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Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Skip this entire entry if you don't like swearing, especially by your elected Representatives.

Home again, after a road trip. The Mini is a lot more comfortable than I'd expected, over the long haul, and the GPS system was a lifesaver (it made things like stopping off at a specific diner in Chicago at midnight for something to eat a doddle, instead of a problematic challenge). I had a great, if exhausting, time at Penguicon -- loved meeting Steve Jackson, and the Slashdot gentlemen (Rob and Jeff), and generally making lots of new friends...

Lots of American TV shows use British profanity very casually. My father (who is British) finds the casual use of "bleedin' hell" more than just mildly offensive. How seriously do people in Britain tend to take words like "ponce" and "bloody" these days?

Depends on the people, really. And the pendulum swing. I'm sure there are still people in England you could offend with a well-placed "bloody", but I've not met one for a very long time indeed.

But generally speaking, I think you'd have to work fairly hard to shock with language in the UK. In 1976 The Sex Pistols were goaded into saying "shit" and "fucking rotter" on TV and a national outcry occurred. (It may have been the last time that the word "rotter" was used unironically on UK TV.) (Here's a transcript.) A couple of months ago John Lydon described the viewing audience as "fucking cunts" and only 96 people blinked, according to the TV regulators complaints webpage at http://www.ofcom.org.uk/bulletins/prog_cb/pcb_04/resolved?a=87101

We also learn, from the OfCom decision, that There is no absolute ban on bad language on television. However, the use of such language must be defensible in terms of the context (for example the programme content, scheduling and warnings). While this is an entertainment programme, viewers were aware that this was a live programme, featuring Johnny Lydon in the Australian bush.

Luckily, the US will be protected from all that sort of thing, and there will be an absolute ban on bad language on television -- I recently discovered that a bill has been introduced before the House of Representatives which seeks to clarify the seven specific words and phrases that should be legally deemed profane (and is the sort of bill that's by definition too dirty to be reported in newspapers or on TV or radio, so I shall perform a public service and post it for those who can't be bothered to click on the link):

HR3687 reads, in full:

To amend section 1464 of title 18, United States Code, to provide for the punishment of certain profane broadcasts, and for other purposes.

IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

December 8, 2003

Mr. OSE (for himself and Mr. SMITH of Texas) introduced the following bill; which was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary

A BILL

To amend section 1464 of title 18, United States Code, to provide for the punishment of certain profane broadcasts, and for other purposes.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That section 1464 of title 18, United States Code, is amended--

(1) by inserting '(a)' before 'Whoever'; and
(2) by adding at the end the following: '(b) As used in this section, the term 'profane', used with respect to language, includes the words 'shit', 'piss', 'fuck', 'cunt', 'asshole', and the phrases 'cock sucker', 'mother fucker', and 'ass hole', compound use (including hyphenated compounds) of such words and phrases with each other or with other words or phrases, and other grammatical forms of such words and phrases (including verb, adjective, gerund, participle, and infinitive forms).'.


Which is rather an odd list, isn't it? It seems to be suggesting that "it's pissing down" or "he was slightly pissed" (in either the US sense of angry, or the UK sense of drunk) is comparable and equal to the chorus in Jerry Springer The Opera describing the devil, in song, as "what a cunting cunting cunting cunt".

I'm hoping that, if the bill is passed, it'll simply prompt people to be more imaginative in their choice of on-air obscenity...

There. Enough swearing for a while...

Or almost. After all, I was once asked, by Book Television, what my favourite word was. And now it's up online, currently at http://www.booktelevision.com/home.shtml as their link of the week. And if that doesn't belong in this post, I'm not sure what does.

I've noticed how you sometimes post about people who could use the help, and I thought that you may want to know about my friend Adam's ebay listing, http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=3188944730 . He's a great guy who came down with epilepsy around age 25 and has had to deal with the difficulties that come with periodic seizures for the past several years.

Thanks,

Bill


I do like the idea of selling Good Karma through eBay, although perhaps a dutch auction might work better...


Cory Doctorow was nominated for a Nebula award, and didn't, alas, win. Still, he's blogged the award speech he didn't make.


