Professional Journalists throughout her career, I know this one well. Of ONA’s 51 chapters, 35 are inactive and only four have held an in-person event in the last year.

Meta is decommissioning CrowdTangle and replacing it with a similar tool that will only be available to academic and nonprofit researchers. Journalists not allowed. CrowdTangle has been widely used to follow viral spread of content, including misinformation and conspiracy theories, as well as figuring out what people are clicking so we can give them more of it.

Speaking of misinformation…. to the surprise of *checks notes* absolutely no one, OpenAI is completely ramping up election-year fakery with AI-generated robocalls, deepfake videos and images that are already making inroads overseas and in the U.S.

And now, This Week in Total Bullshit:

• U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene did NOT retweet and support allegations that satellites are intercepting prayer to Jesus. That was a spoof account.

• Michael Moore did not endorse Trump. (Seriously?)

• No, non-citizens still can’t vote, and you can’t bring in busfuls of undocumented immigrants to make them vote for you, which former President Trump has declared often over the past four years. How anyone can believe this staggers me. It’s worth noting that in other countries, non-citizens can vote if they own property, because taxation without representation is kind of a bad thing. We fought a teeny little revolution over it. But not here. Also, there are no ballot drop boxes along the U.S. border.

• The Texas wildfires were not started by a mysterious green laser. Insert your own alien attack meme here.

• No, the CDC did NOT declare that “COVID is just the flu” and I am so, so tired. Also, when your ranting uncle declares at Easter that the CDC found 99 percent of COVID deaths were due to other causes, that’s also total bullshit.

Show Your Work: Malarkey!

First up: WBEZ has found that the suburb of Ford Heights has collected more than $100,000 in taxpayer money for a library that hasn’t existed for 30 years.

The station requested records that showed the public library district has received more than $121,000 from property taxes as distributed by Cook County. That’s a surprise to the all-volunteer Ford Heights Library Board, which operates out of a temporary space in a community center since its building failed to meet codes and has never received the collected funds. And because the library district exists, the residents of the majority-Black high-poverty suburb can’t get full-access cards at other libraries.

The story has been picked up by the Chicago Sun-Times. Shockingly enough, officials have not returned calls requesting disclosure of where the money has gone.

Meanwhile, a New York Times analysis of the Alaska Airlines incident where a door flew off the plane found that the door plug relied on two pairs of bolts and metal pins to stay in place, and it’s likely a manufacturing lapse in the bolts caused the door to fly off. A door plug, by the way, is basically a replacement for the emergency door that was removed because the plane didn’t have enough seats. By the way, they’ve found loose bolts on many other Boeing Max 9 planes. Happy flying!

Also, Reuters found that North Korea is developing artificial intelligence for pandemic response and … wait for it… wargaming simulations. Okay, it wasn’t much of an investigation – they found the study – but still. Shall we play a game?

And This Week in Total Bullshit:

• President Biden did not record a robocall telling New Hampshire Democrats to “save their votes for November.” Dubbed “malarkey” by Politifact, a faked recording filled voicemails telling them to skip the primary, and gave a number for them to be removed from the call list that goes to the cell phone of the former chair of the New Hampshire Democratic Party. The state attorney general is now investigating the case, as it is a felony to use fraudulent information to deter someone from voting. Side note: Politifact has dug up the various ways that AI can be used by overseas operators to disrupt the political process. Of course, we do a great job of that on our own without AI “help.”

• A pro-Trump ad aimed at GOP presidential candidate Nikki Haley misrepresented her comments on immigration, amnesty and “criminals.”

• And what was not total bullshit? No-longer-candidate Ron DeSantis said as president, Trump deported fewer undocumented immigrants than former President Barack Obama, and he was right.

However, in his farewell speech posted on the Artist Formerly Known as Twitter, DeSantis quoted Winston Churchill as saying, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal; it is the courage to continue that counts.” Very nice words, except Churchill never said that, according to the International Churchill Society, the Churchill Project at Hillsdale College and a Churchill historian, as researched by Politifact.

Light week! See something you think I should include? Feel free to send it to us.

This week in jailing journalists…

“First, they came for the journalists. We don’t know what happened after that.”

