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Tuesday, December 31, 2002

Oliver Morton, old friend of mine and author of Mapping Mars dropped me a line to let me know that

an old colleague of mine, the excellent Phil Gyford, has hit on the
cool idea of putting up all of pepys as a blog, on a day-by-day
basis: starts tomorrow at www.pepysdiary.com. Thought it might be of
interest.


which is rather wonderful. The best thing about Pepys, I thought, when I read the diaries, some years ago, was watching him change, with the country, from the puritan days to the restoration -- watching him discover the theatre (to which he slowly becomes addicted), watching him grow and reinvent himself. The other best thing is that, confiding in a coded diary, he gradually becomes unutterably honest, and thus human, sometimes shockingly so.

I suspect that the talents that made him a remarkable secret diarist would have made him a lousy blogger, but luckily, none of the people he's writing about are going to be reading his blog.

Of course, someone could start writing Elizabeth Pepys's blog at the same time...

I'm always impressed by people who display on their websites, proudly, the bizarre things that other people had typed into search engines in order to get to their site. Often the keywords involve nudity, interesting or unusual body parts, celebrities, or even, at a pinch, the interesting and unusual body parts of nude celebrities. Occasionally they stumble into the area of extreme surreality or dangerous dada, not to mention really bad spelling. And this is amusing or interesting. So every now and then, when I remember, I go and look at the sort of backstage information about this website area, and try to make sense of it. And, almost two years on, I still haven't posted any amusing search engine results up here. This is because there haven't been any. You'll see what I mean when I tell you that the last ten search engines to arrive here did so through people searching for the following:

1. neil gaiman

2. Neil Gaiman

3. Neil Gaiman

4. neil gaiman

5. Neil Gaiman

6. neil gaiman

7. Neil Gaiman

8. Neil Gaiman

9. "neil gaiman"

10. neil gaiman

Sigh. And that's typical, I'm afraid. Never a "doomed rubber duck discounts" or "three-niuppled-Brutney-Spears" in the bunch of them.

Monday, December 30, 2002


Neil,

You mentioned a movie called "The Singing Ringing Tree", but your description
(the evil dwarf, the prince turned into a bear, the hard-hearted princess)
sounds more like "Father Frost" (or "Jack Frost" (which was the title MST3K
used when they showed it) or "Morozko" (the original Russian title)).

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B00005OCKP

and

http://us.imdb.com/Title?0058374

-Erik


I'm sure they sound similar. But this is http://us.imdb.com/Title?0052199 and http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B00004YS9R/qid%3D1041301735 (You never forget a title like "The Singing Ringing Tree", even if it should have been "Das Singende, Klingende B�umchen".)That's the trouble with (and the glory of) folk and fairy tales, after all: people moved from place to place, and kept telling stories. They echo each other...

And while we're on the subject:

Not really a question, but I saw your entry on the Singing Ringing Tree - the East German fairy tale that dealt with a spoilt princess and a dwarf. I never saw the programme but I heard a programme on BBC radio 4 on Saturday morning. I just happened to be plucking some pheasant. The programme was on about 10.00 am, maybe 10.30 - the presenter was discussing the programme as well as including clips of the plummy BBC presenter explaining the fairy tale from when it was first broadcast. The programme tried to find costumes of the film in the east german studios and eventually found the actress that played the princess. The BBC site describes the programme as "It had a Communist princess, the world's most baffling fish, and a seriously scary dwarf. Thousands of children trembled behind the sofa at this BBC TV film bought from behind the Iron Curtain. Chris Bowlby relives a Cold War fairy tale linking East Berlin studios with bizarre British back gardens." The website address is http://www.bbc.co.uk/cgi-perl/whatson/prog_parse.cgi?FILENAME=20021228/20021228_1030_49700_8964_30 but sadly no other information nor was it recorded for internet listening.

Good to see that you have introduced Deadringers on the blogger, when are you going to wreak havoc by introducing "I'm sorry I haven't a clue" or "Just a minute" (the latter programme has an hour long programme on radio 4 on New Year's Day for its 35th anniversary).

Wishing you and your family a belated Christmas and an early Happy New Year

I shall try to think of a question to ask at some time


Oh good. If anyone's interested I'm still feeding the iPod. (Next pile of CDs to go in consists of Nino Rota's Omaggio a Fellini, Jim White's No Such Place, Lou Reed's American Poet, Stina Nordenstam's Dynamite, Elaine Stritch's At Liberty Ennio Morricone's Drammi Gotici and Live Stiffs.)

Hi Neil -
I recently won (and will shortly receive) a copy of an anthology called "Strange Kaddish" that claims to have an otherwise-unpublished short story by you called "Into the Light". I checked the bibliography and saw a listing for a story titled "In the End". Can you tell me anything about this collection, and/or your story? Have I indeed acquired a little-known "Gaiman goodie"? And, after checking three different sources and receiving three different interpretations, what exactly does "Kaddish" mean in this case?
Thanks for your help/insight.

Love from Jordan's Mom


Hullo Jordan's mom. If memory serves, the story in Strange Kaddish is "In the End", a very VERY short story that's in the UK edition of Smoke and Mirrors and in the e-book edition of Smoke and Mirrors as well (where, confusingly, it's sometimes listed as "apple" because that was the name of the WordPerfect file).

Kaddish is a Jewish prayer for the dead. To understand what it means in this case you'd have to ask the editor of the anthology.

And a quote from this journal is Quotation of the Day over at http://ca.geocities.com/quotationoftheday/qotd.html. (This will only be true if you're clicking on it on the 30th of December, of course. If you click on it tomorrow it'll be a different quote from someone else.)

Sunday, December 29, 2002

The iPod is always hungry. The iPod needs feeding...

