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Tuesday, November 30, 2004

listening to unresolving

There's a bunch of MirrorMask photos up at http://www.comics2film.com/FanFrame.php?f_id=10611 which I found while googling to try and find out when MirrorMask is showing at Sundance. No information up yet on when it shows at the Sundance site yet, although it's now officially been announced as one of the Premieres (at http://festival.sundance.org/2005/?=films).

I managed to get my plane times very wrong today, which meant that I wound up with astonishing, unexpected and uncommitted free time on my hands, which is something I almost never have. So I went online, bought a ticket to Sweeney Todd at the New Ambassadors Theatre, and then ambled down to the theatre, picked up the ticket and took my seat, thinking it was all a bit too easy. This production was not the best Sweeney Todd I've ever seen (that was the 1993 National Theatre production at the Cottesloe, starring Alun Armstrong, Julia Mackenzie and Adrian Lester), but it was far and away the most interesting. The cast are also the orchestra; the story (or so I inferred) is taking place in Toby's mind, after he's gone mad at the end of the play; there are odd little cuts and fascinating stagings, not to mention weird little blurrings where those of us who knew the Bond-Wheeler-Sondheim plot were probably seeing a different show to the people in the audience who didn't. It's powerful, well-performed, deeply odd. The only thing I didn't like was the utterly spurious biography of Mister Todd in the programme booklet, mostly because I spent years researching the bloody story, and know that things like that silly article get repeated as fact, confusing and befuddling poor researchers. Here's a review from the Guardian by someone who saw the same production I did, but I suspect enjoyed it marginally less: http://www.guardian.co.uk/arts/reviews/story/0,,1270778,00.html. Well worth seeing if you're in London (and plenty of seats available, which is not a good sign).

(I just noticed from a Sweeney Todd site that the Alun Armstrong one was broadcast by the BBC in 1994. I wonder if it's available anywhere?)

I think I liked it back when the dollar was worth something abroad. It's been dropping for a while now, and it's no longer worth a lot outside of the US. I've learned that I cannot allow myself ever to do the "that's actually x dollars" think in my head. It's easiest just to assume that a Pound is a dollar and a Euro is a dollar and that way I only go "Oh, that's expensive" in a vague sort of way, rather than doing the conversion in my head and going "five bits of conveyor belt sushi cost me WHAT?" Four years ago, a dollar was worth a little over 70 pence. Now it's nuzzling 50 pence. Ah well, it's good news for tourists visiting the US and people who buy stuff over the web. (So if you're in some country with a currency that's still worth something, you should probably celebrate this by going to DreamHaven's http://www.neilgaiman.net/ site and buying a copy of the beautiful Tor Books edition of Charles Vess's Ballads and Sagas, and thus making Charles Vess a rich and happy man.)

Which reminds me -- we announced at Fiddler's Green that Charles Vess is going to be painting Blueberry Girl, a poem written for my goddaughter before she was born; and that Harper Collins will publish it, and that part of the profits will be going to RAINN. I'll let people know more news about that poem as I get it.

Chris Ewen just e-mailed me the song I wrote for his Hidden Variable project. I played it a dozen times or more, over and over, marvelling at what he'd done, and how amazingly good Claudia Gonson's vocals are.

Hey, Neil.I'm just an aspiring 16-year-old novelist from Albuquerque, New Mexico, and I have a few questions to ask. I'll just skip all that boring stuff about you being an excellent writer, coolest guy ever, etc. I'm sure you've heard it before, so I'll try not to be a fanboy. Anywho, I'm currently writing three different books, and all of them have various incarnations (in one form or another) locked in my Never Publish Box under my bed. The stories are very diverse and kinda unusual (I have completely stolen the style of one from your "I Cthulhu" story, and I'm going to hell for that). The problem is, I think that what I'm writing is utter crap. Nothing good, no hidden gems, just complete and utter crap. So what I'm wondering is, should I rip them all up and start from scratch, or just carry on to the end? Wait until something shows a spark of creativity? Or should I give up writing and go for a career as a grocer?Thanks for your time.Pondering...Jeremy Daniel Maes

Well, I was about 20 when I wrote "I, Cthulhu", and I'd cheerfully nicked the style from Robert Nye, particularly his books Merlin and Falstaff. I don't think there's anything wrong with trying on styles when you're starting out -- it's like borrowing hairstyles or hats. And there's many a time that a facility for being able to imitate a certain voice or style has got me out of trouble as a writer. And sometimes it's fun. Eventually, if you write enough, you start sounding like yourself (style is, as someone once said, the stuff you can't help doing).

Anyway, most of what I wrote in my teens was pretty awful, and most of the stories I'd begin I'd never finish -- I didn't really know how to finish them. And even once I'd started finishing them they weren't much good; I'd gloomily compare myself to people like Chip Delany who got his first Nebula nomination two years after he left High School, and conclude that I was falling somewhat short in the whole creating timeless literature at an early age department. And I've turned out more or less all right as a writer, on the whole.

Which is a long way of saying that I'm afraid 16 is much too early to decide you have no talent. There's lots of learning, and living, and writing to do before you're allowed to quit.

Monday, November 29, 2004

Wolf Music

Those of you who have fallen in love with the Bloomsbury site for books by me and Dave McKean at http://www.gaimanmckeanbooks.co.uk/, those of you who use their marvellous screensavers and ecards, probably need to know that Kevin Perry, who is one of the people who made that site, and incidentally is also a member of the UK's Finest Hawkwind tribute band, The Assassins of Silence (which leaves me wondering about how the people in the UK's second-best Hawkwind tribute band feel about this, or even the ones in the UK's worst Hawkwind tribute band, and whether there's a whole Hawkwind tribute band league table, but that's beside the point), has a band called XOO and has done a Wolves In the Walls song. He describes it, remarkably accurately, on his website as Mid-80's Hawkwind meets early 70's Genesis round at Arthur Brown's place. Oh, and a children's picture book. If you're now wondering "how can I hear this?" wonder no more. Just go to http://www.soundclick.com/bands/4/xoomusic.htm and click on it.

Meanwhile the Wolves in the Walls children's opera moves forward, Nick Powell (who is writing the music for it. Some English bloke in a black leather jacket who badly needs a haircut is currently writing the lyrics) has just given me a CD from his two-man band, OSKAR. I've had some of it on my iPod for a while -- I love a song called "Strike This" -- and am very pleased to have more. You can download some OSKAR tracks (and watch some bits of videos) at http://www.oskaronline.com -- it's eclectic and strange and very cool.

(Now playing on an iTunes party shuffle of recently-added CDs: "Harry Rag" from the Kinks BBC Sessions CD. No, that stopped. Now it's the Dresden Dolls' "Coin Operated Boy.")

Vitamin Q now not only includes "Twopence more and up goes the donkey" but tells me more than I previously knew about the expression.

Lunch with Lenny Henry -- I gave him his copy of the 1602 hardback, which I dedicated to him. And I told him I like his blog: http://www.lennyhenry.com/home/blog_november.asp?pID=1 is the latest entry. Very honest and interesting insight into life as a working comedian. (I still wish it was organised more like a blog -- something you could keep reading down, rather than having to figure out where the previous entries are.) We talked about making some cool art together.

Re: Emperor Norton In reviewing some old bookmarks, I came across this article (http://www.guardian.co.uk/Archive/Article/0,4273,4110736,00.html) on Emperor Norton. Upon cross-referencing to my Endless Nights calendar, I noted that his date of death -- January 8th -- is consistent between the two, but the calendar lists the year as 1800 rather than the article's 1880. Given his reported date of birth of 2/13/1819, my money's on the article's accuracy.Under the circumstances, some sort of 125th anniversary memorial seems in order...--Bill, of the dangerously crazed FG crew

I think it's very unlikely that he died nineteen years before he was born. Sounds like a proofreader missed that an 8 had become a 0. I agree that some kind of Emperor Norton memorial is in order. For myself, I shall either declare myself Emperor of America, issue my own money, or (more likely) have a long and interesting Emperor Norton Memorial Mug of Tea. I hope that there are people out there who can come up with better ideas than that.

Neil, As Nov. 30 quickly approaches and National Novel Writing Month comes to a close I realize that a good chunk of my 50,000 words is utter crap. So I was wondering if you could comment a bit on your rewriting process. Do you just start from the beginning of the book and go through it page by page? Or do you skip around fixing things at random? Any tips of advice you can give would be great. Especially since I wrote this without any type of outline or without much thought before starting. So, I'm not talking about a little tweak here or there, but major overhauls to large sections. Like I said any kind of advice you can offer, things that make it seem less painful, would be great.Thanks,Steve Stanis

What I try and do is:

1) Finish it.

2) Put it away. Drawers are good. Don't look at it for a week or so.

3) Read the whole thing, doing my best to pretend that I've never read it before.

4) Fix the big things. (These tend to be things that pop out at you when you read it, like noticing that you've led up to the prison escape, and then meeting the prisoners after they've escaped, and realising that it might really have been a good idea to write the escape. Or that the first chapter would really work better as chapter 5.)

5) Read it through page by page and fix the line by line things. Notice that Omar mysteriously becomes Mustapha on page 50 and stays Mustapha until page 90 when he becomes Mustafa. Pick one and make it consistent. Wonder whether anyone will notice that you've put Paris in Belgium. Decide to leave it there, on the basis that no-one will notice.