It’s a meme, a play on the famous poem by Martin Niemoller, but it’s not wrong. It hasn’t taken long for arresting journalists to become something about which we shrug and scroll on down the feed to something more interesting. After all, there’s still plenty of shouting to be done about playing Christmas carols before Thanksgiving.

At least there was plenty of attention a month or two ago when police flagrantly ignored a boatload of laws and raided the Marion County Record in Kansas, including the home of the publisher’s mother, an elderly woman so distraught by the raid that she died the next day. Law enforcement is supposed to subpoena records from journalists, not raid their offices, but neither police nor the judge seemed to have noticed that part of the law.

It’s news because it’s unusual, right?

Not so much. The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker found more than 90 incidents of police raiding offices and homes of newspapers and journalists for work generated in the performance of journalism. They seize phones and computers, and even if the newspaper eventually wins in court, they’ve lost a huge amount of time and productivity, not to mention money. Small organizations can’t fight it, though groups like the Society of Professional Journalists help with the Legal Defense Fund.

A Black reporter interviewing people on a public sidewalk is arrested and accused of harassing people. A bystander recorded the arrest: the reporter clearly identified himself as journalist, but he was arrested anyway and police threatened the guy doing the recording. I heard about it at the Society of Professional Journalists’ media law briefing last month; it hasn’t exactly gone viral on social media.

This week, the publisher and a reporter of the Atmore News in southwestern Alabama were arrested after publishing an investigative piece on the local school board’s payments to seven former employees. They were arrested and charged with… felony journalism? Seriously, with revealing grand-jury proceedings. This is a felony – if you’re a juror or a witness. However, it’s been black-letter Constitutional law for decades that the press can publish grand jury material as long as they weren’t the ones breaking the law. Apparently such fine points as Constitutional rulings no longer matter in Alabama.

Meanwhile, Calumet City, Ill. has issued municipal citations to a reporter from the Daily Southtown for… wait for it… asking questions of public employees. Reporter Hank Sanders had written an article revealing that consultants had told the city stormwater facilities were in bad shape before a major rain caused flooding. The “violation” notice says that he keeps calling city departments and employees via phone and email. You know… JOURNALISM.

EDIT: As of Nov. 6, Calumet City has declared they will dismiss the charges. After hearing from the paper’s lawyers, and since they’re part of Tribune Media, that was the Chicago Tribune’s lawyers, and no word yet on whether they will be compensated for the legal costs involved in getting the city to drop flagrantly illegal charges. I might also note the mayor, who was apparently a driving force behind this charge, is also an Illinois state representative.

A freelance photojournalist was detained and cited while covering a rally for crossing a roadway outside of a marked crosswalk. A freelance journalist shoved and arrested while filming police in Yuma, Arizona, charged with “resisting arrest” after asking an officer for his badge number (on video). A reporter covering the Ohio governor’s news conference is charged with criminal trespass and resisting arrest – they claimed he was “disruptive” until body cam footage was released, then charges were dropped.

Eight arrests or criminal charges this year. More than 30 assaults. Nine incidents of prior restraint – the once-rare act of government ordering that information not be published, including the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, which was ordered not to use a mental health report in a murder trial even though it was made available to the public (by mistake, it turns out). Once upon a time, prior restraint was only used when lives or national security was at stake.

All of this has happened this year, in the United States. It used to be we would hear tales of jailed or threatened journalists, of attacks on journalists in person and in court, and it was tales from faraway lands without our much-vaunted protections of the free press.

Now it’s happening right here. I thought you should know about it, while we can still write about it.

January 2023 Linkspam

Hey, look what didn’t post! The webmaster here at Donald Media will be sacked. Wait, that’s me. – Mgmt.

Alas, the holiday break here at Donald-Smith-Gillentine Inc. was shut down on account of the Voldevirus. My husband came down with it right after Christmas, and somehow I managed not to get it or the flu, but instead something between bronchitis and pneumonia. I’d like to thank the fickle fates for choosing to hit us with this on the only ten-day stretch of the entire year when we are both off work, more or less. 

