Saturday, October 18, 2003

throat thoughts

Just woke up in a sweat-soaked bed in Charlotte NC to find that the fever had broken in the night, and I can more or less think again, which is a relief. The back of my throat still looks pretty scary, though, and normally straightforward things like talking and swallowing are not as easy or as comfortable as they usually are. Still, if I refrain from talking a lot during the day I should be able to do the reading tonight, using lots of ginger and lemon and honey and things. I hope.

(I suppose the alternative, if it doesn't fix, is they could cross out "reading" and put "pained whispering" instead. As in "Oh yes, I attended the Neil Gaiman Charlotte Novello Festival pained whispering. It was... interesting...")

Hi, Neil.

I'm currently teaching Animation Scriptwriting at the Mapua Institute of Technology's IT Centre in the Philippines. I am not sure how you'll react to this but here goes: I am currently using "The Sandman Library" and "The Sandman: Endless Nights" as REQUIRED reading material for my students. (Hey, it makes my life easier: my students think it's a lot better than having to go through whole tomes of Shakespeare.)

The question here is: you don't mind now, do you?

Midge K. Manlapig
Makati, Philippines

Not even a little bit.


I have been a writer of short stories and poetry for years now. A few months ago, I began work on my first novel.

To say the least, I am suffering from a horrible case of impatience. I have come to what seemed like an appropriate stopping point, slightly past the middle of my story. My plan was to revise the half that I've already written, so that everything was down and organized before I proceeded to the climax and the wrapup.

However, as I continue to revise and revise and reVISE this portion, my impatience grows increasingly worse. Each time I look at it, I see more inadequate descriptions, more quotes that seem inconsistent with my characterization, etc, etc.

Needless to say, it's feeling like a neverending task, but I am determined not to give it up. I am thrilled by my idea and the potential of the plot. I do NOT want it to go unfinished and untold.

I was just hoping that you could offer some form of reassurance...
How long does it usually take you to finish a novel?
Have you ever felt the way I'm feeling? (And, if so, how the hell did you overcome it?)

Thanks for any advice you can give.

Sure. Finish it first in rough draft, then fix it. Don't stop half-way through to get it right. That way lays madness. And you'll only discover that you needed the gun in the desk drawer (or why you'd put that gun in the desk drawer) once you're close to finishing the whole thing anyway.

I often stop half-way through a book or a big story and draw little lines and list out characters and all the things that may be happening to them and all that kind of thing, so that I don't overlook anyone or forget anything enormous, and so I'm sure that I have the shape of the whole thing in my mind. But the only way you'll finish a novel is by forward motion (like a cartoon character running across empty space across a canyon), and stopping to fix everything you've done so far generally isn't forward motion...

Get to the end. Then fix it.

This is a sort of random question that will probably prove interesting only to a specific number of people but I had to ask, if only to satisfy my curiosity. I am a huge fan of Roger Zelazny and I know that you had were friends with him as well as an admirer of his work and I was just wondering if the galleries that the Endless used to communicate amongst themselves were in anyway derived from the tarot card system that the royal family of Amber from Roger's Amber Chronicles used? Like I said, it's a rather odd and obscure question but I just wanted to know.


That definitely fed into it, yes. The Endless in many ways came from thinking about Roger's marvellous novel "Lord of Light" in which he tells of people who have made themselves gods, and wondering whether I could make that work inside out and upside down.

For those who haven't yet heard Dawn French reading Coraline, it's being broadcast on the Oneword digital radio station on AFZ (Adult-Free Zone), starting Monday 20th October 2003 at 16:30 to 17:30 BST. The first part of that programme will be finishing off Michael Morpurgo's take on Robin Hood, but then it's Dawn, continuing each weekday at the same time until the 27th. It's repeated in bigger chunks at 7am on Saturday 25th and Sunday 26th.


Tony Quinlan
Chief Storyteller

It's a marvellous reading, and I highly recommend it. Oneword is at

Just another heads up on awards hogs, Fritz Leiber managed to snag the grand slam of book awards as well. I think he kind of gets lost in the shuffle since he was never a curmudgeon like Ellison and well now he is dead (Leiber), so someone has to stick up for him!

A great list of his works at:


And Fritz's story "Space-time for Springers" gave me the feeling I wanted for "A Dream of a Thousand Cats". And he read it, and told me he liked it, which made me very happy indeed.

Leiber was one of the greats.


There's a lovely Philip Pullman review of Maus in the Guardian over at


Interesting, if dim, essay at, that makes me wonder if some people have simply got the wrong end of the term graphic novel. No-one ever grumbled that Smoke and Mirrors would have benefitted from my experience as a novelist by, er, not being a collection of short stories. It was a collection of short stories published in book form. And that's what Endless Nights is. That's what it began as, what it was always meant to be. Seven stories for seven artists. It says so on the back of the book. Complaining because it's not a homogenous work seems a lot like buying a pizza and then complaining because it's flat and round and covered in red stuff and melted cheese.

And over at Dirk Deppey comments on the low numbers of books going out through Diamond. It's worth pointing out to Dirk something that many retailers have pointed out to me, which is they no longer order all of (or even most of) their copies of graphic novels from Diamond. They put in for their initial orders, and then place other orders through the book trade distributors -- so while the Diamond numbers are invisible to the book trade betseller lists, there are also book trade numbers that are invisible to Diamond and to the comics world, often as many books again.