An Evening With Neil Gaiman

On Saturday, a crazy thing happened. Neil Gaiman came to town.

Okay, it’s not like he just spontaneously appeared in Santa Rosa, strolling down Mendocino Avenue, looking for Snoopy sculptures, but still. I bought tickets months ago so I could attend the reading and signing session . . . the reading, anyway. I skipped out on the signing because, well. I hadn’t eaten dinner; I had to work in three hours; and Neil Gaiman, you might realize, has a lot of fans. If I’d stayed for the signing, I probably wouldn’t have left until one in the morning and thus been about two hours late for work.

Luckily for me, Neil Gaiman had already pre-signed, like, 400 copies of his book or something, so people who had to leave could exchange the book they’d already bought for one with his signature.


And I know you’re thinking, But Carlie! You missed the chance to meet NEIL GAIMAN. To which I’d say, well, yes. But I was really tired and hungry. Also, I’m still relatively young and have not entirely lost hope that I might someday find some modicum of writing success and run into Mr. Gaiman at a convention somewhere, where I will, of course, promptly lose all ability to speak and have to leave quite rapidly. So, you see. Perhaps the very best public embarrassment is yet to come!

About the reading itself —

1. Neil Gaiman first read a section from The Ocean at The End of the Lane. I had just finished the book the day before — started and finished, actually, because it’s quite short and also quite good — and I found that I could concentrate a little easier on the words, having read the text myself so recently. (I have attention issues sometimes.)

Also, Mr. Gaiman’s just a really good reader. He narrates his own audio books — and let me tell you, friends: should I ever be successful enough to even have audio books, I will not be the one narrating them because my elocution is shit. Mr. Gaiman also does all the Voices — and I tend to have mixed feelings about Voices because, frankly, some people just aren’t that good at them, and there’s nothing quite as uncomfortable as watching a person hideously overact their own material. But Neil Gaiman is really good.

2. He’s also funny, which is of no particular surprise but was proven regardless during the Q&A portion of the evening. I like to think of myself as something of a witty bastard, but public speaking not being my strong suit, I’m not sure this always comes across in person. (Actually, I know it doesn’t because I’ve had enough people look at me in surprise and say, “That’s funny,” as though it’s never occurred to them that I had the capacity for humor before.) Anyway, I figure about 9/10th of me enjoyed the show, and 1/10 of me positively stewed in envy and desperation, which seems to be about par with the course, really.

A few things that came up during the Q&A:

A. There were a ton of Doctor Who fans at the reading, and my guess is that 98% of them were David Tennant fans. Neil Gaiman said that his doctor was Patrick Troughton, I believe — I’m not at all familiar with the older Doctor Who episodes, so I could be misremembering this — but that of the modern doctors, he really liked Matt Smith. And I swear there was a moment of silence in that auditorium, a silence that meant if anyone other than Neil Gaiman was saying this, there may have been some serious boos. You have to understand, we were a wildly enthusiastic crowd, cheering practically every other sentence. For that moment of silence to even occur . . . I feel like many Whovians in the audience must have had their hearts crushed a little. And I probably took far too much pleasure in that because I’m terrible.)

(An aside: I haven’t watched the most recent season of Doctor Who at all, but I do like Matt Smith a great deal. It’s true, though, that I don’t have much to compare him to — I’ve only seen a few Christopher Eccleston episodes and maybe two scenes of David Tennant. I know. The blasphemy just doesn’t end, does it?)

B.The Fraud Police — who come for writers that aren’t Real Writers yet, or so we fear — are, apparently, terrified of Newbery Medals. Which is unfortunate because the Fraud Police pop up in my nightmares all the time, and I have absolutely no ideas of any kind for children’s literature.

C. Neil Gaiman does not wear a hair piece. (Yes, someone actually asked.) Also related: Shirley MacClaine may or may not have a hair fetish. A vicious, vicious hair fetish.

3. Finally, after the Q&A, Neil Gaiman read from his upcoming children’s book, Fortunately, The Milk, which is about a father who goes to buy milk for his children’s breakfast and accidentally travels through space and time, meeting pirates and aliens and stegosauruses along the way. It’s fantastically silly and funny and I’m going to have to read it in its entirety when it comes out, even though I have no children who I can pretend I’m buying it for.

(Another aside: I’ve noticed lately that I appear to be trying to build a library in my head of stories I want to read to my children when I eventually have them someday. This book might be on the list, along with The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, which I feel like is totally this generation’s Alice in Wonderland. Anyone have any great books they read to their kids? Or books you had read to you when you were a kid?)

After the reading, the signing began, and that’s about when I left to go feed on animal flesh and ketchup. But in conclusion?

Neil Gaiman is awesome.

6 thoughts on “An Evening With Neil Gaiman

    • And when he wins, I’ll shake his hand and say, “Gosh, can I see your award for JUST a moment?” and then snatch it out of his fingers and run away super fast. Because we all want a Neil Gaiman story, don’t we, and not everyone can have gold doubloons.

  1. I’m with Neil Gaiman, sort of. My enthusiasm for Doctor Who has waned as of late, but I like Matt Smith an awful lot, and early Eleven is my favourite of the new Doctors. I shall join you in Whovian blasphemy, Carlie, as Tennant is my least favourite of the modern Doctors.

    I don’t have any kids, but I read My Dad’s A Birdman to my Grandma once, and lent her my copy of Skellig. And if I did have children, I would just be reading them David Almond non-stop. And 1984. I have this aspiration to read 1984 to a small baby, the way people usually read fairytales to children. Then I can get a kick out of the inappropriateness without it actually understanding what I’m saying and being traumatised.

    • I must confess to not having read a single thing by David Almond. Or, um, 1984. Although I’m going to work on 1984 at least . . . it’s on my short list of literary things to read this year. (Right now I’m reading Jane Eyre before going back to my regularly scheduled selection of fantasy/sci fi/horror/mystery stuff.)

      I’d probably read scary stories to a baby, but in a super cheerful, all-is-well voice because — as we know — I’m quite terrible, and I think it’d be funny.

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