When I was a wee lass, I bought a copy of Good Omens. I loved it. I loved it so much, in fact, that I sought out the other works of the authors, Terry Prachett and Neil Gaiman. While the Discworld novels were just as I thought they would be (cunningly clever, although Monstrous Regiment is a much sharper satire than I realized at the time), American Gods blew my mind It was a plot so epic, a story so well executed, that I decided it would be the best fodder for whatever essay the SATs could throw at me. (This does not mean I used it. I ended up writing a rant about Christopher Paolini and a piece about The Great Gatsby on my two SATs. The rant scored higher, for God knows what reason.) When Anansi Boys came out, I scooped it up immediately. I reread Good Omens about once every year. There’s a joke in there about the French and fast food that never fails to crack me up. While I haven’t read Sandman and only recently read Neverwhere, the works of Neil Gaiman have been a crucial part of my literary development.
So imagine my utter joy when my local independent bookstore, Little Shop of Stories, won an appearance by Neil Gaiman by throwing the best Graveyard Book Halloween party in the country, an honor it shared with another bookstore in Winnipeg. Due to his popularity, Gaiman had to be put up on my campus- there was no way all his fans would fit in Little Shop of Stories! While his appearance was scheduled for six on December 14, I knew, due to my experiences at Dragon*Con, I was going to be in line much, much earlier.
When the day arrived, my friends and I got in line at three in the afternoon. The wait was actually not too bad, despite the foggy weather, which stranded Gaiman at the airport for a few hours, and the cold. Between the candy I brought and a very nice gentleman passing around cookies, it was quite nice. Around five o’clock, they let us into the hall. It was absolutely packed, with people and their copies of Neil Gaiman books. I can only imagine what the overflow room looked like.
A little after six, a gentleman from the Agnes Scott faculty came and introduced Neil Gaiman. Gaiman came out soon after, opening with a few jokes, and explained exactly why he was there, prior to Little Shop’s involvement. At a Book Expo USA, he had felt so guilty about turning down appearances at independent book stores that he came up with the idea on the spot while receiving an award for The Graveyard Book. His publisher shouted across the room that she was fine with it. He took a few jabs at the fog and at the overflow room (“You’ll be real girls and boys someday!”), and then gave us a sort of plan for the rest of the evening, as worked up while waiting for a flight to Atlanta in Orlando- reading, questions, reading, and then a signing.
He asked for a copy of Odd and the Frost Giants, which was helpfully supplied by one of the children in the audience. He talked about writing Odd and the Frost Giants for National Book Day, which is a holiday we don’t have in America. It encourages children to buy books by essentially offering them for free. He read chapters two and three, where Odd meets his companions and then discovers their true identities. I really need to read it- Odd sounds so practical and matter-of-fact. Gaiman even did the voices- he did the fox and the bear very well, although the eagle was a bit hard on his voice. My friend Emilia, who loves any and all things Viking, immediately fell in love with the book.
After he finished, he produced a handful of notecards he’d been handed, lamenting the fact he couldn’t come up with “impromptu” answers beforehand. The questions were mostly about what inspired his children’s books. He wrote Coraline for his daughter, Holly, who, when she was little, would dictate very strange stories to him. He wanted to write a book she would enjoy. He made a Doctor Who reference about wishing for a TARDIS to figure out when he came up with button eyes. The crowd went wild. Similarly, The Graveyard Book was inspired by his son Mike, who tricycled in a nearby cemetery instead of at home (“Two year old plus tricycle plus stairs… death.”).
Someone asked if he thought writing women was harder than writing men which he answered no to. He mentioned how puzzled he was by female characters in comic books when he was writing Sandman. (“You must have encountered a female at some point in your life!”) Due to his Twitter usage, someone asked if it hurt his writing. He doesn’t let the two mix.
Since this is Georgia, someone asked if he would ever return to Dragon*Con. He had appeared in 2000, apparently, but he’d had a pretty poor experience with the organizing, missing panels he was supposed to be at and never receiving an award at the actual convention but two months later. Despite that, he said it wouldn’t be out of the question. (“Eventually, I’ll forget!”) Someone asked if National Novel Writing Month was a good idea, and he said yes- it shows people how much work writing a book actually is, and if they’re cut out for that work. He told us all he could about the film adaptation of The Graveyard Book, which has a script by Neil Jordan, but is still searching for a studio. Its previous studio has apparently collapsed or gone under. He refused to provide the answer for the meaning of life, sadly.
He then asked for a copy of The Graveyard Book, joking that the lenders would never get them back. The young lad offering his copy told him to sign it first. He read a passage where Bod goes to a dead poet for advice. It sounds quite charming, I have to admit, although I think I would like Odd and the Frost Giants better. After finishing that, he made his goodbyes, and got a partial standing ovation.
While the event ended at seven, the signing took a great deal longer. Children and families were first priority, as it was a school night. (Oh, what a foreign concept for college students.) My friends and I eventually got to the front of the while around nine. I bought my own copy of Anansi Boys to be signed and a copy of The Graveyard Book to be signed as a present. When the moment finally came, it was quite swift- they had already formed a quite efficient system involving Post-It notes. I told him I had been reading his books since I was thirteen and have loved them every since. I shook his hand and thanked him, and he thanked me as well, which makes me smile even now.
Neil Gaiman signed until 1 AM in the morning that night, as my friends and I attempted to journey back to our dorms with our precious cargo intact. It was really a wonderful evening.
In other news, I haven’t been reading as much as I usually have. This is because I bought The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks. Hyrule will never stop needing left-handed blondes, what can I say? I have almost finished Stephen King’s On Writing, and will probably start on Rampant as soon as that’s done. Usually, I pose you fine people a question, but I’m all out this week. To those who celebrate it- have a very wonderful and safe Christmas week, and happy holidays to you all!