Wednesday, May 4, 2011

All You Need To Know About The Neil Gaiman Speaking Fee Controversy

1. Last year, Neil Gaiman was asked to speak at the Stillwater Public Library in Stillwater, Minnesota. The library had received several thousand dollars through a grant from The Legacy Fund - a Minnesota state program designed to, among other things, encourage the arts. The grant money was intended to bring several big-name authors to speak at their library. As is typical with this kind of grant, the money could not be spent on anything else and they were desperate to find another author who could speak within a certain point of time, lest the money disappear into the ether and the library face criticism for not spending all of their allocated funds.

2. Mr. Gaiman, ever a champion of public libraries, agreed to appear for $40,000. The actual amount he got after taxes was $33,600. Gaiman donated all of this money to two separate charities - one doing social work, the other library/book based.

3. This is, it should be noted, much lower than Mr. Gaiman's standard speaking fee. He does not do many public speaking events and what few he does are usually done for free at library conferences, charity fundraisers and other public libraries.

4. Mr. Gaiman became a target for the editorial board of the Minneapolis Star Tribune, who wrote an article citing Mr. Gaiman's speaking fee as the height of government waste perpetuated by The Legacy Fund - all while demanding to know why this sort of money wasn't being spent on a much more sensible $800 million dollar football stadium.

5. Today, Mr. Gaiman once again became the target of conservative forces in Minnesota - specifically Minnesota House Majority Leader Matt Dean, who said that Gaiman, "who I hate," was a "pencil-necked little weasel who stole $45,000 from the state of Minnesota."

6. No one is sure just where the $45,000 number came from since the original price Gaiman was quoted was $40,000.

7. Apparently called out on his language by his own mother, Rep. Dean apologized later for calling Gaiman a "pencil-necked little weasel" but said that his comments on his being a thief still stood. He further commented that "I'm sure he has a lot of fans but also a lot of those fans would agree that he's extremely financially successful," Dean said. "He could probably donate a few hours of his time for some kids who follow him and like his books."

8. With this, Rep. Dean made it blatantly clear that he did not know the first thing about Neil Gaiman as a writer or a person.

9. As has been noted before, Mr. Gaiman worked below his usual rate in order to help out a library that was in a jam. He then donated his speaking fee in order to do further good.

10. As has also been noted before, Mr. Gaiman is unusually generous with his time as a public speaker and is famed for his kindness in doing what he can with his celebrity to help First Amendment causes and public libraries... free of charge.

11. Despite the clear implication that Mr. Gaiman - as an author beloved by children - is somehow unworthy of being paid a fair rate for his time, Rep. Dean once again shows his ignorance. While Gaiman is perhaps best known to the public as a Newbery Award winner, this is but ONE of the many honors that he has earned in his time as a writer. Mr. Gaiman is a polyglot among authors, unlimited by form and genre. He writes picture books, fairy tales, storybooks, young adult literature, science-fiction, urban fantasy and graphic novels with equal ease and to equal acclaim. Among his other honors are The Hugo Award, The Eisner Award and The World Fantasy Award.

12. Rep. Dean has made himself at least one enemy today. I don't mean Neil Gaiman, who I don't believe to have a mean-spirited bone in his body. I mean every single librarian, graphic novel fan and lover of good literature who Rep. Matt Dean just insulted by suggesting that our favorite author wasn't worth $45,000... let alone the $33,600 he actually received. And I predict that come election time, whoever chooses to take to the political field of battle against Rep. Dean will find their war chest bolstered by several million contributions.

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