Back at the beginning of the year, Dustin and I heard that Neil Gaiman had a new book coming out in the summer, and that it would be his last great American signing tour. So we checked the event locations and found he was coming to Dallas. It was a weird time–a Monday night–but we figured we could drive up, go to the signing, and spend the night. A mini-vacation, if you will.
The Monday in question was yesterday.
Unfortunately, Dustin’s work interfered with our vacation plan. They fired 75% of his team without changing the deadlines. So rather than a leisurely trip to Dallas, we made a mad dash up and back to minimize the amount of work he would miss. Dustin worked until noon yesterday, then we headed out, only to return around 1:45 a.m. this morning. Then he got up and went to work at the normal time.
But perhaps I am getting ahead of myself.
We left yesterday afternoon and headed to Dallas. On the trip we listened to Brandon Sanderson’s The Way of Kings, otherwise known as the book that will not end. We’ve listened to it on two round-trips to MO, and now a round-trip to Dallas and we still have two discs left. If this book ends in a cliffhanger I’m going to be quite put out.
We arrived in Dallas and found the Majestic theater and the suggested parking garage–the Platinum Parking garage.
Never, in the history of the world, has a garage been named so poorly.
It was easily the scariest garage I’ve ever encountered. It was, ostensibly, a two-way garage (up and down on the same ramps), but having met just a single car in a sharp, terrifying moment, I can say with some certainty that it was not meant to be two-way.
Pro-tip: Do NOT, under any circumstances, park at the Platinum Parking garage. Yes, it is right across the street. Yes, it is cheap. Do. Not. Park. There.
Having survived both the garage and it’s ancient, rickety elevator, we saw what awaited us. It was around 5:15 p.m. when we arrived. Book pickup started at 5:30 and doors weren’t until 6:15. The event started at 7:00. We had planned to go get some dinner and then come back. Instead we saw two lines stretching into the distance. One disappeared around a corner and might’ve gone on forever.
Our dinner plan was scrapped and instead we got in line. We had been sent physical tickets, and so we went into the shorter line. After some waiting and barely controlled chaos, we were allowed into the theater.
We had purchased VIP tickets, because the VIPs would be the first to get their books signed. Having gone to some other very large signings, we knew they could go on for hours. We didn’t want to be there for hours.
However, we were apparently second-tier VIPs, if there is such a thing. The real VIPs got the first ten or so rows, then there were two rows for us lesser VIPs. The seats were still awesome.
The Majestic is a beautiful theater. It was also packed to the gills. We were told there were approximately 1500 people in attendance. All three levels were full.
They had to delay the show for a few minutes to allow the infinite line to make it inside. But then it was time for the best part of the evening.
Neil Gaiman has stage presence. He is funny and warm and a fantastic reader. I could listen to him do readings all day. He did a reading from his new book, The Ocean at the End of the Lane. It was quite good, in part because he was the one who was reading it.
Then he did a short Q&A section, where the audience had submitted the questions. One of my favorites was “Why do you always wear so much black?” His answer: “Because I have no imagination.”
After the Q&A, he read part of another new book, this one coming out in September. It’s a children’s book, and he did the voices. It was lovely. I don’t have kids, but I kind of want to pick it up just to see how it ends.
After the talk, it was time for the signing proper. It started a little before 9:00. After the staff realized that nearly every person was staying, they decided to let people go one row at a time, starting with the VIP section. We were approximately eleven rows back.
We didn’t get our book signed until 10:20. Almost an hour and a half for eleven rows. I feel really bad for the people at the top of the balcony.
The signing was setup to maximize throughput of people. With 1500 people waiting, I don’t disagree that it had to be done that way, but we had about ten seconds of face to face time with Mr. Gaiman. And by face to face, I meant our faces to his bent head while he signed. I thanked him for coming, he said he loved Dallas, and then we were on our way.
I don’t want to call it disappointing, because it can’t really be a disappointment when you know what you are getting into before you start. We went for the speaking portion more than the signing, though it was nice to see him personally sign our books. Even with the breakneck signing pace, he was there until 2:23 a.m. signing books. Sacrifices had to be made.
I don’t know of a way to get around it, without charging a ridiculous amount of money and severely limiting tickets. And I already kind of have a problem with paying to go to a signing, even if the price includes the book.
Perhaps the venue could do a limited ticket lottery, but then I don’t know if they would be able to make enough money to cover expenses.
Overall, I can see why he’s no longer doing signing tours. The fact is, he’s too popular to do them. I waited ninety minutes for my ten seconds of face time and felt almost let down when it was over. What about the people that waited five and a half hours? What if that had been me, up there in the nosebleed section? Would I still consider it worth it? No. Perhaps that means I not a “real” fan, but that’s how I feel.
After the signing, we stopped at a fast-food place for dinner and booked it back home. The Way of Kings kept me awake and driving, but just barely. I’m not sure I remember any of the book from about midnight on.
And that is how we “met” Neil Gaiman.