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Dear all,

This is the introduction by Neil Gaiman to a
collection of academic papers on his Sandman graphic
novels, The Sandman Papers, collected by Joe Sanders.

I haven't put this as OT, because its kind of relevant
to some of the things this list has been discussing
recently.  The most relevant paragraphs are the 3rd
and 4th.

Tab

****


    Thereís introductions and thereís introductions
and thereís introductions, and then thereís ones like
this where Iím introducing a book that has some kind
of connection to me, and I have no idea what I can
really add to the book in your hand. Still, I need to
try.

    I once Ė at the International Conference on the
Fantastic in the Arts, in Florida, some years ago Ė
went to a presentation of three papers on my work (one
of which is reprinted here), and after each paper was
presented, I was asked if I would like to make some
reply, which is honestly a bit like asking someone who
has just undergone an autopsy if heíd like to talk
about the experience. (My replies varied, at least in
memory, from ďEr, thanks. That was very nice of you,Ē
to an ďEr, with respect, if you read the issue youíve
cited, I donít believe it actually says what you think
it doesĒ. But possibly I just smiled and nodded.)

    Those were, however Ė with the exception of
pointing out the occasional objective mistake Ė simply
my opinions, and I donít consider them to be
privileged. Once youíve written something itís not
yours any longer: it belongs to other people, and they
all have opinions about it, and every single one of
those opinions is as correct as that of the author Ė
more so, perhaps. Because those people have read the
work as something perfectly new, and, barring amnesia,
an author is never going to be able to do that. There
will be too many ghost-versions of the story in the
way, and besides, the author cannot read it for the
first time, wondering what happens next, comparing it
to other things that he or she has read.

    So while I may, opinionated myself, disagree with
some of the conclusions presented here, I am quite
content for the opinions to exist; after all, the
people who came to them read the work for the first
time, which is more than Iíve ever managed. Sometimes
Iíve had my eyes opened by papers on something Iíd
written, and noticed that there was something else
there than I had intended. Iíve been praised for
unintentional cleverness and damned for things I donít
actually think I did. And Iíve always enjoyed it,
perhaps because Iíve always had a healthy respect for
academia. Even when I'm puzzled by it, it treats art
like it matters. And for those of us who make art,
thatís a fine thing to experience.

    Iím always particularly delighted by academic
attention to comics Ė partly because I think we need
the best critical minds to point to what we do and
explain it to ourselves, and partly, even mostly,
because it shows how much things are changing. (A
decade ago I was invited to speak at one major
American university by the art department, and was
informed, apologetically, that the English department
were, ah, boycotting my talk, because, after all, I
did comics. These days the invitations come from the
English departments...)

    One thing I know that I can say is that Joe
Sanders (there are two people of that name in this
book, just to confuse you. Iím talking about the
editor) is not only a fine and perspicacious critic,
and an excellent teacher, but he has also proved quite
indefatigable in bringing this book into the world. I
hope this book will prove to be only the beginning of
the printed and collected dialogue between those who
do comics and those who tell us what we did.

    Neil Gaiman
    January 10, 2006


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