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Monday, December 31, 2001

The morning's mail brought a bunch of stuff I'd ordered from Amazon.com -- Nalo Hopkinson's short story collection Skin Folk, the new Avram Davidson collection The Other Nineteenth Century, a copy of R. A. Lafferty's The Devil is Dead (-the Wildside Press reprint -- it's a gift for someone) and the Strokes CD Is This It?

I'm pleased that Avram Davidson is, in death, gaining a measure of the respect he did not have in life. I wonder if Lafferty (87, Alzheimer's-senile now, in an old people's home in Tulsa) will be recognised as a genius once his death is announced. (I did the entry on Lafferty in the Encyclopedia of Fantasy, which ended by pointing out that the only person in the body of SF Lafferty could be compared to was Avram Davidson.) I suspect that he won't be, not unless someone who is in exactly the right place culturally introduces a collection of Lafferty stories designed for the mainstream, much as the Avram Davidson Treasury helped define Avram and what he did, and used a number of major authors to do so. And it probably won't happen. But one can hope. (Does it matter if he's respected? Not a bit. Does it matter if he's read? Damn right it does: no-one else did the things that Lafferty did in prose-and-occasionally-poetry, although Flann O'Brian came close.)

When I was a kid I corresponded with Lafferty -- sent him some of my stories to read, asked him about writing. He'd send me long, brilliant letters back. I always planned to write a definitive article about him and never did (which was one reason why, twenty years later, I did the enclopedia entry on him). I introduced a Lafferty story in a Marty Greenberg My Favourite Fantasy Stories collection, in which authors get to introduce their favourite story. I picked one called "In Our Block", although it could as easily have been any one of a dozen other stories.

This was what I wrote...

In a typically quirky piece, accompanying the photo
of himself in Patti Perret�s book The Faces of
Science Fiction
, R. A. Lafferty said, of himself,
� When I was forty-five years old I tried to be a
writer... I became the best short story writer in the
world. I�ve been telling people that for twenty years
but some of them don�t believe me.�

He was right. For a while in there, he was the best.

His stories brimmed with ideas that no-one had ever
thought before, and a use of language that was
uniquely his own - a Lafferty sentence is instantly
utterly recognisable The cock-eyed, strange and
wonderful world he painted in his tales often seems
nearer to our own, seems more joyful and more
recognisable than many a more worthy, or more literal
account by other authors the world stopped to notice.
�This is how it is!� you tell yourself on discovering
Lafferty, delighted, awed, changed.

His SF story �Slow Tuesday Night� (which, like �In Our
Block� can be found in Nine Hundred
Grandmothers
, Lafferty�s finest collection) seems
more and more relevant as the rate of change in the
world out there grows ever-faster, ever-weirder. But
some things don�t change - and that�s what this story
is about. Here Lafferty paints a blue-collar portrait
of immigration into an American city. It�s a tale of
immigration and integration, and it has a measure of
sly humour and wonder in there with which to be
getting by.



...


And I just realised I probably won't post again in 2001, so this is by way of being a New Year's greeting to all of you out there who read this. May your 2002 be filled with magic and dreams and good madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you're wonderful, and don't to forget make some art -- write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can. And I hope, somewhere in 2002, you surprise yourself.

My own new year's resolution? I want to write more. There are too many stories not told, and a limited amount of time to tell them in. And I want less stuff around. I've spent 40 years accumulating stuff, and now can't remember why.

Saturday, December 29, 2001

Andres Accorsi is an Argentinean. (He finds my willingness to eat raw fish really scary. He does not eat exotic things like raw fish. Or cooked fish. Or vegetables.) He was my guide when I went to Patagonia and visited the town of Gaiman, a few years back. I e-mailed him to tell him I was worried about my friends in Argentina. His reply...

Oh, you shouldn't. It's not that bad. Political and economical upheaval, a popular insurrection that forces a duly-elected president out of the office, a new president nobody voted shifting towards populist politics (either that, or a massive time travel back to the '70s), violent food riots, a fragile banking system at the verge of utter colapse, plus Racing Club (my football team) winning a championship after 35 long years... This is history in the making, and that makes it interesting, above anything else we can fear. Living in Argentina has become (once again) a weird adventure, but you know us guys... we are quite used to weirdness and adventure.

Which is fair enough. But I'm still concerned.

A recent FAQ question: Hola neil,como va?

Hi,this is Alexandra from Chile

and i will like to ask you ,when are you coming from Chile?,i have now that you have visited Brazil and bla,bla countrys.....but here ,in my skiny country!why you haven't come?


Er, because nobody's asked me. I would love to visit your skinny country. Honest.

..........

I'd have more to post right now but I'm working like a madman trying to get things finished. CORALINE has been turned in proofread and finalised to Harper Collins, and turned in (but not-yet-proofread) to Bloomsbury in the UK.

It's such a strange book. It took so long to write -- the first 7000 words were written in 1991-1992. I didn't touch it between 1992 and 1998, then wrote it in nibbles (often writing 50 words a night before bed) through to April 2000, when I wrote the last 5000 words. In October 2001 I added a chapter to clarify a question from my UK editor.

