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Monday, March 31, 2003

So Holly couldn't decide, and she couldn't decide, and she couldn't decide. The two schools are, as far as she is concerned, both perfect. Even the e-mails that came in from Bryn Mawr or Smith students and alumni were all from people saying "I went to --" or "I'm at --" Bryn Mawr or Smith "and it's wonderful". Nobody wrote about either to say "this place is evil, keep away". Even my own simple, straightforward, possibly brilliant and at any rate fatherly suggestion, of "Er, why don't you go the cheaper one, then?" was foiled when it became clear they were within about $100 of each other.

"This is ridiculous," said Holly, exasperated. "It's getting to the point where I might as well just fill out both applications, take them to the mailbox, close my eyes and post one. Then I'd only find out which place I was going to when the info packet came."

"Well," I said, "If you did that, you'd need a loyal accomplice to destroy the other envelope, the one you didn't post, and not tell you which one it was."

There was a long pause.

"That would solve all my problems, wouldn't it?" she said.

"And add some uncertainty and adventure to the world," I agreed.

"Oh good," she said, with a sort of wicked delight creeping into her voice. "I'll do that then."

She'll take two filled-out application envelopes to the post office tomorrow, close her eyes and post one. She'll find out which one she actually posted several weeks from now. And in the meantime, I have a daughter who's going to Bryn Mawr, or Smith, and I have no idea which. Either way, I couldn't be prouder.

There's a review of Mojo: Conjure Stories at the Washington Post Science Fiction and Fantasy, and there's also a marvellous article by Michael Dirda about P.G. Wodehouse, which turns at the end into Dirda quoting wonderful sentences, which is the peril and the joy of Wodehouse.

An e-mail waiting for me this morning from a BBC person, asking if I could provide her with Dave McKean's history as a music composer. I thought I'd see if I could find it on the web, and not disturb Dave, who is in the last stages of making Mirror-Mask happen (they're casting, and he's finishing off the last of the animation storyboards). I failed completely to find what I was looking for, but found this interview with Dave at http://www.ugo.com/channels/freestyle/features/davemckean/ and another at http://www.dccomics.com/features/vertigox/mckean2.html.

And I thought I'd post them here.

There's also an image of Endless Nights material (it's from Bill Sienkiewicz's Delirium story) there.

And I should stick in a plug for Paul Dini's Zatanna: Everyday Magic , which I really enjoyed. I loved writing Zatanna in Books of Magic #2, and was delighted to see that Paul was writing the same character that I'd responded to. And it's very funny.

Sunday, March 30, 2003

Dear Neil. This is important. You need to post the tori amos and neil gaiman fanlisting.

I do? Okay. I'm not even quite sure what it is, but poof!It's posted.

Lots of interesting comments and questions coming in (and Holly still hasn't made up her mind between Smith and Bryn Mawr. Personally, I'd love an excuse to visit Northhampton, but then, I'd also love an excuse to visit Philadephia, so I'm just waiting for her to pick. Several people sent me messages rooting for one college or the other, and they've all been passed on to her. If you think you've got a tie-breaker, send it to me and I'll pass it on). Anyway, deadlines are not my friends right now, so the various things I was thinking of blogging will remain unblogged.

Instead I shall point you at http://nielsenhayden.com/electrolite/archives/002481.html#002481 over at Patrick Nielsen Hayden's journal. Go down to Terry Karney's reply. It made me think of this Observer article on blogs and the war (which I actually found simplistic, or perhaps just badly subbed, with the most interesting bits of the article, the bits that pointed to the way that every shade of opinion can be found on blogs, along with information that you probably won't get from orthodox news-channels, being in there at the end). Terry Karney's report from Kuwait gave me more of an idea of what it was like on the ground than any number of "The atmosphere here is electric. You can almost taste the anticipation in the air..." TV reporter air-fill. (My father, who was in the British Army, doing National Service as a young man, once described war to me as "long periods of waiting around, punctuated by an occasional brief confusion of violence, which was what the waiting was for. Then it all goes back to waiting again". And I thought that probably that was probably how it was for the Roman troops marching through Britain two thousand years ago...)

I thought I would pass along some praise for Dame Darcy--she's touring in March and April and she still has a few stops to make as she heads west for home. I caught her here in Chicago and she read a story from her book FRIGHTFUL FAIRYTALES called "The Queen of Spades" about a graverobbing woman who is likely to murder dogs, meet ghosts, and lapse into comas. She also brought out her banjo and sang some sea shanties and murder ballads, accompanied by her guitarist Skippy. She talked a little bit about her comic book projects too, which include the swell MEAT CAKE and a forthcoming graphic novel called GASOLINE. It's the kind of thing readers of your blog might dig, so I wanted to pass on the info.

Matt.


Very wise. She's got a website at http://www.damedarcy.com/ and the tour details are posted at http://www.damedarcy.com/news.html.

Is there a plan to add a search engine to the site? Nothing fancy just a simple keyword search and results page. Is there any reference anywhere to everything you, Neil Gaiman, have written in terms of literary criticisms, introductions etc. That is, a reference to work you've written that comments in print on the works of other writers?


If you look over to the left of this page you will see a little book with a magnifying glass with, beneath it, an odd sort of squiggly word. If you place your mouse-pointer on the book, it may turn blue, and the word should stop being squiggly and say SEARCH instead. Click on it, and it will take you to the search page.

In the "about Neil" section of the website is a bibliography; there are lots of introductions and articles listed. It's not complete, I'm afraid, but it's a good start.





Saturday, March 29, 2003

I've started worrying that the war is becoming entertainment, or at least the way it's being presented is. On each channel tonight, lots of clever on-screen graphics, lots of people who don't know what they're talking about giving the kind of general opinions that can't be proved or disproved. This article from Sue Arnold in the Independent made me feel less alone: http://argument.independent.co.uk/regular_columnists/
sue_arnold/story.jsp?story=391780


Am currently writing an afterward to the next Steve Brust/Paarfi novel. It appears to be a book review of a many volumed book attacking the supposed author of the Paarfi books, and the sentences are convoluted things that rarely come in under 100 words. It's really fun, reviewing a non-existent book attacking a non-existent author, in a florid and antique style.

(Patrick Nielsen Hayden thought I should write the afterword like a Nigel Molesworth essay, but he is uterly wet and a weed who sa "gaiman you are the only person in the hole WORLD who sa blogger when he mean blog allow me to explane wot I mean at length hem hem" so chiz to him.)

And our bizarre but oracular word for today is gyromancy - 1557, from M.L. gyromantia, from Gk. gyyros "circle" + manteia "divination, oracle." "A method of divination by walking in a circle till the person fell down from dizziness, the inference being drawn from the place in the circle at which he fell."

The Science Fiction Foundation and the British Science Fiction Association will be hosting a conference along with their Annual General Meetings, on Saturday April 5th, In London. I mention this because a) it's interesting, b) this will be the first public screening of the film I made last year, "A Short Film About John Bolton". The event is free to the public, Ian Watson and Kim Newman will be speaking, and below is a link to some more information...

Following the success of Signs of Life last year, the SFF and BSFA
will be hosting another free event, The Goldfish Factor, at The St
Bride Institute, Bride Lane, EC4Y 8EQ on Saturday 5th April 2003,
11am- 6pm. Guests are Ian Watson and Kim Newman. The day will include
AGMs for both organisations, and conclude with a screening of A Short
Film About John Bolton by Neil Gaiman.



Amazon has solicitations for what looks like prose versions of the original Books of Magic miniseries, John Ney Reiber's first storyarc, and The Children's Crusade. You're credited as writing introductions for at least the first two. Is this accurate, and if you've seen the books, how close are the adaptations?

-David Snyder


I certainly wrote an introduction to the first one. They're very solid, fairly close YA adaptations of the comics into books, done by Carla Jablonski, who I had hoped to meet properly when I was in Edinburgh last year, but I was doing a signing when she came over to say hello, so we didn't really get to meet properly. She's also an actress and aerialist.

Hi Neil,

I thought you might be interested in this curiosity: http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&category=38067&item=3215844864&rd=1

I love the conflicting 'expert' opinions on what the doodad actually is.

And thank you for maintaining an online presence with your fans. I feel like I know you now, and that makes your stories much more enjoyable - and "Babycakes" much more disturbing. :)

Theresa


You're right -- it's the conflicting opinions that make it so much fun. I would hazard that it's a transtemporal assassination kit. But I might be wrong.

As I began to mention last week, the most irratating thing about the gemstar ebook was that I couldn't use it to read books that people send me via e-mail, to copyedit or read through my own stuff, or to read public domain material. All you can read with it is stuff you've bought through gemstar. The previous generation of ebooks, the rocket reader, would show you what you gave it, as well as reading bestsellers and so on, and the only time I ever found myself liking the idea of them was when Teller e-mailed me to let me know he would be reading the manuscript of American Gods I'd e-mailed him, on his rocket reader, along with Moby Dick and several other large books, while on exercising machines, in hotels across India, while filming a Penn and Teller special there. I love books, but I also loved the idea of Less To Carry.

