“There,” said Wednesday, “is one who ‘does not have the faith and will not have the fun,’ Chesterton. Pagan indeed. So. Shall we go out onto the street, Easter my dear, and repeat the exercise? Find out how many passrby know that their Easter festival takes its name from Eostre of the Dawn? Let’s see—I have it. We shall ask a hundred people. For every one that knows the truth, you may cut off one of my fingers, and when I run out of them, toes; for every twenty who don’t know, you spend a night making love to me. And the odds are certainly in your favor here—this is San Francisco, after all. There are heathens and pagans and Wiccans aplenty on these precipitous streets.”
Her green eyes looked at Wednesday. They were, Shadow decided, the exact same color as a leaf in spring with the sun shining through it. She said nothing.
“We could try it,” continued Wednesday. “But I would end up with ten fingers, ten toes, and five nights in your bed. So don’t tell me they worship you and keep your festival day. They mouth your name, but it has no meaning to them. Nothing at all.”
Tears stood out in her eyes. “I know that,” she said, quietly. “I’m not a fool.”
“No,” said Wednesday. “You’re not.” Neil Gaiman, American Gods
There are about 5,300 ASK messages right now sitting in the queue. Which is why yours hasn’t been answered, I expect.
One question I keep seeing over and again, even more than “What MFA program should I do?” (I do not answer this, because my answer would probably be: “I have no idea. I never did an MFA program. I just wrote stuff.”) is, over and over, a variant on “How can I possibly be original? The stories I want to tell have already been told.”
Because sometimes you do not have to be original, as answers have already been given, I will answer with a quote from an essay by John Barth, who points out that our worrying that what we are writing is not new is, well, not new:
Once upon a time, perusing a book about the Egyptian Middle Kingdom, I noted that some twelve centuries before Homer, in about 2000 B.C.E., the scribe Khakheperresenb was already voicing what I like to call Khakheperresenb’s Complaint: “Would I had phrases that are not known,” the scribe laments, “in new language that has not been used not an utterance which has grown stale, which men of old have spoken.” I used to comfort my students (and myself) with the reflection that for all we know, two or three millennia of sea and sunrise metaphors might be like the first few million stars in our galaxy—a mere drop in the bucket!—while at the same time acknowledging that Khakheperresenb’s feeling of having arrived late to the party is not to be dismissed. …
If I could time-travel back to the Egyptian Middle Kingdom, I would console Khakheperresenb with the familiar paraphrase of Walt Whitman: “Do I repeat myself? Very well then, I repeat myself.” Or André Gide’s comforting remark, “Everything that needs to be said has already been said. But since no one was listening, everything must be said again.” Originality, after all, includes not only saying something for the first time, but re-saying (in a worthy new way) the already said: rearranging an old tune in a different key, to a different rhythm, perhaps on a different instrument. Has that been said before? No matter: on with the story!
That last post
People are asking if that last post was a joke.
I don’t think so.
But even if it was, it wasn’t. It’s nothing I haven’t seen before, many times, either as hate mail that came in on the FAQ line over at neilgaiman.com, or in other corners of the web — the saddest of which was a letter from a young, female Iranian fan, who loved my books all the way from Iran and wanted to warn me about Jews, because they were all over America, and they came from Israel and ran America secretly, and I needed to be warned to watch out for them. The funniest-scariest was a link I was sent to a Holocaust-denying site that also had a grand list of Jews in Showbiz on it, so they would know who to send to the gas-chambers Next Time (and yes, my name was on it).
The Holocaust was not that long ago. Not really - I have relatives still living who were Holocaust survivors. Six million people were murdered by people who had the beliefs and attitudes of that last questioner. And while I wish that those attitudes had ended along with World War 2, they didn’t.
Anyway. Here’s something inspirational, to take the nasty taste away.
Good question - I went and found it the full interview here
That’s exactly the reaction I would have. I have these extremely unlikely fantasies of my books becoming great movies someday. If they dare suggest whitewashing my cast, they’re not getting the rights to my movie. You go, Neil!
Four for you, Neil Gaiman! You go, Neil Gaiman!