Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Mr. Know-It-All

You probably know somebody like this. If so, you have my sympathy. They’re not evil, they’re not dangerous, they’re not necessarily threats to society. They’re just, well, damned annoying. And they make such wonderful blog fodder.

My story begins last Saturday, when I made my annual appearance at a writers’ group I sort of belong to. (Annual because they’re based in Philadelphia, which is a two-hour drive for me. Except when they meet at the one member’s house in King of Prussia, which is only a little over an hour away and doesn’t include all the traffic. That’s the one I go to.) There were only a few people present when I arrived, including one long-time member whom we’ll call Darrell. That’s his real name. No way I’m protecting this putz. If you’ve been even marginally involved in science fiction/fantasy fandom over the last 20 years, you probably know who I mean. If so, you’re probably nodding already. Yeah, that Darrell.

So anyway, we’re chatting about who’s writing what and I mention my entry in the Harlequin writing contest and how it’s the first time I’ve ever been able to use the phrase, “The dingo ate your baby” in a romance novel. I get the expected smiles and polite laughs and a good time was had by all. Until Darrell, who’s hovering at the edge of the group, steps forward and remarks, “You know, that actually happened several years ago,” and proceeds to relate the story, regardless of whether or not we’ve heard it already, or care.

Yes, Darrell. I know the story. Everybody knows the story, or at least knows of it. It’s been told so many times it’s become urban legend, to be used as the punch line in jokes. Which is why I used it in my story. Since the speaker is a demon who takes the form of a dingo and who’s possessing my hero, it seemed appropriate.

Not that my choices as a writer matter a whit to Darrell. He’s achieved his true objective: he’s successfully hijacked the conversation and made himself the center of attention by setting himself up as an expert. Not just on dingoes eating babies, but on everything.

I used to go to SF conventions, and I saw a lot of Darrells in attendance. No matter what the topic is, they’ll happily hold forth on it, whether they know what they’re talking about or not. Experience doesn’t really matter. What matters is, they’re talking. The spotlight is on them. All the world can clearly see how intelligent and knowledgeable they are, so much more so than everyone else.

Somehow I don’t believe “intelligent” is the word their captive audiences ascribe to these pompous motormouths. The word I was thinking during the dingo incident started with “a” and ended in “hole.” “Tiresome” also comes to mind. So does “attention whore.”

I don’t mean to single out SF fandom as a hotbed for these morons, but it does seem to attract this personality type. They’re very literal-minded. They don’t appear to understand humor, or irony, or sarcasm, unless they themselves are using it. They’re also oblivious to the phrase, “Will you shut the hell up already?” Darrell’s been with the writers’ group since before I started attending in the 1990s. He was this way back then, and he’s this way today. Yes, he has been told about it. He’s been ridiculed by others for it. It just slides right off. A willful lack of self-awareness also seems to be a trait of these people.

And yeah, there are female versions. It’s been my misfortune to know one. In fact, she’s also a member of the same writers’ group. Her schtick is to make every conversation be about herself. At least she knows her topic. One time, stuck in conversation with her, I deliberately kept switching subject matter, just to see what would happen. On average, it would take her only three sentences to redirect the conversation back to her favorite subject. A classic example: I was telling her about Stephen King’s then-recent accident, the one where a careless driver hit him with a van. Her immediate response: “I had a van once.” I kid you not. This is narcissism at its finest.

I don’t talk to her any more. It would be different if she was an interesting person, but she isn’t. She’s a major whiner. So not interested. Same for you, Darrell. You and the drive are the reason I don’t go to more of these meetings. I want to talk to and learn from people, plural, not just you. All I’ve learned from you is to steer clear of you, and try not to say anything at all when I’m within your earshot.

I’ve also learned the best thing I can do for my career is to skip these meetings entirely and spend the time writing. It’s a helluva lot more productive.

Which brings me to one of the best possible uses of the Internet. We can get up on our soapboxes and expound for pages on end on any topic at all, including those we know nothing about. It’s called “blogging.” Look at my spotlight, with me in the center! Hey, where you going? Come back!


Savanna Kougar said...

Attention whore... that's soooo perfect... and I'm stealing it for something...

But yeah, I sympathize... that's one reason I never got involved in writer's groups after college. I checked out a few. But I'd had my fill of holier-than-thou intellectual idiots in the writing classes I took. Dang, I forgot what term I came up for them at the time... when I finally figured out their power-trip game.

Pat C. said...

Steal away. I didn't make it up, but I can't remember where I first heard it.

Explaining to them the error of their ways does no good with these people. Their goal is to be the center of attention. If this method works for them, why would they change?

The last time I went to a meeting, Darrell latched onto me for some reason and butted in and lectured in every single conversation I tried to start with somebody else. Even offhand remarks were hijacked as springboards to hold court on his own opinion. I think it was because after all these years nobody else wants to talk to him. I rarely show up, so I'm fresh meat. I also won't tell him to go stuff his head up his ass, which is what I should have done.

I only went this time because the hosting member is a costumer, and I wanted to ask her questions about sewing, fabrics and fashion for my dragon story. Fortunately he gathered up the other members and lectured them at the food table, so I was able to get my info without his opinions on that.

Savanna Kougar said...

Yeah... I learned -- fortunately long ago -- that it was a real mission impossible to deal with someone whose head is stuck that far up where the sun don't shine.

I might be able to answer questions too. I worked in several fabric stores and have done a lot of sewing... however, I'm not up on the latest and greatest.

Pat C. said...

Thanks! It's on hold at the moment (again), but if/when I ever get back to it I'll keep you in mind as a source. You guys are more interesting than the Internet anyway, and far more accurate.

Savanna Kougar said...

...what heresy, more accurate than the internet... LOL...