6) Get up in the middle of the night and move Paris back to France.

Does that help?

(Now playing as I finish playing this: "Psycho" by Jack Kittel.)

Sunday, November 28, 2004

News from the Dead Room

The last two days were as much fun as I've had in ages, and reminded me once again why radio plays are, if not my favourite medium, at least one of my favourite media. It's like film-making without the waiting about, and with its own special magic.

I spent the weekend, with seven actors, a Punch and Judy professor, three studio staff, a director and his assistant, in the BBC studio in Maida Vale, turning the radio play version of Mr Punch I've written into something the BBC will be broadcasting (on Radio 3 on, I am told, March the 3rd 2005 . I've just looked at the way things work on "The Wire" website at http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio3/thewire/ and it looks, because "The Wire" is monthly, like the show will remain up for download for an entire month. An amazing cast, a terrific director and technical people, and a dozen puppets.

I am now exhausted but very, very happy; and my only regret is that producer Lu Kemp couldn't be there.

It's unfair to single out individual performers, but I'm going to do it anyway: Richard Dillane played the narrator, and he did an astonishing job of finding the melody of the sentences. I hope he'll read more of what I've written; Sandy Morton was an amazing Professor Swatchell; and Jonathan Bee, who plays the narrator as a boy, will probably be a huge star when he grows up.

Geoff Felix, the puppeteer who did the voice of Mr Punch, and all the Punch and Judy show material for the Mr Punch radio play (and who did it because he liked and respected the Mr Punch graphic novel, which made me happy) mentioned to me that he will be doing his Punch and Judy show at the Museum of London (http://www.museumoflondon.org.uk/) on the 28th (noon and 3.00pm) and 29th of December 2004 (2:30pm and 4:00pm), and I pass this information on because there are few enough top notch traditional Punch and Judy shows about and Geoff is really good, and because, while I won't be there, I wish I was: it's a joy to see a traditional show done when it's done well, and to realise you're laughing at the same jokes and routines that made 'em laugh in the streets of London almost 200 years ago. (This is Geoff's website.)

I'm now exhausted, so you're not getting much of a blog entry really.

Re: Under ByenHmmm, the link you posted in your blog to Danish band Under Byen doesn't sem to work anymore. You could link to this comprehensive English language fan site instead: http://www.larsdideriksen.com/underbyen/... which has lyrics, articles etc, PLUS a link to this Belgian site which (legally) streams the entire second album: http://www.cuttingedge.be/downloads/underbyen_determig.html
I saw them live here in Odense (Denmark) a few days ago, and I was VERY impressed even though I'm usually a bit suspicious of Bj�rk/Stina Nordenstam/Talk Talk soundalikes. It seems fairly likely that they'll do a 'Sigur R�s' and quietly go global in an underground kind of way.And yes, the first time I heard the name Under Byen ("Below the City") it DID make me think of Neverwhere.Michael, Odense, Denmark.

Thanks, Michael.

Kitty, who is a wonderful artist (and was selling comics panels framed in copper at Fiddler's Green), and who also feeds bands and musicians on tour across the world, sent me a note about her next exhibition:

"swimming pools and movie stars..."please come to Kitty's first LA show. color photographs encased in handcut, recycled glasseach "glass candy bar" is a little postcard from the road.images collected on various tours in and out of the country. Thursday Dec. 9th, 2004 @7:30 pmWorkhorse Studios 4210 Santa Monica Blvd.in theSilverLake area.

Which I post for people in the LA area who either a) need cool Xmas presents or b) were at Fiddler's Green and just want to say hi to Kitty again.

Scott McCloud wrote to suggest I mention that the Minneapolis College of Art and Design is looking for an "Assistant Professor in our BFA Comic Art program. " If you've ever wanted to teach comics full-time, now may be your opportunity. Details are up at http://www.mcad.edu/about/employment.htm#comicart.

Hi Neil, For folks in Australia, the Continuum website has been updated with lots of information. Robin Hobb has joined the cast of players, alongside yourself, Poppy Z. Brite, and Richard Harland. After the event, everyone's invited to my birthday party (it will rival Bilbo Baggins' one-hundred-and-eleventieth). http://www.continuum.org.au/Cheers,Rick

I've started talking to may Australian publishers about doing a handful of signings while I'm in Australia.

Incidentally, I'm still trying to figure out how Vitamin Q can do a list of Victorian street catchphrases from Mackay's Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds (one of the world's best books) and leave out Terry Pratchett's favourite, "Twopence more and up goes the donkey"?

Saturday, November 27, 2004

probably not a gold watch

This morning I went down to Comics Showcase, where I was presented with my Eagle Award. The Eagle Awards date back to 1976, and are the UK's foremost comics award, as well as being the oldest award in English-speaking comics. (They've dropped out from time to time, so it's nice to see them back.) This year I was put on the the Eagle Award "Roll of Honour", which is close enough to a Lifetime Achievement Award to send me into a state of panic. Mike Conroy, the Eagle Awards organiser, did his best to reassure me that this wasn't the comics equivalent of a gold watch and a farewell pat on the back. (The last time I got an Eagle Award it was a certificate: it's now a bloody great eagle, and is magnificently heavy into the bargain.)

This afternoon I saw Julian Crouch (from the Improbable Theatre Company) and we paid a visit to Dave McKean who played us several bits of the so-nearly-finished-you-can-taste-it Mirrormask. The main difference between this version and the last one I saw is that the sound is now finished -- all the foley work and post-production dubbing, and I couldn't believe how much difference it made. It sounded like a real movie. Dave's just doing some final colour grading and then it's done. After that I went to see Julian and Nick Powell in the Animo Project at the Little Angel Theatre -- astonishing improvisational puppet, mask and everything else work. Some nights, they told me, it doesn't work. This was one of the nights it did. (Tomorrow -- Saturday -- is the last couple of performances. Catch it if you can.)

Julian is designing and co-directing the theatrical Wolves in the Walls children's pandemonium, and Nick is making the music for it. (I'm writing the words.)

Neil,

Somebody wrote asking you for advice on what to look for in a good MFA program. I think the simplest answer to them is: figure out what you're looking for and then find a school that has it.

There are lots of MFA schools, and I'm sure there's some directory out there, and there are school ads in Poets & Writers magazines, with website addresses where you can check them out and request info and application packets.

The most important thing is to know what you want to get out of your couple of years and thousands of dollars. What will your concentration be (poetry, fiction, writing for children, etc.) do you want structured writing classes, or looser workshop classes. It's also important, I think to get an idea of the faculty, and possibly even to read some of what they've written. This was a big factor when I chose my school. I wanted to be taught by writers I had heard of, and by writers who I thought were good, and who I thought I'd have something to learn from.

In the end the name of the school you've gone to, or really that you've gotten your MFA at all doesn't matter. I have an MFA in Creative Writing, and there's no job that I can get with just those letters. In the two years I spent in my MFA program I enjoyed books I wouldn't have read otherwise, I met wonderful people I wouldn't have met otherwise, and I wrote more, and more often than I would have written otherwise. It was wonderful, hard, exciting and frustrating. However, now there are loans to pay back, no immediate and high paying job, and I still have a ways to go before I'm published. I don't regret going to grad school, but I'd advise caution. Know what you want. Know what you're getting into.

Hope that helps.

:-) Carol


So do I.

This is a question about the buttons on the left hand side of your website. All of them except FAQ have their individual letters reversed until I wave my mouse over them. For FAQ this happens in reverse, so it's quite easy to read until I wave my mouse over it. Why is this? Am I missing something of deep and meaningful significance which would, if I knew about it, cause me to be a good and happy person for the rest of my life? Rosie

Dear Rosie,

Yes.

Yours apologetically,

Neil

Dear Neil,what would it sound like, if Michael Nyman met Bjork? Strange? Ever heard of "Under Byen"? Danish Band. Name means "Below the City", or so. Neverwhere? I just found them by pure coincidence. Lovely video, strange music: http://www.underbyen.dk/video/video_plantage.html Have a nice time, Jamilah

It's really lovely, yes. Reminds me more of the wonderful Stina Nordenstam than Bjork (and also of the lady whose name I have shamefully forgotten who sings "Close to You" and "If I Apologise..." on Mirrormask) -- that strangely affectless Scandinavian way of singing, like small girls singing nursery rhymes about dead people straight into the middle of your head.

Hey Neil, I'm usually really wary of people turning books I love into films, but I found the news that the animated version of 'Howl's Moving Castle' by the wonderful Diana Wynne Jones broke Japanese box office records and took 14 million dollars really exciting! It's just so strange to think that an author I love, who's books were going out of print as I read them (they started to get re-issued a couple of years back, thank gods) is now responsible for this monster hit.

I was really excited by MirrorMask from the start though, because it's a new thing a won't have the option of ruining something I love, but am now doubly excited - I didn't know Stephanie Leonardis was taking the lead! She is an excellent young actress (she starred in a British series called 'Night and Day' which was utterly bizarre and wonderful -when ITV realised they'd accidentally made something really strange and interesting they cancelled it).I'm hoping that the success of 'Howl' in Japan will help it get a British release (which was looking doubtful before) - hopefully Mirrormask will do the same at Sundance - the trailer looks amazing. Best wishes, Luke.

