Tuesday, May 30, 2006
Neil Gaiman, Rock Star
If the science fiction/fantasy/horror genre has a rock star, it’s Neil Gaiman. As some sort of anti-Tom Wolfe, he is always dressed in public in his trademark black tee-shirt and matching motorcycle jacket. Black is his color both sartorially and metaphorically. His writing tends towards the dark if wryly amusing end of the spectrum.
I reviewed his latest novel, Anansi Boys, awhile back. Its predecessor, American Gods, deservedly won the Hugo and Nebula awards. He got his start and early fame as a writer of comic books. His Sandman series is cited as one of the seminal works in the evolution of the graphic novel and DC comics invented the Veritgo line just to have a place for his dark visions so that children wouldn’t mistake his Sandman for the blue and gold Golden Era hero. His version of Death as a goth-clad hottie is started to supplement the traditional image of the Grim Reaper.
In addition to comics and novels, he writes poetry, children’s books, screenplays and song lyrics. His book, Stardust, is being turned into a movie starring Claire Danes, Michelle Pfeiffer and Robert DeNiro. He wrote the script for Beowulf which is being animated Polar Express-style by Robert Zemeckis. Tori Amos cites him as a major influence. There doesn’t seem to be any challenge he’s not up to. Even his personal assistant is in a goth singing duo and has her own line of jewelry.
When I heard that Gaiman was to be the Guest of Honor at Balticon, the Baltimore Science Fiction Convention, I registered the whole yellojkt family for the event. My wife is far from a science fiction fan, but she is at least peripherally aware of what a force of nature he is. Neil flew into Baltimore straight from Australia where he was at the Sydney Writer’s Festival. Despite a half-globe’s worth of jetlag, the Balticon people made him sing for his supper with at least eight public events over the four days.
On Saturday, I caught the back half of his seminar about the collaborative process, then later that day he did a joint interview with Peter Beagle of The Last Unicorn fame. I had to race out of that to make sure I made the line for his autographing session. Other than Anansi Boys, my Gaiman collection consisted of rather battered used paperbacks. Fortunately I found hardcover first editions of American Gods and Good Omens in the dealer’s room.
Stocked with the 3-item limit, I waited about two hours to get my loot signed. He was very pleasant and impressed that I had the white cover version of Good Omens. My wife grabbed a few pictures before security shuffled us off. Well worth the wait.
As a reward for indulging my fandom all day, I took my wife to a very nice nearby upscale Asian restaurant. After dinner, I was surprised to see Neil, leather jacket and all, outside talking on his cell phone. I told him how much I liked his talk, and he acknowledged me with a thanks. That now puts me within three Kevin Bacon degrees of separation with the entire comic book industry and half of Hollywood.
The next day his premiere event was a solo appearance where he read two unpublished short stories and a poem. Since he still had a half hour to go, he spread some Hollywood gossip he vowed to disavow if it were to appear on the internet. The movie moguls don’t like Stardust being described as a cross between Lord Of The Rings and The Princess Bride, since the cult classic tale of Buttercup was a box-office flop. Incon-CEIV-able. He defended the casting of Claire Danes saying that the auditioning process involved about every female actor under thirty, some of which were truly awful. He coughed one name in particular. Let’s just say he doesn't think much of a certain former tween show star.
He also mentioned that Angelina Jolie is horribly typecast as Grendel’s Mother. His dry British wit masked all sense of sarcasm. He does seem particularly amused that Beowulf will, come hell or highwater, open worldwide on November 22, 2007. I know I will be there.
Blatant Comment Whoring: What author would you like to meet?