An Open (Thank You) Letter to Neil Gaiman

Posted by Arlo on Sep 30, 2004 under Life of Arlo

Neil Gaiman Photo from www.neilgaiman.comDear Mr. Gaiman,

Recently I’ve been enjoying the benefits of a newfound technology – RSS feeds. There’s no way to remember the trail of links that brought me to your online journal, but I’m quite happy to have found it. In the two months that I’ve been reading, you’ve greatly impressed me in the amount of time you spend communicating with your fans.

One day, as I waited for one of your linked pages to load, my mind wandered. I realized that I was rather jealous of the fans that have, for some small slice of time, captured your attention online. I used the time to reflect on what keeps me coming back to your journal. Was it that your interactions with your fans gives me an alluring glimpse into the life of a celebrity? Probably. Too bad I can never tell Neil Gaiman how his work has affected me, I thought. But, boy, wouldn’t that be cool?

How I managed to miss it for so long I’ll never know, but just then I had a tiny epiphany: Waitaminute…I’m actually reading Neil Gaiman’s responses to his fans’ e-mails. And I’m a fan. Thinking back, it’s embarrassing to admit that I needed a revelation for that to sink in, but it simply never occurred to me that with so many fans, you might actually read a “thank you” letter from me.

Once I realized that there was a chance, I decided to write one.

I have two things to thank you for. The first “thank you” is, I suspect, both easy and common: Thank you for American Gods.

On the advice of multiple friends, I picked up Stardust and read it a few summers ago. I admit to being a bit perplexed about why it was promoted with such ferocity. Too much “fairy” going along with the “tale” for me, I guess. I still wanted to understand what all the hoopla was about, so I then purchased a copy of Neverwhere. Didn’t even make it through that one. Not bad writing, but also not my thing. I was beginning to think that the usually trustworthy tastes of my literary friends were sliding out of compatibility with my own.

Even so, I decided to give American Gods a chance. From page one, I was hooked! The first thing I noticed was the way that the narrative gave so little away about the protagonist. Throughout the entire novel, it felt as though I was still discovering who he was and what his motivations were. Without revealing anything to any would-be readers, the best part, though, was discovering what the antagonists were up to. What a great twist on a concept I’ve seen before (Gods gain their power from the strength of their followers)!

My second “thank you” needs a bit of background. Almost 15 years ago, when I was still in high school, I was big into collecting comic books. Somewhere along the way I lost interest in the mainstream superhero stories and began to look for books that were more, shall we say, “highbrow.” Around about the time I was devouring Alan Moore’s The Watchmen, Grant Morrison’s Animal Man, and Dave Sim’s Cerebus, I was also introduced to Sandman. Although I wasn’t a rabid fan of the series, it nevertheless quickly climbed to the top of my monthly must-buy list.

After high school, I didn’t have much use for all those comic books. They sat unread, bagged and boarded, alternately in my mom’s house and in her storage unit. Eventually I completed my degree, rented a place more permanent than a college dormitory, and transferred them from her storage unit to one of my own. There those Sandman stories sat among 4,000 or so other comics… until two years ago when a couple arsonists set fire to the building.

A tragedy, yes, but as luck would have it I’d just recently purchased renter’s insurance. Though every last item in unit J-238 was reduced to rubble and ash, all of it was covered by that wonderful policy! Afterwards, I had to spend weeks of my free time pouring over a copy of Overstreet’s Price Guide, trying desperately to recreate an index of the loss. A depressing job, to say the least, but worth the effort. USAA eventually reimbursed me $12,000 for the comic book collection alone.

That’s the background. Here comes the second “thank you.”

As a comic book collector, I always hoped that my collection would someday be worth something, but as I worked through the Overstreet’s 1000+ pages, it was obvious that most of what I’d owned never appreciated beyond the guide’s $2.25 minimum. Statistically, I calculated an average value of only about $3.75 per comic, but that would have been even lower if not for some of the high-value surprises: McFarlane Spider-Mans, a Justice League “special cover,” Wolverine, and of course, the first 50 issues of Sandman. Some comics were worth more because of their scarcity; I believe Sandman’s monetary value reflects the quality of your writing.

Ultimately, I received $448 from my insurance company for those first fifty issues of Sandman. Since a fair portion of the settlement check went towards my wedding expenses, I like to think of that $448 as a wedding gift from you. (Either that or you helped me pay off my student loans; you choose!)

And that’s it. Except for, perhaps, one more “thank you” for reading through this long-winded fan letter.


-Arlo Midgett