Bulgarian writer and New Yorker by adoption Maria Popova picked up on a “semi-secret” evening event on the literature of terror held by Neil Gaiman at TED’s 30th anniversary event, TED 2014 in Vancouver – certainly secret enough to keep his name off the official speaker list. However, she detailed the whole thing in her much-followed blog Brain Pickings, including a recording reproduced with permission, and transcripts, where Gaiman speaks of the fascination of fear.
“Technology does nothing to dispel the shadows at the edge of things,” Gaiman says. And as just one instance of the value of tackling dark things, he recounts the case of a blog kept by a suicidal girl. ” We have been telling each other tales of otherness, of life beyond the grave, for a long time … most important, they remind us that we live, and that there is something special, something unique and remarkable about the state of being alive.”
More immediate, and unsettling perhaps, is Gaiman’s response to questions about what scares him most today. “The ghosts of today that terrify me mostly are actually ideas that are uninspected and continue to haunt us,” he says. “It’s like the feeling, sometimes, that you’d start talking to people and you’re going, ‘I don’t know if what you’re saying is true. It may have been true once, a long time ago. But it died. And you don’t know. And you’re walking around being haunted by dead ideas… Look around and see where you are today.’ I think those are the ghosts that haunt me the most.”
With the specter of war in Eastern Europe driven by revanescent nationalism, that kind of fear seems all too current.