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Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman

Neil Richard Gaiman (born November 10, 1960) is an English author of science fiction and fantasy short stories and novels, graphic novels, comics, and films. His notable works include The Sandman comic series, Stardust, and American Gods. The extreme enthusiasm of his fans has led some to call him the "rock star" of the literary world.

He lives near Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States, in an "Addams Family house". He is married to Mary T. McGrath and has three children, Michael, Holly and Madeleine.

Biography

Early life

Gaiman's family is of Polish Jewish origins; after emigrating from the Netherlands in 1916, his grandfather eventually settled in the Hampshire city of Portsmouth on the south coast of England and established a chain of grocery stores. His father, David Bernard Gaiman, worked in the same chain of stores; his mother, Sheila Gaiman (née Goldman), was a pharmacist. He has two younger sisters. After living for a period in the nearby town of Portchester, where Neil Gaiman was born in 1960, the family settled in 1965 in the West Sussex town of East Grinstead when his parents moved there to work for the Church of Scientology, of which his father was a prominent member. Gaiman lived in East Grinstead for many years, from 1965-1980 and again from 1984-1987. Gaiman was educated at several Church of England schools, including Fonthill School (East Grinstead), Ardingly College (1970-74), and Whitgift School (Croydon) (1974-77).

Journalism, early writings, and literary influences

As a child and a teenager, Gaiman grew up reading the works of C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Michael Moorcock, Ursula K. Le Guin, Lord Dunsany and G. K. Chesterton. He later became a fan of science fiction, reading the works of authors as diverse as Samuel R. Delany, Roger Zelazny, Robert A. Heinlein, Harlan Ellison, H. P. Lovecraft, Thorne Smith, and Gene Wolfe.

In the early 1980s, Gaiman pursued journalism, conducting interviews and writing book reviews, as a means to learn about the world and to make connections that he hoped would later assist him in getting published. He wrote and reviewed extensively for the British Fantasy Society. His first professional short story publication was "Featherquest", a fantasy story, in Imagine Magazine in May 1984, when he was 23.

In 1984, he wrote his first book, a biography of the band Duran Duran, as well as Ghastly Beyond Belief, a book of quotations, with Kim Newman. He also wrote interviews and articles for many British magazines, including Knave. In the late 1980s, he wrote Don't Panic: The Official Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Companion in what he calls a "classic English humour" style. Following on from that he wrote the opening of what would become his collaboration with Terry Pratchett on the comic novel Good Omens, about the impending apocalypse.

After forming a friendship with comic book writer Alan Moore, Gaiman started writing comics, picking up Miracleman after Moore finished his run on the series. Gaiman and artist Mark Buckingham collaborated on several issues of the series before its publisher, Eclipse Comics, collapsed, leaving the series unfinished. His first published comic strips were four short Future Shocks for 2000 AD in 1986-7. He wrote three graphic novels with his favorite collaborator and long-time friend Dave McKean, Violent Cases, Signal to Noise, and The Tragical Comedy or Comical Tragedy of Mr. Punch. In between, he landed a job with DC Comics, his first work being the limited series Black Orchid.

Comics

Gaiman has written numerous comics for several publishers. His award-winning series The Sandman tells the tale of Morpheus, the anthropomorphic personification of Dream. The series began in 1989 and concluded in 1996: the 75 issues of the regular series, along with a special and a seven issue coda, have been collected into 11 volumes that remain in print.

In 1989, Gaiman published The Books of Magic (collected in 1991), a four-part mini-series that provided a tour of the mythological and magical parts of the DC Universe through a frame story about an English teenager who discovers that he is destined to be the world's greatest wizard. The miniseries was popular, and sired an ongoing series written by John Ney Rieber.

In the mid-90s, he also created a number of new characters and a setting that was to be featured in a title published by Tekno Comix. The concepts were then altered and split between three titles set in the same continuity: Lady Justice, Mr. Hero the Newmatic Man, and Teknophage. They were later featured in Phage: Shadow Death and Wheel of Worlds. Although Neil Gaiman's name appeared prominently on all titles, he was not involved in writing of any of the above-mentioned books (though he helped plot the zero issue of Wheel of Worlds).

