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Saturday, October 23, 2004

Novelisting

The sun shines. The sea is blue. Palm-fronds sway in a gentle breeze. There is nothing to be heard as I type this but the hushed roar of the surf, and the piping of some small island bird. It's peaceful and quiet, and I've been researching and writing, and both have been going very well.

For some reason, though, all my dreams out here seem to be filled with murders. Yesterday I dreamed I was reading a long and rather tragic confession by a sound engineer who had gone home after I had failed to arrive at his studio in time, and had shot his wife and child, in order to teach me a lesson about punctuality. Last night's dreams had me investigating a murder as part of a crime-investigating duo (the other member of the duo was a more-or-less English version of Carolyn Jones as Morticia Addams). There was background music in my dream too ("All the Umbrellas in London" by the Magnetic Fields) and a small black and white cat with one normal eye and one cartoon eye whose main function was to register astonishment at things. I woke up before we found out whodunit, though.

Anyway. I said I'd try and make a start on the hundreds of FAQ things...

Neil,
For the "13 Nights of Fright" thing, I just thought I'd point out that the special word only serves to unlock your exclusive interviews. One only needs to go to the site and enter (no more than once a day) for the sweepstakes. No secret word necessary for the contest part.


Good point.

Dear Mr. Giaman:

I finished the "1602" hardcover this weekend. I found it to be amazing and filled with the essence of the early Marvel comics. Moreover, I loved the way you mixed this with the historical setting and people.

After reading the book, I was reminded of a question I had a long time ago. How much was Sandman influenced by those early "Strange Tales" adventures of Dr. Strange. Morpheus' physical traits and vocation as Lord of the Dream Realm have always seemed to me to be based on Strange's nemesis, Nightmare. At the same time, Dream is much more of a Byronic character and the antithesis of Nightmare, almost a 1930's serial villian. Any thoughts?

Regards,

Mark Vassilakis

It's hard to say how much influence there was. I do remember finishing the Sandman proposal and sending it off, and thinking, "Well, if they say no, I suppose I could always see if Marvel would be interested in me redoing Nightmare..." But the Lord of the DreamRealm vocation came from the DC Comics' Simon and Kirby Sandman, and the look was a sort of coming together of a number of things, mostly my wanting a lead character who'd look more like a rock star than a square-jawed hero.

Still, the arrival of Nightmare in that first Strange Tales Dr Strange story, where the man turns up unable to sleep and asks Sr Strange to find out why was one of the first comics I ever remember reading, in a UK reprint, when I was but seven or eight. So I'm sure it was in there somewhere; everything's in there somewhere.

Ugh, I should have written you earlier. I was going to suggest coming to Richmond, VA to check out the Cabell library at Virginia Commonwealth University. One day as a student I was just wondering around in the library (a very modern building) and suddenly entered a 1920's study. Hidden on one floor is Cabell's actual library transported there with his books and furniture. It's an amazing time traveling feat.
The VCU library also has collection of Art Spiegleman correspondence with a member of the faculty. Oh well,
gives you a reason to visit again. Even though I'm sure you already have seen the Jefferson's alligators and the suitably gothic Hollywood Cemetery. But if you do come again, stop by the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts and say hi.
Cheers,
-Paul
http://www.library.vcu.edu/jbc/speccoll/exhibit/cabell/jbclife.html

Actually, over the years, a few helpful people have written in and suggested I check out the Cabell library. And if I'd had time to be more of a tourist, I would happily have done so. Cabell's far and away my favourite forgotten American writer -- he wrote about 25 books, most of them very different from each other. The only ones to have remained more or less in print over the last forty years are the fantasies Figures of Earth, Jurgen and the Silver Stallion. I think my favourites of his books are probably the short story collections Gallantry (I decided upon reading it, aged 20, that one I day I would one day, when I was a writer, steal the structure of Gallantry; then I read it again some years on and realised that the structure I'd imagined I'd perceived might have been to some degree accidental, but I was still going to steal it one day, even if it had been only in my imagination. One day...) and The Certain Hour -- if ever I were to edit a book of favourite horror tales, or favourite tales of faerie, I'd put the short story from Certain Hour about Herrick in it. I'll see if I can find a link to it. (Hasty google and...)

http://www.globusz.com/ebooks/CertHour/00000017.htm -- it's called "Concerning Corinna". It begins:

The matter hinges entirely upon whether or not Robert Herrick was insane. Sir Thomas Browne always preferred to think that he was; whereas Philip Borsdale perversely considered the answer to be optional. Perversely, Sir Thomas protested, because he said that to believe in Herrick's sanity was not conducive to your own.

