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Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Prague below...

When I was in Chicago Jill Thompson gave me a copy of the Scary Godmother DVD. Maddy and I watched it together this evening -- she's been a fan of the books since she was old enough to have a book placed in front of her. It's really fun -- a slightly wobbly start, but as soon as it gets to the Fright Side it takes off and becomes visually cool and genuinely funny. My main puzzlement was that they didn't get Jill (who, after all, is really the Scary Godmother) to do the voice herself; every time the Scary Godmother spoke I'd think "but that's not what she sounds like". Maddy laughed at the jokes and enjoyed it no end.

I don't do many book reviews here, and I don't normally ever bother with giving things bad reviews (better not to mention them, I normally feel), but seeing that the Holiday Gift-Giving Season is coming up, you may want to avoid buying The Comic Book Encyclopedia by Ron Goulart (Harper Collins) for anyone this year. It has an eye-catching cover, lots of cool illustrations and design work, but is, as an encyclopedia anyway, useless. I browsed through the copy I was sent today, in the way one does with reference books, and I didn't encounter an entry without a factual error or an embarassing typo. It's short on facts, is padded with obscure 30s and 40s characters ("Captain Midnight" and "Captain Tootsie" together get two full pages, while Steve Ditko gets three short paragraphs) and contains several odd moments -- why on earth spend over half a page slagging off the short-lived and now completely forgotten Clive Barker comics by Marvel in the early 90s with a lengthy entry about Clive's lack of success in the comics field, when most contemporary creators don't get mentioned? The author makes it clear that he doesn't like most comics since the 80s, the book isn't really aimed at anyone in particular, and has a sort of attitude of "why should anyone care what year From Hell started or Bone ended, or how one correctly spells Aardvark-Vanaheim or Sam Kieth, or who actually created John Constantine?" It's the kind of book that I wind up resenting because, damn it, there really should be a Comic Book Encyclopedia, on a par with the Clute-Nicholls Encyclopedia of Science Fiction or the Clute-Grant Encyclopedia of Fantasy. A good one, filled with usable information, not something that reads like it's been knocked together in a hurry from older books, un-copy-edited and unfact-checked. A book like this is going to be useless as a work of reference, and it takes up the space on the shelves and on a publisher's list that a real Encyclopedia of Comics could have used. The comics field deserves much better than this. (And Ron Goulart, who has written with knowledge and passion about the comics of the 40s, and written some decent SF in his day, could have done much better than this.)

Neil- I have been thinking of going to your Anansi Boys reading in Chicago-if I can get my algebra homewrok done. I was wondering what Anansi Boys is about and whether you will do a book signing or not? Erm, if you don't want to answer the first question, that's fine. And if you do do a book signing, would it be before or after your reading??? You response would be much appreciated.Thank You.-Lizard

Signings at the Chicago Humanities Festival are always after the reading/talk. Anansi Boys is about what happens after Fat Charlie's father's funeral. It's quite funny, and scary, and odd. I think it may be a love story. I don't know, Lizard. I've not finished it yet. Maybe when it's done I'll know what it's about.

Another thought on elections, from a Palm Beach County pollworker:

Florida may find a way to be a problem again this election. Once people get their lives scraped back together a bit, I think there may be a mass exodus from Florida. Everywhere I go I hear people ready to sell their houses and get the hell out of Dodge. Which means there will be hordes of people in moving-van limbo during that crucial 29-day period who will be unable to vote.

(Also, forgive me if I'm being nosy, but is Tori's house okay? I know she couldn't have been far from where the two storms made landfall, but I haven't heard a peep.)

--Amanda Coppedge
http://www.amandacoppedge.com


Oddly enough, I asked her that same question this morning. She says that apart from the fifty-foot yacht -- not hers -- that the hurricane dropped in her back yard, and the lack of power, it appears so far to be fine. She, very sensibly, was in Cornwall while the hurricane season came through.

John Kerry's rehearsing for the big debate tomorrow night at The House on the Rock (resort)!! http://www.madison.com/tct/news/index.php?ntid=11276&ntpid=0 Has he read "American Gods" then??? - Steve Manfred, River Falls, WI

Probably not. I hope he got to visit the House itself, if only to listen to the Mikado play the Danse Macabre...

Really fast one for Ingrid: I had an import DVD that at first played only in black & white, but I got round it by just bringing up the DVD Player Settings menu and selecting the display option. I then chose, I think, RGB from the three video options that appeared. But if you try each one of those three, that might fix it. Cheers, Pete - P.S: Adored your Miracleman: Golden Age, Neil

There you go, Ingrid. Worth a try.

Hello, I'm currently mired in rewriting a novel length manuscript and I'm wondering: what is your writing process like? Do you agonize and obsess over every word, or do you just hack on through to the end knowing that an problems can be fixed later? Also, do you work very closely with your editor on rewriting? How much professional feedback do you get? Thanks so much. I'll be seeing you at Fiddler's Green. Jeff (Manxom Vroom on the World's End)

It depends. Mostly I just carry on. The bad stuff can mostly be fixed or thrown out. The most valuable thing is the period between finishing it and when you reread it pretending you've never read it before and definitely didn't write it, the few weeks when you allow yourself to forget it. Then when you read it as a new reader, sometimes it's obvious what to do to fix anything that needs fixing. I'll also send stuff out to people whose opinions I trust, explaining that until it's done they aren't really allowed to say much more than "Is there any more?" but once it's complete I'm happy to take all and any input onboard. Just as long as no-one minds me throwing it back overboard as soon as I start rewriting.

(Remember: when people tell you something's wrong or doesn't work, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what's wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong.)

hello, we are a group of young fans of your books and as some kind of thanks to you we play a live action role-playing game inspired by your Neverwhere in Prague (Czech Republic). So if you would like to see some photos of Prague Below and it's inhabitants, visit http://www.harald.cz/foto/nikdykde2/index.html I hope you would enjoy it Karmin

I enjoyed it very much -- thank you for sending the link.

Hi Neil, Discovered this little gem whilst voyaging upon the Internet Ocean and thought you might appreciate it:http://www.ananova.com/news/story/sm_1086492.html?menu=news.quirkies.badtaste
Your writing has broadened my horizons, my mind and my philosophy. Thank-you. Best regards,Tim Edwards

That's hilarious.

Students at a Catholic school complained about new Haribo sweet wrappers which they claim portray fruit having sex.

(Click on the link to see the wrappers in question, and the rest of the article.)

I just recently finished listening to American Gods and really enjoyed it. This made me wonder if there is a chance we might see an audiobook of Good Omens. I've read it a number of times and think it would be quite fun to have an audio version of. Are there any chances of this ever existing? Thanks,Gregory Blake http://www.ezoons.com/

I know that Harper Collins very much want to do one. And Terry and I would both very much like to hear it. So I think the odds are pretty good one will happen.

...

Had a good talk with Julia Bannon, webmistress of neilgaiman.com, about the next incarnation of the www.neilgaiman.com site. The biggest problem is that there's an incredible amount of stuff to be read and looked at on the site (did you know that the 1997 Neverwhere website is archived in http://www.neilgaiman.com/gallery/gallery.asp? It's the top window on the right), but it takes a certain amount of poking about to find things (and there are some things that even I can't find without googling for them). I want to open it up, make it cleaner looking, and also make it much easier to access the stories and articles and pictures and so on. It seems silly to have it all, and then for people not to know it's there. The next incarnation of the site is probably still about ten months away, though.

Also talked to my editor, Jennifer Brehl, about finally bringing out a mass-market paperback edition of Smoke and Mirrors, my last short story collection, which I think we'll do when Anansi Boys comes out in hardback next year. Assuming I finish it, of course...

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

The Smile (more or less)


A couple of weeks ago I was at the Minnesota RenFest, looking after two smallish girls and seeing Folk Underground, and at one point, while I was sitting and watching Bedlam, my photo was taken (by Rick Sachwitz, a former fop) -- I'm sticking it up here mostly because people have written in to complain that I never smile in photos. The beard is slightly less scruffy this week, and looks slightly more realistic. Not much, but a bit.

"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 http://www.guardian.co.uk/religion/Story/0,2763,1314466,00.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 teachingcomics.org? 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. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/scotland/3696750.stm 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 bookfinder.com. 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.

Ups and downs

Woken today by a tree being cut down outside my window. It was an elm, which was not happy -- it had some kind of elm disease, and was splitting down the middle, but the garden looks very empty and odd without it. I wonder what kind of tree I'll plant in the spring to replace it...?