The Rocket reader used to have lots of public domain and so forth material, all of which vanished from the websites (FOR YOUR CONVENIENCE!) when they became Gemstar, and went down really to a fairly small selection of available books for sale, so when I was given mine I soon realised there was almost nothing I wanted to read on it. However, I see that Gemstar are now planning to reintroduce the idea of being able to read your own material on the Gemstar eBook. It's probably too late to make something so marginalised useful again, but it shows that they've realised that the other way wasn't working. Details at: http://www.gemstar-ebook.com/cgi-bin/WebObjects/eBookstore.woa/wo/0.0.5.0.23.3

For those who don't want to wait, and have unused eBooks sitting on their bookshelves, the following helpful message includes a way to make them more useful again:

Dear Neil,

You mentioned that you have a Gemstar ebook reader, which comes with stupid, offensive software that only allows you to import bought books rather than public domain books.

(Okay, I don't think you used the words 'stupid' and 'offensive', but that may be a British thing.)

There is a way around this: you can download the old RocketLibrarian software for free and use that to import books. Here's a how-to guide that I nicked from somewhere and adapted:

1. Go to: http://www.rocket-ebook.com/Readers/Software/index.html and download the Rocket Librarian.

2. Install the application onto your computer.

3. Open the Rocket Librarian. Press the Insert key and you can import a HTML or plaintext title from your computer; use Control+Insert and you can import a text from a URL.

5. Fill in title and author information.

6. Right click on the title that now appears in your book list and choose EXPORT TO FILE, then save the book wherever you prefer.

7. Close the Rocket Librarian and open the eBook Librarian that came with your RCA 1100.

8. Click on TITLE, then IMPORT TITLE.

9. Navigate to the book you just converted with the Rocket Librarian. Then just follow the normal procedure for sending the book to your reader.

I haven't tried it, since I have one of the old models (and love it dearly) but it should work, as I've heard from other people who have done this.

Hope very much that helps, as you are one of my favorite authors (along with Lois McMaster Bujold, Patrick O'Brian, Dorothy Sayers, Ernest Bramah, Donald Westlake and Jane Austen) and ought to have all manner of good things, including free ebooks to read on the train.

Best wishes,

Katrien Rutten, the Netherlands



You know whenever Terry Pratchett and I get together, we always wind up, at some point in the conversation, often between mouthfuls of sushi, wondering why the USA has never declared Donald Westlake a National Treasure.

And, because I haven't ridden on the Brighton pier ghost train since I was a boy (when it was very very tame indeed) and now, it being history, I never shall, I post this, for all the people, like me, who wonder what they were missing...


Hi,
Just to say hi (which now counts as twice I suppose)and this..
My girlfriend sandra and I (who you might or possibly not remember from your coraline reading in london..the stories long but when you asked who sandra was, i said she was the lovely lady on right and you said 'ah' and still asks me why you did that..i don't know what shes bothered about...) recently (as in about november 2001) took a ride on the afore mentioned ghost train. She likes horror, i don't. It was was actually quite special. The first half lulled you into a false sense of security with things that you would expect in a run down pier attraction..battered rubber masks and string etc.... then, justy as you were dissapoted, got full on acid trip freaky...with a butchering murderer guy animated by wildly flaring strobe lighting in a clinical rrom with a bloody mess on the autopsy table, and a disturbingly almost real prisoner-corpse being shocked into animation and life and smoke about two feet in front of you. The worrying thing was....it seemed very real, and as we were the only two on the ride that night, you were left wondering if it had been all some strange hallucination. Either it was very clever, lulling your defenses down then shocking you...or the train had a darker secret. It looked very real...and we never got to go back and see if it was how we remembered it.
Now I feel like a paranoid muldertype. Have fun.
P.S the guys at Gosh comics near the british museum say hi.



Friday, March 28, 2003

Neil, just a little note that I thought you might find mildly interesting. I'm going to be interviewed on tonight's episode of The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. Jay got wind of a zany story that involves our cats, Gilbert and Calliope. It's a bit of a madcap tale. As for how it relates to you, the wife and I have named all of our pets after Sandman characters. So, if you do happen to tune in tonight and see some crazed guy talking to Jay about "Gilbert" and "Calliope"... just know that the names came from you.

Thanks,

Jeremy Bear

PS - the wife and I met you in Dayton, OH a couple of years back. In fact, that's us on your website Gallery:
http://www.neilgaiman.com/gallery/dayton.asp


There. Now anyone watching the Tonight Show tonight can get a warm fuzzy Sandman feeling...

There used to be two piers in Brighton -- long structures that stuck out into the water, made for people to promenade on, back when they promenaded, replete with theatres and whelk stands and dark halls filled with old penny-in-the-slot machines and What The Butler Saw. The West Pier, as I've mentioned here before, has had its share of strange tragedies. The other pier at least had a ghost train at the end, before the fire a few months' back, which I also mentioned.

Yesterday, I got an e-mail to the effect:

Hi Neil,

Went to the Palace Pier (now imaginatively called "Brighton Pier")yesterday.
Sorry to report that the Ghost Train is now completely demolished and gone.

Though, even when I went on it as a kid I never found it scary, just musty
and interesting. Harking back to a time when High-Tech meant doing
remarkable things with brown paper and hairy string.
Cheers,
Mike Graney.


Then I woke up this morning to several messages, letting me know that...

Brighton's West Pier totally burnt down.

Hi Neil, read your journal every day and love it. I took a walk down the seafront today in Brighton to see that the West Pier was ablaze. After all the trouble its had recently I felt really sorry for the poor thing. Here are the local news pics: http://thisisbrightonandhove.co.uk/brighton__hove/
news_features/west_pier_fire/
I
have a few shots of the pre-burnt pier on my site too www.KingOfMyCastle.com
Take care!

John King..


and

I think I'm beginning to agree with you on the prospect of being reincarnated as the infamous Brighton pier. It's looking more and more like a really, really bad idea. In fact, it's making coming back as a building in Baghdad look pretty darned good.

- B. Bolander




The news photos are impressive. They made me sad, though: those piers, and Portsmouth's (which is still there, although the original structure was accidentally burned down during the filming of Ken Russell's Tommy and was replaced by something somewhat less Seaside Gothic) were the piers of my childhood. Strange...

Thursday, March 27, 2003

http://www.laweekly.com/ink/03/18/pulpit-spiegelman.php is a link to an art spiegelman "In the Shadow of No Towers". art's been working on these for a while -- they're powerful and moving. I'm pleased they'll be getting out to a wider audience.

...

So, alert readers of this journal may remember that my daughter Holly has been looking at colleges. She's just had in a slew of acceptances (yay Holly!), and is currently trying to make up her mind between her two preferred colleges of the bunch, viz. and to wit, Bryn Mawr and Smith. And I'm sure that in the next few days she'll decide which one she's going to.

Her sister Maddy also has strong opinions on the subject.

"I think," Maddy said, "That she should go to Smith. Because I like the name Smith, and because if she went to Bryn Mawr it's in Pennsylvania, and then I'd worry."

"Why would you worry?" I asked, feeling like George Burns, in a double act with an eight-year-old Gracie Allen.

"Because of her getting her blood sucked. It's in Pennsylvania, you know. Where Dracula comes from."

"Er, Mads. You're thinking of Transylvania. That's in Eastern Europe. Pennsylvania's in the USA."

"Oh. Well, I still think Smith is a nicer name."

...

Wrapping up a final rewrite of Mirror-Mask, the film that Dave McKean will be making for Henson's. They'll be shooting in the UK. They've already started casting, and Dave's spent the last few weeks doing the storyboards. Today I turned on the Final Draft (screenwriting program, really good one) thingie that numbers the scenes, something I don't start doing until films are actually heading into production. So fingers crossed.

...

And, out of pity for all the people who are now subscribing to the various RSS feeds of this journal, I'm going to try not to do what I've been doing for a while, which was typing and publishing as I went along, just in case Blogger hiccoughed (or even hiccupped), and then going in at the end and cleaning up the stray commas. This means that typos and infelicities are more likely to remain, but that you're less likely to see a post repeated several times.

Wednesday, March 26, 2003

This came in from our ace webmistress, Julia Bannon, along with a rather thrilled e-mail about how Blogger had phoned her back and were working with her to debug the various issues (they'd found some broken HTML code from february, for example). Anyway, this is the bit she asked me to post.

"Dear NG.com readers - thank you all so very much for your emails about the archives going 'missing'. Turns out they've never really been gone, but due to some sort of time-stamp technical issue over at Blogger, they haven't been feeding correctly to us for awhile. Apparently they will be doing some beta testing of their new version with a fix for this issue in the next few weeks, so hopefully the problem will be solved relatively soon. I can manually fix the archives so they show up in the list, but you can also type in the url for the month or two you may be missing (if you want the May archive, and you see this URL - http://www.neilgaiman.com/journal_archives/
2002_06_01_archive.asp
, then simply replace the "06" with an "05", and the May journal should pop right up). But every time there's a new post the problem crops up again...so its tough to do all the time. I apologize for not being able to reply to each one of you when you've told me about this problem, but I wanted to make up for it by asking Neil to post this for me. "


Got that?

Hello Neil,

Don't know if you've heard about this yet; but, because it won for best animated feature at the Oscars, SPIRITED AWAY is getting rereleased this Friday (3/28) to a wider market. (I've heard something around 800 screens) Seeing that you did such a wonderful job creating an English script for PRINCESS MONONOKE, I thought you'd like to know in case you haven't seen it.

I really love this film along with all of the other Miyazaki films I've seen. Could you please mention it on the blog at least, so that other people who never heard of it might go out to see it. It sure is a good film that needs our support. (Who knows. In a few years we might get a wide release for HOWL'S MOVING CASTLE when it comes out if this film does well in the coming weeks.)

Thanks and peace,

Joe J.



