I know you endorse the "All Hallow's Read," but what is your opinion on the halloween edition free comic books that some companies print out for comic stores to give away?
It is a terrible thing. It must be stopped and stamped out. Free comic books? Whatever next! Anarchy and free love and people spitting on public transport, that’s what. We must band together and stop this thing that encourages reading and literacy…
You were wonderful in Fairfax tonight, thank you for coming all that way! Have you always been comfortable speaking in front of crowds? Or did it take some practice?
When I started out, I was comfortable talking to a few people. I remember going to Bolton and talking to about fifty people in 1987, and how very scary that was. As time has gone on, I’ve talked to more people, and found myself on bigger stages.
I’m always scared/nervous/a mass of adrenaline and nerves before walking onto a stage. I’m normally scared doing something I’ve not done before on a stage (singing still worries me, for example).
But something like last night, with a huge hall filled with people who just wanted to hear me read became comfortable in moments.
Hello Mr. Gaiman! Tonight you're speaking at my university, and I'm extremely excited to get to see you for the first time! I know this isn't so much of a question as an excited statement, so I'll add this: Are you fond of Lemony Snicket? He's another favorite author of mine, and I find his work wonderful just like yours. Best of luck tonight!
I am ridiculously fond of Daniel Handler, Mr Snicket’s representative. He played the accordion at my wedding.
You totally iterate! There was Giant Leather Jacketed, sunglassed, smoking you. Then there was bespectacled off-duty non-giant leather jacket-wearing you. And now there is ultra-svelte, wise and eld, non-smoking speccy you. And I'm relatively certain somewhere in there, there might have been a very loud tie. But only at home, where no-one else could see you.
There was a paisley tie, but that was only ever worn by 16 year old punk singer me.
NYCC is coming up soon. It will be my first time! I plan on cosplaying Delirium (also a first, but hello? I've done halloween. that's cosplaying) So my question (if i really have one) is have you ever seen a fantastic coplayer of any of your characters? Does it weird you out? Or just make you really really happy?
Amanda will be doing a Free in store gig and signing at Amoeba in San Francisco tomorrow at 4pm, before her not-Free gig at the Fillmore. So you know.
Also I am riding the bus tonight up to SF with her from LA, and we are sharing a very small bus-bunk. If you see me tomorrow at either of her events, be nice and assume I have probably not had enough sleep and also do not be alarmed if am contorted like an, um, contortionist.
Neil. A friend bought me tickets to go see Amanda in Van. I'm (a) a huge fan (b) painfully shy and introverted and (c) have never been to a concert. You've been teaching me things for years, so I thought I'd ask your advice. How do I prepare? I am afraid of people; there will be many people. I am afraid of loud noise. There will be that. But I must hear Amanda sing 'Trout Heart'. I must. Should I go in disguise/character? If so, as what/who? How does one behave at a concert? Help?
First of all, the Amanda Palmer fans in Vancouver are really nice. (I was impressed with them when we did the Evening With Neil and Amanda tour.)
You don’t have to talk to anyone if you don’t want to. You don’t have to push to the front. You can wear earplugs, and take them out for Trout Heart.
But you could also see if there’s anyone who’ll go with you. And I’m replying publicly so if there are any Amanda fans in Vancouver who get in touch with you through this, you could meet them or talk in email and see if they will be your posse. Even if you’re alone, it can be nice to have people around who will get you a drink from the bar, or hug you if a song makes you cry.
So over the last two weeks, I’ve gotten to see both Amanda Palmer and Neil Gaiman live on stage, doing what they do best. It was an intense two weeks, and encouraged lots of thought, so get ready for a long one……
Amanda Palmer is currently on tour to promote her new album, produced independently, and completely funded by kickstarter. I was super excited to see her live, because even though her music isn’t what I’d usually call “my style,” she has such an amazing personality and presence that comes through her songs. Its even more obvious on stage. The concert was powerful, and theatrical, and just plain wonderful, and I had a lot of fun! But…
But it reminded me of why I don’t usually go to concerts. Lots of screaming people, and crowds jammed together, and really really loud music. Amanda Palmer was very interactive with the audience. Part of the power of the performance was that everyone in the crowd was interacting with each other, and all sharing the same amazing experience. It was wonderful to feel like a small part of an impressive larger whole. It was also EXHAUSTING. The show ran from 9pm until past 2am. And personally, I’m just not comfortable with being close to that many people for that long. I enjoyed the concert immensely, but by the encore I was ready to get out of there.
