Wednesday, September 15, 2004

from the mailbag (er, I won a Huck?)

I went to the "New York is Book Country" site, to order the poster for Jordan and Jack's rooms. In the blog, you mentioned that the posters were only $10, but on the site they tell me that they are $15. Do you have a special, inside link that gets the $10 rate, or did they raise the poster price in the past few days, or was it a "Gaiman glitch"? I would surely like to save the extra $10 for the two posters, if it's possible...

Has anyone else asked about this?

Many thank-yous,
J's mom

Nope. It looks like they've put the price up today (it was $10 before, honest) (which I thought, given the stiffness of the paper and the size of the posters, was a bit of a bargain). But at least they've kept the autographed art spiegelman posters at $20.

Dear Neil,My mother teaches 7th and 8th grade children who suffer from behavior/learning disorders which makes finding something to read to the entire class a bit of a chore for her. Last autumn I recommended Coraline to her (as I recommend your books to nearly anyone who will listen to me speak) and her students adored it. Naturally she asked if you had written anything else that was appropriate for her students and I found myself drawing something of a blank. Your other children's books are a bit on the brief side for a classroom reading project while your other novels aren't exactly stories I'd encourage my mother to read to her class of 13 and 14 year olds.Which leads me to the question I'm sure you're bored to hear at this point:Are there things that you have written which you discouraged (are still discouraging) your children from reading until they're a certain age? What were their reactions to some of the mature subjects their father portrayed? Or do they simply not think about it one way or another?Curiously yours,Courtney W.

In my experience most kids are incredibly good at selecting what kind of books they're ready for. I'm not sure it has much to do with age: I've met 13 year olds who loved Sandman and 25 year olds who couldn't cope with it.

My parents never stopped me reading anything, for which I shall always be grateful. This occasionally caused trouble (there was at least one book -- AND TO MY NEPHEW ALBERT I LEAVE THE ISLAND WHAT I WON OFF FATTY HAGAN IN A POKER GAME, by David Forrest -- which was confiscated, when I was 11, by the headmaster, because of the naked lady on the cover, and I only got it back after pointing out it was my Dad's, and yes, he knew I was reading it, and no, of course he didn't mind); and there were several books -- Moorcock's A CURE FOR CANCER springs to mind -- which I'm not sure how much I got out of them at the age of twelve. (Although my memories of reading that book then tend to inform my views on the situation in Iraq now.) My local library encouraged me out of the children's section when I was around 12, and gave me free run of the adult shelves, with pointers to things I might enjoy, and again, I've always been very grateful.

I think kids, like adults, are very good at looking at a book, eyeing the cover, looking at the jacket copy, reading the first few lines and deciding if it's a book for them or not. They may, like adults, miss out on a few things they'd really like if only they knew.

Stardust -- with the exception of one very very small rude word, and a sex scene that's only a sex scene if you know what's going on -- works pretty well for young teens. (I don't think the young teens mind the small swear or the implicit sex, either, but those things might embarrass adult readers when reading it out loud.)

Dear Neil-

In the Washington Post's review of Jonathan Strange, the reviewer, Michael Dirda, pointed out that given your back cover blurb, "the finest English novel of the fantastic written in the last seventy years," it follows that "the very well-read creator of The Sandman regards this epic tale of magic in early 19th-century England as a greater achievement than Mervyn Peake's Titus Groan trilogy, Tolkien's Lord of the Rings and T.H. White's Once and Future King."

Care to respond?

Not to be one of those people ("what? you don't like X? what the hell is wrong with you, you wrong, wrong person?"), but I would honestly be astounded to find out that you hold Tolkien's masterpiece in low regard.


To be honest, I can't quite figure how you get from the following quote

'Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell is unquestionably the finest English novel of the fantastic written in the last seventy years. It's funny, moving, scary, otherworldly, practical and magical, a journey through light and shadow - a delight to read, both for the elegant and precise use of words, which Ms Clarke deploys as wisely and dangerously as Wellington once deployed his troops, and for the vast sweep of the story, as tangled and twisting as old London streets or dark English woods. It is a huge book, filled with people it is a delight to meet, and incidents and places one wishes to revisit, which is, from beginning to end, a perfect pleasure. Closing Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell after 800 pages my only regret was that it wasn't twice the length.' NEIL GAIMAN

to "I hold Tolkien's masterpiece in low regard"? I can't make the jump. I would say that I don't regard Lord of the Rings, except for possibly the opening chapter and "The Scouring of the Shire", to be an English "novel of the fantastic". (I'm not quite sure I regard it as a novel of the fantastic, either. It's certainly an epic fantasy, though, and the finest one ever written, and as such is a much better epic fantasy than Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell.) What I was trying to emphasise in the blurb was the Englishness of the book (see also the second sentence of the blurb) (Or to put it another way, I don't regard "the finest English novel of the fantastic" and "the best fantasy written in English" to be identical statements. I think the first is, or can be, a fairly precise statement about a kind of fiction that invokes a number of things, including sense of wonder and sense of place, and the second is an invitation to sit in a bar and start making lists of favourite books. Not, of course, that there's anything wrong with that.)