Which reminds me: Hi Neil,

I read a news article today about the Nebula awards last weekend in Seattle. It commented on your acceptance speech for Best Novella (Coraline) read via proxy by Harlan Ellison, and implied it (the speech...not Coraline) was written with a sly intent towards getting Ellison to say embarrasing things.

Would you be willing to share the details with all of us who love your humor but miss these chances to experience it first hand?

Cheers from rainy Portland OR,
Daniel


Here's the news article: http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/artsentertainment/2001907220_nebula20.html

and here's the speech that Harlan found himself reading...

NEBULA ACCEPTANCE SPEECH, to be read by Harlan Ellison...

From Neil Gaiman

If it wins.

....

Neil wanted me to read the following.

First of all, I'm incredibly grateful that the SFWA voters gave Coraline an award for best novella. While it's the shortest book I've ever written, it took the longest to write -- an average of 3,000 words a year over ten years, which makes it a wonder it was ever finished at all, or that it was the same book at the end that it was at the beginning.

Secondly I'd like to thank Harlan for accepting the award on my behalf. The knowledge that the person reading the acceptance speech will actually say whatever I write here is deeply intimidating. Think about it: for the first time in my life, possibly for the first time in anyone's life, I can make Harlan Ellison say, literally, anything. And he will. Because it's my acceptance speech. He's not going to extemporise here, or suddenly start telling a joke about a duck trying to buy a condom or something. He has to read what I've written. I could make him proclaim his love of the Republican party, or reveal his membership in Al Quaida. I could write down the words "I, Harlan Ellison, am actually a science fiction writer" in my awards speech, and he'd have to say them. I wouldn't actually do any of this, though, because Harlan's revenge would be swift in coming and incredibly funny whenever he told people about it. Well, incredibly funny for everyone except me, anyway. I'd still be in Hibernia, pursued by enraged lascars and apothecaries.

Coraline was published as a children's book. A Nebula award for best novella bespeaks a willingness on the part of the voters to look in places where you might not expect them to look, and I'm incredibly grateful for that. I wish I could be there tonight. It means a lot to me. Thank you.


I wish I could have seen Harlan deliver it (but then if I was there to see it, I would have had to make my own speech).

Howdy.

Did you notice that Mad Magazine did a parody review of your Endless Nights book? Rather funny, I thought. Especially as your parody is Neil Graveman. Yes. Fun. Who doesn't love Mad?

Miles.


I've been parodied in MAD? Good lord. I must exist, then. I was wondering.

So I popped over to the MAD site, to see if their Endless Nights parody was up, and couldn't find it; found this, though -- a rather sweet bunch of rejected heroes -- the writing's not particularly funny, but it's nice to see Frank Miller and Jim Lee parody themselves...

The weirdest thing about this journal is the peculiar aptness of some of the questions. For example, this came in today: Hi. (And congratulations on the Stoker!) Way, way back your blog was chronicling some mild efforts to discover whatever happened to Victoria Walker, who wrote The Winter of Enchantment and The House called Hadlowes (or was it Hadlows?) about thirty years ago. A friend of mine gave me a photocopy of her own childhood copy of The Winter of Enchantment for my 40th birthday (I normally don't approve of unauthorized copying of an author's work but it was that or a $1200 first edition) and stirred my interest again.

I thought you'd probably have mentioned it if you'd heard, but did you ever discover if she did anything else, or why (or if) she stopped writing?


To follow this, people can (and probably should) read the original Victoria Walker post here, at http://www.neilgaiman.com/journal/2002_06_02_archive.asp#85147780

then this: http://www.neilgaiman.com/journal/2002_06_02_archive.asp#85150857

and finally, this (which also contains a description of the books):
http://www.neilgaiman.com/journal/2002_10_13_archive.asp#85581152

...and the answer is that oddly enough, last week a very smart reader of this blog did the correct google, put two and two together, sent an e-mail, got an answer, and all the pieces fell into place. And then things moved very fast...

So, yes, Victoria Walker is still alive and writing, has been found, and all will be revealed. (I don't want to scoop anyone on this, so that's all I'll say for now.)
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