Cool things arrived today. One of them was an advance copy of Barnes and Noble's EDGAR ALLAN POE: SELECTED POEMS AND TALES, a book for which I wrote the introduction. It's gorgeous -- luscious colour drawings and scratchboard illustrations by Mark Summers, amazing production values, and it's priced at $14.95, which seems to be about $10 less than I'd expect a package like this to retail at.

But then, it's published by Barnes and Noble for sale in Barnes and Nobles, which I suspect means that they can afford to price it more cheaply -- as publisher and as bookseller they can afford to make a smaller profit, and still to make a healthy profit (and, of course, the material is public domain).

I'm not entirely sure what I think about B&N becoming a book publisher (according to this NYT article they've been publishing books for a long time). But on the evidnce of the Poe they're certainly making excellent books.

The second cool thing I got was the tape of the 13 Nights of Fright material -- the two Fox promos and the thirteen intros and outros (there are actually a few more that weren't on the tape -- variant versions that we did for the Hallowe'en marathon).

I enjoyed it. I thought that I was kind of stiff at the beginning. Luckily, during the first couple of intros, Malena is wearing The Dress. When she walked onto the set in The Dress, one of the crew took several involuntary steps backwards and banged his head into the camera boom and didn't seem to mind the whole bleeding everywhere thing. Malena in The Dress has that effect on men. (On the evidence of today, women mostly just want to know how it stays up.) Anyway, the point is that many people won't be staring at me for the first few shows. Many of the viewers may not even notice me. And by the time Malena puts on a slightly less jaw-dropping piece of attire, I've become comfortable with the autocue and the studio and her, and it's all very pleasant. (The card on her website shows her wearing the slightly less jaw-dropping dress, which was impressive, but didn't make anyone walk into anything.)

It's kind of fun -- on the 13 Nights material I get to be a straight man (mostly) and Malena functions to make everything interesting and funny, and all without saying anything. (Well, she says one word.) And having showed the footage to everyone at home, it got a thumbs up (Maddy thought that the bits that stay the same from intro to intro were boring, but otherwise she liked it all, particularly when we do the silent movie bit and the magic stuff in the Chandu the Magician intro/outro, and the Phantom of the Paradise intro where I mention her and how much she liked the film.)

Fox Movie Channel are planning to put loads of extra material online, along with the daily competions to win 13 signed sets of all the Harper Collins books. I'll keep you all informed.

On the down side for the day, the place I was going to go to on Wednesday, to hide out and write for a month isn't habitable, thanks to Hurricane Jeanne, so I have to come up with an alternative. This has left me rather grumpy, because I hadn't thought to plan as far as Plan B, because Plan A was so good.

On my political point, I'll be brief: gonna vote on November 2nd? If so, wish to share, or are you sworn to secrecy?Have you run afoul of farmland sheriffs or gained a nickname among them like "that damned Englishman?" I know from my time in Iowa that small-town, county sheriffs love even the smallest problems and quirks. I had one report to my farm with flak jacket, fingerless black leather gloves and an M-16, raring to fight, but that's another story.

Nope. You have to be American to vote here. (I'll vote in the UK elections, though.) And I've never run afoul of any smalltown sheriffs that I know. The local small-town police were very happy to take me on ride-alongs and show me round the jail when I was writing American Gods.

Neil,If you haven't checked out Art Speigelman's "In the Shadow of No Towers" yet...I'd certainly recommend it. I got my copy Amazoned to me today and it is extremely powerful, unapologetically partisan brillance, while also having a subtle humanity ink-brushed amongst the clash and clamor. A. Speigelman honestly and frankly, reveals his own struggle with a threatening mental collapse as he suffers from post-collapse syndrome. This sturdy, generously sized book cannot replace what was lost, but it is certainly a monument to an artist's passion about his country and his attempt to draw our attention to the terror that continues to this day, although from within. Gregory from Midd Tenn

I have it and I love it. While he was creating the "In the Shadow of No Towers" stories, art would e-mail the finished strips to his friends whenever they were done, so I read them all as they were coming out, but I'd read them on a screen much smaller than the page they were going to be printed on, and the cumulative effect of all of the strips, one after another, is stunning.

Mr. G-Speaking of wishes for collections, whatever happened to the planned Death book, collecting both miniseries in one book?I think, last year, you said that they'd planned to publish it in the fall, but you'd convinced them to hold off til spring '04, as you had such an awful lot of stuff coming out at once as it was.Is it still going to happen, some day?Yours cheerily,Mark James Schryver

I don't think it is going to happen. Not sure where the decision not to do it came from, but the last thing I heard was that people at DC were worried that if they did that book then readers would stop buying the individual books of The High Cost of Living and The Time of Your Life. (Someone once pointed out to me that those two books really have each other's title, and whoever it was might be right.) So that's where things are at at DC unless they change.

Hi Neil,Enquiring mothers would like to know: did your Maddy get home safe & sound from her camping trip?

She did, thanks. I believe she got a bit wet at some points, but when you're ten that's part of the fun.

Dear Neil,I just read that you drove to Chicago in your Mini. I'm wondering how comfortable the Mini is for a long road trip? I really, really want one but I must have a car that is comfortable for driving the length of California every now and then. Thanks,T-

It's comfortable, yes -- actually surprisingly so. I wasn't sure how it would hold up for long trips, but it's really fine. It's worth remembering that the Mini is, at least for the driver, a pretty spacious car. Penn Jillette drives a pink one, and he's 6' 6".

Hey Wordsmith,

Your interview is up on
http://www.scifi.com/sfw/issue385/interview.html
And aren't you the dashing young fellow?

Regards,

Rick


Not sure about the young or the dashing, but I'm definitely a fellow. Was pleased to see that on the scifi.com site they've put up Eric Frank Russell's story "Allamagoosa". I've long had a soft spot for Eric Frank Russell (I like watching an Englishman of Russell's vintage write in a sort of "american slick" style, and I like his sense of humour). I reread the story this morning, and realised that for 99% of the story, you could make the spaceship a 1940s seagoing naval ship and not notice anything had changed. But then there's the last few paragraphs...

And this is true:


What's Gene Wolfe like, someone asked. Well, thanks to your Last Angel Tour my (now ex-)husband and I got the chance to find out in Chicago, when we won dinner and some time with you at the reading as a CBLDF fundraiser.

Because Gene and his wife Rosemary were there, and Rosemary was not up to climbing the stairs to the second floor where the CBLDF members' reception was held or to the special box where they were supposed to sit. So you asked us to make them comfortable in the front row of the theatre, and to bring them some snacks from the reception and keep them company for a while.

And they were lovely, terribly lovely, to us and to each other. They treated us like long-lost grandchildren, and while they told us a few stories about genre fiction's great lights and their adventures with same, mostly they asked us about our lives - what we were doing with ourselves, how we'd met, what our life was like. They wanted to know all about how we'd come halfway across the country to attend a Neil Gaiman reading and wait on a couple of old romantics who couldn't quite grasp what a gift it was to sit and talk with them.

It was humbling to meet legendary people so utterly uninterested in Being Important. I would have stayed with them all night except that they finally shooed us off to go join the reception, because they were just that gracious, that they realized we might like to join in even though we were having a swell time with them in the otherwise empty theatre.

Sheila Addison, Denver


And that's what Gene's like too, and Rosemary. They're very kind, and very gracious.

(That was the same evening I told Gene -- very proudly -- that I'd finished American Gods in first draft, and that I thought I had finally learned how to write a novel. And he smiled at me and said "You never learn how to write a novel. You just learn how to write the novel that you're on." Wise, wise man.)

You know, I miss doing those reading tours. The 2000 tour was called the Last Angel Tour because it was meant to be the last one ever, but I'm starting to wonder whether people would mind if I did another CBLDF Reading Tour in 2005 or 2006.

...

I got a call from Pete Atkins today. Pete's an old friend, and is half of the two Petes behind HillHouse Publishers, who did the limited edition of American Gods, with the restored material. The next book we'll be tackling is Neverwhere, and we'll try and create the most complete version of the text there's ever been, along with lots of bonus goodies. So I'm sending him all of the drafts of the novel, along with all the drafts of the TV series scripts and the original outline for the story and so forth -- there were files I'd not looked at in twelve years. Pete was my editor on the restored American Gods text, and I deferred to his judgement on whether something should be restored or omitted, except in those rare cases where I didn't, and I'm really looking forward to working with him on Neverwhere. I suspect that the Hill House edition of Neverwhere may wind up like the Rhino Elvis Costello CDs -- a slipcase containing two books -- one book that's the album (or in this case, the novel), and the other containing all the B-sides and rarities (scripts, outlines, character descriptions, all that).

