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Saturday, November 15, 2014

Radio shows are like Buses...

Radio shows in which I answer quiz questions, sing, and tell the story of how I wrote OCEAN AT THE END OF THE LANE for Amanda are like buses.  You wait for such a long time, and then two come along at once.

I love that two shows, recorded many weeks apart, went out at the same time. Quite literally. And many Public Radio stations put them out back to back. So it must have seemed to listeners that this writer they had never heard of had just taken over their radios. Probably they were disappointed when I wasn't then to be heard singing something on the News from Washington.

The first one I recorded was ASK ME ANOTHER, at the 92nd st Y. Ophira Eisenberg and Jonathan Coulton tormented me with their evil questions and singing tests. It was amazing.



You can listen to selected bits and to the whole of it at http://www.npr.org/programs/ask-me-another/

And you can watch this bit. I had told their interviewer that I won tickets to see Patience from the local paper's Gilbert & Sullivan competition when I was 9. So they did a Gilbert & Sullivan competition for me, with the assistance of Jonathan Coulton playing things on guitar that were never meant to be played on guitar.




Then last week I flew to Minneapolis to be on WITS, with musical guest Shara Worden AKA My Brightest Diamond (whoa, can that lady sing). 

I found myself in comedic sketches, including one where I show people around an extremely unusual house. And I read out people's Bad Gaiman submissions. And I sang a verse of FEVER.

They recorded enough material to make two shows, and you can listen to the first of them here:


I cannot find a photo from that night, so here is a video clip from the last time I was in WITS, in 2011. It features Adam Savage's performance of "I Will Survive" in the character of Gollum...


...

And Hachette and Amazon have finally buried the, um, small axe-like thing, and are friends again. So in a gesture of celebration I will put up an Amazon link here for the first time in a long time. Heck, I will put up two:




and (out on Feb 3rd 2015)




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Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Most Important Publishing Event In Our House

I went to Germany and Austria, and did book events and signings for Der Ozean am Ende der Straße.
I went to Paris and did book events and signings for L'océan au Bout du Chemin.
I came back to America and went to New York, where I talked at the New York Public Library about life, the universe and Hansel and Gretel, while dressed as dead Charles Dickens.

(You can watch or listen to the whole of that evening's interview with NYPL's own Paul Holdengraber at http://www.nypl.org/events/programs/2014/10/31/neil-gaiman-paul-holdengr%C3%A4ber).

They gave me a magical backstage library tour of creepy things, first. (It is chronicled here.)

Hansel and Gretel came out in the USA and is getting wonderful reviews. Here's the New York Times:





Written with a devastating spareness by Neil Gaiman and fearsomely illustrated in shades of black by Lorenzo Mattotti, the newest version of “Hansel and Gretel” astonishes from start to finish. It doesn’t hurt that the book itself is a gorgeous and carefully made object, with a black floral motif on its pages’ decorated borders, along with abundant red drop caps and tall, round gray page numbers. ...All the well-chosen detail provides an ideal backdrop for what Gaiman and Mattotti have done with the Grimm Brothers’ familiar story of the two siblings who, after being abandoned by desperate parents, outwit their witchy captor. Their rendition brings a freshness and even a feeling of majesty to the little tale. Some great, roiling essence of the human condition — our fate of shuttling between the darkness and the light — seems to inhabit its pages.
Which is really rather wonderful.

The Sleeper and the Spindle came out in the UK, and is also getting great reviews. This Chris Riddell illustration raised some eyebrows:


When the picture was first seen we were criticised for writing a lesbian version of Snow White and Sleeping Beauty, and now people have read the story I've seen us criticised for not writing a lesbian version of Snow White and Sleeping Beauty. 

What it is, I hope is a story about strong, smart women making their own stories. The Guardian's Amanda Craig said,

Neil Gaiman’s striking novella, The Sleeper and the Spindle, out this month, conflates and subverts Snow White and Sleeping Beauty into a tale of female courage and choice.
and I'd take that.

So two beautifully illustrated fairy tales came out on each side of the Atlantic.

I was honoured by the National Coalition Against Censorship at its 40th anniversary Gala dinner. (This is a video we made for them explaining why I love the First Amendment.)