Surely you don't really prefer typed letters? What kind of a man are you, Gaiman? I thought a person who likes fancy pens would be a handwriting kind of guy.

The terrible truth is that I'm not even a fancy pens guy. Most of the fountain pens I like are workhorse pens -- the sort that were pretty cheap and worked just fine eighty or ninety years ago, and now are still pretty cheap, if you can get someone to repair them, or don't actually cost that much if you're buying their modern equivalents. (I was given a Mont Blanc by my parents, as a "you just won two Hugo Awards" present. It's a very pretty object, but I'd never want to write a novel with it, or even sign a few hundred books with it. It's not that comfortable, and the way the nib moves doesn't do it for me at all. I like the slightly sensual scratch of nib against paper...)

Anyway, that list was Lorraine's. Unlike Lorraine I can't be bribed with mangos (or mangoes), and have never been as grumbly about people sending things with sand in as she is (probably because I don't have to clean it up). I don't mind handwritten letters. But looking at her list over again, what she says is pretty sensible. If you want your letter to be read, make it legible: if that means typing it, then type it. There are letteres that arrive written in spidery ballpoint which never get replies or what they need, because nobody at my end can read them, or has the time to decipher them.

And legibility is important: although I write books in longhand, I wouldn't presume to hand them in to a publisher like that. I can read my handwriting, but I'd never expect anyone else to.

Mr. Gaiman,

My 10 year old daughter and I love reading your books. We recently found out that you were going to be in Washington, D.C. So, We went to Borders in Frederick, Md to purchase The Day I Swapped my Dad for Two Goldfish, so my daughter can get it signed by you. I couldn't find any of your children's book at the children's section so when I went to customer service the guy told me the book is at the graphic novel section. I'm aware you write graphic novels but most likely you are not aware that this bookstore keep all your book in that section.
I was questioned by my 10 year old daughter what is the graphic section? Which I explained. And to top it all the young guy that attended me aked me if I really wanted that book for my daughter and I I had to explain to him why the book was in the wrong place. Unfortunately we were not able to attend the activity at D.C. Just wanted let you know where those wonderful children's books are located. We all enjoyed the story.

Love your work!
L Dunnie

I know this is going on, and wish there was something I could do about it. It's a Borders thing. Why they don't put my children's books in the children's section is a mystery and quite beyond me. Apparently it has something to do with the books being longer than usual picture books, and the only person at Borders who was willing to order them was the graphic novel buyer. Meanwhile, the books are published in the US by Harper Children; they are listed on the children's section of the New York Times Bestseller list, every other bookseller in the world racks them as children's books, and Borders keeps them in the graphic novels section. (If anyone reading this is part of Borders and wantst o explain the logic of this, or better still, can persuade the powers-that-be to change it, I'd be very grateful.) Quite what they're going to do with "Crazy Hair" and "The Dangerous Alphabet", which won't even be sort-of-graphic-novels, but will just be normal-length picture books, I have no idea.

Hi Neil,

I have a question and an amusing link to offer you. I regularly read your blog, and was just wondering how many staff you have working for you - there seems to be the wonderful Lorraine, plus editors (US and UK?), film people, book people, graphic novel people.

And the link - http://www.giantmicrobes.com - Christmas presents for all the family.

Thanks

Ruth


Working for me is Lorraine. That's it. Now, working for Lorraine are a few part-time helping people who help out with things like filing and shelving and applying for copyrights, and moving large objects from place to place and finishing the inside of the gazebo -- that kind of stuff.
Most of the others people you mention are only working for me in the same way that, say, a train driver is working for me, which is to say that someone else is paying their wages, but they are still beavering away on my behalf: The editors work for the publishers, for example.
I've got two agents working on my behalf -- Merrilee Heifetz at Writers House is my literary agent, and Jon Levin at CAA is my film-and-TV-agent. But even they don't work for me (although the agencies get commissions from what I do): Merrilee's just as busy looking after the careers of Laurel K Hamilton and Octavia Butler and Bruce Sterling; while Jon seems to have an interest in the careers of everyone that CAA represents...

Dear Mr. Gaiman;

One of my evil pleasures is watching old movies on cable. I delightfully enjoy cheesy S.F. and Horror movies. If there is movie with a space ship, demonically posssessed zombies, atomically exposed tarantulas, misunderstood monsters and vampires in it,I've seen it. I've even seen those strange movies with the giant moths coming to the aid of tiny, screeching geishas. (And if you get that reference, you watch far too much T.V.)

Anyway; I caught you hosting Fright Night on the Fox Movie Channel and was thrilled.

One question though,(if you please). Why have you grown the beard? You have a lovely face. Was rather fond of that face because it reminded me of my ex-boyfriend's face. One of the few things of him I remember fondly.

