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Sunday, June 30, 2002

Having a very computery bad day. Typing this on the Libretto, which I pulled out of mothballs, while I find out whether scandisk can fix the Dell notebook's hard drive. Slowly the drive head graunches and whirrs its way across the disk marking and getting data off the bad sectors. Which wouldn't be so bad if I didn't have to head out, with Maddy, to San Francisco first thing tomorrow, for the reading. (I thought, how many times in my life am I going to do something I can actually bring an almost-8-year old daughter to, that she'll be interested in?) Meanwhile the libretto isn't set up to get e-mail or anything useful, and the introductions, articles and stories I should have been working on are all on the Dell....

Oh, I nearly forgot. Long chat today with Michael Zulli, who has recently managed to retrieve all the SWEENEY TODD posters. This is a poster he painted almost decade ago, to accompany the series we began in Taboo. Five colour, printed on art-quality stock. There were some that were signed by both of us, and there were others that were unsigned, and he now has them all. (I'm not sure what will happen with Sweeney, really. We may finish it as a From Hell sized comic, or I might write it as a novel and ask Michael to illustrate each chapter, or something else might happen.) But the posters exist, and are beautiful objects, last seen selling for $100 each at a New York gallery. Michael needs the space back and isn't sure what to do with them, and I told him that I'd mention it here, and that if people were interested I'd figure out a way to send the people his way. (I just looked on e-bay to see if any were out there, and was amused to find a Michael Zulli drawing of a bull terrier for sale.)

And if any of you are coming in late, Tuesday the 2nd of July, I'll be doing a reading in Berkeley of the whole of Coraline, which is my new book for readers of all ages. http://www.codysbooks.com/coraline-reading.jsp for details...

Oh good. Brazil won the World Cup. (Well, if England couldn't -- and Brazil saw to that...) So to celebrate, here is Sonhar.NET - the Brazilian Sandman site.

Incidentally, because there are probably a few fans of Cats Laughing out there, I should mention that their two albums (one a long out of print CD, the other an even longer out of print cassette) are now sort of available once more on CD-R here. The one that was cassette-only includes the original Cats Laughing version of "Signal to Noise" (later done by the Flash Girls) and my favourite ever cover of the suicidal standard "Gloomy Sunday".

As the reviewer points out, if Cats Laughing were still going we'd be down several other bands and a few fantasy authors to boot.

Saturday, June 29, 2002

Again, following on from the world beneath Moscow, a few people have helpfully sent http://www.lasvegascitylife.com/display/inn_cover_story/cover.txt, which tells of the people in the tunnels and storm-drains beneath Las Vegas.

I have a few quick questions. The first is this: How on earth do you manage to find the time to keep up with an online journal? I imagine you must be exceptionally busy with the number of projects you appear to have open at any given time, and it strikes me as being rather remarkable that you find the time to post.


Well, pretty much since I've had a modem (a 300/1000 baud one, about the size of a toshiba libretto, and we're in the late 80s here) I've kept up a certain amount of online stuff -- first on Compuserve's Comics Forum, then on Genie's SFRT, then on Compuserve's SF Media Forum and on the Well. This journal has retty much eaten the time I used to give to those kind of places (although I do a monthly dash through the Compuserve Forum, and I still read the great-great grandchild of the original Well Topic, and still post there, just not as much). It's also eaten some e-mail time. (I get a lot more "you never replied -- are you mad at me?" e-mails from friends and acquaintances than I used to.)

But it also saves time, particularly when it comes to answering questions that I'd get asked anyway. The Cody's reading, for example -- I put up enough information that I didn't have to answer fifty e-mails from friends-and-relations saying "Yes, I'll be doing a three hour reading in the Bay Area and here are the details..."

Mostly, it's fun, and I keep it up because a lot of this stuff going on in the background is incredibly interesting to me, and once I start typing then other bits creep in around the edges. If it stops being fun, or if I find myself getting up and looking blearily in the mirror and gloomily going "Oh god, today I have to write a journal entry..." then I'll stop.

(There are some weird bits. For example, on the one hand I know that we get around 90,000 people a month currently reading the journal, of whom I know perhaps a few hundred. On the other hand, I'm always slightly taken aback when a stranger tells me they read it.)

The second question might wind up being more than just one: In your journal, you often talk about your garden rather fondly. I wonder - how long have you enjoyed gardening, and what helped to develop your interest in it? On a side note (and less interesting a question, I imagine) - do you happen to watch BBC America's programs Ground Force or Homefront in the Garden? Thanks. Gloria Astrid

I suspect me and growing things is an essay for another time...

I've watched Ground Force a couple of times. Enjoyed it, but it's not really about gardening, or the thing I enjoy about gardening. I find BBC America to be an astonishingly frustrating channel -- I don't understand why they only have what seems like half a dozen shows they repeat over and over, nor why they feel impelled to break episodes of French and Saunders up into random chunks. Given the quantity of astonishingly good UK TV that no-one in the US has ever seen, repeating a dozen episodes of Ground Force or Changing Rooms daily for several years seems rather a waste.

(And as a side note for readers from the UK, I was given a DVD of "The Best of Morecambe and Wise" some months ago. It was mostly made up of early 70s clips from the BBC Morecambe and Wise show, which surprised me by often being as good as I remembered. I showed some of it to an American who will be nameless because she reads this journal, who laughed dutifully, and then, when we got to one of the sketches where Eric and Ernie were in bed (it's the one where Ernie's reading the Beano) asked when it was made. "Er. About 1973," I said. "Whoa," she said, "I mean, thirty years later they're only just showing gay people on American TV. That's amazing.")

I do still listen to Gardener's Question Time on BBC Radio 4, which still sounds exactly like it did when Terry and I made fun of it in Good Omens 13 years ago.

Neil: Big fan. Yay. Hey, I am also a big fan of Dawn French, and I want to make sure I get her reading of Coraline. Do you know when or where I might get this? I'm sure others would love to know as well... The only one I see on Amazon UK doesn't mention if it's Dawn French or not, and besides it's on a stinky old cassette and not CD. Bah.

Well, if it's the UK audio version, it's definitely Dawn French. I've not heard it yet (and I really want to). I don't know whether or not it'll be available on CD. I suspect it won't be. I learned the other day that the main reason why one of the largest chain bookstores in America (let's call them, oh, VeeandEmm. Farnes and Groble is just too transparent a pseudonym...) had no CDs of Coraline when people went looking for them was because their children's audio buyer was certain that people didn't want them, and only ordered the cassettes.

Now, the US Coraline CD's just gone back to press for a second printing. It's doing fine and better than fine. And I'm certain that a CD version of Dawn French reading it would do as well as the US version. But if audio CDs aren't thought of as a legitimate or popular audio medium for children's fiction, then Bloomsbury would find themselves fighting an uphill battle to get the shops to stock them.

I wrote the liner notes for TWO PLAYS FOR VOICES yesterday. Now I have to come up with a title for the new me-reading-short-stories-and-stuff CD, the first since WARNING: CONTAINS LANGUAGE, over seven years ago. It has on it

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

And I have to come up with a title that fits, or that would work as the first one in a sequence, as I've recorded enough for several CDs.

Friday, June 28, 2002

Looks like the first copies of Coraline have started trickling into the shops, or rather, trickling onto the shelves.

I went to my local Kansas City, MO Barnes and Noble for my usual Friday afternoon visit. I walked into the children's department on a lark, knowing that I would have to wait until Tuesday to get the book. BUT, low and behold, there were several copies, facing out on the shelf staring at me. I am so looking forward to this! Just thought you might want to know that its out. -Carl

Hi there! On your advice, I called Cody's Books to pre-order a copy of Coraline and request that it be set aside with my name tagged to it so that you could sign it. No one there had heard that you were doing this, but i badgered management into setting up a list of names for personalized Coralines to give you. Please let your other readers know that someone has done the footwork on that, and they can now call in to pre-order without confusion.

Cody's said however, that i would have to pick the book up at the store and i was wondering if you could use your nifty guest of honor powers to get them to distribute the copies at the reading. It is hugely inconvenient for me to pick the copy up from the store since i am leaving directly from work to drive 2 hours to the reading... which will likely end after Cody's closes and i will then have to have the book shipped.

um, pretty pretty please?

thanks! o'dette


Query relayed to Cody's -- and the reply was a very straightforward: 90% of the advance orders are mail-outs. As of today, there isn't all that much to take to the church for pickup -- but of course we do take the "hold for pick up on site" copies to the venue. No need for concern. So it sounds like whoever you spoke to wasn't totally clued in.

Just had Wendy at Hair Police give me the kind of haircut that doesn't look like you had a haircut, which she thought was a major improvement over my normal tendency to turn up looking like I have a mop on my head and ask her to make it so I can see through it.

Lots of FAQ queries asking if I was the song I was talking about in the last post was "Snow Cherries From France". Nope -- as far as I know that's still unrecorded. I was thinking of another song, one that, for a good while there, wasn't going to make it onto the album (I'll tell you which one, once the title and the tracks have been officially released.)

...

Tickets to the Cody's event are selling really fast right now, and people are apparently flying in from all over, which I suppose I should have expected, but I still find slightly daunting.