I was absolutely thrilled for Mr Miyazaki. (I still think it was a pity that Mononoke couldn't be nominated, as it had already been entered in a best foreign film category a couple of years earlier.)

hello, big fan, two questions.
1: you mentioned working on a shadow novella, do you know if/when/how it will come out and how people will be getting it? (IE, will it be hidden in a collection or released on it's own or such)
2: I am attempting to be a writer, and am up to thirteen rejection letters for about ten separate short stories. I have a friend who has made it a goal to recieve twenty five rejection letters this year, I am aiming lower, for around ten. My question for you is, did you recieve any? and if so how many before your first published story/book/comic? (if the answer is zero, feel free to lie and say it's like forty, that would make me feel much better about myself)
please keep up the good work. -jacob.


It'll be in Robert Silverberg's LEGENDS II collection. Which may or may not be called that. Someone sent me a link a couple of days ago to the UK cover on Amazon.co.uk, but I'll let interested people go and find it themselves. According to Amazon.co.uk it'll be out in August, but that doesn't really mean that it will be.

And yes, I got rejection letters. I probably had about half a dozen before I sold my first short story.

Given how popular your blog is do you now feel obligated to blog?

Toby


I was going to say no, but I sort of do. At least, in the old days I'd often not post for a day or so here or there: these days I sort of feel that if I don't post at all, I ought to have a good excuse, because I know how many people are reading the thing, and I feel guilty. Having said that, it's still fun, and it doesn't feel like some kind of genuine weighty obligation. It's still a nice way to warm up my typing fingers in the morning, to share cool news or to answer questions.

A small thing for wordgeeks (who probably knew this already) but I was trying to figure out an etymology today (was fascinated to discover that different dictionaries have utterly different derivations of Quandary -- some derive it from Icelandic and Old English, and some from Latin) and found http://www.etymonline.com/, an online etymological dictionary.

What is cooler and stranger than that, is that you can sponsor a word of your choice, to keep the dictionary going and viable. Herewith some words and their sponsors: http://www.etymonline.com/working/sponsors.htm

You've mentioned that Neverwhere will be available in June for us in the U.S., but I can't find it anywhere. It's not on Amazon.com at all, nor on Amazon.co.uk. Where will we be able to buy this?

I think it's now going to be coming out in September on DVD -- A&E want to do the best job on it they can. I'm meant to be recording a commentary track sometime pretty soon, and I'll post about it when it happens.

For several months e-mails to DC Comics would randomly not get there. There seemed to be no unifying factor -- I'd send them from different e-mail accounts, to different editors and to other staffers, at different times. Some of the e-mails would simply never get there. Recently Dave McKean sent a cover sketch to me and to the DC folk and copied it to me. I got it, they didn't. This was way beyond bizarre, and very discouraging. I mean, if all of the e-mails didn't get through, one wouldn't care, but randomly not knowing why an e-mail would arrive at the other end or not... it made one want to bang one's head against a wall. And AOLTimeWarner's computer people were no help at all.

Tonight, an editor at DC copied me on an e-mail she'd received from their computer people (about why an email took a very long time to get to her) that may go some way to explaining the problem....

And I quote:

I've been informed that the reason why there was a delay in the delivery of this message was because one of several keywords were found within the message. In particular, the word "SANDMAN" was found several times. This has been a telltale sign of one or more computer viruses, so the message was set aside to be investigated by a WB security person.

I'd be willing to bet that every message I sent them that didn't get through had the word SANDMAN in it. And that instead of reviewing them, the emails were simply automatically deleted as probable viruses. SANDMAN.... found several times... dead giveaway really....

Amused sigh. Good night.

This is not a question, more of a random comment really.

Around Christmas I met a real-life Punch and Judy man. (http://www.desktop.demon.co.uk/punch/). He is infamous in Brighton for his x-rated Punch and Judy (although he is more often found on the beach entertaining/scaring children).

He said he had a large collection of Punch and Judy books, and that one of his all-time favourites was about a child watching Punch and Judy out-of-season, and about how frightening the characters seemed.

He said the book was art.

Just thought you might like to know.


Thanks -- I'm always pleased when Punch and Judy Professors like Mr Punch (actually, I'm pleased when anybody likes Mr Punch). I loved his site -- if anyone's ever wondered what Mr Punch sounds like, you can hear his well-swazzled voice by clicking on him on the beach.

and two helpful ones from the same person...

Neil,

The LiveJournal RSS feed is unreliable because they're trying to suck all the items off your main journal page (see http://www.livejournal.com/userinfo.bml?user=gaimanblog - after the 'Last checked' time is a note complaining "Too big").

I got my cobbled together LiveJournal RSS feed of your journal to work by limiting it to 10 entries...although I get multiple versions of each of your entries - it retrieves every item that's changed in the previous hour each hour and so I often get the various revisions of an item.

Of course, -my- feed gives slightly weird output because you use odd characters in your posts (open quotes and open double quotes as spat out by Windows) which don't travel well in XML...

I think maybe it'd just be easier to remember to click an extra link to your journal once in a while. :)


followed by

Okay, having looked at it again and realised LiveJournal should only retrieve the RSS feed from my website once an hour regardless of the number of readers, it's probably okay to mention that http://www.livejournal.com/userinfo.bml?user=neil_gaiman_rss is a LiveJournal RSS syndication that doesn't suffer from being too big for LJ, does parse as a valid RSS feed and now even copes with those pesky Windows-encoded quotation marks I was complaining about :)

which is one of the many reasons why I like you people so much. You're helpful.

First off, let me say what a great blog you have. I never miss a day.

Now as a fan of Neil Gaiman, Sushi, and Food Network, I wanna know when where gonna see the three combined?

I can just see it, Neil takes you on a tour of great Sushi restaurants across America, while stoping at all the great road side attractions on the way.

I'm joking, of course, but we still like to see you do some t.v. appearences. Why not stop by Leno or Letterman sometime?

Thanks,
Bryan


Leno's never asked. Letterman's people are fans and used to ask, and I always said no, because I couldn't figure out what I'd be doing on there, apart from being a personality or something. It's the same reason I've always said no to People Magazine. One should leave fame to the people who want it.

Then again, if the Food Channel asked me to do a Sushi special across America, I'd say yes like a shot, but mostly because I know I'd learn stuff. And get to taste good things.

...

Have decided to take daughters to Walt Disney World for a few days in a couple of weeks. The last time I stayed there was when Maddy was a baby -- we went with our friends the Tebbels, who have Disney down to an art-form, and know what to do when and where to go and how to find edible food and everything, and I was impressed, and just a little scared by the realisation that this was a privately owned county. I've now forgotten all the How to Survive Walt Disney World lore I learned from John Tebbel. I don't even remember which roots are edible.

Tuesday, March 25, 2003

I'm glad to see you mention blackmask.com on your blog recently. I've been using the site for a couple years now, my only complaint - it dosn't have a copy of The Saragossa Manuscript. Any idea if the text is available online? The only copies I've been able to locate are far too expensive to meet my budget.

I'm surprised you can't find a reasonable copy -- there are some relatively cheap editions out there and still in print. I recommend the Penguin Classics edition (here's an Amazon.co.uk link to it and here's an Amazon canada link) and the Daedaulus Press 'Tales From the Saragossa Manuscript -- Ten Days in the Life of Alphonse Van Worden' is in print as well, (Amazon.co.uk link here). The latter contains a fascinating foreword by Brian Stableford explaining why some people believe that only the first ten days of the Manuscript are genuine, and the rest of it a mysterious forgery, and is worth reading even if you wind up disagreeing with his conclusions.

Hi Neil:

Found this review in the Irish Times this morning. Thought you (and my fellow blog-readers) might like to see it as well.

Finding the right words to thank you for all you've given me is, quite frankly, impossible; believe me, I've tried. So, from one writer to another, perhaps this will put it best: when people ask me about the influences on my own work, my reply usually sounds something like this: "Woolf...Colette...GaimanGibsonBono." Strange bedfellows, perhaps, but that's one of the gifts you've given me: to embrace all the disparate parts of one's life without fear or shame, those two being the most powerful of human emotions, surpassed only by love, which, as a fellow traveller once said, first caused the sun and the other stars to move.

Affectionately,
Anne Ryan Barton.


http://www.ireland.com/newspaper/features/
2003/0325/941528278ATTUEREVIEWS.html


The Day I Swapped My Dad For 2 Goldfish: The Ark, Dublin.

Neil Gaiman's story is so elastic there's room to push out the boundaries and create a magical theatrical experience for children.

That's just what director Eric Fraad has done at the Ark, where the five- to 10-year-olds in the audience were by turns mesmerised and tickled by the ever-changing antics of the actors and the sheer fun on stage.

The story is told by Mathew Dunphy, playing a young boy who's fond of tricks, and Orla Fitzgerald, playing his little sister, who's equally fond of teasing him. The play starts with the two skating and generally messing around while Dad hides, as usual, behind his newspaper. Enter their friend Nathan, with two goldfish in a bowl, and a swap of fish for Dad is eventually agreed upon. Mum's not pleased when she returns, and the children have to go and retrieve Dad. But Nathan has swapped him on, and there follows a chain of swaps that brings a sassy girl band on stage, followed by a snooty posh boy with his butler and a hilariously eccentric family.

Jocelyn Clarke, who adapted the story, has turned it into lively theatre. It's very much a multimedia show, so there's something going on all parts of the stage at all times. David McKean's quirky and dark illustrations are projected on a wall, giving an ever-changing backdrop, while a video screen shows the tired children pounding the streets, so bringing an element of reality to the imaginary world on stage. The superb original music is by Max Tundra.