I'm glad you reminded me: http://asia.news.yahoo.com/041122/kyodo/d86gv6mo0.html is the news about Howl's Moving Castle. It makes me very happy indeed. And yes, Stephanie Leonidas is the lead, Helena, in Mirrormask, and is marvellous.

I'm thrilled for Diana, who's an old friend (I've known her for almost 20 years) and would love to see more films of her books. Dogsbody would make an amazing animated film. The Time of the Ghost could be heartbreaking and intriguing.

I'm still hoping that David Goyer will find someone who will bankroll his version of my story Murder Mysteries. He wrote it for Miramax, and everyone loved it except for Bob Weinstein, who didn't like it one little bit. It's an astonishingly fine script -- as tricky as the original short story and then some. (David talks about it at http://www.scifi.com/scifiwire/art-main.html?2004-11/09/13.30.film.)

Mister Punch rehearsal and recording in a few hours, so I had better stop writing and go to bed now. (And yes, I'll put up on the blog as soon as I know when it's going to be broadcast.)


Thursday, November 25, 2004

Even more oddments

Let's see...

I just learned that I've lost my director, Lu Kemp, for this weekend, due to a death in her family. Mr Punch will be directed by Patrick Rayner instead. Which is very very strange -- Lu and I have been working on Mr Punch for almost exactly a year, now, and I wrote (and rewrote) the play very much for her, and with her as sounding board and almost a collaborator. I'll miss her and am sorry we won't be working together on it. She has all my love and sympathies, and is the second of my friends to have lost a family member this week. (I thank that's enough deaths for now, please.)

...

My brand spanking new photo iPod loses everything, all photos, playlists and songs, whenever it's attached to, and then stopped and unattached from, a computer (any computer). A soft reboot later and they're all back, but still, I want something that works as it's meant to. No suggestions from Apple apart from "reinstall the software", which being done changed nothing. If anyone out there has any ideas, please let me know. Otherwise I suppose I'll swap it for one that works properly when I get the chance.

...

Artist (and friend) Michael Zulli has a website, with a gallery and a blog and all sorts. You will need to click on the blue flowers. It's a lovely site, and I'm sure will grow into a lovelier one. http://michaelzulli.com is the place to start exploring. It is of course the way of the world that the one painting I immediately loved -- the one he calls Simple Abundance -- isn't for sale. But lots of paintings and drawings are. Michael's moving across the country very soon, so go and buy paintings and prints from him so he has less to carry.

...

Fiddler's Green Queen and Death Boot Girl Davey Snyder answers the question -- sort of -- about the Fiddler's Green cool souvenir books:

The leftovers (which might still be a couple of hundred, after we've mailed out the copies to the folks who bought memberships but didn't get to the con, and all the contributors) will be shipped to the CBLDF, to offer as they think best. It's a non-cash part of the convention's donation to the Fund. --Davey

If you want one (and you probably do) I'd suggest writing to Charles Brownstein at the CBLDF and making an offer. Or waiting until the CBLDF are at a convention near you, or doing an eBay auction.
...

And Neal Pollack, possibly the Greatest Living American, does his 5 books of the year, and says lovely things about 1602. Which is a good excuse for me to link to his article about novelists and elections and things which I meant to do last week, and then forgot about.

What You Did

As readers of this blog will remember, Dave Sim offered to send an autographed issue of the Sandman parody-period Cerebus to anyone who wrote him a letter and asked. I don't think Dave had the slightest inkling that this would mean sending out (so far) over 1700 issues of Cerebus to over 1700 happy people, while I for my part didn't realise that it would also mean that I would have fun defacing a Dave Sim Warholian "Lithograph" of me for the next 50 years (or that the first one we did would sell in a CBLDF eBay auction for over $1000). The second will be raffled, if possible, at San Diego Comicon 2005. Tickets on sale at the CBLDF booth in about seven months' time. Gerhard, Dave's collaborator, just sent me a photo of Dave Sim, Cerebus, and over 1700 letters. And here it is. (You can still write to him, and he'll still send you a signed comic. But do not expect a funny form letter of the day. Unless it's another one of the funny form letters of the day telling you he's no longer doing the funny form letter of the day.)

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

art as a stew

I had one of the pleasantest yesterdays I've had in a long time, as an unexpected houseguest of my friends Matthew and Claudia, deep in the Suffolk countryside. As Matthew showed me round their new five hundred year old country estate, I couldn't figure out if I was in a P.G. Wodehouse country house novel, or an Agatha Christie country house novel. And then I started wondering why P.G. Wodehouse never wrote any murder mysteries. Things like that can keep me happy for weeks. Spent much of today talking about Stardust. It looks like interesting things are happening...

I just re-read "Goldfish Pool and Other Stories." In the end, all three fish are mentioned as being completely white. Did Princess loose the "lip prints" when the groundskeeper died? If so... that's brilliant and I can't believe I never noticed that before.

Yes. (It's one of those things that people would have noticed in a comic, I've always thought...)

Hi Neil,You just mentioned that "I've just learned chocolate is a more effective cough suppressant than codeine." Was this your own research, or did you read an article on the matter. Science demands to know! And I've already wasted entirely too much of the morning trying to search medline for the subject.

Here's a link from the Telegraph, here's one from the Guardian.

Hi Neil,Here's an interesting article on plagiarism in the New Yorker: http://www.newyorker.com/fact/content/?041122fa_fact No reason for this really, I just thought others might like to read it. Anyone who is a writer or interested in writing should read it. It's ugly territory, plagiarism and accusations thereof, and I'd hate to see someone stumble into it without a map.

I'm listening to U2's new album right now (I love it) and it reminds me of a story Bono once told me ... did you really push him overboard when sailing with him and The Edge? Or maybe he just fell off; I'm assuming your yacht has a well-stocked mini-bar.Cheers, Rick

Actually, the yacht was film producer Paul Berrow's. And most of what I remember was wandering down some French lanes talking with Bono about how and why you should reinvent yourself from time to time as an artist. Very nice guy, very bright.

Thanks for the link to the Gladwell article. I think that's basically what I was trying to talk about yesterday. It reminds me of the metaphor (which I think I may have borrowed from Terry Pratchett anyway) I used back when a couple of journalists claimed that Harry Potter was just Tim Hunter under another name: art (and you can pick what you want for any value of art here, be it music or fantasy fiction or whatever) is like a big bubbling bowl of stew. When you're starting out, you ladle out some of the stew. As you go on, and you make more art, you start putting things back into the stew, for the next round of people to ladle out. Art (except, perhaps for some outsider art, and I'm not really convinced about that) is a dialogue (or, perhaps, a conversation) not something that happens in a vacuum.

[Edited to add: you can go and read the metaphor and comments at http://www.holycow.com/dreaming/archives/arc2-1998.html, entry for March 19, 1998]

Hello: I'm glad Dave McKean is nearly finished with MirrorMask. When do you think he'll release the extended trailer? Also, do you know what cities MirrorMask will play in during its limited theatrical release? Thanks. Raissa Devereux Tempe, Arizona USA

When he's done with the film, he'll do the trailer. Some time very soon, I think. And since Mirrormask was accepted at Sundance the powers that be at Sony are taking it a lot more seriously, which means that a) we don't know yet which arm of Sony will be releasing it, and b) it may get wider release than we had originally expected, depending on how it's received at Sundance. Fingers crossed.

Hello Neil, Do you know if there were any of the souvenier programs from Fiddlers Green left afterwards. There was something said about selling the left over ones and I would like to get one. Could Davey Snider get Dreamhaven to sell them for you and make some more money for CBLDF? Dave G.

I don't know. But I'll find out. The souvenir books are an astonishingly well-assembled reference on Sandman as well as being just souvenir books, by the way.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Oddments

Somewhere in the putting-up of Dave Sim's "Something Good For the CBLDF" essay at the Dreaming, one part was left out: it's now up at http://www.holycow.com/dreaming/phase2/part_02b.html
and it's all about Dave Sim being interviewed by me in the Savoy in 1986. Reading it (for me) was very odd -- I'd never thought of it in those terms, but of course, he's completely right. When, as a journalist, I interviewed people back then -- particularly writers -- it was because I wanted to figure out How You Did It, and How It All Worked. Only it had never consciously occurred to me that was what I was doing, until, 18 years later, I get to read Dave's account of the interview...

I�ve gotten into trouble with journalists who have asked me about being interviewed by Neil because I always tell them, �It was pretty clear that he wasn�t going to be a journalist, because the questions he asked were too good.� I actually don�t mean any offense against journalism in saying that�journalism is what it is�what I�m trying to indicate is that, from the questions Neil was asking, he was as much (if not more!) trying to figure out if writing comic books was something he would want to do for a living (maybe I�m not a starving journalist at all, maybe I�m a starving comic-book writer) as he was trying to figure out why I was writing them so that he could explain my reasoning to the readers of his magazine piece.

