There's a Big Wow convention review on the way, with photos and more, but I wanted to write this first, because it's about more than the con. You'll see why after the cut.
Stan Sakai is one of the best American comic creators there is. He's best known for his long-running comic Usagi Yojimbo, about a masterless samurai who wanders feudal Japan, getting into adventures and helping people in trouble. The main character is a rabbit, and all the characters are anthropomorphic animals, but don't let that out you off - the stories are well-crafted, the research is impeccable, and the art is amazing. Stan Sakai is a master storyteller. I've been a fan for many years.
One summer day many years ago, at the San Diego Comic Con, I made it a point to stop by his booth and pick up a copy of the twelfth Usagi Yojimbo collection, "Grasscutter". It's a high point of the series; Usagi finds himself mixed up in a plot to steal an ancient magical sword, and has to battle a soul-stealing demon at the end. Shortly after that, I sat down for lunch from the con snack bar, and started reading the book. Keep in mind I'd read the original comics, and I was at the San Diego Comic Con, and it's a testament to how great the story was that I read the whole book cover to cover on the spot. And I realized what I wanted to do with my life.
I got back in the line to see Stan Sakai. And when I got to the front, I thanked him for his work, and I told him that someday, I wanted to write a story that would leave readers feeling the same way I'd just felt when I read "Grasscutter".
This past weekend, Stan Sakai was a guest of honor at Big Wow. It took me two tries to actually start telling him this story, but I managed to work my way through it. And at the end, I handed him a set of Monkey Queen paperbacks and told him that they were for him, with my thanks for the inspiration from so long ago.
Stan could not have been more patient or more gracious with me, and it was a thrill to see him so happy to get the books and to hear my story, and to pose for this photo with him.
It was a highlight of my writing career, and maybe of my life. I had fulfilled a promise I had made. I had thanked someone who had inspired me with his skill, consistency and commitment.
What did it mean to me? One word: Everything.
Thank you, Stan.