Apr 13, 2011

Dr. StrangeNeil, Or: How You Can Stop Worrying and Win A Signed Copy of Neverwhere

I love Twitter. It doesn't do a lot, but what it does, it does well. Take for example, last minute event reminders. Yesterday, I would have completely missed the fact that Neil Gaiman was not just in Chicago, but scheduled to give a free talk on imagination and creativity less then 5 blocks from where I work. No one relegates Gaiman to the suburbs.

They don't have these in the suburbs.
Unbeknownst to me, Gaiman's Neverwhere was selected as part of One Book, One Chicago, a reading campaign put on the by Chicago Public Library. From what little I know, the point is to get the entire city reading and talking about the same book to bolster community and promote literacy. Whatever the reason, I don't think the selected authors are complaining. And with the program comes a budget, and a portion of that budget goes to throwing author events. At least part of my tax dollars are going to something interesting, I suppose. The standard format is a causal lecture framed as a discussion with another well known writer. Gaiman's conversation partner? Chicago's own Audrey Niffenegger, author of the absolutely incredible The Time Traveler's Wife.

Which makes the math all but remedial. Gaiman + Niffenegger + Free + Next Door = Must See. Unfortunately, I wasn't the only one who could put two and two together. I ran out the door at 4:55, got over to the library by 5:15, and found myself in line behind about a thousand people by 5:18. The auditorium seats about three hundred. So close and yet so far.

Cue disaster, right?

Wrong. YetiWife to the rescue.

My wife, Jennifer, (who has been previously established as being awesome) was able to get over to the library before I was and snag a coveted seat inside the main arena. After she realized I wasn't going to be able to make it inside, she (have I mentioned she's awesome?) volunteered to give up her seat so I could see the Neil himself. I resisted at first but she argued that she had never read anything by Gaiman and knew how much I wanted to see him speak. Add in the fact that I was extremely willing to negotiate and I somehow found myself with a yellow wristband, a ticket, and a seat in the auditorium. [Don't worry she still got to see them speak, albeit from the overflow room]. Twenty minutes later and Gaiman's on the stage.

To be honest, I was expecting a much larger persona, a character who would live up to the rock star status Gaiman currently commands. Instead I found a quieter, meeker writer; seemingly less sure of himself than anyone of his caliber has any right to be. This couldn't be the same man who gave us American Gods and Sandman, could it?

But as the room grew quiet in an attempt to hear his almost whispered words, I realized that he was doing something profoundly more impressive. Gaiman isn't the boisterous man at the bar, he's the silent soul with the scotch by the fire, sipping slowly as he contemplates the burn of each. He won't force you to hear to his story but if you're lucky enough to listen, you'll end up captivated long after roaring flames give way to glowing coals. It's as if he's not completely corporeal - an amalgamation of man and myth that might disappear with a moment's inattention.

I couldn't help but be amazed by the peculiar sense of wonder with which Gaiman explores every day life. If you every get a chance to see him speak, don't miss it. After an hour or so flew by, it was time for the standard Q & A. I attempted to ask him about when we could expect his next novel or even a hint or two as to it's subject but my question quickly disappeared into a sea of hands and I wasn't fortunate enough to be selected by Ms. Niffenegger. The mystery continues...

Along with a few unanswered questions, a handshake and a confirmation that Gaiman is every bit the oddball creative genius I imagined him to be, I also left the Harold Washington library with signed editions of American Gods and Neverwhere. Actually, two signed copies of Neverwhere, which brings me to the point of this post:

Signed (Not By Me).
I have 1 copy of Neverwhere to give away. It's unread and completely brand new aside from a weird Neil Gaiman shaped scribble on the title page. It was like that when I bought it. I swear.

 So if you are interested in obtaining a signed copy of Neil's work without having to fight the hoards of literary fanboys that follow him everywhere, you can send an e-mail to YetiContest [at] gmail [dot] com. You might even win provided you follow the rules below.

-Subject of e-mail must read "Neverwhere Contest"
-You should probably use @ instead of [at] and . instead of [dot]
-Limit 1 entry per e-mail address.
-Open to everyone (I might regret this)
-Contest will be open until 11:59pm CST, Friday April 29th
-Winner will be selected by random number generation
-E-mail must include
  • Name
  • Snail Mail Address
  • Book you are looking forward to most for the remainder of 2011 and why.
And since I would have missed the talk entirely if not for it, there's going to be a twittercentric bonus chance to win. Keep an eye on @YetiStomper for additional details today or tomorrow...

Good luck!


  1. Sounds like a really great time, Patrick.

    Neil came to Ottakars in Glasgow during a tour of the UK way back when, promoting Coraline, and I've thought back on that audience of perhaps fifty folk and that quiet gentleman many times since - whenever I've heard Neil's speaking to an audience fit to fill auditorium. Sounds like he's still got it!

    How much Gaiman have you read, anyway? Do you do the comics too, or just the books?

    Every couple of years I confess, I will mainline Sandman in its entirety over a weekend. In fact it might just be getting to that time again... :)

  2. If I can find it, I've read it. I would suggest a Sandman reread but I've got enough to do as it is.

  3. Oh come on. We'll sell it to tor.com, make our millions, then start in on Lucifer, rinse, repeat. :D

    I'm only half kidding, actually.

  4. Did you know that you can create short links with AdFocus and make cash for every visitor to your shortened urls.


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