Reading it to proofread, I was astonished how much of a piece it is. Very gentle, very creepy, very much one book with one voice.

...

I got a lot of very cool presents. I think my favourite so far is a Wendy Froud fairy, but it only just nudges out the Shiitake Mushroom Log, and the Magic Set. And it seemed like everything this year (except for the Shiitkae Mushroom Log) was something that I actively wanted or needed (including the giant CD rack). The Shiitake Mushroom Log is like those science kits I'd get for Xmas as a kid, only without the capacity to blind or maim. Well, except for the usual capacity to blind and maim that logs usually have.

Just read my favourite book of 2001, Poppy Z. Brite's not-yet-published LIQUOR. It's the story of two young cooks in New Orleans who open their own restaurant. The characters are utterly likeable, and the food, and the backstage restaurant world, are wonderfully drawn. Poppy's nervous, as there's no horror in it, and precious little angst. I don't think she has anything to worry about -- it's a fabulous, funny, foodie New Orleans roller-coaster ride, as gripping as a great Iron Chef episode or Tony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential that's going to make a whole lot of fans who don't know Poppy as a writer of darker stuff. (I don't have time to read right now, and had planned to read the first few pages, to be polite, then put it off until mid-January. Hah. I stayed up half the night and had the kind of bath where you get all prune-like in order to finish it.)

...

Another FAQ e-mail: I just recently heard about this John Betancourt fellow who has purchased the rights to write Amber novels, and that he plans on releasing a prequel trilogy set in the Amber universe, and I wanted to know if you, as a friend and fan of Mr. Zelazny, have any thoughts on the matter you'd be willing to share.

Well, I remember Roger talking to me and Steve Brust. We'd just suggested that if he did an anthology of other-people-write-Amber-stories that we'd be up for it (understatement), and he puffed on his pipe, and said -- extremely firmly -- that he didn't want anyone else to write Amber stories but him.

I don't believe he ever changed his mind on that.

(When Roger knew he was dying, though, he did nothing to rewrite his will, which means that his literary executor is a family member from whom he was somewhat estranged -- not someone who would have kept Roger's wishes paramount. Which is a pity.)

Would I love to write an Amber story? God, yes. Would Steve Brust? Absolutely. Will we? Nope, because Roger told us he explicitly didn't want it to happen.

Am I going to read the John Betancourt Amber books? Nope. (But I probably wouldn't have read them even if they were authorised, endorsed and ordered by Roger.) Do I think that they are bad or evil or something? Not really -- I don't know much about them, and it's perfectly possible that his point of view is that if it's going to happen anyway it might as well be done with respect (a motivation that has, in the past, impelled me to get involved with several projects).

...

Er, yes, in the last post, I meant sleep in until 10.00am Xmas morning. Not 10.00pm.

...

Bill Stiteler sent the link for this (it's about 19 meg -- a quicktime movie):

http://ringil.cis.ksu.edu/Tolkien/Movie/lotr.mov

Nick Nadel sent this link to a piece he'd written:

http://www.modernhumorist.com/mh/0112/frodo/

And both of them made me smile, and made me want to talk John M. Ford into putting up his piece on the Italian director who finished the Animated Lord of the Rings film by rotoscoping PSYCHO ("My, what a very big hobbit Sam is").

.....

More in on the FAQ line...

A Pretty good list of short stories in the area but you have to mention Cordwaner Smith and Jim Ballard's "Vermillion Sands" and SOMETHING by Fritz Leiber.

I of course would add Jack Vances "Dying Earth" but I can understand that not everyone would. Ben


...

Not sure how frequently asked this is, but I was wondering if you could say a little about reading aloud to people. Not necessarily adults reading to kids (which is of course something every parent should do), but about the degree to which you do, or don't, specifically write what you write with the spoken word in mind.

When I've seen you read from your prose stories, I notice that both the dialogue and the description works well when spoken aloud. You can't say that about all novels or short stories. Do you, for example, mutter your characters' dialogue back and forth to yourself as you write it? Do you choose certain descriptive phrases for the way they taste in the mouth?


I try and hear stuff in my head while I write it. I'm mostly too self-conscious to read to myself in empty rooms as I write, but I do tend to read aloud as soon as I can -- sometimes as soon as something's in first draft I'll telephone friends and read it to them. That's where I hear things that don't work, and fix them.

I love reading aloud. I love reading my stuff aloud, and as long as a book is well-written, or has a certain rollicking something, I love reading other people's stuff aloud. And I always smile very happily when people come up to me to tell me that they enjoyed reading something of mine aloud ("I read Stardust in bed to my wife, a chapter a night." "My boyfriend and I take it in turns reading Good Omens to each other, back and forth" and so on.) and people who

Am currently reading Maddy, my small daughter, Norman Hunter's Professor Branestawm stories.

and last one, for now, from Colin in Walsall,

Do you have any plans for another UK tour in the next year or so? We would love to attend another of your readings.

Just figuring it out right now with Bloomsbury for CORALINE. I may be coming in for the Edinburgh Literary Festival in August 2002, and if I come in for that then there will probably be a Forbidden Planet London signing, just because, well, there always is. As things are sorted out they'll be announced here.