(There's a review of the Hill House edition of American Gods here, by the way, where you can learn about what the people who bought the book actually received.)

Sunday, September 26, 2004

Red, white and black

In my experience, the time when you can least afford to take any time off, is when you need to take time off most. So I took a weekend off, and it, er, rocked.

Thea Gilmore came in to Chicago to play at the Old Town School of Folk Music -- two gigs in an evening supporting Over the Rhine. And as long-time readers of this blog probably know, I've been a fan of Thea's ever since I heard her song Resurrection Men on an Uncut CD of the Month. She's made four or five CDs since then, and we've become friends in a sort of pleased-to-see-each-other sort of way, but I've never seen her play live -- I've always been on the wrong continent at the wrong time. She's back in the US next month supporting Joan Baez, but those gigs are East Coast, and I'll be in finishing-the-novel seclusion then. So it was Saturday or nothing. I thought about flying then decided that it would be a good thing to go on a road trip in the Mini in the early Autumn, when the leaves are starting to turn. So I drove to Chicago on Saturday, had tea, sushi and a peek in at the Quimby's exhibition with Jill Thompson then saw the two Thea concerts.

Normally, she has a band. This time, since she just flew in for the gig, her backing band consisted of Nigel Stonier, her producer and an excellent singer-songwriter himself, mostly on acoustic guitar and backing vocals, and once using a melodica that had originally belonged to someone in Lindisfarne.

She's as good live as I'd heard she was and as good as I'd expected, which is to say, very, very good.

The most surreal moment of the evening was after the first gig, when I made my way down to the basement, where the dressing rooms are. A helpful man came by. "Do you know where you're going?" he said helpfully. "Yes," I said. "Well, I'm going down to the basement. I don't know where I'm going once I get there." "I'll take you," he said. "You're Neil Gaiman, aren't you?" I allowed as how I might be. "You know," he said, "I just wrote the entry on you for the Encyclopedia Brittanica." And then he showed me, now rather gobsmacked, to Thea and Nigel's room. (His name, it turns out, was Michael, and I think he enjoyed how odd it was every bit as much as I did.)

I think what I like best about Thea as a person is her enthusiasm for music and songwriting. This is someone who grabbed my iPod and went down the "artists" list to see what I was listening to -- "You like I am Kloot!" -- and whose enthusiasm for songs and music and songwriters and songwriting is boundless. Well, I liked that, and her straightforwardness, and most of all I liked the fact that when jammed into the back of a mini, along with two guitars in their cases, she never grumbled once.

Anyway, a total of two wonderful 40 minute gigs, which were worth a 700 mile round trip drive.
(Set-lists, for the Thea fans among you: 1st show: You Tell Me, Rags & Bones, Bad Moon Rising, Red White & Black, Mainstream, Razor Valentine, Juliet, This Girl, Inverigo. 2nd show: Call Me Your Darling, Throw the Bouquet, Bad Moon Rising, Holding Your Hand, Rags and Bones, Juliet, Mainstream, Heartstring Blues, This Girl.)

Thea and Nigel start recording her next album this week.

On the way back the Mini's GPS computer thingie picked a route I'd never taken before, and got me home in five hours. This is, for the record, impossible.

Right. Goodnight.

As someone who is a fan, but spent much more time and effort getting your books, rather than the Sandman series (until I got to college and had a friend who let me borrow his) because I wasn't sure if I'd like it, I really like the idea of Sandman omnibuses. Surely there's a good place to split them, isn't there? Maybe there could be an extra volume with all the mini-series collected? (Yes, DC's getting this suggestion,too) I want to have the entire series, but due to limitations in my funds and space considerations, that hasn't been feasible. Also, there's so much of it that's just hard to find or such a pain to order (even over the net, where prices for some of them are getting drastically overinflated) that it hasn't happened yet. How about starting a campaign through your site to get DC to realize how much people want to see this?

But they are collected. And the two DEATH mini-series are collected as well. Honest. Yes, collecting the comics themselves will cost you serious money, and so will a few of the early hardbacks, but everything else is in print in both hardcover and paperback, and available from DC, in "omnibuses". Honest.

They're $19.95 each in paperback, except for Sandman: Endless Nights, which is $17.95, at least according to the information at http://www.neilgaiman.net/comics.php.

What there isn't is a 2000+ page one volume collection, and there isn't a way of buying them slipcased. But buying them collected, that we can do.

Friday, September 24, 2004

More Fry

If you'll forgive me for quoting two chunks of Stephen Fry in one day, Tasha Robinson let me know that the outtakes from the Onion Interview she did were up on her journal. Fry talks about acting, and Peter Cook, and Homer Simpson, and then he says the following statement, which gave me something to think about...

Bertrand Russell, the great philosopher and mathematician, got into terrible trouble by writing quite fearsome articles against the first World War when it began. He got all these letters from people who said, “My child is prepared to lay down their life for their country. Don’t you think that sacrifice demands some respect?” He wrote this extraordinary essay in which he said, “Don’t you understand? The sacrifice we’re asking of our young is not that they die for their country, but that they kill for their country.” That’s the sacrifice. To ask a child to kill someone else, whom you’ve never met. That’s a moral choice, pulling a trigger. Having a bullet hit you is not a moral choice. You don’t decide to be killed. It’s a terrible thing that happens to you. But killing something is something you do and that’s a desperate sacrifice. And we’re seeing that in the Iraq war. That’s what this poor Lynndie England did, this tragic soldier who was shot smugly smiling next to naked Arab prisoners. That’s the chickens coming home to roost. It’s not Americans being asked to die by President Bush. It’s Americans being asked to kill and to torture. Not necessarily by name. He doesn’t say, “I want you to kill this or that one.” Of course, politics isn’t that simple. Essentially that is what society does. It asks its young to kill, and that’s what we all have to live with.

Which reminded me of actor Bill Pilkington's statement when asked if he had killed anyone in the war: "Yes, I shot a nice old lady who was just about to give me breakfast." As long as the google cache holds, you can read the full story here.

Hi Neil,In your blog you mentioned asking DC about doing a complete Sandman in one volume. I was wondering, if you or DC have considered doing a new set of hardcovers, similar to the Ultimate Version of the League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen that DC did last year. It would be nice to see larger format, slipcased Sandman books...perhaps with the scripts as a supplemental book. It might also be nice to someday see the trades reprinted in black and white. It's just a thought... Anyway, thanks for everything.

I don't think DC would go for it -- apart from anything else, they're very sensitive to accusations that they're trying to sell something to people twice. And I've been alternately trying to persuade them or rather pathetically to beg them to do two or maybe three slipcases for the books for the last five years. But it's one of those things (like recolouring the first two Sandman books) that everyone agrees in theory should be done, but in practice it just never seems to happen. Feel free to mention it to anyone in DC's marketing department you run into...

Hey, you probably dont have the time, but it would be really cool if you checked out my House of Mystery/Cain the Caretaker site. Its at www.angelfire.com/comics/cainhom I believe it is the only shrine out there to our charming caretaker!

I think it must be. A real labour of love (or quite possibly lust).

Re: Anne Rice and "Returned to Sender"It's worth noting that the address that "Rice" posted in that infamous Amazon.com review is to her famous house... that she sold earlier in the year. It makes me doubt the truth of "Anne Rice"'s review really being from her, but much smarter people than me seem convinced that yes, yes, it really was Anne Rice snapping and writing nastygrams for online booksellers. Me, I must admit that I found it a little fishy. Then again, it wouldn't be the first time a creative type finally snapped, after all. Not by a long shot.
Greg McElhatton www.gregmce.com

Well, she confirms that it was her at http://www.annerice.com/msg092204.htm. Which, I think, ends the subject of Anne Rice on this journal.

regarding "Rob Brydon and Dora Bryan" post. Cor, the picture and your comments made me think of the two oh-so-british parents in Time Bandits. It's one of those 'kid meets crazy friends and goes off on an amazing adventure' movie; did you and Dave get any inspiration from it? sax

Not directly, although the moment in February 2002 that Terry Gilliam looked down at the work Dave and I were doing, spread across Jim Henson's kitchen table, and said "That looks like a movie" was the moment that it all seemed to come together; and Dave and I would use the line Terry Gilliam used to describe Time Bandits as our touchstone for Mirrormask -- Terry famously said he wanted to make a movie "intelligent enough for children, and exciting enough for adults". And so did we.

