Neil Gaiman has done it again. He has stolen from me, again. I am talking wholesale robbery. Gaiman is a lie and a thief and an incubus that leeches upon my dreams, my unconscious, my fevered sleeping mind.
Do I have to spell it out for you? Let’s go all the way back to the beginning. In 1988, Gaiman wrote his first Sandman story, using an idea I had fourteen years earlier. The story of Morpheus, Dream, the Sandman, that was mine. 1974. I was three at the time. And granted I called him the Sandymammy, but it was the same character. Same helmet, same medallion, same Robert Smith hair, even the same sister named Death. All of it, it was mine.
I have long suspected Gaiman was behind the troubling blank spots in my mind, those silent abysses that were once filled with stories upon stories. But it was Gaiman’s recent profile in the New Yorker that categorically confirmed my greatest fears. That Gaiman has been stealing from me, for years.
The final tipoff was this: the New Yorker writer Dana Goodyear observes Gaiman taking notes during a performance by his girlfriend Amanda Palmer. Gaiman later tells Goodyear that “he had started to imagine a man who went from city to city documenting living statues the way bird-watchers check off rare species; that was when he took out his notebook.”
Now I ask you, really, where did that idea come from? Not from Gaiman’s own mind, that’s for certain. It came from me. That story is mine. I am Gaiman’s muse.
I’ll concede that Amanda Palmer was once herself a living statue, but that serves only as a convenient alibi for Gaiman’s plundering of my imagination. Yes, she was a living statue, but then, so were a lot of people. I myself have trained in the art of silence and stillness amongst a crowd in the city. I too have stood frozen in place, across a dozen cities in many countries, in deli lines, ATM lines, public restroom lines, and if anyone can tell a story about living statues it is me. That story is mine I tell you. Listen, just hours before Goodyear witnessed Gaiman writing in his notebook, I had scribbled away in my own, a heartrending story about a boy obsessed with tracking down specimens of living statues, compiling an encyclopedia of these oddities under the misguided belief that…Well, I hadn’t worked out the details from there. But neither has Gaiman.
Gaiman. Neil Gaiman. Neil “Nebula” Gaiman. A supposed purveyor of fantasy who only trades in ill-begotten goods. Who stole the living statue idea from me just hours after I dreamed it up. In full view of a reporter for the New Yorker no less. He’s always coming up with ideas he tells her. Always writing down ideas he tells her. Always filling up his notebooks he tells her.
I wonder about those notebooks, those small square black things he hides in his every pocket. They must be enchanted, that’s the only logical conclusion. I am at a loss to explain how, but every word Gaiman writes, every stroke of his precious fountain pen must drain ink from my own notebooks’ pages. Gaiman’s notebooks fill with black whilst mine fade into white.
I don’t expect many readers to doubt me. I am likely telling them what they already know, that Gaiman’s storytelling powers are an act of thievery.
I don’t expect any readers to doubt me, but Gaiman’s lawyers may try to silence my alarming revelations. Therefore, in due diligence and with a veritable respect for intellectual property, I hereby submit incontrovertible proof that Gaiman’s demon notebooks have bled dry my own copious (and brilliant) writings:
Gaiman’s magic is powerful. My notebook was once an ink-blotted jungle of tales, and now it’s a desolate polar landscape. And once I realized Gaiman’s wicked black art was draining away my own creativity I tore open the rest of my hundreds of notebooks. What I found terrifies me. They are blank, all of them, pilfered of words like the one above. They might well have never been used for all their emptiness. Engorged with the devil’s ink, Gaiman’s semiotic umbilicus must run straight through to my mind.
Even published stories of mine are vanishing. “The Cemetery Tome” (to which The Graveyard Book bears more than a passing semblance) appeared in the Fall 2005 issue of the Missoula Journal of Arts & Entropy. Would you be surprised to hear that my own copy of that journal has vanished? Would you be surprised to hear that the journal itself seems to have vanished? I have checked and double-checked seventeen different library catalogs, and the journal no longer exists. Not a trace remains. So too has the entire run of Kasper, Melchior, Belshazzar disappeared, in which I had published a number of tales transposing Old World mythologies onto New World contexts (mostly Canadian, which I see Gaiman has slyly altered to American). Even the once widely available quarterly New Labyrinths to which I was a frequent contributor is missing from the Library of Congress, WorldCat, and the Barnes & Noble periodical section.
Do you understand the source of my horror and desperation? Gaiman’s considerable talents include retroactively eliminating entire literary journals, something almost unheard of.
With each new publication, Gaiman erases one of my own. My work is æther and nobody knows what I have written. I have been subjected to the greatest retcon in history, and only Neil Gaiman and I know it. I am not even sure which of us it is that’s writing this page.
My only tactical advantage is surprise. I have realized that I know what Gaiman is going to write before he himself knows. Because I anticipate Gaiman’s every witticism, every metaphor, every upended literary trope, let me tell you exactly what his next award-winning story will be. It’s a novel about a man haunted by the knowledge that a famous author is stealing his ideas, and when he publicly exposes this author for the fraud he is, the author writes a story about the incident, about a man haunted by the theft of his ideas who then exposes the crime, only to have the author write a story about a man whose best ideas are stolen by the very author he has himself authored. And the novel can only end in one way, with the death of the author.
Ah, but which author dies, you ask? My lips are sealed. I’m not going to tell. I’m just going to let Gaiman dangle and squirm as I cut off his pipeline to the dream fields of my imagination. Let him try and figure out what happens. Gaiman is good, but not that good.
He cannot write what I have already not written.