I was given the iPod for my birthday but didn't have a chance to play with it. Now I'm back home, I bought a back-up drive to put CDs on, and have started listening to music on the ipod when I write. The only trouble is, there are so many CDs to go on the drive, so every 20 minutes I make my apologies and dash upstairs and put another CD in, hoping that its tracks are listed in some database somewhere and I don't have to type them in. (Now copying: Iggy Pop's The Idiot.)

Hugely looking forward to the next time I head off somewhere being able to take the equivalent of several hundred CDs with, without having anything more to carry. Slowly, inch by inch I'm being dragged into the 21st Century.

Also, in a fit of grumpiness about being limited in which of my DVDs I can play on my computer when travelling, I downloaded, tried out and bought DVDIdlePro, which does a number of things, one of which is unlock Region-specific DVDs. It's not like I use the DVD player on the computer much, but if I do, I want to be able to watch my DVDs without worrying about half of them not playing. (Now copying: Al Stewart's 24 P/Carrots)

Saturday, December 28, 2002

Here's an odd one. Yesterday I wrote a scene in my Legends novella set in a bothy (a small hut or cottage) for walkers near Cape Wrath: Shadow met a young lady there and learned a lot about the Norwegian Huldra-women. Today a physical newspaper arrived from the UK with a story in it which I just found online, and link to here. It's sad and a bit disturbing -- particularly "she did not allow photographs of herself" I'd feel more comfortable if the writing process of this thing wasn't beset with odd coincidences, although in a way it's reassuring: while I was writing American Gods the world showered me with useful and informative coincidences. The novella coincidences are just strange...

Oh, I like this Coraline mention....Montreal Mirror - 2002: The Year in Review - Books

"3. Coraline by Neil Gaiman. This may be the only truly �great� book of the year, a terrifying Alice in Wonderland for our era. The only reason it�s not number one is from worry that adults will turn it into some kind of �family� reading. But this archetypal tale of narcissistic parents who are self-absorbed in one world and needy and grasping in another should be left on a dusty shelf for kids to discover so they can be scared shitless all on their own, since isn�t this what great literature is for?"

(The Little Friend, and The Crimson Petal and the White come in at numbers 1 and 2.)

Coraline's also a Barnes and Noble 2002 Favourite --http://btob.barnesandnoble.com/bestof/cds2.asp?pid=717&btob=Y&kids=y

Over at http://www.preserveusfromthehouseofclocks.com/ the guestbook is slowly becoming a rather wonderful piece of interactive fiction. Or, of course, reportage.

Friday, December 27, 2002

Just discovered that "The Singing Ringing Tree" is available on DVD, and immediately ordered it. Mostly because I want to find out what it was about. When I was five or six I watched it on TV ("Tales from Europe" a sort of low-budget BBC thing where they'd buy European children's programs and then not really dub them, just have a narrator explaining what was happening, if I remember rightly) and have odd memories of an evil dwarf, a prince turned into a bear, and a hard-hearted princess. And the singing ringing tree, which sang and rang, although I couldn't for the life of me tell you why.

"Imagine a fairy tale conceived by Wagner and directed by Fritz Lang, with nods in the direction of The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari and German expressionism, and you'd be close. The hyper-real coloring process of the time, together with the quasi-operatic sets and theatrical acting styles make this European classic fascinating viewing for adults, while children will be mesmerized by this unfamiliar, haunting, yet compelling film," says the Amazon.com reviewer, and that's more or less what I remember from my childhood (except, of course, for the colour, which hadn't been invented then). So I've ordered it, and may even inflict it on my family.

Dead Ringers is a BBC Radio 4 program of impressionists. (It's just become a rather less successful, because you can see people not looking like the people they're meant to be, TV show). The highlight of the radio show is strange prank calls from an actor doing an excellent Dr Who (Tom Baker incarnation) impression -- phoning an employment agency and asking for an assistant, for example. The most recent of the calls to be put up on their website is http://www.bbc.co.uk/cult/doctorwho/death/brief_history/tom_clip.shtml a phone call to Tom Baker himself, who winds up having much more fun than the impersonator...

Lots of people asking if it's true that Miyazaki's next film is going to be Diana Wynne Jones's Howl's Moving Castle. And it is.

Thursday, December 26, 2002

It's Boxing Day! As a kid I always liked Boxing Day best -- it seemed so anticlimactic, and I've always liked anticlimaxes. And then I moved to America, a country of 300 million people who mostly don't know what Boxing Day is. (Basically it's the day you eat leftovers and sprawl a lot, named after the Victorian custom of servants getting their holiday "boxes" -- gifts of money -- the day after Christmas.)

I plan to write for the first half of today, and friends are coming over for the second half of the day to eat leftovers.

One of Maddy's presents was a magnetic Do-It-Yourself Month-at-a-time calendar: She's sitting on my bed and assembling January as I speak. "Is Columbus day in January?" "No." "Chinese New Year?" "That's the first of February this year." "Isn't anything in January?" "School begins?" "Oh. Right. I'm bored of this now."

We watched Lilo and Stitch together last night. I'd expected it to be mediocre Disney, and it really wasn't at all: smart, funny film with a heart.

Tonight the kids will indulge me and we'll listen to half of the Radio 4 adaptation of John Masefield's "The Box of Delights" on CD. And I'll make Mike a posset.