But that wasn't the big book excitement in the household.

Nope. The big excitement was yesterday, when my wife, Amanda, became a published author with her first book.


This is the cover. She spent the year writing it, following on from her TED talk of the same name, and it's just been published, on 11/11, by Grand Central. It's a remarkable book -- it's partly a memoir, partly a manifesto on crowdfunding and music and art, partly the story of our marriage and her friend Anthony's struggle with cancer and what that meant to Amanda's life and career. It's the story of how she did the most popular musical Kickstarter ever, and the weird and improbable shapes and twists her world has taken. It's about how we ask for things. It's about being vulnerable.

I think it's a fantastic book, but then, I'm biased, being in love with the author. (I'm also all through the book, not always flatteringly. It's a very honest book.)

Cory Doctorow writes a fantastic essay about Amanda, the book, asking and the shape of music and information in this decade over at the New Statesman

First books are strange beasts. They are rougher than the books that follow (usually), but they are also full of literally everything that the author ever, over the course of her entire life, thought worthy of inclusion in a book. All subsequent books will be full of the things the writer came up with after she started publishing. The first one, that's got everything from the other side of the divide.

Palmer is a good writer, and in places she's great. She has a loose and at times meandering structure that usually works, except when it doesn't. As a literary work The Art of Asking is pretty good. But as a manifesto and a confessional of an artist uniquely suited to her time and place, it is without parallel.

What Palmer's story tells us is that asking, trusting, and giving are hard and terrifying, and you face real risk every time you do them.

Palmer receives death threats, is stalked and sexually assaulted by fans, is terrorised by fans who threaten suicide to command her attention.

Palmer doesn't make it look easy, this business of being public and naked. She makes it look hard. The Art of Asking is an inspiration because Palmer never tries to hide the scuffed duct-tape holding her life together. Instead, she takes us by the hand and insists that we look at this 21st century artistic business model with open eyes and realistic expectations.
Which is the truth. It's also a very funny book. As Cory says, she's put everything in here.

She's also having to deal with the very real problem of Amazon in the US not stocking the book, due to their ongoing contract-battle with her publisher, Hachette. You can buy it from Barnes and Noble, with free shipping from Powells, or you could use Indiebound to find it or buy it from a local independent bookshop. But if you think you may want it, or if you know anyone who will want it for as a holiday gift... BUY IT THIS WEEK. Get it now. The bestseller rankings matter, and without the Amazon sales (they tend to be about half of a book's sales in the US) it's going to be much harder for her.

...

I was on WITS last week. I believe it will go out in podcast form on Friday Afternoon.

This is not to be confused with ASK ME ANOTHER, recorded many weeks ago, which also goes out in podcast form on Friday Afternoon.

For one week only, I will be semi-ubiquitous on public radio...

And finally... It was my birthday on Monday. I flew from Minneapolis to Boston, and gathered with Amanda in Harvard Square, to walk up to Porter Square Bookshop, with a crowd of late night bookbuyers, where she was going to do a midnight signing... And this happened:


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Friday, October 17, 2014

In Which I am About to go to Germany, Austria and France. Also, notPorn.



It's autumn in this part of the world, and the trees are amazingly beautiful. A few weeks ago they were red and green, now they're mostly shades of brown, orange and gold, and every now and again a tree decides to simply shed itself of leaves, like someone taking off their overcoat and dropping it on the floor where they stand, and the leaves drop or spin and it's all so gloriously autumnal and pre-Hallowe'eny it feels like there's a set designer arranging it all.

And I'm leaving it all.

I'm headed off to Hamburg on Monday Night http://www.literaturhaus-hamburg.de/), Cologne on Tuesday, (http://www.literaturhaus-koeln.de/showtermine.php?id=931). These are sold out. Vienna on Wednesday, at 7:30 pm at Buchhandlung Morawa in Vienna Wollzeile 11, 1010 Wien (and it seems to be sold out too).