Seeing The Unchained Tour earlier this week was much more my kind of evening.
I hadn’t heard of Unchained until I saw something on the Bull Spec newsletter about “an evening of live storytelling and music.” That was enough, I was sold. I’d never heard of the group before, but I checked out their website and was instantly in love with their mission: To travel the south in a crazy looking rickety old bus, and tell stories to people. They had a contact form on their website for people who wanted to sponsor the tour or had some way of helping them out. I sent them an email that was something along the lines of “I think you guys are awesome. I live in NC, and if there’s anything I can do to assist you in my area, please let me know. I work for a fabric company, and I have no idea why you guys would need any fabric, but if you do you should let me know!”
I really didn’t expect to hear anything from them, why would a storytelling group need fabric? They were probably drowning in people more qualified to help out! What could little old me really do that no one else could? I was just content to let them know that they had made a fan. Then I got a reply from a lovely woman named Samita, who turned out to be the producer of the show. And guess what, she had an idea for something they could use fabric for! I ended up printing a large banner with a map of the southern states on it, then Samita was going to get colorful yarn and line the routes of their tours. And yes, it looks just as awesome as you think it does.
I saw the show in both Winston-Salem, and Chapel Hill NC. And I wish I could have seen them in every city they hit, it was amazing. The venues were small, quiet, intimate spaces. The audience at the AFP concert was like one giant organism, we were all breathing, and jumping and singing together. At the Unchained tour, I felt more like I was the only person in the audience. The stories were told to us as individuals.
Each performer told a true story in first person narrative form. The whole point was to get a glimpse of their life, and how they came to be who they are. It was highly personal. The performers were Dawn Fraser, Peter Aguero, Edgar Oliver, and oh yeah, Neil Gaiman. George Dawes Green was also there and spoke to the audience as the creator of the tour.
I think one of my favorite things about this event was that it wasn’t all about Neil Gaiman. I am a huge Gaiman fan, the man is definitely one of my heroes, and hearing him speak was one of the highlights of my life so far. But it wasn’t his tour. He was just another storyteller, telling just another story from his life. Or, well, he was supposed to be. I don’t think he wanted to be the spotlight, but the fact is he’s Neil Gaiman, and its hard to get around that. I think a large portion of the audience was there because they heard Neil Gaiman was going to be in town, and they didn’t really know anything else about the event. I hope they came to love the concept as much as I did, and appreciate each of the performers, unknown and famous alike. The stories weren’t about famous people, they were just about people.
There was a story about a territorial war between ice cream truck drivers, a story about a girl who collects lesbians, a story about a boy who lost a bag, and one about a man who lost a bag, a story about running, and about running away, a story about getting angry, and a story about telling jokes.
Peter Aguero hosted the evening, and introduced each performer, as well as telling his own stories. He also actually thanked me on stage, for bringing the fabric. Being thanked by people you admire, even if they’re thanking you for something small and easy and silly, is such an incredibly wonderful feeling. It was amazing to feel like a part of the magic.
Peter was a pro at telling a story that had you holding your sides laughing one minute, and on the edge of your seat in tension the next. He could instantly turn the atmosphere of the room from gleefully silly to a frightened sort of thoughtful in the space of a sentence.
Dawn Fraser’s stories were charming, it was so easy to identify with her. Even though she is gorgeous and brilliant and accomplished, she was comfortable about sharing her insecurities with us, and brought into the light some of the doubts that lurk inside everyone.
Edgar Oliver’s stories were quirky and wonderful, and perfectly matched to his unique voice. One night, Peter described listening to his voice as “lying down on a bed of clouds and swans” and the next night as “drowning in a tsunami of caramel.” Neither of those actually sound very comfortable once you think about it (swans are mean creatures!) but the imagery seems appropriate somehow.