Tuesday, December 25, 2001

Growing up, it was easy: a pillowcase filled with toys (mostly books for me -- although the ones on the bed were always things like A HUNDRED EXCITING THINGS A BOY CAN DO or THE DR WHO ANNUAL) on your bed in the morning, along with a stocking filled with diaries and crayons, nuts and an orange. You woke up, when you woke up. You opened the presents. You settled down with the books and hoped people would leave you alone to read. (My parents were never terribly comfortable with Christmas, being Jewish, but we kids lobbied for it and got it. And what the hell, Jews wrote all the best Christmas songs anyway.) And my parents got to lie in on Christmas Day. And somewhere around lunchtime larger things got opened (a box of magic tricks, more books). It was dreadfully civilised.

As a parent, every year I suggest faintly that it might be a fine way to have a Christmas "I have a dream," I tell them. "A dream of sleeping in until maybe ten pm, and having a cup of tea, and then, after lunch we could open presents...".

Every year the rest of the family chunter off to bed early on Christmas Eve, smiling at me with pity in their eyes. And every year they wake up at 6.00am and pretty soon they're dragging me blearily down onto the sofa to open presents. And barely half-awake I open presents, sip tea, doze sitting up, and suggest that, next year, we might want to try an alternative sort of plan.

And they look at me, from the youngest to the oldest, and every year they shake their heads in the same sort of way. It'll never happen. And I grumble, but after about fifteen years I'd miss it terribly if they actually let me sleep.

Which is a roundabout way of saying, compliments of the season to all of you. Thanks for reading. I hope you find something fun in your stockings.

....

Spent today doing the final copyedit on a book NESFA PRESS will be publishing for Boskone, called "ADVENTURES IN THE DREAM TRADE". It's a collection of articles and introductions I've written about everyone from Lord Dunsany to Fritz Leiber, along with the American Gods Journal in paper form. The oddest moment today was finding that a blogger entry for March 2nd had snuck off into early June.

I was worried that an accumulation of introductions would be appallingly dull, but it sort of carries you along, and is much more readable than I would ever have imagined.

(The introduction that was the hardest to read was the one I did for Alfred Bester's STARS MY DESTINATION (Aka TIGER! TIGER!) -- Back in 1996 I sent a rough first draft off to the editor who slammed it in to the printer. Reading it now it still felt like notes toward an introduction... but after five years, it was like reading someone else's notes. I wasn't sure that I could do a second draft now if I wanted to, so I shrugged and left it just as it was.)

Sunday, December 23, 2001

One piece of American Gods news... it doesn't currently look like there's going to be a CD version of the Audio Book. It would take too many CDs, and be too bulky. Which means that the interview that was recorded for it won't be heard for quite a while. According to the head of HarperCollins audio, we're going to have to wait for the MP3 CD version in a couple of years, which won't be a 24 CD audiobook.

I really do plan to put up a page of cool recommended things, as soon as I get around to it.

In the meantime, someone in the FAQ requests wanted me to recommend authors of short stories: so let's see... Saki (H.H. Monro) was the finest short story writer of the first couple of decades of the 20th century. John Collier is a wonderful short story writer who is almost forgotten now -- look for Fancies and Goodnights and there's a Best of John Collier collection out there introduced by Anthony Burgess. Ernest Bramah wrote strange pseudo-oriental little confections -- try to find Kai Lung's Golden Hours or Kai Lung Unrolls his Mat. R. A. Lafferty's 900 Grandmothers, Samuel R Delany's Driftglass, Roger Zelazny's Rose For Ecclesiastes, Harlan Ellison's Essential Ellison and the Avram Davidson Treasury contain remarkable stories by remarkable authors. Find and read Bradbury's The October Country. Shirley Jackson's The Lottery and Other Stories. And then go and find any short story collection by Robert Aickman that you can afford. And then there's James Thurber, and Gene Wolfe. Kelly Link's Stranger Things Happen. Susanna Clarke has only written a handful of stories, and they aren't collected, but they are rather wonderful. Jonathan Carroll's The Panic Hand. And the Datlow-Windling Year's Best Fantasy and Horror collections are always an excellent overview of the any fiction that's off the beaten track.

And for now, here's something from the archives -- something I wrote for Fantasy and Science Fiction a couple of years ago...



Count Jan Potocki, a widely travelled Polish writer army man and balloonist, blew his brains out in 1815, using a silver bullet (melted down from a samovar and first blessed by the castle chaplain). He was, it is said, convinced that he had become a werewolf, and there were other rumours of incest and of strange melancholias.

His book, the convoluted and barely finished �Manuscrit Trouv� � Saragosse� is an intricate work of dark genius. It is the tale of Alphonse Van Worden, a young officer travelling to Madrid, who spends a night in a haunted inn in which he is the recipient of the not entirely unwelcome advances of two Moorish sisters � or, perhaps, as he discovers on waking the next morning beneath a gibbet between the bodies of two dead bandits, he is the victim of ghostly malice. For the next sixty-six days, and for about a hundred stories, he will no longer be sure what is real and what is not, and neither will we.

