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Neil Gaiman Talks All Hallow’s Read, Ceiling Cat, And Social Media

Buzzfeed submits 13 pieces of interview evidence proving the Sandman creator is the best. We sat down to talk about the Halloween book-giving tradition, but we got distracted.

13. Neil Gaiman has an exceptionally elderly cat.

She is a TWENTY-year-old cat named Princess who likes to drink from the tap.

She used to be vicious and grumpy and now she just remembers being vicious and grumpy.

12. But who is his favorite Internet cat?

Oh, it’s gotta be Ceiling Cat.

Sadly, he had not taken the quiz, Which Famous Internet Cat Are You?

11. He finds “Cats Who Look Like Pin-Up Girls” quite cute.

What does he think the next big thing should be?

Gay Guys With Cute Kittens.

10. Neil Gaiman shipped The Doctor and the TARDIS.

And so he lived out every fan’s fantasy and made it real.

I’m a crap shipper. I did ship The Doctor and the TARDIS but then I got to make it canon and I don’t think it counts once you’ve done that.

(Editor’s Note: It totally still counts.)

9. Speaking of “Doctor Who,” he gave BuzzFeed a hint of what his new episode is about.

We begged asked him to tell us something, anything.

There’s porridge in it.

8. When it comes to fan fiction about himself, does he ever read it?

He does not because he had a traumatizing experience.

I do not read the fan fiction. Ever since a long time ago. I discovered the shortest possible unit of time, in Internet terms, is that period between realizing you’ve actually clicked on something that takes you to real person slash featuring yourself and someone you know, and the time when your finger hits the back button.

7. However, Mr. Gaiman does love art from his fans.

Especially Neil Flamingo Art?

In order to explain it, we have to get really strange. My wife went off on tour for 14 months, and about two months ago, as the touring started, she started feeling guilty because she went, “I’m not going to be able to give you the love on Twitter that I normally give you, so I’m going to find a Neil’s Twitter Wife who can just say things like, ‘I hope you have a good day’s writing dear.’” So that’s how it began, and the job of Neil’s Twitter Wife has moved from person to person, and then I turned up at the Hugo Awards and Yagathai twittered “Neil Gaiman strolling through hotel lobby like awkward goth flamingo. Crowd of wide-eyed fangirls following twenty feet behind him.” And I RT’d it because I thought it was hilarious and loved the idea and the Neil Twitter Wife had a lot of fun with it and by the end of the day someone had sent her flamingo art and she posted it and suddenly there’s a Neil’s Flamingo Art Tumblr.

6. Clearly he really loves social media, especially Twitter and Tumblr.

But he uses them differently.

Tumblr I’ll cheerful and happily queue because it’s built in. A lot of times I’ll see a few things and think they’re fun but not urgent so I’ll queue up two or three days worth of stuff. If I’m answering questions I’m probably on Tumblr.

I’ve got approximately 12K unanswered asks, and Tumblr isn’t set up for that. If your question doesn’t get answered in a week, it’s gone and that’s not even because I didn’t think it’s a good one!

And Tumblr can lead to some introspective thought.

I have 105,385 followers there (as of this interview) but it seems like with Tumblr I get more and more questions like, “I’m following you, I’m not really sure why. It’s really cool. Who the fuck are you?” I never quite know what to say; I don’t know who the fuck I am.

Twitter is a completely different animal.

With Twitter I never queue because it’s all about real time and what comes back. That’s the joy of it. I think of it as a river, as something you step into and step out of, and I don’t ever try and catch up. Every now and then I have people convinced I’m ignoring them when really I was asleep, or on a plane, or just not on the Internet then. With 1.7 million followers, I can’t keep up.

And he has to be careful.

I have to be careful and obsessive about linking to things on Twitter because of #NeilWebFail. I can kill a website in seconds if 1.7 million interested people, or even 50% of them…that’s a lot of people clicking.

5. But being a force in social media has made him hyperaware that actions have consequences.

So it’s important to remember some things.

