Monday, July 11, 2005

Neil Gaiman Writers Forum transcript part 1

I could blog about my day, or I could encode what happened at the Writer's Forum earlier today. Which do you prefer? Thought so.

Anyway, the ones participating in the discussion were Annie Almario, Ramon de Veyra, and Erwin Romulo (not present as of the moment). I'll upload the rest of the transcript once I'm done (which might mean tomorrow, since I'm hungry and I'm just twenty minutes done of a 90-minute tape).

Crowd: (applause)

Neil: This continues the Filipino tradition of being the single noisiest place.

Crowd: Whooo!

Neil: You’re also the most enthusiastic and this is one of the best reception I’ve ever had.

Crowd: Whooo!

Neil: The thing is, you have to understand that different countries all react very differently. When I go to someone like Finland, where the Fins have a saying, the nature of relative Fins looks at his shoes, whereas the Finnish extroverts, the mad party animals will look at your shoes for a better look at it.

Crowd: (laughs)

Neil: I like to think that when I come on and Fins clap, they’re all admiring me very quietly. They’re doing the same kind of wonderful yells that you guys do. Right, what am I doing?

Host: We’ll be here with some people on the panel who’ll be joining in for the Q&A so we hope you’ve digested your lunch. If you haven’t had your lunch maybe you could take a seat first. May we call on Annie Almario of Adarna House to join us with Ramon de Veyra. And if Erwin is here or is he parking?

Annie: For my first song.

Crowd: (laughs)

Annie: Actually we have a list of questions here but what we really wanted to do was have the audience ask their questions for Mr. Gaiman if you could approach the mike. Let’s start with the right-most. Ah okay.

Ramon: Okay so those interested in asking questions please line up at the mikes and then we’ll ask them from the right, my right my left. What was the question you wanted to ask him?

Annie: Well I wanted to ask what was your first impression of the Philippines but now I know you think we’re rowdy, noisy and you know.

Crowd: (laughs)

Neil: Relatively okay. And incredibly enthusiastic. It’s not so much the noise as, well, there was definitely something. I was definitely rather taken aback turning up at the tent and being greeted by a wall of noise. Several thousand people, there was this definite sort of, mostly there’s this horrible feeling that a terrible mistake had been made.

Crowd: (laughs)

Neil: You get up on stage and they would say Neil Gaiman and somebody would say, call the other two, we thought it was Doreen Cole and they’d go huh.

Crowd: (laughs)

Neil: There was definitely a certain moment there.

Annie: So you didn’t know you were this big in Manila?

Neil: No, I thought I was about nine, ten and a half.

Crowd: (laughs)

Neil: I knew something interesting was going on. Just as I knew something interesting was happening in Singapore, which is one of the reasons I wanted to come of all places. Mostly because I get to go backstage on my website, at, and they let me back there as long as I don’t cross or break anything. And I get to look at the numbers coming in and it tells me we have one person in from Armania this month, two people are in from Slavania. And then it has all these, normally the places that people are coming in from can be ranked according to size in country and number of English speakers or, you know it makes a certain amount of sense. I also have folk and rhymer in translation, and hugely popular in Poland of all places. Well Poland was really quick.

Annie: You’ve been there?

Neil: I went there. Are you kidding? You only discover you’re popular when you get there and you’re being followed around by television crew everywhere you go. And at one point, halfway through my first day in Poland where there were practically riots going on, I survived. Why am I big in Poland? (In Polish accent) Look you don’t know? Big authors, big foreign authors in Poland. There’s J.R.R. Tolkien followed by J.K. Rowling followed by Terry Pratchett followed by Neil Gaiman.

Crowd: (laughs) (applause)

Neil: The thing about Poland is they say, so we love big novels. Now we understand you once did comic books. Tell us about it.

Crowd: (laughs)

Neil: Whenever I get somewhere like Singapore or Manila, they say so, do you ever worry about escaping the shadow of Sandman? Poland.