And I just realised that I forgot, in my list of people who came from a long way away to Fiddler's Green, to mention Mikka from Israel and Pat from Bristol. So I shall. And Pat sent a link to her pictures of Fiddler's Green as well: http://www.gothpat.me.uk/album/fiddlersgreen/

And this came in from Holly:

Dad-- look at the new hunger site thingy! You should post it in your blog. http://www.theliteracysite.com

And I looked and she's right. I've posted it, and so should you. It's a site which gives children who can't afford them free books. You click, a kid gets a book. Nice and easy. Do it daily and make the world a better, or at least a more literate sort of a place.

...

Last month this arrived, from Matt, who likes Gilbert and Sullivan and molecular biology, but not necessarily in that order:

Dear Neil, What are your feelings about dressing up as a goat in order to follow someone surreptitiously?Yours a fan Matt

it was followed some days later by

Dear Neil, If I were to actually dress up as a goat and maybe follow you around, or perhaps hang around at the back of your next reading pretending to chew thistle, do you think you'd notice?Yours a fan Matt

not to mention

Dear Neil,So anyway, if someone turned up at a signing dressed as a goat, then do you think you'd be fooled into thinking it was a real goat and try to chivvy it away? Or would you realise it was a fan in a goat costume, and react accordingly? It's a bit of an unfair question, as I haven't specified whether it's a GOOD goat costume or not, but I'd still like your opinion.Yours a fan Matt

and even

Dear Neil, Do you know where I could get a good 'goat costume' from? Yours a fan Matt

today's missive made me blink in horror (well, after I clicked on the link, anyway):

Dear Neil, Here, what do you think of these? http://www.marylen.com/farm2.htm
Yours a fan Matt

What do I think? I suspect an accurate-in-all-particulars Cthulhu costume would be less disturbing than M-53 Rally Ram...

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Back again, more or less...

I never ever do dinner party things. I'm useless at them. But there I am, in Islington, at a family function, sitting next to someone I don't know at a dinner, trying to make conversation. "So," I say, to the lady on my left, "What do you do?" This is, I learn, the wrong question. She explains that she's terrified of saying the wrong thing to me. Apparently it happens a lot at dinner parties. She's quite sure, you see, that she could say something and I could take it the wrong way. I tell her I don't do that very much. Well, she essays, a bit nervously, that she does things like work on helplines for battered wives (which seems to me something that no-one could possibly take offense at, but she figures that, being male as I am, I might find this deeply dodgy or something) and suchlike useful things. I fail to get upset, so, encouraged and emboldened and pleased to be over the contentious bit of the conversation, she tells me that she writes. She's not yet published, but she writes. Then she decides to guess what I do. She guesses, wrongly, for a while. Eventually she gives up on guessing and I tell her I'm, er a writer actually. She doesn't believe me, and the man sitting opposite says that I certainly am, he's seen my name in airport bookshops. She realises that she has told a writer that she wants to be a writer, and is unable to take it back, and goes off to tell my cousin (who is hosting the event) that she really should have warned her. The conversation, such as it is, never quite recovers, and I remember why it is that I never, ever do dinner partyish things.

...

I put Holly on a plane back to the US yesterday. And while the family in the US is doing thanksgiving I'll be doing things like the Mirrormask DVD commentary, and the BBC radio recording of Mr Punch (I'm English and do not Quite Get Thanksgiving, so am not heartbroken by this, although I miss everyone).

It's weird being away from home, and doing all those things I don't normally do, like reading the papers in paper form, as opposed to on the screen (Chocolate, I learned this morning, is a more effective cough suppressant than codeine). And I'm currently fighting with Final Draft (I've abandoned Final Draft 7 after it ate rather a lot of work, and have gone back to Final Draft 6), doing the third draft of the Death: The High Cost of Living Movie, which is currently called Death and Me, mostly because it's Sexton's film as much as it is Didi's, and I wanted a title that reflected that.

Dave McKean has almost, almost, almost finished Mirrormask. I spoke to him yesterday, and he thought the final tweaks would be made today -- something to do with playing with the colour in a handful of scenes. And this weekend I get to be there for the recording of the BBC Mister Punch radio play.

Anyway, I can get online for the first time in a few days... Lots of e-mail to catch up on. Lots of everything to catch up on.

I'm very behind on the FAQ line questions and info... let's see:

no doubt you've already been sent the article from New Scientist (or seen it yourself; you've mentioned you read their site) about how people who think of superman when asked about superheroes are less willing to volunteer their time than people who think of other superheroes, but, in case you missed it, it's at http://www.newscientist.com/news/news.jsp?id=ns99996679 (My personal theory is that they are less willing to help than other people because their lives are not enriched by enough comics to make them well-rounded people, not because they are comparing themselves to superman and deciding not to help people because they don't measure up). David

Good old New Scientist...

Neil, I need your help.Remember when you posted a link to that article about urban mythology and religion, and how it unconciously related to Neverwhere? The population of homeless children had a common mythology about 'The Blue Lady', or something like that? I was hoping to use it in an essay on Magic Realism. If by some small chance, you could point me toward the article/link, that would be amazingly helpful. Otherwise, I'll just dig through the archive section. Thanks!~A.G.

Easily done. It's an odd article, because it goes through seasons when its rediscovered, and then people send it to me again... (The last wave of them was almost exactly a year ago.) The article, on the beliefs of the Miami street kids, is at: http://www.miaminewtimes.com/issues/1997-06-05/feature.html. Enjoy.

Hello, Mr. Gaiman. I'm wondering what the proper etiquette is when it comes to work inspired by anothers. For instance, I'm a college Film major, and recently had an idea for a screenplay, but the idea stems from something you discuss in the commentary to one of your short stories in Smoke and Mirrors. Is that something that as a writer is okay to run with on your own if it goes off in a divergent direction from the other story, or is that where right issues and the like come into play? Thank you for your time, James.

No, that's just Where Ideas Come From and Being Part of the Cultural Dialogue. I just read Terry Pratchett's lovely novel Going Postal, and realised while reading it that, at least in part, it's a Will Hay comedy. (This means almost nothing if you aren't British.) Of course when our hero arrives at the abandoned post-office, waiting for him will be an old man and a gormless boy. That's how that story works. It doesn't mean that Terry's stealing from anything, it means he's part of the cultural dialogue. And so are you.

Dear Mr. Neil Gaiman: I wrote you once before (about what I cannot remember) and you are possibly the only author I've ever seen to actually take such a personal level with his/her readers. Thank you for that--now, to my M.O.: I am writing about a short story I plan on writing for my AP English course, and I know I want to expand upon that idea if it fleshes out the way I hope it will--however, it is (most grotesquely) a metafiction loosely based on AMERICAN GODS. I suppose I am asking for your blessing, and wanting to know if I get it published in my school's literary arts magazine--is this plagiarism? Would it upset you to know a girl somewhere in the Midwest is taking characters you slaved over and gleefully bending them to her will? (I would, of course, give you credit for the original work.)

Considering your possible response to the previous question, I also wanted to know, in general, how do you feel about metafiction and its lesser appreciated (and usually for good reason--usually) cousin, fanfiction? Giggling teenaged writers aside, do you believe books like GRENDEL and ROSENCRANTZ AND GUILDERSTERN ARE DEAD, ect. are as valid as totally new ideas? Or is it more intellectual to delve into the facets of existing work to find something new-ish? Do you think it fair for Anne Rice to become upset by her fans continuing the stories of Louis and Lestat where she left off in their own, amateur fictions? And how would you feel if you stumbled across a hypertext morass of misplaced modifiers and conjecture, detailing parts of characterization you did not state in your works? (I'll have you know there are currently 220 fanfictions on "fanfiction.net" devoted to the SANDMAN series alone--Watterson's Calvin and Hobbes only beats you by two works.)I wanted your opinion as you are the inspiration for my work-in-mind (tenetively taken from Sam or Jaquel's point of view--not directly detailing Shadow's journey, but occuring within and around it, I suppose). Thank you for your time. Well, here goes nothing--I'm hitting SEND now.

No, I don't mind. Have fun with it.

The last time I was foolish enough to say anything at all about fanfiction, a paragraph, taken out of context, was widely quoted on websites, and I got several hundred e-mails taking me to task for not understanding, appreciating or acknowledging that writing fanfiction was the highest and noblest aspiration of mankind. (I think I told someone who asked if writing fanfiction would be good for "honing writing skills" that of course it was, but if that was what he was writing for, he'd have to start writing his own stuff eventually. This was, I was told at length and by many many people, a terrible thing to say.)

So... yes, I think that playing with other people's ideas and work is a perfectly valid way to make art. I also think it's much wiser and safer to do it with ideas and work that are comfortably in the public domain if you want your work to be seen professionally.

Beyond that, go and read http://www.neilgaiman.com/journal/2003/02/long-occasionally-frustrating.asp and http://www.neilgaiman.com/journal/2003/02/you-know-i-should-know-better-than-to.asp and then read http://www.neilgaiman.com/journal_archives/2002_04_01_archive.asp#75170854 Which taken together are pretty much all I have to say on the subject, and include a paragraph of Gollum/Smeagol slash.

