When I started working in magazines, no one saw my last name and asked me who my father was. He’s a lawyer, so any shadow he might cast, professionally speaking, doesn’t reach me.
This issue I spoke with the author Joe Hill.
He writes horror novels. So does his dad. And while Hill writes bestsellers, his dad… well, his dad is Stephen King. He casts an awfully big (and spooky) shadow. I used to wonder why someone like Hill would go into the family business, when no matter how good he is, he’ll never be as big or as famous, or have more classic movies made from his books than his old man.
Then, you hear why he changed his name. “The biggest reason was I didn’t have a lot of self-confidence and I felt I had a lot to learn,” he says. “I was afraid I might get published because I was Stephen King’s son and that people would read the book, and it would be terrible, and they’d say, ‘I know why he got published, because his dad is someone famous!’”
Lucky for him, he got relatively famous on his own. But I realized that, while fatherhood is about giving your children a better life, full of richer opportunities than you experienced, it’s not a competition. Joe Hill can be a horror writer because he likes writing horror fiction, and that’s probably genetic. He doesn’t have to best his dad in some pop-cultural Olympiad in order to be a success.
That doesn’t mean there isn’t pressure to live up to a father’s legacy. But that has less to do with profession than it does with character. On a personal level, Andrew Hudson, my dad, is the moral equivalent to a bestseller. He’s been happily married to my mom for more than 40 years, has six kids, 12 grandkids, and every one of us respects and loves the hell out of him.
If being a man were a business, why would I go into it knowing I’ll never best my dad at it? (Although, because it’s Mother’s Day this month, I should say that my family’s womanhood bracket wouldn’t be any easier). The answer, ironically, is because of my dad. I’m already far behind where he was when he was my age, but the best I can do is keep trying. And I’d like to think Sharp will help you keep trying to be a better man, too. Read Shaughnessy Bishop-Stall’s column this month for inspiration. Or our cycling package to help you get in shape. Or take a quick lesson from Ryan Gosling on how to lighten up. We won’t tell you how to be a better lawyer or actor or whatever it is you do. But, if you want to be a better man, you’ve come to the right place.
“I think my dad is an even better father than he is a writer,” Hill told me, “and considering what a great writer he is, that’s saying something.” That right there, is the goal.