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Monday, January 31, 2005

more from apostrophe hell

Sarasota!

Mini MirrorMask review here: http://deseretnews.com/dn/view/0,1249,600107916,00.html

Lovely Sundance photos of me and Dave McKean online at http://www.imdb.com/gallery/granitz/2839

Let's see. Lots of people wrote in to remind me that the ancient-proper-name-ending-in-"s" exception for possessives is straight out of Strunk and White's The Elements of Style. First page, in fact. You can find an online version here:http://www.bartleby.com/141/Paul

Other people wrote to tell me that the Associated Press Manual of Style, and the Chicago Manual of Style say different things, and many e-mails from around the world letting me know that, for example, in Israeli schools we are taught that the "blahs's" combination is just bad grammar and that it's always "blahs' " . We actually get points off on tests for this.And I'm still wondering why they asked you that :)Galia

I found an excellent summary of the various points of view of the apostrophe in question in the debate on Wikipedia's house style (remember what I said about it being a house style issue?): go and read the discussion at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia_talk:Manual_of_Style and learn.

......

In doing a search on the Narnia action figures by Gentle Giant Studios I saw that they are also doing Mirrormask action figures. I have only been reading your journal for a couple of months, so if you mentioned this, I missed it. http://www.entertainmentearth.com/hitlist.asp?theme=Mirror+Mask (I am a brand new Neil Gaiman fan after hearing Coraline on a long car trip.)Dona

Not sure they've been mentioned for a while. So yes, Dark Horse are doing MirrorMask models (the ones in the pictures are early prototypes.)

Hi Neil,There's a rumor going around town that you were at a bar in Manila a few years back. A friend mentioned this to me because we were talking about the possibility of you coming to Manila for a book signing, as you mentioned in your blog a few days ago. I was wondering, have you ever been to the Philippines?Regards,Tania

Nope, never been to Manila. Never been to the Philippines either. That's why I was interested in coming (also because of the enormous numbers of people who come in to this blog from the Philippines, and the people from the Philippines who seem to show up at almost every signing to let me know that I really ought to visit the Philippines).

(As a general rule, established over years of doing this blog: if ever you meet someone in a bar or on a bus or hitchhiking or in an internet chat place who claims to be me, it's not me. Really it's not. I still can't figure out why people like pretending to be me, or why the people they are telling this to don't ever ask them to produce some kind of ID. But it's not been me so far. I don't do chat rooms, and if I'm actually in a bar I'll probably be in the corner with a notebook.)

Oops. Late for interview. Gotta run.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Aristocrats!


MirrorMask director Dave McKean and Aristocrats director Paul Provenza demonstrate "The Aristocrats" move for the world at the Sundance party. (The one gleeful eye is optional.) Dave's wristband allows him to get two free drinks, and is not an order.

For some reason the "Aristocrats" team and the "MirrorMask" team have become fast friends and mutual admirers during the course of this Sundance.

The '05 model


Me, taken on my camera by Dave McKean during the MirrorMask screening today. Yes, I look (and am) terribly tired, but am also pretty happy -- the screening today felt much better than the one yesterday in the Eccles. Despite the temperatures in the cinema being stiflingly hot, people laughed at the jokes and seemed to be enjoying it. (Last night the audience felt much more respectful, or perhaps more detached.)

Dear Mr. Gaiman,I respect you greatly as an author and so I would like to pose a question to you. My friend and I currently have a bet going on regarding apostrophe usage. I had been told that when writing the possessive of a proper noun (let's say it's Lewis), you can write either Lewis' or Lewis's and either form would be acceptable. Her professor told her that you could only omit the extra s after the apostrophe if the person was famous and dead. I've never heard of such a gramatical rule before and we got into a minor tiff about it. I fully admit that we are rather pathetic to argue about such things, but life is rather boring here. There is a dinner riding on this, and as I am a poor college student, would prefer to have her pay for it. I hope that you enjoy Sundance! I really wish I was there; I would love to see Mirrormask. At any rate, I am looking forward to Anansi Boys and I love your blog.Warmest regards, Mary Bongiovi

