by JULIA BUCKLEY
I have now been to a total of two mystery writing conventions—Bouchercon and Love is Murder, and both have been valuable experiences. At B-con I met fellow blogger Sandra Parshall, who sat with me and a few other female writers in the bar; we talked about mysteries and other sundry topics. It was lovely to meet Sandra; I had just read her book, and had chatted with her via e-mail several times, and meeting in person was a very satisfying experience.
The same was true of my meeting with Lonnie Cruse; I spotted Lonnie at the bookstore at LIM. She was wearing bright pink, and like Sandra, was just as pretty as her picture. I went bounding up to her like an eager puppy, I fear, and I probably frightened her. Still, it was wonderful to see her picture become real.
This concept of meeting people online first and in person afterward is an unprecedented experience for me. The closest I’ve ever come, I suppose, was when I had a Swedish pen pal, back in the seventh grade. Her name was Gunilla Kristiannsson, and we exchanged letters for years. Gunilla thought she might visit Chicago some day, but alas, it never happened. The wait for each letter was a matter of several weeks, and of course we wrote them by hand, on stationary. It was delicious suspense to wait for each new piece of correspondence.
Now I can talk to anyone in the world with a few brief taps on my keyboard. If I have to wait more than a day for an e-mail I grow impatient. And when I start to become “friends” with someone via e-mail—that is, we seem to have similar interests and find a lot of things to write to each other about—I start to hope that someday I’ll encounter that person in the flesh. Thanks to mystery conferences, this has happened more than once, and it’s an odd phenomenon: it becomes like a reunion. A reunion with someone I’ve never met.
Now that people have cameras attached to their computers, I’m sure it will be only a matter of time before we don’t even crave that physical meeting—after all, we will see them right there, on our screen, and they’ll be looking at us, talking to us, just as they would in person. The Brave New World of computer linkage will make the world even smaller for the average person than it is now. And when it’s smaller, I wonder: will it be a better place?