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Gaiman, Neil

Entry updated 23 December 2023. Tagged: Author.

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(1960-    ) UK journalist, screenwriter and author, in the US from 1992, whose first publications were nonfiction; along with later essays, some of this earlier work has been assembled as The View from the Cheap Seats: Selected Nonfiction (coll 2016). He then specialized in the scripting of fantasy and sf comics and Graphic Novels for a decade from the late 1980s onward, and more recently focused on novels of the fantastic (not including sf); he has also become involved in films as screenwriter and producer. His prominence – he has become a respected author, and a media star – is therefore only remotely connected to his sf work. Gaiman did, however, very early begin to publish work of genre interest with "Featherquest" for Imagine #14 in May 1984, and his second book, Ghastly Beyond Belief (anth 1985) with Kim Newman, assembles various kinds of bad (and/or obsessional) writing to be found in sf and fantasy.

Gaiman's first Graphic Novel was Violent Cases (graph 1987) with Dave McKean, a dark urban fantasy. Black Orchid (1988-1989; graph 1991), also with McKean, revised and provided an origin story for the titular DC Comics superheroine (see Superheroes). His further graphic novels – which may be distinguished from his other work by standing as singletons – include Signal to Noise (June-December 1989 The Face; rev as graph 1992), The Tragical Comedy or Comical Tragedy of Mr Punch: A Romance (graph 1994), The Day I Swapped my Father for 2 Goldfish (graph 1997), The Wolves in the Walls (graph 2003), and MirrorMask (graph 2005) all with Dave McKean; the last title was made into a film, MirrorMask (2005).

Following critical acclaim for Black Orchid, Gaiman began to write comics in earnest, creating and scripting throughout The Sandman (1988-1996), whose central story arc and conclusion he had predetermined from the outset and which after issue 50 was aimed to be complete at 75 issues. Though taking its name from a former comics hero who dispensed sleepy justice with a gas-gun, the sequence revolves around an entirely re-imagined character who is the personification of Dream (also known as Morpheus) and interacts with his similarly archetypal siblings Death, Delirium, Desire, Despair, Destruction and Destiny. The Sandman stories – one of which, "A Midsummer Night's Dream" (September 1990 The Sandman) illustrated by Charles Vess, won a 1991 World Fantasy Award for Best Short Story – were published as a ten-volume series beginning with The Sandman: The Doll's House (graph coll 1990) illustrated by Mike Dringenberg and Malcolm Jones III and finishing with The Wake (graph coll 1997) illustrated by Michael Zuli et al. Of particular interest was a long tale (occupying issues #32-#37 of The Sandman in 1991-1992) which transmutes dark-fantasy material evocative of the work of Jonathan Carroll (1949-    ) in a sustained narrative; it appeared in the book series as A Game of You (graph 1993) illustrated by Shawn McManus and Colleen Doran. Later spinoffs [see Checklist below] include The Sandman: Overture (graph 2015), a prequel to the comics series storyline which includes living Stars as characters and centres on an existential threat to the entire cosmos; this won a 2016 Hugo as Graphic Novel. Miracle Man (1990-1994), also inscribed Miracleman, is a genuine sf comic with a Utopian turn (see Captain Marvel); legal questions of provenance and ownership, extending labyrinthically back as far as the origins of Superman, have plagued this enterprise; Miracleman: The Golden Age (graph 2003) with Mark Buckingham, which assembles issues #17-#22 of the comic, is probably Gaiman's most sustained contribution to the enterprise. Gaiman also wrote in 2006-2007 a limited sequence of seven linked tales based on Jack Kirby's The Eternals (1976-1977), depicting the complex adventures over the ages of a group of Immortals created five million years ago by a Forerunner civilization which also engaged in the Genetic Engineering that led to the human race; his sequence appeared in book form as Eternals (graph 2007).

Most of Gaiman's book-length prose fictions are fantasy or horror. Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch (1990; rev 1991) with Terry Pratchett is a comic fantasy novel about Antichrist and the Four Horsemen, who do not quite end the world (see End of the World; Religion). Neverwhere (1996; rev 1997) is an urban fantasy set in London; American Gods (2001), which won the Hugo award, the Nebula award and the Locus Award, suggests an American pantheon of gods (both native and immigrant) who appear in the text, necessarily slightly diminished – it is a problem often found in Graphic Novels, where gods-on-Earth are exceedingly common, indeed hebdomadal; Coraline (2002), a Young Adult horror novella filmed as Coraline (2009), also won the Locus Award, the Nebula and the Hugo; The Graveyard Book (2008), a Young Adult fantasy which takes its shape from key episodes in Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book (coll 1894) and The Second Jungle Book (coll 1895), won another Hugo, and also received the Carnegie Medal and Newbery Medal. The Ocean at The End of the Lane (2013), on the other hand, Equipoisally introduces an sf understory that shapes the tale's conspicuous fantasy topoi: the three women who occupy the Hempstock farm next door to the unnamed narrator are inexplicitly but clearly linked to the equally non-human family depicted in the Hogben series of short stories by Henry Kuttner and C L Moore; like the Hogbens, the Hempstocks have existed for aeons, in this case since before the Big Bang (see Cosmology), and guard the fragile human race from Monsters out of the temporal depths. Much more lightly, Fortunately, the Milk ... (2013) for younger readers spoofs numerous sf tropes in the form of a Tall Tale [see The Encyclopedia of Fantasy under links below] told by a dad to his kids.

