Don’t you dare jinx Neil Gaiman!


After I posted about how so many comedians are disappointing people, I found that Abbey had written about Neil Gaiman and how you shouldn’t have heroes except Gaiman seems to be living up to expectations.

“Don’t have heroes” is a huge important philosophical axiom for me, born out of long sad experience that it isn’t safe to have them. Once upon a time, I liked Harry Potter; I liked Father Ted and The IT Crowd. I thought the latter was particularly interesting as a learnable style of humor. We know how those turned out. But those are extreme author behaviors and minor influences. Back in the day, I was a huge fan of Firefly and it still holds a place in my heart (and thereby writing); I used to consider Joss Whedon the pinnacle influence for screenwriting, and sought to be like him… before we found out that the “him” I would have wanted to be like was mostly PR vapor and he was the usual kind of abusive douche that all men with a grain of power in Hollywood seem to be. But I can’t shake it with Gaiman, because he keeps living up to it, the bastard.

Jinx, jinx, JINX! I’m not usually this superstitious, but the pattern of people we thought good collapsing as their clay feet slump into goo is so consistent that I think we need to keep the pressure on. Don’t praise him. Give him nothing but squinky-eyed looks. Make sure he knows you have a big knife hanging on your belt, and when (not if, WHEN) he slips up, you’ll be there ready to go all sewing machine on his kidneys. It is the way. It is the only way. Fear will keep him on the straight and narrow.

That shouldn’t be a problem, it shouldn’t be at all discouraging to Neil. It’s not as if anyone should be behaving well for praise, you know.

Comments

  1. Pierre Le Fou says

    Yep. Agreed. I used to like Roald Dahl. And G.K. Chesterton. And Orson Scott Card. And J.K Rowling. And Salvator Dali. And a bunch of others, but only because I liked what they wrote without knowing much about them. And then one by one I read about them and discovered something unpleasant. And suddenly, all their production became ‘tainted’.

    It’s never fun when that happens.

  2. Pierre Le Fou says

    Oh, maybe I can ‘unjinx’ Gaiman by saying something bad about him? Let’s see… he’s got… er… fuzzy hair. Yep. That’s right. See, he’s not perfect!

  3. monkeysea says

    Not much for that good ol’ generic stand-up routine talking comedy.
    Still like Salman Rushdie, Ruth Ozawa & Neil Gaiman.
    Every time Neil tells the same story, it’s not.
    It gets better, revised, updated.
    Always fun when that happens.

  4. =8)-DX says

    What I find funny about people lionising Gaiman is how his books always just seemed … kinda meh to me? And he worked with Pratchett which was cool, but those books were also kinda meh? And then I discover later that he’s actually a kind and humane person IRL and I’m like: good for you Neil Gaiman, who I saw as a mediocre writer who kept writing stuff and girbossing forward, turned out to be a chill and lovely person? Wonderful.

  5. blf says

    =8)-DX@4, “[Gaiman] worked with Pratchett which was cool, but those books…”
    Eh, books (plural)? The only published collaboration I can think of is Good Omens. I know they plotted a sequel thirty-some years ago, and were good friends, but have never(?) heard of any other published collaboration (not even a short story)?

  6. PaulBC says

    t takes a certain level of transgression for someone to be “off my list.” Somehow Woody Allen surpassed it, and I really used to be a big fan. Maybe if his more recent work was good enough, it would make a difference, but it seems negligible. I have caught a little on video like Midnight in Paris (2011) but don’t talk about it much. I have no desire to go back to his classics like Manhattan or even think about him ever again.

    JK Rowling, eh. I don’t know. She was never my hero. I liked the film adaptations of Harry Potter and read the books around the time my children were. I don’t care what she thinks about anything. Her universe and characters are part of the culture and sometimes a convenient shorthand for how I understand the world (like, is Peter Thiel trying to make a horcrux? Probably, that asshole would!). There are growth arcs I really like, such as Neville’s. In that case, I separate the work from the TERF blathering, but I can appreciate that others would feel more strongly. She’s not my hero.

    I am nearly willing to identify mathematician Paul Erdős as an actual hero, if not a demigod. Aside from his contributions, he was simply the most self-actualized individual I can think of, treating life entirely on his own terms living out of a suitcase, traveling the globe, and showing up uninvited but generally welcome. He could also be kind of a pain in the ass at times according to his biographer, had trouble with many adult matters, and was heavily dependent on amphetamines. Still, I don’t see any malice. I’d really hate to have that illusion shattered.

