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Neil Gaiman: Biography & Quotes

Instructor: Ian Matthews

Ian teaches college writing and has a Master's in Writing and Publishing

Neil Gaiman is a household name in Britain, America, and beyond for his masterful writing in the fantasy, horror, and sci-fi genres. Where did Neil Gaiman get his passion for reading and writing? What does the man himself have to say about it? Let's find out.

''A Feral Child Raised by Libraries''

Neil Gaiman signing books in 2005
Neil Gaiman signing books in 2005

Gaiman was born in 1960 in Portsmouth, a town on the southern coast of England. His grandfather owned a chain of grocery stores, and his father worked in the stores while his mother worked as a pharmacist. Gaiman grew up reading at the local library. He's described himself as ''a feral child raised by libraries.'' He credits the librarians at his library for inspiring a love of reading in him, even from as early as three or four years old.

When Gaiman was five, his family moved to a different town, where Gaiman started school. Shortly after this, he discovered writers like C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. He found Lord of the Rings in the school library. The Chronicles of Narnia, a gift for his seventh birthday, inflamed his passion for reading for good.

Getting Started

In his early twenties, Gaiman explored journalism. His first published book, written in 1984, was a biography of the band Duran Duran. That same year, Gaiman found a copy of the graphic novel version of Swamp Thing, written by Alan Moore, in a London train station. This book got Gaiman into the comics-writing scene. He became a friend of Moore's and took over writing one of Moore's series, Marvelman, when he moved on. Gaiman worked as a journalist for a few more years, but soon he was able to strike out on his own.

Gaiman's work on a few smaller comics stories led to him getting a job at DC Comics, home of Batman and Superman. His first series at DC was called Black Orchid. When the head of DC's Vertigo publishing imprint read it, she offered Gaiman a job writing a new spin on an old character, the Sandman. Sandman ran for several years, from 1989 to 1996, and made Gaiman a star in the comic scene. It's also the first comic to ever win a literary award, the 1991 World Fantasy Award for Best Short Story.

While writing Sandman, Gaiman was also writing his own fiction. His first novel, Good Omens, was co-written with the popular British fantasy author Terry Pratchett as part of Pratchett's Discworld universe. Two more novels, Neverwhere (written alongside a TV show with the same name) and Stardust, increased Gaiman's popularity. His fourth novel, 2001's American Gods, made him a star.

Stardom and Beyond

American Gods won several major horror/fantasy/sci-fi awards in both England and America. Since the release of American Gods, Gaiman's influence and popularity have blossomed. Coraline, written in 2002, has been adapted into a movie, as has Stardust. Gaiman has written more comics, including a Batman story arc, and even an episode of Doctor Who. He has released novels both written alone and with co-authors. His newest solo novel, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, also won several awards. His newest book is The View from the Cheap Seats, a collection of nonfiction essays about topics that have interested Gaiman since his days spent at the library as a little kid. He now lives in the U.S., just outside Minneapolis.

In His Own Words

Apart from being an author, Gaiman is a prolific speaker. He's active on social media and his own blog and gives frequent interviews. Here's what he's said in a few of them.

On how he became interested in mythology: ''I wish I had an origin story for you. When I was four, I was bitten by a radioactive myth.''

When asked about where he gets his ideas: ''You get ideas from daydreaming. You get ideas from being bored. You get ideas all the time. The only difference between writers and other people is we notice when we're doing it.''

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