Neil Gaiman is one of my top three Geek Gods. (Grant Morrison and Hayao Miyazaki complete the Trinity.) What sets him apart from others is that his work affects me on a much higher level. Just to give you some context of the experience I am about to retell, Neil Gaiman has changed my life in a very real and personal way, as well has how I see the world and my place in it.
I met Gaiman at the Brooklyn Academy of Music for the reading and signing of his new book, The Ocean at the End of the Lane. New York wasn’t New York that night. Rather than the usual, “Mind your business and I’ll mind mine.” mentality, everyone was happy and friendly. Strangers were becoming friends. It was beautiful.
We sit down and anxiously wait for him to get on stage and you can practically hear the low buzz of everyone’s excitement in the building. Then, Neil Gaiman comes on stage and you exhale not even realizing that you were holding your breath. You begin to clap, hoot and holler and make sure he knows just how happy you are to be in his presence. The cheers go on for a while. Some people stand. He knows that we’re happy. He knows that you’re happy. And he’s smiling back at us.
And when, he speaks… oh when he speaks! It’s that voice you love. That voice that always makes you smile because it belongs to one of your favorite people in the world. His English-accented voice is layered with so much genuine kindness and warmth that it gives you goosebumps. Then the tunnel vision begins because all of your energy is focused on this one man on stage. It’s surreal. As he begins to read from his new book and it feels like a personal moment, despite being surrounded by 2,000 people.
He finishes the chapter and you are inspired. He makes you want to create. No, he makes you feel like you can create. He’s a master weaver of words, worlds and myths. The same worlds you fall in love with over and over again. There’s something magical about him. He’s not quiet like everyone else. Well, they say you are what you eat, maybe you are what you write as well.
Now you enter the signing room and all sorts of emotions overwhelm you. You are only a few people away from meeting him and you begin to panic and try to figure out what to say to this person you admire so much. Everything your brain comes up with doesn’t seem good enough. It’s as if you’re reenacting that cliché movie scene where you’re talking to yourself in a mirror.
Then it’s your turn and without thinking you tell him that it’s an honor to meet him. It’s an obvious statement, but you’re okay with that because it’s simple, yet true. He looks at you in the eyes like he cares, and you feel that he does. He thanks you and tells you that he likes your Doctor Who shirt and your smile widens, because you haven’t stopped smiling since you walked in the building. More words escape your mouth, but you’re too happy to really care if they make any sense.
Then it’s over. Your encounter was just a few brief seconds, but it was long enough to create a memory you’ll never forget. As you make your way home and the real world slowly creeps back into your senses, you replay the night over and over again in your mind. Just like you reread his stories over and over.
You’ll always have his stories and you’ll always have that moment.