  7. jenorafeuer says

    There was one event that got some folks upset with Neil Gaiman a few years ago. In 2014, the WorldCon was set to be in London, England, and the MC for the Hugo Awards was briefly set to be Johnathon Ross, who is a big SF fan, married to a Hugo award winner, and a writer in comics and video games himself. However, Ross was also something of a ‘shock jock’ who has taken several rather low pot-shots at women on the air, to the point where one of his phone pranks actually got him suspended by the BBC. (And, honestly, for the rather stuffy BBC to suspend one of their bigger names, you know what he did was considered beyond the pale.)

    Relatively quickly, controversy had erupted, some of the staff at the convention had resigned (they had brought up that this was going to be a PR landmine and undercut the convention’s own anti-harassment policy; they were overruled) and several hours later Ross had withdrawn from the convention in order to not be the one causing the news of this whole mess. Others like Charles Stross pointed out that even if Ross was on his absolute best behaviour during the convention (which he probably would have been; he’s presented the Eisner awards before), his very presence would mean the tabloid press would descend on the convention in droves waiting for him to screw up.

    It turned out that Neil Gaiman was the person who had introduced Ross to the convention chairs and had suggested him, and Gaiman apparently took it somewhat personally that his friend was attacked over this, and blasted back at some people who were criticizing the decision to have Ross as MC.

    In this case it was mostly a matter of Gaiman and much of the local fandom actually knowing Ross well enough to know that he really was a big SF fan and his public persona was really just a shell… and not cluing into the fact that people travelling in from elsewhere wouldn’t know that and would go only by the public persona and the news reports. So it was less a ‘Gaiman is a bad person’ and more a ‘Gaiman had forgotten his own misgivings about Ross from years prior and didn’t think about the fact that other people wouldn’t have had his chance to learn otherwise’.

  8. Allison says

    I actually think it’s unfair to anyone to idolize them as “heros.”

    Also, what comes to mind is a quote from Bertold Brecht’s The Life of Galileo, which translates as (my translation), “unfortunate the land that has need of heros.”

  9. nomdeplume says

    Hang on – Father Ted and The IT Crowd “we know how they turned out” – no we don’t. Or at least I don’t. These were two of my favourite comedies, should they not have been?

  10. PaulBC says

    Nobody has mentioned John Cleese. I don’t think he was ever my “hero.” I still find a lot of old Monty Python material very funny. I just ignore him now but I’m not boycotting his old work. There are a lot of people in this category.

  11. Thomas Scott says

    Rather than, “Don’t have heroes”, I prefer to recognize that, “All heroes have flaws”. It’s more realistic, allows me to idolize my “heroes” and makes them accessible.

  12. duketg says

    Graham Lineham, the creator of Father Ted and the IT Crowd, has shown himself to be pretty transphobic. Does that mean you can’t still love his shows? I don’t think so. I still think IT Crowd is very funny (haven’t seen Father Ted). For that matter, I still love Firefly and Buffy, and while it makes me sad that Joss turned out to be a douchebag there were lots of people who worked hard on those shows, and I like to think that at least half of them are not douchebags and would still like their work to be appreciated.

    Neil has at at least one instance of saying something stupid and it being called out. See here (quite a ways down) for his apology for the “a few dead indians” remark. I think his apology was honest and self-reflective, and it’s quite clear to me from the way he interacts with fans on twitter that he is generally a thoughtful, caring person, and that he’s willing to own up to mistakes when he makes them (which is all we can really ask of each other).

    I’ve also been heartily enjoying the occasional smack-downs he gives to people bitching about the casting in the Sandman adaptation. He has absolutely zero fucks to give about people who don’t like Death being played by a black woman or Lucifer being played by a female, and it just brightens my day each time.

  13. brightmoon says

    Both Marvin Gaye and David Ruffin ( the Temptations)let me down . I am a serious fan of their work with Motown, but as people , younger me was horribly shocked . But I should have known better , I’d lost that “Successful Black Icon Is Damn Near Godlike” image when singer Sam Cooke got shot by a jealous woman back in the early 60s. I remember how badly that affected my parents and grandparents. They literally spoke about it in near whispers and it wasn’t because us little kids were around!

