Anything to oblige. I've been a fan of Mike Harrison's since before I knew that M. John Harrison was really a Mike. I used to buy copies of his novel CLIMBERS and give them to people I liked (something I also used to do with Geoff Ryman's WAS...) until you couldn't find them any more. To be honest I think that LIGHT will get him all the attention he needs. It's way out beyond astonishing. Lots of over-the-top blurbs from authors that turn out to be understatements when you get to the end.
(And Jen from Cleveland, the book you are looking for is Gene Wolfe's PEACE.)
I recently discovered that you wrote the liner notes for this CD called "Faeries" that is set to Brian Froud's art. I searched the site for any mention of it and found none. Since I'm such a kind hearted person I thought I would pass the info along just in case anyone else would be interested as there are people who like to collect anything you write and/or are interested in the bands or Brian's art. You can find more details on Brian Froud's page http://www.worldoffroud.com and the Faerie's page is located here: http://www.worldoffroud.com/faeries/store/music/faeriescd.cfm I highly recommend the CD for fans of really ethereal music. Looking forward to Endless Nights and hope you're doing well.
P.S. Hope you don't mind me asking but how did you end up writing the notes for the CD anyway? I keep finding connections between you and people I adore. Perhaps someone needs to make a "Six Degrees of Neil Gaiman" game ^_^
Oh, Brian or Wendy asked me to, and I thought it would be fun.
M. John Harrison's LIGHT is a remarkable book -- easily my favourite SF novel in the last decade, maybe longer -- and the image that remains in my head after the book was done is that of light as foam, like the sea foam "between the water and the dry land". Very appropriate for a book that exists in the spaces between things (including genre and other people). It'll win awards, and it'll puzzle a lot of people, especially those who will be able to read the present-day stuff (as mainstream fiction, or as borderline horror) but unable to read (in the way that Samuel R Delany talks about reading SF as something literal -- 'her world exploded" means something different in SF, after all) the future SF sections. Very lovely.
You probably know this already, but on the off chance you don't - Did you know that the name on _Hexwood_'s dedication-wrote-it-for page thingy is yours?
By the way, I've been meaning to write this for about a month now, so hah!
Hah indeed. Hexwood is a book by Diana Wynne Jones, and you can find out more about Diana at dianawynnejones.com, or just read her books. One of the privileges of having kids is that you get to read out loud to them, and reading Diana out loud is a delight. Her books unpack very tightly, with scarcely a word wasted in a hundred thousand, and reading them silently it's easy to miss stuff without knowing it.
Anyway, yes, I did know she dedicated Hexwood to me. I wrote some Doggerel poetry about it, back when the book came out, and she sent me a copy. Hang on. I bet I can find it on the hard disk... here we go...
There's a kitten curled up in Kilkenny was given a perfect pot of cream
And a princess asleep in a thornwrapped castle who's dreaming a perfect dream
There's a dog in Alaska who danced with delight on a pile of mastodon bones
But I've got a copy of Hexwood (dedicated to me) by Diana Wynne Jones
There's an actress who clutches her oscar (and sobs, with proper impromptu joy),
There's a machievellian villain who's hit on a wonderf'lly evil ploy,
There's wizards in crystal castles and kings on their golden thrones
But I've got a copy of Hexwood -- dedicated -- to me! -- by Diana Wynne Jones
There's a fisherman out on the sea today who just caught the perfect fish,
There's a child in Luton who opened a genie-filled bottle, and got a wish,
There are people who live in glass houses have managed to outlaw stones
But I've got a copy of Hexwood, dedicated to me, by Diana Wynne Jones
Sitting in a Madison WI sushi restaurant this evening, I started writing the new Neverwhere novella, HOW THE MARQUIS GOT HIS COAT BACK, in a blank book for writing in that some nice person gave me at some point. It was not a happy experience, as the book turned out to be shi-shi enough to have little bits of flower petal in the paper, which might be okay if you're writing down your dreams in a thick felt pen, but which combine with a scritchy fountain pen to render the whole thing more or less illegible from the off. Which is rather irritating. I may see if I can find a thicker-nibbed fountain pen and darker ink. Meanwhile, I have learned all about how many pockets the marquis has in coat, and about the things that got lost in them...
Speaking as someone else who thinks this stuff is interesting, let me suggest that you at least keep notes, in the event that you're allowed to screed eventually (is that a real verb?).
On a completely unrelated note, could you please not use *quite* such a long word to reset your margins next time? For the last several days, your blog hasn't fit on my screen, leading to annoying horizontal scrolling...
I made it four characters shorter. Does that help?
Are you aware at all of where "Two plays for voices" is currently being sold in the UK ? I've had it on order (pre-order actually) from Amazon who are still struggling to provide it. Last time I spoke with them they are now trying to order from the US.
Any other places i've spoken to have said pretty much the same about having to order in from abroad.
That's because it doesn't yet have a UK publisher. So Amazon.co.uk have always sold it in as something they have to order from the US. (They list it as Usually despatched in 1-2 weeks over at http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/0060012560). On the other hand, they have sellers who list it as immediately available (click on the New or Used buttons). And I'm sure there are other places in the UK who should have some in by now -- check with your local comic shop or Forbidden Planet or equivalent.
But it's only just out in the US so some of the delay may be simply bringing copies over to the UK.
I loved the old versions of fairy tales in some of the Sandman stories and I wondered if you know where I could find any original versions of Rapunzzel because that one has always puzzled me (why did the prince bring bits of silk instead of a ready made rope ladder? Why did Rapunzel ask the witch why she was heavier than the prince?). I would be very grateful if you could enlighten me.
Yours, Hannah Burton.
She asked the Witch why she was heavier than the prince in the second or third version of Grimm's fairy tales, because in the original she asked the witch why her stomach had swelled so enormously and she couldn't do up her dress, and the witch realised Rapunzel was pregnant. (And that would Never Do.)
Anyway, the journal entry for Wednesday, November 07, 2001 contains the answers you need. (I searched the site for Fairy tales, and it was suggestion number 3). In short, you want the Zipes Complete Grimm's, or the Opie's Classic Fairy Tales....
I've been wondering, and wondering some more since the answer has not been addressed in any of the places that I've looked on this site: if it's not a personal question, where do you find inspiration for your stories? Do they just come to you, or do you research them? I've read your stories for years and I'm always amazed at such turns they come from.
There's an essay in the exclusive material setion of the site called something like "Where do you get your ideas?" which should help, I hope.
Obviously not a question but more of a help for those who need helping. You're blog is full of britishisms (rightly so) and took note of 'momentarily' as having two different meanings. Found this: http://english2american.com/dictionary/m.html#momentarily which should suffice as a proper definition if you ever get sick of talking it out. Actually the whole dictionary is fairly good, a little funny and very true. Especially the bits in the "S" section and expletives that I only heard once before with such passion.
Well, yes, up to a point. Even over at Dictionary.com, the American Heritage Dictionary puts in Usage Note saying it's wrong. Dictionary.com/momentarily That doesn't mean the battle to stop people using it wrongly is winnable, and language moves on like a river. Fun English2American dictionary...
I'm in Madison. The trial (I'm sueing a publisher for unpaid royalties and broken agreements) starts on Monday, unless just the Jury selection happens Monday morning and the trial starts on Wednesday. My natural urge is to write screeds about it here (because dammit, it's interesting,) but I probably won't write much, just to keep the various lawyers happy.
I was meant to be reviewing M. John Harrison's novel LIGHT for The Guardian. Just got an embarrassed e-mail from the reviews editor telling me that while she was on holiday the editor had comissioned Iain Banks to review it without checking if it was already slated for a review. Which can only be a good thing as 1) I was going to take review-writing time out of sleeping time and 2) Banksie loves it -- he's got a blurb on the back of the book about it, and he's much more likely to get Mike critical attention in the UK than I am.