From there I go to Paris. On Thursday night (its the 23rd), around 7 pm, Dave McKean and I will be at the gallery opening for Dave's beautiful red and black and white SMOKE AND MIRRORS drawings at Galerie Martel, 17 Rue Martel, Paris.  http://www.galeriemartel.comhttps://www.facebook.com/events/282927571907816/

On Friday the 24th, at 6pm I'll be doing a SIGNING in Paris. Well, technically in Vincennes, at the Millepages. Librairie 91, rue de Fontenay Vincennes. The page is here. No tickets or anything needed, just turn up and I will sign your books or comics or arm.

(There was a 3:00 on Saturday signing mistakenly announced for me and Dave McKean at Galerie Martel, but that's ONLY DAVE as I'm off being interviewed then. So if you are in France and you want something signed, come to the Vincennes signing.)

***



The Sleeper and the Spindle, illustrated by Chris Riddell, is coming out this week in the UK. I've been fascinated by the articles that have come out centering around this illustration, of the queen waking the sleeper. It's been applauded for things it is and things it isn't, decried as pornographic, and pretty much everything in between.  I think it's beautiful, but then, I think everything about this book is beautiful, from the transparent cover and the gold ink details on.  (Here's a restrained piece from The Guardian, from whose website I stole the above picture.)

(It's only for sale soon in the UK, Australia and New Zealand. If you are anywhere else and want it before the end of the year, you should probably order it. Here's the Book Depository Link (with Free worldwide delivery), the  Amazon.co.uk link and here is the UK Local Bookshop link. I should warn you also that the paperback edition you can preorder on Amazon won't be out for a year. But you will want to get the hardback, because it is an object of pure beauty.)

...


Are you an author? Are you someone who owns an independent bookshop who knows authors? Amanda and I wrote a letter to authors and bookshops, about the Saturday after US Thanksgiving. 

Last year, Sherman Alexie came up with an idea so audacious and imaginative it could only have been conceived by an author who wanted to be allowed behind the counter in a bookshop.  The idea, “Indies First,” is this: authors get to spend a day hand-selling books and helping out in their local independent bookshop. 
Good, right? You, an author, will experience the joys and frustrations of being a bookseller. Mostly the joys — it’s one of the busiest days of the year for small businesses, especially in bookshops. The day in question is the Saturday after Thanksgiving, “Small Business Saturday.” People are beginning to buy gifts for the holidays (now is your chance to persuade people that they need your books — especially if you’ve signed them — and your friends’ books, and books you’ve always loved that, if widely read would make the world a better place). It will be, we promise you, a much more sociable day than the ones you spend staring at a blank screen or a white sheet of paper, communing with imaginary people and suchlike.

(You can read the whole letter at the link. We plan to work at three different local bookshops that day.We have a plan.)


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Monday, October 13, 2014

In which you and I go to Tasmania together.

I have a small gold owl on the lapel of my jacket, with the letters B and e underneath it, and people often ask me what it represents. I tell them it's from the Bookend Trust, and then explain that, despite the name, it's not a reading organization. It's an environmental charity, and I'm one of its patrons. (The owl is a Tasmanian Masked Owl, an endangered species.)


I love Tasmania. Really love it, and I first visited it, along with George R R Martin, as guests of honour when the Australian National Science Fiction Convention was held in Hobart, long before Tasmania had become a cool place to go.

During that first visit I met some of the people who would go on to found the Bookend Trust. When they asked me to become part of it, I was more than happy to agree.

Since being a part of Bookend, I have, with Amanda, hand-fed Tasmanian Devils and echidnas. (The echidnas were both called Eric. Baby echidnas are called Puggles. THIS IS TRUE.)

Because of the Bookend Trust, I've sailed under some of the tallest and sheerest sea cliffs in the southern hemisphere. And I've had close encounters with rescued Kangaroos.

Bookend grew from a small education support program funded by the people involved in it, to, as they explain, "a major initiative assisting students and teachers at all ages within the education system. From high achievers to disadvantaged students, Bookend has developed clever interactive and online projects that engage students with scientists and explorers on the ground. It's also provided students with opportunities to directly visit and learn from these experts in the deep wildernesses of south-west Tasmania, Antarctica, Lord Howe Island, Thailand and other fascinating locations." You can see a great snapshot of their projects here: http://www.bookendtrust.com/about-bookend-trust

When I visited Tasmania in January 2013, we had plans to run a Bookend fundraiser to help support this work, but the nightmarish wildfires broke out just before I got there. (Bookend helped me and my publishers at Hachette Australia and Bloomsbury to deliver materials to rebuild the libraries for the wonderful Dunalley School and community.) You can read about it and see photos here.

