Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Neil Gaiman, Minnesota, and Writer's Mistakes.

Writers make mistakes.

This is probably not a good topic to discuss on a writer's blog, but it's the truth. And I try to serve the truth as often as possible without getting myself into even more trouble than I find naturally. People can learn from mistakes, even if those mistakes are performed by other people.

Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, WitchNeil Gaiman is a British author with a couple of novels to his name, and several tv episodes. I only enjoyed two works by him – Neverwhere, and The Graveyard Book. The one other book of his I truly enjoyed is called Good Omens, and there is nothing he can say or do to prove to me that Terry Prachett didn't take over the book entirely.

Recently, Mr. Gaiman (I prefer to pronounce it Guy-mun, not “Gay-man”) spoke at a Minnesota public library. He made a four-hour public appearance, for which he was paid $45,000 dollars.

Yes, he made over $10,000 per hour.

Harlan Ellison, an author who has been writing since the dawn of time … or at least the dawn of modern science fiction … makes $10,000 for an entire convention appearance, and Gaiman isn't half as interesting as Ellison. Trust me, I've met Ellison, and I've seen Gaiman.

A Minnesota politician has referred to Gaiman as a “pencil-necked weasel-thief” for walking off with that much money for a measely four hours.

Gaiman, in his defense, has said that he wanted to charge far less. The library claimed that the money was earmarked for library events, and the earmark expiration date was almost up. They could either use the money, or lose it. So, he took the money, and gave some to charity, some to his agent, etc.

Now, after the politician made noise, Gaiman has turned around, and started exchanging insults with Minnesota, at least on his Facebook page, as he tries to defend his honor (or honour, if you wish to go British). And he's whining that he's being put on a Republican “hate list”....

Now, I don't know about you, but there's something wrong about the whole thing.

For instance, should I ever become interesting enough to be invited anywhere to speak, I'm going to wonder at being offer forty-five grand.

I can imagine the conversation going as follows.

“Hey, we really liked your book, A Pius Man. We want you to come speak here. We'll give you $10,000 an hour. Please?”
Me: [Blink, blink, blink.] “How much?”
“About $45K. Is that not enough?”
Me: “I didn't think I was that interesting. Why $45K?”
“Because that's our event budget. We have to use it, or we're going to lose it.”
Me: “By 'lose it,' do you mean it will spontaneously combust? Fall down a rabbit hole and disappear? Turn to ash?”
“No, the state will just take it back.”
Me: “So, gee, you can either give me all of the taxpayer's money that you still have in your budget, or you can actually let the taxpayers actually have it back? Gee, I'm so happy I can give you an excuse to spend money for the sole purpose of spending money, in the middle of a major recession. How about this: get stuffed. I want nothing to do with you idiots.”
But, now, Neil Gaiman is the persecuted one. Huh. Really? One, it's Minnesota, how many people would know anything was up if it weren't for Gaiman's replies? I know I wouldn't. Two, this sounds like the library wanted to burn through the cash it had, and claim "We used our event budget this year, give us the same next year."
So, an open letter to Neil ....

Dear Mr. Gaiman.

I know you're not from the United States, so let me give you some pertinent information about Minnesota.

Number one: Minnesota is odd. This is a state that gave the position of governor to a former pro-wrestler named Jesse Ventura. It also made a clown one of their senators – a man named Al Franken.

In terms you can understand: Politically, Minnesota is Lewis Carroll country. They have fallen down a rabbit hole, and they have have yet to come out again. These people make Wonderland seem reasonable.

Number two: You took the money. I don't care what you did with it, you took taxpayer money. In the middle of a recession. You claim you would have attended the event for far, far less. Did they make you take it? Did they hold you up at gunpoint and force a check on you? I don't care how you redistributed the cash, this was taxpayer money. If the public library couldn't burn through it in the time allotted, that was their problem.

Didn't you think it odd that a public library paid you more money than bigger talents would get for an entire science fiction convention? They used you to aid and abet government waste in a recession. You were an excuse to burn cash. Why? Best guess: In all likelihood, if the public library didn't spend the money, their budget next year would have been cut to match what they spent this year.

Number three: You're Neil Gaiman. Why are you getting into the muck and mire with hacks from Minnesota? Why? You did nothing illegal. Some Minnesotan called you names … highly unoriginal names … and you, you poor widdle baby, are up in arms over it. You declare yourself on a Republican “hate list.” Really? You're going to play the Nixon card? Let's avoid the fact that there must be more than one person for there to be a list. Also, just because the politician is a Republican, you're not a target of the Republican National committee. You're not Bill Clinton; there is no vast, right wing conspiracy out to get you. As far as I can tell, there's just one guy – one guy who you have decided to make far more interesting by engaging with him.

You, sir, are a writer. You should have a thicker skin than this.

In conclusion … What the hell are you doing? While I question the wisdom of taking the cash, and thus exposing yourself to this idiocy, you are now actively diving into the muck and mire that is the cesspool of Minnesota politics. Do you think that a guy from Minnesota will affect your popularity in any way? If you hadn't decided to engage, I probably would have never heard of the quote, the politician, and I might have been safe from hearing anything about Minnesota until the next time Al Franken ran for political office.

This isn't your problem. Whoever paid you the money “just to get rid of it” shouldn't have burned through the money because it was there. That person should be fired. While I question your wisdom in taking the cash, you did nothing against the law. Why are you defending yourself against a gnat?

Stop playing silly buggers with rejects from the madhouse. Just tell these idiots that you didn't set the price, and if they're going to insult you, tell them to hire Terry Prachett as their speechwriter.

Thank you.

PS: The only Republican I know who may have an opinion on you is President George W. Bush -- and that's only because he liked Babylon 5: a show you wrote for.

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