Potocki is the Scheharazade of this 18th Century Arabian Nights: everyone Van Worden meets has a tale to tell, and the people inside those stories have their own tales that must be told; the stories nest inside each other, connecting directly and at tangents: mysteries are happened upon in one story, explained much later in another tale entirely. We meet the Wandering Jew, demonaics and caballists, lovers and mathematicians, devils and angels, bankers, hermits and a large number of mysterious women. The stories range from out and out horror (particularly in the first ten days) to erotic tales of courtly love and behaviour. On the way the nature of faith and of religion is called into question, and we find ourselves wondering about the nature of stories.

It is appropriate that the introduction to one edition of the Manuscript calls into question whether the same man wrote the whole book, or part of it, and suggests that who whole existence of the Manuscript might be a strange sort of fraud. Bits of the manuscript turned up in strange libraries, written in unlikely languanges. The book we have now is an assemblage � a sort of gothic picaresque, and its publishing history is as appropriately convoluted and unlikely as its author.

There�s even a film of the Manuscript, and a good one, made in Poland during the sixties. My copy has been through so many hands that the black and white film has started to pick up splashes of video colour.

The ultimate resolution of the tale (involving a Moorish scheme, a hidden gold mine and the revelation of sundry secret histories and plans) is, compared with the rest of the book, perfunctory: the Saragossa Manuscript is a mirrored labyrinth with an unsatisfying resolution. Perhaps if Potocki had not become convinced that he was a werewolf he might have given us a finer ending. But with a book like this it�s the journey that matters, not the destination. And it is a journey like no other.


The Manuscript Found In Saragossa (Penguin ) Tr. and introduced by Ian MacLean
Tales From the Saragossa Manuscript -- Ten Days in the Life of Alphonse Van Worden (Dedalus European Classics). Introduction by Brian Stableford

Al Davidson's a fine artist and one of the good guys. He did the award-winning book The Spiral Cage. He's drawn Hellblazer and the Dreaming and Vermillion and his own lovely Minotaur's Tale. Right now he's working on the sequel to The Spiral Cage, and trying to raise funding... go and look at www.astralgypsy.com for more information, and also for some lovely images, prints, paintings and the like... (this was a public service announcement from the friends of Al Davidson. Well, one of them.)

Saturday, December 22, 2001

Saw Lord of the Rings last night, and thought it was thoroughly wonderful. It was a movie in its own right, and it mapped so strangely onto my own mental Fellowship of the Ring: my Saruman is not Christopher Lee, although he was astonishing; my Gandalf, on the other hand, is the one in the film portrayed by Ian McKellan. Jackson had done an amazing job of staying faithful to the book in all the right ways.

I would have liked to have seen more of the world from a hobbit's point of view: the Elves gain so much in the book from Sam's delight in and obsession with them, for example.

When I was a kid you'd get amazingly faithful BBC adaptations of classic books -- eight or twelve one-hour episodes to build a minor Victorian novel, recreating all its felicities. Sometimes I found myself sighing for that. But not often... Because how often do you get taken into a personal vision, by a group of people who care enough about the vision to create it, and to recreate it, in detail and in nuance?

The film of Lord of the Rings is a map to the territory which, every now and again, becomes the territory itself. And if half of the kids who walked out of it last night going "Huh? What kind of an end was that?" go and get the books to find out what happens next, I'll be happy. Reading Lord of the Rings can be -- possibly should be -- an initial journey to a world as real and dense as this one.

...

Dave McKean sent me a copy of his huge hardback book of short comics, PICTURES THAT TICK. It's gorgeous, and the final story, about his father, is one of the most moving (and physically and emotionally beautiful) stories I think Dave's ever done. Many, many years ago, in an all-but forgotten magazine called Heartbreak Hotel, Dave did a one page strip about his father (who died when Dave was young) and what made Dave become an artist. Now he's looking at it as a father himself, and he's made something that would be my nomination for best short story of the year, in any medium.

...

Those copies of Harlequin Valentine (by me and John Bolton) that were on a slow boat from Singapore are still on a slow boat from Singapore, but Dark Horse have air-shipped out a thousand books and sent them to comics shops all over America (and possibly the rest of the world) so each store gets a single copy, and the stores can show people what the book looks like.

...

The sky is a brooding and ominous battleship grey, and we're under a winter storm watch, which means that we're about to get dumped with the first real snowfall of the year -- the kind that will stay on the ground for the next three or four months. The atmosphere ought to be strange and dark, with St S�ens's Danse Macabre or something equally brooding echoing from the stereo, but my assistant Lorraine and daughter Maddy went to see Mamma Mia the other night, which means that the house echoes with repackaged Abba hits (and a seven-year-old, clutching her CD booklet, singing along -- surprisingly tunefully -- at maximum volume).

...

The original plan from HarperCollins was to put up a page with "Nicholas Was..." on it as text, and with an audio of me reading it from Warning:Contains Language and to e-mail the URL out to everyone on the mailing list, but the time-crunch of the Christmas Holidays meant that it didn't happen, and they just e-mailed the text to people instead. Next year...

