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Sunday, March 31, 2002

Holly (age 16) has decided she wants to go to Vassar.

"Go somewhere else," I tell her. "It's cheaper. Go to a local college. Or go to the one your brother is at -- it gives a sibling discount. Do you realise that I could buy a small South Pacific island for the cost of sending the two of you to college for a few years? With a submarine? And an octopus pit for dropping spies in?" But she is immune to reason, and wants to go to Vassar, because she likes the look of it, and the history, and wants to go and experience upstate New York and learn how to pronounce Poughkeepsie.

"What if it's awful?" I said.

"Ask on your journal," said Holly. "Put something up. Then Vassar students and professors and people can tell you what they think on the FAQ line."

So I'm posting it, warily, as for the next decade people will come up to me and say "did Holly go to Vassar then?"

I suspect she'll win on this one, and I won't get any kind of a small South Pacific Island, not even the cheap kind with a swimming pool that slides out of the way to let the underground spaceships take off.

Never type journal entries when you're mostly asleep. I remember writing something last night about the other books American Gods is in competion for for the Bram Stoker award as being "Stonkers" -- a british slang word indicating "something outstanding or excellent of its type" and then realising that many people might think that was a typo for "stinkers"....

(The Best novel candidates, by the way, are:

American Gods, Neil Gaiman (Morrow)
Black House, Stephen King & Peter Straub (Random House)
From the Dust Returned, Ray Bradbury (Morrow)
The Lost, Jack Ketchum (Leisure)


And the Bram Stoker Award is given by the Horror Writers Association, and is the most gorgeous award: a small house, with tentacles, and a little door covering the award, which opens and closes and then falls off and has to be superglued back on and doesn't open or close any more.)

... so I changed "stonkers" to "big books" or something like that and rolled over & went to sleep.

Woke up this morning, and realised I'd been unfair to Dallas Mayr, who writes under the name of Jack Ketchum, and is nowhere near as well-known as he ought to be. You can read about Jack at The Official Website of Jack Ketchum. He writes powerful stuff that makes you wince and worry and turn pages fast.

I met Dallas when were both guests at NEcon, the strangest assembly of Horror writers in the world. It's half-way between a summer camp and a convention: 200 people, most of them writers, gather in a small Rhode Island Campus, where they complain about the food and the heat. They eat pizza, discuss publishers, and make fun of each other mercilessly. There's a website over at www.campnecon.com which says it all better than I ever could. If you go and poke around there you can find lots of embarrassing photos of me, including ones taken at the 2000 NEcon, when I was midway on American Gods, and not getting a haircut till it was done.

If you're in the Chicago area on the 11th of April, you want to be at the Evanston Public Library... I promised I'd post this -- you can find the details at:
http://www.locusmag.com/2002/Future/AppearancesNew.html� Also in conjunction with World Horror Con is a mass author book signing, on 11 April, from 6:30 to 8:30 at the Evanston Public Library. Participating authors (so many they're not folded into our sorted Author Appearances pages) include:
Gene Wolfe
Neil Gaiman
Peter Straub
Jill Thompson
Gahan Wilson
Brian A. Hopkins
Randy Broecker
Beth Gwinn
Karen E. Taylor
Caitlin R. Kiernan
Tim Lebbon
Trisha Baker
P. D. Cacek
Gerard Houarner
Edo van Belkom
Michael Laimo
Richard Dansky
Gene O'Neill
Monica J. O'Rourke
Mark McLaughlin
Jay Bonansinga
John Urbancik
John Everson
David Sparks
John Pelan
Darrell Schweitzer
d g k Goldberg
J.F. Gonzalez
Robert Weinberg
Linda Addison
Damion Kirk
Drew Williams
Mort Castle
Tim Waggoner
Gord Rollo
Michael Slade (Jay and Rebecca Clarke)
Ellen Datlow
James Dorr
Gary Jonas
Diana Barron
John Paul Allen
Thomas M. Sipos
Christopher Treagus
D.(avid) Harlan Wilson
William Gagliani
Denise Bruchman
Keith Schulz
William F. Nolan
Charles L. Grant
Jo Fletcher (Poetry GoH )
Steven Lee Climer
Joe Nassise
Edward Bryant

Sleepy. Just time to post that according to Locus Online: News Log, March 2002 American Gods is one of four novels nominated for the Bram Stoker award for superior achievement in horror. It's up against three big books, so I don't reckon it has much of a chance, but it's a nice thing to learn.

Went to Minicon, and interviewed Rick Berry, ace artist, for a panel.

Watched the Flash Girls, and more, but will now turn off the light and go to sleep instead of writing about it. Goodnight.

Saturday, March 30, 2002

I just checked out the Tartarus Press website and noticed that The Collected Strange Stories of Robert Aickman is now back in print. Very pricy, and the print is too small, but several thousand dollars less than it would cost you to buy all the books the stories are taken from.

If you like strange stories that elude easy explanations, but stil, somehow, satisfy, Aickman was the best there ever was.

Go and browse the Tartarus site -- they have some wonderful stuff for bibliophiles and a terrific backlist, and ponder at the peculiar attempt to sell The Attempted Rescue as a lost episode of The League of Gentlemen.

Neil...I read on the Dreaming that you're going to be in New York for BookExpo America to sign Coraline. Are you also going to be doing a signing/event for those of us who can't afford the $110 entry fee?...Mike

The simple answer is, no. The only signing I'll be doing that weekend will be at Book Expo America. And unless you're going to be there anyway, which would probably make you a bookseller, librarian or publisher, it's not worth spending the money just to attend one author's signing.

Often "official" bookfair type signings are done, for an author, against the clock. This is because, in an hour, the next person to be signing will be sitting in your chair, in which case there's no stopping to chat or be sociable, just a frantic attempt to sign for as many people as possible. (In the US and at Frankfurt often freebies will be given out, which means that the signing line won't just be composed of fans, but also of people who have picked up a free book/proof and want it signed.) And if the line is longer than the time to sign for people, then you can't go over, you just have to leave people disappointed. Which I hate.

On the good side, you get to sign for a whole lot of booksellers, librarians, and "er I don't know who you are but I've got an assistant manager back in Denver who has told me that if I don't get you to sign a book for her then when I get back she's going to be poisoning my coffee..." people.

