Wednesday, March 20, 2002
I got a nice e-mail that reminded me that it had been a while since I talked about the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, which has a new Executive Director, and lots of new information and reading material up on the website, and has cool stuff by me (and other people) for sale, some of it unique to the fund, all monies from which, if you're buying from the CBLDF website, go to a good cause, so you should click on the link and go and take a look around.

The reason the nice e-mail (which I'll quote here in full, and hope the person who sent it doesn't mind) made me think of the CBLDF is because there are some very good and compelling reasons to take out a membership in the fund. Firstly, it shows you support a good cause, and actively contributes to that cause (viz. and to wit: Freedom of speech). Secondly, along with CBLDF membership you get cool extra things, and CBLDF membership-only events are one of those cool things.

This is about a CBLDF membership event several years ago. I came to the San Diego Comic Con by train, to spend a few days quietly working, but discovered when I got on the train that the notebook with the first chapter of American Gods was still on my desk at home. But I had packed the notebook with Coraline in, so for three days across America I wrote chapters six and seven of Coraline. And when I got to the convention, when they asked me to do a reading for the CBLDF membership who were interested, after the party (hosted by Fund supporter Dark Horse Comics' Mike Richardson), I... er, actually, I should shut up and just post the letter here.

At the 99 Comic Con International my wife, two friends (both comics shop owners) and I were treated to a special reading Neil did for the card carrying members of the CBLDF: after a fun party for us no less! It was late and we only had a tiny room in the Clarion hotel to barrow and the lighting was not to conducive to dimming for the audience with a enough for Neil to actually be able to see the text he was to read.

Many folks laugh at me for carrying around a large waist pack that is full of a myriad of stuff that makes them laugh even more. This time however it made them cheer. Within my bag of tricks I had a few feet of duck tape, a knife/tool (actually two) that I used, along with some thin card board I found in the area to create a "shade" for the light I was able to situate above Neil's head that would allow the room to be darkened yet have a spotlight for Neil, but I digress.
Neil treated us to his new "children's" story, "The Wolves in the Walls" which was wonderful and exciting enough for all forty, or so listeners to keep awake for. Then came another exquisite treat, the first public reading of the new story he was working on while riding the train to Comic Con, the first half (or so) of Coraline! Neil warned those of us left (it was about 2am at this point) that this was a work in progress and that we would not hear the end since he had not reached it yet, or even much of the second half. Most all said that this was fine with us, while a couple folks said good night. I am always willing to loose sleep for a great story.

The story was absolutely fabulous. It was creepy, intriguing and as always exceptionally well paced with fantastic dialog that keeps you intrigued . It was a touch maddening (something I have to live with anyway) not hearing it all , but this only heightens the excitement for the time when I finally get the whole story. I was as enamored with this story as I was the first time I saw "A Nightmare Before Christmas" and just as ready to "see it again", but most folks including Neil and my wife were tired: I can hardly believe the time and energy Neil gives to us fans. Thank you Neil!

I have seen/heard Neil read (and wear a bright red vest while at it once) about six times over the years and this one was one of the best. Neil does a wonderful job of acting out all the characters and providing enormous emotion and depth that I usually have to do myself with only his guidance, but I am more than happy to have the author do it all for me now and again. This must be why I love audio dramas.

Thank you Neil for not only the great stories, but feelings, ideas and energy you bring with you and infuse in your work. I only hope the wine I give you when ever I see you now is a third as wonderful as your works. I can't wait to hear you once again. This time I will bring along a new friend whom I have "converted" over the past two years who is now asking to be taken to my friend's comics shop so she can assemble her own Gaiman collection.

Sean Thorniley
Santa Rosa, CA

[I should add, for the sceptical among you, that the bit about the red vest (I think of it as a scarlet velvet waistcoat) is quite true. I've only ever worn it once, at a CBLDF midnight reading in, I have just been informed, 1995.]