It's mostly a matter of "house style". I've written for publishers and magazines who liked it one way, and others who liked it the other. Your friend's professor was probably joking. I'm glad to say that, despite "Neil Gaiman and Charles Vess' Stardust" Charles Vess is not even slightly dead. *

dear neil, i'm nico and i'm coming from France.Can you put the light on the distribution of your new 'baby': Mirrormask ?It's not really clear at the moment and i wonder if this film will be updated in french version (subtitle or dubbing). despite the fact that your books have been translated in french version all the senses have been respected.i hope that this movie will be in the same way.My english is not perfect but you have all my respect.I speak english like a frog probably i'm in a fog.merci <<<<<<<<<<<<>

I'm afraid it's too soon for me to know anything about foreign distribution of MirrorMask. Obviously, I hope it'll get out as widely as possible. I certainly hope that if it's dubbed or subbed it'll be done respectfully and as accurately as possible.

.....

* Yes, I know the caption is "Neil Gaiman and Charles Vess's Stardust" but that's just Amazon being sloppy. The word in the book title, visible on the book, is Vess'.


Saturday, January 29, 2005

late night rambling

http://www.sonypictures.com/movies/mirrormask/main.html now has a current trailer up (in "previews"). No, I don't know why the apostrophe on "people's" is in the wrong place, but I'm sure it'll be fixed sooner or later.

The premiere happened. I think it went okay.

(I was slightly frustrated by the sound mix, which kept losing lines of dialogue beneath effects or music, which I was told by the producer had something to do with the way they had to prepare the sound for Sundance's specs (?) and won't be like that on the finished-finished film.)

There's a review up at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=11264&reviewer=128
and another at http://www.iofilm.co.uk/fm/m/mirrormask_2005.shtml

Joe McCabe's "Hanging Out With the Dream King" book of interviews is reviewed at http://www.rambles.net/gaiman_dream05.html.

I'm on the cover of Locus, with a photo taken at Worldcon in September. (Actually, I do have a right arm. Or I'm pretty sure I did then.)

Friday, January 28, 2005

that first day of school feeling

Quick one -- the Clarion auction has gone live. Bids by e-mail. Check it out at http://www.msu.edu/~clarion/auction/auctionpreview.html

And the second phase of the Beguiling Tsunami Auction is up on eBay -- I donated a Simon Bisley painting of Batman, done for a project that never happened, which Simon gave me about fifteen years ago. There's also a gorgeous Charles Vess painting, and the Dave Sim Cerebus Lord Julius (Groucho Marx) like-a-looks cover. http://search.ebay.com/_W0QQsassZbeguiling for details.

Woke up, realised we have the Sundance MirrorMask premiere today, and found that going back to sleep -- on the only Sundance day I didn't have to be up really early -- was quite impossible. I'm... not exactly nervous. It's more just like every first day of school I remember all rolled into one: a sort of layer cake of emotions somewhere in the pit of my stomach made up of trepidation, inevitability, and stumbling into the unknown. (Thank heavens Dave's going to have to introduce the film tonight, and I won't have to do anything till the Q&A when it's over. God I hope people like it.)

The whole writer and director thing...


This is me and Dave McKean this afternoon, from my phone. Six days into Sundance and we're looking a bit tired. Would you buy a used movie from these men?

Son and dance

Quieter day -- interviews for much of it. In the late afternoon Dave McKean, Lisa Henson and I got our photo taken by Entertainment Weekly, then Dave and I got our photos taken in the HP centre -- and I got given my first "swag" -- a gift of an HP photo printer (and paper, and ink). (Dave will be sent an iPod.) The HP photographer also took a pic of me and Dave using my phone, which I'll try and post here. Frankly I think we look like extremely dodgy characters.

