Oct 10, 2013

If I could ask Neil one question

More than anybody else alive, I would love to meet Neil Gaiman. Be in the same room, shake his hand, watch him autograph my collection of everything he's ever written, fantasize about us becoming friends.

If he came to my hometown or somewhere within driving distance of my residence, perhaps to accept an award, he has so many, or to appear at a convention or writer's workshop, that is where I would go. And he, after a brilliant reading from one of his illuminating works, sits down with a microphone and answers questions of the audience. No one appreciates his fans quite like Neil.

I wonder what would I ask him? My first impulse would be to ask something really deep and impressive about one of his characters, or a microscopic detail in one of his stories, to show him what a passionate admirer I am. Something like 'why does Shadow ask Wednesday's raven to say "Nevermore" when Shadow doesn't seem like the type of person to read Poe?' Even though I don't really care about the answer, I care about him seeing me as a true fan, not a pretender. One who has read all of Sandman and owns a dvd copy of the BBC production of Neverwhere. But others are likely asking him similarly esoteric questions with likely the same reasoning.

If I could ask him anything, my second impulse would be to ask him to lunch or dinner sometime. Not to court the Dream King or something like that, but to hang out, get to know one another, become friends. To show him how similar we are, how my writing and thinking was so like his before I even discovered it. Though after a bit of reflection I think asking a question like that is somewhat cheating. Much like wishing for more wishes from a great brass-skinned genie who plans to twist your wishes anyway before they're made. Also, I realize asking a question like that in a great crowd like this would only invite light laughter, a smile or two, as if I were joking, and then he'd move on to another question.

Finally I think of the perfect question, one I really would want to know, not one to display my devotion, and not one that he's likely been asked a hundred times before or one I could learn by reading his blog (which I do) or watch videos of other interviews and Q&A's with him (also do.) But I think a really meaningful question, better than "how do you become a successful writer?" or "how did you meet your wife Amanda?" or "what's your favorite food?" I would ask Neil Gaiman "When is the happiest you've ever been?"

But I would be one hand in a sea of many, and he wouldn't see me. He answers questions about Doctor Who and which is his favorite character. He answers why he chose to live in Minnesota (everyone knows that) and answers what some of his favorite books are, and questions about Sandman sequels. He smiles at us all, grateful and graceful to his throes of admirers, but never hears me. I sit down, and wonder what Neil would say and how he would answer, while I imagine how happy I'd be if he would have answered.


Ty Clark said...

Love your style. Reminds me very much of he straightforward prose of Dave Eggers in A heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius.

Austin said...

thanks, Ty. DOn't know much about Dave Eggers, I was going more for the style of Neil Gaiman, and not quite as stalker-y as it came out, but i do appreciate the compliment. :)

HailerStar said...

Have you read 'The Ocean at the end of the Lane'? I think the happiest he ever was was when he was a boy eating porridge with blueberries and cream in it. ("It tasted like happiness"). :)