Geeking out: Patrick Rothfuss / by Josh Guess

So, for those of you paying attention, you know I'm a huge Fan of Patrick Rothfuss. He's the guy that wrote what I consider to be the best fantasy novel ever written, The Name of the Wind. It's also tied with To Kill a Mockingbird as my favorite book of all time. I've bought so many copies for people as gifts that I'm pretty sure I've paid off a good chunk of his mortgage.

I like him for more than just his writing, though his talent with words and story leaves me dumbfounded. A big part of why I became a fan of the man himself is because I started to follow his blog, and got to know him through his writing there. Adding to that, I was there and donated with him during his first Worldbuilders charity drive, an annual fundraiser for Heifer International. I'd never heard of Heifer before, and he introduced me to them. They're an amazing organization that provides long term solutions for food and commerce to people in need, both at home and abroad.

An author with a singular talent, a platform on the internet to converse with his fans that he used to be open and honest with them instead of just pushing his work, and a philanthropist who shares my concern for the well being of the less fortunate. Yes, that's the kind of guy I want to look up to.

Imagine the nerdgasm I had when I found out he was going to be a mere thirty miles away on Friday, March 11? His tour for The Wise Man's Fear was coming through Lexington. I had to be there. Simply no other option.

It took some effort, and working extra in trade, but I managed to get off work to go. My lovely wife went with me, and we met up with a friend (and made some new ones.) The event itself was pretty huge--some estimates put the crowd at about 400, though I think that might have been a bit of an overestimation. At least 200, maybe 300. Whatever the number, it was a lot of people to cram into Joseph-Beth. We had four first edition hardbacks of The Wise Man's Fear to get signed, and we were there for a very, very long time.

Mr. Rothfuss himself was an excellent and funny speaker. He told us hilarious stories about how weird it is for him to be treated like a rock star. He read a column from The College Survival Guide, which he wrote for ten years while attending (and then teaching) college in Wisconsin. He told us an adorable and really funny story about his son. He was comfortable with us, treated us with real respect, and in every way seemed happy to be there.

He also introduced the crowd to Jonathan Coulton, a geeky sinder-songwriter that he loves. He did this by singing, at the crowd's request, an acapella version of Coulton's "I Crush Everything", a sadly sweet song about a self-loathing giant squid.

Yes, you read that right. And he sang it well and loud, his voice was beautiful.

Here's a live version by Mr. Coulton.

In return, Mr. Rothfuss led us all in singing the first two verses of "You Are My Sunshine", and then pointed out that if you pay attention to the words, it's really not a happy song. I admit that I never really did, nor did I know the song apart from the chorus.

The best part for me was sitting with him, talking to him for that brief minute, and getting my picture taken. He knew who I was when I introduced myself (he and I have sent a couple emails back and forth, one of which he posted on his blog back in August, with a link to Living With the Dead in it) and damn it, he even gave me a chocolate-covered fortune cookie.

The best part, in the end, was that I got to see first hand the reality of the amazing success he's had, which he completely deserves. Being there with the huge crowd of people seemed to bring him real joy, and knowing that we were so rabid in our support of him seemed to wipe away some of the fatigue the grueling schedule of his book tour was grinding into him.

It felt a lot less like a book signing, and a lot more like hanging out with a friend. Patrick Rothfuss could have made a career as a public speaker, a comedian, a lecturer, his talent with a crowd is so good. Instead, he decided to teach, and write, and hope to become published, which he did. And then became a NYT #1 bestseller. So many other options that would have fit his talents, but he chose to tell stories.

I, for one, am thankful for that.

Joshua Guess (left) and Patrick Rothfuss, March 2011