Gaiman wrote a semi-autobiographical story about a boy's fascination with Michael Moorcock's anti-hero Elric for Ed Kramer's anthology Tales of the White Wolf. In 1996, Gaiman and Ed Kramer co-edited The Sandman: Book of Dreams. Nominated for the British Fantasy Award, the original fiction anthology featured stories and contributions by Tori Amos, Clive Barker, Gene Wolfe, Tad Williams, and others.

Asked why he likes comics more than other forms of storytelling Gaiman said “One of the joys of comics has always been the knowledge that it was, in many ways, untouched ground. It was virgin territory. When I was working on Sandman, I felt a lot of the time that I was actually picking up a machete and heading out into the jungle. I got to write in places and do things that nobody had ever done before. When I’m writing novels I’m painfully aware that I’m working in a medium that people have been writing absolutely jaw-droppingly brilliant things for, you know, three-four thousand years now. You know, you can go back. We have things like The Golden Ass. And you go, well, I don’t know that I’m as good as that and that’s two and a half thousand years old. But with comics I felt like — I can do stuff nobody has ever done. I can do stuff nobody has ever thought of. And I could and it was enormously fun.”

In January 2009, Gaiman will write a two-part Batman story for DC Comics to follow Batman R.I.P.. It will be called "Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?" a play off of the classic Superman story "Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?" by Alan Moore.

Novels and film

Gaiman also writes songs, poems, short stories, novels, novellas, and screenplays. He wrote the 1996 BBC dark fantasy television series Neverwhere, which he later adapted into a novel, and cowrote the screenplay for the movie MirrorMask with his old friend Dave McKean for McKean to direct. In addition, he wrote the localised English language script to the anime movie Princess Mononoke, based on a translation of the Japanese script.

He cowrote the script for Robert Zemeckis's Beowulf with Roger Avary, a collaboration that has proved productive for both writers. Gaiman has expressed interest in collaborating on a film adaptation of the Epic of Gilgamesh.

He was the only person other than J. Michael Straczynski to write a Babylon 5 script in the last 3 seasons, contributing the season 5 episode "Day of the Dead".

In 2005, his novel Anansi Boys was released worldwide. The book deals with Anansi ('Mr. Nancy'), a supporting character in American Gods. Specifically it traces the relationship of his two sons, one semi-divine and the other an unaware Englishman of American origin, as they explore their common heritage. It hit the New York Times bestseller list at number one.

See List of works by Neil Gaiman.

Adaptations

Gaiman has also written at least three drafts of a screenplay adaptation of Nicholson Baker's novel The Fermata for director Robert Zemeckis, although the project was stalled while Zemeckis made The Polar Express and the Gaiman-Roger Avary written Beowulf film.

Several of Gaiman's original works have been optioned or greenlighted for film adaptation, most notably Stardust, which premiered in August 2007 and stars Robert De Niro, Michelle Pfeiffer and Claire Danes, directed by Matthew Vaughn. A stop-motion version of Coraline is slated for a 2009 release, with Henry Selick directing and Dakota Fanning and Teri Hatcher in the leading roles.

In 2007 Gaiman announced that after ten years in development the feature film of Death: The High Cost of Living would finally begin production with a screenplay by Gaiman that he would direct for Warner Independent. Don Murphy and Susan Montford are the producers, and Guillermo del Toro is the film's executive producer.

Seeing Ear Theatre performed an audio play of "Snow, Glass, Apples," Gaiman's retelling of Snow White, which was published in the collection Smoke and Mirrors in 1998.

Blog

In February 2001, when Gaiman had completed writing American Gods, his publishers set up a promotional web site featuring a weblog in which Gaiman described the day-to-day process of revising, publishing, and promoting the novel. After the novel was published, the web site evolved into a more general Official Neil Gaiman Website.