It’s been a pretty quiet December, wrapping up the semester and spending the holidays with my family. Before the onslaught of the Dreaded Plague, I spent a lot of time baking things, because that is one of my favorite hobbies. In case you hadn’t noticed, I’m fascinated by culinaria, both the making and the eating, and thus it’s been a delight working with Feast Magazine this year and getting to explore haute cuisine. While I am mostly doing features with Feast, I am planning to begin restaurant reviews independently on Donald Media in the new year, as well as reviving the book reviews I kind of let slide this year. 

Oh, and one other thing. I sort of graduated.

As you’ll recall, I finished the Thesis of Doom last summer, which was my examination of the representation of journalists in film and the final requirement for the masters degree in media studies. There was no summer commencement, so officially I graduated in December, walking across the stage wearing too much “academic bling” and figuring out how to accept my diploma and shake the chancellor’s hand while using a cane. Jim and Ian were there to cheer me on, and it really was a lovely evening, even with the silliest hat in history frantically pinned to my head because my hair rejects all hats. (Seriously, there was an emergency Walgreens stop on the way to the ceremony. It was a sitcom moment to be sure.)

So that’s done, and yet I’m still here, because I have one degree to go. Much of the winter break that wasn’t spent baking or coughing was spent working on the thesis and my “Writer in the World” project, which are the final requirements for the MFA and you’ll hear more about that next month. 

Until then, happy new year, and may you have a safe, happy (and healthy) holiday as we all begin another jaunt around the sun.


I usually try to take much of December and January off for sanity, so all we had this month was the Collinsville Holiday Market on Dec. 2. January will be quiet, with public appearances starting up again in February. 

Next in 2023:
• Writers of the Riverbend, Alton, Ill. Feb. 4
• Wednesday Club, St. Louis. Feb. 8
• Conflation, St. Louis, Mo. Feb. 23-25
• AWP Conference, Seattle, Wash. March 8-11 (attending)
• ConCarolinas, Charlotte, N.C. June 2-4 
• TechWrite STL, St. Louis. Date TBA. 
• Imaginarium, Louisville, Ky. July 14-16 (tent.)
• SPJ Conference, Las Vegas. Sept. 28-Oct. 1
• Archon, Collinsville, Ill. Sept. 21-Oct. 1
• Contra, Kansas City, Date TBA. 


• Cleveland Heath returns to the classics (Feast Magazine)
• Highland City Hall closed for water damage (Highland News-Leader)
• One year after tornado, Amazon is rebuilding with no fines (Labor Tribune) 
• Madison County to build bike trail near Highland (Highland News-Leader)
• Ameren proposes new transmission line (Highland News-Leader)
• Highland moves forward with road projects (Highland News-Leader)
• Governor signs proclamation declaring WRA passage (Labor Tribune)
• Illinois Democrats now hold widest majority in state history (Labor Tribune)
• New medical clinic opens in Highland (Highland News-Leader)
• 10 gifts for the adventurous foodie (Feast Magazine)
• Developer to turn former printing facility into meat-packing plant (Highland News-Leader)

Note: Not all articles are available online, and some may be behind paywalls. 


Right now I’m deeply mired in finishing a portfolio of slipstream fiction for the MFA land, and on revisions for my fiction thesis that will be going before the committee in the next few months. I also kicked off the new year by sending out every short story currently available for submission. Brace for the rejection slips! 


• The books of 2022 (Patreon)
• 171 pages (Patreon)
• Poem: Seasons (Patreon)
• The original guilty pleasure (Patreon)
• One more in the books (Patreon)

October Linkspam

Here’s hoping your Octoberfest doesn’t … bite?


It’s officially Halloween season, which is my favorite time of year – it would be, wouldn’t it? I’m trying to take it a little lighter this year since I’ve got so many appearances slated for later in the fall, which is how I have actual Saturdays open in October. Sort of. 

For many years I’ve wanted to do 30 days of horror movies and write them up for the blog, but I haven’t done it yet, and that year is not this year. Perhaps in the future when I’m all graduated and stuff. Remind of this next September and I’ll clear my schedule. Still, ’tis the season for spooky, and for one like me who was born with the love of the unquiet grave, it’s the happiest season of all. 

