Neil Gaiman and the New Future of Old Media


I’m not gonna lie, but upon reading the prompt for this week, my first thought was that I had to write about Joseph Gordon-Levitt and his Hit RECord collaborative company, but the more I thought about it, the less it worked. Maybe one day I’ll get to write about it.

So I read the list again, and was back on the thought train as soon as I saw Neil Gaiman’s name. For those who don’t know, Gaiman is the author of many novels, comics, and screenplays, including American Gods, Coraline, Stardust, and the best-selling Sandman series. Besides his incredible ability to construct sentences (his prose is generally astounding), he’s married to musician Amanda Palmer, formerly of the Dresden Dolls.

All that being said, I doubt that many people at Bucknell have read a large amount of his work, so here’s why he’s my pick for Interesting Person: he’s incredibly thoughtful, and he’s been around for awhile. As an author whose first professional publication was in 1984, Gaiman is in a fairly unique position- he achieved his first success shortly before the Internet came along to change the way that we consume media. Now, there are a great many people in that position; that’s why people like to say that the music industry is –oh, the melodrama- collapsing.

However, Gaiman is known for taking familiar story elements within genres and deconstructing them to make a whole new type of story- one that feels familiar, but continually has the reader looking for pieces. That same critical eye has led him to adopt technology in sporadic, creative ways (he once got bored so he started writing poetry on twitter, and it was GOOD). It seems like a topic that’s played out, but his understanding of the publishing industry and the fact that he was able to take risks brings a refreshing take on a similar tale of artists getting used to the Internet. He says it best himself, as he summarized what it’s been like:

Also interesting is how willing he is to push the boundaries of the relationships between the different media that he’s involved in- for example, he and his musician wife recently funded a tour together using kickstarter, to perform old and new material as a combination of music, poetry, spoken word, and “crowdsourced” musicians.

On the amount of fact and fiction in his work:

“I’ve never been convinced that there’s such a wonderfully clear-cut dichotomy between the two things. When you start writing, you’re in a profession which involves making stuff up and inventing things. You’re making up people, you’re making up places, you’re talking about things that manifestly aren’t true… and if you’re doing it right, you’re using all of these fictions… to say true things.”

First and foremost, Gaiman is an author, but after that, he comes across as a true lover of culture. Watching him discuss pop culture and communication is fascinating because, at his core, it’s actually his passion. His success comes from his ability to understand how people work, and how they interact with media.

One more quick clip:

If you have the hour to watch his incredibly inspiration graduation speech, I promise that it’s worth  your time.

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9 thoughts on “Neil Gaiman and the New Future of Old Media

  1. You should look at what he was doing with Twitter for ~13 hours yesterday (2/4) starting around 11am. He asked for Tweets in response to month related prompts, crowd-sourcing an amazingly powerful emotional tale-of-a-year. Several of his prompts became trending topics (#DecTale) Apparently as a Blackberry ad, no less.

  2. Forgive my ignorance, but I do not know that much about Neil Gaiman. I found your description of him and his work rather intriguing, however, and would definitely be interested in listening to him speak. So does he mostly write about society and its relation to media, or does he have a wider work palette?

    • He mostly writes science-fiction/fantasy. My favorite work of his (American Gods), brings the idea that all Gods are real, created by and living off of the people that believe in them. In America, forms of the gods were brought by immigrants, but are dying out/aging because people moved away from their traditions over time; instead, a new crop of gods (Media, Internet, Television, etc.) are starting to take over and destroy the old ones.

      It sounds really weird, but he uses that context to delve in to the way that we interact with the world- the “new gods” aren’t gods like the old ones, but in America, people sacrifice so much time and energy to them that they’re equivalent.

      So, I guess the best answer is that he’s a sci-fi author that writes in a societal context.

  3. Pingback: Some Writing Rules to Live By | panhandleprofessionalwriters

  4. Pingback: Re-reading The Sandman « The Potted Plot

  5. Pingback: Some stuff | The "Professional" Blog of J. M. Brink

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