...

Someone wrote to the FAQ line asking what a typical day in the life of an author was like. I'm not sure there are going to be any typical days until March... but I'll try and pick a day at some point and keep a record of the day as it goes along.

Friday, December 21, 2001

http://www.locusmag.com/2001/News/BestBooksTally.html is posted without comment, but with a certain amount of bemused delight.

Thursday, December 20, 2001

A large box arrived in the post today containing a large swirling heavy object with a plaque on its base. The plaque said the swirling object was a Lifetime Achievement Award for my Distinguished Services to the Fantastic Arts.

And I thought,

AARGH.

I'm not done yet. Honest.

People who've been reading this gallimaufry for a while may remember the Michael Zulli painting that I discovered in my basement last summer. It was a strange and haunting painting of Morpheus he had painted and sent to me around 1994, which he called The October Man. For reasons that have never been adequately explained, the painting went down to the basement and was used as a stiffener for an envelope filled with photocopies, and was never seen by mortal eyes, until I was rummaging around for a large envelope, and pulled out the backing board from the one I found, and turned it over, and blinked.

I sent it to Karen Berger at DC Comics, saying "Wouldn't this make a wonderful poster?" and she blinked too, and I hear from my mole, Senior Editor Shelly Bond, that it's going to be solicited next month and be available in the Spring as a poster. Which means that for the next few years people will come up to me and look at me sort of funny then say "How could you lose a piece of art like that?" and I shall say "I don't know". But then, if I hadn't lost it, I would have framed it and stuck it up on a wall somewhere, and would never have thought to myself, wouldn't it make a wonderful poster?

So that's nice.

HarperCollins are pleased enough with how American Gods and the other books of mine they've published are doing, that they've made a very impressive offer for another two novels and a short story collection. And that's nice too.

Tuesday, December 18, 2001

http://www.januarymagazine.com/features/bestof01part1.html is American Gods on January Magazine's year's best list; http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A36657-2001Nov29.html is a similar thing from the Washington Post. We're a 2001 recommended book over at Locus Online. Lots of good lists there with lots of fine suggestions.

I have a horrid feeling I'm going to miss getting my page of Cool Recommended Stuff up by Xmas. Oh well. Maybe in time for the new year...

By the way, if you're tired of lists imposed from above, then you should put together your own top ten list and go and vote at SFsite.com (instructions at http://www.sfsite.com/columns/neil118.htm).

http://www.bordersstores.com/features/feature.jsp?file=best2001tractorbeam is Borders Best of the Year list for SF and Fantasy. (We're in there at #2 after Tales of Earthsea.) For those not keeping track of these things, American Gods came in in first place on Barnes and Noble's list and second on Amazon.com's list (to Perdido Street Station). And in each case, I'm in very good company.

If you've read American Gods and are wondering what 2001 fiction to read next, I commend to you Jonathan Carroll's profoundly odd and glorious The Wooden Sea, Ursula Le Guin's The Other Wind (which repairs all the things that her novel Tehanu did to the Earthsea sequence), China Mieville's peakian extravaganza Perdido Street Station, Terry Pratchett's Thief of Time (or The Truth, and especially The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents).

How do I feel about this? A sort of combination of pleased and awkward, I think. Slightly embarrassed, but happy. I suspect that this is a peculiarly English thing to feel.

Friday, December 14, 2001

This in on the FAQ line...The Official Neil Gaiman Newsletter was wonderful, until the last line: "Wishing you all a happy holidays, and hoping that every good girl and boy who haven't yet read AMERICAN GODS finds a copy of the book or audio tape in their stocking on Christmas day!" Neil, I know you didn't write it, but this line upset me. Chances are that most of the people signed-up for the newsletter have already bought the book. In fact, I'd bet that many are like me, spending that extra pocket money on comics and books that we really can't afford. But we indulge, because we love your work. So, isn't it enough just to wish your fans a happy holiday? Must the newsletter, a promotion in and of itself, end in a promotion? You're publicity is always pretty low-key, and I enjoy that about you. Until now, I never felt like your work was being unduly foisted on me. I find myself wondering if the only reason the newsletter was sent out was to capitalize on the "Christmas spirit." That bothers me.

Sorry about that. As you say, I didn't write it (and HarperCollins are going to try and make the newsletters more regular in the future -- and they're sending out a special bonus mailing to everyone registered early next week) -- but look at it from HarperCollins's point of view: they pay for this website, for the hosting, for everything connected with it. It's the most successful author website they have, which by the strange logic of these things, also means it's, for them, the most expensive. ("If we're actually looking at individual page views," I was told today, "in the last six months the web site has had a little over 15 million hits". Er. More realistically, every week at least 30,000 people wander past and read stuff). Everything the people at Harpers do here costs them money -- including sending out a newsletter to tens of thousands of people. So I think they've earned the right to stick in a plug for American Gods at the bottom of their newsletter if they want to -- after all, it's what's paying for the site to be here....

My first public appearance of next year is in Stuart, Florida, at the BookMania book festival.

