Of Gaiman in Manila
Last week, I had a choice of either blogging or transcribing Neil Gaiman’s various interviews (at least those I could get a hold of). I chose the latter, and it came at the expense of my writing (well, at least I did get my fifteen minutes of fame…). One week later, with a cooler head and hopefully more free time (*sigh* more transcribing to be done when I get home but thanks to Astrid who’s put up the entire NU107 interview), I can finally narrate events from my point of view.
On A Whim
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. While I am a fan of Gaiman, I’m not the uber-fan who thinks he’s god (well, I’m not attached to any specific author). Much like what Elbert was feeling during the week, I didn’t really know if I wanted to go to Rockwell or not.
I’ll be honest. It was a pleasure seeing Neil up on stage, reading excerpts from Anansi Boys and greeting the fans. That wasn’t my motivation in popping up at the Rockwell Tent though. It was meeting friends, both old and new. And boy did I see lots of familiar faces during the event.
Of Posers and Frauds
Yes, there are posers everywhere. I’ve seen the term used often by rock-and-roll fans. Holden Caulfield thinks that everyone is a phony. And it surprises me that many Gaiman fans use the term, a kind of elitist way of defining themselves as if saying “Hey, I read Sandman when it first came out in the 80’s. You’re just getting into it now because it’s popular,” or “Hey, I got all his works; you just have that paltry novel which you bought because you thought the cover was cool. Well, I know about Gaima and I’m his biggest fan!” A lot of people will be angry for me saying this, but that’s so anti-Gaiman-ish.
I mean Neil Gaiman himself thanks the crowd, acknowledging the fact that he wouldn’t be as popular if people didn’t love the stories he wrote. Should a fan’s worth be measured when he started reading Gaiman? Sure, those who started earlier have an advantage, but that is by no means an excuse to treat other fans as inferiors. Or perhaps you’re a die-hard Gaiman fanatic, one who’s bought all his graphic novels and books. You think you’re the real thing, and one of the masses who buys a Gaiman paperback is merely a poser, one that purchases the book not because he or she thinks that Gaiman is great, but it’s an interesting novel. Hey, guess what, it’s all about the stories. What made people fall in love with Neil? While he does have a charming personality, many fans fell in love with him because the stories he told, be it via Sandman, Neverwhere, Stardust, or American Gods. Whether you’ve read one of his works or a dozen, if they took the time to go all the way to the Rockwell Tent to welcome him to the Philippines, then they’re fans. There’s no posing or faking about that. Everyone who went there knew how long the line was, how crowded it was, and how hot it was. Taking the time to go there and staying there took effort.
One of my friends told me that he was surprised to see such a huge crowd. “I expected only the older people to know about him, since back in the 80’s, no one really knew about him except us,” to paraphrase what he said. And that’s true. Two decades ago, Neil Gaiman belonged to a cabal of comic fans. Nowadays, he’s a best-selling author who’s come up with a lot of works be it film, comics, children’s books, novels, and short stories. Which goes to show that he’s hit mainstream consciousness. And that means a lot of his fans are the masses. So don’t go “They’re just posers or Gaiman frauds.” Part of Neil’s current success is the fact that the masses love him. Perhaps it’s not as “pure” as you think yours is, but they’re fans nonetheless.
While I was doubting whether I’d show up on Saturday at the Rockwell Tent or not, there was no chance I was missing out at the Writer’s Forum! I mean I was going to hear the man speak and talk about, well, writing (be it comics or prose). And I get paid to do it (one of the perks working at Pulp and MTV Ink). Seeing lots of familiar faces (including friends, acquaintances, and even former professors) was just icing.
Me and now editor-in-chief of MTV Ink Conch arrived early at the Music Museum. It was 12 pm and the talk wouldn’t start until an hour and a half later. Unlike the book signings, the line wasn’t long. In fact, we were in front. Well, next to Gerry Alanguilan and his lovely wife. Gerry told me stories about his previous exploits, about how he had Neil sign his favorite comic, and even got an unexpected signature for Miracle Man.
I would have wanted to chat more but we soon realized that between me and Conch, we only had one pass, and that the other one was left at our office in Ortigas. You never let a pretty girl walk several kilometers so I volunteered (before she could object) to go get the pass. It was a 45-minute roundtrip journey, and thankfully, we came in early or we might not have gotten good seats.
The place was less crowded, but there were no shortages of familiar faces. I wanted to talk to them, but alas, Neil came first. When he finally came up on stage to speak, well, he got our attention. People were hesitant at first to ask questions, which is why Ramon and Ani, the hosts, opened up with some queries. After the initial barrage, the audience felt more confident and soon, the lines at each microphone were long. And if anything, Neil gives long answers. Which is a good thing, because he can turn even the most simple (or suboptimal) question into an astounding reply. Honestly, some of the questions people asked wouldn’t be the questions I would have asked. Or sometimes, they were too “geeky” (hey, I’m a geek myself… I actually understood the comic references thanks to being friends with the likes of Elbert, but honestly, I wish the questions were 50/50 comics and books rather than something like 80/20 comics and books). But as I said, Gaiman’s great at answering so there’s a lot of information and insight he shared with us. He knows when to elaborate, and what to elaborate on (honestly, the one time you shouldn’t be shy is when you’re being interviewed, or being asked questions in public… thankfully Gaiman did neither, nor do I think he’s a shy person to begin with).
There were lots of unasked questions but Neil had to leave. Various personalities were being interviewed outside and I found it strange that they were concentrating on comics (which isn’t bad, mind you, but Neil does novels as well; of course I also wouldn’t have it that people merely focus on the novel-writing part and ignore the comics).
Praise of an Unsung Hero
It also surprises me that some people missed out on an unsung Gaiman hero. People were mentioning newspaper articles and interviews everywhere (and the likes of Luis, Ruey, and Quark did a good job, mind you) but they seemed to have missed out on my friend Erwin Romulo (to be honest, I met Erwin through my current job, and I’m thankful for that). He has a regular column every Friday at the Young Star section (which I read as I scan through the periodicals daily because it’s necessary for work) and the week before the Writer’s Forum, he was already asking people to forward him questions to ask Neil Gaiman.
And so Erwin did an article regarding Gaiman’s stay last Friday, but no one seems to be promoting it. Which is sad, because he did get an interview and has some enjoyable anecdotes. He even got to ask a question which Gaiman replied “You never ask that question of a writer,” (again, I’m paraphrasing because the periodical isn’t with me right now), and that was a question by the lone person who actually emailed Erwin her question.
So if you still have a chance, get a copy of last Friday’s The Philippine Star, and read Erwin’s column. The same goes for the much publicized last Wednesday’s edition of the Manila Bullein, and The Philippine Inquirer with Ruey’s interview.