They even drew names from a hat, and had guests from the audience come up and tell one minute stories. Proving that everyone has a story, and anyone can tell a story.
For me, Neil Gaiman’s story actually sort of summed up the event as a whole. He told a wonderful tale from his childhood about the moment when he decided he wanted to become a writer, it was the moment he realized words had power. The Unchained Tour is all about stories having power. They have the power to inspire us, to connect us, and to give us insight into experiences we would never have otherwise.
One of the best things about stories is that they make sense. Even the scariest story becomes comforting when it ends. Life itself is hard: we’re too close to see the big picture, and it keeps going long past the denouement. But when you tell a story about life, every sentence has meaning, and there is a reason for everything that happens. Meanings and reasons are comforting, the tell us that what we do matters and makes a difference. That is difficult to see when you’re in the midst of the story, but when you can take a step back and tell the story to others, it becomes easier to believe in the purpose of life.
I don’t know about you, but for me, that’s about as comforting a thought as I can have. Words have power; stories make life matter.
Which, if you take it a step further, means storytellers have power. But only if you give it to them, only if you listen to the stories….
I have to say, it was sort of surreal to be in the same room with Neil Gaiman. Even with all my high and mighty words about him being “just another person,” there was still (constantly, endlessly) a voice in my head going “Wow. He’s Neil Gaiman. Wow….”
Its interesting how our brains slip so easily into awe and hero worship when fame enters the picture. I was hanging out in the lobby after the show in Winston-Salem just talking to people, and people-watching, and eavesdropping, because, well, that’s part of the fun. And I overheard a conversation between Neil and one of the girls who was helping run the tour. Apparently she’d joined them in Boone two nights before, but had just now gotten her copy of Neverwhere, and she wanted Neil to autograph it for her. Neil, quite logically, asked “Hey, we’ve been hanging out on a bus for days, and you’re just now coming up and asking for an autograph? Why now?” Her response was something along the lines of “Well, I don’t know, I mean, you’re doing signings for everyone right now. It just made more sense…..?” And clearly she didn’t really know why it was different now, and it certainly doesn’t feel different to Neil. In his own head, he’s Neil Gaiman all the time. He’s been that way for years. He’s Neil Gaiman when he eats breakfast, and he’s Neil Gaiman when he trips over a rock, and he’s still just Neil Gaiman when he stands in front of a crowd of people and tells them a story. (I assume so anyways, obviously even if Neil Gaiman is always in Neil Gaiman’s head, I’ve never been in Neil Gaiman’s head, so I can only guess at what goes on in there.) Anyways, the point is… He’s been Neil Gaiman for the last few days, nothing has changed for him. But for her, the Neil Gaiman on the bus and the Neil Gaiman sitting behind a table with a line of people out the door all waiting for a chance to just shake his hand are different Neils.
Or maybe he’s not the one who’s different. Maybe we’re the different one.
When I, suddenly and surprisingly, came face to face with one of my biggest heroes, I didn’t squeal with glee, or jump on him and tell him I’m his biggest fan ever! I just very calmly shook his hand and introduced myself. No one was more surprised by that than me. I had joined some of the tour folks for dinner and was talking to one of the behind-the-scenes guys when in walks Neil Gaiman. I think I probably looked pretty silly, and maybe stared at him blankly, and hopefully I said my name when he asked, I wasn’t really paying attention. My brain was too busy babbling “That’s Neil Gaiman. Huh, actually I don’t really see the flamingo thing. Actually, he kind of reminds me of my father, is that weird? Neil Gaiman just shook my hand. What do I say? Oh wait, I think he asked me a question. I think I answered. Crap, I hope I didn’t say anything silly…” And I certainly didn’t really felt like myself.
I think the disconnect comes from feeling like we know this person. We know them through their works, and through what they’ve said to the world. Only they don’t know us, and that feels weird. I consider Neil Gaiman to be a large part of who I am, he was there for my transition from teenagerdom to semi-adulthood. Only he doesn’t know he was there, so when I stand in front of him at the signing table I have to figure out who I am without him, because I can’t just stand there with a part of the man himself inside of me. And my brain sort of flip flops around, and I start wondering if he’s wondering who I am and what have I done to the bits of himself he let out into the world. And I want to shout “Its okay! I treated your characters nicely. I’ve loved them, and mourned them. And I’ve sheltered your words, and given them life beyond the page. Its okay! I’m taking care of that piece of you you gave to the world.” Only then, it would definitely prove I’m one of those crazy fans you get restraining orders on. And so I don’t say that, I stand quietly and nod and smile, and mention that if he wouldn’t mind autographing this, I’d be ever so grateful.