Here's me and Polly Adams presenting a copy of Chu's Day to Dunalley.

Bookend has continued to grow. The people who are growing it need help to expand their work to more schools across the world.

And they are making a film...

Here's the trailer.


It's a creepily fantastic natural history story called SIXTEEN LEGS (www.sixteenlegs.com). It's yer normal run-of-the-mill never-before-filmed story of still-living, giant prehistoric spiders the size of dinner-plates trying to find love in the dark.

This project is gloriously mad: they've just launched a touring public exhibition, complete with Izzy von Lichtan's giant replica spiders 18 feet across. Although the main documentary won't be finished until next year, a shorter 'making-of' piece on the filming to date (called 16 LEGS: SPIDER LOVE) will have its world premiere on November 9 at both the Breath of Fresh Air (BOFA) Film Festival in Australia and the Banff Mountain Film and Book Festival in Canada.

On top of all of that, I am pleased to announce publicly that Australian singing star Kate Miller-Heidke (I once compared her voice to having sex with butterflies) (and two weeks ago I sang a chorus on her cover of Pogues song for Christmas) will be singing on the soundtrack, in collaboration with the superb spidery music of composer Dean Stevenson.

And SIXTEEN LEGS really needs your help.

Public support for this project will allow Bookend to complete filming, editing and distribution of the documentary and allow them to expand and tour the SIXTEEN LEGS exhibition to other locations around Australia and off around the globe. (It will also help support scholarships and research throughout all of Bookend's educational and environmental work.)

Rewards for donors include postcards, posters, and books of production art and photos. There's a book with the dark fantasy storyline that weaves through the documentary, with Production Art by Jodee Taylah. There's also a photographic collection on the science behind the project. The books are available as standard, or signed Limited Deluxe Editions with your name in them. For donors with more money or time, there are expert-guided tours of Tasmania and visits from the film-makers, as well as the option to simply donate.

Whatever size contribution you make, you not only get the items you purchase, but (provided the total fundraising exceeds AUD$100,000) then with every dollar you contribute (excluding postage) you get a a chance to win a trip to Tasmania with me, from anywhere around the globe, when I return there to film for the project next year. You'll get to see the Tasmanian Devils, wilderness landscapes and tourist attractions of Tasmania (which is about the coolest place there is).

You can order fundraising items and find out more about the project at http://www.sixteenlegs.com, and there are photos and video links to some of the Tasmanian places http://www.bookendtrust.com/caves/win

Fundraising will be running until late November. And you should do it. Because there is nothing like handfeeding echidna. Or being the catering department for a bunch of hungry young Tasmanian Devils...

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Seminudity of the daughter-embarrassing kind.

It's been ages, and I kept promising myself I'd do a blog update, and then other stuff would happen, and somehow in there the blog never got updated.

So. Right. Lots of stuff has happened since the last time I posted. (OCEAN AT THE END OF THE LANE came out in paperback in the UK and US. It's still on the US bestseller lists. Please read it. I'm very proud of it. I did a tour for THE TRUTH IS A CAVE IN THE BLACK MOUNTAINS, with Eddie Campbell and the FourPlay string quartet, and we sold out The Warfield and Carnegie Hall and the Barbican and we very nearly sold out Usher Hall in Edinburgh. CHU'S FIRST DAY AT SCHOOL came out for little kids. I helped Amanda edit in the last three days before she handed in her book, which was wonderful, and I handed in the manuscript for my next short story collection, TRIGGER WARNING... although I'm still finishing the last story in the book.)

(Backstage at Carnegie Hall, with Maddy.)

On Wednesday I went to LA for a few days of meetings and such. I learned what's happening with the AMERICAN GODS TV series (all good and on-track), with the John Cameron Mitchell movie of my story "How To Talk to Girls At Parties" (it's all looking wonderful. Elle Fanning will play Zan, the second of the girls that Enn meets at the party. The story continues after the short story is done, and is still set in 1977, in Croydon). Other things, just as good. I saw a preview of my old friend Cindy Shapiro's rock opera Psyche (http://www.psycherockopera.com/), and was really impressed by how powerful the music and staging of the myth were.

