Neil Gaiman apologizes to fan for tour stop canceled by COVID-19 concerns (updated)

neil gaiman cancels show in mesa arizona
Robin Marchant/Getty Images for Starz

Following a cancellation of a tour stop in Arizona, virtuoso fantasy writer Neil Gaiman is now apologizing to a fan who expressed disappointment with the news. But the municipal venue where it was slated to take place is now saying the author incorrectly stated the cancellation was due to staff members at the center not being required to wear masks backstage amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

Gaiman claimed the cancellation for the May 6 show at a Phoenix-area venue, Mesa Arts Center, was because the venue, in his words, “wasn’t in a position to be able to agree to the tour requests for backstage staff mask-wearing.”

In that initial tweet, Gaiman was responding to a fan on Twitter, @PhzDamagedCrow, who reported that the show had been canceled, including Mesa Arts Center’s message about it happening “due to tour concerns about the pandemic.”

The message included the fan’s revelation about being “hesitant to buy tickets due to the pandemic situation in my state run by a pro-Covid governor.” The fan then apparently decided it was worth it to see the famous novelist, factoring in being a “triple vaxxed, mask-wearer.”

“Sad but understanding about this notice,” the fan added. “See you on the next round.”

The Sandman and Coraline author responded to the tweet, saying in part, “I’m really sorry,” noting that he was saddened to cancel as his “father in law was coming,” adding, “I hope it will happen in the future.”

Arizona Governor Doug Ducey, referenced by the fan as the “pro-Covid governor,” is currently in a feud with the federal government over issues surrounding COVID-19. Federal officials from the U.S. Treasury are threatening to withhold federal stimulus dollars from the state, citing Ducey’s implementation of two initiatives they claim appears to prevent COVID-19 mitigation from occurring in schools, according to a report in AZCentral.

Ducey is in the process of suing the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden over the spat, which includes the federal government demanding Ducey stop sending millions of dollars in COVID-19 relief money to schools that don’t have mask requirements or that close due to COVID-19 outbreaks, Associated Press reported.

The rest of Gaiman’s tour is set for now, and will kick off beginning April 28 in Schenectady, N.Y., concluding on May 26 in Pittsburgh. A complete list of dates and cities for An Evening with Neil Gaiman can be found on the author’s website.

Update: Jan. 27, 2022, 4:54pm CT: A Mesa Arts Center spokesperson issued a response refuting Gaiman’s statement. Public Relations Manager Ashlee DeMartino said via email:

“Mesa Arts Center does require all employees, stage crew and volunteers who are backstage to wear a mask [emphasis theirs]. In addition, Mesa Arts Center may require a negative COVID test of all backstage staff for artists that request it.

The Mesa Arts Center is part of the City of Mesa and follows the COVID protocols for all City of Mesa facilities.”

The message included a link of the City of Mesa facilities protocols for public health. A follow up email added that the venue is currently working with artist management “to get the statement made by Mr. Gaiman on Twitter corrected to accurately reflect our backstage COVID protocols.”