Rob Brydon and Dora Bryan


I think when people talk about MirrorMask they'll probably talk about the stuff that Dave's been making for the 16 months, this amazing animated McKeanish world. And so they should. Still, for my money, some of the best bits in the film are the little quirky human moments in the real-world story that frames Helena's dream (if it is a dream). Here's the excellent Rob Brydon playing Helena's dad (he also plays the Prime Minister) and veteran actress Dora Bryan playing Helena's aunt Nan, for whom I got to write little Alan Bennetty lines. They're watching the TV, and she's saying, "See her? She was in that comedy. Where she was sharing a flat with that other one. I don't know what she's doing in this rubbish. She used to be funny..." (That's what my maternal grandmother always liked to say, whenever she watched television.)

A MirrorMask Moment


Someone wanted to know what Robert Llewellyn was doing in Mirrormask. Here's a screen capture that may give you some idea. That's him on the left, being magnificently baffled. Out of focus, on the right, is Valentine (Jason Barry). Click on it to see it larger...

Product placement

Let's see... there's a decent and interesting article on comics/graphic novels at The Age: http://www.theage.com.au/articles/2004/09/24/1095961824756.html?oneclick=true

There's a quote from Stephen Fry in the Onion that made me nod my head in vigorous agreement:

O: You've written and performed in a wide variety of media. Did you ever decide you wanted an eclectic career, or has it just turned out that way?
SF: It's just worked out that way, really. But I'm pleased that it has. If I'd had a chance to make a conscious decision, I hope I would have made that decision. There's always the danger—there's a very dismissive British phrase, "Jack of all trades and master of none." But who wants to be the master of one trade, rather than having fun doing lots of things?


Excellent interview.

Anne Rice's tirade has vanished from Amazon, along with most of the responses to it. Probably a good thing. But at least it's left one hilarious webcomic in its wake. (My respect for Ms Rice fell somewhat when I heard that the people who had sent back their books to her for a refund were getting them back from the post office marked "Return to Sender". If you're going to make an offer like that, you have to stand by it.)

Here's a strange question of a guy like you, but here goes. I did a search of your journal, and it looks like you have a Aga stove. Do you like it? Have you ever cooked on anything else? I understand cooking on one is fundamentally different from cooking on a "regular" stove. My husband and I are planning to redo our kitchen, and I think I'd like to have one (they look so cool), but they are not cheap, and I don't know anyone who has ever even cooked on one. We don't even have an appliance store where we live that would let me try it out before I made a commitment. So, would you recommend one?-Nikki

I don't have an Aga but my friend Tori has one in her house in Ireland which I was borrowing for a month last year. I loved cooking with the Aga, but I found I needed a different approach to cooking: the idea that the oven was always on, and things would cook at different speeds and in different ways depending on which place you put them, and that you had a very hot stove-top to cook things on, and a less hot one, and that they would always be at that temperature, again was a different way of thinking.

If you're somewhere sort of chilly, where having a large object in your kitchen radiating heat is going to make your kitchen a warmer, more comfortable place, then an Aga is probably a very good thing. There wasn't anything that I couldn't cook with it -- if anything the fact that it was always on, so if it suddenly occurred to me that given all the rosemary in the garden, a leg of lamb on a bed of rosemary would be a good thing to cook, then I'd be quite likely to stop writing and go and prepare it. I certainly didn't encounter anything I couldn't cook using it.

If, on the other hand, you live somewhere that air-conditioning is vital for comfort and survival, an Aga is probably just asking for trouble. And you need to be within the working radius of someone who repairs or fixes Agas, because things can go wrong.

Hi! I was just wondering if there's ever going to be a sort of omnibus (umm... is that the right word? collection thingy?) volume of the Sandman comics? I mean a collection that has all of them. The reason why I'm asking is that it's really tough trying to get the comics here in Finland :D I know I could just order them one by one from the net but that simply is too expensive :( Not exactly the best question to ask from the author, is it?

Well, the 76 comics have been collected together into ten books already. (See this article http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Sandman_%28DC_Comics_Modern_Age%29#Collections)

I recently saw, and fell in love with, the one-volume Bone, and asked the people at DC whether it would be possible to do a one-volume Sandman, even if we just did it in a limited edition. They pointed out that the one-volume Bone is about as thick as a book can be at that kind of price -- a one-volume Sandman, at almost twice the length, would be over 2000 pages long, would need to be printed on paper good enough to take the colour, and thus would be unfeasibly big and heavy and expensive (probably a bit cheaper than the $200 it would cost you to buy the ten Sandman volumes, but it's probably easier to sell people who don't know if they'll like this thing a $20 copy of Preludes and Nocturnes than it would be to sell them a $150, 2,000 page doorstop of a book) (and I think you'd still find it too expensive).

Neil, You may have got several questions like this already, but tuff!!! Do you ever have a browse though your message-board? I've been a poster for over a year now, and find it very interesting that this whole little community has sprung up. Do you ever see what we're up to occasionally? And if so, do you actually ever post?Kind Regards StBarbarella

I kept half an eye on it when it was starting up, but once the inestimable GrandMoffZoe was appointed moderator, a few years back, I stopped even keeping half an eye on it. And no, I don't post there: I can't reply to everything (or even a significant fraction of everything) that comes in at neilgaiman.com -- why make more work for myself?

Hi! I noticed that the film "Shaun of the Dead" opened in the US this week and got rather good reviews. It won't hit the Swedish shores until december, I suppose, but I'm sure a zombie film is perfect setting the mood for Christmas. But how come you already seen it on DVD? Is that one of the perks being a famous writer or to you have friends in high or strange places?Regards: Per

There are many perks to being a famous writer, although for the moment I can't think of any, and I do indeed have friends in high places and many more friends in extremely strange places. But in this case, I simply ordered my Shaun of the Dead DVD from Amazon.co.uk, and it arrived when it came out in the UK on DVD. It's a region 2 DVD, which plays just fine on my multiregion DVD player (a JATON PSD-7611K in case anyone's wondering).

Hullo, Neil. I've received a Cerebus and a form-letter from the delightful Mr. Sim and I'd be happy to catalogue the entirety of the run of form letters for posterity. I'd happily accept submissions at mrbroe@yahoo.com which is my already being spammed to death mailbox that has plenty of space for the incoming files. All those with scanners can send me a commonly sized .jpg or equivalent image and I'll post them after the weekend. Once I see how it's going I'll notify you of the address to which they are being posted. All the best. Dana...

Thanks, Dana.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Coincidence -- or something more sinister? (Coincidence actually.)

Long, pleasant day -- watched Shaun of the Dead on DVD in the evening, and it made me happy. Maddy's gone off with her class on a camping expedition of some kind, so of course we got our first thunderstorm in ages. I hope she's having fun anyway.

A couple of odd locational coincidences -- I see from this news article that the New York is Book Country Festival has moved from midtown, where it's been in previous years, to Washington Square Park. Which now makes it incredibly appropriate that the Tara McPherson Morpheus and Death poster that the Festival is selling shows them in Washington Square Park. Which it does because, when Shelly Bond at Vertigo asked for ideas, I pointed out that that's where they were in the Sandman story "The Sound of Her Wings", in the story where we first met Death.

(click on it for a bigger version) (The posters will be on sale all over NYisBC.)

(You can still get the posters from http://www.nyisbookcountry.org/content/merchandise.asp for $15 plus postage and packing and I notice that since I last posted it they've now put up a note saying that they can't ship them internationally. Ah well.)

The other odd place coincidence came in this message:

http://www.livejournal.com/users/missfenix/6023.html
Thought this may make you smile. By the way, my 3rd and 4th books in The Sandman series have just arrived, they are brilliant.

(The "Aswarby Hall" line, in the panel, by the way, comes from the M. R. James story "Lost Hearts" -- or the version I had, which, I discovered much later, had been extensively edited.)

Dave Sim, of course, has been sending a great many copies of Cerebus out internationally recently. The faxes still arrive, with the day's form letter -- and I hope someone is collecting them somewhere. Here's a sampling:

Hi Neil,
I got my signed copy of Mothers & Daughters today. It sounds like Dave is still getting a kick out of all the mail he's from "busy little Bloggoes and Bloggesses". I blogged about it here http://www.tangognat.com/index.php?p=425 and put up an image of the form letter http://images.tangognat.com/simformletter.jpgI'm looking forward to reading Anansi Boys.

