Academic journal article Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts

Neil Gaiman: An Introduction

Academic journal article Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts

Neil Gaiman: An Introduction

Article excerpt

I have known Neil Gaiman for maybe three decades now, and sometime near the start of our friendship began to notice that Neil often had the capacity to see all around whomever he was talking to. That is, he very much seemed to have taken in their motives, hidden and otherwise, and attitudes, and most often not only to have understood the point toward which he or she were struggling, but to have reached that point ten or fifteen minutes in advance of the other party. Throughout, he expressed his understanding of all that was going on with steadfast and unflagging equanimity, also with great personal decency. This is not the Boy Scouts, and real personal decency actually has no place at all in the values and qualities we most celebrate, but it is nonetheless worth remarking when it (so unexpectedly) appears.

I think I first took in this quality of Neil's during a conversation in the concierge-floor bar of a convention hotel in California maybe twenty years ago. Ten or so English and American writers had gathered in a corner of the bar and were cheerfully running down the characters of a lot of other writers who not present. It was playful and funny, but also quite genuine--it is amazing, how many funny nasty things you can think of to say about someone who has the bad luck to be absent. After a while, it became clear to everyone that Neil was simply not playing the game. He had opted out, and seemed still to be enjoying himself, but would not take part.

Someone, I think Kim Newman, threw down the gauntlet. All right, Neil, he said, what about X? X, known to all, was not really a bad guy, but he was often irritating and annoying. One sort of liked him, but he was much easier to like when in another room. Or another city. Or, best of all, on another continent.

Neil hesitated for no more than a moment, then said, "Well ... …

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