I'm doing a Masters degree,with one module being on Children's Literature. I've been able to turn it into looking primarily at fiction, with a particular focus why adults are so addicted to children's fantasy. Having read a lot of your work, you still retain that power to create pictures without reams of description. Are there any particular considerations you use when writing for children? I realise that the actual content is less sexual and less overtly violent, but do you bring in any other considerations as well?If you get time to reply, many thanks in advance. Jo Wynn-Jones

I was trying to think what considerations I use when writing for children, and mostly it's just "Do I like this? would I have liked this when I was ten? Do I think it's cool? Would I have thought it was cool when I was eight?" And then you're writing, and after that it's just a matter of putting the words down in a way that makes the story come alive for someone else. I tend to avoid sex in children's literature, because it makes kids feel uncomfortable (or it did me) in the same way that a kid feels uncomfortable seeing an adult drunk throwing up across the road: it's part of something you aren't part of and don't particularly want to be part of. Having said that, there's going to be a lot more sex and violence (and horror) in my next children's novel, The Graveyard Book, than there is in Anansi Boys, which is for adults.

Hi Neil, As a pleasant diversion from actual, uh, homework, I've been translating Coraline into Latin. Has this been done before, or am I embarking on an original endeavour?

As far as I know, you're the first.

I thought you might be interested that, in addition to the younger generation, your work is being studied by degree students. Coraline and the first Sandman have both been included on the English Surrealism syllabus at the University of East Anglia. In previous years, English Surrealism has also found a place for you with American Gods. Speaking as one who has had it up to here with Heidegger and had a gutful of Goethe, I thank you.

How cool.

Hi Neil,I recently broke up with my boyfriend of three years. Among the many legit reasons for doing so, I realized that I'd pretty much convinced myself being with him cramped my creativity. Where before this relationship I wrote constantly, while in it I barely found the time, and when I did it was hard won with ridiculously hurt feelings coming at me like daggers thrown by a blind man("You hate me." "No, I just need some time to myself." "Why do you hate me?").

This is my first relationship, and I'm trying to sort out the bullshit from the truth, so my question is this: in your estimation, can people in a writer's life truly affect their ability to write? Or did I lose the knack I once thought I had by rights and am lumping it into this relationshipwreck because it's easier that facing the truth? I know you're no therapist, but I'd appreciate your insight, if you have any.

I think that people telling you that you can't do something, or are no good, or whatever, can certainly affect your writing ability, if only because it makes you want to do it less. It's like telling someone they can't sing: after a while they don't sing, or not around you.

And no, you haven't lost the knack. I highly recommend going "Right -- you said I was wasting my time. I'll show you," as something to tell yourself when you sit down and start writing. And then go on to demonstrate to anyone who thought you were wasiting your time how wrong they were.

Neil -I know that you have mentioned bookcrossing on your blog before, so, in the hopes that there are perhaps people in the Idaho area who might have information, please let your readers know that one of the main programmers for the bookcrossing.com site is missing, and any help would be greatly appreciated www.bonnercountydailybee.com/articles/2004/11/17/news/news02.txt Namaste,Kristin

Of course.

Do you have any advice on what to look for in a good MFA program?

None whatsoever. Sorry.

Dear Mr. Gaiman, I've just made it back home in one piece and should be crashing, but I had to write. It's been said before, but it won't hurt to say it again: what a great job the con organizers did at Fiddler's Green, how grateful we all were for the time the guests spent with us fans and what a brilliant auctioneer you proved yourself to be. I've been to my share of fundraisers, but I really can't recall one where people parted with their money so happily and with such enthusiasm! And all done for a worthy cause.
I'm sure your e-mail count is scary, so I'll try and be brief. I was taking pictures through the weekend and many people asked for my e-mail or for a way of accessing them. I'd be grateful if you could post the link to the pictures on your blog. I apologize in advance for all the red eyes, odd angles and other mishaps. They are entirely my fault. I really don't think any photograph would do justice to all the costumes and the people attending, but the line up of Deaths and Deliria gives an idea.You were right - it *was* the best Fiddler's Green ever. Thank you for everything, Georgia
Link: http://photobucket.com/albums/v520/GCA/

You're very welcome. Georgia flew to Fiddler's Green from Brazil (which meant that she was up there with the couple from Spain and was beaten by the young lady from Singapore in the who-came-furthest stakes).

I am doing a book report on you, so could you please give me info about your life? Thank you!!!!!!!

Sure. I'm 44, and I do not have a beard this week. Beyond that, you could go to The Dreaming website at www.holycow.com/dreaming and search for Gale, which will get you several biographical articles. Good luck!

Thursday, November 18, 2004

the true price of fame

As a postscript to the questions about what it feels like to be taught in high schools and suchlike, I forgot to mention that...

Educational publisher The Rosen Publishing Group has announced plans to publish a series of six biographies of comic creators named "The Library of Graphic Novelists." Each will be 112-page, 6" by 9" trade paperbacks with full color photos, at an MSRP of $23.95. They will carry a common trade dress, including photos of the creators on the covers.

The six volumes will be Art Spiegelman, by Tom Forget; Bryan Talbot, by Lita Sorenson; Colleen Doran, by Aaron Rosenberg; Joe Sacco, by Monica Marshall; Neil Gaiman, by Steven P. Olson; and Will Eisner, by Robert Greenberger.


So I'll be in the Rosen catalogue, in between Neil Armstrong: The First Man on the Moon and Nero: Destroyer of Rome, and schoolchildren across America will stare with huge, impressionable eyes at the pictures of me and the panels from the comics reproduced in the book and then, I have no doubt, will pick up their pens, inspired, and will carefully draw a moustache and/or breasts on each and every picture.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Politics, Portugal and no gumbo-limbo trees

A couple of us who attended Fiddler's Green decided to start a community on livejournal.com for those who were there (or wish they'd been there) and wanted to keep in touch. So we were hoping you could mention this in your journal so maybe some other people would come and join us. http://www.livejournal.com/userinfo.bml?user=fgcon-- coraline@livejournal.com, one of the maintainers, otherwise known as webmistress@preserveusfromthehouseofclocks.com

Consider it mentioned, Johanna. And for that matter:

Hello Mr. Gaiman I was wondering if you could post a little " Thank You " for me, to some very nice people from the Fiddler's Green Con. I don't know how else to contact these guys. I would like to thank people like Dan, Georgia, Rocky, Walker (just to mention a few - and I hope that I didn't misspell anyone). I "suffer" from the worth case of shyness this planet has ever seen, but so many people were extremely nice to me. Even though they might not remember me, for our conversations (thanks to my shyness) were fairly brief, I will remember their kindness for a very long time. Also a big THANK YOU to all of the people that made Fiddler's Green happening and of course to you and the other Guests of Honor. I think that all of us had a great time. Thanks Natascha

I don't think you were the only shy person there, Natascha.

It's strange -- it doesn't seem that long ago that I was walking from the San Diego convention centre to the hotel, at the San Diego Comic-con, in company with 'Walker, Michelle, and Pamela Basham (who couldn't make it to the convention, due to impending parenthood), and they were telling me about a convention they wanted to do, with all profits to the CBLDF. And I threw in an idea that Brian Hibbs had once suggested to me, and watched them run with it.

Dear Mr. Gaiman,I have been reading your blog for awhile now, and was just wondering is this blog/ writing outlet going or saying what you want it too? It seems that due to your schedule, popularity and so forth, you tend to have to spend a good deal of time telling people where you will be and plugging your new work and others you respect. Does that kind of exposition take away from your original thoughts of what this blog was to be or represent for you? Do you find it is more or less personal? Sincerely, A curious reader P.S. keep the ink flowing Thank you

I think this blog tends to be sort of seasonal. There are seasons where I just seem to be answering questions, and seasons when I seem mainly to post bizarre links, and seasons when it's essays on writing, or on home life, or whatever. It's accumulated about a million words of burble over nearly four years. When I started the blog, in February of 2001, I just wanted to tell people what it was like to follow a book from completion to publication. I continued writing it because there were about 20,000 people a month reading it, and I really appreciated the instantaneous and unmediated access to the world, whether I wanted to talk about freedom of speech or link to a woman auctioning a holy toasted cheese sandwich, or mention a signing or an event. (Although now there are a lot more than 20,000 people a month reading it...)

I was gobsmacked to realise -- actually to be shown at Fiddler's Green -- how many of the people who were there came from the community that's grown up around the boards at http://www.neilgaimanboard.com/6/ubb.x, or from the livejournal feed at http://www.livejournal.com/users/officialgaiman/ not to mention the original usenet core group from the depths of altfanthingie. (My assumption is that without the blog, and the internet, Fiddler's Green wouldn't have been a fraction as successful.)

Which reminds me: in Amadora, in lovely Portugal, they are having a career retrospective for me, which I wish I could have been at (as soon as I master the whole bilocation bit, I'll start turning up at a lot more places). To quote from their press release...

NEIL GAIMAN�S RETROSPECTIVE IN AMADORA

British comics writer Neil Gaiman is the subject of a career spanning retrospective opening on October 23 at the Amadora Comics Center (CNBDI) in Portugal. Original comic art, pages, drawings and scripts from the most representative titles Mr. Gaiman has worked on will be on display.

Neil Gaiman is one of the most influential comic book writers in the English language and has produced an impressive and diverse body of work. Artwork and scripts from Sandman, Sloth, Troll Bridge, The Last Temptation, Miracleman, Mr. Punch, Death, Pavane and Stardust will be a part of the retrospective...