And I'm very much looking forward to finishing it. I just learned that I have an October 4th deadline for all the textual material in the Mirrormask Script-and-Storyboards book -- so I have to combine all the scripts into one big one, then mark the bits we cut, then write intros and outros and notes and things. And as soon as that's done I'll be back on Anansi Boys full time, until it's done.

Do tell us what the OED says about "hopples."-Nikki

Just that "hopple" is a synonym for "hobble", and that "hopples" might mean "hobble-bushes". Dead unhelpful, and nothing at all about piles of stones.

Dear Neil,
I'm very sorry, but the thing I most want to know from you is; what is Gene Wolfe like? sincerely,
Rosalind Finney

John Clute once said he was like Aslan playing Bilko, and that still makes me smile with its aptness, although now he has a magnificent moustache and looks less like Aslan as Sergeant Bilko and more like Aslan as Major-General Stanley.

I once wrote a whole piece for a convention program booklet on Gene Wolfe. I'll see if I can put the whole thing up in the "Exclusives" area. Meanwhile, I'll steal a paragraph from it:

There are two kinds of clever writer. The ones that point out how clever they are, and the ones who see no need to point out how clever they are. Gene Wolfe is of the second kind, and the intelligence is less important than the tale. He is not smart to make you feel stupid. He is smart to make you smart as well.

And that's what Gene Wolfe is like, Rosalind. (Which reminds me, I have yet to write anything here about his upcoming novel THE WIZARD, and how astonishingly good it is. But I shall, sooner or later. And in the meanwhile I'll post here a link to an essay by Gene on Lord of the Rings and Tolkien, which illuminated for me some of the themes of The Wizard-Knight.) Good night.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

De Gustibus, and how to reply to bad reviews

Let's see... lots of you wrote to tell me that "Venerable" is one of the stages of beatification that ends with sainthood, which is true, but perfectly irrelevant in the Bede's case. An example:

Hi Neil.I'm probably not the only one that is going to write to you about the term "venerable" as in "the Venerable Bede". In Roman Catholicism, and also other similar faiths, "venerable" is the title that a holy person gets before being promoted to "saint". First you are "blessed", then you are "venerable", then finally you are promoted to "saint". Since the time that Brewer wrote his "Dictionary of Miracles", Bede has actually received this promotion, so nowadays he should be referred to as "Saint Bede". All Roman Catholic Saints have to work their way up this ladder, so the title "venerable" does not have anything to do with being very elderly or "barking mad". Saint Joan (of Arc), for example, was "the Venerable Joan" before she was promoted to "saint", although she only lived to be 19.Karl Paananen

I mean, while that's all true, more or less, it has nothing at all to do with the Venerable Bede's Venerableness at all. He was actually sainted in 735 AD, about 1200 years before Brewer wrote his Dictionary. His formal title as a Saint is "St Bede the Venerable". According to one source, someone writing (or possibly carving) Bede's epitaph, immediately after he died, couldn't think of an appropriate adjective, and left a blank in the phrase "the ...... Bede" and went to bed. And then angels, or elves, or someone's room-mate (or a stone-mason) came in the night and miraculously wrote (or carved) "venerable" in the space provided. And so he was.

But there's another explanation given here by Curtana:

Dear Neil,

More on the Venerable Bede and his chatty pile of rocks: the Golden Legend says "Also it is said that when he was blind he went about for to preach, and his servant that led him brought him whereas were many hopples of stones, to whom he made a noble sermon, and when he had all finished his sermon the stones answered and said, Amen." (Also note that the word 'hopples' is excellent).

Another source tells us that this was actually the source of his epithet "Venerable": "...Bede, in his old age, when his eyes were dim, was induced by certain "mockers" to preach, under the mistaken belief that the people were assembled to hear him. As he ended his sermon with a solemn invocation of the Trinity, the angels (in one version it is the stones of a rocky valley) responded "Amen, very venerable Bede." So perhaps some angels impersonating stones, or the other way around?

St. Fursey's bio is at http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/06324d.htm

No mention of his clock, though...

St. Cuan is also called St. Mochua, and he's known, among other things, for supposedly living to be 100 (so, much more Venerable than Bede) and for teleporting meat:

"And when Easter day had come, and Mochua had said Mass a desire for meat seized the young cleric, and he said to St. Mochua that he would go to Durlus to visit Guaire in order to get enough of meat. 'Do not go,' said Mochua, 'stay with me, and let me pray to God for meat for thee.' And on this he knelt on the ground and prayed with fervour to God, asking for meat for the young cleric. At the same time while food was being served to the tables of Guaire's house, it came to pass through Mochua's prayer that the dishes and the meat they contained were snatched from the hands of those who were serving them and were carried out over the walls of the dwelling, and by direct route reached the desert in which Mochua was; and Guaire went with all his household on horseback in quest of the dishes; and when the dishes came into the presence of Mochua he set to praise and magnify the name of God, and told the young cleric to eat his fill of meat." Poor Guaire, rendered miraculously meatless...

- Curtana
http://www.livejournal.com/users/curtana/



Hopples is indeed a wonderful word. I shall look it up in the big OED with the magnifying glass downstairs, because I can't find a useful definition for it online.

And then there were ones like this:

I just read your latest Livejournal post and I thought you might be interested in this web site if you don't already know about it. It's has massive content on all sorts of religious/strange/UFO related material. It goes through each thing and logically debunks. Perhaps you would rather read strictly about the dream, ie his talking rocks, but since I prefer anything I can get on any number of topics I'll give you the url: http://skepdic.com/... - Ashkah.

Which is helpful, but I do kind of feel misses the point as well. I mean, anyone who's actually going to expend time and energy debunking some 7th century talking rocks (or even a teleporting 1400-year-old meat dinner) is clearly just getting into shape for the much more difficult and important task of demonstrating to the world that, whether or not a cat is playing a fiddle at the time, it's still aerodynamically and physically impossible for a cow to jump over the moon; before continuing on to demonstrate that, a venerable authority to the contrary, blackbirds do not actually peck off maids' noses.

...

Several people wanted to know my opinion on Anne Rice's recent outburst on Amazon.com. (Here's a summary from the Toronto Star.) [Edit, link fixed] (Here's a link to the book for the adventurous. You'll have to go and find Anne Rice's review in among the reviews.)

I think that unless a reviewer gets their facts completely wrong, the author should shut up (and even then, the author should probably let it go -- although I'm a big fan of a letter that James Branch Cabell wrote to the New York Times pointing out that their review of FIGURES OF EARTH was bollocks*). As Kingsley Amis said, a bad review may spoil your breakfast, but you shouldn't let it spoil your lunch.

I suspect that most authors don't really want criticism, not even constructive criticism. They want straight-out, unabashed, unashamed, fulsome, informed, naked praise, arriving by the shipload every fifteen minutes or so. Unfortunately an Amazon.com reviews page for one of the author's books is the wrong place to go looking for this. Probably best just not to look.

(On the other hand, the statement "You read it wrong" is not an entirely meaningless one. When I first read Gene Wolfe's PEACE, aged 17, I thought it was a bucolic and sort of pointless set of reminiscences by a sweet old man. When I read it again, aged 26, having spent some years as a writer and critic, I found myself, rather to my surprise, reading a deeply chilling and murderous novel narrated by one of the darkest characters in literature, who was a ghost to boot. But Gene Wolfe isn't going to make people who didn't like or get PEACE suddenly like it by going on Amazon and telling them it was too good or too clever for them, even if it was.)

When you publish a book -- when you make art -- people are free to say what they want about it. You can't tell people they liked a book they didn't like, and there is, in the end, no arguing with personal taste. Different people like different things. Best to move on and make good art as best you can, instead of arguing.

I think Anne Rice going on Amazon and lambasting her critics was undoubtedly a very brave and satisfying thing for her to do, was every bit as sensible as kicking a tar baby, and, if ever I do something like that, please shoot me.

A much better reason to go to Amazon.com is they've put up a new short story by M. John Harrison, set in the world he created in LIGHT. It's called Tourism, and you can read it at http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/feature/-/536970/102-5660559-4818530
I think it's a good bet that some of you won't like it at all. (I loved it.)



.........

* The letter from Cabell to the Times, after pointing out a dozen places in Maurice Hewlett's review of Figures of Earth where he had complained of Cabell making up ineptly things which Cabell had actually accurately reproduced from classical sources, ends,

Still, it is not fair that I should profit by Mr. Hewlett's lack of such elementary erudition. Plain honesty compels me thus publically and modestly to admit that when Mr. Hewlett accredits me that invention of (and blame for) all these, and other, matters he honors me beyond my due. And while these deficiencies in Mr. Hewlett's knowledge are interesting, why, after all, should his naive confession of them be printed as a review of a book by someone who does happen to know about these things?