It's fascinating the difference between the UK and the US for reviews, though. In the US, when you agree to review a book for a serious paper like the Washington Post, they send you a list of things to see if you need to be disqualified (did you blurb the book, are you friends with the author, etc), and then order you to keep the review and the nature of the review confidential until it's published. In the UK it's much more "Oh, Fred loved your book and is reviewing it for the Times. He says not to worry, he's saying great things about it."
Anyway, I'll write about LIGHT here when I get a chance.
I hadn't. But what a cool review. There's something about a real writer saying I'm a writer that makes me feel like maybe I could amount to something after all, if I just keep going.
Interesting to see him mention Michener's The Source, a novel I've not read since I was about 12, but I remember loving the structure (an archeological dig in Israel, with a story for every object they find). Oddly reminiscent of Alan Moore's remarkable novel/story-sequence Voice of the Fire.
The FAQ lines are open and messages are starting to pour in...
You write: "PNEUMONOULTRAMICROSCOPICSILICOVOLCANOCONIOSIS (45 letters; a lung disease caused by breathing in certain particles) is the longest word in any English-language dictionary."
Not really. In Mrs. Byrne's Dictionary of Unusual, Obscure, and Preposterous Words: Gathered from Numerous and Diverse Authoritative Sources (by Josefa Heifetz Byrne, daughter of vamed violinist Jascha Heifetz) there's a 1,913-letter word, which claims to be "the chemical name for tryptophan synthetase A protein"
It starts with "methionylglutaminylarginyltyrosyl . . ." and keeps going for quite some time. But Mrs. Byrne's Dictionary isn't really a hugely authoritative source, I guess.
Nothing wrong with it at all except it was too long. I was looking for a word long enough to reset the margins on this journal, to stop the jagged effect when I pasted anything in from elsewhere. If I stuck the Mrs Byrne word in, the margins would go off the screen. Way off.
Let's see. Lots of e-mails from people who came up as me on the "which comic creator are you" test, of which the funniest was:
I just happened upon the note in your blog, concerning your discovery that you are comic book creator Gary Groth. I thought you might want to know that I took the same exam, and I discovered that I am Neil Gaiman.
I wouldn't mention this event to you, but it occured to me that you might have some of my mail. If you could forward it to me when you get the opportunity, I would greatly appreciated it.
Also, I'm still trying to determine why I had you sign a copy of the first issue of the "Doll's House" for me in Boulder a number of years back. I can be such a twit sometimes. If you would like, I could sign it and send it back to you.
G. Christopher Williams
And, on a previous subject...
Someone recently asked what your adjective would be. I'd like to suggest "Gaimy".
i.e. The authors use of mythological imagery was quite Gaimy.
Well, that would sound exactly the same as "gamy" (or "gamey") -- an already existing word which means:
gam�y also gam�ey (gm)
adj. gam�i�er, gam�i�est
1. Having the flavor or odor of game, especially game that is slightly spoiled.
2. Ill-smelling; rank.
3. Showing an unyielding spirit; plucky: "a gamy little mare that loved to run."
4. Corrupt; tainted: �those considerable forces in America that appear to be tired of the old politics (particularly the gamy municipal variety)� (Tom Wicker).
5. Sordid; seamy.
6. Sexually suggestive; racy.
...and I suspect you'd wind up confusing people about it.
And on the subject of words:
Not so much a question as a comment.
As a self-identified "geek," I take the related words and jargon very seriously. Thus, I do my best to combat misuse of our jargon wherever possible.
For the record, a "hacker" is not someone who spends their time breaking into and demolishing remote systems for the fun of it; though the media has misappropriated our word in this fashion, such a person is, and always has been, properly referred to as a cracker (http://www.tuxedo.org/~esr/ jargon/html/entry/cracker.html).
Instead, a hacker, in terms of a computer user, is someone who is interested in programming, often to an obsessive degree, and who is usually highly competent. It can be used to refer to hackers of other kinds, as well, simply as an indicator of obsession and skill, but programming is the primary usage. See http://www.tuxedo.org/~esr/ jargon/html/entry/hacker.html
Thanks, and I hope you appreciate the position of anal-retentive geeks (even those who reject the term "geek") everywhere ^_^.
Actually, the word hacker was used by the 'authors on the web' people and not me. But you have my sympathies -- anyone who continues to fight a doomed battle they've long-ago lost has my sympathies.
The misused word that irritates me most, and my own personal doomed battle, is "momentarily", a word that means "for a moment" not "in a moment". I'd be very grateful if, in addition to trying to get people to use 'cracker' instead of 'hacker' you'd explain this one in person to airline pilots and cabin staff, who are much more likely to say "We'll be landing momentarily in Newark" than they are to say "We're sorry we're losing altitude but we think that a hacker may have broken into Air Traffic Control's computer systems and changed our flight patterns and now we're all going to die". Although if they did, you should definitely point out to them that they mean "cracker". I bet they'd be jolly grateful if you did.
I hadn't seen it -- thanks so much. How really cool.
Hey, the other day I finally purchased on of my favorite movies, "L.A. Story" starring Steve Martin. While watching I was struck by a comment that Martin's character makes to a woman from England while driving her around LA. He says something that basically mirrors Tink's roommate's comment to main character in Murder Mysteries, "Built in the 1930's. Hard to believe it's still here today, huh?" Although I think in L.A. Story it was "Twenty years ago." The movie also makes some of the same observations like how no one walks in L.A. I was just wondering if you'd seen the film and were inspired by it or if this was just one of those cool coincidences like Bones of the Moon and A Game Of You? And if you haven't seen the film I would highly recommend it. It's kind of a West Coast wacky Neverwhere. With Shakespeare.
And let me just say I think it's cool to find you talking about China Mieville and Michael Chabon on your site. Sometimes you want to suggest other authors to your favorite and its neat when they've already heard of them. Ever read Charles de Lint or Orson Scott Card?
I saw LA Story on cable a couple of years ago. Thought it was okay -- lots of really good bits which never quite added up.
To be honest I don't think it's even a coincidence -- it's just the stuff you notice when you go from somewhere else to LA. Nobody walks in the nicer areas, unless they're jogging, walking a dog, or probably Mexican gardeners with leaf blowers on their backs. If you come from a place where people walk, you see it. That people point with pride to old things that aren't old anywhere else in the world is something else you find yourself noticing very quickly. If you're telling a story about LA from an outsider's perspective, then you put that stuff in.
And finally one that made me feel like I'd done something good.
This isn't really a question, just a commentary. I've been reading and enjoying your work for about ten years now, starting with, I think, "A Season of Mists," and most recently a rather nice hardcover "Coraline."
Anyway, I just wanted to mention how much even the first works I read still resonate with me. I'm a doctor-a resident in family medicine-and last night I attended a rather horrible trauma in the emergency room. A young woman in an industrial accident. Forgive me, but her head and neck had been badly crushed in machinery. She arrived with no vital signs, and there was nothing that could be done, but we worked on her for about half an hour anyway, struggling against what we all knew.
In the hours after we stopped our efforts, and with her husband's screaming still in my ears, I found my thoughts returning to the "Death is before me today," poem in "The Sound of her Wings." I transcribed that poem in medical school and it sits in my little notebook in the lab coat, nestled with drug dosages, lists of symptoms and notes on statistical probability. I've found it helpful to reflect on in the past during times like this, and I'm very grateful for the ability to, sometimes, imagine death as a fun-filled, life-defining young woman who likes Mary Poppins and who does a difficult job as well as she can.
Anyway, thanks for the stories and the characters. Please keep them coming.
PNEUMONOULTRAMICROSCOPICSILICOVOLCANOCONIOSIS (45 letters; a lung disease caused by breathing in certain particles) is the longest word in any English-language dictionary. (It is also spelled -koniosis.)
Hawkes Bay Tourism's Internet site says that Porangahau in New Zealand's South Island, "boasts the longest place name in the world: Tetaumatawhakatangihangakoauaotamateaurehaeaturipuk-apihimaungahoronukupokaiwhenuaakitan arahu, officially entered in the Guinness Book of Records."