(For the record, I think The Once and Future King starts off incredibly well, but limps its way to the end, and T. H. White's various rewritings of the four books into a whole mostly didn't help, although it's definitely English enough, and there are sequences, particularly in The Sword in the Stone, that are as good as anything anyone has written; and the 'Titus Groan Trilogy' isn't a trilogy at all -- it's two wonderful books, followed by a book written by someone who was not in shape to write it and assembled posthumously, three books which were not meant to be a trilogy but an entire sequence of books, and is, by default, only a trilogy because the author did not live long enough to continue it.)

1: Who is the Y. T. Ozaki you mention in the end note of 'The Dream Hunters'? What notebooks did you draw upon? The web knows naught of him, nor do the fan groups.2: In 'American Gods', what's with Loki and fire? My understanding was that Surt was the pre-eminent fire demon dude, and the identification of Loki with fire ('logi') was a spurious one perpetuated by Wagnerian retellings.

1. Have you tried or If you're searching for authors it's much smarter than googling. Of course, you could also check, as I just did, and I was delighted to see that Ozaki's Japanese Fairy Tales is now back in print. (I am amazed that the massed minds of the web and fan groups did not think of this. Ah well.) 2. Surely that's the point; it's all about belief. (You might want to look at the epilogue again, as well. I rather doubt that an Icelandic Loki would have been anything like his American counterpart.)

This one was too cool not to share:

Not a question, but some cool historical information that I thought You Ought To Know.I've been reading Checker's series of books reprinting Winsor McCay's early work. Production values aren't great, but I don't know any other source for this stuff that's remotely as complete or convenient. I read one 1907 "Dream of the Rarebit Fiend" strip a few days ago in which a man just missed a boat that he *had* to be on. A helpful person suggests that he catch up to the boat by having himself sent by wireless telegraph. He goes to the telegraph office ("messages to the left, sausages to the right"), where he is ground up into sausages; the sausages are sent over the wireless; the people at the receiving end then reassemble the sausages into the original person. He then proceeds to get into an argument over the transit fee :-)

Naturally, I noticed the similarity to the classic science fiction teleportation device. Imagine my surprise when I noticed, in small print at the bottom of the last panel, the words "thanks to Huck Gernsback"! A little googling showed that Hugo Gernsback, arguably the founder of SF as a distinct genre, did in fact adopt the nickname "Huck" in 1904. In 1907, he would have been 22 or 23 years old, and still at least a year away from founding his first magazine ("Modern Electrics"), and almost two decades before founding the first magazine devoted exclusively to SF ("Amazing Stories", in 1926). But clearly, even at such an early age, he was thinking about SFnal concepts. I don't know if he knew McCay, or if it was a mailed-in story concept (I suspect the latter; about once a month this strip had a "thanks to " at the bottom, and there don't seem to be any repeating names).As someone who has referenced Winsor McCay in your own work, and has just won another "Hugo" yourself, I thought you'd like to know.Nor is that the only connection between Winsor McCay and early SF to be found here; later in the same book (Volume III), there are many reprints of story illustrations that McCay did for stories written by John Kendrick Bangs -- the same one who showed up as a character in Alan Moore's Promethea! Judging from the titles, many of these stories were futurist predictions, or proto-SF.

And this one...

MovieHole is reporting that "David Fincher is apparently a lock to direct the big screen adaptation of American Gods. The hunt is now on for a screenwriter." <- Its the second bullet point.
This could possibly be the best news I've ever heard in my life! Are you in the loop in regards to this project? I'm interested to know if your in a position to confirm this or not.Thanks

I've asked around on this one, and am fairly puzzled. No-one seems to know where this rumour comes from. I think it's an internet made-up thing. And while I was sent a script last week for American Gods Part 1 by a director who loves it and very much wants to make it, it wasn't David Fincher (of whom I am an enormous fan). Sorry.