Spoke to Tori yesterday about the new album, and mentioned that I was ready to say something about it in the journal. She�s just finished putting the 60-piece strings on the album, is really excited and happy and up, and asked me please not to say anything publically until I�d heard something closer to what the finished CD is going to be like, with all the instrumentation on all the songs (as what I have on the skeletal CD she gave me is pretty much just piano, and some guitar, bass and drums). Also several songs on the version of the CD I�ve heard are in the process of moving to another place, and a couple of songs that were going to be in another place have moved onto the CD (including one song I loved when I heard it in Florida). I told her it would drive people waiting for news nuts (she said to give everyone her love, I forgot that bit), but I really do understand: she was one of the people I sent American Gods to in rough draft, a chapter at a time, while I was writing it, and I would have frozen and worried if anyone had started talking about it publically before the manuscript was at a point I was comfortable with, no matter how nice the things they were going to say. So I'll wait a few weeks until the somewhat more finished CD arrives....

I�ll say I�m thrilled and excited, though. And I�ll say that it�ll be a long time until October.

Message in from SFX Magazine (the UK's most prominent SF magazine): American Gods was voted by its readers the Best Novel of 2001.

(I wrote an acceptance speech, which I'd post here but can't find, which was apparently delivered on video by Terry Pratchett in a leather jacket and sunglasses, fooling everybody.)

Thursday, June 27, 2002

Delighted to discover that over at Thea Gilmore's website she's put up several songs in Real Audio, which will make my campaign to make people first listen to Thea Gilmore, then buy Thea Gilmore CDs, and finally make Thea Gilmore rich and famous, an awful lot easier. (I was hooked from Resurrection Men on).

This is Melissa Mytinger, marketing director at Cody's Books in Berkeley, host of Neil's July 2 mega-reading.
I've just seen from here at home that Neil mentions he doesn't know whether Cody's is or is not taking pre-orders for CORALINE. Yes, of course we are. And we've taken quite a few to date.
Pre-orders may be telephoned to 510.845.7852, emailed to info@codysbooks.com, or placed in either of our store locations in Berkeley.

So there. It looks like Barnes and Noble in New York are the only ones not taking pre-orders.

Wednesday, June 26, 2002

Yesterday I walked around the garden. I said to my assistant, Lorraine, �We have to get a tree person to come in and cut some of these trees back. Those branches might be dangerous,� and she agreed.

Last night we had the mother of all storms. Several of the larger branches I was concerned about are now sitting on the lawn (one narrowly missed a car as it came down). I suspect all the neighbourhood tree people are going to be busy for quite a while now, as trees must have come down everywhere.

...

Read Gary Wolfe�s review of Coraline in Locus. It made me very happy for a number of reasons � mostly because it looks at Coraline as literary fiction (and specifically literary fantasy fiction) and discusses where it fits in the fantasy tradition, and how it can be read, which means, for example, Wolfe does not talk about Alice in Wonderland and Roald Dahl, which are the sort of positioning touchstones that reviewers normally seem to nod at when talking about Coraline, and instead mentions gonzo Victorian children's writer Lucy Clifford (who, as an aside, I�d learned about first from Grant Morrison in a Thai restaurant in Soho many years ago).

I think there�s some kind of metaphysical law of genre, which says that you can only be in one literary ghetto at a time. Sometimes this can work to one's advantage. It was the joy of comics � it didn�t matter what I did, genre-wise, it was permissable because it�s still comics. Coraline is fantasy literature, but because it�s a children�s book, it�s in the children�s book ghetto (which is a pretty damn wonderful ghetto to be in) and sits on the shelves next to every other kind of children�s book, and can be taken as seriously as any other children�s book. It�s not inferior because it�s fantasy: it�s just part of the canon of children's literature.

Which is, I suspect, where my joy in watching Gary Wolfe write about Coraline as fantastic fiction came from. Also he's a really interesting critic -- Wolfe at his best, like Clute at his best, makes you want to reread the books they talk about, even some of the ones they find wanting, because you've learned a whole new way of reading the text: good critical writing is like being handed a key you can use to open a story with. (Bad critical writing tends to be a "review" -- "I liked this/didn't like this" that just goes on for too long.)
...

Just saw all the pencils of Craig Russell�s DEATH story for the ENDLESS NIGHTS volume, and realised it was 24 pages long. (I did the lettering draft of the script for Todd Klein to letter.) And I thought, in the old days, this would have been exactly the length of an issue of Sandman. I wondered whether Death in Venice could have been an issue of Sandman. And I�m not sure that it would have been � there�s a specific sort of theme in Sandman, even when it seemed to drift furthest from the point, about the gulf between our aspirations � at least our dreams � and our world, about the relationship between our stories and ourselves, that this doesn�t have. It�s a lovely 24 page Death story, though. (And in some ways it�s sort of a weird companion piece to Ramadan.)

...

Finished reading Chapter Four of Archer's Goon, by Diana Wynne Jones to Maddy tonight. It's one of my favourite books, and has been since it was first published in 1984. Reading it aloud is fascinating -- Awful is a much better character, funnier and sharper, then she ever seemed when I was reading her on the page. I remember, back in around 1990, Diana and I were at a Convention together, and we started chatting, and it turned into a discussion of the sequel to Archer's Goon. I wish that I could remember more of the conversation. I know that the family's parents were in it, and I remember Diana saying "And of course Shine still wouldn't get to India..."

Apparently Barnes and Noble in NY aren't accepting pre-orders on Coraline, and Cody's may or may not be set up for it. If you can wait an extra week or so, and you want a copy for you, then maybe the best thing to do is to order a signed copy from DreamHaven in Minneapolis, and we'll give the headaches to Laura and Elizabeth instead.

This is the Publisher's Weekly review. It was starred (which means they liked it) and boxed (which means they feel it's a major book).

Coraline
Neil gaiman, illus. by Dave McKean. HarperCollins, $15.99 (176p) ISBN 0-380-97778-8

British novelist Gaiman (American Gods, Stardust) and his long time accomplice McKean (collaborators on a number of Gaiman's Sandman graphic novels as well as The Day I Swapped My Dad for 2 Goldfish) spin an electrifyingly creepy tale likely to haunt young readers for many moons.

After Coraline and her parents move into an old house, Coraline asks her mother about a mysterious locked door. Her mother unlocks it to reveal that it leads nowhere: "When they turned the house into flats, they simply bricked it up," her mother explains. But something about the door attracts the girl, and when she later unlocks it herself, the bricks have disappeared. Through the door, she travels a dark corridor (which smells "like something very old and very slow")into a world that eerily mimics her own, but with sinister differences. "I'm your mother," announces a woman who looks like Coraline's mother, except "her eyes were big black buttons." Coraline eventually makes it back to her real home only to find that her parents are missing - they're trapped in the shadowy other world, of course, and it's up to their scrappy daughter to save them.

Gaiman twines his taught tale with a menacing tone and crisp prose fraught with memorable imagery ("Her other mother's hand scuttled off Coraline's shoulder like a frightened spider"), yet keeps the narrative just this side of terrifying. The imagery adds layers of psychological complexity (the button eyes of the characters in the other world vs. the heroine's increasing ability to distiguish what is real and what is not; elements of Coraline's dreams that inform her waking decisions). McKean's scratchy, angular drawings, reminiscent of Victorian etchings, add an ominous edge that helps ensure this book will be a real bedtime-buster. Ages 8-up. (July)


...

Talking of Dave Sim, the latest Cerebus arrived yesterday. Funny, sad, weird, and, toward the end, the strangest combination of Deus Ex Machina Plot Bit and really skewering Fantagraphics/Comics Journal parody I've ever seen. Well, anyone has ever seen. (My favourite word was proforeader.)

...

Long e-mail about the mysterious Victoria Walker from someone inspired to do some research. I think he's established that Macmillan controls the US publication rights on her books to this day (no reversion clause), and we have interesting leads. More as it gets more solid.

...

Lots of people wanting to know if "You're Not My Mother and I Want to Go Home" will be available on CD, rather than on the Coraline Audio. Claudia Gonson tells me that it (and the Lemony Snicket songs) will most likely be on the next Gothic Archies CD, but there are no immediate plans to do one.

...

And last but not even a little bit least, Happy Birthday Holly! (She's 17 today.)

BloomsburyMagazine.com - have posted a list of all my signings except Dublin... actually it's possible they've left details of others out as well. But you do have the dates and locations of quite a few appearances....

Tuesday, June 25, 2002

Please, answer this one QUICK!

How do I order Coraline from Cody's or B&N before the signings and make sure you sign it???

I'm gonna be in NY - but i'm gonna miss your tour. Pleeeeeeaaase post an answer when i can still order the book...
your dedicated fan (a bit of flattery can work sometimes...)
- Avri


Easy. With a very few exceptions, you can do this with any author doing a signing at any store. Telephone or e-mail the store in question. Say "Milton X. Vondegarde will be signing in your store. I can't make it to the signing. Can I reserve a signed copy? can it be personalised to me?" And the person on the other end of the phone, or at the other end of the e-mail will normally say yes. You give them a credit card number and spell your name (or the name of the person you want the book dedicated to) and you're done. Either you'll pick up the book, or you pay postage.

