| December 16, 2010 5:15 pm

imageNote: Still working on the book.

For regular readers of this website, you might be aware that one of my favorite authors is Neil Gaiman.  I like his books, I like his comics, and I avidly read his blog.  And while there are many things that I enjoy about his writing – the  masterful use of prose, dialogue, and black humor – there is one aspect that appeals to me more than any other: the way which he weaves myth, fable, and fairy-tale into modern life.

Whether it be the denizens of “London Below” or Egyptian death gods working as undertakers (in Cairo, Illinois, no less), Gaiman has a gift for taking old things and working them into modern life as new and magical ones.

Even better, the ways which Gaiman plays with old myths is subtle, and, if you aren’t looking for it, you may miss the allusion or reference.  This may be why Gaiman’s work gets better on subsequent readings, rather than tiresome.

imageThis morning, while working through the RSS feed, I was thrilled to see a new Call for Papers for a project entitled “The Mythological Dimensions of Nil Gaiman.”   It’s from the same people who brought us the “Mythological Dimensions of Doctor Who”, and if their previous work is anything to judge by, it should be fantastic.

Call for Papers: The Mythological Dimensions of Neil Gaiman

Submissions are sought for the forthcoming second volume of the critical essay series: The Mythological Dimensions to be published by Kitsune Books in 2012. This second volume will be on the subject of the Mythological Dimensions of Neil Gaiman with a mind toward the incredible opportunity for multidisciplinary discourse on his work.

The works of Neil Gaiman are as diverse as clouds in the sky. To say that Gaiman is just an author would be doing both him and his work a disservice. Although he is best known for his books, his expertise is in the realm of myth, rather than any one medium. Gaiman’s name has also been attached to film scripts, comic books, and graphic novels, even a much anticipated episode of Doctor Who. He’s influenced songwriters and artists of all stripes. He’s been at the forefront of the graphic novel movement and has fought for the rights of comic book artists, being a board member of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund.

The goal of this volume is to explore the worlds tapped into by Gaiman. While authors like Lewis, Le Guin, and Tolkien spent time creating a secondary world separate from our own, Gaiman amends our world. It can be said that Coraline’s space beyond the door, the Sandman’s realm of Dream, the land beyond the Wall, even the Gap between the subway stations are all Gaiman’s ‘secondary world’ creations—and they are—but they are also extensions of our own primary world.

Prior to submitting for this volume, each potential contributor should be familiar with the overall style and format of The Mythological Dimensions primary volume, The Mythological Dimensions of Doctor Who. The motto of this series is “written by fans for fans” and we will hold strict adherence to this rule. All essays will be expected to adhere to scholarly standards of analysis but at the same time be accessible to the interested fan who is not an academic by trade. Therefore successful abstracts will be judged as much on content as writing style.

Each contribution must demonstrate knowledge of Gaiman as an artist. We are looking predominantly for contributions that examine: how Gaiman transcends stereotypes, ideas, and symbols within his work; how Gaiman’s characters eradicate boundaries, or create new ones; how Gaiman views old myths through a fresh lens.

Essays can relate to, but should not be limited by, the following suggestion topics in relation to the mythical:

  1. In “An Introduction” to his collection Smoke & Mirrors, Gaiman discusses the nature of story being like “mirrors. We use them to explain to ourselves how the world works or how it doesn’t work. Like mirrors, stories prepare us for the day to come. They distract us from the things in the darkness.”
  2. The relationship of Gaiman and his characters to modern culture. Have Gaiman’s characters molded modern culture in any way? Are his characters a mirror of our culture—“A distorting mirror, to be sure, and a concealing mirror, set at forty-five degrees to reality….”
  3. Gaiman readily admits that he wished he had written The Lord of the Rings. Throughout Gaiman’s work there are side-jokes and wonderful references to Tolkien’s work. Purposefully examine Tolkien and Gaiman, going beyond a mere comparison/contrast. Examine how intrinsic Tolkien’s work was/is to Gaiman. Could Gaiman have written a word without Middle-earth backing him up?
  4. The influence of “real world myth” into Gaiman’s explored realms. Again, such an examination should endeavor to go beyond simply noting that Northern myths (like Sigfrid or Beowulf) inspired certain of Gaiman’s tales. More than a simple source study.
  5. In “The Mapmaker,” Gaiman links the tale told to the map drawn. “One describes a tale best by telling the tale…The way one describes a story, to oneself or to the world, is by telling the story. It is a balancing act and it is a dream. The more accurate the map, the more it resembles the territory. The most accurate map possible would be the territory, and thus would be perfectly accurate and perfectly useless. The tale is the map which is the territory. You must remember this.” Examine Gaiman’s concepts of dreamland territories, mythological or mythopoeic maps, and worlds that exist beyond the edges of the drawn map, the known world, the experienced territory.
  6. Gaiman’s penchant for ‘rewriting’ myth; how does this re-envisioning of mythic tales from Beowulf to Anansi to Oðinn to Snow White affect modern approaches to these myths? Critics of his vision of Beowulf cringe at the idea of Angelina Jolie as Grendel’s mother, but was Gaiman too far off when looking at the original tale? How does Gaiman preserve the integrity of a myth while refracting it in his “distorting mirror?” Is the integrity preserved at all?

We will give precedence to pieces which demonstrate a range of Gaiman’s work, or take a character, particular story, or single facet of Gaiman and explore it in regards to the work of another author/artist. The Editors would discourage a singular case study of any of Gaiman’s characters, and would like to dissuade any submissions from concentrating on any individual work of Gaiman’s to exclusion. We would also like to note that this collection will explore a large swath of Gaiman’s work and in order to accomplish the collection’s goals, we cannot accept multiple submissions on topics; so we encourage you to send your abstracts in a timely fashion.

All submitted abstracts and papers are to be sent to mythicdocwho@gmail.com

Abstracts of 500-750 words should be submitted, along with complete contact information for and a biographical paragraph about the submitter, by email to the editors by February 15th, 2011.

If accepted, articles should be completed as Word documents with MLA formatting.

Complete submissions should be sent electronically to the editors by July 1st, 2011 to mythicdocwho@gmail.com

All deadlines are firm.


Dr. Kristine Larsen, Central Connecticut State University

Jessica Burke, College of Staten Island

Anthony S Burdge, Northeast Tolkien Society Co-Chair/Independent Scholar


2 Responses to “The Mythology of Neil Gaiman”

Jessica Burke wrote a comment on December 17, 2010

Thank you so much for the wonderful comments– about our prior volume & the forthcoming text. We’ve been overwhelmed at the response to our CFP & the staggering support we’ve gotten from a variety of folks.

One minor note, the Mythological Dimension series isn’t a Mythopoeic Society publication (Kitsune Books is the publisher), but the editors are all Mythopoeic members & we collaborated on a past Mythcon. The first volume, the Mythological Dimensions of Doctor Who came out of an amazing conversation after that Mythcon (Mythcon 39) ended. Anthony, Kristine & I were exhausted & were catching Kris up on the latest episodes of Doctor Who– Stolen Earth– which she had missed. Several bottles of wine were also involved, as was the topic of valkyries from a paper by Leslie Donovan, a presenter at the conference. An argument ensued (who was better Donna or Rose– Donna ;))& since we didn’t know who would publish the argument in paper form, we decided to do a volume ourselves. It caught enough attention to warrant a series & since Gaiman is my favorite author– on par with Tolkien– I pitched the concept. And, frankly, I cannot WAIT to read the finished product.

Thanks again for the kind words! Perhaps you’d like to review it when it’s out. 😉


Rob Oakes wrote a comment on December 17, 2010

Hi Jessica,

Thanks for the comment. I hope you don’t mind if I help promote your work. (I might even have an essay idea to propose, but I need to flesh my thinking out first.) As I said in the post, I thoroughly enjoyed the “Mythological Dimensions of Doctor Who.” It opened up my eyes to aspects of the Doctor’s universe I’d never even considered. I am very excited to see a similar collection based on Gaiman’s work. He is also in my pantheon of favorites.

I would love to review the final volume. I know that there are many steps between here and there, but if you could keep me in mind as you get closer, I would be greatly appreciative.


Rob Oakes

Care to comment?