The cast of seven is made up of experienced, mostly young actors, and when they took their bow my co-critic, six-year-old Harry, couldn't believe that's all there was and wanted to know where the rest of the people were. Niamh Linehan, Simon Jewell, Emma Moohan, Steve Blount and Ailish Symons all played several characters with expert comic timing, characterisation and conviction. The children loved the live rabbit on stage. Bruno Schwengl's set design is as flexible as it has to be, and actors use it with great energy.

There's usually a simple moral to children's books, and here it's that no matter what mistakes you make, they can be put right, although there might be obstacles and it might take some time.

By Bernice Harrison

Runs until April 17th


It sounds really fun -- I wish I could see it. And thanks for the kind words. (And strange bedfellows indeed. But good ones.)

Neil,

Any chance of us getting permalinks on your posts? Now and then I comment on something you have said which I would love to point people towards, but cannot link directly to an individual post. I am sure others would love to do the same.

Adrian
http://www.sevitz.com


I keep asking. Right now, they're still trying to figure out why the journal page and archives are hanging so often, and why last June vanishes from the archives every time I post something, and I think until they've cracked that we won't get permalinks. I'd really like them too -- it would be much more useful for me to be able to link to a specific thing than to point someone to an archived month and tell them the date to scroll down to.

For now, you might want to link to the archived version of the current month, if there's a specific recent post you want to point at, rather than the main journal.

Dear Neil,
My name is Gith, the Eater of Worlds. I was going to eat this world but while sitting in a library in Slough (while digesting a previously eaten world) I stumbled across one of your books and found it so riveting I decided to spare this planet. I thought you ought to know, though you will not believe. Well done. I'll be back though.


Whew. That was a close one.

Those of you on LiveJournal would probably want to know that there's an RSS feed of this blog listed at http://www.livejournal.com/syn/ as gaimanblog. Which I mention here mostly because the more of you sign up for it the less it costs you in LiveJournal points.

(Having said that, this journal seems much more reliable than the feed. At least for the present.)

Monday, March 24, 2003

Hi Neil,

I'm a bit confused by your upcoming tour dates in Holland, it says you'll be in my country on april 24th-28th, but the Elf Fantasy link below those dates says you'll be there on march 20, which was a couple of days ago. So either you've got a serious case of jetlag induced amnesia concerning your whereabouts these last few days or the people who maintain this Dutch site have made a mistake, I'm tending toward the latter but it makes me wish your schedule were more specific as I've got serious plans of stalking you those four days. And while I'm already wasting your time, I might as well ask you another question: I recall you mentioning Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable somewhere, was that in any way a research tool during the writing of Sandman?

Hope to see you soon,

BrilliantMistake (I'll be the guy with the trenchcoat and the newspaper with two holes in it who 'coincedentally' seems to be everywhere you go in Holland.)



I looked at one of the English versions of the pages, at http://www.elffantasy.nl/fairprogengels.html and it seems pretty clear that the Elf Fair is over the dates I'll be there. I think the 20 Maart thing probably refers to the date that page was updated.

And yes, Brewers was an invaluable tool in writing Sandman, and in writing Good Omens and in writing many other things. (My favourite copy is the reprint of the first edition.) Without the Reverend E. Cobham Brewer Terry Pratchett and I would, well, have not known lots of cool oddments.

There are over 11,000 public domain books online, for free, at http://www.blackmask.com/page.php. A lot of absolutely fascinating stuff. Hours of delightful browsing, and it's won't cost you a penny.

(Somewhere I have a Gemstar eBook reader, but it has to be the single least appreciated piece of technology I've ever been gifted with. The previous version of the eBook was capable of reading public domain texts, but the newer models, which I had was only capable of buying them, and from a very limited choice. And I never really managed to finish a book on it, either, although I tried very hard.)

Anyway, there are Dunsany stories there, and Cabell, and Chesterton, and Saki and Arthur Machen, and all sorts of goodies there.

And, because some of you may fancy a trip back in time for a week or so, there's also http://etext.lib.virginia.edu/toc/modeng/public/MayLond.html
which is the online text of the first volume of Henry Mayhew's wonderful "London Labour and the London Poor".

And, talking about Henry Mayhew, he gets quoted, or at least, I get quoted quoting him, in an article written for the Worldwide Friends of Punch and Judy, by Professor Freshwater. who put on the wonderful Punch and Judy show at last year's World Fantasy Convention. She talks about how she was found through this here blog at the beginning...

I asked if she minded me linking to the article (it's a PDF file) and she replied...

I'm glad you enjoyed the article. It would be lovely if you'd link to
it on your blog. Usually only members of The Worldwide Friends of Punch
and Judy get to read Around the World With Mr. Punch, but we'll
consider this a free sample. If your readers find that this article
sparks their interest in Punch and Judy, they can check out the
organization
(www.punchandjudyworld.org)
and perhaps join for an
ongoing subscription to the journal (also free.)


So here's the link to her article: http://www.punchandjudyworld.org/WWFPJ/gig.html

and Diane adds...

Speaking of blogs, the other day I was perusing yours with our new
puppy, Koira (aka Toby) on my lap. Koira said to me -- (knowing, as you
do, that my world is populated by vocal inanimate objects, you won't be
surprised to learn that my dogs talk) -- "Mama, if I'm to be a star of
the Puppet Stage, I ought to have a blog!" It seemed like a valid
point. So now she does:

http://freshwaterpearlspuppetry.com/koira/tobyblog.html

Neil, I'm sure as an author you expect to motivate literary endeavors
by your readers, but I'll bet you never expected to inspire a dog blog!


You know, I really didn't.

The Countries and dates of the European Tour are now up at WHERE'S NEIL. Links to details for Holland and Poland are in there -- as soon as we get formal schedules from publishers I'll put them up too. (WHERE'S NEIL is http://www.neilgaiman.com/where/where.asp -- or click the link above or on the left. Really you're spoiled for choice.)

Dear Mr. Gaiman,
First of all, let me apologize, for this isn't really a FAQ, but I don't know of any other way to contact you.
I am a writer, first, and a soldier second. I am awaiting deployment to Iraq, and have found the anticipation of deployment an excruciating ordeal. Being a writer, I try to make the best of it, and I write. For those who believe that for the ordinary Joe, nothing sharpens the mind like a bullet past the face, I contend that simply the thought of a bullet is enough to sharpen the mind of a writer.
I do have a point. Through these past weeks, I have been reading your journal every day. I wish I could convey to you what your journal and your writing means to this particular writer during these times, but I don't feel capable right now. So I guess all I can say is thank you.
Thank you Neil for being a writer and finding the world interesting enough, and occasionally writing about it, or of worlds like it. I used to argue to my Professors that art is as much the product of the Creator as it is the Recipient's understanding of it. That a son grows beyond the control of his parent and inspires in ways his parent never intended. But I also contend that in no way does this take away the merit of the Creator and his brilliance.
And so, Neil, I want to thank you for everything...for the stories you wrote that have lived on in my own head, revised and interpreted to my liking, and making my anticipation of a probable bullet all the less daunting.
Your fan, and fellow writer and God of Infinite Worlds...

SPC Edward Chang


You're very welcome. I'm glad it helps.

And good luck. Come back safely.


http://www.spinsanity.org/columns/20030320.html is a fascinating site, being equally as willing to puncture pro-war and anti-war memes.

Sunday, March 23, 2003

This is a great snapshot (at Scott's site) from the Chicago Humanities Festival. It's me, Scott McCloud, Will Eisner and art speigelman in a hotel lobby. We look like we've been taken from four different photos at four different times, and badly photoshopped together, but were, in actual fact all in that hotel lobby at the same time.

In the Observer today http://www.observer.co.uk/iraq/story/0,12239,920286,00.html we learn that...


US intelligence officials said there was now a high volume of back-channel communications with officials inside Iraq. American military officers were trying, often by telephone, to coax their Iraqi counterparts into surrendering.



"Often by telephone" is sort of puzzling in itself. Are they also using homing pigeons? e-mails? long personal letters? And how do you telephonically "coax" your Iraqui counterpart to surrender?

�Hi. Mahmoud? That you? This is Al.�

�Ah. Yes. Hi, Al.�

�So, you thought any more about what I said yesterday?�

�Not really. I�ve been kind of busy. We�re fighting a war, you know.�

�Heheh. Tell me about it. So whaddayasay, Mahmoud � ready to surrender?�

�Not, uh...�

�C'mon, man. You know you want to. Didn�t you get the flowers?�

�Flowers?�

�Yeah. I sent flowers. I dictated the card myself � to a Noble Opponent.�

�That was you? They�re very nice.�

�And the photos? You got the photos of the house okay?�

�The house? It looks lovely.�

�It�s a time share in Puerto Vallerta. We�ve got it for a whole month in September but you�re a general, who has time to go to Mexico and knock back the Coronas by the pool? I guess you know how it goes.�

�Saddam, he�s not big on giving us vacation time either.�

�Well, listen, Mahmoud, you surrender, and I can tell you where you�ll be in September.�

�I have to go.�

�Hey. I hope I didn�t say anything wrong.�

�Not at all. But I�ve got an air force colonel on the other line. He�s been sending me pizza and boxes of candy. He says if I surrender his family are taking me to Disneyworld.�


It's probably not like that at all.