Gaiman generally posts to the blog several times a week, describing the day-to-day process of being Neil Gaiman and writing, revising, publishing, or promoting whatever the current project is. He also posts reader emails and answers questions, which gives him unusually direct and immediate interaction with fans. One of his answers on why he writes the blog is "because writing is, like death, a lonely business.

The original American Gods blog was extracted for publication in the NESFA Press collection of Gaiman miscellany, Adventures in the Dream Trade.

To celebrate the 7th anniversary of the blog, the novel American Gods was provided free of charge online for a month.

As of late July 2008, Neil Gaiman announced that he is taking a break from blogging. From his July 14 blog post

I think we're approaching a blog holiday ...

I've been posting more or less daily since 2001 -- 2,741 blog posts so far, according to Blogger and 1,158,002 words ... and I'm starting to feel like it's time to stop blogging for a bit and recharge my batteries... At this point, I think I'll definitely take Clarion off, and possibly longer.

Friendships

Gaiman maintains friendships with several celebrities outside the comic book and science fiction fields, including:

Friendship with Tori Amos

One of Gaiman's most commented-upon friendships is his friendship with the musician Tori Amos (A Sandman fan who became fast friends with Gaiman after making reference to "Neil and the Dream King" on her 1991 demo tape, and whom he included as a character (a talking tree) in Stardust.) also mentions him in her songs, "Tear in Your Hand" ("If you need me, me and Neil'll be hangin' out with the dream king. Neil says hi by the way.") "Space Dog" ("Where's Neil when you need him?") "Horses" ("But will you find me if Neil makes me a tree?") and "Carbon" ("Get me Neil on the line, no I can't hold. Have him read, 'Snow, Glass, Apples' where nothing is what it seems"). He also wrote stories for the tour book of Boys for Pele and Scarlet's Walk, a letter for the tour book of American Doll Posse, and the stories behind each girl in her album Strange Little Girls. Amos penned the introduction for his novel Death: the High Cost of Living, and posed for the cover. She also wrote a song called "Sister Named Desire" based on his Sandman character, which was included on his anthology, Where's Neil When You Need Him?.

Neil Gaiman is Godfather to Tori Amos's daughter Tash, and wrote a poem called Blueberry Girl for Tori and Tash . The poem has been turned into a book by Charles Vess . He read the poem aloud to an audience in San Francisco on Oct 5, 2008 during his book reading tour for The Graveyard Book..

S. Alexander Reed has written about the intertextual relationships between Gaiman and Amos's work. Reed does close readings of several of Gaiman's allusions to Amos, arguing that the reference to Amos happens as the texts expand and broaden their focus, and that Amos serves to disrupt the linear flow of the narrative. He reads this disruption in terms of psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan's idea of the mirror stage, arguing that the mutual referentiality serves to create an ideal vision of the reader-as-fan that the actual reader encounters and misrecognizes as themselves, thus drawing the reader into the role of the devoted (and paying) fan. The essay also contains a fairly thorough list of known references in both Gaiman and Amos's work.

Litigations

In 1993, Gaiman was contracted by Todd McFarlane to write a single issue of Spawn, a popular title at the newly created Image Comics company. McFarlane was promoting his new title (as well as combatting criticism of his own scripting skills and gaining stellar creative input into his new universe) by having guest authors Gaiman, Alan Moore, Frank Miller, and Dave Sim each write a single issue.

In issue #9 of the series, Gaiman introduced the characters Angela, Cogliostro, and Medieval Spawn. Prior to this issue, Spawn was an assassin who worked for the government and came back as a reluctant agent of Hell but had no direction. In Angela, a cruel and malicious angel, Gaiman introduced a character who threatened Spawn's existence, as well as providing a moral opposite. Cogliostro was introduced as a mentor character for exposition and instruction, providing guidance. Medieval Spawn introduced a history and precedent that not all Spawns were self-serving or evil, giving additional character development to Malebolgia, the demon that creates Hellspawn.

