Writer Neil Gaiman is the author of a wide range of popular books and graphic novels. He’s also a popular Internet denizen and is active on his blog and social media. This accessibility makes him a big favorite of science fiction and fantasy fans worldwide.
Born in the United Kingdom in 1960, Gaiman found initial success with his Sandman comic book series. His novels, including American Gods, Anansi Boys, and Coraline, soon followed by a number of novels and short stories, including Gaiman is also the author of a number of successful teleplays and radio scripts.
Neil Gaiman has said that his initial inspiration was the works of Lewis Carroll, C.S. Lewis, and Edgar Allan Poe, resulting in the creepy undertone that fans love. He also lists science fiction author Roger Zelazny as an influence. He started out as a journalist and book reviewer, focused on science fiction, and writing exclusively for the British Fantasy Society.
Gaiman became a fan of comic book writer Alan Moore and decided to tell his stories through that medium. He came to prominence with the publication of The Sandman in 1989.
Neil Gaiman’s Sandman
First published in January 1989, The Sandman was published by DC Comics. It ran for 75 issues until March of 1996.
The series features anthropomorphic personifications of concepts such as Destiny, Death, Desire, Despair, Delirium, and Destruction. The main protagonist is Dream, also called Morpheus. The personifications make up the “Endless.”
Weaving mythology throughout is one of the Neil Gaiman trademarks, and The Sandman is one of the few graphic novels ever to hit the New York Times best seller list.
Neil Gaiman Books for Adults
Neil Gaiman’s first novel was a collaboration with the much-loved British author, Terry Pratchett, creator of the fantasy spoof Discworld series. Pratchett and Gaiman published their collaboration, Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, a contemporary humorous paranormal fantasy about the end of the world in 1990. Although they did not collaborate on other projects, they remained close friends until Pratchett’s death in 2015. Neil Gaiman is also known for his outspoken commentary regarding Pratchett’s tragic illness.
Good Omens is currently in development as a six-part miniseries starring David Tennant (Doctor Who) and Michael Sheen. The series will debut on Amazon and BBC sometime in 2019, according to Gaiman.
Gaiman then released his first solo novel, an adaptation of Neverwhere, a teleplay he’d written for the BBC for a miniseries. Stardust was released in 1999 as both a graphic novel and a standard fantasy novel.
Neil Gaiman’s ‘American Gods’
The release of American Gods launched Neil Gaiman to prominence in the mainstream market and made him a household name. The novel, released in 2001, was a best-seller and received multiple awards. American Gods is a mix of mythology and fantasy with a touch of magical realism. The book features Shadow after his release from prison and after he is hired by a mysterious Mr. Wednesday.
“What I say is, a town isn’t a town without a bookstore. It may call itself a town, but unless it’s got a bookstore, it knows it’s not foolin’ a soul.” ― Neil Gaiman, American Gods
Mr. Wednesday and Shadow are on a mission to gather the Old Gods — the ones brought to America by European immigrants — in order to fight the New Gods. The New Gods arose from modern American culture’s fascination with celebrity, technology, fame, and drugs.
The book won a Hugo, Nebula, Locus, and Bram Stoker awards for best novel. Starz network developed a TV series from the book, which debuted in April 2017.
Neil Gaiman’s ‘Anansi Boys’
Published after American Gods in 2005, but written prior to its release, Anansi Boys features a similar tone to American Gods and focuses again on world mythology. Although it is not specifically related to the earlier novel, it features the same character of Mr. Nancy, in both books. Mr. Nancy is the personification of the African spider god, Anansi. After his death, his two sons are brought together to meet for the first time.
Neil Gaiman’s ‘Norse Mythology’
Norse Mythology is the latest adult novel from Neil Gaiman, published in 2017. Norse Mythology is a novelization of the old sagas, the Poetic Edda and the Prose Edda. It features the pantheon of Nordic gods and goddess, giants and dwarves. The book features the stories of Odin, Loki, and Thor, weaving them into the Norse genesis story and adventure tales. The novel culminates with a retelling of the Ragnarok, a mythical apocalypse that features a war between the gods and the denizens of Hel (hell).
Neil Gaiman Books for Children
Neil Gaiman really shines with his books for children and young adults. Gaiman has penned a number of projects for younger readers, including picture books and chapter books. He’s best known for The Graveyard Book and Coraline.
Coraline is a creepy fantasy book for young readers, and is a favorite among Neil Gaiman fans young and old. Gaiman published this dark fantasy in 2002. It won the British author a Hugo, a Nebula, and a Bram Stoker award. Some fans describe Coraline as a dark modern version of Alice’s Adventures Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. The story follows Coraline, whose parents have moved to a derelict old Victorian mansion that houses a number of apartments filled with bizarre characters. Coraline finds a strange small door that leads to another, mirror world, where things seem “better.” However, like the children that were tricked into entering this other dimension before, Coraline is doomed to a living death unless she can solve the puzzle set by the Beldam and recover her real life.
Gaiman published The Graveyard Book in 2008, another creepy fantasy story. The book follows a boy called “Nobody Owens” who is adopted by a graveyard full of ghosts after the murder of his family. It garnered a Hugo and Locus Award, along with the prestigious Newbery Medal. Neil Gaiman has said that one of his influences was Rudyard Kipling, and he credits the authors work The Jungle Book for giving him the idea. Instead of a boy being adopted by jungle animals, he’s adopted by a graveyard full of supernatural creatures.
“Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.” ― Neil Gaiman, Coraline
Neil Gaiman and Fandom
Neil Gaiman is an outspoken author with a wide range of interests and projects. Known for his accessibility to fans through social media, he actively promotes his projects and those of others. He tours regularly for speaking engagements. Gaiman also works on films and television shows, and has written several episodes of the popular BBC TV show, Doctor Who. Gaiman also narrates his own audiobooks.
Gaiman’s active participation in the arts and entertainment field earned his fans’ loyalty. He frequently comments on the lives and work of other artists via social media. Gaiman also supports a number of literacy charities and non-profits, both with promotion and fundraisers. He and his wife, singer Amanda Palmer, also work together to forward social and political causes.
Many young artists and writers have found a great deal of inspiration from his interaction and messages of support. This has made Neil Gaiman quotes popular online. There’s even a Neil Gaiman Quotes twitter account.
Question: 'I want to be an author when I grow up. Am I insane?'
"Yes. Growing up is highly overrated. Just be an author."
— Neil Gaiman Quotes (@GaimanQuotes) March 8, 2014
His support for independent creators has been foundational in the growth of online media, from indie authors, comic book creators, game creators, and even independent filmmakers. His influence on the growth of independent authors and creators has brought a wealth of new and re-imagined entertainment to the open source platform of Internet culture.
I love you all. Even the ones I don’t know. This year I’ve not got a new New Year’s wish. I hope the world is gentler to each of us in 2018, though. And that we do not forget how to be kind.
— Neil Gaiman (@neilhimself) January 1, 2018
Unlike many authors, Neil Gaiman even lends his support to fanfiction writers, having posted on his tumblr:
“The point is Fanfiction exists so that you can imagine, enjoy and fill in the gaps. The point is that you can change things and have fun with them. And the stories are absolutely true… for you.”
“Make fun fanfiction. Enjoy yourself. Make things up. Share them. That’s the point.”
As a result of his collaborative and spirited support of artist creators everywhere, Gaiman was asked to give the commencement speech at Philadelphia’s University of the Arts in 2012, despite the fact that Neil Gaiman never attended college or university.
Featured image via Neil Gaiman Facebook Page