January 18, 2002 at 8 p.m.

BookMania! presents An Evening with Neil Gaiman
Blake Library
2351 SE Monterey Road
Stuart, FL 34996

For more information check out the library's Web site:
http://www.library.martin.fl.us/bookmania/bookmania2002.htmlor phone: 561/221/1403

Bob Kane was, by all accounts, a strange guy. He didn�t have much talent, but he had a certain amount of luck, and most people know that Bob Kane was the creator of Batman, even if they don�t know that he didn�t write or draw any Batman stuff. No-one else who did anything got any credit in Bob Kane�s head. The other people who drew Batman � even Neal Adams, or Frank Miller, in Bob�s mind, were just his �ghosts�. The only thing that was important to Bob Kane was Bob Kane...

And I keep thinking of him after a conversation a couple of nights ago with Joe Quesada, Editor in Chief of Marvel. �Todd McFarlane says to tell you that on this Miracleman stuff, he�ll take it all the way. He�ll take it to the mat,� he said. �He told me to tell you, though, that if you could sort it all out by just getting in a room with him, man to man, and hammering out an agreement. And he made me promise to say that, if Neil keeps up, Todd�s going to go public with all the dirt on Neil he can find, and Neil�s fans won�t like him any more.�

And the last lingering shreds of respect I had for McFarlane just went away, like that.

I�d been feeling almost sorry for him recently; his comics don�t sell; his toys are no longer selling, his company has been imploding, his long-time trusted employees have left or are leaving, and are polite in public but honest in private about why they left; even his baseballs are worth less and less.

And I decided to stop feeling sorry for him, at that point, too.

I�ve no desire at all to get into a room with McFarlane and sort it out �man to man�, only because I did that once already, in May 1997. We came to an agreement, then we put it in writing, over my share of the stuff I�d created for him, and within three months he�d quietly started to renege on every part of the deal (although it took me a while to discover that). Why would another �man to man� deal be any different?

But seeing that offers are being made...

Hey Todd, if you�re reading this, this is what I�d say if we did get into that room...

1) You agree to abide by the May 1997 agreement. (It�s the one where you agreed I�d have your share of Miracleman, in exchange for my future shares of everything from Cogliostro and Medieval Spawn. Remember?)

2) You pay all sums of money due under that agreement, after you pay for an independent audit, so we know all the numbers are right.

3) You pay all legal expenses I�ve incurred so far trying to get this sorted out.

4) You make a public apology (in writing is fine. Online, or in the pages of the CBG or Wizard.)

5) You make a hefty donation to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. (A few years ago, I�d�ve said a million, maybe half a million. These days it�s not clear that you�ve still got that kind of money, so it�s negotiable. But a serious donation nonetheless.)


....

There.

On a more interesting subject, the plans for the launch of Coraline are coming together, as are the plans for the next six months of this website.

My favourite thing about Coraline (next novel, for children although adults seem able to cope with it okay) is that it's going to be released first as an Audio Book, next June, several months before the paper version comes out. And I'll be recording the audio next month. We are hoping that incidental music, and the song the rats sing, will be done by Stephen Merritt's Gothic Archies.

Monday, December 10, 2001

Emergency over - I used the wayback internet archives and found the missing web archives at http://web.archive.org
-- thanks so much to those of you who responded.

Nice message in from Steve in Vancouver telling me that R.A. Lafferty has a bunch of books in print from Wildside Press "The Reefs of Earth (and 10 other Lafferty novels) is available from Wild Side Press. They were released in 1999 and last I looked, they still had copies. If not, they will often print small runs when demand affords it. http://www.wildsidepress.com/index2.htm " -- and a quick look at Amazon showed that they've got many of them up there (although they list The Reefs of Earth as out of print). It's a book about six goblin/alien kids (seven if you count Bad John) who decide to solve the problem with Earth by killing everyone in it, starting with their parents. Like a strange backwoods cross between the Addams Family and a high Irish saga. It's very funny, but it's a lot more than that. Wildside have Nine Hundred Grandmothers in print though -- it's the best of all the Lafferty short story colllections and should be made compulsory reading.

It looks like the journal entries for June 18th-june 30th have vanished completely. If anyone out there has been saving stuff to disk, and has them, can you drop a line on the FAQ page and let us know, so we can restore them? (Panic over. See above.)

While I think of it, there's a bit in the Washington Post Book World about comfort fiction, in which a dozen authors (me included) talk about the books we turn to for comfort. I note that most of the other people on the list took the high road (Shakespeare, Melville, etc.) I briefly thought about picking Chesterton or even Robert Aickman, but eventually thought it would be more interesting to think about those books that are places you can go to in times of stress -- comfortable and comforting. As a kid it was Narnia for me; as a teenager it was Heinlein's Glory Road (I have no idea why, but it could always cheer me up, often in conjunction with Lou Reed's Berlin, which always made me feel better as whatever teenage thing was making me miserable it was never as bad as that.) There's Lafferty, of course. I only have to read the chapter titles of The Reefs of Earth to feel happy. But it's very out of print. And then there was the book I picked for the Washington Post Book World (which you'll have to look at to see what it was).

