Neil Gaiman responds to "pencil-necked weasel" insult by Matt Dean [INTERVIEW]

Categories: Politics
Neil Gaiman vs. Matt Dean
Matt Dean, the Republican leader of the Minnesota House, was quoted in Wednesday's Star Tribune hating on famous local author Neil Gaiman and calling him a "pencil-necked little weasel."

We left several messages for Dean, but didn't get a response. Gaiman, on the other hand, was happy to talk. He was mystified by the vitriol, but has some entertaining theories about where it came from.

Read Gaiman's reaction to Dean's half-assed apology

City Pages: So how did you first learn that you're a pencil-necked little weasel?

Neil Gaiman: I got up this morning, checked my twitter on my way to morning cup of tea. And two or three people were sending me things saying "What do you think of the fact that you were called a pencil-necked weasel and a thief who I hate by the Republican leader of the House?"

Neil Gaiman image.jpg
Neil Gaiman's neck looks fine to us.
And I thought it was a joke. Obviously this hasn't actually happened -- it's some kind of goofy thing on somebody's blog or whatever, because grown-ups don't actually say things like that. And I clicked on the link and I'm suddenly reading the Star Tribune and there it is. And I'm expecting him to carry on and call me "Stupid stupid-face," and then tell me he's going to have all his friends see me by the lockers or the back of the schoolyard and I better show up if i know what's good for me or something!

It had that sort of completely mad school bully quality. I kept thinking "Is this some sort of weird joke where my friends have taken a real Star Tribune page and then inserted this paragraph to make me laugh?" And eventually I came to the conclusion that no, this is real.

CP: Have you ever met Matt Dean or had any interactions with him?

NG: I've never met the guy, never heard anything from him.

The entire controversy from last year consisted of a Republican blog drawing attention to this speaking gig, using the $45,000, which actually wasn't the true number, but it got picked up.

I received a grand total of $33,600, and I know because I checked this morning. That went to charity. I'd been doing a bunch of library-based events. It was at the end of a week where I'd done a huge pro bono Comic Book Legal Defense fund event, then I'd gone to Indianapolis to receive the Kurt Vonnegut award for literature, and then I was coming home.

I got a message from my speaking agency saying they want you to come and speak in Stillwater, and I said "I'm pretty pooped," and they said "Well, they're paying forty grand."

I said "Isn't that an awful lot to pay for a library in Stillwater?" and they said "Absolutely not, they have this money and it can only be spent on speakers in libraries. It can't even be spent on books or paper clips or staff And they will lose it, and if they haven't spent it their budget will be cut by that amount."

Matt Dean hates Neil Gaiman's neck
I said, "Oh, OK, well then sure."

When I have windfalls like that I don't hang on to them. A third of my fee went to a sexual abuse charity, and the rest to a library- and book-based charity. And then I was done. I didn't actually think anything more about it until suddenly it became a thing in the Star Tribune, which seemed to be saying this was money that could have been used to pay for a football stadium or something.

And there was a brief tiny thing about it, so I posted something on it to my blog. People had been saying, "Well how can you take money from a library? It should have been spent on books and staff!" And so I wrote on my blog and said, "Well, actually it couldn't, and here's the deal."

Also, this is why I set my speaking fees ridiculously high: because I'm a writer, and what I should actually be doing is writing. This is why i have a speaking agency, because they filter this kind of stuff. I don't think I'm even in the top third of what their clients charge. But I've won the Newbery Medal, and the Carnegie Medal, the Hugo, and some Nebulas, I've written some hit movies.

And in the case of the Stillwater thing, MPR actually broadcast the talk. You can still listen to it online, as many many thousands already have. So that sort of amortizes in its own way.

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