Don't
dictate a long message you want the author to inscribe on the lines of, "Dear Hermione, while we have never met your dear friend Ernest (you remember, the hatmaker from Dundee, red hair, can't pronounce his Ws) wanted me to personalise this book to you, and tell you that I wish you all the very best in your career as an artist and he hopes that your cold is doing better. Also please pay particular attention to chapter ten because it makes the whole point about the relationship between men and women better than he ever managed during that argument in Vancouver. Yours, Neil Gaiman." A name, spelled correctly, is enough.

In the reorganisation, it's become a bit harder to find the actual FAQ blog. It's number 7 on the FAQ page, I just learned. I've suggested we find some more intuitive places to link to it, and in the meantime, just click on the link at the start of this post.

By the way, as of a couple of hours ago we've had half a million people come by this site.

Lots of questions from people who want to know about the two upcoming events...

So: The California Event on July 2nd is a reading, of the whole of Coraline, from start to finish. It will be kind of like the one on the CD, except that I will be singing the rat song instead of Stephin Merritt. I may do a Q &A at the beginning or the end, if it's appropriate, or I may not. Haven't decided yet.

You will need a ticket to get in. While they're going fast, the venue IS an 800 seater, so showing up on the 2nd without a pre-booked ticket will probably be okay, but if you're in any way concerned then just go to Cody's and order tickets. (The ticket is also worth $3 against the cost of a Coraline, or if you have a Coraline, then, er, we'll think of something.)

There will be lots of signed stuff for sale. (I'll spend most of Tuesday afternoon signing books. And drawing little rats in them. And, I expect, if you pre-order them from Cody's, writing your name in them.)

The New York event on July 11th will be a signing. It'll begin with a short reading and a Q&A, then I'll just sit there signing things until we're done. You don't need a ticket for it, but I'd get there at least an hour early if you want to be sure of being able to get in close enough for the reading bit.

If you haven't read it.... (quickly googles "site:neilgaiman.com "mad fan with the gun" then realises that's the list of helpful hints for stores holding signings, and just clicks around in the archives for a bit)... http://www.neilgaiman.com/archive/2001_04_01_archive.asp and look down until you get to Wednesday, April 11, 2001.


...

People want to know what I think about Stan Lee's take on Sandman. So far all the Stan Lee DC titles I've seen have taken the name of the character and precious little else -- that's the idea, after all. I'm flattered Stan would think of the Sandman as being an important DC character he'd want to do on his trip through the names of DC characters. I've not seen the comic.

Sunday, June 23, 2002

The word on the street is that Coraline has just got a boxed, starred, illustrated, PUBLISHER'S WEEKLY review. I'll post it here as soon as I get it.

A big part of what I admire, love and am always delighted by in Stephin Merritt�s work (he pronounces his first name "Stephen" by the way) is his combination of work ethic and artistic restlessness. Most people are happy to make CDs of nine or ten half way decent songs that sound sort of similar. Stephin makes an album with 69 songs on, and they�re all different.

He�s the Magnetic Fields (which began as him writing songs for a female singer, then transmuted into several versions of just him, and is now a four -piece band with three extra singers and the best-selling accordion player in the world). He�s the Gothic Archies, the funniest, gently-darkest one-person band there is. He�s the visionary behind the Sixths, writing songs for famous people to sing, who aren�t him.

And he used to be half, and is now, suddenly and surprisingly, a third, of the Future Bible Heroes, his ongoing and occasional collaboration with Boston DJ and composer Chris Ewen. They�ve made one full-length CD and one EP in the past, and if I was to describe the stuff they�ve already done as high-energy dance music with morbid and ironic lyrics I�d be off the mark, but not by too much.

Now, however, through the process of reinvention that exemplifies everything that Stephin gets involved in, the Future Bible Heroes are back. The same, only completely different.

As before, the process began with Chris Ewen, spinning aural webs that run the whole gamut from full-blown dance-floor pulses to haunting fragments of the kind of music that might be played in a haunted doll�s house. He then handed what he�d made to Stephin, who teased melodies out of the soundscapes, or imposed them, and then wrote a sequence of songs which might have escaped from some Twilight Zone, or from a 24 hour marathon of fifties SF, horror, fantasy and historical movies. He writes lyrics that would be astonishing from anyone else, but are more or less expected from Stephin:

So far, sort of usual.

Then he gave the songs to Claudia Gonson to sing. Claudia used to play percussion for the Magnetic Fields, then became their keyboard player. She was one of the two female singers on 69 Love Songs � her voice is clear, pure, plangent and precise. (She sang �I want a Zebra�. She sang �Acoustic Guitar�.) She makes singing sound simple. (I like Claudia�s voice. You can tell.) It�s the first time one woman has been the exclusive voice of a CD of Stephin�s songs since the first two Magnetic Fields albums, and this is, of course, completely different from that. The result is a very different Future Bible Heroes.

The cover photographs for Eternal Youth show images that ought to be kitsch, or camp, but aren�t. They�re art. The CD manages the same trick, if trick it is, with songs that range from"Vampire" to "The World Is A Disco Ball". Imagine Claudia alternately singing and rapping like Debbie Harry used to, about the joys of vampirism: �I never age and I'll never die/Unlike all the stars in the sky/I'll be young forever and why?/'Cause I'm a vampire,� she explains, cheerfully. She will drink your blood like beer. In 1977 �Vampire� would have been an international hit, and people would have bitten each other�s necks under the glitter-ball lights. Hell, it may happen yet.

�Kiss Me Only With Your Eyes�, is similarly a song out of time. This story of unfrustrated eternal virginity and romance would have been the international smash hit in 1874. It�s still funny and sad today.

�Doris Daytheearthstoodstill� is a straightforward song about loving the alien, an artefact from a retro 50s future, while �From Some Dying Star� might be a song about a visitor from another world, or it may be that it�s just about lusting after what you can�t have or won�t get.

And I haven�t even mentioned �Losing My Affection�, which is the funny one that kicks off the CD with lyrics that will be quoted in all the reviews, or �Viennese Lift� which is my favourite of all the Chris Ewen fragment -- it�s like LOW period Bowie and Eno writing music for Wednesday Addams� musical box.

It�ll be out within the next few months. The band gave me an advanced copy, and told me they didn�t mind me writing something about it here. Which is good, as I just have. 16 cool as polar bear tracks, 7 of which are Chris Ewen instrumentals.)

There.

...............

Am currently, when I get a second to read, reading Pattern Recognition, the upcoming William Gibson novel. It's astonishingly good -- he's turned all his ability to extrapolate to the present, and creates a textured world which is completely imaginary while it's also perfectly true and exactly now. It's filled with moments of puzzled recognition, like browsing the E-bay of dreams. A pleasure to read, and if there's any justice in the world it'll take home its share of literary awards next year, and gain (and regain) Bill an awful lot of happy readers.

Saturday, June 22, 2002

The weirdness of the American upper midwest (where I live these days) is that you get long dead cold winters, followed by indeterminate springs, which transform, after weeks or days or occasionally hours, into sudden and intense summers of nightmarish fecundity: suddenly the world turns into a hothouse and everything grows, and grows, and the only problem is that you get complete ecosystems happening. For the last few years I've remembered to order the Trichogramma minutum from Gardens Alive. It's a tiny box of things that hatch out into minute wasps which make sure that weird orange worms don't eat your rowan tree. (It takes them about 4 days on full munch, I learned about 5 years ago.) This year I forgot, or rather, I was on the road too much, which meant that yesterday I was up a ladder, earnestly picking the orange worm things off the leaves. (Er, I gave them to Maddy's goldfish, who probably thought it was Christmas.)

The grape-vines are tangling their way over the trellis I put in last month. (Even the one that was absolutely, unmistakably utterly dead.) The pumpkins are flowering, the asparagus is ready to rest. (You have to stop cutting it around now, and let the asparagus stalks grow into giant ferns, which feed the roots all ready for next year.) The garlic is ready to flower, which I used to let happen, and now know that I have to stop, so they keep putting their energies into the bulb, although I used to love the tiny garlic-cloves that grow on the flower-head when it goes to seed.

It looks like it'll be a good year for raspberries and cherries, a mediocre one for black and redcurrants, and a dud for apples (sigh). There are strawberries everywhere.

It feels like the summer will last forever right now. It won't, though...

Just thought you'd like to know.

...

Amazon.com has its review of Coraline up at http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/stores/detail/-/books/0380977788/reviews -- for some reason they've put up both the Amazon.co.uk review and their own. Both of them really enthusiastic.

I don't remember if I posted the Green Man Coraline review or not. (No relation to Charles Vess's Green Man Studio and Press...

(Charles, incidentally, is going to be producing some new Stardust paintings for his Stardust portfolios. I'm excited...)

Let's see. Yesterday, the main post was the one I put up after talking to Lucy Chapman at Bloomsbury. It was giving those of you in the UK (and in Europe who plan to travel) more information on the signings/events in August.

