Faithful readers of this blog most likely know of my admiration for the works of the eminent and messy-haired fantasy author Neil Gaiman (which I have commented on here, here and here. Oh, and - well, you get the idea). Yesterday, on a trip over the water to Portsmouth (for overseas readers, that's on the south coast of the UK), I was very thankful to meet the man himself. And I am pleased to say he was as friendly and funny as his reputation suggests.
The day itself was a perfect day for any Gaiman fan to attend. Portsmouth being Neil's hometown, I leapt at a ticket when I found out he was holding a talk there, part of his worldwide book tour for his latest novel, The Ocean at the End of the Lane. However - there was more - that very day an unnamed road leading to the beach was to be officially renamed The Ocean at the End of the...Lane in a ceremony led by Neil that afternoon. Yes, I was going.
My day started as odd as it was going to continue. Myself and my self-confessed fan of 'fictitious worlds' sister (known to the blogging world as Miss Misspent Youth) wandered into the Canoe Lake Cafe which we knew to be near Neil's road to ask directions. It turned out there was no need, as Neil himself was dining inside.
Arriving at the road with plenty of time, it was great to see so many fellow Gaiman fans there - and to watch the already-substantial crowd grow as Passing Portsmouth Pedestrians stopped to have a look at what was going on. The ceremony was entertaining enough but afterwards was the icing on the fantasy-author-flavoured cake. Once the official people of the event had left, Neil stayed behind to chat, sign and pose for photographs with fans. It's a considerate gesture and one I hadn't expected. My thoughts on the occasion are summed up perfectly in the tweet below:
Just complimented @neilhimself's tiny Cyberman. Not sure how my day can get any stranger.
— Christian Bone (@ChristianABone) August 18, 2013
The Cyberman in question is a small pin that Mr Gaiman was wearing on his lapel which can sort of be seen in this photo.
You know, that silver speck. Trust me, it's cool.
The talk later on was great fun and extremely informative for anyone interested in the behind the scenes of his writing. It must also be the only event I've been to that, while waiting for it to start, most of the audience were avidly reading novels, comics and other Neil-affiliated materials. Assisted by an interviewer and, naturally of course, a Dalek, Neil talked about everything from his latest projects to being a villain in The Simpsons. He also gave two great readings, one from his newest children's book Fortunately, the Milk which had the whole place laughing.
The signing afterwards clearly exceeded the organisers' expectations, as such was the number of fans eager to meet him that Mr Gaiman was signing all the way up to one in the morning (the talk finished about 9.45)! When I eventually met him again, Neil was as amiable and chatty as he was at the unveiling, thanking people for waiting so long to see him, and even taking the time to provide a mini-illustration alongside his signature. Plus, on a personal note, he shook my hand, saying 'it's a pleasure to meet another writer' (I told him, by the way, he doesn't have a sort of sixth sense for perceiving writing folk. Though maybe he does, I wouldn't tell people if I did, would you?).
It was, overall, an extremely enjoyable day and it was a pleasure to meet someone who's a great inspiration as a leading player in a field I'd like to break into. An added bonus was that he turned out to be so nice. Also, weirdly but wonderfully, I met someone I previously only knew on the internet through her site, namely Katie Edwards of Katie's Book Blog, who has also written an account of the day over on her blog, in which I, ahem, feature in a supporting role. Go check it out! In a paragraph's time...
I've been saving up to read The Ocean at the End of the Lane until after this event, feeling that this was a perfect introduction for the book. I look forward to plunging myself into it right away, though, and, have no fear, will be inflicting my views on the book to you all in an upcoming post. Till then, I'll leave you with the scrawlings and scribble creatures of Neil Gaiman himself. A lovely chap, don't you know.