And that's fine. I'm very happy to be there signing for librarians and booksellers. Very happy to meet a few of the people who will be, very literally, hand-selling my books to people over the next few years, and to say thanks, and sign an advance copy of Coraline for them.

The signings for the readers will come after the book comes out and is available to be bought in shops. That's not happening yet: first of all the publisher wants the author to encounter the booksellers and the keepers of the books.

The only trouble is that those people will also be going to another hundred signings, and passing a thousand tables, and filling their bags and suitcases with proofs and upcoming books... and there's no guarantee they'll ever read the books they've grabbed, as opposed to, say, putting them on a book shelf and hoping to get the time to look at them, or auctioning them off on ebay. But you hope they will. And some of them will.

...

Ah, that took up the time I was going to spend talking about taking Maddy down to the Humane Society yesterday, saying hullo to various animals; and organising the 16 pages of extra material for the Diamond signed limited edition of Coraline -- it'll be Dave McKean illustrations that didn't make it into the finished book, pages from the handwritten first draft, and bits and bobs by me about Coraline, children's books and so on.

This one's for Easter. I hope she's having a great day, wherever she is.

Enough people have asked for a "Can you recommend books/authors for kids?" list that I'll try and put one up over on the FAQs sometime this week.

Am currently reading two biographies -- Brother Astronomer: Adventures of a Vatican Scientist,a collection of biographical, philosophical, historical and scientific essays by Guy Consolmagno, an astronomer at the Vatican Observatory, a gift from Gene Wolfe, and The Attempted Rescue, the autobiography of Robert Aickman. Two more different books -- or lives -- would be hard to find, and I'm enjoying them both enormously.

And yesterday I finished reading Diana Wynne Jones's marvelous Dogsbody to Maddy yesterday. When I finished she didn't say very much. Then she looked at me and put her head on one side and said "Daddy? Was that a happy end? Or a sad one?"

"Both," I told her.

"Yes," she said. "That was what I thought. I was really happy, but it made me want to cry."

"Yeah," I admitted. "Me too." It also made me try to figure out why and how Diana had made the ending work so well, triumphant and heartbreaking at the same time. I want to do that.

Thursday, March 28, 2002

It just occurred to me that I can use this journal to publically congratulate my friends Lisa Snellings Clark (you can read about her here if you don't know who she is. Or even if you do,) and her husband, Pete, on the birth of their son, Orion. He's about a week old right now.

Lisa's sculptures have inspired many of my stories.

Pete was very gracious and let me interview him for some background in American Gods.

You can see Lisa's online portfolio if you click here . Well, three pages of it, anyway. Buy some cool art from her. You know you want to.

...

I've started to do occasional interviews for Coraline. I wish I had more to say about the book, but I don't really. I wind up talking about the way it was written, and a few of the things (like the door) that I took from my own childhood. Beyond that I find myself curiously devoid of intelligent things to say: it's all in the book, after all.

(I was, incidentally, recently asked how it feels to have written "a children's classic". Didn't really know how to answer, except to say that I probably hadn't. Thinking about it, I suppose what I should have said was "that you can only begin to identify a children's classic if it's still in print fifty years later, and still being read by kids and adults, and still has something to say. Coraline hasn't even been published yet. Ask me about it again when I'm 92.")

My wife's book club are going to read it next month. I'm more worried that they'll hate it than whether or not it'll become a classic.

Here's the UK cover, from Amazon.co.uk, not very big at all:



....


And here's an FAQ message that I think I'll answer here:

Dear Neil~ First of all, thank you so much for all the works you have made. Although I have yet to read them all, everything i read just keeps me searching for more. At the moment I am thoroughly engrossed in a comic series you began and now assist in..Books of Magic. I've been told repeatedly because of this that I should begin reading Sandman, but it just seems like so much to find at such a high cost...Poor college students unfortunately have other priorities..like food..::smiles:: just kidding. Anyways, I was wondering what you would suggest to begin reading in the series? With books of magic i've always purchased the books instead of the individual comics so if there is something out there of that nature, i would be truly grateful. Well, thank you for your time and reading this...and I wonder, I've been thinking of studying abroad in england within the next few years...I'm studying to be in medicine, would you recommend it? Thankfully yours, Jenny M.

Er, yes, travel. Always a good idea. There's a whole world out there, after all.

The Sandman comics are all available in book form, if that's what you're concerned about. There are ten books altogether, and another three that are sort of off to the side.

However, the main thing I'd suggest is to use your libraries. Sandman books -- most graphic novels, heck, most books -- are expensive. A full set of paperbacks will set you back around $200. But most libraries either have them or can get them for you on inter-library loan. Talk to the librarians at your college or town. Order the first four books -- Preludes and Nocturnes, The Doll's House, Dream Country and Season of Mists, and then go on from there.

I notice that Amazon.co.uk has the Bloomsbury (ie the British) edition of Coraline up here -- Amazon.co.uk: Coraline hardback.

It also has Coraline in paperback up, but that edition won't be coming out this year -- it's just hardback. The art director of Bloomsbury, I was told, hid in someone's garden with a camera and waited for hours for the lights to come on in the house to get the cover photograph...

Woke up early -- actually, because the clock on my computer was still on East Coast time, I woke up an hour earlier than I thought I had, which was already pretty early, so did an FAQ answer for all the people who had sent me "how do I deal with writer's block" FAQ queries. The wind is howling like a wolf around the house.

Lots of writing to get on with. Also an attempt to rescue my assistant's vanished e-mail from her imac...

Tuesday, March 26, 2002

Home again.

So I made a speech last night at NKU, then I read from Coraline for an hour, and then I did a 45 minute Q & A, read Crazy Hair and followed it with a two hour signing. Someone in the signing line brought bottles of berry flavour Clearly Canadian and some sweets as a present, which came in very useful as it got later and later and I faded more and my handwriting got wonkier and wonkier.