As intended (and legally allowed), all three characters were used repeatedly throughout the next decade by Todd McFarlane within the wider Spawn universe. In papers filed by Neil Gaiman in early 2002, however, he claimed that the characters were jointly owned by their scripter (himself) and artist (McFarlane), not merely by McFarlane in his role as the creator of the series. Ironically, disagreement over who owned the rights to a character was the primary motivation for McFarlane and other artists to form Image Comics (although that argument related more towards disagreements between writers and artists as character creators). As McFarlane used the characters without Gaiman's permission or royalty payments, Gaiman believed his copyrighted work was being infringed upon, which violated their original, oral, agreement. McFarlane initially agreed that Gaiman had not signed away any rights to the characters, and negotiated with Gaiman to effectively 'swap' McFarlane's interest in the character Miracleman (McFarlane believes he purchased interest in the character when Eclipse Comics was liquidated; Gaiman is interested in being able to continue his aborted run on that title) but later claimed that Gaiman's work had been work-for-hire and that McFarlane owned all of Gaiman's creations entirely. The presiding Judge, however, ruled against their agreement being work for hire, based in large part on the legal ruling that "copyright assignments must be in writing.

The February 24, 2004 ruling ultimately upheld an earlier, October 2002, district court ruling granting joint ownership of the characters to Gaiman and McFarlane. On the specific issue of Cogliostro, presiding Judge John Shabaz proclaimed "The expressive work that is the comic-book character Count Nicholas Cogliostro was the joint work of Gaiman and McFarlane-their contributions strike us as quite equal--and both are entitled to ownership of the copyright".

This legal battle was brought by Gaiman and the specifically-formed Marvels and Miracles, LLC, which Gaiman created in order to help sort out the legal copyrights surrounding Miracleman (see the ownership of Miracleman sub-section of the Miracleman article). Gaiman wrote Marvel 1602 in 2003 to help fund this project. All of Marvel Comics' profits for the original issues of the series went to Marvels and Miracles.

Gaiman is a major supporter and board member of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund.

Awards

References in popular culture

  • Where's Neil When You Need Him? is a tribute CD to Gaiman consisting of seventeen tracks performed by various artists who are fans of his work. The album's title was taken from the song "Space Dog," by Tori Amos. Tori became a long-time friend and collaborator of Neil Gaiman after she first made a reference to him in the 1991 song "Tear in Your Hand" from her album Little Earthquakes. She continues the tradition, mentioning Gaiman in her song "Horses" on the album Boys for Pele and in "Carbon" from her album Scarlet's Walk.
  • On Babylon 5, the alien species, the Gaim, were named after Gaiman by their creator, J. Michael Straczynski.
  • In the video game Star Wars: Rebellion, one of the planets in the "Large Galaxy" mode is called Neelgaimon.
  • In SimCity 2000, if you query a library and click "Ruminate" a prose about cities' personalities is attributed to Gaiman.

Literary allusions

Gaiman's work is known for a high degree of allusiveness. Meredith Collins, for instance, has commented upon the degree to which his novel Stardust depends on allusions to Victorian fairy tales and culture, while other writers have commented extensively on his use of allusions. Particularly in The Sandman, literary figures and characters appear often - the character of Fiddler's Green is modeled visually on G.K. Chesterton, both William Shakespeare and Geoffrey Chaucer appear as characters, as do several characters from within A Midsummer Night's Dream. The comic also draws from numerous mythologies and historical periods. Such allusions are not unique to Sandman.

Clay Smith has argued that this sort of allusiveness serves to situate Gaiman as a strong authorial presence in his own works, often to the exclusion of his collaborators. Smith argues that this creates a sort of game to reading Gaiman, where the reader is expected to identify references not to broaden their own knowledge, but to deepen their appreciation of Gaiman's authorial presence, and, inevitably, to further invest time and money in Gaiman's works.

Bibliography

Neil Gaiman has written many comics and graphic novels, as well as numerous books and short stories. He has also created a number of audio books, a TV miniseries, and the scripts for several movies.

See also

Notes

References

External links

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