This is the kind of thing you find out when you want to test how the margins of your blog are reset, using very long words.
Also remember that the complete FAQ journal over at http://www.neilgaiman.com/faq/blog.asp still exists and I'm still writing in it. It's the best place to look for an answer to an interesting question, apart from this journal.
It's fascinating to compare it to the John Clute review at SF Weekly (http://www.scifi.com/sfw/issue281/excess.html -- the previous link I had is dead), and to the Gary Wolfe Locus review (not, alas, on line). Three critics with points of view.
I said in this journal back when the Wolfe review came out, that,
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.
-- and it's strange and eye-opening to see three such very different keys to the same text.
Last week in your journal you posted the following:
>"I've got a book on the kitchen bookshelf called something like Too Many
>Peppers, Tomatoes, Beans and Eggplants, which is a good thing as,
>bizarrely, there are too many peppers, tomatoes, zucchini (er, baby
>marrows in English) and eggplants in the garden."
Well, as I seem to have the same problems in my tiny 10x10 garden, I was
thrilled to hear this book existed, but could find no info on it online.
Then I reread your comment and you said it was called "something *like*" -
any chance of you posting the full title of the book and the author? The
bag of soon-to-be rotting jalapenos and tomatoes on my counter will thank
you, as will I.
Sure. It's Too Many Tomatoes, Squash, Beans, and Other Good Things: A Cookbook for When Your Garden Explodes by Lois M. Landau, Laura G. Myers.
And the following came in from Authors on the Web to our Webmaster, Julia:
All fixes with the server were completed by 4PM on Friday.. The problem was
traced to a hacker who had managed to get into the mail client on our server.
(This is not the one used by us, or any of the authors for their email, but
rather the one that is proprietary to the server only and for things like
FDMs.)This individual managed to disarm our usage of the mail client on the
server (which explains the problem we had with the FDM, Julia) and took it
over. When they were sending mass mailings, we ran slowly, which is why
things were so erratic last week and why the problem was so very hard to
Since we completed the block on them last week (which we all feel extremely
confident about) there have been NO problems at all.
Which Julia says means the FAQ line should be working by the end of the week.
I wrote a short story for Tori's tourbook today. It's called Pages from a Journal Found in a Shoebox Left in a Greyhound Bus Somewhere Between Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Louisville, Kentucky. It's sort of about Scarlet's Walk (the album, the concept and the story) and it's sort of about a lot of other things, including the fragility of identity. It's just a little over a thousand words, but I think it works. I may even put it in the next short story collection.
Tomorrow I have to finish the Little Lit story I'm doing for Gahan Wilson.
It occurred to me that if I posted this here I could probably make her jump up and down and go "Eeee!" some more. So...
Just so you know, the review of Coraline at bookslut.com is by a sixteen-year-old (me, to be specific). And when I first saw the link to the new issue of Bookslut on the blog, I bounced up and down and went "Eeeee!" because I am nothing if not a geeky fangirl. I actually went around all day going "Neil Gaiman saw something I wrote!" to myself and everyone else. So thanks for making quite a large number of my days.
And here's one that I had no immediate answer for...
This is a bit of a silly one, but so what?
"If the terms are, respectively, Homeric, Aristophanic, Dickensian,
Orwellian, etc, then what's your adjective?"
Gaimanic? Gaimanian? Gaiman-esque? It's been puzzling me, and my talk on the
rise of comic books as a 'respectable' narrative art form depends on it!
So I did a quick google. You'll be delighted to hear that "Gaimanesque" scored 35, "Gaimanic" none, "Gaimanian" 1. There were about a dozen examples of "Gaiman-like", one of "the kind of thing that Neil Gaiman could do" and, bizarrely, no examples at all of "as bad as Neil Gaiman".
And Steve Brust is in town, which makes me happy. (He also has a weblog, over at http://www.dreamcafe.com/weblog.cgi. There are some very funny things in it, and some very perceptive things as well. But Steve is at his best when arguing, preferably with a really good whisky around somewhere.)
When I got an e-mail from Pen & Drama Maven Bill Stiteler telling me that there was an article on me & Clive & Michael Chabon & carl Hiassen & Isabel Allende over at Salon.com Books | Kids lit grows up, I sighed.
There have been a lot of those articles recently in newspapers -- Lucy Anne at the Dreaming rounded up a small herd of them last week -- and they all seem to say the same things. Often very enthusiastic things, but fundamentally baffled articles that begin by assuming we're probably doing it for the money or something, and go on from there.
So I went to the Salon.com article without enthusiasm. The enthusiasm crept in as I read the article, which is the first of these articles to say some really wise and funny things and not treat it as a marketing phenomenon or something.
It's odd: the hardest things to write tend to be looked down on. It's easier to write something serious and depressing than it is to write something that's genuinely funny. Depressing writers are out there in droves, while really honest to goodness funny writers... if one good one comes along every five years or so we're doing well. It's easier to write mimetic fiction, in which everything's set in this world just the way it is, than to change things with the conviction that'll keep people walking with you and believing. And it's easier to write for adults than it is to write for kids...
But for me the joy of writing is that I can write. The only bounds that are set on what I write are the ones I make. I'm allowed to write funny and I to write sad. I can write genre and I can write confluence (slipstream, interstitial, whatever). I can write for adults and I can write for kids. It's fun.
Finished (way late, but I'm catching up now) part 2 of 1602 right now, and am learning an awful lot from it. The most important thing I'm learning is that the next time I have something with a huge cast, I'm going to make a wall chart and plot all their stories and timelines and everything on it, to make sure that I'm not trying to make something happen in issue 2 that probably won't happen until the end of issue 3 or later. Also, I'm having an awful lot of fun.
Great conversations of our time:
Scene: Me and Maddy, eating in a diner this evening. Half way through the meal she looks up as only an eight year old can and says:
Maddy: Dad. I need to know the truth. Are you famous?
Me: No. Not really.
Maddy: But there are people who know who you are, aren't there?
Me: Well, yes.
Maddy: And they think you're famous?
Me: Some of them do, I suppose, yes. Why?
Maddy: Well, you see, I've been looking at people a lot recently. People in cars. And sometimes I think that maybe they're movie stars or people I've seen on the TV. And I thought to myself, "Don't be silly. People on the TV wouldn't just be driving about." But then I thought about you. I mean there are people who'd see you, and go "He wouldn't just be driving about" and you are. So I think probably they are movie stars after all.
The logic and the magic of which was unassailable. We spent a fun afternoon and evening together -- she read while I wrote, and she went to sleep out in my office with Dawn French reading Coraline on the tape player. She loves it -- which makes me happy -- although it has had one unfortunate side-effect. I have a lovely cat-stuffed-toy out at my writing cabin that I was given on the American Gods tour by a young lady named Mya, who makes them herself. It has black button eyes. Maddy politely requested it not be around while the story was being read.
Hey Neil - I thoroughly enjoyed your review of the new Future Bible Heroes
album three months ago, and I'm sure I wasn't the only one. But you should
maybe have posted a notice in the journal a month ago when it was actually
released in the shops. I didn't know it had been released, and discovered it
by accident yesterday. Anyway, I created a thread on the message board of
this site where I reposted your review along with a few reviews from other
sources - And it seems like other people who (unlike you) don't personally
know Stephin Merritt and Cludia Gonson love the album just as much as you
I finished reading �The Snarkout Boys and the Avocado of Death� to Maddy last night, and tonight Maddy volunteered to read to me instead. We lay on the bed and she read me �Second Grade Ape� by Daniel Pinkwater. Which was rather wonderful, until sleep caught up with me, and she stopped reading and tiptoed away.