The Neil Gaiman Retrospective will be at the CNBDI's gallery through December.

A full colour catalog, with texts in Portuguese and English by Mr. Gaiman himself, and curators Jo�o Miguel Lameiras and Pedro Mota, will be available.


If you're in Portugal between now and the end of December, they have some wonderful artwork up. I sent them Dave McKean's cover to Sandman #9, among other things.

Neil, Sure sounds like you found a bunch of great stuff waiting for you when you back back from the Green, but one item in particular caught my eye, so I just have to ask: how does it feel to have bits of your work being taught in high school classes? Is it as weird a feeling as I imagine it is? dave golbitz http://1031productions.blogspot.com

I'm not sure. It's definitely a bit odd. It was odder when I realised that the children's books, like Coraline, had made it onto junior school curricula, and I started getting letters from whole classes of kids, with drawings.

Over at The Mumpsimus, Matthew Cheney talks about the experience of teaching American Gods to a high school class: http://mumpsimus.blogspot.com/2004/11/american-gods-in-high-school-classroom.html and his conclusions are completely fascinating. I do hate knowing that American Gods may be for someone else what Thomas Hardy was for me. (I'm sure I would have enjoyed and appreciated Hardy if I'd found him in my own way and in my own time, but an enforced High School encounter with Thomas Hardy rather ruined him for me forever.) On the other hand, someone who would never have known that she or he would have enjoyed something like American Gods might be introduced to it for the first time...

Excerpted from the lithograph description on Ebay: "... by way of illustrating in as pointed a fashion as possible that even though Dave Sim and Neil Gaiman are at diametric opposite poles on the political spectrum..."

Neil, I think that this is the first ever instance of anything that I have seen implying that you have a strong political stance. Now, if I could only figure out what end of the political spectrum Dave Sim resides at, I could have some insight into your political views. You seem to hold your cards close to your chest on this sort of topic, so I was suprised to see something like that on EBay. I am not trying to be a blog-troll, as is often the perception when politics comes to the internet, but it was such a shock to me to read that I felt like mentioning it to you. Maybe it was the fact that not only were you suddenly the inheritor of a political view, but a political view capable of being "at diametric opposite poles" with someone elses views. Of course all of this probably falls into the category of "none of your damned business."Yours regardless of politics,Claude V. Smith

I don't think I'm particularly evasive, or even close-chested, about my political views. (Mostly what I am politically is vague and issue-specific.) I remember when I was asked if I was a communist on this blog last year, I explained that I wasn't, and added that:

...Of course, when stood next to the choice of American political parties ('So, would you like Right Wing, or Supersized Right Wing with Extra Fries?") my English fuzzy middle-of-the-roadness probably translates easily as bomb-throwing Trotskyist, but when I get to chat to proper lefties like Ken MacLeod or China Mieville I feel myself retreating rapidly back into the woffly Guardian-reading why-can't-people-just-be-nice-to-each-otherhood of the politically out of his depth.

(If pressed to pick a political system, I think that some country or other ought to try jury duty as a way of picking its politicians: if your name gets picked, and you can't come up with a good enough excuse, you'll have to give up four or five years of your life to helping run the country, which avoids the main problem of politics as I see it, which is that the kind of people you have to choose between and vote for are the kind of people who actually think that they ought to be running things. If you have a country and want to try this as a political system, let me know how it works out.)

Beyond that, where adults are concerned I get to be a First Amendment absolutist, and a great believer in the off-switch.

Dave Sim's own political views, like his religious views, are uniquely his own, and are explained at great length in the back of Cerebus and elsewhere. I don't think, politically, we have an awful lot in common -- which, as Dave pointed out, correctly, in that eBay listing, is kind of the point. The CBLDF is a big tent. CBLDF members (and directors, for that matter) believe and support lots of different things, but agree that the First Amendment is a) important and b) needs defending and c) applies to anyone who makes or publishes or sells comics.

Hello I was wandering after your last post, what do you do with all that books and stuff you receive, specially those in lenguages you don't understand? Greetings! Rodolfo

Mostly the foreign books go down to the basement, into the appropriate boxes. Beyond that, things go onto shelves, or get eaten, or get read or worn, or are used to open envelopes, or whatever seems appropriate...

Hi Neil, Just a word of thanks. I've spent much of the last 19 years being told that telling stories is just another form of lying, as if it were some persistent habit I need to quit. But tonight I just recieved my first monetary award for a short story I wrote in a community writing contest, and also my very first public reading. So just wanted to send a thanks for keeping a blog that encourages people like me to do what makes us feel good, regardless of outside opinion. Skye

It's my pleasure. Stories may well be lies, but they are good lies that say true things, and which can sometimes pay the rent. Welcome to the storytelling clan.

Neil, I'm hoping that I'm terribly late on this, and oodles of people have laready mentioned it but the Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab have recently started selling a scent in support of the CBLDF... OIS�N
Proceeds go to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. A legendary warrior bard from Irish lore and a renowned member of the Fianna. His saga is detailed in two of the four great Cycles of Celtic legend: the Fenian and Ossianic Cycles. A lyric, wistful blend of summertime Irish blossoms and herbs, glistening with vibrant white musk. http://www.blackphoenixalchemylab.com/single.html
Their scents are truly wonderful: can't recommend them highly enough.

And they have what looks like a Harry Clarke "Faust" illustration up on their site, which impresses me, but I'm easily impressed by Harry Clarke. Anyway, no, you're the first to mention it. A CBLDF scent. Cool. Can anyone who tries the scent let me know if it really does glisten with vibrant white musk?

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

On the table

I got back from Fiddler's Green and found waiting for me on the office table...

DreamHaven's SPEAKING IN TONGUES CD, and the very lovely SHOGGOTH'S OLD PECULIAR chapbook (which I signed a lot of copies of at Fiddler's Green).

The mass-market French edition of AMERICAN GODS (it has a very strange cover, showing a super-heroish Thor flying through the rip in a dollar bill).

The school district of Philadelphia's Core Curriculum resources Volume 2 (Grade 10 English 2), with extracts from American Gods in it.

The Mammoth Book of New Terror, and The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror 15, both edited by Stephen Jones, (which reprint "Closing Time" and "Bitter Grounds" respectively).

Vitamin Q by Roddy Lumsden (it's a great looking book, and the first time anyone's sent me a book of their blog, let alone one that begins by mentioning that Elvis's wedding and the Battle of Culloden were both 8 minutes long).

SimCity: Mappano le citta virtuali edited by Matteo Bittanti, which reprints the essay I did in SimCity 2000 in Italian.

Panel One, comic book scripts by Top Writers, with a script for Miracleman 17 in it, reissued.

Hardback Spanish editions of Sandman Books 2 and 3, from NORMA Editorial, reminding me that I owe Rafa a letter.

The SF Book Club edition of THE MAMMOTH BOOK OF COMIC FANTASY VOL II edited by Mike Ashley (with my story "The Case of the 4 and 20 Blackbirds" in it).

Legends II "Shadows, Gods and Demons" in paperback, containing stories by me, Anne McCaffrey, Tad Williams, Robin Hobb, Robert Silverberg and Ray Feist, along with the cassette audio of Legends II, with Michael Emerson reading my American Gods story "The Monarch of the Glen". I listened to it last night while signing box after box of stuff for DreamHaven, so they'll have enough signed books and CDs on their Neilgaiman.net site to take them through to Xmas, and was really pleased with his reading. (I just checked and it's also available as a download from Audible.com, although not yet up on itunes.) Michael played the narrator in the audio play of Murder Mysteries, available in Two Plays for Voices.

An advance copy of Dark Horse's graphic novel "Creatures of the Night" (they were selling it at Fiddler's Green, but the copies haven't yet made it from the distant land it's being printed in to the US). Michael Zulli's art looks lovely. I gave my copy to Charles Vess.

Alice's Journey Beyond the Moon, annotated and edited by R. J. Carter, published by Telos. It's the first time I remember seeing a book escape from Lucien's Library into the real world.

Tahtivaeltaja, from Finland, with a Finnish reprint of "Closing Time".

A one-volume hardback of BONE by Jeff Smith, which may be the most beautiful single edition of a comic I've ever owned -- gold edges to the paper and everything.

Peter Straub's lovely novel "in the night room", which I read on screen in a hotel in Italy in the summer, when I couldn't sleep, and which I'm looking forward to reading again.

Reckonings by Carla Jablonski, the sixth book in the YA "Books of Magic" prose books series.

The second collected volume of 1602 in Italian, "Il Segreto Dei Templari".

The German edition of Lud in the Mist -- "Flucht ins Feenland" -- reprinting my introduction.

A copy of "A Screenplay" which I probably should have mentioned before. Hill House Press are giving them away to the subscribers to their Authors Preferred Edition program. If you want to learn about what's happening with the Hill House edition of Neverwhere, you'll need to go to http://hillhousepublishers.com/Newsletter%204.htm in Explorer because it's utterly unreadable in Firefox. (But you're using Firefox aren't you?)

(Please don't write to me telling me that the Hill House editions are expensive. I know this. I'm not the publisher. I do know that people who know books are amazed that they are doing the quality of books that they do for the price they do them at, and B) they keep giving their readers cool free things, any one of which, if eBayed, would pay for an entire subscription.)