I may forget someone (and there may be some still to come in)... I think we're looking at Sheffield, Manchester, Edinburgh Festival, Dublin, Canterbury, London (Forbidden Planet signing lunchtime on Thursday the 25th, with a Foyles Event -- a reading and Q&A in the evening. Probably a Harrods Children's Bookshop as well) Glasgow, Dundee, Edinburgh Festival Again. Obviously, if you live in, for example, the southwest, you will be justifiably grumpy that I won't be doing a Bristol or Swansea signing, and there's no evidence of a Birmingham signing at this point either. But on the other hand I'd be willing to bet there will be people coming in from Finland and France and Denmark and Spain and such places (I won't even go into the Hong Kong and Singapore people who fly in to the US for signings...). And I'm actually getting to Dublin for the first time since Neverwhere...

(And the predominance of Scottish signings is because I'll be in the Edinburgh area for the Festival. If Bristol were a little nearer Edinburgh...)

(oh! That reminds me. It looks VERY likely that Dave McKean and I will be going to Singapore next Spring as guests of the British Council. And that I'll be doing a European Tour for Coraline a little later in the Spring. So some of the people who travel a long way can take it a little easier this time around.)

Friday, June 21, 2002

Grr. Weird weather outages just lost me the first post in ages. It was about the UK signing schedule, and about a wonderful package of Coraline pictures and essays I just got from some Chicago 2nd and 5th graders (7 and 10 year olds, about.)

Here's a really fun Coraline Review

My favourite line is: It's a little like reading Through the Looking Glass if it was written by Edward Gorey

Raintown- Manchester- My Home and not even a glimmer of magic to be seen? Why because you don't seem to be visiting at all? Nor London (where I have a good tariff with a fine innkeeper and can easily acquire lodgings.) WHy so prey tell do you seem to be visiting Scotland only?

Er... because we haven't yet announced the UK tour details, but only the Edinburgh Festival bits, I suppose. There will be signings and readings and suchlike in the UK and Dublin in the week between Edinburgh and Edinburgh, promise.

Why isn't there a link to get here from the rest of the site, so I had to search to find it? [Yes, I know, it's probably just been overlooked in the site re-design. But I figured I'd phrase it in the form of a FAQ :-) ]

The link to the FAQs is now at the bottom of every page. (This may be a little counterintuitive. Dunno. Let Julia Bannon know your thoughts on ways we can change and fix and improve the site. Bear in mind that she's in all probability way over budget by this point, and having nightmares in which people send her e-mail to let her know that Neilgaiman.com is, for reasons no-one can explain, suddenly being posted in Hungarian.)

I'm a post-graduate student at Glasgow School of Art and am researching comic book production. I'd be extremely grateful if I could interview Neil when he's in Edinburgh for the book festival. Would this be at all possible? I don't know. For any interview requests when I'm in the UK, contact Lucy_Chapman@bloomsbury.com. Her initial answers will almost definitely be "I don't know, we'll have to see how his schedule is shaping up," and will probably wind up transmuting into a variety of yes, no and maybes depending on how much time I actually have available between signing, sleeping, getting from place to place and so on.

Are you still on good terms with Dave Sim? Do you still read Cerebus and if so do you still think he's "brilliant" (as you called him in the introduction to Bone vol. 2)?

We're still on good terms, yes. (We sometimes don't happen to speak for years at a time, and I suspect that when we do speak Dave sometimes finds me as frustrating as i sometimes find him, but we are certainly on good terms.) We don't always see eye to eye on things, but then Dave ploughs his own furrow philosophically, idealogically, commercially and spiritually, one that I imagine has been getting progressively further from the canons of orthodoxy over the last decade, but it certainly works for him. I think he's a brilliant cartoonist, a spot-on caricaturist, an excellent letterer and a very fine writer-of-comics. (In Adventures in the Dream Trade you'll find the reprint of a ten year old essay I wrote on Dave and Cerebus, called, I think, 300 Good Reasons to Resent Dave Sim.)

Thursday, June 20, 2002

Hmm. In the home computer in Internet Explorer 6 neilgaiman.com's white on cream and illegible. How very mysterious. I'm sure people are hard at work fixing it. Well, not as I type this. They're probably in bed. But generally.

I got a box of the advanced two-CD set of TWO PLAYS FOR VOICES. If the design work the Harper CD designers have done on the Coraline CD is anything to go by, TWO PLAYS will be even cooler in its finished form, and it's very cool in the Advanced Listening Copy version.

Spent the last several days doing stuff for a lawsuit (watching other people's depositions). It's been really interesting and educational, and it actually bordered, at times, on the fun. Managed to get some work done at the same time, but not as much as I wanted. My own deposition comes up on Monday.

The weirdest thing, on the plane out, was opening a notebook I bought in Venice last September, in which I'd written half a short story. I'd forgotten about it until I ran across it. Read it, really enjoying it right up till the moment I stopped -- and I (the reader) realised that I no longer had any idea at all where I (the writer) had planned to go with it. I know the Knights Templar were going to be in it, but that's about it. I supose it's one of those things I'll type out and put away, and maybe get to use one day, or maybe not.

Hoping to write something in the next day or so about The Future Bible Heroes forthcoming CD, on which Ms. Claudia Gonson sings Stephin Merrit songs over Chris Ewen soundscapes. And then I'll post something about the other forthcoming album I've been listening to.

Wednesday, June 19, 2002

Well, in Internet Explorer the new site looks lovely. In Opera the journal is currently white on cream and impossible to read. And no, I don't know where the journal archives are right now either. (Yes I do -- I searched and they're at http://www.neilgaiman.com/journal_archives/archive.asp). And not everything works yet and there are places where we're going to do stuff and right now it's just placemarkers, but even with all that...

Isn't it cool? Haven't they done a wonderful job?

(I took the photo of me writing that's on the home page (and, reversed, at the top of this page) to test out the digital camera I got myself at the end of last year, and thought that it looked like a sort of picture to put on a home page. But that's pretty much my entire contribution to the new look.)

If there's anything any of you find broken, or conversely anything any of you want to help with, e-mail Julia Bannon. (At the bottom of every page.)

Thought I'd put up the link to this Cinescape - Coraline review.

And from it....Gaiman has written comic books. He�s written television shows, adult novels, a young child�s picture book, a collection of short stories and he�s even written, of all things, a celebrity biography. It�s possible that he�s turned to young adult fiction simply because it�s the only category of publishing for which he hasn�t already written something.

Well, there's a few other things I've not written yet. I've still not written a contemporary romance. I've not written a solo full-length funny book. I've not yet written a sequel... But he does have a point.

Lots and lots and lots and lots of disappointed and grumbly messages from people who went out to buy CORALINE on CD today and were told that their local Borders or B&N didn't have it. Ditto smaller local book and record stores. Also sad e-mails from people who tried to buy it from Amazon.com which has, rather irritatingly, simply decided it's out of print or something and won't let you put the Coraline CD in your basket. [Now fixed.]

Speaking as the author and reader, I'm sorry. There's not a lot I can do from this end other than suggest you tell whatever store you like to order some copies. Not sure how to get Amazon to fix their page, but I'll let HarperCollins know there's a problem. I do know a lot of the people who preordered copies have got theirs...

Which reminds me. Cody's in Berkeley are reporting horrifyingly brisk ticket sales on the live Coraline reading I'm doing in the Bay area on July 2nd. (According to this evening's e-mail: "150 tickets gone in first eight hours. .... I'd think we'll sell out by middle of next week, give or take.")


So it looks like my theory that an 800 seater would do us fine with plenty of room for people who showed up on the day might have been a little over-optimistic. Which means that if you've been hesitating, you may want to head over to Cody's website at http://www.codysbooks.com/coraline-reading.jsp and get a ticket. And if there's anywhere that you can reach people you know who might like to come, send them, or post, the link ASAP.

Tomorrow is the first birthday of this website, and for technical reasons things might go a little spoggly at times. Or they might not. Happy Birthday to us for tomorrow anyway. I hope you can get a Coraline CD if you want one.

Monday, June 17, 2002

An FAQ question asking if I'd be willing to take part in Blogathon 2002 to raise money for the CBLDF.

Hmm. Let me find out what I'm meant to be doing on July the 27th, and where I am. (It won't exactly work if I'm in a plane, or doing a signing or something.)

A few people want to know why Coraline is a book for Teenagers in the UK and for Children (or for All Ages) in the US. I suspect (I don't know) that in the UK Bloomsbury worry that if they put "8 and up" on it they might lose the teenagers, who wouldn't want to be seen reading a kids' book. (I know that's why they aren't running the Dave McKean illustrations.)

People also want to know about the difference in general between US and UK book-covers. The simplest answer is, the publisher gets to choose the cover. What's appropriate for one country may not be considered right for another. There are fashions in book covers, just as there are fashions in everything else. And for Coraline, Bloomsbury have an overall look for the line of books they want Coraline to be a part of.

Just got an e-mail from Henry Selick, telling me the actress who was his first choice to play the Other Mother in the Coraline movie understands it, and has signed on. He sounds elated. And so am I. More news when I'm told I can tell.