I got the Ipod I was given for my birthday working. Had a weird moment of living-in-future as I realised I had the first season of Round the Horne -- about half a gig -- sitting in a corner of a little white box, and that, with the death of Barry Took, all of the Round the Horne people are now gone. The only one I ever met was Kenneth Williams. We had lunch and I interviewed him, about seventeen years ago, in the Savoy Grill. The saddest thing, in retrospect, was that the magazine I was interviewing him for underwent a change of editor almost immediately, and the interview never saw print... then again most of the second half of the interview would have been unusable anyway, as it was Ken talking, unstoppably, loudly, and expressively about being a martyr to his bottom and all the famous people he knew who had also been martyrs to their bottoms, many of whom had had operations to correct fistulas and suchlike, all of which Ken seemed to know all about and was determined to talk about in mind-corroding detail. It occurs to me now, typing this and looking back on it, that for Kenneth Williams, life was, very literally, a pain in the arse.

Hm. Let's do an FAQ.

I just have to ask ... in Brief Lives what is the first song that's in the background of the party Del enters during the start of the book? I love the lyrics ... now if I could just find the song ...

It's "Tear In Your Hand", by Tori Amos. It's on Little Earthquakes. You can find things like that out quite often from the Sandman Annotations, an unfinished (I think they only had about four issues to go) usenet based project to annotate all of Sandman. I just looked at the annotation for Sandman 41 and was surprised to note that they'd missed Rita Marlowe. (I suspect that the existence of Google would make Sandman a lot easier to annotate if someone were to try and do it today.)

Wednesday, December 25, 2002

Dear Neil,

I wrote the original parody posted on my journal a bunch of weeks ago, and when I'd checked the Straight Dope message board and found nobody spoofing Good Omens, I posted it straight from my journal- except with a brief mention of the Silmarillion added.

http://www.livejournal.com/talkpost.bml?journal=chn_breathmint&itemid=140173

The original parody- I'm Mel, who goes under the handle Cyanide Breathmint on the Straightdope forum. I posted only twice, I think, because I'd registered just to post that parody.

My fiance alerted me to you giving me props on your journal, and it's Christmas right here in Singapore. Needless to say, I'm quite squealy now, and a little red around the ears.

I'm very glad you liked it, and just as a tangential note, I have you to blame for my macabre obsession with horror, since I read "Snow, Glass, Apples". I can never think of fairy tales the same way again.

... Which is probably a good thing, I suppose.

Merry Christmas.

-Mel


And a Merry Christmas to all our readers.

Over at the Straight Dope message board, people are doing other people doing Lord of the Rings. Some wonderful parodies, some not-so. There's a Terry Pratchett and me in Good Omens mode one that's both accurate and funny, which I was tempted to repost here, but then decided not to, partly because if i don't have the author's permission, but mostly because I put it up here it would probably be attributed to me as people copied it, which would be unfair to the real author, whoever he or she is.

It's on page 7 of the parodies, though. You can't miss it.

http://gning.org/skiffy.html is a Which Science-Fiction Writer Are You questionnaire.

I got

You are Samuel R. Delany
Few have had such broad commercial success with aggressively experimental prose techniques.


which made me smile. Writing as well as Chip Delany is a fine thing to aim for.

Tuesday, December 24, 2002

Received in the post this morning was a sheaf of contracts for Coraline from my agents, from publishers all over the world, for me to sign and send back...

So I can now at least partly, answer the question of what editions of Coraline will be published where -- from those contracts it's:

SWEDISH -- BonnierCarlsen
PORTUGUESE -- Editorial Presenca
CZECH -- Polaris
FINNISH -- Otava
NORWEGIAN -- H. Aschehoug & Co.
SPANISH -- Publicaciones Y Ediciones Salamandra
POLISH -- Mag
GERMAN - Arena Verlag

Off the top of my head, I can see that list doesn't include the Japanese edition, the Italian, the French (Albin Michel), the Danish or the Dutch (Luitingh). And there may be others I'm blanking on right now.

There's a lovely bit on Two Plays For Voices over at Audiobookstoday.com (which still has that little Peter Straub microstory up).

Monday, December 23, 2002

Sent a couple of essays to Julia to go up on the site: one on Gene Wolfe, which I did for the 2002 World Horror Convention program booklet, and one on Dave McKean, which I did for the 2002 World Fantasy Convention program booklet. And then I tidied up an essay on Will Eisner I did in about 1996 for the Chicago comics con program book, which GMZoe found and typed out for me, and sent that on to Julia as well. So they should all go up in the next few weeks.

Other than that, the house is sort of getting all pre-christmassy. Mike and his friends are watching a DVD of The Kumars at Number 42 in the next room and yelping with delight, and Maddy has learned most of the words to the songs in Sondheim's "A Little Night Music". On a bookshelf somewhere I have the text of the play, with all the lyrics, which I should dig out for her.

Yes, I know that Channukah was several weeks ago.

Also I have been taken to task for my statement several weeks ago that I was now boring and was doing laundry. I did not mean to imply that boring people did laundry. More that boring people wrote about doing laundry. Particularly, on reflection, because I could have been talking about how much fun and how strange and exciting directing a film I'd written was.

And an FAQ message came in to let me know I've made it into The Love Quotes Encyclopedia: Love Quotes from Famous Authors, Love Poems, Love Songs Lyrics, Movies, and Books at #84, with a quote from Sandman: The Kindly Ones.

I'm currently writing the end of chapter 3 of 1602, and the new Shadow/American Gods Novella for Robert Silverberg's next LEGENDS anthology. It's an odd tale, the sort of thing where you head off, as a writer, into the dark and trust blindly that you won't fall off a cliff before the end of the story, and that the motivations of some of these characters may become clear. The weirdest bit is that, given the location, I was starting to think I might call it "Cape Wrath", after the jut-and-lighthouse on the northern Scottish coast near where the story is set. Idly googled it last night and discovered that, several months ago, Paul Finch had published a novella called Cape Wrath, set in the area, and with a couple of the ingredients in my story. (Here's a review.) I'm used to people coming up to me sadly and saying "You took my book idea/title", so I don't actually mind -- it seems fair that it should happen to me in return once in a while. I'm just pleased I discovered it before it could have been embarrassing. (I remember the weirdness of Terry Pratchett and I both writing a story called "Troll Bridge" at what must have been the same time. Very different stories, but still. Odd.)

