The view from the balcony at the Neil Gaiman reading at Agnes Scott College on Dec. 14. AJC/Jamie Gumbrecht
UPDATE, 4:50 p.m. 12/15: Here’s Little Shop’s thank-you post for Neil Gaiman.
How devoted are Neil Gaiman’s Atlanta fans? Well, devoted enough to lure him here with a fabulous party at Decatur’s Little Shop of Stories, devoted enough to stand in line for free tickets and devoted enough still to wait up to seven hours at Agnes Scott College to get his signature inside a book.
I did not wait so long for a signature, but I was there last night, along with 1,000 or so people, for his reading. Gaiman is an unusually entertaining reader — yes, he does voices! — and even as he read from children’s books “Odd and the Frost Giants“and “The Graveyard Book,” it felt like storytime for grown-ups.
Which is good, considering that he signed the last book around 1:15 a.m., then caught an early flight to Winnipeg, where another store (and another giddy audience) waited.
Here’s some of what you missed if you weren’t there last night:
- Gaiman was indeed delayed by yesterday’s overwhelming fog in Atlanta, but that seemed to be OK. “I really like the fog. Really good fog. I thought, ‘I wonder if they did it special for me.’”
- “Coraline” was inspired by his daughter, Holly, who turned out “frighteningly normal,” but once was a solemn child who dictated stories about little girls whose mothers were replaced with evil people who were definitely not their mothers. Knowing what his daughter liked, Gaiman went to his local bookshop thinking, “I will go and find some really good horror for 5 year olds.” Except no, he wouldn’t, because it didn’t exist. So, he wrote it, and filled it with things Holly would love. He can’t, however, explain the button eyes. They’re there, but he has no idea what inspired it.
- “The Graveyard Book” was something like a gothic version of “The Jungle Book.” It was inspired by his son, Mike, who is now a devoted bicycle rider, but many years ago, was was just as devoted to his tricycle, regardless of where he was. As Gaiman explained it, “2 year old, tricycle, stairs, death.” Instead, Gaiman took his son to ride across the way, inside a cemetery, where nothing much could get in his way. He looked more at home there than you expect any boy to look, and there was the story. Still Gaiman put it off for decades, sensing that he wasn’t good enough to write it. “Round about 2004, I thought, ‘I’m not getting any better.’” He was, apparently, good enough.
- Will he ever come back to Dragon*Con? “Oh, probably, eventually.” After a few good rounds at the annual Atlanta conference, he had a run-in with poor organization — the kind that meant he had to stay in his room and wait around while cool things happened below. “They kept trying to present me with a lifetime achievement award, which they managed never to present to me.” (It showed up much later, although, being 39, it seemed a bit early.) Regardless, he said, “it may happen one day.”
The big lesson of the night, though, came from Little Shop of Stories co-owner Dave Shallenberger: “Amazon does not put Christmas trees on the roof, Barnes and Noble does not ask you to bring your dogs to story time and Borders does not bring Neil Gaiman to Atlanta.”
If you went, what were your favorite moments from the night? How long did you wait, and what did you talk about with Neil? Share in the comments!
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