I learned a lot from the Edinburgh Festival website. I learned I'll be on four events -- here's all the info I was able to glean from the site:

Coraline with Neil Gaiman
Childrens.
17 August 2002 13:30:00
Hailed by Norman Mailer for his Sandman graphic novel series, Neil Gaiman is one of today�s great cult writers. In a Book Festival exclusive he travels from America to launch his astonishing new novel for teenagers, Coraline. World famous for his Sandman graphic novel series, and acclaimed as a novelist for American Gods, Neil Gaiman is one of today�s great cult writers. In this Book Festival exclusive he travels from America to launch his astonishingly brilliant and deeply chilling new novel for teenagers, Coraline. See also 18th.


Authors' Heroes
Childrens.
17 August 2002 18:00:00
Top authors Neil Gaiman, Celia Rees and Harry Horse talk about and read from some of their favourite books in aid of the national charity NCH. Great fun for all the family.

Coraline with Neil Gaiman
Childrens.
18 August 2002 18:00:00
A second chance to meet the amazing Neil Gaiman. World famous for his Sandman graphic novel series, and acclaimed as a novelist for American Gods, Neil Gaiman is one of today�s great cult writers. In this Book Festival exclusive he travels from America to launch his astonishingly brilliant and deeply chilling new novel for teenagers, Coraline. See also 24th.

Anne Fine, Paul Magrs & Neil Gaiman
Provocations: Children.
24 August 2002 18:00:00
Join this fantastic line up for a provocative evening of discussion on the theme of teenage reading. All three authors are acclaimed both for their adult and children�s writing. Children�s Laureate Anne Fine needs little introduction, Paul Magrs tutors on the University of East Anglia�s famous creative writing programme, and Neil Gaiman is one of the world�s great cult authors. Provocations in association with The British Council and The Scottish Arts Council


Ticket cost and ordering info you can get from the site.

Sunday, June 16, 2002

Home again. Just picked several pounds of rhubarb, sliced it, and am stewing it as I write this. I just thought I'd post a wonderfully dangerous piece of cooking advice I've just run across -- from "Garden to Table", published by McGill/Jensen Inc. In their entry on Rhubarb, it gives the microwave tip: Wash:slice or cube. Tops may be cooked as greens. And possibly they may be. They shouldn't under any circumstances be eaten as greens, though, what with being somewhat poisonous.

My very favourite moment of A.L.A. was a grandmotherly librarian enthusing to me about how very much she had enjoyed my single use, in Stardust,of what my own grandmother would, and then only under duress, refer to ominously as "The F Word".

That very narrowly beat out the amazing graphic novel preconference (amazing because it wasn't, as I half-expected, a bunch of librarians who were comics fans, but was, much more interestingly, 175 librarians who could see the enormous demand for graphic novels in their libraries, particularly amongst teens, and wanted to know more about these things that, due to demand, they were putting on their shelves); spending quality time with Jane Yolen (who I normally forget is *j*a*n*e* y*o*l*e*n* because mostly I think of her as my friend Adam's mum/Allie's grandma etc., so seeing her in her element and worshipped like the goddess of some exotic tribe made me inexplicably happy); and seeing the "Advanced Listening Copies" of Two Plays For Voices ; not to mention signing finished copies of Coraline; spending time with Art Spiegelman, and with the lovely Colleen Doran and the not-as-lovely-as-Colleen-but pretty-darn-loveable-in-his-own-right Jeff Smith; and the librarian who told me how Sandman graphic novels were the most checked-out things from her rural library "until they meet someone who adopts them, and then they don't come back" -- she didn't see it as books getting stolen, she was just happy that a kid out there had found a book he or she wanted so much she or he "adopted" it; and spending time with author Chris Lynch; and, above all, realising the incredibly powerful role that all the librarians play in keeping America literate (for little pay and not a lot of appreciation, I don't think it's overstating things to suggest these people are the thin grey line between literacy and barbarism).

Saturday, June 15, 2002

Just got sent this link: BIL LOEBS IN TROUBLE: HELP NEEDED - The Comics Journal Message Board . Bill Loebs is a fine artist and writer, and a really good guy. (This is the topic section they've started for it.)...

Still at A.L.A. -- they're keeping me very busy or I'd've posted more. Signed a pile of free Stardusts and American Gods and another pile of cheap Coralines for happy librarians this morning.

Friday, June 14, 2002

Really amazing day at A.L.A. -- the graphic novels preconference was an absolute delight, and I had to make a keynote lunchtime speech which somehow I did without writing it first, and it was good, and the whole thing was pretty wonderful actually. And so many people have read advance copies of Coraline and love it...
Okay. I'm off to chat to Art Spiegelman for a bit, while I sign bookplates for the Snow Glass Apples limited that Biting Dog Press are doing and he smokes cigarettes and we talk about art and tipping points.

By the way, on Wednesday, this site will be exactly one year old. Neilgaiman.com went live on the 19th of June 2001.

What are we doing to celebrate? Oh, he said whistling, nothing. Nope, he added casually, scuffing his feet idly on the ground. Not us. We haven't even noticed it's nearly our birthday....

Thursday, June 13, 2002

Let's see...

Now in Atlanta for A.L.A. It all starts tomorrow, and I should go to bed when I've written this.

Finished reading Edward Eager's Half Magic to Maddy last night. It's a better book than I remember, as I said, and better constructed and written than its sequels, although they are more likeable, being fluffier and having magical things that talk in.

When I get back it will be a toss-up whether I start reading herArcher's Goon or The Snarkout Boys and the Avocado of Death.

Andy Kubert just e-mailed me another six pages from the first chapter of 1602. They reminded me why I love writing comics -- it's the joy of imagining something and then seeing it come back made real, interpreted, made flesh and frozen into panels. And I love the feedback process of comics: seeing them, I realised that I needed to change the point of view from which I'll tell a scene in chapter two. it was something I'd probably have figured out while writing, but it crystallised early.

Read an interview with the late R. A. Lafferty the other day, where he talked about the genesis of his story "Continued on Next Rock..." and the idea that began the story, which he then didn't use, and offered, in the interview, to anyone who wanted it. And I thought, nobody's ever taken him up on it, so I shall try and put it into the Destruction story, for Liberatore, in Endless Nights. It might amuse him, wherever he is.

Just finishing an introduction to Bob Silverberg's Man in the Maze, which I have to rein in and chop, as it's turned into an essay about the trojan war, the history of SF, the history of Silverberg, storytelling, the role of women in SF, and a whole lot more.

Over at The Dreaming: The Neil Gaiman Page Lucy Anne has put up the Bay Area Coraline reading information with added links, including a map of how to get there.

It's looking like we'll be digitally recording the event as well, for use one day as a something-or-other.

And Coraline on Audio (CD and cassette) is released this week...

Hi Neil
I have been doing some searching for the elusive Victoria Walker lately, and during my researches, I was struck by a troubling thought.
What if Ms. Walker doesn't want to be found or rediscovered?
I'm not sure why she wouldn't, but there are precedents.
Where do you, as a person with a very devoted fanbase, draw the line between appreciation and intrusion? And when does a person stop being a public figure and go back to being a private individual?
Perhaps you could give some guidelines as to how someone who managed to track down the elusive Ms. Walker could explain their interest in her without scaring her or making her feel hunted.
Reg


Well, the last thing I want is someone turning up at her door, and if someone sent me her name and address, I'd not be putting it up on here (or doing anything else with it). Everyone is entitled to privacy.

I'd be perfectly happy with learning that she "wrote these two books and then went off and got married and just never found time to write again". In fact, I'd be happy just getting the books back into print without ever learning anything about the author...

Off to ALA today...

Tuesday, June 11, 2002

This just in from Amy Burton who is doing publicity for Coraline.

NEW YORK (June 11, 2002) - HarperCollins Children's Books announced today that New York Times best-selling author Neil Gaiman will launch his first-ever novel for children, Coraline (July 2002; $15.99; ages 8 up), in the Bay Area.

Cody's Books of Berkeley will host the exclusive West Coast launch event on Tuesday, July 2 at 6:30 p.m. (doors open at 5:30 p.m.) at the First Congregational Church of Berkeley on 2345 Channing Way.

Starting at 6:30 p.m., Gaiman will do a rare complete reading of Coraline, which has been called "bittersweet and playful" (San Francisco Chronicle), "magnificently creepy" (Kirkus Reviews) and is being likened to a modern-day Alice in Wonderland. Signed copies of Coraline, selected backlist titles and audio will be available for sale at the event.

Tickets are $10 for adults, $5 for children, and go on sale beginning June 17 at both Cody�s Books locations (2454 Telegraph Ave. at Haste; 1730 Fourth St.); www.codysbooks.com; telephone orders to 510-845-7852; email orders to info@codysbooks.com. All major credit cards are accepted. The purchase of a ticket entitles the holder to a $3 discount on Coraline books and audio.

A separate East Coast launch event for Coraline is scheduled for 6:00 p.m. on Thursday, July 11 at Barnes & Noble, Union Square in New York City. There will be no other U.S. events until the fall.



And going mainly from feedback from here, we've elected to make this one a reading, rather than a signing. So it'll be three hours of comfortably listening to a story, rather than five hours of standing in a long line for thirty seconds of hello. We'll have an interval half-way through, in case any of the kids can't keep going, and for people to get lemonade and cookies etc.