Sunday, December 09, 2001

A number of messages have come in of which this is a typical example : Maybe its silly of me to mention anything at all, but I will do so anyways. You've had the blogger crash on you a few times and lost entries that you have spent bits and pieces of your time on, and fans tearing their hair out wondering what you might have written. Why don't you write out your daily journal in Word or some other text editor like VI, and then copy and paste it into the blogger? Or does the blogger not allow you to work that way? Just curious. -Cynister Nope. Perfectly sensible question. And as I sit here, typing a reply into the blogger edit window, I wish I could give you a more sensible answer than, you'd think I would have learned by now, wouldn't you? I suppose it's mostly because these entries are written on the fly; if I opened a word processor and thought about it, they would gain an importance that they don't have if I just jot them down. They'd be work. (If I've got a word processing window open, it's got a short story or a treatment or a script in it, and I really ought to be working on that. Or, more usually, them.) As it is, I suppose that losing one entry in a hundred is the price I pay for just flexing my fingers and typing.

So, I took a quiet sort of Sunday. I read Spalding Grey's "It's a Slippery Slope" in the bath. (I have a wall of books people have given me to read. I have a vague feeling that the Spalding Grey was a birthday present from someone a few years back. I enjoyed it, although Grey works best in performance.) I had one daughter assistant-director-and-stage-managing a play, another off at the Minnesota Orchestra Children's Concert, and (after sticking diving sparrowhawk stickers, bought last week at the Raptor Centre, on some of the windows that songbirds tend to kill themselves bumping into) I went out and bought a notebook to work on the current movie script. (The one for the Big Hollywood Director.) Trying to get my head around a structure that covers a life in flashback at the same time that we go through a week of the protagonist's life. It's the kind of structure that only gets to be 3-act in retrospect. If you see what I mean. So, as I said, I bought a lined notebook (It says COMPOSITION on the front, and looks terribly serious) and spent much of today telling myself the story.

This evening I read Chapter 11 of Terry Pratchett's The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents to Maddy. It's the big climactic chapter that had her first whimpering, then sniffling, and finally cheering. Really lovely book. Beautifully written, and wise. Buy it for someone nice for Xmas.

There. And before I post this -- I'll block it all and copy it. Which will mean that it will all work just fine. You'll see.

http://www.sfsite.com/fm/show.html?ed,20011209,1 is a link to page 1 of Mike Moorcock's Christmas Editorial for the Fantastic Metropolis website. It's refreshing to see the editorial Moorcock voice. And of course, he's right. And while you're there, take a look around the Fantastic Metropolis website.

This in on FAQ line Hey man, a fella name of "GMZoe" (the moderator of the board) has just mentioned a lengthy review of The Dark Knight Return 'way back in the Capitalist 80s and I was wondering if you could give the go-ahead to post it up on the boards, because I would like to read it and yet, being a young girl with big plans, have no time for seeking out obscure 80s magazine articles. Maybe you don't have the copyright, of course. Well, just thought I'd give it a go, Love Taxi which I thought interesting as I had just sent my copy of Foundation in which the Dark Knight review appeared off to the editors of a collected giant ragbag book of articles, introductions, shopping lists, really obscure bits of writing, and even a large chunk of the weblog, which will be published for the Boskone convention in 2002 by NESFA Press. In my head, it's called Stuff and Nonsense but John M. "Mike" Ford, who wrote the introduction, suggested calling it Adventures in the Dream Trade which is much more romantic and commercial and cool, so that's what it's going to be called. http://www.nesfa.org/press/ is the best place to find out more.


Hi Neil!
It's not an FAQ, but there seems to be no other way to let you know: The old Avon Books Neverwhere site is no longer in the Internet Archive. Clicking the link (http://web.archive.org/web/19981203162925
/www.avonbooks.com/neverwhere/tube.html) returns:
"Robots.txt Retrieval Exclusion.
We're sorry, access to http://www.avonbooks.com/neverwhere/tube.html has been blocked by the site owner via robots.txt." Poo.


Poo indeed. And nobody at Avon/Harper Collins blocked it. I believe they saved it though, before it vanished again, with an eye to putting it up as a Neverwhereish corner of neilgaiman.com. So it's not gone forever. I hope.

Friday, December 07, 2001

Blogger went goofy this morning for the first time in ages, and ate an entry about, of all things, the morning's mail. It talked about Harlequin Valentine, Victoria Wilson's The Secret Life of Puppets, a Polish SF anthology, and, most important, that Chris Ware won the Guardian First Book Award. (Hurrah!)

It also talked about the USA Today article on Wednesday (in which I am described as an author and Web logger) and mentioned that I've been trying to catch up on the FAQs over on the FAQ page.

It was so much longer, funnier and more educational than this post. I'll try and cover at least the stuff about Harlequin Valentine later this evening.

Monday, December 03, 2001

http://www.wbez.org/services/od_ranov01.htm#011129 is the link to Chicago's Odyssey Radio on demand site. Go down to November the 15th and you'll hear me, Will Eisner and Francoise Mouly talking about comics; then listen to November the 16th and you'll get Art Speigelman, Chris Ware, and Scott McCloud talking about Advanced Comics...