I slept for about ten minutes, then woke up from a strange and haunting dream, in which darkness had come to the world, a strange blackness from Outside. I was riding in a train through a desolate landscape. No people anywhere. Buildings stood, and leafless trees, but the colours were wrong and the sky was dark grey. There was a man in the train with me, someone I couldn�t see, telling me that this would happen when the darkness came, that I was being shown the future and I should be on my guard. Then the train stopped, and the doors hissed open onto the world, which darkened slowly and terrifyingly to complete blackness...
I�m now up and blinking, and Maddy�s finished reading E. Nesbit�s �The Phoenix and the Carpet� to herself and has started �The Story of the Amulet�. I�m pleased she�s enjoying them � I loved Nesbit as a kid, but found her hard to read aloud (Edward Eager, who �did� Nesbit forty years on, read much better aloud). Still not sure why this is � whether it�s that her narrative strategies are so very Edwardian or what.
So about 18 months ago I finished the first draft of the Death movie, and wasn�t really happy with it. I�d planned to get back to it on about September the 15th 2001, but then the events of September 11th happened, and I couldn�t muster the enthusiasm for a story about Death spending a day in New York.
I tried several narrative strategies to try and get myself writing it, including setting it San Francisco and changing the gender of several characters around, but each time it petered out, and I put it aside.
Finally, in early August of this year, I was ready: I spent a week in a hotel and did nothing but Death. It started working. I printed out the script and went to the UK to tour. I scribbled on it from time to time, fixing things. And two weeks ago I grabbed an afternoon and typed all my scribbles in, and sent the script off to the people who needed to see it.
So far the response has been incredibly positive from everyone who's read it. People, including me, are very happy with it.
In theory I�m meant to be directing it. Fingers crossed. Which is a long preamble to a phone conversation I enjoyed today:
�Can I speak to (Movie Person) please? This is Neil Gaiman.�
�I�m sorry, he�s in a meeting, but I can have him call you when he gets out. What was your name again?�
�Neil. Neil Gaiman.�
�And what is it the call about?�
�I�m sorry? Could you repeat that?�
�Death. It�s about Death.�
(Long pause. Then, a little bit worried) �Is he expecting your call?�
1) I got a new fax machine today. The old one went from being a friendly sort of fax machine to being slightly temperamental to being a sort of a nightmare which randomly swallowed faxes, jammed, or spewed out fifty blank pages between each actual printed-on page, and just to add to the fun and madness, every line on the page that came out of the fax would be a different size, making proofreading almost impossible. Today brought the new one: it looks intelligent, as if it could hold its own in a conversation with an iMac, and it seems to work brilliantly.
2) There�s a thunderstorm going on. A really good one. I love thunderstorms.
3) I�ve got a book on the kitchen bookshelf called something like Too Many Peppers, Tomatoes, Beans and Eggplants, which is a good thing as, bizarrely, there are too many peppers, tomatoes, zucchini (er, baby marrows in English) and eggplants in the garden. The book is full of recipes. We aren�t using them. Instead, we are making ratatouille using all of those things (except the beans) and some recently-harvested garlic. Ratatouille in mind-mangling quantities. Which means that late at night I can go downstairs and nibble ratatouille. No two ratatouilles ever quite the same. (Yes, it could get old pretty quickly. But for a couple of weeks in September, it's sort of fun.)
4) More ENDLESS NIGHTS pages in e-mail from Miguelanxo Prado. Today the page with Young Death spoiling the party and the pages with Delight hiding under the table came through. This is why I love comics � the thrill of seeing pages straight from an artist, and the way that, every now and again, they�re even better than what you had in your head when you wrote the script.
5) I�m back to 1602 again, after too long dealing with emergencies, and being unable to focus, and it�s starting to crackle.
6) Scarlet�s Walk
7) Currently reading �Are YOU Dave Gorman?� by Dave Gorman and Danny Wallace. It�s utterly delightful. Funny, driven, serious silliness that�s more fun than the TV series of the same name, mainly because it's more about the difficulties of finding 54 people named Dave Gorman than the triumphs.
8) And then I get to read M. John Harrison�s new novel LIGHT.
9) And I finished reading Maddy �The Snarkout Boys and The Avocado of Death� tonight. I think it's my favourite Daniel Pinkwater book, but that may be because it was the first. (And I'm pretty sure it was the first book I ever reviewed, for Jo Fletcher in the British Fantasy Society Newsletter.) (Remember, when an Orangutan gets you by the feet, it's all over.)
10) The Lemon tree in a pot by the front door, which we grew from a stick and is heavy with unripe lemons, is back in flower again, and the world smells of lemon blossom and hums with bumble bees. There's not long until first frost, and it'll have to come inside soon. But it's a wonderful end-of-summer moment.
Have read Coraline and seen many reviews in newspapers and the like,
but would quite like to see any reviews written by *children* who've
read the book or had it read to them.
Are there any about?
I've received quite a few written ones -- teachers have started reading it to classes, and classes of kids draw pictures and write letters. But I assume you're asking about reviews by kids out there on the web. I've been sent a couple. Offhand I can only find one...
To Mr. Gaiman,
I have been a fan of your work for years. I work for Strange
Horizons, a weekly online speculative fiction magazine. We ran a review
of Coraline and an article on American Gods in the last year. As part of our seasonal promotions, the bookstore is doing a feature dedicated to your works, in celebration of your recent success at the Hugos.
As part of our policy, we like to try and let authors know when we will be
promoting their works, in case they wish to link from websites, journals,
Got home to stuff waiting for me. Stuff includes: finished copy of Life, the Universe and Douglas Adams (which was playing in the background but which I've now replaced with a Sapphire and Steel DVD), boxes of Sandman Postcards, Sandman journals ( to write in, with a golden Amano DreamHunters cover) and Death Journals (covered with Chris Bachalo drawings of Death's head), an advance packet of "Nicholas Was..." Christmas Cards (someone at the Book Soup signing on Sunday had been told by her comic-shop retailer that these were not going to be available to the general public. This is a lie, or, more charitably, the kind of thing retailers tend to say when they didn't read their Diamond Catalogue carefully enough, and forgot to order something).
There was an envelope from Dark Horse with more of the gorgeous Michael Zulli pages from his adaptation of "The Price" in them. He's drawing the lead character as almost-me, which is fascinating -- he's more or less me, but with a Stephen King sort of beard.
Also waiting for me were some comics from Top Shelf -- Eddie Campbell's latest wonderful Alec collection (can it be an Alec collection if Eddie's no longer telling stories about Alec McGarry, an individual who looks exactly like, and shares the life of, Eddie Campbell, and is now telling the same stories about Alec McGarry lookalike Eddie Campbell?) After the Snooter and his new publication Egomania, [do you need me to tell you how good Eddie Campbell is? Or that After the Snooter is probably the best graphic novel about art and wine and midlife crises and families and friends and wine and love and art and saying goodbye and terror there is?] and Rich Koslowski's Three Fingers, at once naturalistic and absurdist, a film documentary in comics form that rips the lid off the abuse of and by Toons in movies and shorts to form a sort of alternative pop-culture history of the 20th century.
There were US Coraline posters as well, the ones Harper have just done for retailers. They are gorgeous. I hope they spend a while on the walls of bookshops before they start to show up on Ebay.
Just invited to Japan in the spring -- I need to see if I can do it. I'm already going to France for the Angouleme Festival and Coraline promotion in late January, Singapore in March and Italy and Spain (and possibly more Europe than that) in April.
Something (I suspect a groundhog, or a deer, or a gigantic mutant rabbit) has started chewing on a couple of the pumpkins in the garden pumpkin patch. I suspect it's time to start making some early pumpkin pies...
There's an Italian coffin-makers who have put their "sexy calendario" on line. Why does Miss November have the words "Mike Leave Me Alone" on her back? (I think I'd be more impressed if they actually got some models to pose with their coffins, rather than crudely photoshopping them in.)
Anyway, on with the motley...