It was fun. The only thing I find frustrating is that reading Coraline in front of live audiences, at Aggiecon on Sunday and then last night at NKU, I'm really starting to find what works in the text and where the beats and the voices are, in a way you only can while reading aloud to a room filled with people who can cough and shift and laugh and hush -- knowledge I really wish I'd had when I was recording the audio book a couple of weeks ago, with only a microphone, a glass wall, and an occasional disembodied voice asking me to take that again as a truck went past. Ah well. (Insert shrug here.) It just means it'll be better live than it was on the audio book.

Sunday, March 24, 2002

So, I flew from Texas to Cincinnati in a small plane, and am now too tired to go out and find anything to eat (hotel room service stopped an hour before I got here) and too hungry to sleep. So I'm running a bath, and nipping online to check e-mail and remind the world that I'm speaking and reading at the the University of Northern Kentucky on Monday the 25th of March before stumbling off to bed.

I'll give a talk and read stuff and answer questions.

A question in on the FAQ line Is there any indication that someone should NOT be a writer? made me think of a mother and son, many years ago, at a Careers Evening at Whitgift College in Croydon, an old school, to which I had returned to be "the writer". Representatives of all professions were there. The civil servants and bankers and hotel management people were all in the main hall. I was off in a side classroom, in a corner with the freelance musician and the actor.

A nervous young man came up to me, accompanied by his mother. He looked at me and said nothing, in a kind of a panic. His mother announced, "Simon wants to be a writer."

"Oh good," I said.

"And what Simon wants to know most," continued Simon's Mother, "Is, is there a lot of job-security as a writer?"

"Ah," I said. "You want hotel management. That's in the main hall."

"Very good," she said. And she went away and took Simon with her.

And in answer to your question, if you worry about job security as a writer, that's a very good indication that you aren't a writer. Hating writing is another good one, although I know writers who hate writing. (They are miserable.)

Apart from those two, you're on your own.

There's a review of American Gods in paperback in The Times (the one in London; you can tell from that capitalised T in The.) It finishes "...His wit and sense of the marvellous shine through, making American Gods an absolute must for fans of the genre, whatever that may be." Which made me smile sympathetically. It's obviously genre fiction -- but which genre...?

...

At Aggiecon. Lovely people in abundance. Signed for several hours today, for lots of happy people.

Friday, March 22, 2002

Someone asked me on the Well at Engaged: Conference: inkwell.vue, Topic 144 whether I knew anything about the rumours that the Good Omens film had "collapsed." My reply was...

Not that I know of. They've been having trouble putting together the
money (65 million plus) for some time, and the last time I saw Terry
Gilliam he mentioned that if it didn't happen soon, he'd go off and do
TIDELANDS, which will cost infinitely less, because if he didn't make a
film soon (given what happened to QUIXOTE) he'd go crazy. As far as I
know, if that happens, it means that Good Omens simply goes down to
next-on-the-list while the producers spend the intervening time trying
to nail down the financing.

The script is good, the cast seem committed, and the producers have
the foreign financing in place. What they need is a US studio to commit
some money (I think it's about $15 million) to the project, and no US
studio seems ready to take the plunge yet.

My attitude on all Hollywood things is not to expect any of them to
happen until I'm sitting at the premiere eating my popcorn. Worrying
about the ups and downs of getting a film made could drive anyone to
drink.

Thursday, March 21, 2002

You know, a lot of the things people hunt for on this site without success can be found with ease over at The Dreaming: The Neil Gaiman Page, Joe "Puck" Fulgham's site, maintained by him and the talented Lucy Anne.

I'm at Texas A&M for Aggiecon, and would post something sensible and intelligent, but have been travelling since really early this morning and am utterly exhausted.

My heart swelled with pride though when daughter Holly (who flew down to Texas to keep me company here) handed me small daughter Maddy's first CD. She made it in the same studio I recorded the next spoken word album in, and from a photo I was e-mailed today looks like she had much more fun than I did. It's her playing the violin, duetting with herself and so on -- a Suzuki Book 1 Graduation tape that got a little out of hand.

Proofread the Biting Dog Press edition of the play for voices "Snow Glass Apples" on the plane, then sat back and read while the ladies on each side of me chatted cheerfully across me to to each other about their experiences in marketing cellular phones ("I told him, I may not be a CEO but you remember who came up with 'Free weekends -- for life!' and it sure wasn't him,") battles with cancer ("I said honey, you just tell those people to call me. I can tell them, cos I beat it not once but twice"), the uselessness of studying any language in school except Spanish, and the search for meaning in a corporate world. Not that I was listening.

At the end, one of the ladies asked what I did. I said I was a writer. "Well," she said, "When are you going to be a New York Times Bestseller then?" It was the kind of cheerfully patronising thing people say to strangers they meet on planes. I'm sure if I'd said I was a musician she'd have said "Well, when are you going to have a hit record then?" I think I was meant to shrug and say "One day," hopefully with a wistful smile, and she would have told me that was the spirit, but I said "Last June," and then it all turned into a strange exercise in pronunciation when she asked me for the title of the book, and I said "American Gods". She said, puzzled, "American Guards?" "No, Gods" said her friend, "American Gods," I added. "American Gourds?" she asked, rather desperately. There is obviously a Texan way of pronouncing Gods that I wasn't able to do.

Wednesday, March 20, 2002

I wrote a piece last week for the Washington Post that began,

It is hard to know whether to talk about R. A. Lafferty in the past or present tense. He is, as far as I know, still alive, but he is old and infirm and can write no longer. But when Lafferty was writing he was undoubtedly the finest writer of whatever it was that he did that ever there was.

I'll have to rewrite that, alas. R. A. Lafferty (1914-2002)

When I was a teenager I wrote a letter to Lafferty, using an address I found in a library book Guide to Living Writers. It was forwarded to him, and for a year or two we corresponded -- he wrote amazing letters, and I felt really honoured that he wrote them to me. He seemed to think I might be a writer, and he took me seriously, and God knows that helped. I always intended to do an article about him, but I never did, and felt faintly guilty about that until 1996 when John Clute let me write the entry on Lafferty in the Encyclopedia of Fantasy.

Sigh.

I got a nice e-mail that reminded me that it had been a while since I talked about the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, which has a new Executive Director, and lots of new information and reading material up on the website, and has cool stuff by me (and other people) for sale, some of it unique to the fund, all monies from which, if you're buying from the CBLDF website, go to a good cause, so you should click on the link and go and take a look around.

