“It has always been the prerogative of children and half-wits to point out that the emperor has no clothes. But the half-wit remains a half-wit, and the emperor remains an emperor.”
“The one thing that you have that nobody else has is you. Your voice, your mind, your story, your vision. So write and draw and build and play and dance and live as only you can.”
“The moment that you feel that just possibly you are walking down the street naked…that’s the moment you may be starting to get it right.”
— Neil Gaiman
Neil Richard MacKinnon Gaiman was born on this day in Portchester, Hampshire, England in 1960. He is 52 years old.
Gaiman is the oldest of three siblings. He learned to read at about four, and loved books from early on.
As a child he discovered his love of books, reading, and stories, devouring the works of C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, James Branch Cabell, Edgar Allan Poe, Michael Moorcock, Ursula K. LeGuin, Gene Wolfe, and G.K. Chesterton. A self-described “feral child who was raised in libraries…as a boy were when I persuaded my parents to drop me off in the local library on their way to work, and I spent the day there.”[neilgaiman.com — biography]
He worked his way through the children’s section and into the young adult literature. He did well at school because he’d already read all the books. Gaiman especially loved Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, which he got out from his school library. The only problem was the library only had The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers, the third book was missing. When he won the school’s English prize for reading he was finally able to buy The Return of the King and finish the trilogy.
Hew also enjoyed C.S. Lewis’ Narnia series and Lewis Carol’s Alice in Wonderland — he read Alice so often that he had it memorized. But he also read more popular genres including science fiction and comic books (he was especially fond of Bat Man.)
Gaiman started his career writing pop bios for the music group Duran Duran and author Douglas Adams.
His first foray into the graphic novel genre was with Terry Pratchett on Good Omens… The end of the world is at hand (it’s next Saturday) and the end game is coming to its inevitable conclusion.
Except that a somewhat fussy angel and a fast-living demon — each of whom has lived among Earth’s mortals for many millennia and has grown rather fond of the lifestyle — are not particularly looking forward to the coming Rapture. If Crowley and Aziraphale are going to stop it from happening, they’ve got to find and kill the Antichrist (which is a shame, as he’s a really nice kid). [Ibid — works]
Gaiman worked on a number of comics and graphic novels before being offered a chance to develop the Sandman series. The comic followed Morpheus (aka Sandman or Dream)
…There are seven brothers and sisters who have been since the beginning of time, the Endless. They are Destiny, Death, Dream, Desire, Despair, Delirium who was once Delight, and Destruction who turned his back on his duties. Their names describe their function and the realms that they are in charge of. Several years ago, a coven of wizards attempted to end death by taking Death captive, but captured Dream instead. When he finally escapes he must face the changes that have gone on in his realm, and the changes in himself. [Ibid — works]
It first appeared in 1989 and spanned 10 years of single issues, collections and books. This “dark, soulful, literary epic” [Guardian.co.uk] is thickly layered in mythology and beautifully written (and equally beautifully illustrated by a number of top comic book illustrators.) It is creepy and touching and magical. [I read them as they came out, one issue at a time, and it was a thrill to watch it unfold.] The collections are available in bookstores [but you wont have that feeling of angst and anticipation of the serialized comic book if you read it as a comic novel.]
Gaiman easily transitioned to novels with Neverwhere, Stardust, American Gods and Ananasi Boys. He won a Nebula Award for American Gods which has just been re-released in an expanded version for its 10th anniversary. HBO is working on an adaptation of the novel.
For children he spans the market from illustrated book to chapter books — like his excellent Coraline and The Graveyard Book. His picture books include:
‘M is for Magic’ (2007); ‘Interworld’ (2007), co-authored with Michael Reaves; ‘The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish’ (1997); ‘The Wolves in the Walls’ (2003); the Greenaway-shortlisted ‘Crazy Hair’ (2009), illustrated by Dave McKean; ‘The Dangerous Alphabet’ (2008), illustrated by Gris Grimly; ‘Blueberry Girl’ (2009); and ‘Instructions’ (2010), illustrated by Charles Vess. [neilgaiman.com — works]
Here is Gaiman reading the Blueberry Girl.
He’s written screenplays for his own Neverwhere, MirrorMask and English translation of Miyazaki’s Princess Mononoke. He co-wrote the screenplay for the 2007 version of Beowulf. Recently he fulfilled a lifelong dream by writing an episode of Dr. Who (“The Doctor’s Wife”)
At the San Diego Comic-Con this year Gaiman confirmed that he will release a prequel to the Sandman series.
“When I finished writing The Sandman, there was one tale still untold – the story of what had happened to Morpheus to allow him to be so easily captured in The Sandman No 1, and why he was returned from far away, exhausted beyond imagining, and dressed for war.” [Guardian.co.uk]
Gaiman tours extensively with his wife, musician Amanda Palmer. If you happen to be in Pittsburgh, PA on November 14th you can catch him for “An Evening of Stardust” at Carnegie Music Hall. [Sadly I will not be there, but if you snag me a signed copy of Stardust I’ll be your friend forever.]
- Happy Birthday, Neil Gaiman (silverbirchpress.wordpress.com)
- Neil Gaiman Writing Sandman Prequel (izabael.com)
- Writer Gaiman to speak at Carnegie Music Hall (triblive.com)
- A Chat With Hannah Durham, The Good Samaritan Who Returned Neil Gaiman’s Lost ‘Doctor Who’ Script (geek-news.mtv.com)
- Neil Gaiman writes a ‘Doctor Who’ episode that will bring back a creepy villain (csmonitor.com)