Why are so many wonderful parts cut out from the American version of
Neverwhere? I've found the Escort Service bit, the Stout Fellow bit, and
"Bloody Gabriel, for a start" to be missing, and am looking for more. Is
there any logical reason for their absence? It's as if a large part of Mr.
Croup and Mr. Vandemar's character's were edited out.
PS, those scenes are not missing from the new Headline edition, so it's not
just a re-Anglicising of the US one, despite the missing second prologue.
Hmm... now I'm confused. I thought the Headline edition was the US edition. Oh dear.
Anyway.... any lines that went between the UK and the US version of Neverwhere tended to have gone because my US editor felt, rightly or wrongly, that American readers would have problems with something that was serious having funny lines in it. I fought for each and every one of them... won some battles, lost others.
I was never entirely comfortable with the vanished lines, so I put them back in for the International Version (printed in France, where it won the Julia Verlanger award, and the Netherlands, where it didn't). The Headline edition was meant to have been set from the international version, but for reasons I'm not sure about it wasn't... Or at least, I thought it wasn't. I'll investigate.
Top Shelf Productions has two things to celebrate today:
-- Our 5-year anniversary in publishing &
-- Chris Staros joining the CBLDF Board of Directors
To commemorate both events, and to really try and kick off a big
membership drive for the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund (CBLDF), Top
Shelf is making the following offer:
Thru September 30th, if you buy $75.00 worth of books at the Top Shelf
website, we'll give you the following:
-- a free CBLDF annual membership (Top Shelf will pay the $25 fee for
-- a free 5-year anniversary print by Craig Thompson (for the first 100
-- and free shipping (to US destinations only)
Or if you don't want books right now, but you do feel like it's time you
should join the CBLDF (and you should), Top Shelf will donate $1 for
every new member that joins by September 30th.
Which is pretty damn cool. (If you've already got a CBLDF membership, they could probably be persuaded to give one to a person of your choice.)
Lots of e-mails coming in asking about the History Channel interview -- when it will air, and so forth.
The word from James Goldin, who is making the documentary is:
The 2-hour program,
tentatively titled "The World of Comic Book Superheroes," will "air" in the
spring, probably at some time that will catch some residual heat from "X-Men
2" or "The Hulk." I'll keep you informed of any updates. I hope everyone
will be pleased with the final results.
Got my sealed-up CD player with Scarlett's Walk on it yesterday. Looks like the Martian boys used a combination of glue and some kind of super-hot something or other to make it the single most effectively sealed CD player there has ever been. Great pair of headphones though. Various e-mails from people have arrived pointing out that I could dismantle the headphones and run the wires into a computer or something, leaving me shaking my head and going "but why would I want to do that?"
Got home very late from LA last night, and sat in the small hours of the morning, listening to it three or four times over. It's wonderful hearing tracks I've not heard except in rough form months ago -- Don't Make Me Come to Vegas and Virginia. Vegas has immediately become my New Favourite Track.
There's a strangeness to it in places, as the versions on the previous CD I have are pre-strings, so I'm used to Gold Dust as a really sparse, empty song, just piano and voice, and the strings keep surprising me. I wonder if it's like that for people who read early drafts of my stuff.
After mentioning to a few friends that I had purchased tickets for my
daughter and I for the Chicago Humanities Festival reading, they pointed
out to me that Walter Payton Prep was more of a math/science magnet
school, and didn't have an auditorium per se, and that the reading would
probably be in the gym with abysmal acoustics.
Do you have any information about what the set-up and sound is going to
be like? I'll be there, nevertheless, but it would be informative to
know what to expect coming in.
Thanks for your time,
and the reply is...
The venue that Neil will read at, Walter Payton College Prep, is the second of 6 regional high schools the Chicago Public School system is building. It is a beautiful school with a three story arched glass atrium running the length of the building. The school is state of the art. The theatre in which Neil will give his reading is, likewise, beautiful. It holds 370 but feels very intimate, with a small balcony. Whatever tech is required, the school has. Earlier that day, we are doing a concert with a 45 person orchestra, an electrified harp, with a simultaneous power point display illustrating the musical on a movable floor-to-ceiling screen behind the musicians. If the conductor of the orchestra thinks that the venue is excellent, I should think that a reading of Coraline will go off very well. So, no gym, no abysmal acoustics.
If anyone else has any questions, please let me know.
Philip Pullman is spooked by Neil Gaiman's Coraline, a beautifully judged novel of mysterious purpose
Saturday August 31, 2002
Coraline by Neil Gaiman
171pp, Bloomsbury, �9.99
Neil Gaiman made his name as a writer of graphic novels, but he showed himself to be a skilful novelist of the text-only sort, too, with American Gods, an exceptionally original fantasy-horror story. That book showed that Gaiman had a rich imagination, a clear and effective prose style, and an ability to tackle large themes. So I was looking forward to Coraline, his new children's novel, and I wasn't disappointed. In fact, I was enthralled.
The story occupies a territory somewhere between Lewis Carroll's Alice and Catherine Storr's classic fantasy of warning and healing, Marianne Dreams. Coraline lives alone with her parents in a flat in an old house, the other flats being occupied by an eccentric old man who trains mice, and two elderly retired actresses. Coraline's parents are kindly but absent-minded and preoccupied with their work, so Coraline - who seems to be about Alice's age - has had to rely on herself, not only for entertainment, but also for sensible things like eating and washing and putting herself to bed.
The narrative voice is not Coraline's, but hers are the only thoughts and feelings we are told about, so she is at the centre of the story. This is the best point of view from which to tell a story about a child: the telling voice is an adult's, so it can plausibly observe and say things a child would not, but all the sympathy is with the child. Gaiman brings it off with a skill that you wouldn't notice unless you were looking for it.
And the matter-of-fact tone is important, because this is a marvellously strange and scary book. When Coraline finds a door that opens into another flat strangely like her own, but subtly different (thus making the classic transition from here, where we live, to there, where the mysteries begin), we believe what we're told. And when she discovers a sinister woman there, who looks a little like her mother but has eyes that are big black buttons, the matter-of-factness of the woman's response when Coraline says "Who are you?" is both disarming and terrifying. "I'm your other mother," she says.
And so begins a struggle for Coraline's soul. Gaiman is too intelligent and subtle to invoke the supernatural - this is much more mysterious than that - and too wise to let Coraline face the horrors alone: she has an ally in a sardonic and very feline cat. But the dangers are real, and part of the richness of the story comes from the fact that it offers many meanings without imposing any. For example, when the other mother shows Coraline a mirror in which she sees her real parents, and hears them seeming to say "How nice it is, not to have Coraline any more . . . Now we can do all the things we always wanted to do," we can see for a moment what it would be like to read the story as the acting-out of some unconscious sense of rejection on Coraline's part; but it is touched on so lightly that a moment later it's left behind. The story is much too clever to be caught in the net of a single interpretation.
Gaiman's ear is acute. At one point the other mother says of Coraline's real parents: "If they have left you, Coraline, it must be because they became bored with you," to which Coraline replies stoutly: "They weren't bored of me." With and of: the words catch their two voices exactly. This invention reaches to the smallest details. In the other flat, the toys are alive: at one point a little tank tips over on its back in its eagerness to greet her, and when Coraline sets it upright, it flees under the bed in embarrassment.
There is much more. There is the creepy atmosphere of the other flat - the scariest apartment since the one in David Lynch's film Lost Highway; there is the tender and beautifully judged ending; and above all, there is Coraline herself, brave and frightened, self-reliant and doubtful, and finally triumphant. Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, rise to your feet and applaud: Coraline is the real thing.
� Philip Pullman is the author of the Dark Materials trilogy (Scholastic).
Was interviewed about comics by the History Channel, and afterward, in the lobby, ran into Stan Lee, who was to be their next interview. He is twice my age, and still as enthusiastic as a teenager. It was good to see him. I told him a little about 1602, and he got all excited, which was a joy to see.