Saturday, March 22, 2003

Rule one of reading other people's stories is that whenever you say "well that's not convincing" the author tells you that's the bit that wasn't made up.

This is because real life is under no obligation to be convincing.

I mean, I went looking for tacky caskets. The Last Supper casket didn't surprise me. Nor did the tulips.

Somehow, I don't think I could convince casual readers that I didn't make up this one....

http://www.casketstore.net/link%20pages/special%20caskets/Return.htm#top

I realised I didn't know enough about the funeral I was writing about. So I got a local paper last night and found a likely funeral and went to it, a bit nervously, early this morning, to watch.

I learned a lot of things, some of which will make it into the scene, and some of which will be left out but will still make me feel like I know what I'm talking about when I'm writing.

One thing that may or may not make it into the book, though, is this piece of urgent advice, which I will pass on to all of you: Do Not, even for purposes of researching a novel, Eat Curried Goat For Breakfast. One day you'll thank me.

Nalo Hopkinson's anthology Mojo: Conjure Stories is now out. It's got a story of mine in called "Bitter Grounds", which is one I'm pretty happy with. It has New Orleans in it, and the walking dead.

Michael Chabon's McSweeney's Mammoth Treasury of Thrilling Tales is out in the shops as well. I'm less happy with "Closing Time", which is a ghost story, perhaps, about childhood. It's not a bad story, but it does, on rereading, feel more like a preliminary sketch for something, rather than the thing itself.

Peter Straub tells me that they may be selling Conjunctions 39 as a mass-market anthology, and will I hope call it something other than "the New Wave Fabulists" (I've seen some spectacularly dim reviews of Conjunctions 39, most of which seemed to begin from the assumption that Peter Straub had phoned us up to say "We, the New Wave Fabulists, a hitherto unnoticed movement, in a pitiful bid for respectability, are assembling an anthology and I need your most representative/unrepresentative/mainstream/slipstream story," rather than "Hi, it's Peter, I'm editing an anthology. The pay is pitiful, I'm afraid, but I've got some good people in there. I'll need a story in May if you've got one," which is how it actually happened.) I expect that by the time Conjunctions 39 comes out in mass market, "October in the Chair" will have been collected in the Steve Jones Year's Best Horror, and the David Hartwell Year's Best Fantasy.

The best story I wrote last year was the Sherlock Holmes meets the Cthulhu mythos one, "A Study In Emerald", for the Shadows Over Baker Street anthology, a story that is, I suspect, as good as anything I've ever written. That'll be out in September.

(There's meant to be a sort of theme to the next short story collection of extremely unreliable narrators telling you their stories.)

The phrase 'only write what you know' is continually being drummed into my head by my Creative Writing tutors at University. It's my final year and we have to write 7000 words of publishable quality. I've only just turned 20. I don't know anything. And on an even worse note, I have days when I *think* I know everything. How am I supposed to write when I know nothing and everything, and only have a few months in which to figure it all out? -Reen

Only write what you know is very good advice. I do my best to stick to it. I wrote about gods and dreams and America because I knew about them. And I wrote about what it's like to wander into Faerie because I knew about that. I wrote about living underneath London because I knew about that too. And I put people into the stories because I knew them: the ones with pumpkins for heads, and the serial killers with eyes for teeth, and the little chocolate people filled with raspberry cream making love, and the rest of them.

You've had twenty years of living, and dreaming. You probably have a fair idea of what it's like to experience emotions, and to go places, and to do things, and to change. You've wondered about things you don't know. You've guessed. You've hoped. You've probably lied -- oddly enough, similar skills to those you'll have used in convincing a teacher that you actually did do your homework, but it was stolen by an escaped convict dressed as a nun, will come in useful in writing fiction. Ditto for the skills involved in writing a passing grade essay on something you know absolutely nothing about. Relax. Fake it. Mean it.

And you don't need to figure it all out before you start writing. You can figure it out while you're writing. Or you can fail to figure it out; that's allowed too.

Don't worry about "publishable quality". Just say what you have to say as clearly as you can, and try to enjoy yourself while writing it. Start somewhere, finish somewhere, surprise yourself. And 7000 words honestly isn't really that much writing: a page is about 300 words. If you only write a page a day, you'll have 7000 words in a mere 23 days. And if it really really really really sucks, you'll still have time to write a completely different 7000 words.

(The above owes not a little to Ursula K LeGuin, who I would have quoted directly except that as I write this the sodding journal isn't loading properly and neither are the archives with her quote in -- but it's somewhere in January 2003. The observation that if you just write 300 words a day you have a novel in a year was Stephen King's.)

Friday, March 21, 2003

From Sandman 50 (in Fables and Reflections)... Which was released almost exactly ten years ago, in April 1993.



Storyteller: "Go home."

His question unanswered, Hassan stumbles homeward, picking his way in a series of child's short-cuts across the bomb sites and the rubble of Baghdad.

And, though his stomach hurts (for fasting is easy, this Ramadan; and food is hard to come by) his head is held high and his eyes are bright.

And behind his eyes are towers and jewels and djinn, carpets and rings and wild afreets, kings and princes and cities of brass.

And he prays as he walks (cursing his one weak leg the while), prays to Allah (who made all things) that somewhere, in the darkness of dreams, abides the other Baghdad (that can never die), and the other egg of the phoenix.

But Allah alone knows all.


Neil,
Concerning the question of the credibility of the Baghdad blogger; Paul Boutin has made a detailed assessment of this and concluded that yes, this probably is legitimate. The name Salam Pax, however, is false (the two words mean 'peace' in Arabic and Latin respectively).


and --

Deal Neil:
I found this link at Wil Wheaton's blog. I thought you would appreciate it and might be able to put it up on your website. I don't know how many people will be able to do this but it's a great idea.
http://www.booksforsoldiers.com/
~Jamie


Absolutely.

Dear Neil,

I was just reading through your blogg and I noticed that you have Denmark on your schedule for your upcoming tour of Europe.
Will you be publishing a date, time and place for your Danish appearance in the near future?

Regards,

arni gunnarsson


Sure. I'll put up all the European dates very shortly. I think Denmark is in the second or third week of May, following Poland.

Dear Mr. Gaiman,

Thank you for putting up the link of a blog from Baghdad, I've been checking it a few times a day ever since. However, I was wondering how do you know that the blog is written in Baghdad and not by someone with intimate knowledge of Iraq? Or that this could be a propaganda ploy by the U.S. government? I don't intend to stop reading it until I see some proof that it's fake. But how do you know that it's real?

Raymond


I don't. Although it doesn't read like U.S. Government propaganda. It reads like someone blogging.

(Then again, I sometimes get snarky e-mails asking if I'm real; the assumption being, I suppose, that I'm too richandfamousandbusy to do something like this personally, so the journal is probably being written by an underpaid typist in the bowels of the Harper Collins building.)

...

It seems that my own response to the war is to start writing a novel. I opened the large-sized Moleskin notebook today, pulled out my pen and Fat Charlie came puffing up over the hill to push his way to the front of the wrong funeral party. He is about to open his mouth and embarrass himself very badly.

...

I'm going to try and get permission to post thumbnails of the Dave McKean ENDLESS NIGHTS cover and the new trade paperback HarperCollins American Gods cover here. Not sure if I'll get said permission or not. I've made the Endless Nights cover my new wallpaper and told Dave last night how much I liked it.

"It's really gorgeous!" I enthused.

"Er," he said. "Um."

"Mark Askwith says it's the best cover you've ever done."

"Um," he said. Pause. "He was probably being polite."

"You don't like it do you?"

"Erm. Well."

"It is wonderful. Really it is."

"Er. Glad you like it. So. About the Mirror-Mask script..."

I suspect he's too close to it.

Mirror-Mask seems to be rolling. Dave's storyboarding it right now, they've got a casting director and are starting to cast it.

I merely have to take all the different scripts that exist for it and fold them into one draft that includes everyone's notes but doesn't change anything that Dave's already storyboarded. Child's play, he said, with a doomed and hollow tone to his voice. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a notebook with a funeral in it I need to be getting back to.

Thursday, March 20, 2003

Dave McKean's cover for Endless Nights just came in. It may be the single most beautiful cover he's done, for any of the Sandman things.

I've asked Karen Berger if we can release it to the web, probably from the Vertigo website, as wallpaper and a screensaver. This is me being selfish, because I really want it as a screensaver, and it's also pragmatic, as I think that it's the coolest possible advert there could be for the book.

I turned on the news.

Male newsreader: "It looks -- for now -- like the Iraqui missiles have stopped dropping on Kuwait, although the all-clear sirens haven't sounded. Tonight should see the beginning of Operation Shock and Awe."

Female Newsreader: "And the Big Question on Everybody's Lips is -- How will all this affect the Oscars?"

Male newsreader (realising that this may be a slight gaffe, trying to fix it): "Er, the big Entertainment Question, you mean."

Female Newsreader (irritated at being interrupted): "Well, it's all we're thinking about in LA."

I turned off the news at that point, feeling like I was living in a rather broadly written satire.

...

