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Household Name

T & A And How To Sign Them

by Mike Pohjola
Sep 25,2003

 

T & A And How To Sign Them

You know the classic stereotype of the struggling artist? Sitting in a room for months at end, typing furiously with a manic expression, with an unlit cigarette on his lips, maybe an empty bottle lying behind the computer screen, huge piles of books and paper everywhere, wearing a dirty jacket and sporting a heavy stubble, perhaps mumbling a bit to himself. He's writing brilliant works of genius, or incoherent nonsense, he's not sure. But he has to go on.

It all seems cool when you see it in films set in Paris, but when you do it for several months, it tends to get rather frustrating. That's what my spring and most of my summer were like. Pretty much just me and the keyboard. Then all of a sudden I'm Mr. Roleplaying giving autographs while national tv channels interview me for their prime-time news broadcasts. It all felt more like some weird pop culture LARP rather than real life.

TV personality

In olden times if roleplaying made it to any news at all, it was to blame us for satan worshipping or some such nonsense. Nowadays, at least in Northern Europe, they tend to focus on roleplaying as a medium. But I for one could never have guessed how big a media phenomenon roleplaying had become before Ropecon, the roleplaying convention in Helsinki, Finland.

There was some pre-event publicity, but during the actual convention there were several different national tv channels there getting material for their news. And they all wanted to interview me and talk about the book and roleplaying. The other people usually included the Ropecon PR person, and possibly some con-goers.

I never would've known it was so much like a real job standing there with a book in your hand giving interviews trying to think of something intelligent to say about roleplaying. I managed okay, I guess, although my nervousness came through at times.

They also did a big article on roleplaying in Helsingin Sanomat, the biggest newspaper in Finland. According to them, "Myrskyn aika is a sign of the Finnish roleplaying culture growing up."

I gave five or six interviews that weekend, all to major newspapers or tv channels. The roleplaying fanzines and the like were much slower to react, which is explained by them appearing much less often. Apparently Myrskyn aika helped sell Ropecon to the media, and Ropecon helped sell Myrskyn aika to the media. It's a symbiosis I'm very happy to have achieved.

We would've published to book in Ropecon had it been before Finncon, but this was probably the best combo since it allowed for the press to have heard about the book (maybe even seen it) before they came to the convention.

You want my name where?

During the convention I was surrounded by a mob of people asking for my signature. It wasn't a huge mob, and some of it was the same people just staying there making the others seem more mobby. Most people were just ordinary roleplayers who'd bought the book and wanted an autograph since I happened to be around. Others got to a screaming craze deliberately aimed at making me feel uncomfortable.

Preparing to do one of the programme items I was signed up for while giving interviews and signing people's books, and even old roleplaying zines I'd edited, was not something I had prepared myself for. But it managed to get used to that.

It was strange then, that when my Official Autograph Hour at the desk of the gaming store booth begun, nobody appeared. It was just me and the manager chatting about the convention, and watching people browse Myrskyn aika before buying all three new Dungeons & Dragons books. (One guy who bought nothing said he only buys independent American RPGs, since he doesn't want to support the big gaming houses. But he wouldn't buy Finnish RPGs since they would obviously be of inferior quality to American products.)

And stranger yet was when my Official Autograph Hour was half way over with maybe three autographs given during my sit there, when more and more people started appearing. And they didn't come so I'd sign their books. They came so I'd sign their boobs.

At first it was just a couple of lady friends, one getting my name on her chest, the other on her thigh. Then they - apparently - had ran around the whole con building showing these to everybody. This resulted in a few more friends coming, and their friends. Soon it was people I'd never met. Several breasts, several outer thighs, a couple of inner thighs, one bellybutton area. Most of these for women. One girl even had me sign her thonged ass. I also signed the back of Martin Ericsson who was one of the guests of honor.

In the end, this guy came to me wanting me to sign his leather jacket. And not the black outside, either, but the insides where it'll be clearly visible and will never wash off. People will think I designed that jacket or something. I kinda get how it'll be a funny inside joke to show people your autographed boob during the convention, but I doubt very much that a jacket with my name on it will add to anybody's street cred that much. But what do I know, maybe he can sell the jacket in ten years for millions of Euros.

Rock stardom, here I come!

The event was penetrated by constant Myrskyn aika mentions. It all started with the opening ceremonies: "Welcome to Myrskyn aika, and to Ropecon." Mr. Alku had made advertizing Myrskyn aika some weird central theme of his speech mentioning it every chance he got. Everything from a made up Myrskyn aika LARP to readings of Myrskyn aika in the evenings to the Myrskyn aika guest of dishonor, me.

I stood there in the corner of the room hoping no-one'd notice me. At the same time I hoped the speech would mean the sales would go through the roof, and thus I felt I had to stay. It was fun enough, but I was a bit embarrassed.

Following that, all the events I participated in, whether as a speaker or as an audience member, seemed to contain at least some Myrskyn aika references. There were a couple of promotional things, like the actual Myrskyn aika LARP I ran, and the speech where I talked a bit about the book. But then there were the completely unconnected things like the "Speculative Roleplaying Games" panel, and even introductions of other roleplaying games where Myrskyn aika was mentioned, if not promoted. At least visibility wasn't a problem.

All this resulted in everybody soon knowing my name. While I wouldn't call myself a celebrity, some people seemed to think I should be treated as such, anyway. Late Saturday night I was approached by a girl, of about twenty years of age: "Excuse me, are you the author?"

We talked a while about writing and roleplaying, and walked outside in the rainy summer night. Kind of wanting to go back to my friends I tried to resolve the situation by either us going our separate ways or her joining me and my friends.

"So how are we gonna do this?" she asks me.
"Do what?"
"What about phone numbers?" she suggests.
"Oh, you want my phone number?" I'm getting uncomfortable with the situation.
"I was thinking you'd want mine." I take her number. "This way, if you need company or something, you can call me. I don't live very far."

I walked back to my friends a bit baffled, but they soon explained what'd happened. She was my first groupie. I'm not sure if it's typical for writers, let alone gaming writers to get groupies, but I guess it's a milestone of a sort. That, and signing boobs.

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