This past week, Neil Gaiman gave a talk with Marlon James in support of his new novel, “The Neil Gaiman Reader.” This event was in conjunction with various independent bookstores across the world. Tulsa’s Magic City Books was one of such bookstores. “The Neil Gaiman Reader” is a compilation of various short stories by Gaiman. What’s unique about this book is that the stories chosen are included in chronological order of each piece’s publication date. This allows readers to experience Gaiman’s evolution as a writer.
Gaiman took to Twitter earlier this year to poll fans on what stories should be included in this compilation novel. Fans chose from a variety of stories, narrowing down the list to 46 short stories. Gaiman himself picked the 47th story for the Reader, choosing a story that was published just last year.
The event was moderated by Marlon James, who wrote the introduction to the Reader. James has published books such as, “John Crow’s Devil,” “The Book of Night Woman,” “A Brief History of Seven Killings” and “Black Leopard, Red Wolf.”
Watching James and Gaiman talk felt like watching old friends catch up, and that’s exactly what it was. The first 12 minutes of the event were just the pair speaking about books they had read during lockdown. Gaiman spoke about how he has been reading a lot of old favorites, specifically books by Nicholas Stuart Gray. Before getting carried away too much, the moderator brought the conversation back to Gaiman’s new book.
James asked Gaiman about whether anything had surprised him about his new book. Gaiman chuckled as he answered, “What impressed me was how much I’d written. This is a big, heavy book.” There’s no lie there as the book weighs a whopping two pounds and has over 700 pages. On a more serious note, he continued, “I come into focus as an author. You can watch me trying on different hats in the first 60 pages … I start sounding like me in the early ‘90s.” The novel starts with a story Gaiman had written at the age of 20, and concludes with a story he had written at the age of 57.
Later on in the discussion, Gaiman spoke a little about the highly anticipated Netflix adaptation of his comic book series, “The Sandman.” The day before this event, Netflix sent Gaiman a scene from the beginning of the show. He spoke about how he realized Morpheus, the main character from the comic series, was no longer his own as he watched the actor playing him in the first scene. As of right now, the cast for the television series has still not been released; however, Gaiman has been hinting on Twitter that the announcement will come “when you need to be cheered up.”
After the talk between Gaiman and James ended, Gaiman took questions from fans, answering them via chat on the stream. He answered about 30 questions in the total. One of the more popular questions from the event was when a fan asked him which Doctor from “Doctor Who” is his favorite. He answered with, “Patrick Troughton was MY Doctor. Matt Smith is the only Doctor to have said my lines, and David Tennant is my favourite Doctor, because I got to share that with my children.”
He also spoke about the kind of books he enjoyed as a child, citing Norse mythology as his favorite. He also received a few questions from aspiring writers. Someone asked him if he recommended starting with short stories rather than trying to write a full-length novel. He answered that he does recommend starting with short stories. “Learn how to run shorter distances before you run your first marathon.” After finishing the Q&A, he thanked fans for coming online to see this talk and apologized that the event wasn’t in-person like originally planned.
“The Neil Gaiman Reader” is out now.