Neil Gaiman Rant

Back From Elder Gods' Rave #2, April 1995
Surely you are familiar with the concept of the Illuminati. A society of the "Illuminated," those who know better than the rest of the peons what is going on in the world, and indeed, attempt to control it. Steve Jackson brought this to the mainstream (Ok - mainstream for gamers) with his Illuminati game. Recently, this game has been reissued in the collectable card format, and is apparently doing quite well. But that’s not quite what I'm going to talk about. Because, you see, the term Illuminati is deceiving. It implies that an organization is out there manipulating the affairs of men. And that they are in some way in control of what is going on. Although technically semantics, it is very deceiving.

Because there is an Illuniati among us at this very moment. But it is not an organization. The terrifying truth is that a single man is slowly infiltrating all creativity, and soon, all creativity shall belong to him. I know. I have seen the signs. What is particularly distressing is that he employs not merely science, but also magic. He is able to move backwards and forwards in time, placing his stamp on all things that are good, and creative. More on his magical abilities later.

Although I am able to see what is going on, I myself cannot do anything about it. In telling you this, I am revealing the horrible reality behind Sandman's Dream of a Thousand Cats. Perhaps is enough of us believe, there is hope for us all. If not, I have led you into the Labyrinth of Truth, and left you there without your ball of twine. Once the eyes have been opened to reality, they can never be closed again.

Neil Gaiman is the Illuminati. He is infiltrating all creative works. I believe that he is starting with the present, and slowly moving into the future and the past simultaneously. He is creating a tyranny of creativity, and soon, no work will be produced without his taint.

But no. You are men and women of the nineties. We scoff at conspiracies theories. JFK was blown into history by a single madman and his rifle. Elvis is dead. Nobody cares why Marilyn Monroe died.

I’ve got proof. And chances are, so do you.

How many readers of Gothik read Sandman? Most of you, I’d bet. Uh-huh. Probably a lot of you own other work by Gaiman; Violent Cases, Black Orchid, Miracleman, Mr. Punch, Angela, Signal to Noise, Good Omens, and, if you’re a real die-hard fan, Don't Panic: A Guide to the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and Ghastly Beyond Belief. After all, Gothik is all about alternative comics. I'd be surprised if you didn’t have something by Gaiman. He is good, and his stories are interesting, but this does not disguise or excuse what the man is doing.

Now go look at your comics, the ones not written by Gaiman himself. I mean, the really good ones, the ones you read at least once a year. Next time you go back to them, look at the dedications, or the place in which the author talks about the creation of the piece. For example, look at Alan Moore's Watchmen. Moore gives special thanks to Gaiman. Sure, OK, Neil (according to DC's brief about him) got interested in writing comics through Alan Moore's Swamp Thing--sent him a letter about issue #40, (you yourself can trace Gaiman’s early history in DC by checking out issue #15 of Hellblazer, or apparently any DC title with a January '89 cover date. It's all in Jenette Kahn’s "publishatorial.") which has a cover date of September '85. Watchmen started coming out in '86. That's not a lot of time for people to become fast friends and influence each other. But maybe I'm just an antisocial paranoiac who looks too much into things. Never mind, on we go.

Also in 1986, Frank Miller was writing his exemplary Elektra: Assassin, illustrated by Bill Sienkiewicz. Amazing, impressive, really creepy work. And there, in the back, Bill dedicated the work to Neil Gaiman, 'for the sheer obsessive Hell of it.' What? I thought Neil was just talking to Alan Moore. Of course, it'll probably come out that Neil and Bill were thrown out of school together, or something like that. Sure, there's no real connection that two of the three (checked Dark Knight Returns, and not a Gaiman to be seen, yet) biggest limited series of 1986-87 mention Neil Gaiman by name. Hm. Odd but not all that odd. After all, this is comics, and the circle of comics writers is pretty small. Sure, why shouldn't Neil and Bill know each other?

And Neil gets a nod in Moore's From Hell. Hm. It appears that he and his wife did some research. OK, yeah, that's fine. Alan Moore and he are friends, aren't they?

White Wolf's Vampire: the Masquerade, second edition mentions Sandman as a source of inspiration, one of the few non-vampire books to appear in the novels section. It's no stranger than the mention of Heinlein's Time Enough for Love, certainly, and quite understandable. No quibble there.

But then things got weird. I was humming along in Kim Newman's Anno Dracula (yes, I’m a vampire fan) and Neil’s name popped up there. Right in the back; the Author's Notes and Acknowledgments. There's Neil, sitting on page 405 (paperback). Now, I have to admit, I thought this was strange, since Kim was talking about discussing aspects of the novel with the subject of our little investigation in 1984.

Bullshit! So what if both Neil and Kim are from England? There's like 60 million people on that goddamned island, and there are a lot of writers. Have they all met Neil Gaiman? And his name is way out in front, not with the 115 other people thanked. This is getting just wierd.

