Comic book writer Neil Gaiman has a long conversation with tons-of-books writer Stephen King.
Neil Gaiman is the guy who wrote all those Sandman comics in the early 1990s. I bought a bunch of ’em. Collectors, don’t bother calling — they’re not in mint condition by any means. I’m a comic book buyer, not a comic book collector.
The Sandman series was good because it was different, not because it was good. Content-wise, it’s typical adolescent drivel about dreams, death, blah blah blah. But the art was cool, because that was the era when the comics were trying new things.
Now they know which of those new things sells, so they do it over and over. And yes, like a sucker, I still buy comic books.
I’m not such a sucker that I still buy Stephen King novels or Neil Gaiman novels. Props to both writers, sure. Making a living doing what they’re doing is terrific. As a reader, however, I know I can’t read a Stephen King novel anymore, and I know I can’t read a Neil Gaiman novel anymore.
I’m not opposed to empty-headed entertainment, mind you. I’m perfectly happy to see a movie or TV show that has the same characteristics of a Gaiman or King novel. Two-dimensional characters? Trite dialogue? Thrills for the sake of thrills? Yes! A thousand times yes! If it’s only going to take 100 minutes out of my life.
Reading a 600-page novel takes me longer than 100 minutes. King and Gaiman fans are snickering and nodding their heads right now, proud that it only took them 99 minutes to read the unedited version of The Stand or the pre-sale version of American Gods.
Gaiman’s conversation with Stephen King is really for fans who like both guys. It’s long — a little too long — and it wanders around here and there because, remember, Neil Gaiman is a writer. As you may have noticed, writers absolutely love to talk with other writers, and then talk about what they said to each other.
But it’s a good read, and I have to give Neil Gaiman plenty of credit for being engaged with his audience — and with people like me, who aren’t even his audience.
And here’s the twist: Stephen King is telling me that he doesn’t write the novels I’m expecting him to write. He’s embraced the title of “horror author,” but he doesn’t think it’s accurate. In fact, he sounds a little embarrassed by it. That and his fame. He says he regrets just one thing about his career — appearing in an American Express ad. Because then he became a celebrity.
It sounds as though King has a good take on it, however:
“You know what’s bizarre? I did the Savannah Book Fair last week…. This is happening to me more and more. I walked out and I got a standing ovation from all these people, and it’s like a creepy thing… either you’ve become a cultural icon, or they are applauding the fact that you are not dead yet.”
King seems to know where he stands, and doesn’t make too much out of being frustrated that he’s known only for horror — although you can tell he is frustrated by it.
Not so frustrated that he didn’t do a sequel to The Shining, of course.