While I was talking to people, my wife Amanda (rock star, just wrote a book out in November) was working at Bard College with a director and some young actors.

Amanda's step brother Karl, a few years older than her, whom she idolised, died when he was in his mid-twenties, of ALS, so when Chris Anderson of TED challenged Amanda to do the ice-bucket challenge, she did. In a wonderful video.


And then she challenged me.

I thought about it. I was in LA (where the Californian water shortage is a very real thing. It's a drought). I wanted to be informative (because people sent me icebucket challenge videos to watch, and I had to go and google to figure out what was going on). I wanted to make it clear you could donate AND challenge. And I wanted it to me memorable.

Amanda gave me the key. She pointed out that she had done her challenge fully dressed. And not, as people might have imagined, naked or semi-naked.

I called Allan Amato and Olga Nunes, fresh off the Temple of Art Kickstarter, and they agreed to come and film me on the beach that afternoon.

And to bring Death. Because ALS is a fatal condition. So I packed my novelty bowtie, and headed out...



Please watch it. If you like it, share it...

(All of us post-bucketing, except for Best Boy Cat Mihos, who took the photo.)

I embarassed my daughters. So far, Karen accepted the challenge but hasn't posted a video (https://twitter.com/KarenGillan2/status/503101560814321664) and George has done it -- and called me a bastard, into the bargain. (http://youtu.be/mJYx2UtPTWc)



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Saturday, May 24, 2014

Why I am Smiling In This Picture


One of the reasons I'm smiling so widely in this picture is I'd just been talking to the people in Azraq camp who run the child friendly space it was taken in. They were mostly from UNICEF.

They had explained that when the kids arrived in the camp, only the previous week, they didn't talk or make noise. They were subdued. When they drew pictures, the pictures were of explosions, of severed body parts, of weapons and dead people.

The camp had only been open two weeks. The kids I saw and spoke to were kids – noisy, happy, curious, hilarious, and they showed us their drawings, of butterflies and children and mountains and animals and hearts.

That's what I'm smiling about. That room full of noisy kids was the best place in the world.

I spoke to some of these children, who told me about their lives in Syria during the troubles, about their escape (“there were rocks in the desert, and we had to turn on the headlights to see, but when they turned on the headlights of the car people would shoot at us, and my parents were frightened, but I wasn't...”). For some of them it had been three years since they last went to school.


I made the mistake of reading some of the comments in the Guardian article, and on Twitter, who seemed convinced that me talking about the kids in the camps was a sentimental attempt to take their attention from the real business at hand, which was supporting whichever side in the conflict you already supported loudly and vocally. Obviously, a political crisis that's bad enough to produce refugees is only going to be sorted out politically. But pretending that people hurt, displaced and fleeing are just a vague sort of irritant, that lives wasted or destroyed don't matter, in order to prove your ideological point, whatever it happens to be, is, to my mind, both lazy and foolish and very, very wrong.

(The Guardian article is at http://rfg.ee/x6Kon and the pictures and some extra material at http://rfg.ee/x6Kef)

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Thursday, May 22, 2014

How I discovered I had slipped into a parallel universe


Here's things that people would probably like to know...

This is the poster for TRUTH IS A CAVE IN THE BLACK MOUNTAINS Reading Event at the Carnegie Hall (and it lists the other gigs too. I think there may still be a handful of Barbican tickets available on July 4th and 5th, I'm pretty sure the Warfield is Sold Out, although they may release a few closer to the date, and right now Usher Hall in Edinburgh, which was the last concert to go on sale, still has plenty of seats, and even has some in the Stalls).


Please feel free to spread it around...

If you can't afford to come, or feel like chancing your luck, there is a Facebook competition where you can win tickets, at the William Morrow Facebook page:


Enter for your chance to win one of five pairs of tickets to see Neil Gaiman live at Carnegie Hall with FourPlay String Quartet on June 27th! Prize package includes a meet & greet and photo opp with Neil himself.
More details, and to enter: http://a.pgtb.me/5W9dcb


(And, of course, you can order tickets for the Carnegie Hall on June 27th via http://www.carnegiehall.org/Calendar/2014/6/27/0800/PM/Neil-Gaiman-The-Truth-is-a-Cave-in-the-Black-Mountains/ - click through and you can decide where you would like to sit.)
...