(And Hill House are slowly solving their website problems, and any e-mail problems they've had, and there will now be some people who aren't just the Pete's doing things...)

An advance copy of this year's "Christmas Card", which will I think go out (from me) early in the New Year, and which Hill House are helping me with, and about which I am saying nothing, other than it's gorgeous.

And a dozen or so books with notes from their authors or editors asking if I wouldn't mind just quickly reading them and giving them a blurb, all of whom will, alas, be disappointed, as I'm not going to do anything else now until Anansi Boys is finished. (Er, except the UK Radio 3 recording of Mister Punch, anyway.) Unlike Barbara Cartland I can't write a novel every 18 days, and I am very unlikely to leave 160 unpublished novels behind when I die.


And then there are the unopened boxes of mail, and the astonishing beaded antelope skull some kind person decided I needed, which I think will live above the door in the gazebo...

And, of course, the Dave Sim "Lithograph". The first one of which went for $1025 on eBay two days ago, and which I'm now about to go and draw on in gold ink.

...

The current total raised for the CBLDF from Fiddler's Green looks like it's about $45,000, making it far and away the most successful fundraising thing that anyone's ever done for the CBLDF. My thanks in abundance to everyone on the committee, the other guests and to everyone who came or donated things to the auctions. I don't ever remember seeing so many happy people in one place. I'll try and put up some links to photos and con reports.

There was a lot of stuff at Fiddler's Green that didn't get auctioned -- we had more Cool Stuff than we had time for -- so expect it to creep out into the world at other conventions and on eBay between now and San Diego (I suspect the gobsmackingly amazing Sketch Book will wind up being auctioned at San Diego...)

And, yesterday morning, much to Maddy's displeasure, I shaved off the beard.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Best. Fiddler's Green. Ever.

It would be difficult to put into words exactly how cool Fiddler's Green is, how great the people are, how cool the panels, how much fun everyone's having, how utterly nice everyone is.

So I won't.

But I will mention that the auction this evening for the CBLDF contained some amazing stuff -- including a two-page Sandman comic, one page written by Caitlin and drawn by Charles Vess, and one page written by me and drawn by Jill Thompson, lettered by Todd Klein and edited by Karen Berger, done on two respective panels this afternoon, which sold for $10,000 (the whole auction raised $37,030).

And my only complaint is that I've missed lots of really good panels I would have loved to have seen, because I was signing or doing a panel of my own.

Right. Back to work. There are dancing people upstairs dressed as Delirium, for a start...


Saturday, November 13, 2004

At Fiddler's Green

Fiddler's Green is happening, thanks to the hard work of a bunch of dangerously crazed people. There are lots of people here. It appears to be running more or less like clockwork, it's a real convention, and it's enormously fun.

So far I've done a signing for the DreamHaven "Shoggoth's Old Peculiar" book with Jouni, the dinner for CBLDF-winners, a reading of "Sunbird" and a bit of Anansi Boys, and a Mirrormask Presentation, and then worked with the auction crew going over all the swag and booty I brought in from home, figuring out what it all was and setting reserve prices and such.

The convention book is a gorgeous thing.

Tonight's big cool news is that Mirrormask will definitely be going to the Sundance Film Festival in January, which means that Dave McKean and I will be going there too.

And it's time to sleep now.

Friday, November 12, 2004

On the run

Very very fast post, as I need to get on the road for Fiddler's Green about ten minutes ago, just to say:

The Fiddler's Green - CBLDF auction is ongoing at eBay, and there's also a Sealed Bid auction; Details at http://www.fiddlersgreencon.org/auction.htm. You can check in at the CBLDF eBay auction at this link. (So that people not at the convention have a chance at some of the coolest stuff.)

(I had an extra rummage in the basement today, and in the art shelves. Anything I stumbled over that made me go "I've got that?" is going into the auction, along with many paintings people have given me at signings over the years -- it's time for them to go back out into the world...)

You'll find an article on the Dave Sim Lithograph at http://www.comicon.com/thebeat/archives/2004/11/sim_gaiman_team.html. The auction's over at eBay at http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&rd=1&item=2283916712 and I'll bring a gold pen to Fiddler's Green, to do my bit on the artwork there.

And finally, congratulations to Philip and Shelly Bond on the arrival of Spencer Bond. (For Philip's quote see Heidi MacDonald's The Beat blog: http://www.comicon.com/thebeat/archives/2004/11/spencer_albert.html. And then browse the rest of the blog to find out what the Uncanny Valley is and why it may make Polar Express creepy, and the Jim Belushi -Julie Newmar spat, and such.)

Right. Now to the con...



Thursday, November 11, 2004

Thank you and goodnight

I'm in Chicago, and once I got online I found myself with an avalanche of really nice e-mail. But it is still an avalanche.

Did the CHF interview with Gene Wolfe (really fun and enlightening), and then read Anansi Boys (novel in progress. Not yet finished. Hope it'll be out September 2005) to the nice people. Then signed until my hand fell off, or almost, and my birthday was done. Went back to the green room, ate the slice of chocolatey birthday cake set aside for me, and back to the hotel.

Many lovely gifts (I think the hand-blown marble might have been the coolest of a very cool bunch of things, and I felt remiss in not having mentioned how much I liked Rasputina's Frustration Plantation here, for I do, and then there's the International Brotherhood of Meatworkers screaming alarm clock) and many lovely people.

And now I am done for the night. Utterly, completely, ineluctably done. Gzpxllztt.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

The last day of 43

If you drive from South to North in America in November, it's like driving from Summer into Winter. I stopped for dinner last night in a small mountain town and suddenly had to remember what the leather jacket in the back of the car was for. By the end of today I'm sure I'll have remembered what the sweaters are for as well.

When I was a kid I used to ponder the nature of existence on the day before my birthday. "I'm six," I'd think. "I've been six practically for ever. I know what it's like to be six. And today is the very last day I'll ever be six. I'll never be six again." This would always be followed be a feeling of let-down on the following day, as I'd walk around thinking "I don't feel seven. I mean, I know I am seven. But it doesn't feel any different at all. It feels just like six. I wonder if I'll always feel like this? What if I feel like this when I'm eight?"

I woke up this morning and thought, "this is my last day of being forty-three. I'll never be forty-three again." But I bet I don't feel forty-four tomorrow. I bet I still feel twelve.

Which wasn't why I wrote this entry at all. Actually I wanted to remind people in Chicago that at every Chicago Humanities Festival event I've ever been in or attended, there have been lots of tickets available at the door long after it's "sold out" on the web site, because the Festival puts a percentage of the tickets aside for students which the students never bother with. So it's tomorrow, and from 7-8pm I interview Gene Wolfe, and 8:30-9:30pm it's just me. Come and say hello.

And yes, there will be a signing afterwards.

...

Let's see... those of you who have been following http://richardmooreart.com/sim/simgaiman.html (or are of the 1700-odd, sometimes very odd, people who have got signed Cerebuses already and want to know what happens next) and have read (or looked at) http://www.holycow.com/dreaming/phase2/...

The explanatory last three parts of the Quarto haven't gone up at the Dreaming yet, but seeing the auction has started, you should know about

http://www.torontocomics.com/2004/11/on-now-gaimansim-auction-to-benefit.html

and then you should click on the ebay link and look at the image, then you should read the small print:

"Of those pieces which remain, Sim and Gaiman will both sign�and Neil Gaiman will complete�one copy in November of each year (i.e. #3/50 in 2005; #4/50 in 2006) which will then be auctioned on eBay to benefit the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, by way of illustrating in as pointed a fashion as possible that even though Dave Sim and Neil Gaiman are at diametric opposite poles on the political spectrum, they will always be on good enough terms, personally, to cooperate in jointly supporting the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund and the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America."

Which impressed me enormously when my assistant Lorraine read me the fax over the phone in which Dave explained his master plan. It really is the baseline of the CBLDF that it really doesn't matter where you stand, sit, kneel or sprawl politically, if you believe in maintaining the First Amendment, you're on the same side. (And if you don't, wherever you stand politically, and Whatever it is you believe that Other People (above the age of 18) need to be protected from reading or hearing, you're on the other side.)

...

Dear Mr. Gaiman,I am currently working on a screenplay based on a short story published by DC Comics, and I was wondering, how do I get my work copywritten, while using their characters? I would like to get their backing before I try to send this off to Warner Bros. If you could help me out please, I would greatly appreciate it. Please let me know if you would like to read it and give me your thoughts. Thank you very much for your time. Sincerely,Trevor Denham

Well, I guess you write a letter to Greg Noveck at DC Comics, at the DC Comics address. But honestly I think you're probably wasting your time: without knowing what it is you're writing or what it's based on, you're writing a screenplay based on something you don't own any rights to, and you don't know what the rights are or who controls them (DC Comics, Warners, the creators, someone else). Sending a script in to Warner Brothers without DC's permission just ensures it'll land on the junk heap, and trying to get DC's permission for something you've already done is extremely problematic. It's probably not impossible, but it's somewhere west of unlikely.

Better by far to write something original that you own and control, honest.