As you can see, it's a ticketed event, to cover the cost of renting the hall, but the tickets are cheap and easy to get (and will count against the purchase of a Coraline). We also got somewhere with enough seating that we're not worried about it selling out.

Spread the word across the West.

Noticed this on Bruce Sterling's daily journal recently over at the Infinite Matrix, and meant to put it up here, and someone just kindly resent it. It's about Moscow Beneath.

Hi Neil;
You appear to have an Irish doppelganger. Normally I wouldn't bother writing to tell you, I'd just mention to my wife and friends that I saw someone who looked just like Neil Gaiman on the train, but this guy was... notable. For a start, he looked just like you, or at least like you do in photographs. He spent an entire journey standing when there were free seats, looking out the window, and at one point said, loudly and clearly, and apparently to nobody, "Adolescence is a terrible way to spend your formative years."
Or was it you after all?
Drew.


Nope. Not me. Obviously one of the Legion of Substitute Neils.

Anyway, I'd not be standing around moodily and Making Deep Pronouncements about Adolescence. I'd be sitting in the corner comfortably and reading a book.

Bob Garcia, publisher of A Walking Tour of the Shambles just sent me this link to a review of it. And, from the greenman review site, this one. Bob also let me know he will be going back to press, and is doing new covers -- gone will be the green and blue covers of the first printing. The second printing covers will be scarlet and maroon.

Hello,
Obviously I'm quite a fan if I read the entire FAQ in search of this question. But it's late and I might have missed it. If so, my apoligies.
In the intro to Smoke and Mirrors you mention writing a screen adaption for Beowolf. Is this the post-apocalyptic one with Chris Lambert in it? If so, have you seen it, and what did you honestly think?
Thank you, Tricia


Never saw it, and no, that wasn't ours. http://www.slushfactory.com/features/articles/061002-gaiman.php is a recent interview in which lots of things are talked about, and Beowulf is one of them. (looking over the first page, I think Flobonic should be slavonic.)

Monday, June 10, 2002

From the Kirkus journal of book reviews... A starred review (which is a good thing):

*STAR*Gaiman, Neil. Coraline. HarperCollins (176 pp.) $15.99. PLB $15.89.
Jul. 1, 2002. ISBN: 0-380-97778-8. PLB: 0-06-623744-0.

A magnificently creepy fantasy pits a bright, bored little girl against a
soul-eating horror that inhabits the reality right next door. Coraline's
parents are loving, but really too busy to play with her, so she amuses
herself by exploring her family's new flat. A drawing-room door that opens
onto a brick wall becomes a natural magnet for the curious little girl, and
she is only half-surprised when, one day, the door opens onto a hallway and
Coraline finds herself in a skewed mirror of her own flat, complete with
skewed, button-eyed versions of her own parents. This is Gaiman's (American
Gods, 2001, etc.) first novel for children, and the author of the Sandman
graphic novels here shows a sure sense of a child's fears-and the child's
ability to overcome those fears. "I will be brave," thinks Coraline, "No, I
am brave." When Coraline realizes that her other mother has not only stolen
her real parents but has also stolen the souls of other children before her,
she resolves to free her parents and to find the lost souls by matching her
wits against the not-mother. The narrative hews closely to a child's-eye
perspective: Coraline never really tries to understand what has happened or
to fathom the nature of the other mother; she simply focuses on getting her
parents back and thwarting the other mother for good. Her ability to accept
and cope with the surreality of the other flat springs from the child's
ability to accept, without question, the eccentricity and arbitrariness of
her own-and every child's own-reality. As Corline's quest picks up its
pace, the parallel world she finds herself trapped in grows ever more
monstrous, generating some deliciously eerie descriptive writing. Not for
the faint-hearted-who are mostly adults anyway-but for stouthearted kids who
love a brush with the sinister: Coraline is spot on. (Fiction. 9-12)

Congrats on the Bram Stoker award flooding in. Thanks to you all (beams happily). So far the little door on the Stoker award (it's a creepy house) has not fallen off. (I won one for Sandman: The Dream Hunters a couple of years ago, and had to superglue the door back on, so I have been on the alert here.)

It will go on a very small window-ledge, next to my bowler-hatted H. P. Lovecraft World Fantasy Award, and flanked by a statue of Groucho Marx and another of Elsa Lanchester as The Bride.

A few people wanted to know about Mousecircus.com. I'm afraid it's all Flash -- just let it load and be patient, and, when the candle has burned down and the thing has begun, you shall have an interesting time. Promise.

Let's see...

Not an FAQ, but in case you hadn't already spotted it, Ottakars (UK bookchain) has tagged Coraline as *the* children's book of the summer - it's at www.ottakars.co.uk and then look for Yossarian's diary - last paragraph.
Oh yeah - and thanks for all the enjoyment, surprises and education of the last mumble, mumble years...
Tony Quinlan Chief Storyteller, Narrate


You're welcome.

What a lovely comment in the Yossarian column. (It's the 10th of June entry, by the way.)

Neil - I've checked the Harper Collins Childrens website, and the ALA website, and neither list when you'll be signing at the Harper Collins Childrens booth. So you are my last resort (I really didn't want to bother you with it). Have they given you a clue as to when you'll be in the booth? And, I assume that we'll be able to buy Coraline there as well? Thanks!
--Laura Gosling


June 15th, 9:30-10:30am I sign at HarperCollins adult booth (booth 2138), then 10:30-11:30 am I sign at the Harper Childrens booth (booth 2129). (Thinks: that'll be fun, walking across the aisle trailing a line of people in my wake.)

Dear Neil -
What delightful irony, fearful symmetry. Yesterday in your journal you questioned author Beryl Bainbridge's attempt at a time travel novel since she claims it will "not be a SF" novel even though she's using the generic ideas, possibly because she hasn't spent much time learning the body or craft of SF.
Yet last year, you joyfully touted and wrote for the Tori Amos album Strange Little Girls, calling it a wonderful and original work (or something, don't remember the quote), even though it was no more than a standard issue covers album...and by your measure, one that plonked down rather dull ideas while being marketed as something more or other than a covers album. (something about singing from men's perspectives?)
"It's not a covers album" rings the same to me as "It's not a SF novel."
Why the suspicion over Bainbridge when you see a similar concept in that music album as a success? I'm not a Bainbridge fan, nor is this an attack on the strange little girls piece, but maybe this could be a good thing. It could be a subversive way of bringing in people who don't readily like SF to the genre, just as a covers album exposes listeners to music they might not have originally listened to.
Your response surprised me because you seem to be a pragmatic optimist in most of your other postings. Hope this author pleasantly surprises all of us..
signed,
A lurker who is not a lurker. :)
lily


I'm not sure that I'm managing to make the easy conceptual leap from the one to the other that you're essaying here: seems a bit like you're going "you say you hate oranges, but you like sushi, and I say this sushi is orange, so explain that if you can, young man". But I'm happy to clarify both sets of ideas, and hope it helps.

1) As I said in the last post, I'm certainly not saying that the Bainbridge book will be bad.

To give a bit more background on yesterday's comments: during the years where I was making a lot of my living professionally reviewing books, through to the years I was on the Arthur C. Clarke Award jury (reading every work of SF published in the UK), which was a solid nine year period from 1983 to 1992 of reading and reviewing pretty much everything that came over the transom, every year would bring one or more books written by "mainstream authors" of varying fame, using science fictional tropes, usually very badly handled, accompanied by a press release in which the press office, the author and the publisher would proudly and loudly proclaim the book wasn't science fiction.

This was a very different phenomenon to authors writing, let's say, fantasy novels or ghost stories, and then saying they aren't writing fantasy or ghost stories. (Philip Pullman explaining, upon winning the Whitbread for a fantasy trilogy, that he's not writing fantasies might be something that's much closer to what I think you're talking about here. It doesn't matter what he says, they are still fantasy novels, and brilliant ones.) It's also a different phenomenon to successful SF authors distancing themselves from the SF field after becoming successful within SF because they wanted, fundamentally, more respect or mainstream recognition (something authors as diverse as Vonnegut, Douglas Adams and even Harlan Ellison have done, and which again may be closer to what you're talking about).

What I was seeing was something unique to SF, partially because SF has had a tradition of exploring ideas, and a continual willingness to take itself into account. If you're going to write a time paradox story you should have read Heinlein's "All You Zombies....", for example, just as if you're writing a story about tiny people trying to figure out how to build a spaceship to get them out of a glass of water you should have read James Blish's "Surface Tension". If your brilliant and original idea is that people on a generation starship don't know they're on a starship -- and now are reaching the end of their journey, and you think that's all you need to write a book with, and you think you're the first person ever to go there, you're probably in trouble.

The "I am too good to be an SF writer" people tended to have read no SF at all, and to regard every idea they came up with, no matter how mined out, as Vital and New, and to write books that SF readers didn't enjoy and that, as far as I can tell, mainstream readers didn't enjoy either. There's not a lot of point in naming names, as most of the books and many of the authors are forgotten by now.

I have much more time for someone like Iain M. Banks, who has a mainstream identity (er, Iain Banks) knows his SF, and when he writes an SF novel says so.

