October 3rd, 2005

Whale fluke

Neil Gaiman is a Sweetheart

Add me to the Met-Neil-Gaiman List.

Add me also to the Managed-To-Say-Something-Reasonably-Intelligent-To-Neil-Gaiman-Without-Burbling-(Well-OK-Some-Burbling) List. For the first time since trying to get into a midnight first screening of Star Wars: Episode One, I camped out for a few hours to get into an event. This time, I got in.

I left work early (thank you, supervisors, for being OK with that and only jokingly saying “No, you can’t”), took the bus off of Pill Hill, and walked a few blocks. It was soon after 4 o’clock, and about 12 people were sitting outside the church already; no surprise. I grabbed a chicken sandwich from the nearby McDonald’s (surprisingly not bad) and brought it back to the church. Then I read more Lonesome Dove, then visited with a couple of fellow waiting-people. Robb and Connie, they were. Nice people, and a nice chat. (And they talk even faster than me.)

Powell’s Books, the organizers of the talk, gave us tickets as we entered which were good for a place in line for the signing after Neil’s reading. We were among the first 30 people inside. Good time to chat more and warm up. And then Neil appeared, and charmed and amused us. He walked in front of the church organ, smiled, and said, “Dearly beloved…”

This event was sweet: a young woman who took the bus from Ashland won the award for Most Effort Required To Get There: a bust of a character from Neil’s comic Sandman! And this event was interactive: twice, people handed Neil a copy of something particular to read. “I’ve never had an audience so organized,” Neil said. “I almost said, ‘I’ve never had an organized so audience’d.’ ” He read a scene from his latest novel, Anansi Boys, then, “in honor of the location,” his short piece “The Writer’s Prayer.” (That poem begins “Oh, Lord, let me not be one of those who writes too much…”)

And I had an emotion other than laughter, between the reading and the signing. The emotion came from looking at a letter left for Neil, asking for a personalized something to be sent in a Care package to Poppy Z. Brite. Who’s still far away from home (which, remember, is New Orleans) and not sure exactly when she will return. That got me. Some sighs happened, as I hoped for better things for her and her loved ones. But then I regrouped. I wanted to be ready to say hi to Neil.

I said what I wanted to say: I thanked him for being the person who pointed me towards Caitlin R. Kiernan. I started reading her three years ago, after he linked to her on his blog; because of her, I met most of my first phorum and LiveJournal acquaintances, including Aonie in Missisippi, Robyn in Massachusetts, Matt Spencer the novel-writing guy, and Poppy, too. I didn’t go into that much detail, understand; I simply said that I was glad to have found Caitlin, and had had nice dealings with her. “She’s a sweetheart, isn’t she?” he said. “I’m so glad I found her.” And he signed Anansi Boys for me, while both he and I smiled.

And now I know who, five years ago, Terry Gilliam wanted to play Aziraphale and Crowley in the film he hoped to make of Neil's novel Good Omens. And that’s another smile-worthy thought.