This evening saw the Reefer Madness musical movie, which was pleasant enough, but many of the songs seemed to go on for at least a couple of choruses past the point where I was ready for the story to start again -- it felt like a little judicious editing could have made it into a much sharper, faster and funnier film. (Ana Gasteyer was excellent, and I should say that the majority of the audience seemed perfectly happy with it the way it was.)

Then to the short film show, where there were a few duds, a few interesting ones, and one that I utterly loved, and a quick google tells me it's online at http://www.sundanceonlinefilmfestival.org/2005/index.aspx. The one I loved is called The Sailor's Girl, and it's a perfect little film that you should go and watch if you have the bandwidth. (You have to register, but it's worth it. Trust me.) Brett Simon, who made The Sailor's Girl, is a writer-director to watch. (The story reminded me a little of Kelly Link's fiction, which is a good thing.)

My son Mike has just arrived, and is sleeping on the sofa bed (well, he's actually sitting on it as I type this, looking at the Sundance catalogue, picking out films to watch over the next two days).

Neil,I'm sure others have already informed you of this, but if not, there's an interview with Alan Moore conducted by Stewart Lee (creator of "Jerry Springer: The Opera") online:http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio/aod/networks/radio4/aod.shtml?radio4/chainreaction. Comic Book Resources also has a transcript of the interview, for those who can't stream it:http://www.comicbookresources.com/news/newsitem.cgi?id=4737 It was quite entertaining and funny, and Alan certainly doesn't come off quite as mad as we've all been led to believe. Hope Sundance has been treating you well. All the best,dave golbitz http://1031productions.blogspot.com

Alan's the smartest person I know. He's also one of the nicest, possibly the funniest, and has always struck me (and we've been friends for about 18 years) as very sane indeed, at least as sane as anyone with a cherub vortex on the wall upstairs can possibly be. If anyone attempts to lead you to believe otherwise I would suggest you view them with deep suspicion.

The Chain Reaction show will be up on the BBC site for a week, and then for a week from next Thursday it's Alan Moore interviewing Brian Eno.

g'night.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

I'm Sundancing as fast as I can

Back in my hotel for a more-or-less-early night (i.e. before 1:00 am) (it's another high school screening early tomorrow morning). Only about 150 e-mails to read before I can go to sleep. I'm getting a bit behind on e-mail currently.

This morning Dave McKean and I saw Penn Jillette and Paul Provenza's remarkable documentary "The Aristocrats". It seems, on the face of it, rather unlikely that a film in which a hundred comedians talk about and tell a particularly obscene joke, of the kind that comedians tell other comedians rather than the public, could be a really beautiful meditation on art and personal style and individual magic and what it means to be human, of boundaries and what it means to cross them, but that's what Paul and his editor have made out of the hundred hours of footage they taped. It was astonishing, and Dave and I walked out of the screening just happy. I think it just edges out "Kung Fu Hustle" as my favourite film of the festival so far.

Then more interviews. This evening a few of us went to see Hal Hartley's "The Girl From Monday" which may have been good, but I can't tell you, as the whole lack-of-sleep-and-sitting-in-a-warm-dark-place thing caught up with me, and I dozed through it, a bit guiltily.

Friday night is the MirrorMask premiere, in the Eccles Theatre. If you're at Sundance and you want to see it, judging from the other premieres at the Eccles, I think you'll be fine: just do the wait list thing. It's a huge cinema and neither "The Jacket" or "The Girl From Monday" were actually full. (I suspect the same will be true of Saturday in the Library, but I might be wrong.) Dave and I will be answering questions afterwards.

...

Incidentally, I'm trying to organise (well, I'm not actually doing the organising) the promised signings in the Philippines and Singapore before or after the Melbourne convention and Australian book signings this summer. The signing in the Philippines looks like it's happening, but I'm not sure about the Singapore one, as originally I was going be brought in with Dave McKean by the British Council, a plan that was scuppered by MirrorMask, and now I'm not really sure who to talk to. (If anyone in Singapore has any bright ideas, feel free to let me know.)

...