Neil,I know you're busy as hell right now, but I just heard a really great CD tonight. Long story short, she's a really great singer and I think you'd like her music. You can listen to the songs at: www.Janubia.com Her and her musician/producer are releasing the CD independently and could use all the help they could get in getting the word out, so I was hoping, if you like the songs, you could help spread the word a little bit.I hope you don't mind, but I gave them your website and mentioned this as a way to get in touch with you about it, as well as sending a CD or letter to DreamHaven, but I wanted to make sure you heard about it, so here I am mentioning it first.I hope all is well. Take care,dave golbitz http://1031productions.blogspot.com

And, because I'm on a high-speed American motel wireless link, I've been playing it while getting up and writing this, and it's really lovely. And in a foreign language whatever language you speak. (Also a very pretty website.) Thanks...

Right. Leave motel room. Back on the road...

Monday, November 08, 2004

On the Road

Hullo world.

I'm on the road, driving North, to Chicago (for the Chicago Humanities Festival where, on Weds, I'm interviewing Gene Wolfe then doing a reading and a Q&A) and then to Minneapolis for Fiddler's Green.

(All the information on Fiddler's Green Memberships -- including all the stuff about the Day Memberships -- is at http://www.fiddlersgreencon.org/membership.htm. And I'm sure that the Program will be up very soon at http://www.fiddlersgreencon.org/program.htm.)

Meanwhile, Dave Sim has revealed (to me anyway) what "Phase II -- Something Good For the CBLDF" is actually going to consist of. It's really going to be amazingly cool. And it will go on for the next 50 years. Joe Fulgham is putting up Dave's Four-part essay at The Dreaming a chunk at a time: The first part is at http://www.holycow.com/dreaming/phase2/. Go read it and laugh at my sneakers.) I was extremely amused to see that Dave had managed to write a personal letter that was also a form letter -- it's up at http://richardmooreart.com/sim/22oct04.gif (and remember, the collected form letters of Dave Sim are up for your perusal as http://richardmooreart.com/sim/simgaiman.html).

Right. No time to write the Going to Barnes and Noble with Tori entry, or the one about learning what the last edit of Mirrormask DVD looks like when you play it on a big flat screen TV as opposed to my computer screen. Back on the road now. Will try and post something longer tonight, from somewhere further north.

Have a wonderful Monday.

Friday, November 05, 2004

Gunpowder, treason and plot

Good morning.

Sorry about that. Half-way through Election Day, feeling stressed-out and irritated, I decided to take my own advice (from the Harvey Awards keynote speech earlier this year)

As a solution to various problems you may encounter upon the way, let me suggest this: Make Good Art.

It's very simple. But it seems to work. Life fallen apart? Make good art. True love ran off with the milkman? Make good art. Bank foreclosing? Make good art.

So that's what I did. Mostly I'm writing a novel now, but that's such a mountain-climbing-or-ditch-digging sort of a thing to do that I stopped working on it for a few days and I finished a short story I'd started a couple of years ago (it was to be for Holly's 18th Birthday. She's now 19 and a half. The cobbler's children go barefoot). In the past two years I'd written about three pages of it -- say 1000 words -- and between Tuesday lunchtime and yesterday I wrote another five thousand five hundred words, until I put the last ones down and suddenly there weren't any more to write. It's a very odd story.

"Beetles," said Professor Mandalay. "I once calculated that, if a man such as myself were to eat six different species of beetle each day, it would take him more than twenty years to eat every beetle that has been identified. And over that twenty years enough new species of beetle might have been discovered to keep him eating for another five years. And in those five years enough beetles might have been discovered to keep him eating for another two and a half years, and so on, and so on. It is a paradox of inexhaustibility. I call it Mandalay's Beetle. You would have to enjoy eating beetles, though," he added, "or it would be a very bad thing indeed."

The world always seems brighter when you've just made something that wasn't there before. I e-mailed it off to Holly-at-college last night (subject: Happy Birthday), and decided to raise my head back above the parapet.

Today is, of course, the Fifth of November -- Guy Fawkes' Day -- when the English celebrate Guy Fawkes' attempt to blow up the Houses of Parliament while they were in session, using barrels of gunpowder which he (and his fellow conspirators) stored in the cellars beneath the Houses of Parliament. They were betrayed (quite possibly They Were Set-Up), the plot was uncovered, and the British have celebrated November the 5th with fireworks and bonfires for the last four hundred years. As a boy I wasn't sure whether we were meant to be celebrating Guy Fawkes as someone who tried to change the system by doing something about it, or whether it was just that the English love a good loser. When I grew up I realised that it was a thanksgiving for the fact that the Parliament had not been exploded. Still, Guy Fawkes has a day named after him, which is more than King James had (although James got a bible dedicated to him, of course).

Anyway.

Now the results of the election are in, I find myself focussing on Charles Brownstein's comments over at Tom Spurgeon's Comics Reporter blog on what this will probably mean for the CBLDF, and for protecting the First Amendment in comics; there are people out there who don't want you to read things, for your own good of course, and I suspect that the next four years may be easier for them than for you.

Which means a lot more fundraising, and a lot more court battles (and money to lawyers), and winning cases and probably losing cases as well. (Sometimes the good guys lose. It happens. You carry on.)

You can find out what you can do over at www.cbldf.org

...

Time to close some windows and tabs: someone wanted to know if the "Social Work" adverts -- a few of which you can see at http://www.socialworkcareers.co.uk/order/print.htm -- were by Dave McKean or not. (They are.)

Having mentioned it here long ago, I was fascinated to learn the true history of the Hello Kitty vibrator.

Many of you have asked me over the years whether the platypus is officially weird, or just unofficially weird. It's officially weird. And on the subject, and for those of an apocalyptic bent, you may be relieved to know that Giant Squid are "Taking over the World".

Monday, November 01, 2004

The Neil Gaiman iPod Special Edition Advert

Short but sweet:

After you said that you had written "positively the last word on iPod batteries (unless someone discovers that iPod batteries can cure cancer, transmute base metals into gold, or levitate frogs)," I couldn't help myself. Mosey on over to http://www.people.fas.harvard.edu/~mdmalon/images/levitation.gif to see the Neil Gaiman iPod Special Edition.

So I went and looked. You should too.

...about us, and and they talk to some...

First, a few people have written to correct me about yesterday's post, to wit:

Dear Neil, You may want to let the under 21's know that the Thea Gilmore gig in Philadelphia (at Tin Angel) is 21+ If people want to get a reserved table near the stage (it's a pretty small venue all told, capacity circa 150) they can do so by having dinner at the attached restaurant downstairs, Serrano. Just tell the person taking the reservation that you are also going to the show. Or make a reservation when you buy tickets by phone or in person. Since it's a folk club hopefully we will get a Ramones or Buzzcocks cover... Should be a great show.--lapis

Yup. I missed the "over 21" thing on http://www.tinangel.com/info.html. Sorry for getting anyone's hopes up.

And the next two posts are positively the last word on iPod batteries (unless someone discovers that iPod batteries can cure cancer, transmute base metals into gold, or levitate frogs).

Neil, on the subject of iPod batteries, you and your readers might find this link helpful. http://www.batteryuniversity.com/parttwo-34.htm
It explains how you don't need to drain the battery all the time, but it's good to do occasionally to help keep your indicator working fairly accurately. They recommend every 30 cycles. All batteries of that type have a 2-3 year life; it's not a failing of the iPod ones in particular. They actually have a longer lifetime if you use it more often. If you're not using the battery for a long period of time, you may be able to prolong it's life by leaving it in a cool space at a 40% charge.Not necessarily as interesting is some additional information about warranties from Apple's site (http://www.apple.com/support/ipod/service/)Warranty service for eligible repairs is available at no charge for twelve months from the date of original retail purchase ("date of purchase"). A $29.95 shipping and handling fee will apply to all warranty repairs performed six months after date of purchase. Apple offers two service options for iPods that are no longer within warranty. If your iPod requires service only because the battery's ability to hold an electrical charge has diminished, Apple will replace your iPod for a service fee of $99, plus $6.95 shipping. If your iPod requires service for any other issue, Apple will replace your iPod for a service fee of $249, plus $6.95 shipping. All fees are in US dollars and are subject to local tax.

and also, because the FAQ was really good,

Hi Neil, I was given an iPod two weeks ago (1 week before iPod Photo was released doggoneit!) and I've been doing some research on the iPod battery. I've found this site to be of great help: http://www.ipodbatteryfaq.com Perhaps you and some of your readers might too?
Cheers and looking forward to your next audio cd. I see that DreamHaven has it listed on neilgaiman.net already. :)

And I went and looked and discovered that "Speaking in Tongues", my next audio CD, does indeed have its own page at DreamHaven's neilgaiman.net -- http://www.neilgaiman.net/speaking-in-tongues.php. (In the end they went with a moody Michael Zulli watercolour of me as the cover, which is now up, and the me-and-the-angel drawing is on the inside.) It should be out very soon.

Hey Neil, Happy Halloween. In case you didn't already know, there is a small piece of enjoyable Halloween fiction by Susanna Clark in The New York Times today. Dennis

And I've used the New York Times Link Generator to make a link that will not die: Click here to read a new story by Susanna Clarke.

Right. Now I'm going to write more novel.
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