One of the coolest things about being an author (and, for that matter, having an occasional rock star as an assistant) is that every now and again it'll open some cool doors -- viz. today, when I got to spend a wonderful afternoon with a small daughter and an assistant at The Raptor Center at the University of Minnesota. The place was closed to the public and Sharon and Amber (assisted by Bill) introduced us to all the owls, eagles, hawks, falcons, ospreys and even the vulture. It was fascinating, and magical and odd. It also made several sequences by T.H. White much more understandable.

The strangest moment was meeting the sad little ricketty owl who was found by some people as a chick, handed over to a vet who, a vegetarian himself, attempted to bring up the owl on a diet of fruit and grain. ("When we got him he was so sick we had to feed him mouse milk shakes. Well, mouse slurry.") I mean, a vet. Sigh.

I loved the whole trip and did a chunk of my holiday shopping in their gift shop, which helps keep the birds in mice.

Maddy wanted a tiny owl of her own. Lorraine loved the owls, but was less enthusiastic about watching the whole mouse-eating business.

...

Dear Neil,
Here's a question you may have gotten within the last month. Do you have any professional views on the literary controversy surrounding Jonathan Franzen, author of _The Corrections_, and the Oprah Book Club? Would you allow a private, nonliterary organization to place its logo on the cover of one your books if you were in a similar situation as Mr. Franzen?
Thanks,
Miss Benai


I don't think it is a literary controversy. I think it's a promotional controversy. (The arguments aren't about the book; they are about how the book was promoted.)

An author, mostly, gets a say in what goes on a book's cover. Oprah's Book Club (picking a 'private nonliterary organization' more or less at random here, mostly because I can't think of any others) doesn't place its logo on a book's cover. The publisher, with the approval of the author, does.

I guess that if I wanted to do the Oprah thing, I'd take the logo and the TV appearance and the 750,000 sales. And if I didn't want to, I'd say no, and forego the logo and the print run. (It's a pretty hypothetical point, and one it's easy for me to be virtuous about, as I can't imagine Oprah ever picking the kinds of book I write for her book club.)

Saturday, December 01, 2001

Several people have been asking about Charles Vess's wife, Karen. Karen was in a particularly nasty car accident, a few years ago, which damaged her spinal cord. She's learned how to move again, and how to walk. We did a benefit portfolio to help raise money to cover her medical costs, with some wonderful artists. I wrote a poem or two for it, and we printed the first chapter of a novel called WALL that is a sort of sequel to Stardust a hundred and fifty years on, and Susanna Clarke wrote a story that was reprinted in last year's YEAR'S BEST FANTASY AND HORROR about the Duke of Wellington in Wall, and a whole bunch of the best artists in Comics did a set of Stardust-inspired prints.

Anyway, people were asking, so I sent Charles an e-mail. And he said...

Karen's doing pretty well on her road to recovery. It's funny she's at the point right now of visually looking quite well and that frustrates her sometimes.To most she looks fit and healthy and they assume that she's completely over the accident but there is still a limited range of motion in her right hand and leg as well as an ever present level of nerve pain. She has been pursuing several alternative medical treatments as a means of furthering her recovery. With the aid of weekly visits to the acupuncturist Karen's been able to wean herself off of one of the MD prescribed meds that did indeed lower that nerve pain but as a side effect also relieved her of her short term memory. Not a good thing! She still greats each day with an encouragng smile, so on we go.

I do still have a box or two of the portfolio, A FALL OF STARDUST that we produced as a benefit for Karen. What with an unpublished anywhere else short story by you and 29 gorgeous full color plates interpreting various scenes from the world of Stardust by a great lineup of artists I thought that some of your readers might want to order them directly from me now, before it goes out of print. If they do order from me they'll also receive the wonderful Sergio Aragones plate that is available no where else but from Green Man Press.

Here's the link:
http://www.greenmanpress.com/merch/prints.html

Thanks for asking,
Charles


And take a look around the greenmanpress.com website while you're there. It's got a terrific message board, a gallery, and lots of information on what Charles is doing these days... And you can also buy Stardust Fridge Magnets there. Which is more than you can do here

A couple of queries from people about the cover of the Harper Collins paperback of Sandman: Book of Dreams, along the lines of "Haven't we seen this somewhere before?" And yes, you have. It's the original cover (1989-1993ish) to Sandman:The Doll's House graphic novel. Then the book was redesigned and it got a new cover. Then the series was reissued as The Sandman Library in a uniform series with numbers on them, and it got yet another new cover. So this is Dave McKean's 1989 Doll's House Cover.

It was chosen because a lot of the people picking up Book of Dreams are going to be doing it without knowing much about Sandman -- and we wanted a more literal cover illustration that would allow them a Morpheus for the mind's eye.

(Sandman: Book of Dreams was a book I edited a while ago, with some astonishingly fine Sandman short stories in it by authors such as John M. Ford, Susanna Clarke, Colin Greenland, Delia Sherman.)
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