Anyway. Back to work.

I've written about the Jesus Castillo case a few times before. He's the Texas store clerk who was arrested for and convicted of selling an adult comic book to an adult cop. The Texas Supreme court decided not to hear the appeal. The CBLDF is appealing the case to the Supreme Court -- who decide what they want to hear, and who declined to hear Mike Diana's appeal (despite the fact he was the first American artist ever convicted of obscenity for his own work as an artist). Anyway, Mr Castillo has given his first interview to Newsarama: http://www.newsarama.com/cgi-bin/ubb/ultimatebb.cgi?ubb=get_topic&f=2&t=000084

And you can still get friends memberships in the Comic Book Legal Defence Fund. The perfect Christmas/Channnukah/Kwanza/Solstice/Mithras's Birthday present...

Saturday, December 21, 2002

The late Roger Zelazny wrote, in his introduction to the collected version of the original Books of Magic, that editors think they're buying a story, but what they're really buying is the way the story is told.

More or less the same story appears in two UK papers today -- journalist takes child to Lapland to meet Santa Claus. It's fascinating comparing the two.

Jon Ronson in the Guardian writes a funny, sad, perceptive piece about the vast gulfs between parent and child, and during his trip to Lapland everything goes wrong. It's the kind of writing that gets into your head in odd ways.

Meanwhile, over in the Telegraph, Peter Hardy takes his daughter to Lapland and has a perfectly good experience and writes a perfectly competent and entertaining article about it, which slips in one eye and out the other.

...

Incidentally, Jon Ronson's excellent book about extremists and conspiracies, THEM was terrific. Here's a link to the Salon.com review, which criticises Ronson for being funny about serious things -- But now, when federal prosecutors are about to put the so-called 20th hijacker on trial and when a British man has been accused of trying to blow up a plane with sneakers full of plastic explosives, Ronson's light, uncritical approach feels misguided explains the reviewer, which seems to me to have missed the point about an awful lot of things, particularly the shoe-bomber.

The British Medical Journal has published a statistical analysis of the Mummy's Curse: http://bmj.com/cgi/content/full/325/7378/1482.

Just thought you'd like to know.

Friday, December 20, 2002

For various reasons, most of them having to do with a couple of artists flaking out and the need to give the new artists time to draw their stories, the rest having to do with the best time to reschedule a book to once a couple of artists have flaked out , ENDLESS NIGHTS is going to move to September 2003. Frank Quitely will be painting the Destiny story that finishes the book, Glenn Fabry drawing the Destruction story.

I've suggested to DC that they do a Sandman Month, for the first time in a very long while, and bring together the various Sandman-related things that have been floating around as 'wouldn't it be nice to do' ideas, and just bring them all out at the same time.

Meanwhile, things are happening over at Dreamhaven's http://www.neilgaiman.net -- Official Neil Gaiman Store. They got in a delayed order of the glow-in-the-dark-cover edition of CORALINE, not to mention all the "Nicholas Was..." Christmas cards, and various other things.

I've promised them several lists of recommendations to put up on the site in the New Year. My favourite kids' books, SF, Fantasy, Horror, Slipstream, Poetry and so forth. Which should be fun to compile...

Good whatever-time-of-the-day-you-read-this , Mr. Gaiman.

I wrote you a question before. And I thought it would catch your atention so much that you would post it in your journal or the Complete FAQ journal.

It didn't, but it's OK.

In a certain way, I'm repeating my question. But I'm trying it from another point of view.

I'm from Chile (I'm thinking on how many other chilean will have written you a question through this site; I guess I'm the only one; whatever, I'm rambling again)

That shouldn't be a problem. You are a worldwide renown author. I have read you and I know at least other 20 people who have too. But it seems sometimes we are the only ones.

Anybody would think --given your quality, your importance to the Fantasy gender (if such a thing exists) and Literature in general, and specially your Fame and the impressive amount of huge and important awards (World Fantasy and Hugo come into my mind)-- that you should be normally published. But here, in this surrealist country, only your comics can be found --and even these are not as much as one would like-- and the few books (Good Omens, Smoke & Mirrors, Neverwhere) are imported by the same comic stores that know you. The book stores, who should know about Coraline, American Gods, Stardust (and THEY should know about GO, S&M and Neverwhere too) don't know you, your work or even that you exist. I could understand that if you

a) were a recent writer, a newcomer

or b) you weren't a successful writer

And both statements are false. In fact, being the both of them true, I cannot understand how they don't have any work of yours.

But what I think is worse, comic stores haven't your last books either. So I have two proposals:

A) COME HERE AND PROMOTE YOURSELF!!

Sorry. This is important for me. But seriously, I still suggest you an (South) American tour.

Or (and this can be more useful) B) Tell who is the publisher in Spanish of your last works (it's not NORMA, I checked their webpage) so I can mail THEM and beg for they bring you here. I --almost obviously-- don't have problems to read english texts, but I'm not the only one who wants to read your works.

And it's not fair for us.


Assuming your first question was "when are you coming to Chile?" I tend to think of those questions as being covered by the FAQ "When are you coming to..." section and tend not to answer them individually -- the WHERE'S NEIL (working again right now) and this blog will normally let people know where I am and what I'm doing.

Now, the Spanish publisher of most of the books is definitely Norma, as stated in the FAQ. They publish American Gods, Stardust, Good Omens, Smoke and Mirrors and many others.

Not sure if Norma will be publishing CORALINE or not -- I simply don't remember. But it wouldn't surprise me if they were.