The drop in signing at the Mystery Bookshop proved to be expensive, as the owner asked sort of casually if I'd like to see a copy of "My Crowd" by Charles Addams, signed to Phil Silvers, and then signed by Phil Silvers, and he showed it to me, and I asked how much it was. I might have been able to resist a signed Charles Addams book, but I love Phil Silvers, and was astonished on coming to America to learn that while the British love and revere the classic Bilko episodes (the ones in Kansas), otherwise cultured and intelligent Americans barely know who Duane Doberman was. It makes you think. So I bought my book.
I know I said I wouldn't talk about bestseller lists much on the blog, but Coraline's at #1 in hardcover and American Gods at #1 in paperback at the BookSmith in San Franciscohttp://www.booksmith.com/bestsellers.html and dammit, that's pretty cool. (Coraline's also at #3 on the San Francisco Chronicle adult hardcover list.)
The Infinite Matrix is seeking donors. And they have a one-of a kind donor reward scheme. So if you ever found yourself muttering "Why will I never own a carrier bag hand-embroidered by Ursula K. LeGuin, or a real Howard Waldrop Flying Saucer made out of kitchenware?" this may well be your lucky day.
Did a delightful signing at "Every Picture Tells A Story" in Santa Monica today. It was sort of a stealth signing, mostly so that the kids who were there could have a good time. And I got to read a chapter of Coraline to an audience of mostly 10 year olds for the first time... it was really fun. (There were more adults than kids there, but the kids were all up at the front, sitting down. Staring up at me or intently reading along to make sure I got the words right.)
I'm in Hollywood with daughter Holly. We arrived, ate, walked a block down the street and went, at the invitation of a producer friend, to see a little of the filming of the remake-or-more-inspired-by-well-anyway-it's-got-minis-in-it Italian Job which actually looks, from the little we saw of it, quite fun.
The biography of Douglas Adams I did the narration for, Life, the Universe and Douglas Adams (2002) (V), is now available commercially. I thought they did a terrific job of saying who Douglas was -- it's really funny, I learned things I didn't know, and Rick let me noodle with my narration to make it sound like me (and, sometimes, to get the facts exactly right).
According to e-mail in from Rick Mueller, who wrote and directed it,
In a journal entry of yours for September 11, you posted a link to an essay
by China Mi�ville which you described as "lovely." After reading the said
essay, I could not help but be disturbed by the thought that a sensible
lover of fantasy literature like yourself could be in agreement with the
implications of Mr. Mi�ville's assertions.
This e-mail was written to inquire that such a case is not so.
I can't help but accuse Mi�ville of succumbing to "Philip Pullman syndrome,"
that fashionable malady prevalent among practitioners of the fantasy genre,
which, I'm comforted to notice, is evolving into a clich�. Tolkien and Lewis
bashing, after all, is a waning novelty that is approriately ignored when
earnest introspection sets in.
(Mi�ville should rightly vent his ire towards Salvatore, Jordan, Brooks,
Eddings, and the rest of their uninspired D&D brood).
Mi�ville, of course, makes a substantial point in his essay: to challenge,
to subvert, to question -- yes, these "drives" fuel and invigorate every
human field of endevour, more so the literary enterprise. But so does the
drive to console, to heal, to inspire, to tell stories that ennobles and
comforts without being compromising: posing hard questions without the
attitude, and searching for answers because the search by itself is
Reading THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS during my recent confinement in the
hospital, or finishing MacDonald's PHANTASTES, or my present joy of slowly
leafing through the first few chapters of Lindsay's A VOYAGE TO ARCTURUS,
grounds me in an experience of the fantastic (and of fantastic literature)
that is not at all escapist, not at all illusory, but painfully "real."
And I encounter the same experience in reading LeGuin, McKinley, Yolen,
Wolfe, Le'Engle, and a host of other storytellers. If we follow Mi�ville's
harangue to its logical conclusion, we might as well scoff at the legacy of
these writers as well.
I remain a great admirer,
Sonni M. Viudez
I do think it's a lovely essay -- well-thought-out, passionate and well-argued. I agree with probably about 50% of it. But the nice thing about linking to stuff other people have done is that you don't need to agree with it all -- rather, you have to hope it makes people think. Or at least, that's what I do. (China does vent his ire on the legions of indistinguishable fantasy writers, or at least the phenomenon of indistinguishable fantasy at the start of his essay. But I'd venture he regards the authors you name as the symptom rather than the disease.)
And the strangest thing that happened today is that I got an e-mail from a Winnipeg reporter, wanting to interview me: currently, the Winnipeg police are reading American Gods, after a fake security guard with a fake night-deposit box got away with $40,000.
Of course, he could have got it from http://www.snopes.com/business/bank/guard.htm. Or he could have got it from Chuck Whitlock's Scam School, or one of the other books on scams it's mentioned in... but I suppose he may well have got the idea from me.
(Strange: I fogged the details of the credit card scam in American Gods because they were too easy to pull off, but I detailed that one because it seemed unlikely to the point of impossibility that anyone would read it in the novel and then try to pull it off.)
Got an FAQ message from Storme (is this the Storme from the UK with the tee shirt? Probably) to say I thought you might find it interesting.
Earth might have a third moon. I wasn't aware we had a second moon!
It's madness on the writing front right now, lots of tiny things to do along with the big things, and none of them are moveable. Got to write an appreciation of Dave McKean for the World Fantasycon program book, for example, and it's time to write something for Tori's Scarlet's Walk tour program booklet. (I'm being sent the CD glued into a glued-together Walkman. When I pointed out that I already had a copy of an early version of the album on CD, and that I wasn't really likely to leak it to the web, I learned that Everybody was getting their CDs like this, which made me smile. I was also warned not to follow the lead of someone I will not identify here [ I shall disguise his identity, to save him embarrassment, and will only identify him by his initials -- MC -- and say that he is a percussionist of great coolness and excellence]. Anyway, this unnamed person apparently decided to try and open the sealed Walkman and remove the glued-up CD, and managed to cut his hand quite badly in the process. So I shall not do this. Nor shall I go to plan B, Boil the Walkman. I shall just press the play button, and be happy. I'm really looking forward to hearing the whole story in finished form, and trying to decide what kind of thing to write. Diary entries, maybe. Or a sort of American Gods thing. Or something else. Ah well, I'll talk to her and we'll figure it out.)
Did I mention that finished copies of TWO PLAYS FOR VOICES arrived today? Or that the cassette packaging is practically as cool as the (double)CD? Or that it's the most beautiful packaging of anything of mine not done by Dave McKean?
Well, it came, in CD and cassette form, and it's lovely.
Several weeks ago in Edinburgh I had breakfast in an Indian Restaurant with a very nice journalist named Stephen Phelan. It was meant to be lunch, and it was at lunchtime, but that was my jetlag day, so it was breakfast. Stephan's written it up in the Sunday Herald
I put some FAQ entries over in the FAQ journal, but a few questions seemed happier here....
Hi! At http://www.wikipedia.org you'll find Wikipedia, a great project to create an entirely free and open encyclopaedia. Athttp://www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neil_Gaiman you'll find the entry for Neil, which has links to other entries for specific books and so forth, and at http://www.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Sandman you'll find the Sandman entry, which has links to each of the Sandman collections and to a page on characters. I noticed all of these were a bit sketchy,occasionally inaccurate and sometimes non-existent, and have spent sometime lately fleshing the sketchy bits out, correcting the inaccurate bits and creating the ones that didn't exist. I was hoping that a) you'd find it interesting to read and b) you'd post these links on the blog, in the hopes that people both more knowledgeable and more concise than
myself will improve my stuff, this after all being the point of Wikipedia. Thanks a lot!
Not a problem.
1. When you decided on becoming a Writer, did you have trouble on deciding what type of novels you were going to write, for example you thought that maybe you were a science fiction writer, or a modern fiction writer. Or have all of your stories always been dark and macabre?
