So by now you’ve probably heard that Minnesota Republican and House of Representatives Majority Leader Matt Dean on Tuesday called Neil Gaiman a “pencil-necked little weasel who stole $45,000 from the state of Minnesota.”
Why the extraordinary rhetoric against one of the most respected fantasy authors on the planet? Dean is upset that Gaiman accepted money from a Legacy Fund to speak at a public library in Stillwater, Minnesota, in April, 2010. Gaiman was paid $45,000, which he donated to charity last year.
Dean said Gaiman, “who I hate,” was legally within his rights to take the money, but found the payment “infuriating,” and wanted Gaiman to return it.
With customary good humor Gaiman has accepted Dean’s “Pencil-necked Weasel” label, saying:
It’s kind of nice to make someone’s Hate List. It reminds me of Nixon’s Enemies List. If a man is known by his enemies, I think my stock just went up a little… I like “pencil-necked weasel”. It has “pencil” in it. Pencils are good things. You can draw or write things with pencils. I think it’s what you call someone when you’re worried that using a long word like “intellectual” may have too many syllables.
The story only gets weirder from there. It was picked up by Wired, The New York Times, and other news outlets, and when Gaiman tweeted about the controversy, linking to Dean’s blog, traffic from Gaiman’s fans brought down the entire site. On May 5th Dean reported that his mother, upset with him for name-calling, forced him to apologize. “She was very angry this morning and always taught me not to be a name caller,” he said. “And I shouldn’t have done it, and I apologize.”
Predictably, Gaiman’s fans have begun to mock Dean in numerous forums online. So far my favorite is the Charles Atlas-inspired comic at Evil Reads. Click the panel above right to see the entire strip.