I'd love to do another South American tour. It would be great to go back to Brazil and Argentina (although I worry about my friends in Argentina these days), and I'd love to visit Chile. The only problem is time: there's only one of me, and I can only do so much, and also write everything.

Next year -- 2003 -- I'm going to do some French signings in paris in a month from now (two signings on Wednesday the 22nd of January -- a lunchtime one at the Virgin Megastore Champs - 52 av des Champs Elys�es - 75008 Paris and then an evening one at 18:30 at Mille Pages - 174 rue de Fontenay - 94300 - Vincennes. The Angouleme Festival follows immediately -- it looks like most of what I'll be doing in terms of talking and signing will be on Friday the 24th).

Then most of April will be spent doing a tour of Europe for Coraline -- many publishers are bringing it out then. I'll get the list of dates and countries as soon as I can.

After that, everything's sort of up in the air, depending rather on whether DEATH goes into production or not. Lots of invitations to go to a number of book festivals, the only one of which I've accepted is an invitation to NEW YORK IS BOOK COUNTRY. Lots of requests from publishers all over the world to go and do some promotion in the latter half of the year, none of which I think I've agreed to. (I could be wrong.)

The British Council trip to Singapore has had to be postponed, due to Dave McKean's schedule. Not sure when it will happen, but it WILL happen. The requests to start visiting Australia have now started -- I think it's a very good bet that I'll do an Australian signing tour some time in the next 18 - 24 months.

Also, while I take your point about coming out to Chile and promoting the work, I'm less likely to visit somewhere where they don't know who I am and don't buy the books, than I am visit somewhere that they do know who I am and are buying the books in quantity and are already clamouring for me to come out. As you say, it's not fair. But it's the way the world works.

So if the Chilean contingent (there are at least 434 of you who are reading the site, according to the stats section of this website's counter, by the way) want to start convincing the world of Chilean publishing and bookselling that they want and need me, rather than waiting for me to come over, that might be a good way to spend your time. And it'll probably get me to Chile (Poland/Hungary/Greece/Japan etc) quicker.

Hope this helps.

Thursday, December 19, 2002

just did the final lettering draft to go with the Milo Manara art for the 20 page Desire story to appear in ENDLESS NIGHTS. I'm really pleased with it -- Manara has done the best work I've seen from him in years. Beautifully drawn, well painted, really fine storytelling. Needless to say, the women in the story are very beautiful, and don't always wear a lot. But it's not really about sex, it's about Desire, and one of the central moments in the story was inspired by an old Scottish folk tale. (I know that anyone who was burned by my claims at the back of Sandman: THE DREAM HUNTERS won't believe that last. But it's true.)

On the 11th of November a young lady named Anneli in Sweden wrote me a fan letter. The address she wrote on the front of the envelope was "The author Neil Gaiman. Lives in a big house of uncertain location in Minnesota USA". On the 20th of November the United States Postal Service delivered that letter to me, care of DreamHaven Books, 912 W Lake St, Minneapolis MN 55408. And I picked it up the other night from DreamHaven when I got home from the UK.

Which means

1) The US Postal service (or, more probably, somebody working for it) is a lot smarter than I ever gave it credit for,

and

2) Sometimes very unlikely things happen.

And please, don't try this at home. If you have something to send, then send it to DreamHaven at the above address.

...

Over on eBay, one of the 2002 card prints has gone for $325. The 2001 card, with the cut American Gods story, went for $525. Now I feel guilty for not having done anything this year... maybe I'll do a late-January thing of some kind...


Wednesday, December 18, 2002

Neil,

Thanks for the link to the CBLDF auction. Very wonderful stuff there, of course for one of the best causes there is. However, I must admit to being somewhat puzzled by the text describing one of the Walker prints. Here I see a rather lovely portrait of you, evidently originally intended as the author "photo" for "Murder Mysteries," but apparently "rejected by Gaiman for vanity's sake." I don't suppose you'll want to answer this publicly if they did indeed choose the right word, but I must say that you've never struck me as a particularly vain individual...quite the opposite, in fact. So was it rejected truly for vanity, or did someone perhaps intend to say "modesty's sake" instead? Might I also be so bold as to ask why it was rejected in any case?

Many thanks are always due for all the wonderful reading you've provided me with over the years, and of course I'd also like to thank you for all your efforts in the journal and this FAQ. Congratulations on the film!

Happy Holidays,
Catnip


Actually, it wasn't done for Murder Mysteries, but as one of the illustrations George Walker proposed some years ago when he did my Christmas Card (well, print) for me. It was "A WRITER'S PRAYER". I thought that sending people a piece of writing accompanied by a picture of me would have been a bit much, so I went with one of George's other pieces of art. Not sure where "vanity's sake" comes into it. But then, according to an authority, "all is vanity", so I'm sure it's in there somewhere.

Forgot to say that I told Emma Freud, when was in the UK, how much I loved her dad's book GRIMBLE (as mentioned earlier on this journal), and she told me there were about six Grimble stories in all, written to be read aloud on the UK children's TV show Jackanory, four that had never been collected and published at all. We chatted about the J.K. Rowling quote on Grimble, listing her three favourite children's books ("The third is Grimble, by Clement Freud. Grimble is one of funniest books I've ever read, and Grimble himself, who is a small boy, is a fabulous character. I'd love to see a Grimble film. As far as I know, these last two fine pieces of literature are out of print, so if any publishers ever read this, could you please dust them off and put them back in print so other people can read them?") I told Emma I'd add getting Grimble into print to my list of things That Need To Be Done.

Tuesday, December 17, 2002

The CBLDF auction is still running on ebay...
They have a lot of cool stuff up, including a couple of my notorious Christmas Cards -- one which contains a story snipped from American Gods, from 2001, and the one from last year, which contains an alphabetical story-poem.

