No not him, me. The other Neil.
Tonight was the much anticipated second Neil Gaiman event. This one – run by the hay festival – was at the Criterion Theatre in Piccadilly and once again the heavens opened. I arrived bedraggled but due to a slightly wiser wardrobe choice not smelling of damp velvet.
The event was larger than the last one and full of a wider spread of his fans including the ever vocal comic contingent; once again all were genial. Prompt planning meant we managed to obtain seating right in the first row from the front directly in view of Neil.
Then he and Claire came out.
The talk was informal and Neil was charming and funny and interesting in the way that he is. It’s all a bit of a blur due to me being over tired and a bit disappointed in myself for reasons we’ll come onto shortly but here is my recollection of the evening:
– A rather good reading from Chapter 2 of Stardust
– How Neil’s fans are diverse and he’s known in to some as the guy who wrote Sandman, to others as the dude who wrote Coraline and others as the guy who wrote Neverwhere and so on.
– He talked about the BBC and how he’d love to do something with them again, also – in response to a question on Dr Who – how he’s been having ideas for Who episodes since he was six.
– There was mention of yesterday’s trip to the BBC to sit in on the recording of the compressed radio play of Anansi Boys for the World Service.
– He talked about the perils of writing just for the money and his life lesson on it as taught by doing a book on Duran Duran.
– There was an interesting story as to how he got into comics: I didn’t know this but he quite literally ran into a bloke in a pub. Of course that wasn’t the end of it – he wound up in a telesales office in London with an art student called Dave who you may have heard of and a chap called Paul came along. The rest as they say is history.
– He was asked for a kiss
– He talked about the link between mythology and comics
– He talked about Steve Ditko and did an amusing Jonathan Ross impersonation
– He talked about how it’s useful to live far enough from LA for people to not waste his time unless they really want to spend some money
– He talked about having been fifteen and making a list of all the things he wanted to do then handing it to his mum. He has done nearly everything on that list now.
– He talked about how he thinks people often feel like they’re being written about by multiple writers: one day you’re in a Rom Com the next a police procedural.
And really looking back he crammed an awful lot of really interesting stuff wrapped up in a very charming bit of banter into an awfully small time. Mainly I’ll just be pleased that he managed to make G – who had a really bad day and was very down – leave with a smile on her face.
Then came the signing. Or rather, for me, it didn’t. The signing was not to happen in the theatre – that was hosting a performance of the 39 steps – but at the Waterstones on Piccadilly.
I rationalised that Neil G looked tired, that it was raining, that the queue was long and I would be at Eastercon 08 with plenty of time to try to get something signed. I even forgot my copy of Anansi Boys that for personal reasons I’ve wanted to get signed by Neil ever since I read it last year.
All true. All bollocks.
The truth, hard as it is for me to admit, was that I was too bloody shy to go to it and so I did a good enough job of rationalising it to convince G to go straight to dinner with me.
So I did not meet Neil. I merely saw him at a distance – although I’m sure he saw me this time – sat on my arse, scruffy and wondering why I am so damn uncomfortable, so damn awkward in these situations, why I am not pushing harder to be and to do the things that I want. Why, in short, I’m so god damned neurotic.
Sigh. One day…
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