Yours faithfully, James Branch Cabell

For most authors, not being James Branch Cabell, it's probably wisest after reading a particularly stupid or vicious or bad review to mentally compose your letter to the editor, fill it with your sharpest and most cutting and brilliant bon mots, and then, having made it up, to successfully resist the urge to put it to paper, and to return cheerfully to work.

A Quick One

Quick request here -- We're hoping to put the CBLDF's LIVE AT THE ALADDIN video on as a bonus for the "A Short Film About John Bolton" DVD. Charles Brownstein from the CBLDF is looking for e-mail addresses or phone numbers for Louis Broome and R. David Perrson, who shot the film for the CBLDF, bless them. If anyone knows where either of these gentlemen might be found, could you ask them to call Charles at 1-800-99-CBLDF or e-mail him at director@CBLDF.org. Thanks.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

A Dictionary of Miracles

So the bathroom reading currently is the Reverend E. Cobham Brewer's "Dictionary of Miracles". And this morning, under the entry Stones Crying Out I learned that:

Bede Preached to a Heap of Stones (AD 672-735). On one occasion, we are told, the Venerable Bede preached to a heap of stones, thinking himself in a church; and the stones were so affected by his eloquence, that they exclaimed, "Amen, Venerable Bede!"

And I immediately began wondering who observed this, in order to report it. I mean, it obviously wasn't the Venerable Bede himself, for someone who can't tell the difference between a heap of stones and the inside of a church isn't going to be a particularly reliable person for reporting back, and anyway in this case "Venerable" is not simply an honorific but also a euphemism for either "barking mad" or "as comically blind as Mr McGoo"... (And what, I suddenly wonder, do those dates mean? If they were the Bede's dates, then he lived to the age of 63, which isn't really particularly venerable, not even for then. On the other hand, if it's how long he preached to the heap of stones for, I'm not surprised they gave him an "amen" at the end. They probably also had chorus of "For he's a jolly good fellow" followed by a whip-round in order to send him somewhere there weren't any stones.) (Right. I just googled, and those were his dates. Ignore that last parenthetical statement.)

Now, I think it's reasonable to assume that if the Venerable Bede mistakenly thought that he was in church, surely the hearty "Amen" from the stones would merely confirm his belief that he was in church, and then he'd wend his venerable way home having completely missed the fact that a miracle had just happened. Which means that either there had to be someone standing beside him, clearing his or her throat from time to time and trying to point out that they weren't actually in church after all, or possibly a particularly chatty rock mentioned it later, from whom the story came down to us...

Sorry. It's just amazing what you can learn from a good Dictionary of Miracles. I mean, did you know that "St. Fursy (A.D. 650) had a clock which an angel brought him from Heaven. One day the monks of Lismore, in Ireland, observed a clock floating in the air, and asked St. Cuan, their abbot, what the prodigy meant. St. Cuan replied, "Oh, it is St. Fursy's clock, come from Bury St Edmunds, in Suffolk. As St. Fursy cannot come himself to Lismore, he has sent his clock to represent him." (Which is followed by a note which states that "The clock was shown in the Abbey until 1468" although it neglects to mention whether that was the year that the clock stopped floating in the air, or vanished, or whether that was simply when it flew back to Bury St. Edmunds.)

They don't teach you about Saint Fursy and his incredible floating heavenly clock in school, you know. Hurrah for the Reverend E. Cobham Brewer.

I just thought you should all know that.

Hello,I very much love your work, but let's get right into the question for now. I was reading on IMDb (which admittedly is not the best source for reliable news) that Robert Llewellyn will have a role in MirrorMask. Since I very much enjoyed his work on Red Dwarf, I've been trying to find out how much of a role it is; is it a cameo, or something larger? (I also heard Stephen Fry is involved, which would be excellent.)--Austin Ross

Robert Llewellyn plays a gryphon. It's a larger role than a cameo, although he's not one of the principals. He fails to devour our heroine "bones and all". He's very funny. Stephen Fry plays a librarian, made of books.

Hi Neil, the song from your Polish website is 'History Repeats Itself' by A.O.S. It can be found on the Natural Born Killers OST. By the way, while reading 'The Neil Gaiman Audio Collection' info I was puzzled by this: 'Cinnamon: This charming fable of an exotic princess who refuses to speak currently exists only on Neil's official website' - well, maybe I'm silly, but I can't seem to find it anywhere... Conrad M.R.

That's because HarperAudio got a little confused. Cinnamon is indeed on my official website -- but it's Neilgaiman.net, not neilgaiman.com, which is DreamHaven's mail-order stuff-by-me site. Go to http://www.neilgaiman.net/extras.php to read it. It has marvellous illustrations by the supremely talented Jill Karla Schwarz, too. (And she's still doing online comics at http://attentiondeficitgirl.com/ -- she's just put a new ADDGirl adventure up, called "The Minion", which seems to be a parody of "The Apprentice", although I couldn't figure how to get it beyond page 2. Edit: It's a two pager. I am a twit.) And thanks to all of you who provided the AOS information.

Hey Neil.I followed your link to the BBC Realplayer,but what I downloaded didn't match the screenshots on the BBC site, and a little digging turned up this note on a blog. EDIT 6 May 2004: It looks like this loophole has been closed, alas. I received an e-mail today informing me that the download size has now gone up to 9.75 MB and the file now contains spyware. I haven't downloaded it myself but it looks like what used to be called RealOne Player has now become RealPlayer 10. I am now confused. Have I downloaded spyware or not?Hopefully your readers are clever enough to help.

I don't know. Somebody will, though. This already came in from The Dreaming's Joe Fulgham:

Media Player Classic available for free at http://sourceforge.net/projects/guliverkli/ will play Real files and iscompletely spyware free. It's great.
For a long time I was unable to listen to Real encoded mediabecause I refused to install their shoddy software. Best,Joe Fulgham

Thank you, Joe.

...

By the way, lots of messages keep coming in which fall under the general heading of, "I have to write something about you or something you've written. Please will you do my homework for me/ answer the following fifteen questions for my paper on you and Restoration Theatre/ explain why you did or wrote A with especial reference to B and I get extra points if you mention either Virginia Woolf or the invention of the printing press."

And the answer to all of them is honestly, I think you can all write your essays without me. Pretend I'm a dead author. I won't mind. I promise I'll never come to your place of education and say, in the hearing of your teachers, "You do not understand me or my work! Your essay on the solar myth and rebirth in Sandman and American Gods with especial reference to the pagan themes and the use of Pan in the works of Kenneth Grahame was utterly and completely wrong. Hah!" Honest I won't. (Remember, in such essays you don't have to be right. Just convincing. Like St. Cuan and the floating clock. Probably he didn't have a clue why there was a clock floating in the air, but he wasn't going to let that on to the monks. He didn't say "Don't ask me, lads. Could be a Fortean phenomenon, or something dodgy about this morning's rye bread." Nope. He told them it was St. Fursy's clock, and they all went back to their cells quite happy. Go ye all and do likewise.)

...


This came in -- Strange Horizons runs some good fiction, and (with a couple of recent exceptions) some good articles and editorial pieces too -- they definitely need supporting. (And I'm including the note before the appeal, because it amused me...)

Neil, If you remember, we've run some reviews of and an article about your work:

http://www.strangehorizons.com/2002/20020701/coraline.shtml
http://www.strangehorizons.com/2002/20020211/harlequin.shtml
http://www.strangehorizons.com/2001/20011015/american_gods.shtml

Help keep us alive and writing about you! :-) This is the note I've been
sending out -- you could post it entire, or an abbreviated version, or a
note of your own. It'd be much appreciated. The fund drive runs through
the end of September.

*****

Hi, folks. It's Strange Horizons fund drive time; twice a year we ask
readers to send a donation to help cover the costs of running the
magazine. Since the staff are all volunteers, the costs in question are
mostly paying for the fine fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and art that we
publish every single week.

Strange Horizons is a Hugo-nominated online prozine, run by thirty
dedicated volunteers who keep the magazine running (for 4+ years now).

We have a great staff, great contributors, and great readers, but what
keeps the magazine going financially is donations. Our content (some of
which gets nominated for awards and reprinted in Year's Best anthologies)
is free to the public, and we pay professional rates to fiction authors.
It's all funded by the donations of readers like you.

