Feature – Dallas Morning News

Jerome Weeks reported the following in the October 17 Dallas Morning News:

Merely listing the projects that author Neil Gaiman has out now or has in the works would exhaust this story and two others like it. So here’s just a sample:

American Gods, his best-selling adult fantasy from 2000 and the only novel to win all four major sci-fi awards (Hugo, Nebula, Stoker and World Fantasy) has been released in trade paperback. He’s working on Anansi Boys, something of a follow-up

The Wolves in the Walls, his morbid, funny children’s book with his frequent illustrator-collaborator Dave McKean, hit the best-seller charts, while the paperback of last year’s young adult best seller, Coraline, has been released.

MirrorMask, a fantasy film Mr. Gaiman has written, is in post-production with Mr. McKean directing. He has also finished an adaptation of Nicholson Baker’s erotic novel, The Fermata, for director Robert Zemeckis, while he’s slated to make his own full-length directing debut next year with Death: The High Cost of Living.

Neverwhere, the story of a quest through a dark, fantastical version of London’s Underground, was originally a BBC miniseries he wrote. It’s finally out on DVD, complete with low-budget, Dr. Who-quality special effects but with Mr. Gaiman’s own, often sardonic, commentary track.

Don’t Panic, his 1999 literary biography of Douglas Adams (author of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy) has just been updated.

And 1602, a new comic book series that began in August, will be out as a graphic novel next summer. It presents Elizabethan-era skullduggery with early ancestors of such Marvel Comic heroes as the X-Men and Daredevil.

“Bear in mind,” Mr. Gaiman cautions from his home near Minneapolis, “that I’ve gone from about a year of ‘that lazy Neil Gaiman, he never does anything anymore’ to this, when everything I’ve done in the last four years seems to be coming out in three weeks. I’m getting sick of me, too. If it’s any consolation, I really am lazy.”

Yet even that long list doesn’t contain the one item some of his fans had been anticipating for months: The British-born author has released Endless Nights, a new installment of his Sandman comic book series. First published monthly from 1988 to 1996, The Sandman was Mr. Gaiman’s brooding revision of an old superhero – akin to what Frank Miller and Alan Moore did two years before with Dark Knight and The Watchmen, respectively. In Mr. Gaiman’s hands, the Sandman became a device to strip-mine classic myths and re-mix them with modern tales, combining the cosmic and contemporary-seedy.

This macabre ‘new mythology’ has been the essential Gaiman approach: injecting ‘real’ people into fables (in Neverwhere, a young man finds that London subway stops such as Knightsbridge and Blackfriars have actual knights and friars) or, conversely, bringing the legendary to modern life (in Mr. Punch, still one of his best works, a British lad learns about sex and death from the living puppets in a sordid seaside arcade).

In various packagings, The Sandman has sold more than 2 million copies. Perhaps more significantly, it brought female readers into comic shops and tapped a very “goth” sensibility.

That loyal goth core was evident at Mr. Gaiman’s appearance earlier this year at BookExpo in Los Angeles. Amid the usual middle-age booksellers, the goth kids stood out – as is their wont.

Mr. Gaiman himself is rarely seen in public without a black leather jacket and black jeans. But because the goths are the most obvious element in his audience, “back in 1994,” he says, “I could tell which person at one of my signings was a young fan and which was a fan’s mother – the 30-ish, responsible member of society who’d been asked to get a signature. But I can’t do that anymore.”

This isn’t just because the early goths grew up and put aside the black nail polish, he claims. American Gods attracted mainstream readers, for example, while even older romance fans, he says, liked Stardust, his 1999 fairy tale.

One can hear the goths shuddering from here. But the fact is that Mr. Gaiman has been pursuing a wider, mainstream audience for more than a decade. One good reason: According to Publishers Weekly, American Gods has outsold Mr. Gaiman’s previous efforts more than 2-to-1.

That doesn’t mean Mr. Gaiman has abandoned his goth/ Sandman loyalists, as his Web site and blog clearly indicate (www.neilgaiman.com). But when asked why he had killed off a major Sandman character, Mr. Gaiman replies simply: “Because I always knew it was a tragedy. Because to have any meaning, a story must end.”