Neil Gaiman makes you believe in magic—fairy tales and swords and sorcery sometimes, but mostly, and in what I’ve decided is my favourite genre of fantasy, corner-of-your-eye magic. Magic that coexists and overlaps with the everyday world that we know, but magic that simply chooses not to reveal itself, or we choose on some subconscious level not to notice because we’re content to go on with the lives we’ve deemed sensible. A hidden world in the cracks and forgotten places of London? Gods and spirits eking out a living in modern day America? Ancient spirits residing in the hill of an overlooked and overgrown graveyard? It’s all there, and you really do believe that these things can exist and we can all be walking straight past them every day.
I haven’t read Sandman or any of his graphic novels, but mostly ended up in his novels and short stories and the interweave of bizarreness and normalcy within. The fact that he won an award for an Arthur Conan Doyle/H.P. Lovecraft crossover fanfiction (A Study in Emerald) should tell you on its own that his imagination is versatile, playful, somewhat macabre, and has no problem magpie-ing other people’s creations and toying with them until they’re made into something new. Gaiman’s recently released a Sleeping Beauty retelling, and it’s not the first time he’s played with fairy tales either, given Snow, Glass, Apples, a chilling reimagining of Snow White from the stepmother’s point of view, Snow White being a vampiric creature she’s trying to stop from sucking the life out of her husband and kingdom; and Stardust, his own ‘fairy tale for adults’.
Does this mean he’s one of those ‘let’s take well-known pre-established and much-loved ideas and make them into something gritty and mature and horrifying’ authors? In some ways, yes, but he manages not to be so overt about it, and you always get a sense of fun as an undercurrent to even his most serious works (yes, even you, American Gods). The same way he blends the magic with the mundane, he manages to blend things we recognise with his own original ideas, which purees together into a beautiful creative smoothie that’s very interesting to read. Continue reading