But of course. No, Kim and Neil were co-editors of Ghastly Beyond Belief. I found this out by reading Shadows over Innsmouth, an entirely British tribute to that charmingly inbred town on the Massachusetts coast. This still doesn't sit well, Neil is too intimately tied to far too many other writers.

Fortunately, I discovered that Neil was coming to town. He was showing up at Comix and Comics to promote Mr. Punch. I decided what the heck. I’d go get a book of short stories signed, along with a copy of Good Omens for a friend. The only problem was that I was going to have to go from work to home to the shop. I work graveyard shift and sleep during the day, so I was going to be pretty tired by the time the Man Himself showed up. No big deal, I could handle twenty hours without sleep.

If you've been to a signing, you know what I encountered. Lots of people in pale make-up, some coming to offer worship at the Font of All Gothdom (someday, if you're real nice, I'll tell you about the Cat in the Hat). We formed a line, and I was near the front 'cause I was there early, and had my head together, thanks in no small part to Kathleen. The people in front of me were writing down some really intelligent questions to ask Neil when they got near him. One of them, I swear, was going to ask "Are you a god?" Uh-huh. This was going to be interesting. But I had a question, too. I was going to ask him how he had become the second-most dropped name in the English Language. Unfortunately, by the time I go to the table, and I have my wife's word on this, I don't remember much about it myself, all I could do was giggle inanely, and push two books under his nose. Neil calmly drew a picture on my book, and scribbled on the other one. By the time I had gathered my wits, we were halfway out of Berkeley, going home.

This is not like me at all, even without a lot of sleep. I don't giggle, and very seldom inanely. Something was up. I had acted exactly like every other fanboy in that line. The answer was obvious. Neil had set or projected some sort of inanity field. He needs to keep people from asking those sorts of questions. Once we know, the game is up. But I didn't ask him, and the infiltration goes on.

And if you've seen anything by Tekno Comics, about half the titles were inspired by or characters created by Neil Gaiman. Neil Gaiman's Mr. Hero, Neil Gaiman's Technophage, Neil Gaiman's Lady Justice. Eeesh. At least he's not writing all these comics.

Now, if you’re a fan of "modern rock," you probably know that Neil and Tori Amos are pretty tight. She put a "Hi, Neil" on Little Earthquakes, and there's a song that mentions Neil on both Little Earthquakes and Beyond the Pink. OK. Neil's just not satisfied with influencing all the known world of good writers (I haven’t heard that Piers Anthony or Steven King have dedicated anything to Gaiman, but I was talking about good literature).

I still see the name being dropped all over the place. I certainly wasn't expecting Steven Brust to thank Mr. Gaiman in that dedication of his vampire book Agyar. Brust calls Gaiman his dark twin. Steven Brust is one of that coterie of Canadian and Semi-Canadian (Minnesota is half-Canadian) authors that includes Charles de Lindt, Terry Windling, Emma Bull, and other such interesting folk. So how the Hell did Neil Gaiman get there? Yeah, a number of them reviewed Sandman for him, and got their names plastered all over Sandman #9, but sheesh, Steven "Jhereg" Brusts's dark twin?

Half a month after writing that last paragraph, Finder came out. Emma Bull, the author, is another member of the Canadian group. Whose recommendation is in big, fat letters on the front cover? Heh heh heh hehh. Now I’m starting to get obsessed - can I find all the places where Neil Gaiman hasn't been mentioned? How much money would I have to spend in order to find something new and interesting without Neil’s influence?

Next, I looked where I was dead sure Neil would never be: Strangers in Paradise? Was I wrong? Oh, yes! There he is in the dedication. Either Neil is consciously attempting to become the second most dropped name in the English language, or he's got a correspondence to put HP Lovecraft to shame, or there's something fishy going on here. There are just way too many people who are dedicating their stuff to Neil. Why the Hell him?

I think the most distressing place I’ve seen The Name dropped was in Peter Cannon’s Necronomicon Press book Scream for Jeeves. The book is a hundred page parody of both HP Lovecraft and PG Wodehouse, in case you didn't know. Whose name appears in the back? Gaiman! The man is appearing everywhere!

Now, you may not think this is strange. After all, there are a hundred times more references to, say, HP Lovecraft in my book collection than there are to Neil Gaiman. But Lovecraft's work has been around for the last fifty to seventy-five years. Neil has been "on the scene," as they say, for less than ten. His growth has been prodigious, but in truth I fear what will come after. If he has infiltrated the Canadian Coterie with just over ten years' practice, how far will his influence extend in twenty? In fifty? What will happen when there is not a book in print that does not make mention of Neil Gaiman as a source of inspiration? Who the hell does he think he is, William Shakespeare?