And he does, because he’s always been good and nice and polite to his fans. Even the crazy ones. Part of me wants to scan the various signatures in (I got one from each performer) and post them here on the internet, and crow my victory and my pride that I was there, and I talked to each of these people. But although they’re just ink on a page, they seem have power over me. A part of me wants to cherish them, and hold them as if they were mine, and some of their meaning would be gone if I shared them with the world.
Amusingly, thats not at all true of the hug Neil Gaiman gave me later that night. I was talking to George Dawes Green as I got his autograph, and he was asking about what I did with my life, and if I was happy. And I said I was, because I am. And then this arm descends around my shoulders. My friends are all very close comfortable people, and spontaneous hugs are nothing unusual to me, so I put my arm around the person while I finish my sentence. And then I turn, and low and behold, its Neil Gaiman. Hugging me. Oh. Crap. The brain freeze is back. I so badly want to say something cool, but I can’t think of anything more fascinating than “Oh, hello!” And then George asks me another question, so I turn away, and a moment later Neil is gone, even though I wanted to thank him for my hug. But the night is late, and everyone is packing things away and leaving, so I leave to go home too.
And the next day, I hug a friend, and I say “You’ve just been hugged by someone who was hugged by Neil Gaiman.” And it makes her happy. So I hug all of my friends, and I pass that Neil Gaiman hug around North Carolina. Neil, if you’re reading this, I really hope thats okay with you. I hope that you’re alright with letting your hugs out into the world like you let your words go free, to be spread around, and held by many, and changed over time.
The power of words, the power of fame, and last but not least the power of hugs.
this is less of an ask and more of a statement but I absolutely loved your comments about Daniel Pinkwater on the book The Neddiad. I am in my thirties and I still read his books if I want to feed my imagination or build my artistic inspiration and well thanks for summing him up so well. If you haven't read it Lizard Music is one of my absolute favorite books by him.
I love everything by Pinkwater. BUSHMAN LIVES, his new one, has echoes of Lizard Music in it…
Neil, I just finished reading American Gods which I LOVED but I have a question. I noticed that you mentioned some brand names and I was intrigued as to whether there is such a thing as product placement in books and writing. I know it's a big thing in movies and tv shows, but does it exist in the literature world?
There is — I was even approached about it via my blog once. But I’ve never done it: I just feel that we are surrounded by brands, and in American Gods it seemed right that there were brands everywhere. Although I had as much fun inventing plausible-sounding brands as I did using real ones.
I'm re-reading Watchmen, and the Rorschach/Dr Long scenes inspire questions I was hoping you could answer. How does an author mentally prepare them self to write scenes like R's past? L. was incapable of understanding R. because he got his experience from books, but it isn't as though Moore experienced what R. did. How can an author accurately write characters who go through almost inhuman transformations if they don't experience it themselves? Wouldn't they just be another Dr. Long?
I genuinely don’t understand the question.
If you weren’t capable of writing someone who wasn’t you, you wouldn’t be an author. You’d be something else.
As a human being, who is a writer, you feel, you imagine, you observe, you empathize, you hurt, and then you find those parts of you that are the people you are writing, and you write them as best you can.
And there is no “accurately”. There is only fiction. Alan Moore made it all up.
I know you’re done on the Palmer kerfuffle but thought I’d share my story with you.
I’ve been a fan of Palmer’s since 2004. She’s been my favourite musician since the Dolls. Back in 2008 right before the release of Who Killed Amanda Palmer, Amanda’s assistant Beth put out a twitter call out requesting an intern to help with several AFP projects. The intern did not need to live in Boston or NYC.
