So here’s another one of my personal stories for you… the day I met Neil Gaiman.
In November 1998, Neil Gaiman was at Tropicon (hosted by the South Florida Science Fiction Society) right when his new book Smoke & Mirrors came out. I think I had only just gotten a car. Still, my best friend (who’s still my best friend) offered to drive me up there to hear Neil read from his book. On the way, we listened to Tori Amos.
We walked around for a bit and then hovered in front of the door to the room where Neil was going to do his reading:
D: So what’s this guy look like?
Neil swishes past us and walks into the room we are hovering outside of.
Me: He looks like that guy that just swished past us. In fact, that was actually him.
D: Oh. He’s short.
D is 6ft 4
We went inside and took our seats. He read Babycakes. There was a baby in the audience who started crying during the reading. Neil looked up and said “I don’t mean you” and we all laughed because the poem is about eating babies. So it was funny that the baby was crying… I don’t actually need to explain this part do I?
He also read Shoggoth’s Old Peculiar which to this very day is my favorite Neil story. I wonder if it’s because I can hear his voice in my head clearly when I read it. I remember having to cover my mouth trying to be quiet and listen because I was laughing so hard my eyes were watering.
He read something else, but I can’t remember what it was.
So after the show, and this is the important part, Neil is still standing around as people approach him and talk to him. I was standing by the wayside, my best friend is encouraging me to go up to him, but I don’t know what to say. “I love you, man,” seems silly and not really what I want to say at all. “I love your stories,” doesn’t sound right either. Surely he’s heard it all before, best not to make a fool of myself by repeating what countless others have already said.
Instead I start talking to this random guy in a Tori Amos shirt about Tori Amos. We’re both fans obviously and we’re having a pretty decent conversation. This is where the story takes a turn which still makes me smile when I tell it. In fact, as I edit it this I started smiling all over again.
Out of nowhere (somewhere to my left) Neil Gaiman comes up to me and says, “Oh, you like Tori Amos? Come over here.” He takes my hand (no I am not making this up) and takes me over to the stage. You see, Charles Vess was also at the convention and Neil had some of the prints of the Vess illustrations that were going to be in Stardust the very next year. So he takes me over and shows me the one of the Tori tree and a few others. He’s talking but all my brain is saying to me is “For the love of God, form a complete sentence!” I nodded and commented on them, and thankfully others around made some more intelligent remarks than myself. It’s all a blur from there though. I don’t think I made a fool of myself, but I did forget to ask for a picture. I got my copy of Smoke & Mirrors signed later that day and couldn’t think of anything clever to say at the signing either, but managed to get out the words “thank you”.
So that’s the story. I walked around with a post-orgasmic smile on my face for a whole month afterwards. It’s hard meeting one of your idols. I think I’d be nervous to meet him to this day. I was cool as a cucumber when I met Bruce Campbell even though I worship him. Perhaps if I was an aspiring B-movie legend instead of aspiring writer I’d have fumbled all over myself when meeting Bruce.
To end here I just want to thank my best friend for driving me to what turned out to be one of the most awesome moments of my life thus far.