The reason the nice e-mail (which I'll quote here in full, and hope the person who sent it doesn't mind) made me think of the CBLDF is because there are some very good and compelling reasons to take out a membership in the fund. Firstly, it shows you support a good cause, and actively contributes to that cause (viz. and to wit: Freedom of speech). Secondly, along with CBLDF membership you get cool extra things, and CBLDF membership-only events are one of those cool things.

This is about a CBLDF membership event several years ago. I came to the San Diego Comic Con by train, to spend a few days quietly working, but discovered when I got on the train that the notebook with the first chapter of American Gods was still on my desk at home. But I had packed the notebook with Coraline in, so for three days across America I wrote chapters six and seven of Coraline. And when I got to the convention, when they asked me to do a reading for the CBLDF membership who were interested, after the party (hosted by Fund supporter Dark Horse Comics' Mike Richardson), I... er, actually, I should shut up and just post the letter here.

At the 99 Comic Con International my wife, two friends (both comics shop owners) and I were treated to a special reading Neil did for the card carrying members of the CBLDF: after a fun party for us no less! It was late and we only had a tiny room in the Clarion hotel to barrow and the lighting was not to conducive to dimming for the audience with a enough for Neil to actually be able to see the text he was to read.

Many folks laugh at me for carrying around a large waist pack that is full of a myriad of stuff that makes them laugh even more. This time however it made them cheer. Within my bag of tricks I had a few feet of duck tape, a knife/tool (actually two) that I used, along with some thin card board I found in the area to create a "shade" for the light I was able to situate above Neil's head that would allow the room to be darkened yet have a spotlight for Neil, but I digress.
Neil treated us to his new "children's" story, "The Wolves in the Walls" which was wonderful and exciting enough for all forty, or so listeners to keep awake for. Then came another exquisite treat, the first public reading of the new story he was working on while riding the train to Comic Con, the first half (or so) of Coraline! Neil warned those of us left (it was about 2am at this point) that this was a work in progress and that we would not hear the end since he had not reached it yet, or even much of the second half. Most all said that this was fine with us, while a couple folks said good night. I am always willing to loose sleep for a great story.

The story was absolutely fabulous. It was creepy, intriguing and as always exceptionally well paced with fantastic dialog that keeps you intrigued . It was a touch maddening (something I have to live with anyway) not hearing it all , but this only heightens the excitement for the time when I finally get the whole story. I was as enamored with this story as I was the first time I saw "A Nightmare Before Christmas" and just as ready to "see it again", but most folks including Neil and my wife were tired: I can hardly believe the time and energy Neil gives to us fans. Thank you Neil!

I have seen/heard Neil read (and wear a bright red vest while at it once) about six times over the years and this one was one of the best. Neil does a wonderful job of acting out all the characters and providing enormous emotion and depth that I usually have to do myself with only his guidance, but I am more than happy to have the author do it all for me now and again. This must be why I love audio dramas.

Thank you Neil for not only the great stories, but feelings, ideas and energy you bring with you and infuse in your work. I only hope the wine I give you when ever I see you now is a third as wonderful as your works. I can't wait to hear you once again. This time I will bring along a new friend whom I have "converted" over the past two years who is now asking to be taken to my friend's comics shop so she can assemble her own Gaiman collection.

Sean Thorniley
Santa Rosa, CA



[I should add, for the sceptical among you, that the bit about the red vest (I think of it as a scarlet velvet waistcoat) is quite true. I've only ever worn it once, at a CBLDF midnight reading in, I have just been informed, 1995.]

Tuesday, March 19, 2002

Someone sent in a link to - Zealot.com: Coraline Preview -. You people are astonishingly fast... Interestingly, the sentence about the Other Mother's hair is no longer in the book (although I talk about it elsewhere in there).

Last year someone sent me an online review of the reading I did at the World Horror Convention in Denver. It was 11.00pm and although I wasn't on the program they gave me a room to read CORALINE in. And I read it until 2.00 am, learning that it takes 3 hours to read, and all but one of the people who stayed to the end managed to keep awake, and I was proud of them.

I thought we should start to gather together things that people have said about Coraline for the upcoming neilgaiman.com/coraline site, and a quick google search didn't show it up. So if you have it (or if you wrote it) send a message through the FAQ line and I'll link to it or put it up here.

Are Authors Abused by Used? is an article by M.J. Rose up on Wired.com that means that I am quoted on the front page of Wired.com... although I'm quoted on the front page as "An Author" (presumably on the basis that my name wouldn't mean anything to Wired readers)...

Seeing that only that one quote makes it into the article, here's the full text of my reply to M.J. Rose's e-mail asking whether or not I thought that authors were being abused by used booksellers...

Well, bear in mind that the background I come from is that of comics, where a trade in back issues is part of the terrain. When Sandman #1 was trading for $100 a copy, I saw none of that, and had long since assumed that the trade in old books and comics went with the territory, and was a good thing in the long run: if someone reads a book of mine in paperback, or borrows it from a friend, or gets it for half-price on a book-trading site or in a store where they sell second-hand paperbacks along with aquariums, pet-food and vacuum-cleaner parts, or picks it up in a battered hardback from a remainder table, they're finding out whether or not they like what I write. And if they do then one day, if they can afford it, they'll be lining up to buy a new hardback, or a new paperback.

Lord knows, most of the books I bought in my teens were bought second hand. Sometimes they smelled kind of weird, but it was the only way I was going to read old Sheckley or Lafferty or Peter O' Donnell.

Books, like magazines, have pass-along rates. They don't come with single-user software licenses. I think this is a good thing. If I read a book and like it, I'll lend it to you and hope you give it back. (GOOD OMENS has probably sold a couple of million copies by now, internationally, but its pass-along rate is tens of times that, judging by the copies people bring to signings, which have been lent to everyone they know, are held together with tape and dried soup, and have obviously been dropped into the bath at some point.)