To be absolutely serious for a moment, one of things that is hardest about the Internet is the illusion of one oneness. Someone can be a complete and utter dick to me and my immediate reaction is “I can be a dick back to you. Look, I can post this stupid horrible thing you said because it pissed me off, because it’s not true, because it’s offensive. It genuinely took me having done that ONCE, and seeing the result, to know you don’t do that. There is that scary, scary mob mentality. And you never know quite what’s going to set them off. (Tweet about hating and dealing with haters; ignore them, don’t feed them.)

For example Mr. Gaiman once posted a seemingly innocuous tweet about trying to “not hate” anyone.

I had several groups of people shouting at me. What scared me was half of them were people who obviously considered themselves socially enlightened people arguing for their right to hate the bad guys, and others were gamers arguing for their right to hate women. But the horrible thing was the content was the same. This horrible moment where you want to take the people who considered themselves enlightened and show them the gamers arguing for their right to demean women and point out they’re using the same phrases.

The biggest problem isn’t the trolls, because they know they’re doing something to piss people off. The problem is always people who believe they’re doing the right thing and do horrible stuff by believing they’re doing the right thing. Which is always much scarier. We’re marching up to the monster’s castle and we’re doing the right thing and we will burn it to the ground.

4. Mr. Gaiman Internets from a spooky Minnesota country house.

Which means he doesn’t get trick-or-treaters. For the first few years, he bought lots of candy in preparation but…

I waited and waited but no one came.

3. There was only one solution.

Use someone else’s house, obviously.

When I was genuinely pining for a Halloween, I borrowed my assistant’s house in the middle of town.

Mr. Gaiman claims he was bedecked in a “terrifying bunny suit,” but no photographic evidence was to be found online — though BuzzFeed scoured the archives. Artist rendition by BuzzFeed’s John Gara.

2. Finally, we remember to talk about All Hallow’s Read!

What Is All Hallow’s Read?

All Hallow’s Read is a very, very old tradition that started two years ago when I was on a plane. What I like about traditions is, I didn’t realize, that you can actually start one at any point. You just have to do it and then do it again and then it’s a tradition.

It was the magic of the Internet. I was sitting on a plane and I thought, Wouldn’t it be good if there was some kind of tradition of giving scary books in October? and I went on Twitter and said we should do this and what would we call it and it got about 1,000 suggestions and All Hallow’s Read was the one I liked best.

By the time I had landed, we’d registered allhallowsread.com and I went out and recorded this video for it. The idea was to say, look, we’re not saying don’t give candy. (Editor’s Note: Seriously, give candy.) Candy is a great, venerable tradition. But Lord knows we need more holidays that have a book-giving component, especially in the U.S., where they don’t have any.

But people were then saying, “Well, hang on, books are expensive,” and what was great is I didn’t have to even say anything. I was just watching the conversation —because of the magic of Twitter, by the time people were done saying books were expensive, other people were saying, “Well I’ve just gone down to Goodwill and picked up 50 R.L. Stine books to give to kids.” So you start realizing if there is one thing that’s out there that’s available cheaply and in quantity, it’s books.

Have you thought about co-opting other holidays for reading?

I think all holidays should be reading holidays. I think books are the most personal and intimate things you can give.

But I particularly love the idea of All Hallow’s Read, partly because Halloween by its very nature is a literary festival. It was almost created by Ray Bradbury. And I love the fact it’s about story. There’s no other holiday that has stories as an integral part. There are no Secretary’s Day stories. However, Halloween comes with ghost stories, that’s why things get scary.

Download a high-res copy of the 2012 All Hallow’s Read poster!

1. To end on some controversy, Neil Gaiman put to bed the age-old “cats vs. dogs” argument.

Which is better?

Cats are always better for the Internet because cats will pose. Dogs don’t pose. You can either pose your dog and have horrible, embarrassing, cringe-making, toe-curling photographs of dogs wearing clothes, which is just wrong…unless it’s dogs in animals costumes, because a dog in a bumblebee costume is cool. Or if you wait for them to look noble and take a quick photo.

Cats are great posers, and as long as you’re hanging around with a camera.

And they’re EVIL.

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