'An Evening of Stardust' enchants audience
Fans of graphic novels, fantasy movies, and the television series Doctor Who all poured into Carnegie Music Hall on Wednesday evening. Despite being fans of varying artistic mediums, they all had one thing in common: Their favorite pieces were written by British author Neil Gaiman, famous for such works as Coraline, American Gods, and The Sandman comic book series.
Gaiman visited Pittsburgh to present “An Evening of Stardust,” celebrating the 15th anniversary of his award-winning novel Stardust. The talk was organized by Pittsburgh Arts & Lectures, which proudly hosted Gaiman for his first-ever public appearance in Pittsburgh. In fact, it was the only city he visited on his one-destination tour, making this night even more special for local fans.
Gaiman had a captivating presence on stage. Members of the audience leaned forward to get a glimpse of him from the top balcony, and the room was silently quivering with excitement as everyone hung onto every word he said. His live reading from Stardust still captivated listeners, even though most of them had probably already read the book or seen the movie adaptation. It was clear that Gaiman is a natural storyteller — both on paper and in person.
It was also evident that Gaiman’s creative ideas for his fantasy works were not carefully plotted out, but were rather the result of the bizarre turns his imagination would take. The creative process behind his fantasy novel Stardust was beautifully simplistic: Gaiman explained how he wrote it in longhand, using a fountain pen, to emulate the ’20s vibe he wanted the novel to have.
He described the night the idea for Stardust was conceived: He saw a shooting star and wondered, “What if I found the shooting star and it was a great glowing diamond?” After a long pause, he said matter-of-factly, “Or what if it was a girl with a broken leg? Because that’s how my mind works.” The audience erupted into laughter at how such a brilliant idea for a book could arise so simply.
Gaiman’s gift for storytelling became even clearer when he read from his upcoming book to be released on June 18. The Ocean at the End of the Lane is Gaiman’s latest work of fiction, in which a seven-year-old boy finds a dead opal miner in the trunk of a car, prompting a strange series of events. Gaiman revealed that this work is “a particularly personal novel”; the Hempstock family in the novel had been brewing in his mind since childhood.
He was genuinely relieved by the booming round of applause that followed his reading, explaining that he had been nervous to see the audience’s reaction. This kind of behavior made Gaiman seem down-to-earth and relatable — far from pretentious. At one point, he took a moment to pause and admire the twinkly light display behind him, entranced by the star-like effect.
In one self-deprecating and hilarious anecdote, Gaiman explained how as a child he was awful at sports because he would get distracted — only to be rudely awoken when a ball smacked him on the head. The audience was in hysterics as Gaiman shared this humbling story; no doubt many of the creative minds in attendance could relate.
The floor was then opened up for questions from the audience. Several guests bugged Gaiman for details on his upcoming Doctor Who episode; he wrote an award-winning episode of the British television show last year. Gaiman boasted that he would make the Cybermen (robotic Doctor Who villains) scary again. The author also touched on the topics of female roles in fantasy fiction, saying that he believes they are more prominent now than in the past. He joked, “You could shoot a machine gun at random through the pages of The Lord of the Rings and never hit a woman.”
Gaiman ended the night saying, “If your question is how do you find magic, how do you find adventure? You go out, and you make it. And you make it for other people.” With all the magic Gaiman has given his fans over the years, and with the magic he brought to the stage that evening, this thought certainly resonated with his audience.