Thursday, 23 February 2017

On Meeting Neil Gaiman by Lev Butts

I have met a lot of writers. Like real, published-by-big-houses, award-winning, best-selling novelists. Writers you know, writers that your kids have tests on, and writers that your kids read to avoid studying for tests on the writers your kids have tests on. Writers with Wikipedia pages

I once had dinner with Joseph Heller because I told him at a signing that I was writing my Master's thesis on his work. I had to explain to Kurt Vonnegut at the same dinner that no, it wasn't because Slaughterhouse-Five wasn't good enough for me.

I didn't have a camera, so this picture of them with their wives
(from an entirely unrelated event) will have to suffice.

I used to play D&D with a World Fantasy and Bram Stoker Award winner. I correspond regularly with another Bram Stoker Award winner. I've eaten several lunches with T.E.D. Klein. I used to work with the guy who wrote the Wishbone books. I am also good friends with both Kelley Wilde and our own Reb MacRath, and you all know of my friendship with Richard Monaco.

I was asked a few weeks ago which author I'd most like to meet, not meet at a signing and shake hands with, but meet for reals. Hang out with, become friends, invite to each others' houses. My initial answer seemed simple and obvious:

Neil Gaiman.

I would love to meet Neil Gaiman, have a few beers with him, walk around the woods with him, and talk about sprites and elves and The Endless.

I mean, of course it would be Neil Gaiman.

But over the last few days, I've thought about it, and I'm not entirely sure if I would. Here's the thing about meeting our idols: They inevitably turn out to be just like us and not the gods or demigods our imaginations make them out to be.

Some of them are petty, some of them are annoying. Most, though, are all genuinely good people, people you'd really like to know. People you'd have a beer with, walk around in the woods with, and talk about sprites and elves and The Endless with.

But people nonetheless. They are not magic; they are mundane. And I'm not sure I want Neil Gaiman to be mundane.

For me, the charm of Gaiman's writing is the way it seamlessly blends the real, mundane world with the enchanted world of Faerie. Our world may not be the world evolved from J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle Earth, but Gaiman's worlds damn sure are.

And only a person who was truly touched by Faerie himself could conceivably create such worlds with his words. And if Gaiman is truly touched by Faerie, it does not matter if I am not. It means that magic is really real as are sprites and elves and maybe even The Endless. It means that the world is not really as mundane and boring as it seems most of the time. There is a chance, albeit small, that I might actually see fairies dancing in the woods by mushrooms or see a ghost or converse with a raven.

I know, I know. It seems like it would be hard for Neil-freaking-Gaiman to be mundane.

After all,

he lives in a fairy-tale house.

He writes in a wee little turret in the deep green forest.

He has a Narnia lamp post in his woods.

Hell, he even knows real, honest-to-god-wizards.
If I met him, though, that would change. As soon as he had to slip off to take a leak or belched or smelled of sweat, I would understand that he is a regular person, just like me, with bills to pay and worldly obligations to meet. His house is just really pretty, his gazebo has a screen door, and if I dug deep enough, there'd be wires under the lamp post. I would know, too, that his world is the same old mundane world that I live in, complete with global warming and questionable politics and murdered children.

So I think I prefer the hope of magic over the certainty of decay.

Oh, who am I kidding? I'd totally meet Neil Gaiman if given the chance.

Neil, if you're out there, I'm on Facebook, man. Look me up. I got the first round.


Reb MacRath said...

It's nice to be in such august company. And I agree with you, meeting Gaiman would be a trip.

Dipika Mukherjee said...

Hah! You and me both.

Jan Needle said...

I met that William Shakespeare once. He was much older than I expected.

Katherine Roberts said...

Neil Gaiman was at World Fantasy in Brighton a few years ago, when I was there with a few other fantasy authors - his signing queue stretched all the way around the banqueting hall (and possibly into another world). So a good place to meet him for a magical brew might be to go to a Fantasy convention... but you might have to wait in line!

Enid Richemont said...

Terry Pratchett for me, please. And also, Death.

madwippitt said...

But sometimes meeting your favourite writers doesn't disappoint - you just have to take the risk. Robin Hobbs is amazing. Eoin Colfer is a fabulous teller of anecdotes. And I even met AE's very own Susan Price who I am still totally in awe of. Add them all to your guest list and have a dinner party, not just a pint or two at the pub :-)