I think that I messed up this year - had planned to do some Wolves in the Walls cards, nipping in on Dave McKean's print run, but I never even made that happen, what with making a film and being in the UK and so on.

Monday, December 16, 2002

The WHERE'S NEIL page is still broken, by the way. I tried to post about Angouleme (the french comics festival) in late January and it wouldn't let me.

So, it's a foggy afternoon in Amsterdam schiphol airport, and I'm waiting for my plane home. All's well, and I feel like I really accomplished something solid and tangible this month.

I forgot the best bit about drama is that you can, occasionally, find yourself laughing at your own jokes...

There is a lady in Heathrow who, when she sees you looking at the single malts asks if you'd like to try tasting them. Do not say yes, not at 10.00am. Not to all of them. Trust me on this.

Sunday, December 15, 2002

Hi Neil,

Coraline just got a thumbs up on the TV show Hot Type:
http://cbc.ca/programs/sites/hottype_holiday2002.html
Panelist Antanas Sileika described being on vacation and the whole cabinful of people, adults and kids, were enthralled for days as Coraline was read aloud to them. Thought you'd like to know. : )

Andrea
St. Albert, Alberta


I'm thrilled.

So I'm done. Nothing to do but wait for Cinesite to output the 35 mm print of the film and submit it to the BAFTAs as a short film.

(Someone wanted to know about the length. Everyone defines "short film" differently -- Sundance, for example, define it as a film under 70 minutes long. But the BAFTA short films are 30 minutes...)

We WILL eventually be doing it as a DVD. With, bizarrely, extras, including a commentary and an interview and so on. Haven't figured out who'll be publishing, distributing etc the DVD, but we shall. And I'll post it here as soon as we do.

And I'm figuring out other places and things we can do with it before that -- someone suggested doing some screenings to benefit the CBLDF, which is a good idea indeed.

Professor Freshwater just sent me a link to a photograph taken at World Fantasy of Mr. Punch With Dave McKean and Neil Gaiman

Saturday, December 14, 2002

Santa's little helpers - theage.com.au Coraline by Neil Gaiman (Bloomsbury, $14.95) is the coolest novel for teens this year. It is also very stylish and very creepy. Bored and frustrated during yet another long, wet school holiday, curiosity gets the better of Coraline and she opens a mysterious door into a nightmarish and twisted parody of her own familiar world. For here lives the other mother, a bitter figure that would trap Coraline with promises of unknown pleasure in a shadowy shape-changing world. There is also a comic edge to Coraline borne out perhaps best in the talking book version read by Dawn French. Though not for the faint-hearted, Coraline is a scary, beautiful book for mature children, teenagers and even adults.

Off to sound studio in moments...

Can you help me find a door knob?

I would hope that this would be one of your more unusual requests, but with your fans it probably does not even place. But it is a serious question. I have been collecting Sandman art for a while and recently was fortunate enough to acquire the Dave McKean cover to Sandman number 7. However, the cover was without door knob. Most likely Mr. McKean used the door knob in another work or maybe put it back on the door it was borrowed from :-). So I would like your help in getting in touch with Dave McKean if possible. Now in some perfect world, it is sitting in his closet and he has been yearning to get rid of it. More realistically, I would just like his permission to add a similar door knob to the art. I really do not want to alter (restore) his work without his permission.

Thanks for any help and the countless hours I have enjoyed reading your various works.


I asked Dave McKean, who said:

Hi Neil,

I sold several all but one (I kept no.3) of the first 8 Sandman covers to ...
Kevin Eastman for his museum to keep them all together
and available to the public. Why am I not surprised he's sold them off one
at a time?
All I can tell you is that when i sold it to him, it was intact, doorknob in place.
You could try giving his organisation (whatever that is these days) a call,
but it's probably easier to look around junk shops, architectural
reclamation companies etc. for an old door you could buy for a couple of
dollars, destroy and replace the missing part. I'm sorry i can't help any
further, but I have no spare doorknobs here. Not at all actually.

Sorry.
D




Friday, December 13, 2002

So all of yesterday was spent at Cinesite. Finished the grading, started on the titles. In the evening I showed the film to a small audience of safe people including my old friend Richard Curtis, who declared before it started "of course when it's over I shall say it's the finest short film I've ever watched," and then, when it was over said "That was the finest short film I've ever watched!" but then afterwards said it was pretty good actually, which cheered me up. He's just wrapping his film, LOVE ACTUALLY, which is ten interwoven love stories and he directed it himself, wearing his lucky pants.

This morning I did the end titles with a nice man named Simon in the Flame suite at Cinesite (er Flame is a computer system, I think. I know no more). I enjoyed doing the end titles, making sure they didn't obscure our view of the art. Then I nipped into Bloomsbury (Publishers) round the corner and signed 90 copies of Coraline for Scotland. Now I'm back in the Ska offices, about to go and meet some people about putting together a DVD of the film (which has been the most popular request on the FAQ line. I'll post some sample replies -- and may very well send it to a few film festivals, because people keep chiding me for not). Anyway, tomorrow I'm doing the audio for the film, and will also record a DVD commentary and possibly even be interviewed for a DVD.

Meanwhile I'm not sure when I'm going home or even if I'm going straight home or if I'm nipping off to have a Bob Zemeckis meeting before I go home. But I will go home very soon. "ASFAJB" will be in to the BAFTAs in 35mm form on thursday.

Thursday, December 12, 2002

Good morning. Spent yesterday afternoon and evening at Cinesite, just off Dean Street in London's Soho, and will spend this morning there as well, mostly film grading, and last night I was figuring out all the titles and things that need to go on the screen, picking a font, and so on.