The biggest publication news of recent weeks is that Hayley Campbell's book THE ART OF NEIL GAIMAN is out. You can learn who Hayley Campbell is, and all about the book and how it came to be, in this delicious Comic Beat interview. It's filled with glorious details. I like the bit about me and kids and Alan Moore and kids and Custard Creams vs. Bourbon biscuits best. Here she explains the interviewing process:

He would give me all the answers I wanted plus loads of things that were entirely irrelevant because it was just me and him talking in a room and we do that all the time. It was a weird interview to do. I only noticed this was happening when I had to transcribe 17 hours of it back in London, and sat there listening to us trying to save a bumblebee who’d got caught in the fireplace. For half an hour. ‘Ooh he’s got soot on him. Look at his giant cardigan. Shall we put him outside on a flower?
Honestly I think I have to burn the tapes.
(Useful Warning. DO NOT CLICK ON THELINK AND READ HAYLEY'S INTERVIEW IF YOU ARE EASILY OFFENDED BY SWEARING OR BY ANY DISCUSSION OF THE GREAT WALL OF VAGINA.)

I read the book a few months ago, and really liked it, as much as it's possible to like something where one is too embarrassed properly to relax and enjoy it. I was reading it to approve the text, but I loved the text and spent most of my time trying to fix the dates on the picture captions.

Hayley is a really funny writer. She's observant and interested. I'm really looking forward to her novel, when she writes it, and am also a little bit scared.



Salon has some hitherto unseen drawings by me (and a couple by Jill Thompson) up at http://www.salon.com/2014/05/20/the_fantastic_world_of_neil_gaiman_take_a_peek_into_the_authors_personal_archive/

And you can go and check it out at Amazon.com, where the poor guy whose entire reason for living seems to be giving everything on Amazon a one star review has already given it one star review. http://amzn.to/1vxTAYK

Hayley's going to be taking over the role of interviewer from her father, ace illustrator Eddie Campbell, for the Barbican and Edinburgh TRUTH IS A CAVE gigs on July 4th and 5th.






Quite when I slipped into this parallel dimension in which I can be described as “stylish” without anyone in earshot actually sniggering, I do not know. But I am going to make the most of it while I'm here.






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Important. Please read this now.


I haven't blogged for a while. I suspect that's partly because I'm back on Twitter, and I seem either to blog or to tweet, and partly because I've been exhausted. Tweeting time comes out of dead time, usually – time in taxis, or waiting in corridors. Blogging time usually comes out of sleeping time.

I should be writing, now, writing things people are waiting for. But I need to blog as well...

It's foggy where I am today, and I can't tell where the sky ends and the sea begins. In a few days I go to Norway, to Sweden and to Spain, for a slew of appearances and interviews. Looking over the schedule, I suspect that some of the signings may be hard, as very limited amounts of time are scheduled for them, and immediately afterwards I'm due at the next event or interview or thing.

Last week I was in Jordan, and then landed, still shaken up, and went straight to the British Library, where I talked about Sandman and Art and Life with Tori Amos, then got up on the stage and read some stories to an audience, then collapsed.



I went to Jordan, as I reported here, for the UNHCR, the United Nations Refugee Agency, to visit the Syrian Refugee Camps and report on what I found.

Last year I wrote a short film for Georgina Chapman to direct, and we really liked each other, and she said yes when I asked if she'd like to come with me to Jordan. We had both planned to bring our spouses – I had expected that Amanda would be there but that Harvey Weinstein (to whom Georgina is married) would just get too busy, because Harvey is always busy. Instead, Amanda found herself dealing with a perfect storm of things, including health issues and, most importantly, an unfinished book, and could not come, and Harvey was there, showing a side I've not seen in the 20-odd years I've known him.

No Amanda made the Jordan trip easier, as I didn't have any attention on anyone else at any time I was in the camps, and much harder, as I really would have given the earth for a hand to squeeze at some points in the camps, or for someone to hold.