I reached out and got the gig. At the time I was living 600 miles north of Toronto literally in the middle of nowhere. I helped out with Amanda’s online merch company, Post-War Trade, back when it was completely DIY artist commissioned work. I volunteered about 10-15 hours a week. I flew down to Toronto when the WKAP tour came through. I was on the guest list, Amanda gave me her love and any free merch I wanted. It was amazing.
June 2009, not long after the news came out that Neil Gaiman & Amanda were now a couple— which might I add Neil has been my favourite author since 2000— SPIN magazine organized events featuring an author & a musician for a night of readings & music. So in June 2009, a Neil & Amanda event was held in NYC.
Amanda paid my flight to NYC where I was a photographer for the event and also part of the crew for her headlining show at the Highline Ballroom two nights later. I stayed at her assistant’s place in Brooklyn. My first time in NYC and I got to hang out with my favourite musician and my favourite author. I had my copy of Neverwhere that I’ve had for 12 years now, signed by Neil. He also drew me a picture of the Sandman that I’m getting tattooed.
For three magical days I was part of her world. And I would gladly do it again if given the opportunity. For free.
I originally wrote the above email to Bob Lefsetz after he published The Amanda Palmer Kerfuffle on his blog about her recent press controversy on the heels of her latest album release, Theatre Is Evil. I sent the email totally not expecting him to publish my letter in his Mailbag email to the newsletter on September 16th.
But he did. Here’s the full story:
When I applied for the internship, there should have been no way that I had a chance of getting it. I was this insignificant Native chick living in the middle of nowhere in Northern Ontario thinking I had no chance.
I really thought it’d be impossible that I’d get the internship and in fact I forgot I had even applied for it until several months later when I finally got a reply back from Beth, Amanda’s assistant. She said I sounded the most promising. I passed my first research job for Amanda’s upcoming solo tour that got me the job.
By late 2008, I had an airfare credit and a friend with an empty bachelor apartment in Toronto I was able to use for Amanda’s Toronto show. I was on the guestlist and she made sure I got free merch, free love and recognition for being an intern as part of her team. I had already seen the Dresden Dolls earlier that year in January before they went on hiatus.
In early 2009, Beth emailed to let me know that there was a headlining Amanda Palmer show in NYC for June. She said that Amanda was going to pay my airfare to NYC so I can see the show as appreciation for the work I’ve done.
At the same time, it was just becoming known that Amanda was dating Neil Gaiman who just happened to be my favourite author. As it turned out, Neil & Amanda were to perform at an event together several days before her headlining show in NYC I was to be there for:
Two days later, Amanda headlined at the Highline Ballroom.
The entire trip was magic. Beyond my utter imagination that all of this had happened.
I was just this Native chick with big dreams that managed to grasp onto an experience of a lifetime.
It made me believe that the impossible really is possible.
I will never forget this experience I was gratefully given the opportunity of.
Hi Mr. Gaiman, my question Is how do you get inspiration to write, at this moment I'm working with a friend on a graphic novel, basically we are putting our experiences to become part of this novel, but we want to have more fiction, not just our bored lives and we are losing inspiration, so.. If you could told me how do you get the inspiration, if you do any kind of "ritual" or anything. Thanks Neil for your time c:
The ritual of putting one word after the other, even when you do not feel inspired
I once saw a graphic novel in a book store that had a quote from you on the front saying that is was awesome (or something along those lines). I flipped through it, never bought it, and now I've forgotten the title. It was about a girl who falls in a well and meets a ghost. She and the ghost become friends I think... I don't suppose you know what graphic novel I'm talking about?
Anya’s Ghost by the very wonderful Vera Brosgol. She is so good.
(i'm sorry if this has been asked a lot!) i'm wondering if there has ever been a canonical decision about aziraphale wearing glasses? how do you feel about the majority of the fandom assuming he wears them, despite there being no mention of it in the book?
I bloody love you lot.
It’s your imagination. Imagine. Anything that’s not described is fair game.
(Just never demand that anyone else imagine things like you did.)
I have hair like yours and the thought of someday assuming your identity, leather jacket and writing style is a great motivator. However, my dad is massively bald and my older brother is already losing his hair. What can I do to avoid the nightmare scenario (i.e. final maximum bald) that lies in wait?