Bear with me as I step ever so slightly onto my soapbox. This is not intended to be a place for political discussions, so if you truly disagree with me, that's fine, but let's focus on what this means for authors, speakers fees, and budgets.
I live in Minnesota. Neil Gaiman does/did as well*, someone I would consider a literary icon for our generation. So I was angry, as both a budding author and a Minnesotan, when House Majority Leader Matt Dean (R) accused Neil Gaiman of theft for collecting $45,000 in appearance fees. At that amount, basically, that's a felony, right? So you're calling Gaiman a felon?
There's more to this, and I'll get to it in a minute, but here's the rub. Dean left his manners at home and instead, acted like a school-yard bully. You can read the article in the Star Tribune paper, but here's the highlight:
"Dean said that Gaiman, 'who I hate,' was a 'pencil-necked little weasel who stole $45,000 from the state of Minnesota'."
Representative Dean, what is wrong with you? What sort of role-model are you to our children if you stoop so low as to publicly "hate" someone?
Okay, so I'm trying to cool off. It's tough to do in a state that once claimed Jesse Ventura as Governor and where Michele Bachmann was re-elected.
I digress. Back to Rep. Dean and his complaints.
Dean's (weak) argument is in response to the the Stillwater Library using $45K in Legacy Funds, which are dollars set aside for cultural and artistic projects as well as outdoor and parks-related projects, to pay for Gaiman's speaking fees and travel costs.
The argument grew yesterday when Rep. Dean suggested CUTTING "$45,000 from the Twin Cities' regional library system budget to make up for the state Legacy money it paid last year to Gaiman." Read the article here.
Why are we penalizing the library system for bringing a world-renowned author in for a FOUR HOUR appearance? I wish I would have known about this because I would've loved to attend. But what saddens me even more, was reading how the Metropolitan Library Service Agency apologized to the House of Representatives for using "poor judgement" in arranging the appearance.
No, you didn't use poor judgement! You spent good money, which was then donated to charity per Neil Gaiman's blog, to bring in a Newbery AND Carnegie Medal winner. Don't apologize, this is EXACTLY what the Legacy funds are for, to bring these types of cultural events to the people of Minnesota.
Okay, I have to admit, the alleged $2700 in travel expenses is questionable, but conducting a line-item audit isn't the issue here.
My real issue is how elected officials and our very own newspaper are treating an author. The sub headline in the paper calls Gaiman a "celebrity author." No. He's an author. Period. A celebrity author is someone who is a celebrity first, and then
pays someone to writes a memoir.
And the final straw? When Rep. Dean apologized to Gaiman--because his mother told him to--Dean made one final ass of himself by joking he "had likely made enemies among Star Trek fans."
Thanks for lumping all science fiction and fantasy together under the aegis of Star Trek, Rep. Dean. Clearly, you need to read more. You should head to your local library and... oh wait. That's right. You want to cut them by $45,000.
* I thought Gaiman lived outside of the Twin Cities metro area, but the Star Tribune says he actually lives in Wisconsin. Where he lives doesn't and shouldn't matter, so I'm not going down this rabbit hole to figure it out. He's a private citizen who is allowed to live wherever he wants.