I don't know if Beryl Bainbridge will be one of the ones who write a bad "I'm not writing SF" book. She's an always been an interesting and vital author, and I'll buy her time travel novel when it comes out. It's just that, having read too many of them over the years, any "It's about (time travel/aliens among us/information technology in the near future/intelligent dinosaurs/a generation starship) but I'm not writing Science fiction..." quote tends to set off my danger signals, because it indicates a disdain for the body of knowledge and the craft that then shows up in the book.

2) Strange Little Girls. I went looking for my own comments on this. Did a hasty site:neilgaiman.com hunt on Google. Can't find the "wonderful and original work" quote you refer to. The closest seems to be:

From July 2001: Oh, one thing. Several people at the signing asked about the stories I wrote for Tori's STRANGE LITTLE GIRLS album. To clarify, they won't be on the CD -- I think the plan is to take a sentence from each one and put it by the relevant photo for the CD, then to run the whole story in the Tour Booklet. (one person asked me if the new album was really any good, as if I'd probably just been trying to get people's hopes up to help sell a dog of an album, which rather puzzled me. So, for the record, yes I really like the album. I think it's the best thing Tori's done in a while, and it's, in my opinion, her most personal album for years. I would be astonished if there wasn't at least one track on there that every dyed in the wool Tori fan loved immediately, and equally as surprised if there wasn't at least one track that they disliked equally as strongly -- it's that sort of record).

It's certainly how I felt, and it points out it wasn't an album that you're going to love all of.

Was it a covers album? That's not something I ever wrote (or felt strongly about) about one way or another. Define a covers album as an album of songs by other people, then it certainly was. Define it as "singer does a bunch of songs that she likes" and it manifestly wasn't. Tori had a point of view from the first about what she wanted to do and say with "Strange Little Girls", spent a long time putting together songs by men she felt she could use to say other things with, mostly things about gender, and believed very strongly in everything she did with it, including creating the "girls" to sing the songs, the ones I wrote the very-short stories for. It let her say and sing a number of things that I don't think she could have done with her own songs at that point. And she learned a lot from it. I certainly think it was, perhaps contrarily, a much more personal album than, for example, "To Venus and Back". I tend to think of it, artistically, as an assemblage, or a collage: the photos are other by other people, but the shape they are assembled into and the patterns they make, are the point, and are her own.

I've always enjoyed her interpretations of other people's songs in concert (I remember the whole of the plot for The Kindly Ones sorted itself out in 1991 at the Shaw Theatre in London during her version of "Sentimental Journey"), and I did not assume that Strange Little Girls was the pinnacle of her career, but that it was the CD equivalent of one of those songs. (I know that I get a completely different sort of joy from reading someone else's poem or story aloud as I do when I'm performing my own material.)

Some people got it, some didn't. Your mileage, as they used to say, may vary.

Hope that helps.

Dear Neil:
I'm not quite sure if this would be a commonly asked question or not, but do you ever write and know that what you have written is rather good? Is that even something you can assess yourself or instead is it something that varies from person to person -- so why even bother trying to decide whether it is good or bad.
thank you,
jilly


Hmm. Sometimes I know when I'm writing that something's good -- there's a wonderful bubbly feeling as it hits the paper, and often it didn't exist even a moment before. Mostly I have no idea -- when I'm done I'm incredibly nervous. Sometimes I write something I like very much that utterly fails to set the world on fire, and sometimes I write something that I think is deeply flawed that many people love. Sometimes I write something that really doesn't work, and everyone else thinks it doesn't work too.

Mostly I don't mind. I'm already trying to write the next thing.

(I think the people who dislike American Gods dislike it more than anything I've done. On the other hand, they seem to be outnumbered by the ones who like it more than anything I've done.)

As to why bother trying to decide if something's good or bad... that's what people do. That's how we're built. We build whole worlds out of a patchwork of "I like this..." and "I don't like this..." in order to navigate. (It tends to be an audience reaction, rather than a critical reaction, but that's another story.)


Home. The cheek-spider-bite seems to have subsided, which means I can now shave off the accidental beard I grew while waiting for it to go down. Which is good, except that in all the photos of my holding my little Stoker house at the awards ceremony, I look sort of scruffy and sort of sinister.

Beryl Bainbridge has announced that she will be writing a time travel novel which will move into the future, and clarified that it won't be science fiction, in case anyone was worried. Normally what this means (or what it meant back when I was a book reviewer in the early 80s) is that the author has an SF idea, has read no SF so doesn't know that that idea was explored pretty thoroughly in 1953, and then plonks the idea down on the page rather dully, while doing interviews in which the author denies the book is SF. The book tends to vanish without trace. (I'm not saying this will be true in Ms. Bainbridge's case. I'm just saying that it was true every time it happened back then.) I wound up wishing that the writers in question would understand that there was a body of knowledge to be learned, and a craft.

It's odd. No-one would think they'd come up independently with the idea of a novel set in the past then deny that it was a historical novel.

................................................................................................

Something I'll put in over at the FAQs but it's worth posting here. Please don't send me chapters of your novels, your novels, ideas for your novels, your short stories, ideas for your short stories, bits of your life story that you think will make a good novels one day or just things you want me to read, give my opinion on, help you get published or fix the spelling on.

I don't have time. I understand your one (idea, story, short story, novel, trilogy) is a very short (idea, story, short story, novel, trilogy) but right now I could spend my entire life doing nothing but reading other people's stuff -- and that doesn't even include the books and manuscripts, published, unpublished or soon-to-be-published, that arrive, every day, seeking blurbs or blessing -- and I'd never write another word, and I wouldn't even get all the stuff people want me to read read, let alone get the stuff I need to write written.

It's not fair. But that's how it is.

(When, twenty-odd years ago, I finished my first book, the first thing I did was stick it an envelope and send it to a Famous Author with a note telling him how much he wanted to read it. And he never wrote back. Nor did he send it to some editorial friend at his publishers with a note telling them that they'd be missing out on the publishing coup of the decade if they didn't publish it. I've only very recently forgiven him for this, realising (a) how many envelopes like that he must have got each day and (b) that wasn't his job. His job was to write books and stories.)

So I'm sorry. Look at it this way: if you're going to be any good, you'll make it just fine without me telling you you're good. And either way, good luck.

Saturday, June 08, 2002

It's up at http://www.horror.org/stokers.htm...

American Gods won the Stoker. As I said in my speech, when you're up against Ray Bradbury, and Stephen King and Peter Straub, and Jack Ketchum, then it really is an honour to be in that company. Winning is a strange topping on the cake, and I don't kid myself that I'm a better writer than any of them.

Given the messages flowing in about it a number of you have already discovered this, but The Coraline Website at Mousecircus.com is now live. Go play... and pass the word along.

It's flash animation, so it may take a little while to load at the beginning.

Bram Stoker Awards tonight. Saw Dallas "Jack Ketchum" Mayr, who said. "Hey. We both get to lose to Steve King and Peter Straub tonight!" And I agreed it does seem likely.

(So far the two people who know everything I was certain would be able to say "Oh, Victoria Walker, I met her in Hay-on-Wye once..." have blinked blankly and said they'd love any information I can find. So we do need to cast the net wider.. . feel free to mention it on newsgroups, boards, and in casual conversation with people who might know...)

Friday, June 07, 2002

More on Victoria Walker/Winter of Enchantment. Just found this newsgroup thread: Google Groups: View Thread "Half-remembered book _A_House_called_Hadlowes_" and also this one. Not really much information about the author, but a few more bits about the books.


...

Poor Argentina.

...

Thursday, June 06, 2002

Was bitten on the cheek by a spider. Do not appear to be able to climb walls or have any kind of extrasensory abilities yet. So far I've just got a spider bite on my cheek. Seems deeply unfair, really.

So far today we've learned that Victoria Walker was born in 1947, and isn't recorded as having died. And there's an edition of The Winter of Enchantment for sale on Ebay which says it was turned into an ITV series in the UK in the 70s.

In an e-mail from SFX's Nich Setchfield, he finished...

There's been some interesting stuff on your website about preserving old
> books - but how do you preserve old authors? Jayne on the magazine has
> just tracked down a copy of The House Called Hadlows by Victoria Walker, her
> favourite fantasy novel from her childhood. It's taken her 20 years.
> There's a photo of Victoria Walker inside, looking like a magic hippy
> chick, preserved forever in 1971. But where is she now? Why did she only
> write two books (the other one's The Winter of Enchantment)? How does
> Jayne find her to thank her for writing the best book of her childhood?
> If you have any leads, let us know!
>
> Best,
>Nick


And then I got that strange tingly feeling you get when someone mentions a book you'd loved once and half-forgotten almost for forever -- in this case The Winter of Enchantment, which was on the shelves in my local library when I was about eleven, and which I remember as being utterly magical, although the actual what-happened is a confused sort of jumble of magic mirrors and cats and the four seasons and victoriana. I did a web search and learned nothing except that Garth Nix has really good taste in kids' books.