Obviously, it makes me uncomfortable when I see Amazon erroneously listing books that are in print as out of print and sending people to used book dealers to buy them, just as it makes me uncomfortable when I see people on eBay paying $75 for my spoken word double CD "Warning Contains Language", which they could get from DreamHaven new for less than half that. There's not a lot one can do about these things, other than write to publishers telling them to ask Amazon to update their database.

This is probably much more than you wanted. Still, to make it explicit: I don't regard every second-hand book sold as a dollar taken from my mouth. I've already been paid for that book at some point. I regard second-hand sales as things that make future readers.

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Monday, March 18, 2002

I hear from George Guidall that the American Gods audiobook is nominated for an AUDIE award -- the Best Audiobooks of the Year...

I hope he wins, although considering the competition in the category we're up against I think it's anyone's guess.

Let's see...

My name is Yonatan Lew and I'm studying journalism at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada. I'm doing an article for one of my classes and I wanted to ask you, as a writer of fantasy, what you think of the recent upswing of interest in fantasy, thanks to the movie releases of Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings. Why is now the time for fantasy to become more mainstream and what is your reaction to it?

Um, I don't see any difference, I'm afraid, in the world of fantasy pre-HarryPotterandLord oftheRingsmovies and post-HarryPotterandLord oftheRingsmovies. Other than publishers selling an awful lot more copies of Lord of the Rings in more forms than anyone would have thought possible, which is, I think, a good thing if people get something out of it, and a very good thing if, having got something out of it they go and look for more books like it.

The best reaction to the success of Lord of the Rings was in 1969, when Lin Carter piggybacked on the success of LOTR to do the Ballantine Adult Fantasy line, bringing back some of the most wonderful books ever written into print, putting great covers on them, and hooking a generation of readers into E.R. Eddison and Hope Mirrlees and Lord Dunsany, James Branch Cabell and Ernest Bramah, Mervyn Peake and George MacDonald even people as disparate as G. K. Chesterton, William Morris and William Beckford. If you liked Lord of the Rings back then and wanted more of the same then and went looking for it, there were treasures and not much else.

These days, if you like Lord of the Rings and go to the Fantasy shelves to see what else there is like that, you are apt to find some pretty gamy fare. (Yes, there's good stuff. But it's harder to find.)

[People often ask me to recommend books and authors, and I don't do it enough. As a general rule, the books on the Ballantine Adult Fantasy List were good. (You can find the complete list at http://home.epix.net/~wallison/bafs.html.) Yes, there were a few exceptions -- and, I should add, good doesn't always mean easy-to-read: when I was 14 or 15 I joined the book of the month club in order to get myself a complete Oxford English Dictionary (The 13 volumes reduced to 2 huge volumes of tiny print, which came with a magnifying glass) for much,much less than the two hundred pounds it would have cost to buy it properly, purely in order to be able to read the William Morris THE WELL AT THE WORLD'S END: he had an irritating tendency to use English words with accurate but archaic definitions I couldn't find in any dictionary I had, and I wanted to know what he was saying.]

I can't justify putting this one in the FAQ page:
my copy of 'don't panic' turns into a softcore german porn book at the end (honestly). is this normal?

Well, none of my copies of Don't Panic have ever turned into softcore german porn. That I know of. Is yours a copy of the US edition, the Titan (UK) Edition or the German edition? I'd drop a line to whoever published it. And write back and tell us what they say.

I think I've just finished the first draft of a movie script. Or maybe it's the draft before the first. But either way, it's finished, more or less.

Sunday, March 17, 2002

And this will be the very last picture for a while -- but I wanted to make this blogger the first place that anyone publically got to see the cover of the Harper edition of Coraline. (Which is why I've been trying to get the picture thing to happen.)

Another attempt to post an image here. We stumble closer with every attempt.


Well, I seem to have got it to work. Sorry if it slows the downloads for any of you... it's an early version of the cover of A WALKING TOUR OF THE SHAMBLES. That's Gene Wolfe on the left, that's me on the right. I do look troubled. But then, so does Alice.

Oh. Happy St. Patrick's day. (You know, I miss Ireland.) Right. Back to writing stuff. Scribble. Scribble. Type.

We're doing a lot of tidying and organising over in FAQs right now. Grand Moff Zoe (not his real name) has listed all the Questions and categorised them, which should mean that I'll spend some time soon starting to fill holes, and create something useful, rather than just interesting.

Did I remind everyone I'll be at Aggiecon in texas this coming weekend, and then Cincinnati, then home (I think I zoom in and out of Minicon to interview Rick Berry)?

Well I am.

Saturday, March 16, 2002

Good morning. One day, this thing will work, and suddenly there will be a week or so of posts (slightly jumbled in terms of order of posting, but that seems to be another Blogger Pro It's Not a Bug It's a Feature thing). I rather doubt that today will be the day, it being a quiet sort of a Saturday, but I'm just posting this to see if things have improved. In the meantime I'm copying the posts in the FAQ page, and will take them down when it starts working here).

Friday, March 15, 2002

You know, this is starting to get irritating. After 13 months of working fine (well, except when I'd do something stupid) on blogger, we upgrade... and currently have an almost randomly stacked bunch of posts sitting here, not up on the site, with odd time and date listings, promiscuously tossed between several folders. I wonder if we asked them nicely if they'd cancel the credit card bill, and give us back all those boring free features, like, well, being able to post things that people could read for a start. Sigh.

Had a long talk with Harpers about the redesign of this website. I think that it's going to be really good.

US CORALINE stuff that I know about...

1) Music on the audio book is by The Gothic Archies (featuring Stephin Merritt). The Gothic Archies has been described as "The Magnetic Fields with every spark of hope extinguished" although not by me. The HELLO CD of the Month club Gothic Archies CD was how I discovered Stephin Merritt in all his incarnations, and is still one of my favourite things. The song the rats sing will be up on the website, although you'll need to buy the audio book (read by me, 3 CDs or 3 cassettes) to hear "You're Not My Mother And I Want To Go Home."

2) There will be promotional marbles. Honest there will. Three of them in a promotional marble bag. Going to stores and librarians and so on.

