Archive for Neil Gaiman

How many complaints does it take to ban Neil Gaiman?

Posted in Doom, Favorite Words, Fiction, Politics and Society with tags , on October, 2013 by melendwyr

Just one, according to Leah Schnelbach at Tor.com.

The text of Neverwhere had been accepted as part of the reading list for nine years… and, as a result of a single complaint from a single individual who never even met with the teachers involved, it was removed.

Leaving aside the issue of whether the scene in question is sufficiently objectionable to justify removal:  if they were willing to remove it after a single complaint, why did they approve it in the first place?  Did they find it offensive but decided it wouldn’t matter until someone complained?  That’s disturbing in one way.  Did they not find it offensive but were willing to remove it at the slightest hint of parental discomfort?  That’s disturbing in another.

What’s truly tragic is that everyone else, even the student body, seems to have enjoyed the book.  It’s been many years since my horrific journey through the American educational system, but as I recall dimly through the mists of time, enjoying the act of reading was uncommon, and enjoying reading assignments was even rarer.  Removing something that the students liked is a serious loss, both to the kids and to the people whose responsibility it is to educate them.

And why?  A few F-bombs and some light petting.

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Fragile Things

Posted in Reviews with tags on March, 2010 by melendwyr

Despite the category tag, this post isn’t going to be a review of Neil Gaiman’s Fragile Things. I DO recommend that you read it, though – it’s a wonderful collection of thoughtful and creative short fiction, and the poetry is the cherry atop the cake.

But, after many years of reading and re-reading Gaiman’s works, I think I’ve finally figured out what I don’t like about it. His writing is evocative, touching, technically brilliant, and highly memorable. So what’s wrong?

It’s all humans, all the time. Which is to say, Gaiman’s writing always has a universe which operates according to the principles of the human mind. All of the characters are anthropomorphic in their personalities (if not necessarily their forms), and their problems are human ones, despite their mind-numbing power. Even conditions such as being condemned to Hell are ultimately the choices of the humans involved – it’s the need for punishment that keeps the damned where they are, and if released they just create Hells around themselves wherever they end up.

Even Life and Death are a matter of personal choice, it’s hinted. Death of the Endless drops clues only very subtly, but there are some indication that in the Gaimanverse everyone chooses where they end up within the universe, so that not only are things like the Afterlife a matter of personal belief, but the Predeath is as well.

The problem is that this makes Gaiman’s entire fantasy multiverse nothing but a prison of inward-facing mirrors. There’s nothing fresh and unexpected that can be learned from, no break from the monotony of humanocentric existence, nothing beyond the familiar pattern of the self.

I cannot think of anything more depressing than an entire cosmos that worked on the principles of human prerational thought.