“When I was a kid I wanted to be a writer, but being a writer seemed about as likely as being an astronaut.” Considering his early doubt, Neil Gaiman probably feels like he’s now walking on the moon. The author chats with Rhys J Anderson about his affinity for Australia and The Good Doctor.
As the final strums of Jherek Bischoff's bass ebb to furious applause, Neil Gaiman walks off a stage he had just shared with the likes of David Byrne (Talking Heads), Brian Ritchie (Violent Femmes) and Annie Clark (St Vincent). MONA FOMA's Bushfire Appeal fundraiser on Monday 21 January saw a collection of top rate artists venture to Hobart to volunteer their time and abilities to raise money for the Red Cross. Having played the night previous to a full theatre audience, Gaiman spent this Monday morning visiting the remains of a fire-ravaged Tasmanian primary school in Dunalley, donating a collection of his books. “They've now got all my books that are fit for kids; I'm going to get other authors to donate as well. You've got to rebuild, you've got a primary school starting from scratch so let's at least give them some books,” he says.
Gaiman explains what people can expect from his upcoming shows in Melbourne and Sydney. “A lot of stuff about [forthcoming book] The Ocean At The End Of The Lane.” There will also be a Q&A session with the audience, and a string quartet may be getting involved, as well as a special gift from Gaiman.
The author and his partner, (musician Amanda Palmer) spend a lot of time in Australia. Why do they keep making the journey? “A combination of things: one, I love Australia; [and] two, I love my wife, and my wife loves Australia even more than I do. I love Australia like you like a friend that you see a few times a year, and you're really pleased to see him. My wife loves Australia like somebody she wants to drag into a darkened backroom for half an hour and bang until they're senseless. She would move here, she just loves it.
“So really it's been a combination of these two things. Australia is somewhere I find it very hard to say no to,” he continues. “When I was first asked to play the Sydney Opera House, well, you don't say no when you get asked to play the Sydney Opera House... I got to sell out the Sydney Opera House and I got to read a story. That for me is as cool as it will ever get.”
Talking about the script that Gaiman wrote for Doctor Who (The Doctor's Wife) the author professes his fandom begun at age three. He recalls hiding behind the sofa at his grandparent's house during The Web Planet (1965). Neil laughs describing it as “my first televisual terror”. But as for a favourite Doctor, Gaiman is undecided? “I think it's really hard,” he ponders. It used to be Patrick Troughton, because he was my doctor, the one I grew up with. Yet, Matt Smith is amazing, and it's writing for him that gives me an increased awareness of how amazing [he is]. He is technically one of England's finest actors. Matt for me is the only Doctor who really feels a thousand years old and a kid – he really is this ancient space alien.” When talking about upcoming work Gaiman mentions a new Doctor Who script. “I've written [one] that broadcasts in May. It guest stars Warwick Davis, Tamzin Outhwaite and Jason Watkins. The episode is called The Last Cyberman.” Pushed for more information, Gaiman responds, “It's about identity, it's about responsibility and it's about porridge.”
Fans can also look forward to a book called Chu's Day (about a baby panda who sneezes), a winter release of The Ocean At The End Of The Lane, and an anniversary follow up to The Sandman.
Neil Gaiman will perform at the following dates:
Thursday 24 January - The Wheeler Centre, Melbourne VIC
Friday 25 January - City Recital Hall, Angel Place, Sydney NSW
This week's new sets include music from locals Gurrumul, Josh Pyke and West Thebarton Brothel Party plus new tunes from The Maccabees and Albert Hammond Jr.