Your favorite authors are a lot like your favorite actors: A handful are just as interesting and delightful away from their work, but for many, if you glimpse their off-book personalities, you find yourself thinking, “Hmm, there might be something to having an air of mystique after all.” But the science fiction and fantasy community is brimming with authors who are generally delightful people both inside and outside of their pages. Below are five authors who not only write great books, but also pass the age-old “Would You Grab a Beer With Them” test.
1. John Scalzi
As John Scalzi, himself, says, he writes regular meat-and-potatoes science fiction. Yet, away from his aliens and space ships, he uses his social media platform to highlight the importance of having different voices in the science fiction community and to rail against any would-be gatekeepers.
He’s refreshingly transparent about his interests and about the things that piss him off. You’re far better off in the former camp.
2. Neil Gaiman
Neil Gaiman is just as whimsical and wise off-book as he is on the page. He speaks out for causes such as library funding in an earnest yet sassy manner, as in this piece for The Guardian:
“Every now and again it becomes fashionable among some adults to point at a subset of children’s books, a genre, perhaps, or an author, and to declare them bad books, books that children should be stopped from reading. …
“It’s tosh. It’s snobbery and it’s foolishness. There are no bad authors for children, that children like and want to read and seek out, because every child is different. They can find the stories they need to, and they bring themselves to stories. A hackneyed, worn-out idea isn’t hackneyed and worn out to them. This is the first time the child has encountered it. Do not discourage children from reading because you feel they are reading the wrong thing. Fiction you do not like is a route to other books you may prefer. And not everyone has the same taste as you.”
He also talks about how foolish it is when adults think they can outgrow fairy tales. Gaiman is simultaneously someone you’d want to drink tea with and the English teacher you wish you had as a kid.
3. Maggie Stiefvater
Maggie Steifvater is an impressively prolific blogger who gives thoughtful and cheeky responses to reader questions. No question is too abstract or too mundane; she once gave the following answer to a head-scratching question that inquired about the state of her protagonist’s virginity:
“How I would love to answer your question, as there is nothing I like more than the delighted smiles of readers satiated by answers.
“However, when reading your question (I have mentally added a question mark to the end of your words to elevate them from fragment to query; this is just one of my many talents) all I could think of is how I long for the day when the word ‘virgin’ is mostly used for describing olive oil or a particular set of islands rather than a human, as I am struck by how the tendency to consider virgin humans a markedly different commodity than nonvirgin humans has ended up in years and years of collective uncertainty, agony, judgment, and ignorance on the part of said virgins and nonvirgins.”
4. Rainbow Rowell
Rainbow Rowell, aside from having a name even more fantastical than those of her characters, is unabashedly on her fans’ level, because she is a self-proclaimed fan. In the acknowledgements of her novel Fangirl, she writes a thank-you note, not to her favorite writers — as authors often do — but to her favorite fan fiction writers. And even after achieving mainstream success, she doesn’t forget her roots:
You can get a beer with Rainbow Rowell and not worry about losing your shit or sounding too fangirl/fanboy-esque, because she is on your level.
5. J.K. Rowling
Obviously, J.K. Rowling had to be on this list because she carries the Harry Potter spirit into her daily life by questioning authority on Twitter, shutting down racists, acting hilariously mom-like to former Potter actors, thoughtfully questioning her own writing decisions, engaging fans in conversations about struggles like depression, and generally having a great sense of humor about her own world.
The whole world wants to get a beer with J.K. Rowling to talk Potter and tell her she is literally your childhood — but you’d have just as rollicking a time if she chatted about any number of topics.