Neil -- This article ran in the Washington Post this morning, and immediately I thought of Sandman #50. Under the circumstances, it's one of the saddest things I've read, but I think it would still be terribly sad even if the bombs weren't flying.
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A56350-2003Mar19.html

-Karin



and

Neil -- You may have already seen this article in today's Washington Post on the glories of Baghdad's past at http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A56350-2003Mar19.html. I couldn't help but think about your story Ramadan, and Haroun al-Raschid's desire to keep his glorious city just as he knows it. I think that it's appropriate for all of us to remember that what is now Iraq was once the paramount center for learning and science. -- Laura Gosling

I find myself remembering someone telling me off on Genie because, according to whoever was telling me off, Baghdad was virtually unscathed in the Gulf War, and I had the kid who heard the story limping home across a bombsite. I think I'd rather that they had been right and I had been, and remained, wrong. Right now it looks like Sandman 50 will have been more accurate than I knew.

And Teresa Nielsen Hayden wrote to say:

I love the story about the talking carp, and you're Quite Right about
the procedures for dealing with them; but alas, I cannot believe it.

A talking carp? Maybe. And if I don't balk at that, a talking
prophesying carp is no big step. But that someone should eat a
talking prophesying carp -- no.

That, or there's a missing part of the story where the proper
authorities are consulted (with much finely-detailed argument) about
whether it's kosher to eat a talking prophesying carp, and what are
the precedents; and along about this time one starts feeling tempted
to invent an ancient numinous known-but-to-a-few and =very= oddly
annotated commentary on which mythic and legendary beasts are
permissible to eat, and how to prepare them...


Well, both Leviathan and Behemoth, the mythic and legendary giant creatures of the sea and the land respectively, are kosher. In one Jewish legend of the future, after the Messiah comes back, there's a tent made of Behemoth hide inside which the Behemoth is roasted, and so is Leviathan, and all the Jewish people fit into that tent. The men eat the pretty much inexhaustible meat and the fish. (The women are in the back, giving birth to sons, I was assured by Rachel Pollack, who is the only other person I've ever chatted to who'd run across that one.)

Interestingly, Leviathan and Behemoth will kill each other, which leaves me with several questions about how a giant fish kills a Behemoth in such a way as to keep it kosher.

Making omelettes with the phoenix egg is not recommended. The subsequent fires can cause problems, for a start.

Meanwhile, over at this Sandman fan site an A-Z of Sandman characters has begun. (It's up to issue 4 so far. Sarin's looking for volunteers to help annotate the characters...)

Fascinating review of a book on the history of masturbation, and why the act only became a sin in 1712, and what that has to do with the practice of reading novels...

...

And given the current events, I thought this might offer an unusual, and rather immediate, perspective on events http://dear_raed.blogspot.com/: a blog from Baghdad...

Wednesday, March 19, 2003

Over at her journal, Teresa Nielsen Hayden is of the opinion that stupidity is fractal: the deeper in you go, the more of it there is.

Submitted for your approval, ladies and gentlemen... The Case of the Stolen Lobster. It's from the Smoking Gun site. It's handwritten, but worth reading nonetheless. Trust me on this.

http://bostonreview.mit.edu/BR25.6/hynes.html is a marvellous essay on John Crowley's books, made only slightly less marvellous by the assertion that Little, Big is out of print (they link to some Amazon links to out of print editions), which is nonsense. It's very in print, and you ought to read it. Aegypt is out of stock at Amazon, not out of print, and in-print as an eBook, which isn't a bad thing.

Let's see...

I'm the Frederick Gundling of eBay infamy, trying to publicize my upcoming novel DISCONNECTED and my website (www.frederickgundling.com) by selling off minor characters in my first two novels. I'd love for more money to go to charity, but my first novel was delayed by a full year of editing, during which I reduced it from 401,000 words to a screamingly tight 175,000, and I need the extra cash to get a new roof and put a new a/c and furnace into this godawful 1963-contructed house I'm currently living in. I "retired" from The Washington Post at age 28 to write fiction full time, and my wife is going to take an ax to my groin any day now if I can't produce some sort of income. (We moved to the Middle of Nowhere, Texas in order to subsist on her income, so just imagine the burgeoning job market for bitter, sarcastic writers hereabouts.)

Although I've sold five characters for a total of $500, I made more money selling my rare Nirvana albums ($1,000) and my Bloom County comic strip ($750). And they say writers make the best living, among all artists . . .

(signed) a regular blogger reader since (almost) the beginning,

- Fred

PS: Curiously, a bare bones synopsis of Disconnected would look almost identical to a bare bones synopsis of American Gods, although they're both very different novels.

PPS: Why don't you talk about your wife more? Has she forbidden you??



Er, no. Not explicitly. But, unlike, say, Maddy and Holly, she's never once been known to look at me with a disappointed expression and say "Why haven't you mentioned me on your journal recently?"

Currently it's Spring Break at my daughters' schools, so she and Holly are on a tour of New Englandy colleges: they've seen Smith and Hampshire and Union and Skidmore and Bard and Trinity (I think that's the list for that part of the world). Meanwhile Maddy and my-assistant-Lorraine are heading off to New York for a few days, to see A Little Night Music and Hairspray. (And I'm recouperating and getting some writing done.)

Anyway, good luck with the book and the unusual method of raising money.


Dear Neil;
Quick questions. First, do you have any concrete (or at the very least well intentioned) plans to attend any comicons in the six month future? Secondly, is there any thought of doing a reading tour this summer (I can't think of a better way to spend an afternoon then listening to Coraline)? And thirdly (and God help us lastly), have you ever thought of doing a chapbook of poetry? I'm sure other stories are elbowing each other as we speak to get onto the page, but it's just a thought. Oh, and (good God, did she not just say lastly???) if you could make up any monniker for yourself to ghost write under, what would it be? Please feel free to answer any or all. Thanks so much. Shalene Shimer


Names I remember using include Richard Grey, Gerry Musgrave (it was a Sherlock Holmes reference that was also a James Branch Cabell reference, I think), and W.C. Gull (it was meant to be W.W. Gull, as the previous reviewer had been M.J. Druitt, but the editor changed it because he said it was funnier that way). Any names I'd ghost-write under in the future I'll keep to myself, otherwise there'd be precious little point in having them.

(On rereading this, I should add that I don't have any plans to do stuff under a ghost-name, as A) My brand-identity as an author is already so hopelessly muddled that I can't imagine something I'd want to write that would have a publisher pursing its publishy lips and saying "Perhaps you should put out the pornographic cookbook under a different name...?" They'd just shrug and say "Oh. A pornographic cookbook. Right," and let me get on with it. And B) I'm not prolific enough that I'd face, for example, the problem Steve King did when he brought out the Bachman stuff.)

I do sometimes feel I ought to gather up all the poetry under one roof. I just need a publisher who wants to make it happen enough, I suppose.

Yes, I'll be at the Comicon in San Diego this summer. No idea what my schedule will be like there -- but in addition to whatever I'm down for I'll try and do a reading for the CBLDF members-only event (last time I was a guest, in 1999, I read 2/3 of Coraline, which was all I'd written at that point, and The Wolves in the Walls). I doubt I'll do a reading tour per se though this summer. I have to do some writing.

I think you'll find this interesting, basically you can now pay e-bay to be in a novel:

http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?
ViewItem&item=3507688165&category=377


especially the part where its mentioned :
Frederick Gundling, 32, is repped by PMA Literary & Film Agency. His first novel, Disconnected, is expected by many to be a crossover hit. It's the sort of book that might result from David Foster Wallace, Jasper Fforde, and Neil Gaiman being chained together in Clive Barker's basement for 90 days, forced to watch every episode of South Park between bare-knuckle brawls with Chuck Fight Club Palahniuk.


Good lord. Now there's a source of income for the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund I'd never considered before. Is this for real? Yes. Fans have paid as much as $17,600 to appear in novels by the likes of Kathy Lette and Nick Hornby. By successfully bidding on this auction, you earn the right to appear as a character in Disconnected AND support a worthy literary charity at the same time. After you sign a simple release form, Frederick Gundling will create a minor character based on info you supply, such as name, age, and physical description. Although normally the charity takes all of the money, not 20%. Anyway, good luck to him -- if nothing else it's a fun way of getting people talking about a book that's not come out and that hasn't quite sold to a publisher yet.

hola neil,
you posted the cover a while ago to "Wolves in the Walls" and said dave had it finished. any news on its release? i heard you read it a few years ago on your last angel tour in chicago and have been waiting with baited breath for this project to come about. i work in an elementary school library and have not only made them order "the day i swapped my dad for 2 goldfish" and "coraline," but my boss (the librarian) has fallen in love with your work (after my incessantly telling her you're my favorite author) and is using your books in some capacity as her thesis for her masters degree. oh, and i told her all about "wolves" and she wants it here too.
sorry, i'm rambling. take care. good morning.
greg


The Wolves in the Walls will be out (from Harper in the US and from Bloomsbury in the UK) in August I believe. I'll find out if we can get a preview up on this site. I think that Harper actually went and got wolvesinthewalls.com so they'll probably be doing a cool, strange website with information on it.

Hullo Neil,

Reading your comment on "screaming meemies" I found I couldn't resist the urge to find out where the phrase came from. According to the Online Etymology Dictionary (http://www.etymonline.com/):

"Screaming meemies is World War I army slang, originally a soldiers' name for a type of Ger. artillery shell that made a loud noise in flight (from Fr. woman's name Mimi), extended to the battle fatigue caused by long exposure to enemy fire."

Though I rather like my visual of gaudily-clad older ladies with horn-rimmed glasses and pink bouffants, who run in circles 'round each other while screaming.

I also wanted to thank you. Thank you for sharing the frightful and lovely things in your head. Thank you for collaborating with other great artistic talents, and not being daunted into inaction by new mediums. Thank you for being polite and charming to your admirers, even when you're feeling off. You are an extraordinary person.


