A Night With Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman held his first tour since way before the pandemic. He’s been going across the United States, stopping in one spot at a time to answer questions and read aloud books. It has been quite fun, and more than fine, to hear him live.

I got surprised with tickets to the Philadelphia evening event, after debating between either Philadelphia or going to Denver to see some friends there as well. My older brother is pretty cool about things like that, since I had mentioned that I was interested.

Neil is actually looking pretty good. His hair has gone grey, but everyone by now has grey hair in this pandemic. Meanwhile his voice, tone, and sense of humor have remained the same. Neil related a story about Terry Pratchett asking the street in New York where they went on a radio show and the host was convinced that Good Omens was a work of nonfiction.

I didn’t get to submit.a question, in part because I didn’t know the process. My sister and I, however, did get presigned copies of his works. Volume 2 of Sandman for me, as the darkness of Orpheus’s tragedy and Barbie’s losses appear on the page. Barbie totally got the short end of the stick in her arc, even if it was necessary.

Neil doesn’t have a new book out; it makes sense since he’s been helping film season two of Good Omens. Instead, he read a new poem about Batman to commemorate Neal Adams’s passing, and that is when I learned that Batman artist Neal Adams died but we don’t have time to get into that now. That by itself may be a whole other blog post.

The short stories that he read felt familiar since I’ve read them in print and digital collections. “Click-Clack the Rattlebag” always makes me shiver and look at small children with increasing suspicion.  A poem about St. Oren reminds us that best friends may bury us alive if they need our bones to hold up a building. It is a shame that “The Goldfish Pool” is too long for Neil to read aloud; it’s got a melancholy to it and I’m screaming that it was inspired by his endless frustrations, ones that Terry Pratchett shared, about getting a film adaptation of Good Omens done their way. Some days there are no words for thinking that someone would not want to adapt the work as it was originally written.

Overall, that night felt satisfying, and a return to form. We all wore masks, and provided proof of vaccine cards. There were safety procedures. Neil had the safe distance of the stage, where I swore that the shadows resembled prowling cats. Neil then walked backstage, confident in his stride. He did not hold a signing where the lines would last for hours. Instead, we bought books that were pre-signed, that he did with a fountain pen.

Thank you for that night, Neil. I will remember what you said on how to be successful: “write a great story.” It means that you show belief in the stories that we write. And for the record, I’d like to read that children’s story which you kept in the drawer. Great-Aunt Ermintrude sounds like a really cool tale.