So in my copious spare time (doomed and hollow cough there) I think I'll take this on as a project. Who was Victoria Walker? Is she still alive? Why just those two books? Why have they both been out of print for thirty years? The first thing I thought of as a resource was this journal. This website is getting (according to a stats email this morning) a little over 110,000 hits a day, and most people come and check out the journal, which is an awful lot of eyes and minds. So if anyone out there knows anything about Victoria Walker -- who she was or is, or any other information about the books, send in your information on the FAQ line. And feel free to mention it on other boards, journals and places.

Other leads I suggested to Nick would be checking with the Society of Authors, and with her publishers (Andre Deutsch in the UK). But somehow I have more faith in the massed eyes of the blogger readers, and in a handful of friends who, between them, know everything.

Forgot to mention that I got a box of finished, bound, wonderful HarperCollins copies of Coraline today. The cover is astonishing -- seeing it in its finished form, with the Dave Mckean art reproduced in top quality form, with the overlay done unvarnished so it's a ghostly thing that appears and vanishes once more, I was astonished at how fine it was, and I'd always expected it to be good. On a first thumb-through, I didn't see the normal embarrassing typo I normally find immediately on opening a finished copy of a book for the first time. Happy. Good night.

It was 1997, which is five years ago in people years, thirty five years ago in dog years, and seventeen million and twelve in internet years, and Avon Books put up a website for a book. This was back before web sites for books had grown feathers and learned to walk upright and use a knife and fork. The Coraline site, which is so new and modern it hasn't even gone live yet, has bells and whistles that even I haven't discovered.

But for those of you who feel like travelling back in time, I take great pleasure in pointing you at

http://www.harpercollins.com/hc/neverwhere/neverwhere.htm

found through the wayback archives, rescued and put up by Harper Collins web maven Julia Bannon. It's not, alas, all there, there was a reading, and tour info that's gone -- but pretty much.

Wednesday, June 05, 2002

Wondering if you would be as amused by this as I was:
- George
http://www.livejournal.com/talkread.bml?journal=neil_gaiman&itemid=16411


I was definitely amused (quite possibly as much as you were, George, but how will we ever know?).

I keep imagining him talking in a speeded up version of what someone who's never heard me talk imagines my accent might be like.

A Coraline review -- our first print review, I think -- over at The San Francisco Chronicle.

Incidentally, I'm now reading Edward Eager's Half Magic to Maddy, and was delighted to find it better than I remembered from my childhood (and better written and constructed, at least for an adult reader, than Magic by the Lake and The Time Garden -- which, as a kid, I much preferred, which may have been why I started with them).

Tuesday, June 04, 2002

Really good article over at the Washington Post site called Why Johnny Won't Read by Jon Scieszka. (In our household it was definitely harder to make a reader out of Mike than out of the girls -- now that he's 18 he reads for pleasure more than he ever did, but sometimes he still needs to be reminded he enjoys it. As he left for the airport today for his summer job I handed him a thick Sherlock Holmes collection and told him he'd like it. Also I want him to get some of the weird jokes/resonances in a story I just wrote called A Study In Emerald, which is the nearest I'll probably come to doing a Kim Newman- or Alan Moore-style literary alternate history.)

If you have guys, particularly young guys, who need to read you could do much worse than send them to http://www.guysread.com/. And go there yourself and poke around. Jon Scieszka has a point -- and I'm pleased to see him listing Watchmen and graphic novels generally on the site. (Reading is reading. And, as I once pointed out to a teacher who was sounding off against comics [I would have been about 11 at the time] I had the biggest vocabulary in the school, because I'd got most of my long words as a young kid from Stan Lee -- and I knew how to spell them.)

As the early reviews of Coraline come in I'll try to remember to put up links to them. This one is from rambles.net which is a terrific music-books-and-stuff site.

I suspect that the main reason the "coming soon" page has vanished from the Coraline site at mousecircus.com is that it's about to go live. Fingers crossed it is, anyway: I've been wandering around the test site as it's been being built for a month now, and it's just been getting cooler and cooler. (Hint for when it goes live: keep catching the rats, as they... well, you'll see.)

Dear Mr. Gaiman,
I was in my local children's bookstore today (Hicklebee's, in San Jos�, CA, an excellent bookstore) to see when they would receive the audiobook of Coraline.
First, I want to tell you that, not only have they ordered 75 copies, but both folks behind the counter spontaneously told me "Oh, we read the advance copy; it was really good!" And it seemed that neither had read anything else by you, so you've hooked two new readers.

But my question is, why does any entry about the audio Coraline in any computer catalog of any sort insist that it's abridged? When the people at Hicklebee's looked it up on whatever system they have, they said "Oh, it wil be here in about a month, but we should warn you that it says it's abridged." What's the deal?
I'm really looking forward to it, regardless. Thanks, Diana in sunny San Jos�


I don't know. It's definitely not abridged in any way, shape or form. It's the full thing, with an extra song by the Gothic Archies. We got Amazon to change it -- and if you look at the reproduction of the cover it says it's unabridged at the bottom.

GMZoe, moderator of the forums and possessor of a collection of my stuff that rivals the one in my attic, let me know about something you can get at Amazon.co.uk. Or rather you can't get it for they are out of stock. Somehow I suspect that they will remain out of stock forever... And of course, if you were a band called Gaiman, you'd have to call your first cassette Neil. But I'd be willing to bet that they didn't.

Monday, June 03, 2002

Several people sent me this Salon page where Laura Miller recommends Coraline, which she calls "pristine and spooky", bless her.

(No, I don't know what "Genre wheeze" is, nor how it can be cured. When I was growing up a "wheeze" was, in the comics anyway, what Baldrick might have called "a cunning plan", but I think this particular wheeze is probably asthmatic.)

(Personally, I think it's more probable that reviewers have an easier time with Coraline than with the adult fiction because no-one expects kids' books to be "realistic" by default. They're already marginalised into a genre -- they're Children's Books, and they exist within a comfortable tradition of imaginative literature, what Clive Barker used to call the fantastique. But it may also be because Coraline's a better book.)

Sunday, June 02, 2002

Went to the Jungle Theatre's terrific saturday matinee season -- actor Wendy Lehr as "Mrs Peterson" reading to an audience of kids and adults, from a number of books, one of which was The Day I Swapped My Dad For Two Goldfish. I got up and answered some questions on it. Much fun had by all... Met Collette Morgan from The Wild Rumpus Bookstore, and she told me she had loved Coraline, which made me happy.

The mail brought the audio cassette version of Coraline. It's only two cassettes, which makes it nice and straightforward. It doesn't have all the cool design stuff and Dave McKean art that the audio CD does (I was really impressed by the CD). I was fascinated by the message on the cassettes themselves that Coraline was "written and performed by the author". I knew what they meant, of course, but the "written by... the author" still seemed a bit superfluous.

Something is a bit odd on the FAQs -- perfectly readable in Opera, but they were invisible when I looked at the page in Explorer. (Working fine again now. Probably just a blogger hiccup.)

And in the UK, it's the Queen's Golden Jubilee, and a few people have asked me about the Silver Jubilee, and what I was doing 25 years ago. Let's see: I was a 16 year old punk. There's photographic evidence in the back of Sandman: The Kindly Ones (also in the photo, Geoff Notkin, Graham K. Smith and Al argh I've forgotten Al's last name). (Geoff can be found these days at www.Notkin.net, and is not, as our headmaster was convinced he would be, in prison somewhere in South London awaiting the return of the Death Penalty.)

Saturday, June 01, 2002

So... I'm home again. I was only away for a couple of days but the garden exploded in my absence. The pumpkins have already started to flower. One of the plum trees is covered in tiny plums and the other one isn't.

Anyway, since you asked, I had a wonderful time -- a 48 hour holiday in someone else's house and head and music.

In a couple of days I'll talk -- a very little, because it's too early -- about the music, when it's sunk in a little more.

Apart from driving around (or sitting in a parked car) listening to music (and to the first chapter of the Coraline CD) we did a number of extremely sensible things, including buying our daughters Daphne-and-Scooby Doo Barbies, trying to figure out the best wall on which to hang this painting, eating sushi, sitting on the beach talking about copy protection for CDs (a bad thing, we decided, for a number of reasons) the difference between the Country and the Land and the pros and cons of keeping a weblog like this one, and, later, watching a lightning storm from the end of a dock. Good wines were drunk, although we never were.

Then it was this morning and we were on our way to the airport, and on the road she sang me a song called "Snow Cherries From France" which hasn't been recorded yet and isn't on the new album but has to be recorded and go and live somewhere, because it's truly lovely.

And then I came home. The Daphne and Scooby Doo Barbie was, you'll be happy to know, an enormous hit.
...


The Jungle Theatre in Minneapolis is doing a saturday season for kids,
based around kids' books, and tomorrow's is The Day I Swapped My Dad For Two Goldfish.

(Which reminds me. Did I mention that there will also be a local production of Signal to Noise at the Minneapolis Fringe?)

...

An FAQ came in pointing out a typo in American Gods I know I'd caught and fixed in manuscript... and I checked and found it was completely unfixed, and in every edition I checked. Sigh. I wonder if I'll be able to fix it in the 3rd printing of the paperback (we've already gone back to press for the second printing).
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