Thank you. I think I'm pretty ordinary, to be honest. I've got a talent for making things up and writing them down, which happens to be what I want to do. And for the rest of it, well, the politeness and such is mostly from knowing how I like to be treated.

Y'know, all the talk about writing and all is swell, really. But what people really are curious about is...Neil, Neil, quite surreal, how does your garden grow? Or is it too soon to regale us with a few offerings from the produce section?

Much too soon, alas. There's still snow on the ground at home.

Tuesday, March 18, 2003

Writers get freedom to drive sheep through Liverpool blares the Guardian headline.

At last! I thought. Those bloody shepherds have had it their own way for too damn long. It's about time that writers got the right to drive sheep through the streets of Liverpool.

Turns out that it's not all writers, though. According to the article, it's only five liverpudlian writers.

I wonder if Beryl Bainbridge and Carla Lane have their own sheep, or if the council provides them. Oh well. While they're waiting for their sheep to come in they can ride back and forth on the Mersey Ferry for free.

Hi Neil...
I'm sure that your inbox is filled with more FAQ messages than there are books in Lucien's library, but I just read this news story and thought you'd like it:
http://www.cnn.com/2003/TECH/science/03/18/
offbeat.weather.aborigines.reut/index.html


That's wonderful. Although it makes me want to write my Australian megafauna story, and I know it'll be a while before I can get to it. (Sigh.)

Please read me.

Right. I've sent this little idea to you twice before, only to have it either lost in the shuffle or ignored. However, since I'm convinced it's good - or at least interesting - I'm going to try and be clever: I'll send it again, but this time I'll write 'please read me' at the top of the message...


If you send something in and it's not posted here, it's still been read. Honestly it has. On a normal day somewhere between thirty and a hundred messages come in on the FAQ line. On a wild day it can be two or three hundred. Posting them all and replying to them would be a full-time job. The ones that get up do it mostly by whim, or luck. Most messages remain sadly unanswered. (But not unread.)

(Your screensaver idea was a fun one, by the way, and I've forwarded it to DC Comics...)

Monday, March 17, 2003

Dear Neil,
I saw this article in Japan Times and thought it may interest you: http://www.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/getarticle.pl5?fl20030301a1.htm
Regards,
Jon Deeming


Absolutely fascinating. It's astonishing how many cities really do have a secret underside...

Hi Neil!

In case you missed this hugely-amazing story from the front page of yesterday's New York Times.... It's the best news item to appear in the Old Grey Lady in months:

http://www.nytimes.com/2003/03/15/nyregion/15FISH.html
Zei Gezunt.

-- DAN


A story I find disturbing only because they killed the carp. I mean, for heaven's sake.... Does no one read any fables any more? You're meant to marvel and then place the fish into a safe place, and take it to the king, not bonk it over the head and turn it into gefilte fish. And then it's brought before the king, and either it talks again or it doesn't. And if it talks it offers a little sage advice, and then it's put in a pool and looked after well until the end of its days, and it never talks again.

I find myself muttering "What do they teach them in these schools these days?" like the Professor in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.

hi, neil. just a question about a phrase that i didn't quite understand. in american gods, wednesday says that the dead always give him the screaming mimis. could you explain that to me? english is not my native language and web-search turned up some strange stuff. thanks. jack

It's also spelled "meemies". Screaming Mimis/Meemies is a slang term for an attack of nerves or jitters.

Do you smoke? I've never seen you mention it in the blog, as far as I know, and you don't especially seem like the smoking type, but I just recently bought a copy of 'Violent Cases' (which, yes, I enjoyed thoroughly) and the narrator (who looks and talks an awful lot like you) smokes. And smokes rather obviously, too, as it opens with him lighting up.

I realize there's a distinction to be made between Neil Gaiman the person and Neil Gaiman the semi-fictional narrator, but I would very much like this to be cleared up. Thanks very much,
Ted


I used to smoke. I was a really good smoker, and I smoked well, and enjoyed it no end. I gave up smoking almost ten years ago now, and still have the dreams where I'm smoking again. "Oh dear," I think in the dreams, "if I'm smoking again, it means I'm hooked forever." And then I'm relieved when I wake up to discover I still don't smoke. You'd think after nearly ten years the dreams would stop, but they don't, quite.

Lots of people writing in to point out other nice literary female deaths. (I'm not quite sure that Charles de Lint's counts, since the story in question was written for the "Sandman: Book of Dreams" before DC Comics changed their minds about the Work For Hire issue, prompting Charles, Jane Yolen, Martha Soukup and Harlan Ellison to take their stories elsewhere).

I've gone off to convalesce. This should be a lot like being home only with additional sun and lots of walking and swimming and getting fit again, and also some sleeping. This is at least the plan, although two minutes after I got here the hailstorm and driving rain started (I put a much-bigger-than-a-golfball size hailstone in the freezer). And I'll write things too. I've brought pens.

(The only nice side effect of having been so ill is that I lost about a stone -- that's about 14 pounds or 7 kg, and all my trousers are no-longer-tight.)

Several hundred FAQ messages in. I'll try and get to a few tonight.

Friday, March 14, 2003

GMZOE writes to say: re: purity test
The FAQer didn't quite remember the question properly. It wasn't how Gaiman and Jones are related, it's "Do you know the relation between Stardust and Howl's Moving Castle?"


Oh. Right. That's a completely different matter. (The answer, of course, is John Donne. Or part of the answer...)

You know, I should do a photo gallery or something here of the collection of Strange Bunnies I've been sent ever since I asked Windy Lewis to start the Bunny of the Month Club and sign me up as the charter member. Every month I am made happy... Last month's was a centaur bunny. The one before that was a snow white bunny with one huge yellow eyeball, which would pull out from its body on a string with a horrendous ratcheting noise, and then slowly pull itself back. There's the bunny with the single ear and a lightbulb inside its head, and the Baba Yaga bunny with chicken legs, and a gorgeous mismatched patchwork bunny who reminds me of Delirium. They arrive wrapped in cloth, with mysterious notes and, on occasion, props, inside sealed-up coffee cans, to ensure that they don't get damaged on route, and they never do. From this, we can deduce that Windy (a) has a unique imagination, (b) understands packaging and (c) drinks a lot of coffee.

It's the perfect gift for the person who has everything except really disturbing monthly bunnies. (And Windy's ordering instructions, at http://www.morbidtendencies.com/botmc-details.html, are hilarious, as she explains what you get at different price points...

* The Fine Print

$35 is the full Bunny Club membership. You get your choice of bunnies, bears, or some of each (e.g., �I want 5 months: 3 bunnies and 2 bears�), and they are the very best efforts I produce, mailed Priority Mail, possibly in �special� packaging.

You can opt for a lower priced option, down to as low as $5. You may choose any amount between $5 and $35, and prepay the number of months you desire.

Examples of what you can expect for different costs:

� $25�Still Priority Mail, you may get bunnies, bears, even a cow or a penguin. Still very keen animals. They will not be packed in weird materials or unusual boxes.

� $15�Still Priority Mail, these may well not have any arms, or be a shade of pink I didn�t really like all that much.

� $10�Definitely looking like leftovers cobbled together, may have one ear, the bottom half of a fish, or may be perfectly normal except for the weapon.

� $5�By the cheapest possible method, I will send you some mismatched eyes, or maybe a torso, or a set of arms. Who can say
?

And that from someone whose website includes a page of art for sale that ranges from an Alien Duck to batskull earrings to the evocatively but accurately named Things in Jars.)

Dear Mr. Gaiman
Many years ago I read a short story that captured my interest and imaganation but have not come across it since then, in spite of all my searching. The story is about an elderly victorian lady of some fame and wealth. Although her friends admirer her greatly, she is tiered of their company and decides to invite Death to a party to generate some excitment. When Death finally shows up, she is a little girl. I was hoping, as a last resort, that you may have come across this story and could tell me who wrote it, or the title, or anything that would help me fide it.
Thanks very much
~michael


Sounds like Peter S. Beagle's lovely short story "Come, Lady Death". Which contains, I think, the only other literary Death who's both female and nice.

Thursday, March 13, 2003

your mention of miyazaki and howl's moving castle (squeee, fangirly goodness, pardon me while i spontaneously combust...!!!) ...ahem... that mention prompts me to ask a question i've been wondering about for some time. i once took an online 'neil gaiman purity test' and one of the questions was 'do you know what the connection is between neil gaiman and diana wynne jones?' assuming the answer wasn't 'i really like both their works,' i don't know - and i have always wondered. can you fill me in?

I'm not sure which one they meant, to be honest. I dedicated Books of Magic to Diana (and three other witches), she dedicated Hexwood to me, whereupon I wrote a poem about it which you may be able to find by searching for her name on the search function (as I put up on this blogger a while ago). She put me, as me, on a panel at the convention in Deep Secrets, and gave a breakfasty thing that had happened to both of us to a character in the same book (I was the one who ate the breakfast in question. Not a morning person). I got her a griffin for her birthday last year. My family flew on a plane to Minneapolis with Diana once, and I got to experience her famous travel jinx at first hand. Diana told me a couple of years ago that I was the first adult who wasn't either a teacher or a children's librarian to tell her, back in 1984 or 85, that I loved her books, which still makes me happy. I started reading The Magicians of Caprona to Maddy tonight. Pick any answer or none.

