Friday, March 20, 2009

Thank You Neil Gaiman

Dear Neil Gaiman,

I'm writing this open letter to thank you. More than any other author I have ever read, you have had the greatest impact on my life. Let me tell you why.
Until I was about 16 years old (in 1992), I never really read comic books. I read a lot of horror stories by Stephen King and Clive Barker and Anne Rice. And they were great. They helped shape my wonderful warped teenage brain and gave me a good scare when I wanted it. Around that time I joined the Science Fiction Book Club, a little mail order service that's still around. I got six books for a dollar, and then the monthly catalogs started coming. In the pages of the book club catalog I found a section of comics, and after reading the blurb about "Season of Mists" I had to buy it.

Lucifer quitting hell?
Someone else being put in charge?

That was too awesome a story to pass up. So I bought it.

I loved it.

I bought all of the rest of The Sandman hardback editions through the SFBC and went wild over the rest of the series. I went to my local bookshop and found the first three volumes in paperback editions and read through all the rest of it.

From that moment on, I was hooked on comics.

Fast forward to 2002. I had just graduated from library school and was desperately looking for a job. I went to Atlanta for the American Library Association annual conference and interviewed with every library in the country who had recruiters. I didn't care if I wound up in Kansas or New York as long as it was a library.

Guess what. You were there. I was dumbstruck. For a moment I had no idea what to say. I'd never met anyone famous before. What do you say to someone who wrote one of your favorite books of all time? I walked by the DC Vertigo booth and you were standing there in your leather jacket and I came up and said, "Are you Neil Gaiman?"

"Yes," you said.

"How do you pronounce your last name?"


"Oh, thanks."

"Do you want an autograph?"

I about melted away. "YES!"

And you gave me a Sandman poster and wrote "Sweet Dreams, Neil" at the top. For the longest time I never put it up, because I didn't want to damage it. No tape, no sticky tabs, no nothing. I kept it in a folder hidden away in my files.

A couple months later I got a job in Washington DC. Let's just say it wasn't my ideal position, but I held it for four years, and eventually moved on to the DC Public Library. When I started working there, I was blown away by the fact that they had comics. Not just a few, but a LOT. And I started asking around about who buys the comics? How do we organize them? How can I get involved with this?

A few weeks in I found out the answers to all those questions. And shortly thereafter I became a part of the team of people who buy comics for the library. I started putting together an adult graphic novel collection. I helped beef up the Japanese manga, get caught up on superheroes and of course buy copies of the complete Sandman for every library in the city.

Now I work in libraries, a job that I love, and I buy comics for libraries and spread the joy that I had as a young reader.

And for that I thank you. Thank you for making a difference in my life. Thank you for inspiring me. Thank you for doing a great job at what you do. And also congratulations on winning the Newbery Medal for the Graveyard Book.

You rock.

Oh, and that poster. It's hanging in a frame in my bedroom now.

Eric Riley
Washington, DC

No comments: