Photograph by Mike Gallagher, a friend from Glasgow whose blog can be found at: http://www.mikegallagher.info/
One of the panels that I went to during World Con was about Neil Gaiman the human being. It was entitled “The Many Interests of Neil Gaiman” and featured Cheryl Morgan, a friend of Mr. Gaiman’s, and Neil Gaiman speaking on Neil Gaiman.
I can honestly say that Neil Gaiman is very charming and very funny. When he smiles or has an amusing thought his eyes light up like he is a kid. It was very nice to be able to sit and listen to him speak about his life and his many interests.
He and Cheryl began the panel discussion with his fondness for bees. If you read his journal, it is possible to find out about his fondness for bees. He won two blue ribbons in the county fair for his honeycomb and another type of honey. He creates special labels for the jars of honey. Cheryl suggested having a type of convention honey. Neil Gaiman thought this was a good idea except that he would need more hives.
He has had other hobbies in the past– growing exotic pumpkins. Growing exotic pumpkins is entertaining because they just grow and come up everywhere. His battle with the ground hogs discouraged him from growing pumpkins. One year he planted pumpkins and the ground hogs would eat the shoots as they came up. He decided to try to combat the ground hogs. He went to find out what to do to get rid of the ground hogs. He was told to get wolf urine or lion urine. He sprinkled it around and the ground hogs ate more of the pumpkins. So he bought the little sponge flowers that one is supposed to use to keep the scent of the urine around the garden and soaked them with the urine. And the ground hogs ate the sponges.
Cheryl related a story about her mother who had had a badger traveling through her garden and digging up her prize flowers. She called about the badger and the person was excited and wanted to come see the badger rather than help Cheryl’s mother be rid of the beastie.
Neil Gaiman stated repeatedly that he is not a dog person. He did not plan to have a dog. However, he is the hero of his own story on his blog and while he did not know that he would have a dog he firmly believes that everyone else who reads his blog knew that he was going to end up owning a dog. He was heading home on the freeway and saw a large brown animal heading towards the freeway. He stopped and hauled the incredibly large, muddy dog into his mini. The dog took up his mini and was covered in mud and it smelled as though covered in cow poo.
He took the dog to the humane society because it had a chain and he posted signs.
At this point people reading his blog knew that he had a dog. He thought he was done with the dog. The humane society called him and the dog belonged to an old farmer who thought the dog was a nuisance. The lady on the phone had told the farmer that the guy who had dropped the dog off seemed fond of the dog. SO the farmer told him to get the dog.
At first he thought he had a brown dog. He has a white dog. A white german shepherd. When people tell him that they did not know that there were white german shepherds he gives them the history of the breed. He smiled mischievously and said that that is the moment that he knows he has people trapped because he can go on and on about the dog.
Amy Palmer. Both of them are in transit. They nervously started dating and then had another date when their travel schedules overlapped. Jason Webley put them together. Neil had linked to a song of Jason Webley, Jason experienced website failure, and he sent more music, and then suggested that Gaiman meet Amanda. He had always been a fan of the Dresden Dolls. They had emailed quite a bit and she emailed and told him about the photographs of herself posed dead. She asked him to write stories around the photographs. Check out www.whokilledamandapalmer.com/
He, Amanda, and Kyle Cassidy took more photographs for the project.
Neil Gaiman talked about “liner notes” and how there was a relationship with a whole album and the sequence of the albums was important. He talked about the moment he switched to CDs was when he could hit random and have the songs randomized. His daughters only buy songs– not albums. They see patterns in songs.
He says he loves introducing things– he likes telling why things are cool. His agent has banned him from doing more because he was doing too many. Cheryl said he is always enthusing about stuff that she doesn’t know about and it is kind of embarrassing. Neil said that that has to do with that Cheryl has to stay on top of the critical canon and he gets the freedom to pull from where ever. For instance, Robert Aickman is an author that he enjoys– he is an author’s author. He writes about strange things that have happened to people. Mr. Gaiman says Mr. Aickman’s stories make the world odder and are wonderful but very few people know of them.
Neil Gaiman’s first World Con was in 1987. It had many wonderful moments and one very odd one. He was put up in a room by Titan who was publishing one of his comics. He stayed up all night talking to people in the bar. Then he realized people were going to have breakfast so he went and had breakfast. Around eleven he went to his room and a woman answered the door. His room had been given away because the hotel staff thought that he had left without paying. He stood in the lobby nervously. Then someone with Titan spoke to the manager and pointed out to them that they were renting quite a number of rooms and had scheduled a couple events. Neil got a room. He never got his things back including items that he had personally purchased from the dealer room and had been stashing in the hotel room. He said that to this day he hates that hotel.
Cheryl pointed out that that was when he started wearing black. He agreed. He liked the idea of monochrome but he had been wearing all grey but there are lots of greys. Brown greys and greens greys and a whole assortment of greys. His grandmother had told him he couldn’t wear all black because of the black shirts of the 1930’s. After his grandmother had been dead for five years he bought his first black t-shirt.
London Things. Dr. Who. He felt that Dr. Who was uniquely his even though it first came out when he was around three. He could remember drinking his school milk and walking it around saying “exterminate” like a dahlek. Patrick Troughton was the doctor for him– the others were actors playing the doctor.
Neverwhere. It was the London underground.
Dr. Who changed his perspective of the universe and gave him a perspective of the fragility of the universe. Also a sense of the optimism. The new Dr. Who has undone the things that he would have undone– the time lords. In Dr. Who there is no continuity. The same discontinuity as life. And you can always go back in time and change things.
Sushi. He and Terry Pratchett survived the book signing tour for Good Omens with sushi. He had had one prior bad experience with sushi. He was taken along to pretend to be someone’s boyfriend. He figured his job was to not embarrass his friend. He started with the most unfamiliar and worked towards the most familiar. He ate different things until he came to the “avocado” bowl. He took a large ball of wasabi and saw the face of god until he could spit it out.
When he and Terry Pratchett were on tour they would each write something to build off the comments of the other. “Burn this book” and then the other would write: “Apply holy match here.”
With The Graveyard Book he knew the feel of it before he knew what the book was going to be. He talked about the next book being the LOTR to The Graveyard Book’s Hobbit so look for more great things coming from Mr. Neil Gaiman!