If you'd like to help keep us going, you don't have to donate a lot. Even
if you give us $5 (not much more than the cost of a single issue of one of
the major print sf magazines), you'll be entered in a drawing for our fund
drive prizes (donated by generous authors). But if you can give us more,
there are other benefits; give $25, for example, which is less than the
cost of a subscription to one of the major print sf magazines, and you
become a member, entitled to a lovely membership card; this fund drive's
card features artwork by Janet Chui.

For more information, or to donate, see our fund drive page, at:
http://www.strangehorizons.com/fund_drives/200409/main.shtml

If you can't afford to donate, or don't want to for whatever reason, there
are other things you can do to help out. You can post in your journals,
mailing lists, forums, and other places about the magazine; you can submit
art, articles, fiction, poetry, or reviews; you can even join our staff,
or tell others about our open positions:

http://www.strangehorizons.com/Jobs.shtml

So go forth and spread the word! Or just donate. We take PayPal as always,
and (new for this fund drive) we can now accept credit card donations via
Network for Good.

thanks,
Mary Anne (editor emeritus)


Monday, September 20, 2004

Message Monkey...?

Hi Neil,

Normally I assume that other people will get things to you before I do but as it's 2am UK time and I was surfing the net while nursing my latest work related injury (a Guinness pint glass exploded in my hand while cleaning, such are the joys of bar work -- thank god I'm a two finger typist. :g:) I thought I'd drop you a note to say that you can get a spyware free version of Real Media Player from the Beeb itself. As part of their whole charter and all that, they can not allow outside advertising, so they came to a deal with Real. You can download it from here:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio/audiohelp_install.shtml

- Meg.


Which is what I love about you lot. I thought there was a spyware/adware free Real Player, but a search of the BBC site failed to find it. I post this, and promptly two people let me know that it is and where it is.

And I now have a date, a time and a location for the Pittsburgh Signing:

Monday, Oct. 11th at 6:00
New Dimension Comics
Century III Mall Location
Pittsburgh, PA
Directions at
www.ndcomics.com
Phone 412-655-8661


Dear Neil, I'm writing in hopes of getting to Tyna from Poland through you. I unfortunatley do not speak (or read) Polish, and cannot ask what the beautiful music on the Polish Neil website is. So I'm hoping that, if I ask you, you could maybe ask her to tell us who the artist is and where we can buy the CD? Thanks for being my message monkey!

Any time.

beware of the bookmark

As I was going up the escalator, on the friday morning at Worldcon, in company with several shady types I'd bumped into in the dealers' room on the way (viz. and to wit, S. Dedman, J. Clute and T. Pratchett OBE), I noticed that, across the hall, on the escalator going down, was a mysterious figure whose face was obscured by a camera. He was pointing the camera at us. Then the camera came down, revealing the cheerful face of uber-editor David Hartwell. He waved. I waved back.

"That photo'll never come out," I thought, with the prescience and prophetic ability that has made me the talk of the SF-and-futurological community over the years.

The photo is quite wonderful. You can see it at http://www.kathryncramer.com/m2/newarchives/2004/09/men_in_black.html
It looks a bit like it's waiting for the caption competition, or for me, Steve, John and Terry to have a high-profile reunion and release our first CD in decades.

Hi Neil!You haven't mentioned that Banned Book Week is upon us, September 25 - October 1. For more info (and a list of most frequently challenged books) go to http://www.ala.org/ala/oif/bannedbooksweek/bannedbooksweek.htm Thanks, Neil!Tamara Siler Jones www.tamarasilerjones.com

Is it that time of the year already?

(Whenever I notice that my name isn't on the list of banned and challenged authors, I feel faintly like I'm letting the side down. Although I suspect all I'd have to do to get on the list is to write a book about naked, bisexual, hard-swearing wizards who drink a lot while disparaging the Second Amendment, and I'd be home and dry.)

Dear Neil,I'm writing to you, because I've got page about you and I want to introduce a few your stories on my page... Will you mad if I do this? The majority of people in my country ( I live in Poland) don't know who are you and your books are very hard to get. So... Can I?P.S. My page is one and only in Poland... (http://neilgaiman.xp.pl) I think. I want very much to show people what a great writer you are!Your fan, Tyna

Hi Tyna...

MAG publishing are my prose publishers in Poland, and they control the Polish rights to most of the short stories and novels. I'm afraid you'd have to talk to them.


Neil
Typical BBC Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell review at:http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/arts/ram/saturdayreview.ram starting 18.30 into the programme.
Also tomorrow on Radio 4 there's the new Hitchhiker's: http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/hitchhikers/index.shtml
John Blackburne

And it's worth mentioning that for those who don't have a RealPlayer (which you need to play RAM files) that you can get it at http://www.real.com/products/player/download_player.html -- and yes, it's a redundant piece of spyware, but it's what 90% of the BBC content is in.

Neil, With regards to your point of ordering Neverwhere internationally and having it shipped to the U.K.; as someone who did that I should warn you that H.M. Customs tends to slap import duties on it (if you're unlucky). So, it can turn out that the cheap DVD from the U.S. ends up costing more money than the U.K. import.Of course customs do miss some. Caveat emptor I guess. Regards,Jon

How odd -- I've bought dozens of books and DVDs from Amazon.co.uk that were shipped to the US (today Shaun of the Dead arrived), and when in the UK and Ireland I've bought CDs, DVDs and books from various online entities in the US, and I've never been hit with a customs charge yet. But I'm happy to mention this -- if you're in the UK you may want to order it through a UK site and not a US one, to be on the safe side.

...

Over at Levenger.com, I see they are still selling their "bookstop" bookmark. (if the link doesn't work, search for it.)

This is the 11 oz. lead-weighted leather bookmark which caused the recent arrest of a special ed. teacher, who tried to take it onto a plane, probably concealed (at a guess) inside a book. Luckily, they spotted her bookmark at security and promptly arrested her, handcuffed her, took her away and charged her with carrying a concealed weapon. (Details at http://www.newsnet5.com/news/3738885/detail.html for those of you convinced I'm being silly.)

One may safely assume that when bookmarks are outlawed, only outlaws will carry bookmarks.

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Bearded, in my lair

Took Maddy and her best friend to the Minnesota RenFair today, and am now thoroughly exhausted. Yesterday was the DreamHaven signing, and it was enormously enjoyable.

You'll excuse me if I mainly do a handful of interesting links...

http://www.engadget.com/entry/7313209331031632/ -- finally a pillow for Godfather fans (coincidentally, my son Mike's favourite film. Which may take care of that bit of present shopping, if I can actually find one...)

Several interesting Scottish Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell reviews:

http://scotlandonsunday.scotsman.com/thereview.cfm?id=1097892004

http://news.scotsman.com/features.cfm?id=1094482004

While Claude Lalumiere reviews it in the Montreal Gazette, at Canada.com.

One of the four-month-old tabs that reopened with the new install of Firefox was http://www.jessesword.com/SF/sf.shtml -- it's the collaboration between SF fans and the Oxford English Dictionary (details on how it started at http://www.jessesword.com/SF/sf_citations.shtml) and might be of interest for those of you with extensive SF collections. Or just those of you who like dictionaries.


Hi Neil!

By the way, the beard looks really good!
I have two questions to ask.
First, how do you find time to write on this journal? I mean, from what I read here, you do a lot of reading, websurfing, you go out, you spend time with your family, you keep in touch with lot of people, you take the time to answer peoples questions, and on top of that, you write your stuff. Where do you find time to write the journal? Is this some kind of pact-with-the-devil thing?
I have a much less active life, and I can`t keep up with my blog, or read all the stuff I want to read... Just wondering if you could share your secret with us fans.

Second: Do you plan on ever writing an autobiography (is that spelling correct?) or have someone to write it for you? Do you even like biographies?

Best wishes
Leila (from Argentina, where your books are very hard to find, sob)


The beard from the photos is from May, although I've started growing one like it again, realising that I'll have to do some media for the "13 Nights of Fright" thing, and I might as well look sort of similar.

As for how I do this journal... well, before the blog I was a much better email correspondent, so it's stolen time from that, and I was better at replying to paper mail, so it's a good bet that it's stolen time from that as well. Apart from that, the knowledge that people are reading it is half of what keeps it going, and having immediate access to so many people and so much knowledge is the other half. And it's still fun. It doesn't feel like work. And on those nights where I'm really tired, you lot do most of the work (like tonight), or I skip it.