I would write about the Jordan trip here, but I wrote what would have been my blog already.

This is the link to the main article, which I wrote for the Guardian.

This is the link to the Guardianpictures – I wrote captions to the images, or UNHCR took them from my end of day video diary.



Here's a Buzzfeed article, following refugees into Azraq camp. http://www.buzzfeed.com/richardhjames/neil-gaiman-in-jordan (Yes, the headline is clickbait, but it's a good article nonetheless.)

And here's an interview I did with the BBC World Service, while I was out there. If I sound a little shaken, I am.




Everything is going to be collected at http://donate.unhcr.org/neilandgeorgina, which also gives information on the project and also on how to donate to UNHCR.

I came away from Jordan ashamed to be part of a race that treats its members so very badly, and simultaneously proud to be part of the same human race as it does its best to help the people who are hurt, who need refuge, safety and dignity. We are all part of a huge family, the family of humanity, and we look after our family.

Please share the links, especially the link to the main Guardian article at http://rfg.ee/x6Kon. Share them aggressively. Make people read them. It's important, and I'll be grateful. Thank you.






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Monday, May 12, 2014

In Jordan

I landed in Jordan late this afternoon. I'm in my hotel right now. I'll be up for a 6 am pick-up -- I need to be at the camp for bread distribution, first thing in the morning.

Since the start of the Syrian warfare, over two and a half million people have fled the fighting and gone somewhere else. Half a million of them have come to Jordan. The population of Jordan is a little over 6 million. By percentage of the population, that's what would happen if twenty five million people arrived as refugees in the US over a couple of years, or five million people sought refuge in the UK. It means lots and lots of people here have Syrian families living with them. It means that there are refugee camps -- small cities built in the desert, all temporary structures.

I was invited to come out here by UNHCR - the United Nations Refugee Agency - with the purpose of making one or more short films, telling stories and writing articles that draw attention to what's going on in refugee camps.

They've created a web page at http://donate.unhcr.org/neilgaiman so that people can follow on and see what's happening.

I packed for myself on this trip and, for various reasons, did a terrible job of packing and remembering what to bring. And every time I start getting grumpy for not having something, it occurs to me that the people I'm seeing tomorrow brought with only what they could carry for often hundreds of miles - and that included carrying children...




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Thursday, May 01, 2014

What are you doing on June the 27th and other vital questions


I'm back on social media from today. And my last class at Bard until Autumn is tomorrow night. I owe the world a big post on life and the things that go with it.

But first, this one is important:

There are many peculiar places in the world, places that can hold your mind and your soul tightly and will not let them go. Some of those places are exotic and unusual, some are mundane. The strangest of all of them, at least for me, is the Isle of Skye, off the west coast of Scotland. I know I am not alone in this. There are people who discover Skye and will not leave, and even for those of us who do leave, the misty island haunts us and holds us in its own way. It is where I am happiest and where I am most alone.

Otta F. Swire wrote books about the Hebrides and about Skye in particular, and she filled her books with strange and arcane knowledge. (Did you know May the 3rd was the day that the Devil was cast out of Heaven, and thus the day on which it is unpardonable to commit a crime? I learned that in her book on the myths of the Hebrides.) And in one of her books, she mentioned the cave in the black Cuillins, where you could go, if you were brave, and get gold, with no cost, but each visit you paid to the cave would make you more evil, would eat your soul.

And that cave, and its promise, began to haunt me.

I took several true stories (or stories that are said to be true, which is almost the same thing), and set them in a world that was almost, but not quite, ours, and told a story of revenge and of travel, of desire for gold and of secrets. Two men, one very small, are travelling west to find a cave said to be filled with gold.

 I wrote most of the tale on the Isle of Skye. When it was done it was published in an anthology called STORIES, and it won the Shirley Jackson Award for best Novelette, and the Locus Award for Best Novelette, and I was very proud of it, my story.

Before it was published, I was set to appear on the stage of the Sydney Opera House, and was asked if I could do something with Australian string quartet FourPlay (they are the rock band of string quartets, an amazing, versatile bunch with a cult following): perhaps something with art that could be projected onto the stage. I listened to FourPlay's music, and, possibly once I heard their take on the Doctor Who theme and the Simpsons Theme, and a cover of Cry Me A River I liked nearly as much as Julie London's (and I like that so very much), I knew wanted to work with them.







