This Dude Doesn’t Know Who Neil Gaiman Is

… and why that makes me happy.

A while back, I wrote a post about fame.  How it’s not a useful goal, because to be famous requires first that you are, well, famous. It’s a game of exponentials, where the truly famous are famous for BEING famous.

I used Neil Gaiman as an example, comfortable in the opinion that everyone knows who he is.


I was talking up the Writers Center Stage series to co-workers. It’s this amazing series of author talks put on here in Cleveland, co-sponsored by my university.  (Plug: MARGARET ATWOOD next year! Get your tickets NOW.)

“I don’t know,” said co-worker, “It’s not like they get anyone FAMOUS, right?”

“Are you kidding?” I sputtered. “I just saw Alison Bechdel!”


“Dykes to Watch Out For? She wrote ‘Fun Home’? She’s the person the Bechdel Test is named after? A literal household word?”

“Never heard of it.  See? They only have loser local people. Like most things in Cleveland. Not worth the ticket price.”

My mind feebly grasped for the most famous name on recent programs.  Of course!  I had a winner.  “Last year they had Neil Gaiman.”

My coworker was unaffected.  He waited for me to provide another name, and when I didn’t, asked, “Who is he?”

“Seriously, dude. You know who Neil Gaiman is. He’s very famous.”

“Well, what has he written?”

“The Sandman comics? American Gods?” He looked blankly at me. I wondered what would be most likely to be known by a middle-aged midwestern white guy. “Um… Coraline? Remember that movie?”

“He can’t be that famous if I haven’t heard of him.”

And I stared, in rapt joy, as I heard those words. Because I had heard those words so many times applied to authors I admired and felt it like a blow, but this was NEIL FUCKING GAIMAN.

There is literally no point at which you are famous to EVERYONE.

Which means, to this random dude, I am as successful an author as Neil Gaiman.


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