Every single thing that interests me. And that's a lot.
Neil Gaiman is often spoken of, at least by the people I know, as something of a storytelling mastermind. He is equally revered and adored, and constantly recommended. Gaiman also appears in top lists and recommended reading collections more often than I can count, yet I have never read a single thing that he has written. The closest I have come to his work are the movies Coraline and Mirror Mask (which are quite fantastic films) based on his book and screenplay respectively. I have certainly heard the name, but his literary writings have eluded me up until this point.
When this fact is revealed to a person who, unlike me, have had the privilege of making Neil Gaiman’s acquaintance, one of two things usually happen. I either become regarded as a sort of uncultured buffoon, a person to be shamed and reprimanded for not having indulged myself in the great works of the Gaiman. “How can you not have read anything by Neil Gaiman? He’s the best author ever!” people say, and I can only try to explain that I did other things with my time, such as playing video games or sleeping in hammocks, while they continue to account for all the good things that they owe to the author of their dreams.
The other thing that can happen is that I am treated with much pity. Like a sheep lost at sea, I am in need of guidance, a helping hand to get me back on the true and righteous path. I am told of the wonders and of the joys that I have missed and I am made to understand in detail how much better my life would have been with Neil Gaiman in it. When I then proceed to ask what book I should start with, I am usually given a list of the authors complete bibliography.
This phenomenon is of course not exclusive to Neil Gaiman, but exists in conjunction with almost every famous or well known piece of geek culture. I myself am sometimes guilty of this when some mentions that they haven’t seen Star Wars. Not a single movie! (I know, right?) I am, however, trying to improve my behaviour in these kind of situations, and here’s the reason why: I cannot travel through time (at least not backwards) and neither can anyone else. Therefore it is completely illogical, irrational and possibly even rude to reprimand or lament someone for something that didn’t happen to them in the past when the only possible redeeming action can be found in the future.
Instead of focusing on how much someone hasn’t seen Star Wars, I want to focus on how much someone is able to see Star Wars (and experience it for the very first time, a luxury few afforded). Submitting to the former behaviour only causes more grouping and exclusion to occur in geek culture. Rather than feeding a mindset of “us who are in the know” vs. “they who aren’t”, I am a strong proponent of one where everyone gets an equal chance at geekhood, regardless of previous experience with certain brands, franchises or authors. I believe this inclusion-focused attitude will increase the amount of geeks overall, by further association the acceptance and spread of geek culture over all, and in the end make the world a better place because of it.