(tl;dr - I went to Stockholm and met author Neil Gaiman there)
For now I have only an English version, it is long and full of details. And to answer your question - yes, I did fly from Russia to Sweden to see Neil Gaiman. Why? Because why not?
29 may 2014
I feel a bit philosophical right now as I fly back home from Stockholm where I spent several quite intense days. Yesterday I met Neil Gaiman who is one of my favourite authors and one of the most beautiful human souls I ever knew.
The whole story is quite adventurous I must say, so I would love to describe it all and spice it up with pictures I made. Couple of weeks ago I was not planning to go anywhere. But then a chain of events occurred which lead me to accomplishing one of my dreams.
I learnt that there going to be an event in Stockholm with Neil Gaiman. It was unfortunately sold out. I tried to tweet for spare tickets. None. Nevertheless I decided to check out the prices of airplane tickets. They appeared to be ridiculously low. Then it appeared that my friend Ira who lives in Stockholm will visit Moscow with her lecture on Swedish mentality. Immediately we thought that it would be awesome if I join her on her way home, so I bought tickets to the same plane.
Somehow right from the beginning I thought that I will not get sad if I wouldn’t see Neil Gaiman on my visit. After all he is busy man and popular as well. Also he must be tired. And I knew he is broken with experience he had in Jordan while witnessing life of Syrian refugees. But I wanted to make sure that I tried every option. Sold out event was not much of an option, but I tried to apply as a photographer by mail and I also went to the venue to ask if there will be any additional tickets. For mail I didn’t get an answer and there was no additional tickets.
Who could know that fruitless Tuesday will bring intense Wednesday?
With help of my friend Ira and internet I learnt that there will be a massive signing session in Science fiction bookstore in the Old Town of Stockholm and some mysterious public interview at the biggest bookstore of the city. Guess what - everything worked out just perfectly!
At 8-30 am I was at the SF bookstore where I found quite a queue. It was known that bookstore will open its doors at 10 am and people in the queue will get numbers. Those with numbers will be guaranteed that they will get 1 item signed by Neil. I was curious so I talked with the bunch of people who were first in row when did they come here. They said 5.30 am. That’s what I call dedication.
Our merry crowd of geeks and nerds was a huge attraction to tourists, locals and - as it appeared - to police as well. Tourists were making pictures of us, locals asked us what’s up and police came to check out our growing crowd. Hail to almighty power of socially dangerous army of geekdom.
What I really loved about Swedish people is that almost all of them speak decent English, so it was not a problem to talk with anybody which is cool. So in the queue I met Andreas and nameless girl in red jacket. It was quite cold, so we talked to while away the time.
At 10am sharp staff of the SF bookstore came out of the shop and gave us all little pieces of paper torn out of the little geeky daily calendar. I got March, 17. Pretty smart way of organising everything, I think. After that all of us had “free time” till 4pm which was an official start of signing session.
It appeared that I visited this shop when I was in Stockholm for the last time - 8 years ago. It was nice to find it at the same place after such a long time. It is very reassuring at our quick and quickly-changing times.
Inside of Science fiction bookstore in Stockholm old town a geek soul finds heaven. No joke. They have everything. Layers and piles of everything. From books to games, from clothes to jewellery, from manga to graphic novels, from movies to game. Just everything. I thought I will choke because of thrilled happiness.
All people could go inside and pimp up their collections of Neil Gaiman stuff. Until 4pm shop worked as usual. I spent there half an hour and then decided to go to Akademibokhandeln, that biggest bookstore of Stockholm, which is a chain of shops actually. It was not clear if anything will be happening there, it seems nobody knew about it. I invited Andreas to join me. Adventure is always better in good company, and we went there. (living statue is not me of course)
What a surprise, lady in the bookstore said that well, really we could just have a seat and Neil Gaiman will truly be here for the interview in 40 minutes. It is free, so we are welcome. Wow. We were shocked that lady Luck was such a generous darling. Quite soon we invited a girl, whom I saw in the queue to our table. Her name is Tanti. So we became three musketeers. And quite international team I must say as Tanti is from Indonesia, I am from Russia and Andreas is from Sweden.