He spoke with a thick German accent so that was the only features of him that reminded me of you. Now, your face is yours to do as you please but still I can't help but wonder, why cover up such a pleasing feature? Are you trying to show your more sinster, darkside?

Just a question.

If you wonder who this strange facial fan is. I'm also a fan of your books. (Well, book.) I greatly enjoyed American Gods. I'm a common female Southern Califorian stereo type. I'm thin with long hair, bad taste in dress. Who loves to hang out in bookstores, Starbucks, sports bars ( I love a good neighborhood bar!) and yoga studios. I'm a yoga fiend! Hope I haven't offended you sir. Beard or no beard you're a wonderful writer!

Namaste


I grew the beard because I felt I ought to look like someone who was hosting a horror marathon, and, while think I have a sort of pleasant-enough, if unexceptional face (two eyes, nose, mouth, all that), I definitely don't look like my idea of a horror host. Mostly I just look sort of rumpled. But I thought about my favourite horror hosts, Cain and Abel, and realised that what both of them had in common was dodgy facial hair. And that seemed like a look I could pull off: a sinister beard. So I grew a rather boring looking beard, and Wendy-from-Hair-Police shaved it into the shape you see on "Thirteen Nights" and we both agreed it looked like the sort of thing that someone who climbed out of coffins might have on the lower half of his face. And for filming I wore my coat instead of a leather jacket and little serial-killer glasses, and felt like a horror host on the inside, and amazingly hot on the outside, this being in LA and under studio lights. Of course, luckily, we filmed it with Malena, so mostly nobody's looking at me anyway.

Dear Neil, I desperately want a copy of the Neverwhere DVD. Unfortunately, I'm hearing impaired, and while I've scoured the back of the box looking for a mention of closed captioning or subtitles, it seems that the DVD set is not, in fact, captioned or subtitled. Please tell me this isn't true. I'd be terribly disappointed if I purchased it and then found I couldn't tell what was going on, so I figured I'd ask first.

Thanks,
Christie


Hullo Christie, I'm sorry, it's not. It's frustrating, as the original BBC series was subtitled, but the BBC didn't hand over that information to New Video, who did the US DVD issue, and I didn't check in time to be able to fix anything. The only good news I can give you is that New Video have gone out of their way to get closed captioning done for their DVD of "A Short Film About John Bolton".

(Which reminds me, several people wrote to tell me that A Short Film About
John Bolton" is up for preorder at a few of the online DVD outlets,including DVD Empire
http://www.dvdempire.com/exec/v4_item.asp?userid=00000756872702&item_id=636578
-- the bonus material includes lots of John Bolton paintings, an audio track of me reading a biography of John Bolton, and the whole of the "Live at the Aladdin" documentary, which the CBLDF has licensed to New Video, which is me, in 2000, doing a reading at the lovely Aladdin Theatre in Portland Oregon, as part of the Last Angel Tour.)

And the cheapest I've found it for sale is http://www.deepdiscountdvd.com/dvd.cfm?itemID=NVG009623 -- which also had the cover up, a lovely John Bolton vampire painting. Which looks like this:




Dear Neil, something you may have missed from radio 4 in conection with your Johnny Theremin synopsis, a programme by Bill Bailey about the history of the instrument, the Theremin - links to website http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/factual/goodvibrations.shtml
and to the listen again http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/factual/rams/thu1130.ram but it is only around for a week. I never realised what a wonderful sound they made and to find out that the KGB smashed his instruments so Westerners would not want to visit him and, of course, Russia. Most entertaining, all the best

There was a wonderful documentary about Theremin as well. And I once was sent a link online to a virtual theremin, but have long since lost it.

And now, Another Good Reason to Go To Fiddler's Green -- apart from The Souvenir Book (http://www.fiddlersgreencon.org/souvenir.htm) :

Hi Neil! Good thoughts and tidings in your travels! This is just a plug re: Fiddler's Green. There'll be a performance of "10,000 Comic Books" by Tim Uren (a funny, fabulous, and insanely well written one-man show.. but I'm biased) at the Con! He's super excited, I'm super excited... and we'd love to see you there, but totally understand. (If you'd like to bring Jill Thompson... so you have someone to sit by... I think she'd really enjoy it too.. ;) ) Speaking of, last night we saw a copy of the Scary Godmother DVD at Cheapo Records on Lake Street in Minneapolis! The world is a good place.

Looking forward to the con, please take care!

I've heard excellent things about "10,000 Comic Books" and am really looking forward to seeing it. Right. Now I'm going to go on line, and post this. Then I'm getting out a pen, and will start writing fiction'...
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