Things I learned about Neil Gaiman at tonight’s book-signing:

  • He is very funny in person, with a dry, British, often self-deprecating wit, for instance, answering a question about why he doesn’t do sequels: “People assume that I have a principled stand against doing sequels, when actually I’m just rubbish at it.”
  • He can be funny about literally anything, witness his report of a conversation with Terry Pratchett:
  • Terry is writing his memoirs. He called me recently to ask whether, that time we walked down the street at 2 AM singing They Might Be Giants it was 43rd or 47th Street. I responded “You’ve got Alzheimers! You’re supposed to call me up and ask who I am!”

  • He is a brilliant mimic, at different times being William Shatner, Terry Pratchett, Shirley MacLaine, a drunken American, and various characters from his books.
  • Gaiman is pronounced like “Gay man”, not “Guy man”. Bookers pronouncing it the wrong have several times confused audiences expecting the singer known for Sweet Caroline.
  • He is a good sport, being willing to spend literally hours signing books for upwards of 500 people. But there are limits, as this will be his last book-signing tour.
  • In some ways he is exactly who I thought, as his answer to “What did you read when you were young?” was “Everything.”

In addition to answering questions submitted on 3×5 cards (much like Whose Line, except more consistently funny), Gaiman read from two of his books: the recently published The Ocean at the End of the Lane and the forthcoming Fortunately, the Milk. Ocean is a fantasy about a childhood complete with friendly neighbors who appear to be witches (one brags that her homemade cheese was a great hit at the court of Henry II), while Milk is the story of a father who, denying that he was home late from the corner store because he was gabbing with a neighbor, explains that he was beamed aboard a UFO, escaped only to be captured by pirates, and then to be rescued by a stegosaurus piloting a hot-air balloon. He read only briefly from this one, so I expect there’s much more to the story.

Mike Schilling

Mike has been a software engineer far longer than he would like to admit. He has strong opinions on baseball, software, science fiction, comedy, contract bridge, and European history, any of which he's willing to share with almost no prompting whatsoever.


  1. That’s cool, Mike. I wonder just how many books the man has had to sign since I got my Season Of Mists signed, back in the early 90’s. We thought he was a big deal then – I had to wait in a line of maybe 25-50 people at the dinky comic book store.

    Now he is a Big Deal.

    Also, don’t answer this now, but when we finish Sandman it would be cool if the people for whom this is their first time through would offer any thoughts* on it. Is it what you expected? Overrated? Underrated? Exactlyrated?

    *Unless your thought is, “This is TERRIBLE! Why on earth did I agree to read this?!” That’d just be depressing, because I would realize just how much of my life I have wasted.

  2. I was sad I couldn’t see him when he was in Dallas recently. Now I’ll just have to stalk him. Or his wife. Or something less crazy.

  3. Neil talks about how his fan base has changed over time. During the Sandman era, it was pretty evenly divided between men and women. Over time, more women started appearing. Neil began to realise — these are the girls to whom some kindly person gave a copy of Coraline back when they were nine or ten.

    Many years ago, I was introduced to Sandman by a girl in a bookshop who said something to the effect that Neil Gaiman stood out in a sea of misogynous graphic novelists, the only man who could write women well. I’ve bought pretty much everything since.

    Neil’s the master of the Cauldron of the Dagda, from which no man went away unsatisfied.

  4. O.M.G. You met Neil Gaiman? And he’s every bit as witty and charming and unselfassuming as I’ve ever imagined him?

    All this time, I thought I liked you, Schilling.
    But now I hate you. Sure sure, it’s totally a petty thing having everything to do with the fact that you’ve met Gaiman and, sigh, I have not.

    An aside …
    I’ve become somewhat of a Kindle addict. (Diligently monitor Amazon’s Daily Deals and Best Seller lists, lots to be had for cheapskates like myself.) However, there remain a handful of authors who I will only buy in bound version. Gaiman is one of them. I’ve ordered my copy of The Ocean …, it can’t arrive soon enough.

    • Finally, the reaction I was aiming for.

      Though “met” is an exaggeration. He spoke from a stage, and didn’t chat with us as we came up to get our books signed.

      • Well, I will confess that those first 2 paragraphs were my reaction as well, then. Though I should also admit that I have had opportunities to “meet” the man, and have not done so… bummed to hear this is his last tour.

        • He mentioned that he likes reading to audiences and wouldn’t mind signing except that the size of the crowds he draws makes that an all-night event. This one was close to 1000 people, and that was way the hell out in Santa Rosa. (More hate-bait: since a friend of mine helped run it, we were in the second row, the first having been reserved for the Gaiman entourage. We also got to be in the first signing group, so we were out by 8:00 even though it went past 10:00.) Anyway, if the publishing world can wrap its head around the fact that people would come out to see him and buy books even without the autographs, there may be more tours.

          • More hate-bait: since a friend of mine helped run it, we were in the second row, the first having been reserved for the Gaiman entourage. We also got to be in the first signing group …

            You’re so right! I do indeed hate you even more, now.

        • Well, it’s specifically“The Last US Signing Tour”. That brings up the possibilities of still seeing/meeting him at:

          1) A book signing tour in a country other than the USA.

          2) A book signing in the US that is not a part of a tour.

          3) A tour in the US without book signing.

          But that’s just the rules lawyer in me. 🙂

      • Have you seen the Oglaf comic starring Neil Gaiman?

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