Several of his prose stories have also won important awards: "October in the Chair" (in Conjunctions 39, anth 2002, ed Peter Straub) won a Locus Award; "A Study in Emerald" (in Shadows Over Baker Street, anth 2003, ed Michael Reaves and John Pelan), a revisionist crossing of Sherlock Holmes with the Cthulhu Mythos, won a Hugo and a Locus Award; "Closing Time" (in McSweeney's Mammoth Treasury of Thrilling Tales, anth 2003, edited by Michael Chabon) won a Locus Award; "Forbidden Brides of the Faceless Slaves in the Nameless House of the Night of Dread Desire" (in Gothic! Ten Original Dark Tales, anth 2004, ed Deborah Noyes) won a Locus Award; the R A Lafferty pastiche (see Parody) "Sunbird" (in Noisy Outlaws, Unfriendly Blobs, and Some Other Things ..., anth 2005, ed Ted Thompson and Eli Horowitz) won a Locus Award; "How to Talk to Girls at Parties" (in Fragile Things: Short Fictions and Wonders, coll 2006) won another Locus Award; as did "An Invocation of Incuriosity" (in Songs of the Living Earth, anth 2009, ed George R R Martin); as did The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains (in Stories: All-New Tales, anth 2010, ed Gaiman and Al Sarrantonio; graph 2014); as did "The Thing About Cassandra" (in Songs of Love and Death: All-Original Stories of Star-Crossed Love, anth 2010, ed Gardner Dozois and George R R Martin). He scripted the Doctor Who episode "The Doctor's Wife" (14 May 2011), which won a Nebula and a short-form Hugo as dramatic presentation. His American Gods-related story "Black Dog" (in Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances coll 2015) won a Locus Award as best novelette, and the book itself won the award for best collection. Good Omens (see above) was eventually adapted by Gaiman as a Television miniseries (six episodes, May 2019); the third instalment, "Hard Times", won a Ray Bradbury award for dramatic presentation (see Nebula). Much of this work has been assembled in The Neil Gaiman Reader: Selected Fiction (coll 2020), a compendious arrangement of stories selected – through an online poll – by his readers. More recently, his Arthurian adaptation Chivalry (graph 2022), illustrated by Colleen Doran, won a Locus Award as best illustrated/art book.

Unlike graphic novelists such as Alan Moore, Gaiman has tended to combine draconian verbal economy with an ample romanticism, so that his tales carry, sometimes effortlessly, a burden of half-uttered resonances. He co-wrote the entry on the Graphic Novel for the second edition of this encyclopedia. He entered the Will Eisner Award Hall of Fame in 2021. [JC/DRL]

see also: Crime and Punishment; Icons; Shared Worlds; Shakespeare; Superman; Yinhe Award.

Neil Richard Gaiman

born Porchester, Hampshire: 10 November 1960

works (selected)

series (graphic)

The Sandman

  • The Sandman: Preludes & Nocturnes (New York: DC Comics, 1991) with various illustrators [coll: graph: assembling issues #1-8 of the comic: The Sandman: hb/]
  • The Sandman: The Doll's House (New York: DC Comics, 1991) with various illustrators [graph: assembling issues #9-16 of the comic: The Sandman: hb/Dave McKean]
  • The Sandman: Dream Country (New York: DC Comics, 1991) with various illustrators [coll: graph: assembling issues #17-20 of the comic: The Sandman: hb/Dave McKean]
  • The Sandman: Season of Mists (New York: DC Comics, 1992) with various illustrators [graph: assembling issues #21-28 of the comic: The Sandman: hb/]
  • The Sandman: A Game of You (New York: DC Comics, 1993) with various illustrators [graph: assembling issues #32-37 of the comic: The Sandman: hb/Dave McKean]
  • The Sandman: Fables & Reflections (New York: DC Comics, 1993) with various illustrators [coll: graph: assembling issues #29-31, #38-40 and #50 of the comic: The Sandman: hb/]
  • The Sandman: Brief Lives (New York: DC Comics, 1995) with various illustrators [graph: assembling issues #41-49 of the comic: The Sandman: hb/Dave McKean]
  • The Sandman: Worlds' End (New York: DC Comics, 1996) with various illustrators [coll of linked stories: graph: assembling issues #51-56 of the comic: The Sandman: hb/Dave McKean]
  • The Sandman: The Kindly Ones (New York: DC Comics, 1996) with various illustrators [graph: assembling issues #57-61 of the comic plus Vertigo Jam #1: The Sandman: hb/Dave McKean]
  • The Sandman: The Wake (New York: DC Comics, 1997) with various illustrators [coll: graph: assembling issues #70-75 of the comic: The Sandman: hb/Dave McKean]

The Sandman: Absolute Sandman

The Annotated Sandman

  • The Annotated Sandman Volume One (New York: DC Comics, 2011) with Leslie Klinger [coll: graph: assembling the first twenty issues with annotations: Annotated Sandman: illus/various: hb/Dave McKean]

The Sandman: individual titles (selected)

miscellaneous comics (highly selected)

  • Black Orchid (New York: DC Comics, 1991) with Dave McKean [graph: first published as Black Orchid #1-3 (1988-1989): pb/Dave McKean]
  • The Books of Magic (New York: DC Comics, 1993) with various artists [graph: first published as The Books of Magic #1-4 (1990-1991): illus/John Bolton, Scott Hampton, Charles Vess, Paul Johnson: pb/Richard Bruning]
  • Miracleman: The Golden Age (London: EclipseGraphicNovels, 2003) with various illustrators [coll: graph: first published as Miracleman #17-22 (1990-1991): hb/Mark Buckingham]
  • Eternals (Tunbridge Wells, Kent: Panini, 2007) with various illustrators [coll of linked stories: graph: first published as Eternals #1-7 (2006-2007): hb/John Romita]

graphic novels

non-graphic fiction



American Gods

individual titles

collections, scripts and stories


works as editor (selected)

about the author


previous versions of this entry

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