neil and i and ash and co are off on a bush trip today to an animal sanctuary where we plan to ntroduce ash to some elephants; they are his fave, we will see how he does with them when they aren’t 6 inches and soft and/or drawn by dr seuss.
but i wanted to take a second to show you this beautiful interview/piece in the south african sunday times, there’s an especially great tidbit about the patreon and it’s epic awesomeness. sarah bellum browne, the journalist, did a fantastic job at capturing our little world. it’s nice to feel understood once in a while.
i wasnt trying to look debonair: i was still grappling with the stomach bug during the photoshoot
if anyone feels like transcribing it or grabbing it from behind the sunday times paywall (if you subscribe), pop into the comments and i’ll cut and paste it into this post.
<<EDIT! matt cameron did it!! thank you matt!!!>> here it is:
Amanda Palmer and Neil Gaiman are artists, authors and parents in roughly equal measure, but there is more to them than these standard labels. And less, in a sense. In that they are just human, that is.
That being said, Amanda is best known for her TED Talk and book The Art of Asking, and her punk cabaret band The Dresden Dolls. Neil is a celebrated author of many books, notably the Sandman graphic novels and American Gods – now a TV series. Ash is their two-and-a-half-year-old son who likes scrambled egg, watermelon, and figuring out new words like “man…mans? Men…mens?”
Last time Amanda was in South Africa, she managed to spend only a short time in Johannesburg. Sick, secretly pregnant and panicked, she heard her Cape Town fans’ plea for her to return. So here she is, with the stewing malaise of a stomach bug and jetlag. But she will no doubt be fit to wow at her concerts at Spier in Stellenbosh on February 17 and at Fox Junction in Johannesburg on the 23rd.
They are making Gardens, Cape Town, their home for most of the month as Neil works on his next book-to-TV adaptation, Good Omens, which he co-wrote with is friend the late Terry Pratchett, and Amanda hunkers down to some writing and studio time. As for The Next Book, Neil says there are a hundred pages of a something, but that the TV show – made possible by the BBC and Amazon – will be consuming most of his time as he takes on the role of show-runner. This new job description suits him as he is able to stay true to the vision of his book, call the shots and add the bits that live only in his head.
Neil seems to have escaped the sickness. The rest of the gang are worse for wear. Somehow, after arriving exhausted, Amanda takes five minutes to transform herself into the posed and styled icon we’re used to seeing online, despite the crinkled outfit she admits might still be sweaty from the last time she wore it. Standing in the kitchen of their guesthouse is the signature black-on-black-on-black uniform, Neil remarks that his wife’s ability to do such a thing always astounds him.
Their faces show they’re just a family trying to get a good night’s sleep and a bit of a cuddle on the couch. And that there is another thing they are known for: their love. Their love is about taking turns, finding balance. This year is Neil’s to make his art, next year is Amanda’s. This year Amanda wears the human mom hat as Neil makes Good Omens; next year it’s her turn to tour and perhaps work on projects like a musical and even an album, while Neil the human dad tends to Ash and (we hope) works on The Next Book.
THREESOME WITH THE FANS
Their appears to be a life of extremes, but outsides only get to see half of it. “The way we define ourselves to the world is, you know, we’re caricatures of ourselves.” says Amanda. On creating art, Neil says: “It’s like a giant compost heap – everything that’s happening goes on the compost heap and then it rots down and then it grows art.”
Apart from the odd social media mention, they keep Ash out of the limelight, in their bubble of what’s private. This isn’t easy when they’re sharing so much with the world. “The threesome,” as Amanda puts it, is their “relationship with the fan groups.” From the beginning they have shared a mutual appreciation for this relationship. Amanda worked out that she spends 30 hours a week with fans; be it in singing lines, on Twitter, or via her fan mail. Neil’s time allotment is fairly similar. They even went on tour together to introduce their fan groups to one another.
Despite the success they have both enjoyed, their starts were not “stratospheric”; they “didn’t rise too fast and get the bends”. Neil says he has gone from being a midlist author to the successful public figure he is today, and he is able to sustain this because he surfaced at a comfortable pace.
Amanda says that even the Neil Gaiman still feels fear when starting a new book. He questions if people will like it, whether he still has the knack. “I didn’t believe him at first, because I just don’t experience that,” she says, but your brain has to play on you for you to not become smug.” Sometimes she’ll write a song that she thinks is silly, but it ends up being a fan favourite, like Coin-Operated Boy, the song Dresden Dolls are best known for.
For the two of them, it is about dealing with the threat of the unknown and handling it in different ways. Amanda remembers the early days when she would hang out with her fans and friends on Twitter. There was “instant connection and instant emotional support”. The unknown wasn’t threatening back then. Nowadays, people look for things to get upset about.
Then Patreon came along and it has partially taken Twitter’s place for Amanda. The online platform allows fans or “patrons” to support their favourite creators financially, so that they can continue to do their work independently. Patrons get exclusive content, scaled according to their contributions. Anyone with a credit card and a passion for these people’s work can become a patron. This means that Amanda can interact with a smaller group of fans who are invested in her art and so tend to treat it and her with higher regard.
What sets these two apart is the vulnerability with which they put themselves out there and their bravery in asking for assistance in return.
Amanda is known for mastering the art of asking (read the book) in observable ways, but Neil doesn’t ask in the ways that she does. His fame and reputation take care of a lot of it. There is no Neil Gaiman Patreon page. When he does ask, he’s asking for time; the right to say “no” and to be forgiven for it.
They’re both essentially asking for the space to create, the space to breathe, the space to exist. To be Amanda and Neil. To be human.
meanwhile, i would like to point you all to this must-read article about facebook and how it’s killing online comedy.
…i wanted to applaud. it’s the same with the indie music industry, and i wish more people were more outspoken about the facebook stranglehold. it’s just getting worse and worse.
if you weren’t already feeling good about your patronage, please consider how truly revolutionary this step is – this communication lime is 100% facebook free and 100% ad-free and therefore 100% bullshit free. on today’s internet, that’s AMAZING. and we are doing it. go us. now i just have to get 8,000 of you off that facebook group and onto another forum/discussion platform that actually works for everybody and isn’t eating our souls. we’re workin on it.
heads up: there’s a BEAUTIFUL video coming out for “judy blume“ tomorrow – and i wrote a piece to go along with it for the huffington post, watch for email
love & elephants