Film grading (which sounds boring and incomprehensible, but turns out not to be either) consists of me and John Pardue (my Director of Photography) sitting next to several people who know what they're doing at a huge console of the kind that you pilot big starships with in movies while, scene by scene, my film appears on a screen, and John says "Can we make it a bit warmer? It's evening, yeah, up the yellows," and I say "That painting looks a bit washed out from the lights, can we block it and make it more intense?" and "now, his reply was filmed several hours later and we need to get the light to match that sunlight," and "well, her skin is actually green in the painting, but if you push it into grey it will remind us of what we've just seen more" and so on, while a man who knows what he's doing nods and grins and twiddles glowing red circular mouse-balls and flicks settings, and suddenly it all looks perfect.

Lots of really good suggestions coming in from people with ideas about what to do with the film.

Wednesday, December 11, 2002

So. The film�s done.

27 minutes including end titles.

I showed a video (taken from the AVID editing machine, so not of the best quality) last night to a very small audience of friends � Jonathan Ross (who is interviewed in it), his wife, the writer Jane Goldman, and author-performer David Baddiel (who knows his stuff and wasn't going to be polite if he didn't like it), and they laughed in all the right places, had all the right reactions, and when it was done and I heard what they had to say I felt incredibly happy (which might have been because I�d nervously managed to dispose of two large glasses of red wine on an empty stomach while they watched it, but probably wasn�t).

It�s a very odd thing, directing, or it is for me. Previously, when a script of mine has been done for the screen I�ve always had a feeling of �Well, yes, but...� or, sometimes, �Well, no...�. The best thing about �A short film about John Bolton� is that everything in it is the way I want it to be � the tone of voice is right, the performances are right (and if they weren�t, they were by the time we were done in the editing suite), the pacing is right. The jokes are either funny or they aren�t (that�s up to the person watching), but for the first time ever I feel like the things that are meant to be funny are being delivered on the screen the way I wanted them to be delivered. And as the ground starts to collapse under us, the story goes to the places I wanted it to go.

And it�s not about doing everything yourself � the whole point of filmmaking is that it�s all about teamwork, listening, accepting suggestions (or not). The best suggestion in the editing suite yesterday came from one of my producers, David Reid, who was also the 1st Assistant Director on the film (ASFAJB not being a big film, and David having been 1st AD on many cool films over the years) when he suggested losing a bit of interview and moving another bit to let two scenes that had previously been separated rub together. We tried it and solved a bunch of problems at once. But it is about taking something from the script stage to the screen on your own, and getting it better rather than losing things, and for the first time I feel like that's what happened with my script.

So next comes film grading and doing the dub of the sound, and then I�m going back to the USA because there would be days of waiting for the final print, and I�d not really be much use..

So, now we�re pondering things we can do with the film now that it�s made. We�ll stick it in for the BAFTAs next Thursday...

I don�t think we�ll necessarily get into showing it at film festivals because I don�t really want to have to sit with a stack of applications to film festivals around the world and filling them out, and because many Film Festivals have rules that say the film can�t be broadcast first, and I hate to have that option closed off until late 2004, as most of the 2003 festivals have already picked their films. (I could be talked out of this. It�s just how I feel this morning.)

So unless there�s someone out there with a major film about to be distributed who really fancies the idea of reviving the B-picture with a 27 minute short to go out with it, which is marginally less likely than me sprouting feathers, it won�t be showing on a screen near you any time soon, so I suspect we may go the DVD/Video route. If we do, I�m not sure exactly how people will be able to purchase it, but we�ll figure all that out as we go.

If anyone has any bright ideas or suggestions about any of this, feel free to submit them on the FAQ line...

Monday, December 09, 2002

Was hoping to finish the edit today. Didn't, although didn't wrap up until about 9:45pm.. Will finish tomorrow, somewhere in the afternoon at a guess.

Showed the film to a passing producer who didn't have a clue what it was, and she puzzled and laughed and goosefleshed in all the right places, which was reassuring...

Sunday, December 08, 2002

Here's a roundup from the Scotsman, which is really nice. At the end he says,"It therefore seems perfectly apt for me to list this book here, to say that it will surely become a contemporary classic and to hope it will soon be available here in the same illustrated format already enjoyed in America," and his hopes should be fulfilled when Bloomsbury take Coraline into paperback next year.


This is another Scotsman article -- one of the "year's best books" lists from lots of people. Coraline's on Julia Bertagna's list.

Coraline is listed on the Guardian's best of the year roundup as well.

I can't work out how to do a link to the Times, but Coraline's on it's best of the year roundup:

The cult books of the hour are, deservedly, Garth Nix's Sabriel (Collins, �12.99; offer, �10.39) and Neil Gaiman's weird and haunting Coraline (Bloomsbury, �9.99; offer, �8.49), which, once I had got past the unpromising opening, turned out to be a masterly treatment of a common childhood - and adulthood - nightmare: the one where you dream your parents have been changed into different people, but only you can tell. If you have never had that dream, you will after reading this book.

BEST BUY
Gaiman's spooky Coraline

Here's a review of TWO PLAYS FOR VOICES from the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

I "let my long hair down" in it, says Michael Sangiacomo, and he may well be right, particularly about the hairlength. I'm sort of all hair and beard right now, and look a little like a shorter, younger breed of Alan Moore, or an older, bespectacled Che Guevara. Or Phineas Freak. Or someone.

Cut together the gallery party sequence and trimmed and tidied. About two minutes to lose, and stuff to do and fix tomorrow. And then it needs to be seamless. And then it's done -- or at least, the edit will be done. There's stuff like sound and effects and film grading after that.

http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2002/12/06/1038950155419.html is another Coraline Best-of-the-year review, this one from Australia, written by Caro Llewellyn, director of the Sydney Writer's Festival.