Crowd: (laughs)

Neil: I link to Poland. And then there’s China where I’m children’s books. That’s the one thing, I can do all these different things and turn up different places but, I was going backstage at my website and seeing okay, the most people in the world technically coming from America. And then the most people in the world are technically coming from Virginia because that’s where all the people from all over the world are AOL.

Crowd: (laughs)

Neil: Virginia IT. And then there’s England, and then going down at you number five is Singapore, number six or number seven is the Philippines. Either we have a lot of computer literate, computer savvy people who are very bored, surfing the web looking people’s blogs, or I should go on and find out.

Annie: Reading words with pictures.

Neil: Or you might be reading words with pictures, just like reading as far as I can tell. I mean if it’s, it’s part of the fun of signing for people and getting to find out who they are and what kind of mix. I was fascinated by the fact in America, and I’d say in the U.K., the gender mix is pretty much 50/50. Over here, the men were looking rather nervous and in the distinct minority.

Crowd: (laughs)

Neil: Technically it was hug and run although it slowed down the signing a bit by the middle of yesterdays where you get rows of thirty or forty women and each of them would ask for a hug because the one in front got one.

Crowd: (laughs)

Neil: And finally you get a guy, he’d say okay, friendly handshake.

Crowd: (laughs)

Neil: Kinda breaks the cycle a bit.

Crowd: (laughs)

Neil: Said the other guy, can I have a hug?

Crowd: (laughs) Wooo!

Annie: Have you read any of the local comics? Graphic novels?

Neil: No but I was just handed my first little stack of cool Filipino stuff including something (turns to Ramon) you’ve done.

Ramon: A ‘zine.

Annie: A ‘zine.

Neil: A ‘zine. So I’m looking forward to it. What was weird for me is growing up, of course. There were all these great Filipino artists drawing for DC. So, you know the first one I knew was Nestor Redondo.

Crowd: (applauds)

Neil: And Alfredo Alcala. These guys were like, the giants. These were the greats. And so, growing up, by the time I was fifteen or sixteen, I knew the Philippines was the place where the really cool artists came from.

Crowd: (applauds)

Neil: God you’re easily satisfied.

Crowd: (laughs)

Neil: But it’s true. I mean these guys with these wonderful lying work, was Alex Niño one of yours?

Ramon: Yes.

Neil: It’s beautiful. Maybe you didn’t know was who was actually from the Philippines because unfortunately they don’t identify themselves and you picked it up as you went. But just really, elegant lines, a sense of beauty, a sense of proportion.

Ramon: I think Neal Adams mentioned the great Filipino artists were inspiration for the kind of, magic-realism, which when he went on to Batman, became inspirational as well.

Neil: They took comic art to a different place, and they added a sense of quirkiness, a sense of beauty. When I was a kid, you sort of, there was this really weird look especially reading Swamp Thing where Berni Wrightson was the best and then they got on with it and half of me is going, no dammit, you shouldn’t have let it die. You should have just kidnapped Berni and mix the main and keep it going. Part of this is really pretty. It really was.

Ramon: Some of the issues in Swamp Thing that made, that inspired you to write, I think some were inked by Alfredo Alcala. One of the questions is actually what about Moore’s Swamp Thing and what inspired you to take up comics.

Neil: Okay, the question what, how and was something that inspired me to take up comics. I, we have to back up a little bit. I was probably sixteen going on seventeen when I stopped reading American comics. I loved them, and then suddenly there wasn’t anything there for me anymore. Part of it was growing up. Part of it was just this weird place where, essentially adolescent male power fantasies didn’t do it for me anymore. I discovered girls, I had a band.

Crowd: (laughs)

Neil: And I gave up maybe. No it wasn’t I didn’t like comics. I loved comics as a medium. There just wasn’t any of the stories that was there for me. And I still kept reading Will Eisner’s The Spirit which was being reprinted in Kitchen Sink and finding those because I love the stories, I love what Eisner was doing. Well I’ve really given up. I was fifteen or sixteen I wanted to be a comics writer more than anything in the world, now I was going on seventeen and that was silly. But obviously comics were trivial. Then in about the year 1983, twenty two years ago, I was twenty one, twenty two years old, standing on Victoria Station in London and I noticed my lost mates. Like I noticed there was Swamp Thing and I lost something as a kid and I picked it up very idly and it already had two or three strikes against it because I didn’t read comics, because it was Swamp Thing and how could it possibly stand up to the amazing Berni Wrightson and stuff? And it appears to mention that it was written by a guy from England. Now I knew the English people couldn’t do comics.