More info on Mr Miyazaki's film of Howl's Moving Castle at http://nausicaa.net/miyazaki/howl/


And the best Diana Wynne Jones website seems to be http://www.leemac.freeserve.co.uk/ at which she answers questions and is generally spiffing.

I know that you said that the Archives problems had been fixed, but the link for May, 2002 still takes one to June, 2002. The link for July, 2002 still takes one to August, 2002, and there is still no way to find May or July other than fiddling with the URL (which I'm happy to do, but what about those that don't think of that option?).

Thanks so much for your work, both on screen and in books, graphic and otherwise. I try to introduce as many friends as I can to your writing, not only b/c I think it will enrich their lives, but also b/c I'm tired of beginning sentences with "Well, Neil says," and getting blank stares (or, in the case of my girlfriend, that look that says, "I love him, even if he's being brainwashed by the internet.") in return.
Thanks again,
jeff
btw, I also sent the Archives thingie to Julia the Webmistress


The problem seems to be that while we can fix it as much as we like, it only stays fixed until the next time I post something, at which point it just reverts to its natural entropic not actually working sort of state.

Our web people (ie Julia and the authors on the web gang) think that the problem is at Blogger's end, and when I last heard they had an ambitious plan involving getting someone from Blogger on the phone to actually help sort it out.

...

I used to love Alistair Cooke's Letters From America. The last one baffled me enough when I heard it on the Radio 4 live feed that I went to http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programmes/letter_from_america/2839739.stm and read it. In the old days he'd circle a topic, apparently change the subject, then dive back to the subject he started on, often illuminating both subjects. These days it seems like he just picks a place to start and talks until the time is up.

Anyway, reading the new one, which begins with the United Nations, nips over to Philip Larkin and closes with Mr Rogers, the penny sort of dropped for me: Cooke's talks have become more or less the equivalent of blogger entries -- this is what I'm thinking of, reading, wanted to tell you, am reminded of.... And as such they don't actually have to go anywhere. He's old, wise, articulate, and almost never dull.

Over at Jonathan Strahan's blog, at the February 26th entry, is a piece of promotional art for Miyazaki's film of Diana Wynne Jones's Howl's Moving Castle. I never quite imagined the castle moving like that, on little luggage feet, but it looks pretty wonderful.

Wednesday, March 12, 2003

Hi Neil-

I apologize if this isn't the proper form of contact but I couldn't find an email address. You stated in the bit about the laptop that momentarily means "for a moment" rather than "in a moment". I recall that particular question being addressed in an episode of a show called Sports Night, written by Aaron Sorkin, where towards the end someone said that momentarily means both "for a moment" and "in a moment".

I'm more inclined to believe you than a random bit off a tv show, but I thought I'd mention it.

thanks

Matthew


Language is a river, it's not fixed. The meanings of words change, and any rear-guard action to try and keep them meaning what you think they ought to mean is doomed. So momentarily does now mean "in a moment" as well as "for a moment" because that's how people use it, just as hopefully no longer means "in a way that's filled with hope" (as in "We walked hopefully toward the city on the hill") but it also means, and is mostly used to mean "I hope that", and enormity which once meant "monstrous badness" also means "enormousness" because that's how people use it.

On the one hand, grumbling is pointless. Language is a river. Go back a few hundred years and many words would have shades of meaning they no longer have. Go back a little further and you'll find yourself tripped up by the most common and simple words which would mean something quite different (Silly originally meant "innocent", for example.)

On the other hand, I'm still going to grumble, because as a writer, whenever a word with a precise meaning loses it, I lose a tool.

Neil,

I was reading in your journal about the issue of physical quality of US paperbacks versus UK paperbacks. I buy a lot of Fantasy, and mostly it's perfectly fine a few years down the line. Admittedly, I've only had most of it for 2 or 3 years. The point to this though, is that I am a big fan of Robert Jordan, or at least have been, and so I hang around with some of the communities based on his books online. It's a universal truth among his fans that the American versions of his books (published by Tor) are worthless physically, while the UK versions (from Orbit) are really good. Maybe this is the exception that proves the rule, but all I know is, my one US paperback from Tor fell apart after one read, while my range of UK copies have survived multiple re reads by myself and others. I'm not going to be ordering books from the US if I can avoid it any time soon..

Shaun O' Connor
Belfast, N. Ireland


There are certainly some worst offenders on both sides...

On the other side of the internet, Sharon the Dell Employee cringes behind her monitor. Her only consolation is that she is a very small cog--and not a customer-facing cog, either--in a very large machine, and has nothing to do with Mr. Gaiman's experiences with her company's products or its support agents. She hopes that he will be able to return to his craft soon, free of the burden of technical woes, because a horde of angry fangirl netizens is a terrifying force of nature.

Oh, I'm not really grumbling at Dell. I mean, I've been using Dell computers since about 1988, despite the single worst piece of customer relations I've ever experienced, in around 1996. (Me: Look, if you really don't want to fix it, I'll buy my next computer from someone else. Dell Support Guy: Like we care? Whatever. You'll be back. Me: Puts down phone and buys a Gateway.) I'm perfectly aware that this one was just random bad luck, and just wanted to vent.

Anyway, I'm almost enjoying the winnowing process of sticking stuff on a clean computer.

Hi Neil,
To begin this letter I was wondering "why tell him he's the best, his books are my all-time favourites along with JRR Tolkien ones if everybody tells him so?" and then I remembered: Because YOU ARE THE BEST.
Anyways, I was wondering (but without much hope as I didn't see your name on the lists) if you've been invited to the 23rd Salon du livre de Paris wich takes place between the 21st an 23rd of March.
Oh and by the way, you can broaden your statement: While the comuputer is still doing what you bought it for never complain for anything happening to it, or if you complain, try to look mad, always worked with AOL's Hotline.

Damien


Nope -- I'll be in France on the European tour in I think the third week of May. (The current sequence is Holland, Portugal, Spain, Poland, Denmark, Italy and France.)

The morning began with an e-mail from Oliver Morton (Author of Mapping Mars. Read it, enjoy it, vote for it in non-fiction categories whenever you see it nominated.) He sent me this link to Roger Ebert's column, and pointed out the following fascinating exchange:

Q. In "Back to the Future" on TNT, they showed a scene of Marty writing a letter to Doc Brown, warning him about being shot by terrorists in the future. As Marty reads the letter aloud, I noticed that him saying "by terrorists" had been muted. And when they showed a closeup of the letter, the words "by terrorists" had been digitally erased!

Steven Knauts, Atlanta

A. Bob Gale, the producer of the movie, says he is amazed that TNT would take out "terrorist." He doesn't think director Bob Zemeckis knows about it, and it couldn't have come from the studio, so it must have come from TNT. All of my queries to TNT have gone unanswered. A splendid new DVD edition of the "Future" trilogy provides access to the unedited films.


Meanwhile, for three weeks, on Radio 4, Bob Monkhouse is doing a series about "Radio Fun" comics, a weekly british comic that started in the 1930s. Bob Monkhouse is best known as a comedian and game show host presenter with a kind of smarmy public personality, but he's very funny (I believe the line about "I want to die peacefully in my sleep, like my father -- not screaming and sobbing like the passengers on his bus," originated with him) and a huge comics collector and reader. Whenever I used to sign in Andromeda in Birmingham I'd have to sign a mail order copy of whatever comics or graphic novels I had newly out "For Bob". Anyway, I know much more about American comics of the 30s and 40s than I do about their equivalents in the UK, so am looking forward to checking it out on http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/comedy/radiofun.shtml

And according to http://start.earthlink.net/newsarticle?cat=0&aid=D7PN8GH00_story (which is, curiously enough, not an Onion parody) Congress has renamed French Fries (for people who didn't need any explanation of who Bob Monkhouse was, that's what the Americans call chips. They keep the word chips in reserve for crisps.), er, anyway, they've renamed them Freedom Fries, to signify their displeasure with their perfidious former allies. Coming soon in America: sticking your tongue in someone's mouth will be known as freedom kissing, condoms will be freedom letters, while British Actor, Coraline audio reader and the new Harry Potter, Dawn French, will, for appearances in America, be forced to change her name to Dawn Freedom. In Congress they will breakfast on Freedom toast, smear Freedom mustard on their steaks and drink, well, Californian Wine I expect.

However, at least when shown on TNT, we can assume that the film The French Connection will be shown as, simply, The Connection, and that any specific source for this connection's location will have been digitally erased.

...

I have very mixed feelings about Americans disliking the French. I'm English, after all. We have a special relationship with the French: we are in awe of their sophistication, their cuisine and their wines, we think their women are beautiful, we like them as individuals, we badly want to go and live in their country when we retire, while at the same time we are deeply suspicious of them. It's like having people living next door to you who may be snappier dressers and better cooks, but who, after all, borrowed the lawn mower sometime in the thirteenth century and never gave it back. Anyway, the English dislike the French. We're really good at it. We've been doing it ever since we got up one day and realised that the Norman Conquerors were now, like it or not, Us, and weren't conquering French people any more. We feel, frankly, that if anyone's going to dislike the French, it's going to be us. On the whole we manifest our dislike for them by drinking their wines, buying up their cigarettes, and, despite the fact that all English people can naturally roll their Rs and speak perfect French, declining to do so, and when forced by circumstances to speak French the English do it with an English accent on purpose.

These are tactics we've worked out over the course of hundreds of years, and if carried on long enough, they will bring France to its knees. I'm English. I know these things.

Changing the name french fries to freedom fries, on the other hand, will just make them laugh at you.
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