Fame-o-meter Malfunction

Friday February 25, 2011 @ 01:33 PM (UTC)

So, I haven’t had much to blog since the big news. It was probably the strain of keeping that news a secret that has left me so curiously untalkative. I have a volcano metaphor here involving andesitic lava, pressure buildup and pyroclastic flows, but I’ll spare you.

At any rate, the other day Ryan asked me how this nomination affects the reading on my Fame-o-meter. So I went and dug up the trusty old device (now actually the Fame-o-meter Mark 2) and discovered how this nomination affects it: it shows that once again it is completely miscalibrated and must be replaced. Because how the heck is it supposed to register something way up there without hitting any of the intervening marks? How am I to suspend the (figurative) colored sand up there? Waste of anti-grav.

Fame-o-Meter Mark 2 has failed

Time to design the Mark 3, I suppose.

I feel a little silly posting the thing here, but perhaps I shouldn’t. I’ve remarked before that it’s very easy to focus on the next thing – in any part of life, but particularly in writing. You get your first story accepted and after the euphoria fades, you start worrying that you’re going to be a one-hit wonder. You get another story accepted, and you find something new to worry about. What if I never get any fantasy published? Shouldn’t I have finished a novel by now?

It’s good to keep moving, keep writing, keep sending out, but it’s also good not to jettison today’s accomplishment and today’s happiness. The life of a writer is hard enough without embracing a continuous cycle of discontent.

The Fame-o-Meter exercise also helped me focus on the things that were important to me, from the sublime and unlikely (“Interviewed on Fresh Air”) to the picayune but personally significant (“Have to change FNAQ to FAQ"). There are many things outside the scope of the Fame-o-Meter. Maybe they’ll make the cut when I formulate a new version, maybe not. But this keeps me focused on the things that are important to me, like getting stories in front of readers, and my lifelong obsession with Powell’s Books.

What’s on your Fame-o-Meter?


Your chart. It looks—sorry to say this—but a little bit, you know, sort of like a penis.

Dear Jan,

It’s almost as if you spend a great deal of time with teenagers! :P It is fashioned after a thermometer. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

Yes, I can see the resemblance to a cigar! ;P

I’ve actually been thinking about your fame-o-meter quite a bit in the last few days. I have a very similar fame-o-meter in my head, though I’ve never written or drawn it out, but any such meter will always run into the problem that fame is not temporally linear. There’s no guarantee that any given fame point will fall before or after any other fame point, or occur at all.

My proposed solution is this: rather than labeling the vertical axis with fameogenic events, simply have a list of fameogenic events and assign a point value for each. Selling a short story might be worth 1 point. Selling a novel, 10 points. Getting nominated for an award, 5-15 points (depending on category and majorness of award). Winning an award, 50-1000 points (Oscar = 1000). Then, each time you achieve something fameogenic, you color in the appropriate amount of the fame-o-meter. No antigravity required.

Please note that the first event of a given type (short story sale, novel sale, etc.) is always worth more fame points than later such events; the 100th short story sale probably doesn’t increase your fame at all.

Having a New York Times bestseller should be on there; so should selling movie rights. Also: seeing your book in the library catalog; seeing a stranger reading it on the bus; getting fan mail. Getting a really bad review should be on the list, so you can thumb your nose at the reviewer (privately) for helping you increase your fame.

I also note that some of the items on your fame-o-meter seem redundant; doesn’t having a book published (from any major or regional paper publisher) pretty much guarantee getting it on the shelves at Powell’s? And yet the latter shows up much higher on your fame-o-meter than the former.

While it might be more indicative that my understanding is of a “personal-achievement-in-my-chosen-profession-o-meter,” publishing a book may be achieved by a publishing agreement, months before it strikes the shelf. (Or one might argue that you should be more proud or famous if you visit bookstores and find holes where your book was. Or watching someone pick it up and head to the register.)

Having a point-achievement scale as you suggest is likely a more indicative method, but it might be more or less revealing of the reveling you intend at various points. It allows for potentially poorly scored differences between items and the miscalibration that results.

Also, it doesn’t look much like a thermometer or, since the scale is uncapped, fit well in any analog display .

(Plus to some extent I’d like to think selling a screenplay, or a story to become a screenplay, is generally a downer indicating a need more for money than a love of the story. But that reflects mostly my own low regard for most adaptations.)

David — You certainly have engineered out the anti-gravity problem there. I do think that in order to preserve the advantages I mention in the post — focusing only on the achievements that matter to you and really appreciating what you have right now — the list would need to be fully defined and limited in number. Otherwise, it has the opposite effect: making you focus on all the good stuff that COULD happen but hasn’t.

I would note that your elegant solution would keep me from playing with colored pencils, but Ryan’s already convinced me to use my new Wacom tablet to make the Mark 3 ;)

I incline toward Novel’s view on the Powell’s shelviness. I think when I first made the Fame-o-meter, one of my poet friends had had her (FABULOUS) book come out, but while Powell’s stocked it in their warehouse, they did not put it on shelves. But the time delay would also contribute to their separateness!

Novel – I actually did find a hole the other day for an acquaintance’s Nebula-nominated book at Powell’s Beaverton — I didn’t know whether to tell her though, because I wasn’t sure whether it was “yay, people bought out your book!” or “arrgh, people can’t find your book at that Powell’s.”

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