Edinburgh International Book Festival Part FiveA comics news article
I am one of those people who is late to everything; I just don't know how to get to stuff on time. I have absolutely no idea how it's done or how other people do it. I think it has something to do with pacing the rhythm of your walking so space warps around you. Because everyone knows you can travel faster outside space. Duh.
Turns out, Scottish people hate lateness. I've missed two events for which I had press tickets just because I was sleeping like a jackass. Or like, trying to exercise. Stupid reasons. I knew there would be no lateness tolerated, but the problem was, I already was late. I had to walk 15 minutes to the gardens, get my tickets, then get to the event. So I had to run.
Bear in mind, running is the thing I do best. I suppose you may be thinking, "Well, this fellow is pretty good at writing (you're not thinking that), so he must be pretty damn good at running." I don't know why you are using words like 'fellow,' but you would be right. I am ten thousand times better at running than I am at anything else. I can run so fast, you wouldn't even believe it. Sometimes I do things wrong just so the police will chase me and I can run from them because I know they will never catch me. I made it to the event easily because of my speed, but I was extremely sweaty. So so sweaty. I am person who prides myself on my smells, except now I realize how silly that sounds, having actually typed it out. But seriously, I fear for the people around me. Wait, I still smell great.
Now that all that swearing is done, let's talk about children! Neil Gaiman has a bunch of different panels to do, each presenting a different facet of his career. The first was on his novels, and the one I'm discussing here was on his children's books. Later on, there would be one on his comics work and Sandman stuff.
So many times throughout the panel on his children's books, Neil told stories of his interactions with children and how they've shaped his ideas and given him so much fuel for his work. Whether it was a story about his own children or a little girl who lied about being afraid of Coraline just to hear the ending, Gaiman seemed like the perfect individual to be on stage in front of such an audience of youngsters and their guardians.
The thing that made this panel great for me was most likely something that everyone else hated. During the show, I was sitting in the direct center of the theatre. In the row directly in front of me, there were two children and their mother. And they were just going at it the entire time. Just completely fuckin' with each other. And I loved it. What panel about children's books would be compete without two kids just annoying the shit out of each other? It was totally hilarious. As always, there was one whiny kid and one older kid. They both had stuffed animals. The kid with glasses (odd reversal) was bullying the whiny kid silly. He was rubbing him with the stuffed animal as the mother coddled the whiny kid and tried (in vain) to protect him from this glasses-wearing villain. As this went on, people darted hateful gazes of, "Lady, get the fuck ahold of your children." She really should've just got up and sat between them, problem solved. Either way, I loved it. Love, love, loved it. No matter how annoying or distracting, it was pure. It was childhood. It was like every pestering kid fight you've ever seen, complete with sobbing cries of, "Mom, he's poking me!" followed by, "I did not!" And then of course, "Mommmmm, how much longer??"
Again, Neil Gaiman performing is perfection. This time, he was jazzing up his act for the kids, complete with pirate accents and alien voices. Aliens. I love aliens, especially the pure green ones with the big heads. The Martians. Haven't you ever wondered why the Martians are so green if their planet is so red? It must be like Christmas year round up there.
I want to be Neil Gaiman's daughter. Okay, I realize that's a weird sentence. What I mean is that I would love to have Neil read to me every night for like ten years. Okay, now I realize you are picturing me as a 22 year old in a tiny bed with tiny covers, wearing footie pajamas while Neil Gaiman reads delicately to me and at the end, I fall asleep. Okay, maybe I'm the only one picturing that. Uh, err, just... If you're a Gaiman fan, track him down. Go somewhere where he's reading, please. His work absolutely comes to life.
The piece he was promoting today is a children's book called Fortunately, the Milk, which will be out in September. It's a fun tale of honorable fatherhood. There were a ton of questions asked by kids (which Neil handled masterfully) about Coraline. The whole thing wasn't just for kids though. There were more lumps of knowledge passed around, floating in space for us to grab them. Apparently there are two kinds of people: foxes and hedgehogs. Foxes know lots of little things. Hedgehogs know one big thing.
This all fed into the idea that stories matter, as Neil was proving with every second he was on stage and another fragile child mustered up the nerve to ask a question of a man they admired. And Mr. Gaiman never disappointed. He never dumbed down anything he said for the kids. Having worked with kids on my own, it's easy to see how much people underestimate them, how much rare it is for people to see children as the blistering balls of imagination they are.
I'm falling in love again. Truthfully, if there's one thing I know how to do well, it's fall in love. It's not love at first sight like with Melinda, but Neil Gaiman is slowly taking up more and more space inside my brain and each time I see him speak, he carves deeper and deeper into my subconscious. By the time the Sandman event happens, I'll be a full-on googly-eyed 16 year old girl, dressed as Death, ready for midnight.
- Tyler Gross