Look for signings and festivals all this fall, as I continue to chronicle my MFA adventures on Patreon and write like a mad weasel for the six or seven major projects I have going on in addition to my freelance work. While you’re at it, pick up one of the spooooky tomes we have at the Literary Underworld, even if they’re not mine. Ghoulies and ghosties and long-leggedy beasties and things that go chomp in the night, all of them crawl across our pages, and there’s no better time for a good scare.

Just be sure to check under the bed before you go to sleep tonight, children. 


We kicked off September with a shoot at the Japanese Festival, which is in line behind the 20 or so other shoots I haven’t processed yet. *whistles* 

Next came the Edwardsville Book Festival, which is an all-day event in City Park and always a pile of fun – and sales were terrific. We next held the St. Louis SPJ Student Journalist Boot Camp, and I had actual students voluntarily listening to me step up on my soapbox about the application of the SPJ Code of Ethics. 

Finally, we survived one of the highlights of the year: Archon! There will be blog posts shortly about the shenanigans – and there were shenanigans – but suffice to say we had high traffic at the booth and in the Literary Underworld Traveling Bar. No sleep, but plenty of fun!

We’ve got a few additions to the calendar below, so please check it out. And for you Patrons: Anyone who subscribes to my Patreon gets a discount at the Literary Underworld booth. Just give your name (or the name you used when you registered on Patreon) to the Minion working the booth. 

Coming up:
• Leclaire Parkfest, Edwardsville, Ill. Oct. 16 (charity book sale)
• Smithton (Ill.) Public Library, Oct. 22
• SPJ National Conference, Washington, D.C. Oct. 26-30 
• ContraCon, Kansas City. Nov. 11-13 
• Books-a-Million with Cuppa Words, Edwardsville, Ill. Nov. 19
• Collinsville (Ill.) Library Holiday Market, Dec. 3


• Pritzker makes major push for Workers Rights Amendment (St. Louis Labor Tribune)
• Union leaders push back against candidate’s call to reduce minimum wage (St. Louis Labor Tribune)
• Highland votes to give next council pay raise (Highland News-Leader)
• ‘Historically rare’: Paramedics deliver babies twice in two months (Highland News-Leader)
• Labor honors leaders at 54th annual ceremony (St. Louis Labor Tribune)
• $7.6 million in economic development for metro-east Illinois (St. Louis Labor Tribune)
• Highland plans property annex (Highland News-Leader)
• Tyson Foods plans expansion (St. Louis Labor Tribune
• University to install machines in restrooms after anti-trans vandalism (The Alestle)
• Union members turn out for Labor Day celebration (St. Louis Labor Tribune)
• Want to know what’s happening in Highland? There’s an app for that (Highland News-Leader)

Note: Not all articles are available online, and some may be behind paywalls. 


• “Shiny People” (Patreon)


• Last MFA standing (Patreon)
• 2022 SPJ Boot Camp! (STLSPJ)

This one is not mine, but it’s important. Please read how Rachel Brune and Crone Girls Press developed the anthology A Woman Unbecoming at the speed of light, with writers and artists donating their services for an anthology to raise money for reproductive healthcare rights. 

September 2022 Linkspam

Whew! This newsletter is late because it’s been a typical crazy-hectic launch of a semester, and then some extra fun tossed in. Last. Year. Of. Grad. School.

For the record, I am now teaching at two universities. This semester I have two sections of English composition at one college and one section of newswriting at the other, and wouldn’t you know, they are all on Tuesday/Thursday schedules. So my general mode on those days is one of running a marathon: Commute across the river, teach my class, hustle back across the river within an hour and pray for no breakdowns on the bridges, teach another class, teach a third class, and then attend a class as a student, all without breaks for about 10 hours straight, 13-14 hours if I have a night meeting. 

People who work food service or retail are reading this and saying, “Yeah. And?” I see you, and I remember, and I salute you. I am not in the shape for this. 

This semester’s student courses are a literature course on slipstream fiction, as I’m still trying to figure out what slipstream actually is; and a workshop/seminar on “Writer in the World,” which is a writing-related service project I will develop this semester and implement in the spring. It’s a required sequence for the MFA program, but since my MFA is shutting down, the class is very small: me and one other student, as we have battled through three years of MFA courses together and are now the sole survivors. 