  14. brightmoon says

    Both Marvin Gaye and David Ruffin ( the Temptations)let me down . I am a serious fan of their work with Motown, but as people , younger me was horribly shocked . But I should have known better , I’d lost that “Successful Black Icon Is Damn Near Godlike” image when singer Sam Cooke got shot by a jealous woman back in the early 60s. I remember how badly that affected my parents and grandparents. They literally spoke about it in near whispers and it wasn’t because us little kids were around!

  15. brightmoon says

    Both Marvin Gaye and David Ruffin ( the Temptations)let me down . I am a serious fan of their work with Motown, but as people , younger me was horribly shocked . But I should have known better , I’d lost that “Successful Black Icon Is Damn Near Godlike” image when singer Sam Cooke got shot by a jealous woman back in the early 60s. I remember how badly that affected my parents and grandparents. They literally spoke about it in near whispers and it wasn’t because us little kids were around!

  16. chrislawson says

    There’s an English saying: “No man is a hero to his valet.” Yes, it manages to be archaic, classist and sexist in only 8 words, but the underlying principle is right. Nobody is perfect. If you know someone well, you will know flaws, even with “heroes”.

  17. PaulBC says

    chrislawson@16 Though Smithers isn’t exactly Burns’s valet on the Simpsons, it does suggest a counterexample. Surely there are delusional and devoted underlings out there.

  18. says

    Uh… For the record, I don’t put Gaiman on a pedestal, and that wasn’t actually the thrust of that blog! Go read it, it is not long.

    The part copied above is more, really, to do with how hard it is to find anyone to look up to at all, even just as an artistic influence, when you’re a trans woman and therefore have to worry that anyone who hasn’t come out explicitly for trans rights might just quietly hate your guts sight unseen.

  19. birgerjohansson says

    Somewhat OT – of all the “heroes” of the Soviet Union, Yuri Gagarin is one of the few that remain untarnished after everything is revealed.
    -The film director Andrey Tarkovsky seemed rather bitter and angry in his last writings (he suffered from terminal cancer) and was upset with the Swedish culture of not slapping children that behaved inappropriately.
    This was at the shooting of the last film, in Gotland.
    He was also very irritated they could not go on as long as he wanted with the film every day (ironically Swedish laws about worker conditions were more progressive than he was used to, in the worker’s paradise of the Soviet Union ).

  20. birgerjohansson says

    The non-Gaiman offsohot, the Lucifer graphic novels were more accessible. They also gave more insight into a complex person that was more than a little narcissistisc. And dangerous as hell, no pun intended.

  21. bassmike says

    From what I’ve seen of John Scalzi, he appears to be another one on the right side. But I won’t class him as a ‘hero’ for all the reasons above.

  22. davidc1 says

    If we all stopping reading ,watching films ,admiring painting ,listening to music by people with dodgy pasts ,we would never read ,watch films, admire painting, listen to music ever again .
    I try to avoid reading books written by tories .But that’s just me .

  23. duketg says

    Neil has at at least one instance of saying something stupid and it being called out. See here (quite a ways down) for his apology for the “a few dead indians” remark. I think his apology was honest and self reflective, and it’s clear to me from the way he interacts with fans on twitter that he is generally a thoughtful, caring person, and that he’s willing to own up to mistakes when he makes them (which is all we can really ask of each other).

    I’ve also been heartily enjoying the occasional smack-downs he gives to people bitching about the casting in the Sandman adaptation. He has absolutely zero fucks to give about people who don’t like Death being played by a black woman or Lucifer being played by a female, and it just brightens my day each time.

  24. davidc1 says

    @4 If your reaction to Good Omens is MEH ,I think you are either dead ,or have no sense of humour .

  25. JustaTech says

    bassmike @24: And I think that Mr Scalzi would ask that you not call him a hero, for all the same reasons. He’s a good guy, but he certainly has shown his tuchas in the past. The difference between him and some others is that he apologizes and tries to do better.

    At this point in my life that’s who I aim to look up to: people who try to do better. People who are aware of their flaws and try to do something about them.

    It does hurt to find out that someone who’s art really meant something to you was a terrible person. I don’t think that it’s possible to totally avoid that without closing yourself off from all art, but I do try to remember that all books are written by people, and people have flaws. Then it’s just a case of “livable” flaws and “unacceptable” flaws.

  26. Rob Grigjanis says

    davidc1 26: Ah right, if you don’t like summat I like, there’s summat wrong with you

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