Neil Gaiman is one of my favorite authors. I grew on Sandman, read almost any book he wrote (except for his short stories that I couldn’t read through), I’ve seen all the episodes he wrote for Doctor Who, and I even watched an old copy of Neverwhere, which no matter how you look at it, didn’t survive the switch to the new millennia (unlike the book).
Why am I writing this introduction? Because I am afraid. Because I feel the urge to defend myself before I write a few words that might be interpreted as attacking him, and I fear a counter attack by the hands of the radical faction of Neil Gaiman’s soldiers of truth.
So, about ten days ago the English author revealed that his next novel, which will be published in February, will deal with Norse Mythology, and all the literature magazines and all the forums were so excited about the news. This is not Gaiman’s first encounter with Asgard’s gods, but whereas he introduced them to the new world and its technology in American Gods, this new book will retell the ancient tales of the Norse culture. When interviewed about the new book, Neil Gaiman said that he has been drawn to the Norse myths ever since he was seven, when he first read Jack Kirby’s The Mighty Thor, about Odin’s oldest son, the hammer-wielding thunder god.
The great excitement from the coming book is not surprising to anyone who is familiar with the literature world. Neil Gaiman had always had a rock star quality to him. Maybe it is the black clothes, the sunglasses, and the troubled haircut that have been his trademark since the 1980’s. Maybe it is his gentle flirtation with the dark side – dark enough to draw the attention of those standing around the edges and give them the feeling of acknowledgement they long for, without diving too deep into the pit, so that even those located at the center of the mainstream can feel safe at the heart of his world, though this couldn’t be farther from the truth.
What is certain, is that the new book will add an ounce or two of gothic darkness to an author that was already carrying eyeliner left over from the late eighties – though for the past few years he has been replacing the dark eighties goth with post-millennial exhibitionism that wouldn’t shame your local social networking stars. Actually, if you examine his twitter account for a moment, it is hard not to wonder if the only reason he is still writing is to maintain his true love – his readers’ blind admiration. Those who take each one of his tweets as proof of God’s existence (much like J. K. Rowling’s fans, who keep digging into every sentence that she ever wrote to find the next “revolutionary” theory about the Harry Potter books). But if there is one person I am not worried about, it is Neil Gaiman, who manages to somehow jam a photogenic family life and a magnificent writing career between one tweet and another.
Will I buy his next book? The answer is probably yes.
*Feature photograph: Neil Gaiman, signing books after a reading from “Anansi Boys” in Berkeley, 2005 – photo by Jutta*