An Interview with Neil Gaiman: I still don't feel like a genius

A movie interview article by: Derek McCaw

Neil Gaiman is one of the few creators who requires no introduction: his brilliant work across media speaks for itself and has proven to be some of the most beloved and powerful material ever created. Recently Gaiman appeared at the Cinequest Film Festival in San Jose, California, to receive the Maverick Spirit Award, awarded by Cinequest, as a creator who stands apart from the crowd, willing to create and innovate from a place of personal yet global vision.

Our friend Derek McCaw had the honor of interviewing Gaiman at Cinequest, and has kindly allowed us to excerpt their visionary and fascinating interview here on Comics Bulletin. Please enjoy the section of the interview that Derek graciously shared with us, then pop over to his site, Fanboy Planet, to read Gaiman's comments about his legacy and which toy from the back of an American comic book he wishes he had.

Derek McCaw: You're here receiving the Cinequest Maverick Spirit Award. And on stage, you said that finally, you feel like you have a body of work worth honoring, that you no longer feel like a fraud. It reminded me of something Alan Moore once said, that in our culture young men get called genius after only one work. Could you reflect upon that, about finally feeling like it's okay to be acknowledged and given an award?

Neil Gaiman: I still don't feel like a genius. I've known a few real geniuses in my life, not many -- Douglas Adams, for example. And I look at those guys and... they think differently. I just make up stories.

But I think that's very true. We do tend to turn around when you've done something clever and say "look at you! You've done something clever!"

"Look at you! You've done something clever!"

When I was writing Sandman, the total was like 18 Eisner Awards, plus the World Fantasy Award for an episode of Sandman which was the first Fantasy Award that had gone to a comic. And they changed the rules the next morning to make sure that it could never happen again. Which made it even cooler, not less cool.

All of that kind of stuff, when you're looking at it, you're going, yeah, but I'm still figuring out what I'm doing. I'm not really sure what I'm doing. I'm just ... blundering my way through this with my arms outstretched, trying not to get into too much trouble.

One of the nice things now is that while I can feel, absolutely... the trouble with being any kind of artist is I never get to see what anybody else gets to see when they read American Gods or Coraline.

McCaw: I actually had that as a question...

Gaiman: I don't know what anybody else experiences. All I get to look at this thing and go, okay, this was the thing I had in my head. This is the thing I made. This is how far the thing that I had in my head fell from the thing that I made. This is the weird practicality of what we were doing. This is the thing that people thought I meant but actually, I was just trying to get around this thing, and this is the sequence that exists because I got stuck... whatever.

So when I look at all of the individual works, all that I see are the individual mistakes. But when I look at the body of work -- I'm now at the point where I've been writing for thirty years -- I can go "yeah, there's short story collections, here's some novels, here's picture books, here's comics, here's graphic novels, here is..." It takes up shelves!

And I'm really proud of it. I'm actually proud of having done this stuff. None of this stuff would have existed if I hadn't made it, and they're all my children. There's a lot of them, and they seem to be doing well and people love them.

Neil reading the unpublished "Adventure Story."

And that I can totally accept. I don't feel fraudulent about that. I don't feel apologetic about that.

Derek McCaw: And you shouldn't. They're great.

Neil Gaiman: I'm English. We can apologize about anything. We're worse than Canadians.

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