On Sunday, Matt and I went to see Neil Gaiman reading at Cleveland Public Library. Amazingly, this event was free. I mean, I would have paid to see Neil read, but free is fantastic. Our libraries rock.
Anyway, Matt is wonderfully supportive of my fan-girl-ness. It probably helps that he is also a big fan of Neil Gaiman’s writing and comic books.
I wasn’t sure what to expect in terms of crowd. I figured either, yeah, it’s Neil Gaiman, so they’ll be lining up around the block (this is what actually happened) or this is Cleveland, so no one will find out about it, and there will be fourteen people in a huge auditorium yelling, “we love you Neil!”
There ended being over a thousand people, all radiating happiness and hero worship. Neil’s fans are an odd assortment of hippie-craftsters, goths, metal-biker types and general misfits, most of which are much friendlier than they look. The book worm connection probably helped. Matt, who is usually by far the social one in our pairing, accused me of being a social butterfly for once.
It’s just easier to talk to people who are a bit batty over fantasy and such. Cult audiences are so much fun. Also, yes. A real bat got into the building, which seemed fitting.
Neil is super friendly, which didn’t surprise me, but he is also rather adorable, which did. The grim visage he carries around doesn’t really translate in person.
We got to hear the first ever reading (I think) of Odd and the Frost Giants, a short novel he wrote for World Book Day, which I’d never even heard of until yesterday (the day, not the book, but actually, I’d never heard of either).
Apparently authors and publishers put out 100 page books for free, children are given book tokens and get to choose from (I think) 9 books. I’d never heard of it because it’s the world OUTSIDE of the US. Shame, it sounds like a good idea.
Neil and his undead army. Actually they’re Oberlin students, and I had a brighter picture, but I liked the zombie look.
There were enough people that not everyone fit in the main room, which I think held about 700 people.
Another few hundred peopel were shuffled into an overflow room across the hall, where I suppose they watched on TV screens. Still more were turned away entirely. Matt and I got there just before noon, and managed to get great seats in the middle. During the question and answer section, Neil made sure to gett a couple questions from the overflow room, which was cool of him. He also took a few questions from kids, (there were quite a few in the audience) including “do you remember signing a girl’s foot in Portland?” which was pretty entertaining.
He got a standing ovation, which is predictable these days, but I’d say he actually deserved it, which is less common. He’s a fantastic speaker, and of course most of his fans already know he’s a wonderful reader. I’ve listened to his audio books before, but I was still sort of amazed at his vocal range with characters, particularly reading Odd and the Frost Giants. I really did feel as though I were a little kid again, listening to the bear voices in a faerie tale. Afterwards he signed books and possibly feet.
Actually he’s a saint. He signed for everyone that wanted something. I’m not sure what time he left, but Matt and I finally made it out with our signed books at about 6 pm, and I know Neil was supposed to leave to catch a plane at 4:30. So yeah. Saint.
In high fan-girl fashion, I drew Neil a picture, hoping I’d have a chance to give it to him. I’d planned to draw something from one of his short stories, but I couldn’t settle on anything so I ended up doing a caricature of Neil. As he put it: “Oh it’s me! Beekeeping! With a 3 headed Cabal!” So I think he liked it, even though my friend Jack told me I was being creepy.
I made his head too big, and the dog’s body is a little confusing (but I suppose it would be) and actually the front dog head looks like a Corgi, which Cabal certainly is not. And don’t even ask about the futuristic bee hive.
I wanted him to be grabbing something out of the air, and I eventually settled on star anise. I tried to think of what an idea might look like, and this seemed like a good representation: half seed, half star.
His cloak of course is a nod at the Sandman‘s getup, and I was trying to make his hat look a bit like Odin’s cap, but honestly that’s pretty much what beekeeper’s hats look like anyway, so I’m not sure I succeeded.
It was an amazing day and I got to give Neil my drawing, and we got some books signed, and hear part of a new story, and get a teaser about what he’s working on now, and generally hear him talk about what he does and what it’s like. It was an unbelievable way to spend a day, especially sharing it with Matt. Even if I didn’t get to eat more than a cookie and a half between waking up and 7 pm dinner. I’m still a bit giddy, and emotianlly drained from being giddy all day yesterday. Totally worth it.