Saturday, December 07, 2002

Current cut is 32 minutes long. Still have the gallery opening scene to edit -- I'll try and bring it in at about two minutes. Then I'll have to cut 4 minutes out of the film to bring it in at 30 minutes... (Dave McKean's favourite scene is already for the chop. Sorry Dave.)

People keep e-mailling to ask about the how and where of being able to see this strange confection once it's done. The moment I figure out what it is and what we're doing with it, I'll tell you all. Promise.

It's very odd. I think I said that already.

I'm learning so much about directing in the editing suite. Every time I as an editor get grumpy with the director I make a mental note never to do that again.

Then again, considering it was a three day shoot, and it's a half-hour drama (or whatever it is) I think I did okay.

Friday, December 06, 2002

editing currently. Have learned more about directing in the last day as an editor than I ever did as a director, since I'm now having to cover up for all the things I should have caught while directing. My editor, David Martin, is an old hand who has done many good things, and is filled with wisdom. We cut about 14 minutes of the film today.

It's very odd. It may be good. We'll see.

I think it will be about half an hour long when it's all cut together, at a guess...

now to bed. Editing again tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 04, 2002

Wrapped tonight, only a half an hour late, in a graveyard.

Incredibly proud of my team -- actors and crew. Marcus Brigstocke and John O'Mahoney glued the whole thing together with really rather wonderful performances. Marcus did double duty as he also had to shoot the final scene on a night-vision camera...

Start editing tomorrow morning. Am really exhausted, in a way I normally only am on book-signing tours, but this was different and fun.

Learned so much. Wish I'd known at the start everything I figured out by the end.

Tuesday, December 03, 2002

Second day of shooting -- didn't have to worry about forty extras, an art gallery, visiting celebrities or anything; just a bakery and a house. It was easy and pleasant, and we wrapped early, and I went off to Goldcrest to see the rushes from yesterday, which look pretty solid. Starting to figure out strategies for getting actors to give you less: they want to give you more. (Probably not a good idea to say "Er, you know that thing you're doing? Yes? Well, just don't do that.") Wrote some another song for Lorraine's new band on the tube the other day, and finished it yesterday night in a state of brain death, a weird lurching thing, which begins "The deal as always was Faustian..."

Monday, December 02, 2002

Started shooting today. I'd post something sensible but I'm too exhausted and have a 6.00 a.m. alarm clock thingie set and need to do laundry. Everybody was great, everything was good -- we got a bit behind this afternoon, but caught up and wrapped a few minutes before 7.00pm having got everything we set out to get.

Sunday, December 01, 2002

Philip Pullman's picked two his Books of the Year in the Observer. One of them was Coraline: http://books.guardian.co.uk/bestof2002/story/0,12687,851279,00.html#Pullman...

Coraline by Neil Gaiman (Bloomsbury), is an extraordinary novel by a very gifted storyteller. Who is the strange, beautiful, welcoming woman Coraline discovers on the other side of the locked door? 'I'm your other mother,' she says - one of the most sinister introductions I've ever read. Adults find it terrifying; children lap it up. It's utterly original, and written with elegance and power.

.....

Saw Nigel Stonier play tonight. He's better known (well, he was to me) as Thea Gilmore's producer and partner. Good music.

Thea Gilmore is a staggeringly talented singer-songwriter who made my one of my favourite albums of the last few years, RULES FOR JOKERS -- smart, funny, melodic, special. She reminds me a little of the young Elvis Costello, although she doesn't wear glasses and is unarguably prettier. She's just released her three-and-a-halfth album, SONGS FROM THE GUTTER, which isn't available in shops. You can order it through her website -- theagilmore.com

I'll steal her description of the 2 CD Songs from the Gutter from her website (this is also typed as the CD cover art, not very legibly). From the dregs of songs from the bargain bin of the psyche. Here are two records one of them has songs (from the last few years) which I finished but possibly never meant to release and the other one has songs (from the last few weeks) that I'm releasing but possibly never meant to finish... one of them chronicles some obscure nooks and crannies 1996-2001 and some roads not taken...the other (my favourite) happened in May 2002 with a guitarist, bassist, drummer, a girl and her capo and a really good Chinese next door. Here are some recordings light on rehearsal and short on edits songs from the gutter bypassing the subtleties and the subtitles here is a record about abandon with a band on.

As I type this, Nigel's Brimstone and Blue CD is playing. It's really good. Literate, and quirky in all the best ways.

...

http://www.thereader.com/createpage.asp?contentID=886 is a Coraline review...
....
Cameras roll in 8 hours.

Goodnight.

There's a Two Plays For Voices review at The Trades .

And I opened The Observer today to find that Philip Pullman had made Coraline his Book of the Year. If I can find it online I'll put up a link, otherwise it'll have to wait until I have a few seconds to type it up. It made me foolishly happy.

Let's see...

I'm still in the UK, still making my movie. Cameras start rolling tomorrow, a little after 8.00am.

Missed Tori -- she played Minneapolis last night. I'll try to catch her later on the tour.

Talking about Minneapolis, yes, if you need something signed, you can send it to DreamHaven, if you're prepared to wait. And what with me not being in the country, there's no guarantee anything sent to DreamHaven will be signed and reach anyone by December 23rd. I should have signed more copies of DreamHaven's new book SHELF LIFE, which I did the introduction to, at World Fantasy, as they're running low on ones signed by me and all the authors (they do have some left, though, so if you want one -- and it's a very impressive line-up on authors, get it quickly). If you want something signed, and you know you need it before Xmas, your best bet (if you're in the US anyway) is to get in touch with DreamHaven directly via their website or their neilgaiman.net site and find out what they've still got that I signed the last time I was there and signed everything they put in front of me.

(And if you visit the neilgaiman.net site, take a look at Cinnamon.)
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