In other news, I’m now regularly writing for the St. Louis Labor Tribune, McClatchy and Feast Magazine, along with the assorted side freelancing work. I’m back at the Alestle as copy editor, occasional writer and baker of cookies. The Literary Underworld continues strong with two more conventions this fall. I’m president of Sigma Tau Delta and the St. Louis Society of Professional Journalists, I’m captain of a Relay for Life team and will be taking over the quarterly book sale for my church next year, and I think I forgot a job in there somewhere. And let’s not forget the book tour, the Patreon and the ongoing fiction writing!

In short, it’s a rollercoaster fall, and each year I swear I’m not going to do this to myself anymore, but then I do it anyway. Whee!


August was intentionally light for public appearances, as I expected it would be tied up with driving a stake through the heart of the Bloody Thesis.

As mentioned previously, that was done, I received notification that my degree was approved, and I am awaiting the diploma by mail.  September includes the Edwardsville Book Festival, which is an all-day event in City Park and always a pile of fun. I’ll be speaking at (and running) the SPJ Student Journalist Boot Camp, which returns after its COVID hiatus with the help of a grant from the Sigma Delta Chi Foundation.

And at the very end of the month, we have one of the highlights of the year: Archon! The Literary Underworld will be at our usual booth (seriously, we have staked our claim on that property, planted the flag and we shall call it This Land). We will also bring the Traveling Bar to our room in the Doubletree, so if you’re attending Archon, be sure to stop by and say hello!

And for you Patrons: Anyone who subscribes to my Patreon gets a discount at the Literary Underworld booth. Just give your name (or the name you used when you registered on Patreon) to the Minion working the booth. 

Coming up:

• Edwardsville (Ill.) Book Festival, Sept. 17

• St. Louis SPJ Journalist Boot Camp, SIUE. Sept. 24

• Archon, Collinsville, Ill. Sept. 30-Oct. 2

• Leclaire Parkfest, Edwardsville, Ill. Oct. 16 (charity book sale)

• SPJ National Conference, Washington, D.C. Oct. 26-30 

• ContraCon, Kansas City. Nov. 11-13 

• Books-a-Million with Cuppa Words, Edwardsville, Ill. Nov. 19


• University to install machines in men’s rooms after anti-trans vandalism (The Alestle)

• Tyson Foods plan expansion to add hundreds of jobs to region (Labor Tribune)

• With shortages at issue, Highland bumps pay for substitute teachers (Highland News Leader)

• Teenager Aria Burnside is just beginning her dessert empire (Feast Magazine)

• Highland’s shift to Republic service ‘has not gone smoothly’ (Highland News-Leader)

• ‘Farmer Joe’ is on a mission to teach young people about food gardens (Feast Magazine)

• Controversial consolidation of 911 services launches in Highland (Highland News-Leader)

• $7.6 million in grants heading to metro-east (Labor Tribune)

• Six students among the recipients of the SOAR awards (Labor Tribune)

• IDOC backs down on prison layoffs after union pushes back (Labor Tribune)

• Highland adds ADA-friendly playground to park (Highland News-Leader)

• Rally spurs support for Workers Rights Amendment (Labor Tribune)

• Highland advances multi-million school construction project (Highland News-Leader)

• Chip Markel in ‘uphill battle’ to unseat Rep. Bost (Labor Tribune)

Note: Not all articles are available online, and some may be behind paywalls.


Most of my fiction efforts these days are focused on the upcoming thesis (again), which for an MFA consists of a collection of short stories illustrating our craft and range as well as how we have grown and developed our skills over the past three years. No pressure.


• Writer in the world (Patreon)

• Fiction: Springheel Jack (Patreon)

• Farewell, Sword of Damocles (Patreon)

• Fall into terror! It’s… August (Patreon and DonaldMedia)

• The Joker cans Batgirl (Patreon and Medium)

One week only!

Over the last year and a half, I’ve been privileged to be part of the SIUE Photography Club. We haven’t been able to meet in person all that often thanks to the Voldevirus, but we’ve made good use of Zoom and even had a couple in-person workshops that unfortunately I was unable to attend.