3) A very limited 500 copy signed edition will be made available to retailers through Diamond Distributors. I'm not sure what the qualifications will need to be for a store to be able to get one -- probably ordering a certain number of copies of Coraline, or of backlist titles or something. The limited book will have some unused Dave McKean artwork (including his first cover design -- which he didn't like, so he did another the following week, which is the one we're using) and some other stuff, including some reproductions of handwritten manuscript pages. It's not going to be available through regular bookstores, only places with Diamond accounts, and is being done by Harper in association with Diamond.

Just received my first Bloomsbury bound proof copy of Coraline ( a very stark black and white thing looking like an old Penguin paperback).

It says something about, well, the fall-out from the publication history of American Gods, that my immediate first reaction was to nip to ebay and see if there were any up for sale yet. (There weren't. Only Five Coraline Corset advets from the 1920s, and a Russian Coraline tea set.)

You know, I don't really mind people selling proof copies on e-bay. What I mind is them selling unread, mint condition proofs. The whole point of the proofs is for people -- journalists, booksellers, publishers reps -- to get to read the book before anybody else. If they simply sell the proof unread -- well, they make money, and somebody gets to be fairly happy because they've read a book before anyone else.

On the "abridged Coraline" being advertised over at Amazon.com, I dropped a note to Harper Collins, who pointed out that Amazon also have the price and the ISBN wrong. Sigh. I'm really hoping that the various Amazons can sort out all the orders they've taken for versions of Coraline that don't exist (like the Amazon.co.uk Paperback Coraline, not to mention the mysterious "Cordelia") that people have ordered over the last 6 months.

Saw the redesign of the whole neilgaiman.com site today. Visually, and, I hope, in terms of the way the stuff on here is organised, it's going to be amazing. Truly scrumptious, as they said on that Dick van Dyke movie.

And I continue to write these blogger entries. And Blogger Pro continues not to post them. Hope springs eternal. Oh well. Happy ides of March. Happy march of ideas.

So I'm writing a script right now, and it's been driving me nuts for about eight months (during which time I have mostly not been writing it, but sort of chewing it in the back of my head, like a dog with an old bone), and today it all started to come together. It went over a couple of days from a lot of disconnected bits to something that had a voice and a point of view. I have no idea how this happened, but it made me smile. It also made the idea that I might actually get through the year without getting too much further behind on too many things seem... well, possible.

No idea if Blogger Pro is working yet. http://www.needcoffee.com/html/recommend.html puts in a sweet plug for The Day I Swapped My Dad For Two Goldfish.

On the other hand, the FAQs, which aren't upgraded to Blogger Pro, work like a charm. There's a moral there somewhere.

I think I'll try the alternate password and login and see if that still works.

-- Odd. This one has put itself in the "future" folder, but the time on it is correct for once. (I wonder where, when these posts actually post, it will decide it actually lives.)

Ah well. I shall stop picking at it, and leave it all to Authors on the Web and Blogger to try and sort out, and hope it does.

Thursday, March 14, 2002

So things look a lot better in this journal than they did yesterday. We're in the middle of an upgrade to Blogger Pro. We're also heading toward a complete site redesign. (If you have any brilliant ideas for things we need on the website for the next (at a guess) year, now is the time to suggest it on the FAQ line. Or e-mail Julia Bannon.)

One that I want, for example, is some kind of sort or search facility for the FAQs so you can find out at a glance if the BBC version of Neverwhere is legally available on VHS or DVD in the US, or whatever, without having to hunt through 10,000 words of bits.

There will be lots of stuff on Coraline soon, by the way.

Am reading DOGSBODY by Diana Wynne Jones to Maddy, and was thrilled to hear that Harper are going to bringing all of Diana's backlist back into print, including Archer's Goon, a book which is on my shortlist for one of the best books in the world, because my own old copies are much read and treasured, and are barely in physical shape to survive a long read to an interested seven year old.

According to the mysteries of Blogger Pro I should be able to attach a picture to this post. I'm going to stick in the tentative cover to A WALKING TOUR OF THE SHAMBLES for several reasons, not wholly unrelated to it being a very small file and it being cheap advertising. Wish me luck...

Hmph. Nothing doing. Just internal server errors. Oh well.

In a pitiful attempt to recover from the picture-posting fiasco I shall share some interesting information with you. (Well, it's interesting to me, anyway.) This just in from Adam Stemple, who is producing the new series of Audio CDs I'm doing through DreamHaven:

Here is the tracklist and some of the info for the cover:

1. A Writer's Prayer
2. Harlequin Valentine
3. Boys & Girls
4. The Wedding Present
5. The End

Produced by Adam Stemple
Music by Robin "Adnan" Anders
Mixed by Leo Whitebird at P.O.D. Studios, Minneapolis, MN


So now we know. (I recorded enough for 3 CDs last year, so Adam's decided what's going where.) Cover and design for the first CD will be by Rick Berry. The artist and musicians will change from CD to CD, but it'll just be me doing the readings either way, so anyone hoping for the cultured tones of anyone else in the whole world will be sadly out of luck.

It's 9:34 am. The time on that last post, which I put in about a minute ago, says 2:32 pm, which seems to mean Blogger Pro has moved from Pacific Time to Greenwich Mean Time. I'm going to see if the option to set a time for a post works. Just ignore this post when you come to read it. Nothing going on here.

Hmmm. So, Blogger (the free service that runs this journal) worked fine. Blogger Pro (a paid service that allows you to do a lot more) doesn't seem to work at all. Yesterday's post is sitting unsent, still (and it's somehow re-dated itself to today.) I do not feel like a shining advertisment for Blogger Pro.

I shall not grumble about Blogger Pro. Instead I shall grumble about the Weekly World News, and their recent article on flesh-eating sheep. Not only is the flesh-eating sheep depicted the single worst photoshop job I've ever seen, but they describe a herd of flesh-eating sheep as "bovine bullies". "Bovine" means having to do with members of the Cow family -- oxen, bulls, etc. Sheep would be "ovine bullies". When a shining example of the journalistic arts like the Weekly World News gets this sloppy, what hope is there for papers like the New York Times, or the Guardian?