2. How many copies of American Gods have been sold worldwide. It's my favourite book of all time, and I know Sandman has sold 12 million (according to the British covers, but you never can trust them.) But I was just curious to see how my favourite book had fared across the world.
3. Are you planning on writing a huge mammoth book like American Gods again, aimed only for adults, as that would be cool.
Thanks for your time, don't let me disrupt your work.
1 -- Good question. I think I thought I might be a science fiction writer. I don't think all of my stories have been dark and macabre -- Stardust isn't dark, for example, and it's only faintly macabre. Much of Sandman is quite sunny and only macabre around the edges. The Day I Swapped My Dad For Two Goldfish was practically not macabre at all.
2 -- well, it's not done selling yet. I actually don't have any figures in for France, Italy, Brazil, Israel, etc.
But in the UK it had sold around eighty thousand copies between hardback, trade paperback and the recently released paperback, the last time I heard. The US has sold around a hundred thousand hardbacks and so far about three hundred thousand paperbacks, and it is still doing very well (it's not been off the Northern California Independent Bookseller bestseller lists since it came out, normally at # 1 or #2). The publisher would say that US and UK paperbacks continue to sell 'briskly" and have both gone back to press again recently.
3 -- Yes. But not yet. I want to do another book that will be done in a year or less before I dive into something huge. (There are two huge books in my head, at present -- Time in the Smoke and Night. But both of them will wait for me.) I don't have to decide until I pick up my pen toward the end of the year, but I think Anansi Boys will probably be next.
John Clute is a fascinating writer, and the best critical writer on SF we've had. He's also been intimately involved as an editor and a driving force behind the astonishing SF Encyclopedia and the not-as-astonishing Fantasy Encyclopedia. But hidden, or as Clute might say, nested, in the Fantasy Encyclopedia, behind odd entries with names like THINNING and WAINSCOTS was a short-novel-length Clutean Unified Field Theory of Fantasy, which I wish he would extract, polish and expand upon.
I'm pretty sure that, from the evidence in his fascinating and beautifully constructed essay on Coraline over at Scifi.com's Excessive Candour he's now in the process of constructing a vocabulary for Horror. "If Coraline had been a tale of horror, we would have expected her to have been dragged (as though by a hook) through what was not a portal at all but a cloaca, a outgushing gape of the Bad Place Within, which befouls the protagonist on contact," he says. And I'll bet you a tinned pilchard that if there's an Encylopedia of Horror, and there should be, that CLOACA, HOOK and BAD PLACE will have their entries in there.
Finished a Washington Post book review (not allowed to say which book until it comes out), and sent the DEATH MOVIE second Draft off to my agent, only fourteen months late (sigh).
I thought that I'd put in a plug for Scott McCloud, mainly because I keep running into people who talk about Scott and his work and how much Understanding Comics changed their lives, and who say "Of course, it's my dream to have Scott come and speak at my college/conference," and who appear very doubtful when I explain that he really does do that kind of thing, and what is weirder, he LIKES to do that kind of thing.
So Scott now has a page up at http://www.scottmccloud.com/home/speaking/speaking.html which tells you about his teaching seminar and his talks and suchlike, and how to contact him (er Scott@scottmccloud.com actually). If your college/workplace/institution needs someone to come and explain the world to you, or just to teach you the rules of Five Card Nancy, you want Scott. There. End of plug. Forward the link to anyone who might need it...
I don't have enough of a sense of current horror as a field to agree or disagree with her description of things as they are, although I suspect that even if she's right, she may be wrong in her ultimate conclusions -- after all, the state of affairs she describes applies equally well to poetry these days, all small press and print on demand and you-publish-mine-I'll-publish-yours and all too often no sense of history (old poetry is too often considered "boring rhyming stuff written by pretentious dead guys," by people who couldn't construct a villanelle at gunpoint) -- and poetry still rolls along, and there is still a tribe, and sometimes someone fine and interesting will come along and make great poetry.
I suspect that Paula, in her various editorial capacities, is too tired of reading lousy fiction. But I'd take a different tack. I'd probably start by suggesting that people read. Lots of people want to write horror. Many of them, as she points out, only read horror, and not very good horror at that. (There was a case some years ago of a writing team of two nice young ladies publishing a book which was extensively ripped off from a Dean Koontz novel. It was a while before anyone noticed. And my reaction was "what a strange thing to plagiarise".)
And I take heart from one thing. A quick check reveals that over at Amazon.com, Steve Jones and Kim Newman's invaluable Horror: 100 Best Books is still in available. (You need this book, by the way, if you have any interest in horror at all. it's the ultimate reading list. A hundred authors write about a hundred great books. Go order it from your local bookshop. Then try to read the hundred.) And, perhaps more importantly, the Amazon entry shows that the other books that people who bought it also bought are, in the main, books on writing horror. I hope this means that the tribe of want-to-be horror writers has more of a sense of history and literature than Paula thinks.
(In the interests of full disclosure, I wrote the review of Anthony Boucher's Compleat Werewolf in the Jones and Newman book, because Steve or Kim phoned me up at the very very last minute, and said "Reviewer number one hundred just completely flaked out on us, so you have to do one. What book do you want to do?" And I suggested books, getting ever more obscure and recondite, they would say "No, someone's already done that one for us." Eventually I said "Just read me the list of books you haven't got reviews for," and the first one they got to that I liked, I said "I'll do that", and it was the Boucher.)
Behind the scenes, they are working hard to get things on this website that aren't working, working again. The FAQ e-mail address started working half an hour ago, although none of the e-mails people have sent previously have come through yet. But to celebrate the first one of these to come through in a week or more...
I read _American Gods_ this past summer, and enjoyed it. I have always been
interested in the old Norse Mythos. You have an incredible imagination. My
only regret with your book was that none of the "gods" of the American South
were represented (Br'er Rabbit, Br'er Fox, and the like), but as you had
mentioned in your FAQ, you really don't have much experience with the rural
True enough, although they were still in there, more or less, as gods, not as children's folk-tales. After all, the tar-baby story and many of the rest of them were originally African stories told about gods. And the god that much of Africa told the tar baby story about wasn't a rabbit, it was the spider god, Anansi...
(If you've sent an FAQ thing over the last ten days or so, feel free to re-send it to the NGFAQ@authorsontheweb.com address while they're working stuff out.)
It was almost midnight, and Paul and Martyn and I had started telling ghost stories. I had just finished telling them a sworn-true ghostly account from my school days: the tale of the Green Hand. It had been an article of faith at my prep school that there was a disembodied, luminous hand, that was seen, from time to time, by unfortunate schoolboys. If you saw the Green Hand you would die soon after. Fortunately, none of us were ever unlucky enough to encounter it, but there were sad tales of boys there before our time, boys who saw the Green Hand and whose thirteen-year-old hair had turned white overnight. According to school legend they were taken to the sanatorium, where they would expire after a week or so without ever being able to utter another word.
�Hang on,� said Paul-the-actor. �If they never uttered another word, how did anyone know they�d seen the Green Hand? I mean, they could have seen anything.�
As a boy, being told the stories, I had not thought to ask this, and now it was pointed out to me it did seem somewhat problematic.
�Perhaps they wrote something down,� I suggested, a bit lamely.
We batted it about for a while, and agreed that the Green Hand was a most unsatisfactory sort of ghost.
And of course, it�s true enough. (I make up so much less than you�d imagine.) While I was doing a final copy-edit I thought, for no particular reason, that I�d google �the Green Hand� and see what came up � mostly wondering whether this was specific to my old school, or one of those international Urban Legends. Observing that there was even a childrens book called The Green Hand, I figured that it was probably a multinational legend, until I twigged that Tessa Krailing, the author of the book, was the same Miss V. T. Krailing who taught the first year and Art at the school in question. I�d be tempted to make �small world� noises, but it�s not. It�s just sensible, and logical, and the kind of connection that, before the web, would never have been made. (Oddly enough, my reaction on realising who she was, was something along the lines of �But why didn�t you tell me you wanted to be a writer?� Which would, I suppose, have been an odd thing for a teacher to tell a nine year old boy.)