I thought about “The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains”: it would take about seventy minutes to read. I wondered what it would would happen if a string quartet created a moody and glorious soundtrack, as I told the story, as if it were a movie? And what if Scottish artist Eddie Campbell, the man who drew Alan Moore's FROM HELL, writer and artist of ALEC, my favourite comic, created illustrations for this most Scottish of my stories and projected them above me while I read?

I was scared, going out onto the stage of the Sydney Opera House, but the experience was amazing: the story was received with a standing ovation, and we followed it with an interview (artist Eddie Campbell was the interviewer) and a poem, also with FourPlay.

Six months later, we performed it again, with more paintings by Eddie, in Hobart, Tasmania, in front of 3,000 people, in a huge shed at a Festival, and again, they loved it; again, a standing ovation.

Now, we had a problem. The only people who had ever seen the show were in Australia. It seemed unfair, somehow. We needed an excuse to travel, to bring the FourPlay string quartet across the world (pop culture literate and brilliant musicians, they are: I fell in love with their work before I ever knew them). 

Fortunately, Eddie Campbell had taken his paintings, and done many more, and then laid out the text into something halfway between an illustrated story and a graphic novel, and Harper Collins were publishing it in the US and Headline publishing it in the UK. 

http://www.amazon.com/The-Truth-Cave-Black-Mountains/dp/006228214X/ref=as_li_ss_til?tag=ws_1178-20&linkCode=w01&linkId=DZM5IJNXJ3V7CAQN&creativeASIN=006228214X



Mysterious promoter Jordan Verzar, who had put me and FourPlay together in the first place, saw his chance and struck, rather like an amiable Australian cobra, and before we knew it, everything was happening.

So we are doing the smallest tour in the world for this. 

If you want to see me performing THE TRUTH IS A CAVE IN THE BLACK MOUNTAINS, with the amazing FourPlay string quartet, and see Eddie Campbell's art projected, the words and the music and the images combining in your head to make a movie that only you will ever experience in that way, a night with special guests, I wouldn't be surprised, and also surprises (including things nobody has every heard read), then the only places you can see it are San Francisco, at the Warfield, New York's Carnegie Hall on June 27th, then in London at The Barbican (two nights) and it ends in Edinburgh, in Usher Hall on July 6th. And then we'll be done.

Right now, the Warfield on June 25th is already SOLD OUT.

BUT the Carnegie Hall is by far the biggest venue we are doing, and there are still many seats available at the Carnegie Hall on June 27. (The Dress Circle's just sold out, though.)

If you've read down this far and you're interested in seeing a unique and amazing evening, and you are anywhere in the US, the Carnegie Hall is the one to come to (unless you want to fly to the UK). New York is nice in June.

The Carnegie Hall night will have special guests. It will be the only place I'm also going to read the whole of the new HANSEL AND GRETEL before it's published. There will be a LOT of signed books there, even if we can't work out a signing (we're trying to but logistics are hard). And it's going to be a night to remember...

The two Barbican concerts on July 4th and 5th are almost sold out (they have just released some seats, so there are a few seats left).

Usher Hall in Edinburgh was only just added, and tickets only just went on sale. There are lots of seats there, and  very much hope the Scots are kind to my Scottish tale.

Do come. I know it may seem odd, an author and a string quartet. But trust me, you do not want to miss it.

...

I wanted to put in a huge plug here for the anti-bullying website, Bystander Revolution. They've done some amazing interviews with people, and have advice. Here are their films talking to me.


..........

On Saturday, if you are in the UK, you can get a free copy of STARDUST with your Guardian newspaper, if you buy it from Sainsbury's. This is a good thing if you like Stardust and read the Guardian. More info at this link, along with a way to win one of the limited edition beautiful special copies of OCEAN AT THE END OF THE LANE. http://www.theguardian.com/books/competition/2014/apr/26/neil-gaiman-competition



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My current crusade is to make sure creative people have wills. Read the blog post about it, and see a sample will.