Monday, March 11, 2002

Blink. Blink. I wonder what's happened here. We seem to have become some kind of pop-up window with no links to anything else (particularly not the archives). I know the site redesign is just about to happen, and I know they're talking about upgrading to Blogger pro, and I still have no idea why this has suddenly happened. How odd. You'd think they'd let me know, wouldn't you?

If you need to get to the home page of Neilgaiman.com, click here. (It may be useful for those of you who came in on a link, or have this page bookmarked.) http://www.neilgaiman.com/journal_archives/archive.asp# is a link to the journal archives, for any of you who want to go back more than a week to check something.

So I handed in the Bill Sienkiewicz "DELIRIUM" story for ENDLESS NIGHTS.

Karen-my-editor asked me if I'd noticed that Delirium only had two lines of dialogue in it, and I said I knew, and that she'd do most of the talking in the Destruction story to make up for it, and, as Delight, in the Morpheus story (which takes place very early in continuity. Oh no, much earlier than that). I hope very much Bill likes it. His story has one character in it who's an outsider artist, based loosely on both A. G. Rizzoli and on Henry Darger, each of whom I thought was incredibly obscure, until I discovered, on my last trip to New York, the Darger exhibit at the American Folk Art museum, and Darger as a sort of default topic of conversation amongst cabbies and newsvendors. ("So. Henry Darger. Was he a loon or what?") Rizzoli's still very obscure, though, so here's a Rizzoli piece

Lance "Squiddie" Smith from DreamHaven sent me this, for the person whose retailer couldn't find the Zulli Morpheus Poster in the March 2002 Previews.

I don't know if you want to post this sort of info on the blog, but given
the last letter, here are the relevant details on the Zulli poster:
It's on page 94 of the March 2002 Previews
Diamond calls it The Sandman: Morpheus PosterIn store date is listed as August 28
Retail Price $7.95
It's Item code is MAR020466 (given that, any retailer better be able to
order it.)
Lance


Sunday, March 10, 2002

Two questions:
Are you and Gene Wolfe signing copies of A Walking Tour of the Shambles at the World Horror Convention? and - As you recommended - I asked my comic dealer to order The October Man. (Hooray for Mr. Zulli! and your initial neglect of it ;) Of course, it was not on DC's list (I believe he said) through March. Should I expect it to be on a subsequent catalogue, or is the poster distributed through special order?
Thank you for your paitence


I'm sure that Gene will be doing a signing at World Horror. I'm sure that I will be as well. The odds are good that we'll also sign extra copies of Shambles while we're there for publisher Bob Garcia, and if I know Greg Ketter at DreamHaven, he'll also get us to sign some copies for his mail order customers. I can't guarantee that if you're at World Horror you'll get your copy signed -- depends how many people are in the signing lines, how much time is available to sign in, whether they limit numbers (as they wound up having to do at Boskone) and so on. But you probably will.

On your second question, if your retailer doesn't know anything about the Michael Zulli poster, you could always mail-order it from DreamHaven or from one of the online retailers. The poster is being printed to initial orders, so when they come out they're pretty much already sold and after that you have to pay too much for them on E-Bay. (It's not how I'd do business, but then, nobody asks me.)

You could show your retailer the following web page:
http://www.toonzone.net/comics/solicitations/2002-05/dcdirect.html It's about 1/3 of the way down the page.

Hi Neil! I was wondering what the best place to get sushi in New York City was, in your opinion. I'm going there soon and I want to chow down on some good cuisine! Thanks!Don Well, for the best in the poshest sense, it's either Nobu or Nobu Next Door. I thought the food was better at Nobu Next Door (and was not impressed by the way that Nobu gave Miso with clams in it to a diner at our table who had explained, when the waiter had asked if anyone had any allergies, that if she tasted shellfish she would stop breathing. She went off in a taxi to the emergency room, and, while they didn't charge us for the food she'd eaten before being taken away, I felt that, all things considered, they fell somewhat short of perfect service). (This was a meal for the people who won an E-Bay auction and paid several thousand dollars to the CBLDF for dinner with me, on the Last Angel Tour.)

Beyond that, all New Yorkers have their favourite places, and they take me to them when I'm in New York, and I almost always find myself agreeing that that really was lovely. I did a google search which turned up http://www.sushi.infogate.de/rest/na_usa_newyork_newyorkcity.htm When I'm in midtown I tend to go to Kurumazushi on 56th between 5th and 6th for lunch. Not posh at all, but nice food.

http://hometown.aol.com/garpubserv/myhomepage/business.html is the American Fantasy website, and they have a rough design of the cover of the me-and-Gene-Wolfe "Walking Tour of the Shambles" up now.

Okay. Duncan is Tori�s personal chef. This is the drink he makes for her, and is posted with his permission. He says to make sure it�s not too hot when you drink it, and he adds that an ice-pack on the throat for about 20 minutes after coming off stage can reduce inflammation of the vocal chords.

Half a teaspoon of slippery elm
One dessertspoon of honey
two teaspoons of lemon juice
Add just a drop of water
and cream this to a paste.
Then add
6 thin slices of root ginger (or more, to taste)
3-4 thin slices of lemon cut into halves or quarters
Add boiling water, stir, let it sit, and let it cool a bit before drinking.


Just wrote a couple of paragraphs on R.A. Lafferty for the Washington Post. Now typing up the Delirium story for Bill Sienkiewicz for Endless Nights. (I finished it a few weeks ago, and have just been struggling to find the time to type it. Sigh.)

You may have answered this question already, but I just pre-ordered Coraline, both in book and audio from from amazon.com, and the entry says that both are abridged. Why abridged? Will there be an unabridged edition later, or is this simply another amazon.commian error? It's just them being odd. The audio isn't abridged. The book isn't abridged. They are both completely unabridged. I sent one of those "corrections" things in you can do now -- sometimes they make a difference, sometimes they don't.

(Oddly enough, Barnes and Noble.com seems to imply that Coraline's been out for so long that the only way to get a copy is second hand.)

Saturday, March 09, 2002

Over on the SFsite (a lovely site to go and potter around in, if you're English, or putter around in if you're American) the Reader's Poll results are in: Last Month we were at #2 on the Year's Critics list -- are we up or down from the readers? Go to http://www.sfsite.com/columns/best02b.htm and find out. (The SFSite Readers get a big thumbs up from me for listing Kelly Link's Stranger Things Happen as one of their books of the year. Quick, buy a copy if you do not have one!)