E-mail in from Caitlin Kiernan's right-hand woman Jennifer Caudle, letting me know that Farscape has been cancelled, and that over in Cait's Low Red Moon journal, Cait is organising the resistance to try to rescue it. See her entry for September the 7th.
In addition to trying to save the television show she loves, Cait's is the best journal about the business of actually getting down and writing that there is. It's the bit that I tend to leave out of this one, because I worry that it'll be dull, but Cait manages to keep it readable and interesting.
Then again, I've not written a novel since I started this journal, 18 months ago, just an awful lot of shorter stuff. When I do start the next book, whichever one it decides to be, towards the end of the year, I may well start posting daily word counts and the 'had a good writing day'/'had a bad writing day' stuff that life writing a novel tends to become. (When writing a novel that's pretty much entirely what life turns into: "House burned down. Car stolen. Cat exploded. Did 1500 easy words, so all in all it was a pretty good day." "Got call this morning to say I'd got Nobel Prize for literature. Wrote less than 300 words (285) probably unusable, so lousy day." And so forth.)
(I still remember, from 1987, the disappointment on the faces of the reception ladies at the television centre who had misheard the call sheet, and dressed up all specially, and brought in CDs to get signed, when they realised I wasn't him.)
And an "I Don't Like This" review of Coraline in the Independent at http://enjoyment.independent.co.uk/books/reviews/story.jsp?story=330415. It seems to be warning people against running out and buying first printings of the UK edition, something that's easier said than done these days, as Foyles found when they had to reorder for the signing. On the other hand, it's the first of the "well he used to write comics you know my dears" reviews I've seen for Coraline. (Got lots of them for Neverwhere, fewer for American Gods.)
And the FAQ line is still dead as something or someone indisputably dead preferably with a short name beginning with D. For the time being we have a message there saying "The FAQ submission form is temporarily off-line. Please e-mail your questions to: NGFAQ@authorsontheweb.com and we will forward your message to the author. " So now you know.
Just watched a lovely "We Can Get Them For You Wholesale" film (on DVD yet) -- genuinely funny and well shot (and with a gender-reversal that worked just fine). A real contrast with my other current favourite "We Can Get Them For You Wholesale" film, which was the wonderful Scandinavian one.
It's odd. I mean, I wrote that story when I was about 23, on a manual typewriter, after falling asleep to a radio programme about contract killers and waking up to one about wholesaling (or possibly it was the other way around). It was published in Knave, more or less as a favour to me by the editor, Ian Pemble. I don't think I thought there was anything special about it.
But for the last decade my agent, Merrilee, has gotten four or five requests a year from people who want to retell the story as student films, and say I yes to pretty much all of them, as long as they aren't out there commercially. And they're getting better and better...
in no particular order
a) it's lovely to be home
b) Picked about thirty pounds of tomatoes today. Soup! Salsa! Ratatouille! Giving tomatoes away!
c) Michael Chabon loves the McSweeneys story.
I think something's broken on the FAQ line currently. I was trying to figure out why nothing had come in for days, and went and tried to get it to work and couldn't, so have reported back to the management.
Last week Jen Contino from COMICON.com PULSE sent me an e-mail asking for an interview. Having no time to do an interview, I came up with a polite and brilliant method of saying no, which was to say No time, but I'll do it for you if I win the Hugo. Which seemed like the twelfth of never when I sent her the reply. Click on the link to read the interview.
Meanwhile over the last month Rain Graves, the Gothic.net Tanguanista (okay, Tanguera) has been doing a long e-mail interview with me, which she's now put up at Gothic.net. Register! Subscribe! Etc!
Jonathan Carroll is best known as a fine and brilliant author. He is also the kind of person who delights in sending things like this to his friends:Amazon.com: buying info: Harry Potter Nimbus 2000 Broom and suggesting strongly that they look at the picture and read the reviews carefully. Advice I can only pass on to you.
(Later: oh well. Amazon has carefully gone in and removed all the really funny ones, which made it apparent that a number of young ladies were getting a great of vibrational value from their brooms. Pity.)
I nervously checked the Hugo, wrapped in newspaper and bubble wrap, because it was pointed out to me that the security people at the airport would either think it was a rocket launcher or a potentially offensive weapon.
Finished typing up the story for Michael Chabon's guest-edited McSweeneys on the way back. It's called "Closing Time" and it's partly a story that I'd had in the back of my head as being the next book in the Violent Cases/Mr Punch sequence of unreliable autobiographies for the last fifteen years. And partly it's a reaction to seeing some surprising awnings over some windows in Hanway Place two weeks ago.
(Michael's issue 10 of McSweeney's will, I suspect, be amazing. He has an astonishing line-up of writers, and the book is going to raise funds for 826 Valencia.)
For those of you in the Minneapolis Area who want to know what a Hugo looks like (as I did, growing up), I promised Greg Ketter at DreamHaven that he can display the AMERICAN GODS Hugo in the shop. It might be fun to round up all the awards for him, so he can put up a display of the Hugo, the Stoker Award, the SFX and the Locus Award as well. DreamHaven have got their commercial site up at http://www.neilgaiman.net and it's doing well. I just need a day of time I don't have to find them fun things to put on the site. In the meantime they are happy to take suggestions and input from anyone about the site, and they're also happy to take orders, which is what the site is there for.
If you go to the Book Soup - "Bookseller to the Great & Infamous" site, you'll learn about the signing I'll be doing there (at their new store in Costa Mesa, about 40 miles south of LA) on Sunday the 15th of September. Their space is really limited, so the decision was made to be cruel-and-harsh-and-evil-but-ultimately-fair and to make the event ticket-only, and it's limited to 200 tickets. It's not being advertised anywhere except on their site, and I'm mentioning it here, but no LA Weekly ads or anything, mostly to stop another 500 people turning up just in case. Call the phone number on the site to get a ticket.
So I'm working with Robert Zemeckis on the Fermata script today, in the San Jose hotel that the World SF con was in. Which means that every time Bob Z and I go to eat, people come up to me in the corridors and say "congratulations on writing such a good book" and I say "Thank you so much". I shouldn't have told Bob I won the Hugo last night. I bet I could have convinced him that random people in hotels always congratulate me for writing good books.
Several hundred congratulatory e-mails came in today. My favourite so far, from my son Mike, just said Well, it is always weird to wake up and read your family news at the top of slashdot, but I suppose I'll get used to it at some point. Congratulations Dad! All congratulations have been read. I'm not sure that all will get replied to, but I really am very grateful.
....AMERICAN GODS won the 2002 Hugo Award for Best Novel!
(Memo to self: even if you don't think you're going to win, write a speech. Otherwise you will wind up on the stage in front of several thousand people, finishing an impromptu speech with "Fuck, I got a Hugo.")
Lots of messages from friends telling me I've been sighted at the Worldcon in San Jose over the last couple of days, which is a bit odd when you think about it, as I wasn't there over the last couple of days. Still, I am now. My chest is not yet back to normal, so I alternately cough and sound like Barry White. Well, an English sort of Barry White. A white English Barry White. Okay, I don't sound anything like Barry White at all, but I do have a sort of chesty sort of voice. Except when I cough.
San Jose is beautiful.
As the driver drove me into the centre of San Jose, and seeing the teeming throngs of people in badges crossing the street in front of us, he exclaimed, "Jesus. Who ARE these people?"
"Well," I said, "That's Patrick Neilsen Hayden. That looks a lot like Tom Schaad. That's Jon Singer."
"No," I said.
Finished the handwritten draft of the story for Michael Chabon-edited issue of McSweeneys today. Have to type it out now. It didn't work as a ghost story until I gave it a framing story, in a seedy London club, at which point it came to life, and became an odd sort of companion piece to the story I wrote for Peter Straub last month.