JMW: Hello. This is Jean Marie Ward for BuzzyMag.com. With me today is Dr. Neil Gaiman, the winner of this year’s Ray Bradbury Award from the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America for his script for “Doctor Who.”
When you were starting out as a journalist, did you ever think you’d ever wind up writing scripts for something which I believe is as much a part of British childhood as Captain Kangaroo is to American children?
Neil Gaiman: No, I genuinely didn’t. I never thought I’d get any of this. I think when I was a journalist, as far as I went in terms of hopes and dreams was the idea of maybe one day getting a fiction book published with my name on it.
JMW: You did that pretty quickly.
Neil Gaiman: I did. I got there fairly rapidly and then got to do all the other things I wanted to do, like comics published that were decent.
JMW: Well, they were more than decent.
Neil Gaiman: And then took me a little while, and then of course, by the time that I was getting published, “Doctor Who” was off the air and stayed off the air for almost 20 years. Once it came back, I fell in love with what they were doing with it and was thrilled when they invited me to maybe come play in their sandbox.
JMW: It’s always nice when somebody invites you. How did you get into comics? The Sandman is such a classic now. I mean, not only is the story and the way Western and Eastern mythology are woven into it is something rather remarkable, but it’s one of those few books or one of those few works, I should say, that did something remarkable. They took comics off the [book] when you won, I believe it was the Hugo?
Neil Gaiman: World Fantasy. They made it so that comics could no longer win those literary awards any more.
JMW: That is rather remarkable to me. Do you feel like you want to go back to comics? What do you want to do now? You’re a novelist. You are writing scripts. Your novels and your stories have become wonderful movies. You’ve done a groundbreaking comic, writing scripts for “Doctor Who.” What do you want to do next?
Neil Gaiman: Everything. I want to carry on doing everything. I want to do more everything. There’s stuff that I haven’t done yet that I’d really like to. I’d like to do a musical. I’d definitely like to do some theater because I really haven’t done much theater. But I most just like to carry on doing everything. I like the fact that nobody seems to mind. I’m allowed to do kids’ books, and I’m allowed to do adult books. I’m allowed to do comics, and I’m allowed to do drama
JMW: Other than the fact that they all have your name on it, what do you think is the thematic thread that binds your work together?
Neil Gaiman: Oh, I have no idea, and I don’t worry about it. They all come out of my head. What I’m desperately always trying to do is go, “Okay, I’m not going to repeat myself,” and I will go and do something different. I’ll go and do something new. And then academics and critics then gather and say, “This fits in exactly with the rest of your [inaudible 4:00]. It has the same themes.” And I go, “Oh, bugger. I wasn’t actually trying to repeat myself.”
So I’m the worst person to go into what are the themes. Probably there is a celebration of the human imagination involved. Beyond that . . . and the power of story.
JMW: Definitely the power of story.
Neil Gaiman: Beyond that, your guess is as good as mine.
JMW: I have no guesses. I’m just asking the question. Speaking of academics though, you recently received a rather unusual honor. I mentioned Dr. Neil Gaiman from the university in Philadelphia, I believe?
Neil Gaiman: University of the Arts in Philadelphia. I did their commencement address and found myself getting a doctorate two days ago.
JMW: How did it feel to be wearing the academic robes?
Neil Gaiman: Like a fraud. Like an absolute, utter, and complete fraud. But I’ve now hung around enough academics to know that they all feel like that. So the fact that I got to feel like a fraud, it was the glory of giving my speech was [inaudible 5:12]. I never finished school. I didn’t go to university because I wanted to be a writer, and the idea of another four years of education before I was allowed to go and write was just something that I found stifling, frustrating, and I went off and I wrote. So I knew that I was a fraud, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong in that.
Jean Marie Ward writes fiction, nonfiction and everything in between, including art books, novels (2008 Indie Book double-finalist With Nine You Get Vanyr), and short stories such as WSFA Small Press Award finalist “Lord Bai’s Discovery” and “Personal Demons” in the award-winning anthology Hellebore and Rue. Her videos include author interviews and tutorials.