There's also an audio review column at http://www.sfsite.com/columns/vox123.htm where the audio book is reviewed. ("To the excellent writing, add George Guidall's brilliant performance. The production quality is excellent, and Guidall is one of the finest performers in the business. The combination made this the best audio I've heard this year.") Other highlights include a wonderful interview with Ursula K LeGuin, and an exchange of letters between Gwyneth Jones and an SF Site reviewer which makes for entertaining reading, although it confirms me in my belief that if you don't like a review, or if the reviewer missed the point of the book, or something, the wisest course of action is to bite your tongue and hope the reviewer likes the next book -- or doesn't get it to review. You'll never convince someone they liked a book they didn't. The best you can hope for is that one day a reader will go back to it and find that she or he is no longer the same person who read the book and didn't like it. (God knows, it's happened enough to me over the years that I'm much more hesitant to pronounce a book Good or Bad than once I was.)


Let's see... http://www.sfsite.com/columns/geeks108.htm contains a review of the cover of American Gods...


http://www.sfsite.com/05a/lm103.htm is the SFsite review of Lud In the Mist, which I commend to any of you who are sighing for something to read.


...


I'm falling off the world at present to try and get a few things finished. We'll see whether I have a good internet connection or not where I am. (Currently typing this in Minneapolis airport, as the time of my plane gets later and later, and I sit here repeating to myself that airport food court sushi is NOT a good thing to eat and is in fact a very bad idea. Sometimes my natural optimism makes me forget this, and pay real money for sad, fishy, rubbery things that make me sad when I sit in the food court and eat them. I shall remember. I will be strong.)


Friday, March 08, 2002

Finished recording the audio book of Coraline today.

"That was wonderful," said the producer, in the elevator on the way out. "That was one of the best things I've been involved with in such a long time."

I blushed and said something modest.

"Well," she said, "Having said that, you should know that most of the Audio Books we wind up recording here in Minnesota are twelve step program books by people who aren't really writers and can't read the books they've written. So I get to sit there listening to accounts of all the dreadful things they did before they cleaned their lives up, and they just go on and on and they can't write.... but you really were good," she added, seeing the expression on my face.


...

Phoned Duncan, Tori's chef, this morning and got his honey-ginger throat soother recipe -- with his permission I'll post it up here...

Thursday, March 07, 2002

Long day, spent in K.N.O.W (the NPR station in St Paul) in Studio P, recording the audio book of CORALINE.

This is how you record an audio book. You lay the pages on the table, two at a time. You start to read them. You get up to the good bit. The producer comes over the intercom and tells you that they picked up the noise of your tummy rumbling on that last line and could you start from the beginning of the paragraph again.

You rapidly learn how many strange noises your body makes, that can be picked up by a microphone, while you just want to read.

Also you learn how incredibly exhausting reading aloud can be when everything has to be perfect and correct for posterity. I've got a good producer, which makes it easier. Today I read the beginning through to the end of Chapter 8 -- page 120ish. About 50 pages left to read tomorrow, and I'll redo the first chapter when we get to the end (because I'm sure the first few pages were stiff and awkward). Mostly I'm happy with it, although I worry that the cat sounds too much like Julian Clary, and Miss Spink and Miss Forcible have almost the same voice, and that my own accent is a bit of a transatlantic mess. Also my throat feels as if it spent all day reading...

My friend Tori swears by a drink of chopped up fresh ginger and honey before she sings. I'll try it tomorrow morning before reading round two.

...

Today I was e-mailed the Gahan Wilson cover to A WALKING TOUR OF THE SHAMBLES. It's a caricature of me and Gene Wolfe, along with Alice, the White Rabbit, a crocodile and one of the inhabitants of the House of Clocks, done in that inimatable Gahan Wilson style. It's wonderful, and very appropriate.

When I was a teenager I used to risk the ire of shop assistants in newsagents by going up on tiptoes and taking the copy of Playboy from the top shelf, and flipping through it looking for the Gahan Wilson full-page cartoon. And now I'm in one (a Gahan Wilson cartoon, not a copy of Playboy). How cool is that? (Mr Gaiman wanders off into the sunset, his bosom swelling with pure fanboy pride.)

Tuesday, March 05, 2002

In the Sandman/Death story, "The Sound of Her Wings," (Sandman No. 9, I think?) there is a poem that's recited that begins, "Death is before me today like the recovery of a sick man" (I cannot quote it all because I don't have the book before me). Are you the author of those lines or are they someone else's? I'd like to use that poem in an intro to something I'm writing and I'd like to make sure I credit the right person.
Sandman 8. It's a Babylonian poem I found quoted in the first volume (I think) of Joseph Campbell's Masks of God.

I know I've asked this before but Did you see the excerpt of the Dave McKean film about God before time began in the Dfilm.com sreening room? No, I got my copy of The Week Before from Dave McKean. He's planning to put out a DVD of his short films.
They're all marvellous.

When I was speaking at MIT last year I read a bit from the "Walking Tour of the Shambles" story Gene Wolfe and I have been writing. One of the listeners noted that a URL was part of the section and ran out and registered it before the end of the evening. http://www.preserveusfromthehouseofclocks.com/ is the result...

Right. Back to work.

Sorry about that. I didn't really fall off the earth. I shall simply blame Dell computers and their power-cord adapters that don't work, and leave it at that... (This is now the third Latitude AC adapter for this computer.)

So...

Lots of Coraline information...

I record the audio book of Coraline this week.

The Audio Book (which won't be abridged. Amazon.com seem to think it will be but it won't.) will be out in May.

Coraline will be released in hardcover in the US on July 2nd.

Current plans are for one (1) US signing for Coraline around publication date.

The UK release is mid-August. I'll be in the UK for the Edinburgh Literary Festival, and a small signing/reading tour in late august.

Then in September will be the second round of US/Canadian stuff. Mostly readings. Probably about five of them in the US and a couple in Canada.

That's the current sort-of-plan.

And now I shall go back to trying to copy edit the US and the UK editions of Coraline at the same time.
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