Crowd: (laughs)

Neil: Because I grew up in England and we couldn’t do comics. We couldn’t do… you knew the English couldn’t do comics. It’s like asking you know, the English people to dance.

Crowd: (laughs)

Neil: It’s an embarrassment for everybody. The sooner it’s over, the happier everybody is. So as I picked up the comic, I stood up and looked at the first few panels and it was Swamp Thing #22, maybe the anatomy lesson, maybe the one after that. And I loved it. This was actually, good. And I read it all the way through the end but then I put it back because I couldn’t write on it too. And so the next three months, I read Swamp Thing, each month on Victoria Station. Finally, on the fourth month, I bought my first comic and it was, and what matters is I read it on the train, I’m going this is, this is good, this is really cool. And I was hooked. It really was, somebody, it was like you know, an alcoholic who was given booze for five, eight years suddenly being giving the bottle of you know, where chateau la fete premier crew. Something like oh my God, this is alcohol! This is as good as it can be, this is great. And I was in love again. And it was that emotion, more than anything, that made me want to write comics. It was that feeling that suddenly, I was twenty three years old and I loved going down to the comic shop every month and finding out, is it in yet? And what topic was it? It was happy. And pretty soon I was buying incredible quantities of comics. It was just like an alcoholic who’s completely fallen off the wagon. And oh my god, give me that, that’s good too. I found Cerberus and I found Mage and I found, and then all these stuff had been happening when I wasn’t looking. And I just sort of, couldn’t get enough and rapidly, after the comic kind of journalist who wrote about comics in order to persuade Forbidden Planet in London to basically give me the kind of account where I could say I’m taking this file and they’d go, oh okay. Because it was natural to face complete poverty and from the streets nothing but a comic collection.


Blogger loryces said...

oh wow thanks for the transcipt. cant wait for the rest of it. hey do you mind if i link your site in mine? i'm sort of collecting a hodgepodge of links re: neil's visit and it'll be great if i can borrow quotes from your blog. you'll be credited of course. :)

10:06 AM  
Blogger Charles said...

Linking sites is no problem. I still have to edit the first transcript though since there are some minor errors (but of course, there's no such thing as "minor" when you're quoting people).

4:56 PM  
Blogger Noelle De Guzman said...

Wow Charles, that's pretty impressive transcribing! :) I'm not a Gaiman fan but it looks like his visit here was a pretty big thing.

7:14 PM  
Anonymous meann said...

Hi! Got pointed here through the guys at Nocturne. Hope you don't mind if I post a link to your blog on the Gaiman in Manila event website. Thanks so much. Great work! :)

5:12 PM  
Anonymous Danielle said...

Got here through a link in a Fully Booked ml message. Thank you for sharing this, Mr. Charles! Looking forward to the rest of it! ^_^

3:13 AM  
Anonymous danielle said...

And, um, I'm going to post a link to this on my journal. I hope you don't mind. :D

3:46 AM  
Anonymous laitale said...

Thanks for the transcript. Can't wait to read the rest.

4:01 AM  
Anonymous petal said...

Thanks for the transcript. Looking forward to the others. I believe in the following statement Neil said "I had a bone" instead of "I had a band"
Correct me if I'm wrong...

Neil: Okay, the question what, how and was something that inspired me to take up comics. I, we have to back up a little bit. I was probably sixteen going on seventeen when I stopped reading American comics. I loved them, and then suddenly there wasn’t anything there for me anymore. Part of it was growing up. Part of it was just this weird place where, essentially adolescent male power fantasies didn’t do it for me anymore. I discovered girls, I had a band.

8:05 PM  

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