We grabbed a coffee and started waiting. Anticipation was growing. I understood that it was my long dreamt chance to make pictures of Neil. That I would have time to choose angles and moments. That I will not be face with quite a dim light in SF bookstore. That there is beautiful background behind armchairs where Neil will sit. And he came and I made pictures and I was happy.
Somehow signing became not so much important. If my luck would leave me at that moment, it would be already totally ok for me. But now, luck was my best friend for the whole day. There was not much people at that interview, so it was intimate and nice.
After the interview people got a chance to buy some pre-signed copies of Ocean at the end of the Lane in Swedish. Andreas and Tanti left to meet their friends, we said each other “see you soon in the queue” and I was alone in the shop. I grabbed one pre-signed copy and waited for Ira, I thought maybe she would love to have it. I didn’t need a copy in Swedish and it was stupid to get it to myself. Then another wonderful thing happened. I came to the ladies who work in the shop and suggested that if they want I could send them pictures I did on the event. They said yes, please. And they gave me this book as a gift from the shop. I was so touched. I was never expecting or asking, or anything. We spoke how kind, attentive and brilliant Neil is as an author and as a person. And how nice of him it was to tell us all those things he did tell. And how different and special all his books are. At that moment I thought that Neil - as author and a human being - touches hearts of people and brightens up their souls. It may sound weird, but at that moment I felt so much inspired, so deeply thankful and so strong inside.
In Akademibokhandeln I finally saw and browsed through a book S by Doug and J.J. Abrams. I’ve seen at youtube how Neil interviews both authors of the book and they explain the idea of it. And I must say after I saw hardcopy of the book - it is fantastic idea and brilliant execution. The thing is that the book it a fiction book and 2 fiction persons correspond on the pages of the book concerning the secrets of the book and what an author of the book have hidden inside of it. Get it? Those conversations are written as if by pen and book has inserts of letters, napkins with as if hand drew maps, postcards, newspaper cut outs etc. I must get myself this book one day. It was quite expensive as it is very complicated in production.
Ira took my stupefied body to the cafe to eat some huge kebab and then walked me a bit around the Old town and then went to work. She is a Stockholm private guide and had a Old town tour starting at 4pm. We wished each other good luck and I went to Science fiction bookstore to the signing session. I found Andreas, we met some other March people (remember numbers of the calendar? I thought it's brilliant taking in account Neil's project Calendar of Tales he recently did) and we waited together for our month to come.
One of the March guys said he hopes to sign a piece of paper for his friend, she was desperate she couldn’t come. At that moment I had am immediate idea to give away my Swedish pre signed copy. He hugged me happily. Hey, guy, what was your name? I would love to put it here. I think I was too excited and I forgot. Also you promised me some pictures of me;)
Tanti was a February girl so she went one a bit before us. I saw her after she got her book signed. She cried tears of happiness. Those guys and girls who were first in row (5.30 am ones) also cried after they met Neil and got their books signed. And those were good tears, happy and honest. As I said - Neil somehow hugs you not just physically, but he hugs that little forever kid inside of you. With love and kindness he does that. And people feel it. And they cry. I hope that they remember this feeling afterwards and that it helps them to go on with their lives. To be better, to be bigger on the inside and not forget to hug the inner kid of themselves and love it.
Then it was my turn. To be honest those 2 minutes are a blur and swirl of emotions. So all the preface above is much longer. I gave Neil my book - beautiful Coraline with pictures and black sheet edges - with post-it note which had my name and Moscow on it. He remembered me and my twitter quest for tickets to the event. We hugged. With this hug I believe I hugged Amanda and Anthony as well. I said something I don’t really remember. He said he was happy I made it. I asked him to give a gift for Anthony from me. I don’t trust Russian post. He said it was the best decision. I got my book signed. I left the bookstore. I cried and smiled on my way home.
Next morning I woke up at 6am and went home to Moscow, Russia. I wrote all that in the plane, except a few last sentences.