I have an idea for a bunch of biographical essays, that would also be a travel book. I don't know if I'll ever get the time to do the travelling that I'd need to do to write the essays, but I hope I will. In the meantime, Mr Punch and Violent Cases contain a fair amount of biographical wossname, as do such stories as "One Life, Furnished in Early Moorcock". They contain stuff I made up as well, though.

Neil, please shave. You're looking an awful lot like Tom Green.

I am? Ah well, if it's the photo at the top of yesterday's post you're thinking of, that beard was history as soon as the filming was done. I just liked the idea of doing that Cain-and-Abel Horror Host beard and glasses sort of thing (I couldn't quite bring myself to wear a brown safari suit, though).

The current beard started last week and will probably last until Hallowe'en, unless I get rid of it.

if i live in england can i still get neverwhere on DVD before christmas without importing it?

It depends on what you mean by "importing it". The only DVD edition that I know of is the New Video edition. Now, this is a US DVD, but does not have any Region coding, so you can play it in UK DVD players. (I know it says "Region 1" but it's not.)

It's available from Amazon.co.uk and I would expect you can probably also find it in Forbidden Planet and suchlike stores. No idea why it's not available from the BBC (and it looks like the BBC video is now out of print). But if you order from Amazon.co.uk, they'll simply be importing it from the US. (So you might as well buy it directly from the US, from somewhere like http://www.deepdiscountdvd.com/ who have it for $23.97 or from http://www.overstock.com/cgi-bin/d2.cgi?PAGE=PROFRAME&PROD_ID=475682 who have it for $26.59. )


Hi Neil. I'm a liberal homeschooling mom and I'm about to start a month of Edgar Allan Poe with my two teenage sons. I want to make this fun! While searching materials to use, I came across GRAPHIC CLASSICS VOL. 1: EDGAR ALLAN POE - NEW EDITION 3/2004. I was wondering if you've seen it and have any thoughts about it? Also discovered CLOSED ON ACCOUNT OF RABIES: POEMS AND TALES OF EDGAR ALLAN POE. Since you are a multimedia kind of guy, I'd be curious to hear your thoughts on presenting Poe in this format. Thanks. P.S. You are on my list for a homeschool study as well!


I've not run across the Poe Graphic Classics before, but the line-up of authors and artists looks wonderful. I do have "Closed on Account of Rabies" but was rather disappointed with it -- I think I like the idea of Iggy Pop reading "The Telltale Heart" much better than I like the reality. On the other hand, I love "The Edgar Allan Poe Audio Collection", which consists of Basil Rathbone and Vincent Price reading Poe stories, and there have been a number of long drives where I've been accompanied by the CDs.

I wrote an essay about Poe's life and work for a recently-published collection of Poe's stories and poems, called Edgar Allan Poe: Selected Stories and Tales, illustrated by Mark Summers, (it was published by Barnes and Noble Books, and you can read about it here) (actually, I say it was published -- I've not actually seen a copy, so it may not have come out yet)and I mention in the introduction how listening to Vincent Price's reading of Ligeia caused me to miss my exit, late at night, driving through the mountains of Virginia.

...
Mr. Neil,Considering your blog is read by a wide array of people situated all over the world, I was hoping you might post a link for those U.S. citizens currently overseas who would like to make sure their voice is heard in the upcoming election:
http://www.overseasvote2004.com/
Thanks.Jen who gives people ducks

No sooner said than done.
...

And finally, I promised JaNell I would plug her "cool stuff for sale at"
http://www.cafepress.com/jazilla. And now I have. Goodnight.


Friday, September 17, 2004

Coffins and shopping for Hugos



The above is a picture I just stole from the relevant page of the Fox Movie Channel website. Which is by way of a reminder that I will get to be a horror host for them for the two weeks before Hallowe'en (Jack Chick's favourite festival -- thanks Shanmonster)

Currently you can see more pictures from backstage at the shoot over at the American Scary site (where you can also see a trailer for their film), and read a little about it at Jude Prest's site (Jude wrote the scripts). [Edit: And Jude's site mysteriously vanished in the last few hours, so here's a link to his recent movie instead: http://www.rabbithashthemovie.com/]

Malena (my hilarious-as-she-is-lovely undead assistant on the show) has her own website, and she's just posted the postcard that FMC did (which they gave away at San Diego) -- at http://www.malenateves.com/new.html. (And I see that Malena is on the cover of Inmag,
along with articles on Laser assisted liposuction... it has to be something from LA, doesn't it?)

Expect more stuff and more links and clips and info in the run-up to the show.

(And Fox Movie Channel have just graciously said that people going to Fiddler's Green will get automatic web access to each day's intro and wrap-up -- and they'll screen them all at Fiddler's Green as well. Another reason to head to chilly Minneapolis this November.)

(I've signed 13 sets of all seven Harper Collins books for the show -- Fox Movie Channel will be giving away a set of signed books for each of the 13 nights. And again, I'll post links and information as we get closer, and as I get it.)

...

I've just installed Firefox 1.0. The installation was, in all respects except one, utterly painless. (That one? Well, my Firefox bookmarks are suddenly, and bafflingly, about four months out of date. And when I reinstalled the Session Saver extension, the tabs it opened were, just as bafflingly, from about four months ago as well. If anyone reading has any idea where I could find my most recent bookmarks, I'd be dead grateful.)

...

Now that I have a Hugo award, many people come up to me in the street and say "What a wonderful Hugo Award. Where can I buy one like that?" At which point I always send them to http://www.internet-certificates.com/billboard-awards/hugo-awards.html.

Well, I don't really, because they don't, but there's something wonderful about sentences like:

We have taken the hard work out of your hugo awards shopping and narrowed our list of hugo awards websites down to only those of the very best. Knowing you’re getting value for money is very important in buying hugo awards, so by coming to this web site you can rest with the sound knowledge that you are getting the hugo awards you paid for. By buying through our recommend links you can also rest assured your hugo awards will be of the highest quality. How do we know? Because when we’re shopping for hugo awards ourselves it’s where we go.

(A link I found through a fake blog -- a phenomenon I'd not run into before.)

...



When I was sixteen I bought a Lenny Bruce LP. I'd already read the Lenny Bruce biography, and I had a book of his monologues, and a book of his articles, and I'd seen the Bob Fosse "Lenny" film, and had come to the conclusion, especially from the film, that Bruce was a lot of very cool and worthy things but he wasn't actually funny. And then I saw a Lenny Bruce LP, and despite the fact that I really couldn't afford it, and I thought I knew the material in it, I bought it.

It was hilarious. I hadn't expected that. After all, Dustin Hoffman wasn't funny. But Lenny Bruce was amazing. His accents and voices were faultless. His timing was perfect. And it was all in the delivery. I knew I'd never be a comedian, but it gave me something to aspire to. I just noticed that there's a 6 CD set of the essential Lenny Bruce coming out -- Let the Buyer Beware: http://www.laweekly.com/ink/04/43/film-mckenna.php for details.

...

Hey Neil, I just purchased the DVD "Jim Henson's The Storyteller: The Greek Myths" and saw the trailer for Mirrormask! Holy cow was that good. Just thought I'd spread the news. Also, your readers could do worse than picking up such a good series.Kirk MacLeod, Edmonton, Canada


Agreed. Maddy and I just watched the Daedalus episode ("Cool!" Maddy Gaiman) and the Orpheus episode ("Kind of boring." Maddy Gaiman). And we also watched the Mirrormask Trailer.

Personally, I'd not have let that trailer out, but only because it goes "From the Storytelling Genius of Neil Gaiman... and the Jim Henson Company" but somehow omits the person who did most of the work and all of the heavy lifting. But apart from the bizarre lack of any mention of Dave McKean, I enjoyed it -- and it does show you what the film looks like. Or bits of it, anyway.

...

If you've never read any of the Alan Moore and Alan Davis D.R. AND QUINCH material, or if you want to see how to write a perfect short-short comic, the BBC Comics site now has a bunch of classic 2000AD material up:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/cult/comics/2000adstrips/drandquinch/drandquinch01.shtml

...

Neil Buddy,Have you seen the Sin City trailer?It's here:http://www.movie-list.com/trailers.php?id=sincityFrank & Robert did a beautiful job and the casting is bang on.What do you think?I'll see you once again in Toronto,-Aaron Broverman

I think it looks cool enough and spot on enough that it made me want to head down to the graphic novel shelves in the basement and re-read my copies of Frank Miller's Sin City.

And I want to see the film, when they finish it. I did find myself feeling guilty for continually finding the Frank Miller images that flashed up during the trailer more visually interesting than the video reconstructions, though.
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