Now we’re part of an online art show, and I am proud to have five images included. A portion of the proceeds will go to benefit the photography club, which (in normal years) provides workshops and seminars, guest speakers and sometimes group outings for photo shoots.

There’s quite an eclectic collection, from cyanotypes to digital art to traditional photography. While I’d be thrilled if you buy me, of course, there’s some wonderful work by my colleagues I think you’ll enjoy.

The sale is only running for one week, so click here to shop before Sunday, May 9.

And, of course, if you want to check out the rest of my photographer, please visit my online portfolio. Most images are available for purchase through my personal shop (which also carries my books), and a limited selection is available on etsy.

Happy Halloween!

It’s time again for “How to Survive a Horror Movie,” the annual tradition that began years before Scream came up with its own list of Rules. As detailed in the essay linked below, it began with my father the Film Professor, who wrote an actual academic article using Darwinian theory to apply to characters in horror movies, titled “Don’t Do That, You Twit!”

With my annual hat-tip to Dad, and to the many authors, fans, readers and others who have contributed to the Rules over the years, I give you the 2020 edition.

The celebrity in the room

Grant Imahara is dead, and that’s a damn shame.

I’ve been a published author for 15 years and spent a lot of time in rooms with people much more famous than me. I’ve had the privilege of being scheduled for signings at Dragoncon and Archon and Midsouthcon and and and and … In the long tradition of SFFH conventions, they usually put someone like me next to a Super Famous Person, balancing out the crowds.

For example, one of my earliest signings was me and Anne McCaffrey. There were two people in line for me, and the line for Ms. McCaffrey stretched to Spain. This worked out nicely for me, since the layout of the room required them to walk past me when they left. Here, have a cover card!

Some of the Famous People I’ve signed with were cool or even dismissive, and no, I’m not naming names. Suffice to say one of them was outright rude and mocked the layout design on my book in front of the room, and another nearly ran me over with her scooter. Twice.

Others were sincerely friendly, and I prefer to remember them. I spent a Sunday morning chatting with Rod Roddenberry in an empty signing room, because seriously NOBODY shows up for a Sunday morning signing at Dragoncon. I told Rod about my father’s fondness for Star Trek back when he was a young airman during the original series, and how he shared it with me and now I was sharing it with my son, because Trek is a family tradition now. He was collecting stories like that for his eventual documentary on the impact of his father’s work. At my last Midsouthcon, I spent most of the signing hour getting terrific advice from editor extraordinaire Ellen Datlow (in between customers), and I’ve written before about my wonderful dinnertime chat with Terry Pratchett and his vest full of stars.

What does this have to do with Grant Imahara? Well, he and I did a signing together at Dragoncon in 2012, and because I was living under a rock, I actually had to look him up to see why there was a line to Spain for him, too. Everybody was at his table! Who was he, again?

Look, I’m a writer. I barely get my nose out of the computer, I didn’t watch Mythbusters. Except the Jaws episode, I watched that one. Giant rock, underneath, me. It was later when my friends were aghast: “You signed with Grant Imahara? He’s the cool one from Mythbusters!

Grant was friendly and kind. His line was extensive and the other two lines were practically nonexistent, so he kept directing people to go visit us after they had gotten his autograph. The tables were set up differently by then – we didn’t share a table, just a room – but before he left he made sure to come over and greet us lowly folk and look at our work.

That was rare for a superstar, folks. There’s a hierarchy, and definitely actors and TV personalities ranked much, much higher than scribbling writers. For any other actor, I think I would have had to stand in line at their own table to exchange a few words. Authors are better attuned to the scrabbling and desperation of gaining eyes on your work at a con, but even then, the Big-Time Names tend to forget us by the time they’re the lead name in a signing. For them to acknowledge our existence was cool; to actively encourage people to drop by our tables and consider our work was damn stellar. I know I picked up at least a few sales from Grant’s fans, and I am always grateful for that kind of support.

Others knew Grant Imahara much better than I did, but by all reports his friendly, gracious nature was reflected by everyone who knew him. I know that his genuine good nature made a far greater impression on me in that one-hour signing than any number of TV shows might have had. In an era where so many people we thought were great folk have turned out to be secret monsters, it is heartbreaking to lose one of the good guys – and so very young.

Rest in peace, good sir.