Tuesday, September 28, 2004

"people need bridges"

The location of the crucifixion, which oddly enough was in pretty much the same place as the tomb of Jesus, was revealed to the Emperor Constantine's mum in a vision, and a chapel was built there. For about 300 years the current incarnation of the chapel has been administered by monks of six different denominations, who take responsibility for their own little bit of the place. (Except for the Copts or the Ethiopians, who lost their bit of the church and now live on the roof.) When I first read about this, I imagined that with all the different denominations cheek by jowl it must be like the Odd Couple, only worse. (I learned all about these living arrangements in a book by Giles Milton in which he retraces the travels of Sir John Mandeville up to Jerusalem, The Riddle and the Knight. It's an okay piece of travel writing, but doesn't really throw much light on Mandeville.)

It's probably always difficult to share a house, but I assumed that the sacred nature of the place probably eased the pressure. I was wrong, according to a story in today's Guardian, which tells of a recent bloody punch-up at the tomb, between the Franciscans and the Greek Orthodox clerics. My initial guess was that it was probably over whether or not the Franciscans had eaten something the Greeks had left in the communal fridge, and I turned out to be almost right. It was because the Franciscans had left the door open.

Arrests were made. Faces were bloodied. If anyone turned the other cheek, it was only to avoid a thrown punch. You can read about it at,2763,1314466,00.html.

Meanwhile, over in San Francisco, The Emperor Norton's legacy lives on. (Some people who read the Sandman story THREE SEPTEMBERS AND A JANUARY thought that I'd made him up. I didn't.) (I just googled for a nice reference, and bumped into this class Study Guide for Sandman: Fables and Reflections. Who knew there was such a thing as What an excellent resource.)

Anyway, Cheryl Morgan drew my attention to the campaign to get the Bay Bridge renamed the Emperor Norton Bridge. The details are in this comic strip, and this letter. Send your e-mails, if you think it's a good idea. I very much hope it happens. I have a soft spot for the Emperor...

I'm a bit worried that lots of people have sent you this link already, but it seemed interesting. A book borrowed in Iverness, returned approximately a century overdue via South Africa - the librarians gracefully agreed to waive the fine!

This is because librarians are cool.

Hi Neil, You metioned the DVD player you have, we have a (supposedly) zone free Sony DVD player but our problem is that our DVD's from Europe will only play in black and white. This is quite frustrating and kind of defeats the purpose. Do you ever run into that problem with your player? We really need one to play all of our movies from Norway!Thanks so much, Ingrid

My guess would be that most region-free DVD players automatically shift between the NTSC format (which US TVs are in) and PAL (which most of the rest of the world is in) and in the US they'll output them both as NTSC. Some don't -- I noticed yesterday that a Sony plays them without changing them. You either need a Video Standards converter, or a multiformat TV, or a different region free DVD player.


Incidentally, the volume of questions coming in is now up to between 50 and 75 a day. This means that lots and lots of really good questons, observations and so on aren't going to get posted or replied to. Please don't take it personally.

As you we're talking about those limited edition books, I was just wondering that are there going to be any cheaper prints of the extra material in the future? It's hard to find an extra 200 $ per book when you're a student. (Or is the extra material going to be forever hoarded and kept from the poor people?)

I don't know. So far, none of the publishers of the regular edition have asked.

It wasn't that Hill House or I decided to add the extra material to get people to fork over the money for the books: Hill House went to Harper Collins and got the license from them to do the gorgeous collectors edition of the books, just as they did for the Neal Stephenson books and the Shirley Jackson and the Ray Bradbury and so on. When Pete and Pete came to me to talk about what kind of limited edition books I'd like to see, I was the one who said "Look, if you're going to do this as the definitive, gorgeous, boxed thing, I'd really like the text to be the one that I'm happiest with." And Hill House are into pleasing people, and they liked the idea, so we did just that, and then we realised when the book came in that we'd created something gorgeous that people would want to read but were going to be unable to read without damaging the gorgeous object, so Hill House printed up the Readers' Editions at their own cost, and sent them to subscribers and bookbuyers for nothing, so that people could read the book while still leaving the object pristine; just as they sent out the "Chinese Emperor" story as a Christmas card to subscribers to apologise for the production process taking so long.

Neverwhere's a book that already exists in several variant editions, so again, it's something I'd like to see in an "author's preferred" text. Stardust, on the other hand, is a book that I'm perfectly happy with, so when Hill House do their Stardust the fun will probably come from trying to make the book a really cool object -- I've always liked the idea of Stardust as a very small leather-bound book that looks like it was printed in around 1925.

I've not heard that any existing publishers of the books want to go over to the Hill House version of the text. If it happens it may happen when the book is completely reset for a new edition, and I'll let people know if any publisher does plan to bring it into a mass-market existence.

(If you want it but really can't afford the Hill House edition, keep an eye on eBay -- there's one up there now -- and on the online secondhand booksellers sites like abebooks and You never know.)

(I'll probably put the Chinese Emperor story into the next short story collection, though.)

And finally...

To: Neil Gaiman

I was not sure if to send you a message, but somebody else broached the topic of the US election on your blog, and you responded, so I thought what the heck.

I wanted to ask you to mention on your blog that the deadline for registering to vote in many states is this Saturday, October 2nd 2004.

A lot of people, especially young people, do not realize that they have to register a month before election day, and they lose their chance to vote.

If you are not comfortable using your blog as a forum for 'getting out the vote', that's okay. As you are not (yet!) a US citizen, I also realize that you might not want to be accused of exerting undue influence on the US election!

Just thought I'd ask. Cheers!

Consider it mentioned.