I know I ought to write something about the two Salt Lake City screenings last night, but I think I'm too tired, so here's something that came in from someone in the audience:

I just saw Mirrormask here in Salt Lake City at the Sundance festival. It was an amazing movie and I would recomend it to everyone. I wanted to say something about Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean. This was the third showing of the film and it was in Salt Lake City rather than Park City. This means that the two of them had to drive about 30 minutes down the mountain on I-80 in order to have a question and answer session with the audience at the screening. In my experience as a long time resident of Salt Lake many filmmakers only really put in 100% effort for the premiere and then they are more concerned with the parties or networking and deal making. By the final showing of a film you are sometimes lucky to get an unknown supporting actor to show up at the screening. Neil and Dave were different. Besides the effort they had to make to get to the screening they were also very entertaining. They did not give lukewarm canned answers to audience questions. Instead they were funny and informative. They would frequently elaborate upon a short answer and turn it into an amusing story concerning the process of making the film. Finally, after the official Q&A session they were willing to stick around for some informal one on one time with the fans. I even managed to get Neil to sign a couple of books for a friend that was unable to make the screening (I was the guy in the wheelchair with the half a dozen annoying questions concerning the state of various projects). Even though I am sure he has done this tens of thousands of times Neil was warm and gracious while he was signing the books. He made eye contact, small talk and put you at ease. Tickets to Sundance films are incredibly hard to get even for locals. The personal treatment and the effort and respect that Neil and Dave showed to the audience made the two hours plus of waiting in line outside the theater in the cold with just the hope of possibly, maybe there being a small chance you might be able to get a wait list ticket entirely worth it. I did put a mini-review of my first impressions of Mirrormask on my blog at http://wessel12.blogspot.com/ I have only been doing this (blogging) for a couple of weeks but the half a dozen or so friends who actually bother to read it will know that I thoroughly enjoyed Mirrormask and highly recomend it.
Jason

and here's another, from the wonderful Olga: http://www.fabulist.org/archives/2005/01/_mirrormask_pre.html

and I was just sent a link to an Ain't It Cool News review: http://www.aintitcool.com/display.cgi?id=19254

and I think I'm going to skip the 150 e-mails, and hope there aren't too many emergencies waiting, which will mean 300 to try and deal with at some point tomorrow, I suppose. Good night.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

hurrah...

Just did the Mirrormask DVD commentary, came out to find our very first proper review is up:

http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/thr/reviews/review_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1000771375

I'm not sure how long the article will be up and available. But they liked it.

running

A couple of follow-ups (follows-up?) to past posts. Then I have to run down to the press centre for a morning of MirrorMask Interviews.

Dear Neil,

A few posts back, you'd expressed interest in hearing about tonight's benefit for 826NYC. I was there assisting Eric Bogosian and thought I'd fill you in as best I can.

Cynthia Nixon, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Sam Rockwell, Justin Theroux, Kristen Johnston, Bob Balaban and Martha Plimpton all participated. I was running around taking care of a couple of things and so didn't hear everything read. Martha Plympton read an excerpt from JM Barrie's "Peter & Wendy" and Justin Theroux read something by Oscar Wilde (both of which I was sorry to have missed). Philip Seymour Hoffman read a darkly funny story by George Saunders, about a man with an inordinate amount of fear, and the effects of that fear on his life and family. Sam Rockwell and Justin T. did an hysterical staged reading of Dr. Seuss' "Green Eggs and Ham" (in the end, Justin did try those green eggs, in case you're wondering). Kristen Johnston read a poem by one of the students who'd participated in an 826 writing workshop, Bob Balaban read an excerpt of your story "Sunbird" (the last half or the last third--from the description of the barbecue pit through to the end) and Cynthia Nixon closed out the night reading several of Shel Silverstein's poems, including one about a pirate (I didn't catch the title, but enjoyed her pirate impression a great deal), "Where the Sidewalk Ends" and "If the World Were Crazy" (which drew an awful lot of knowing laughs... as though the world CURRENTLY seems crazy to some people. Go figure).

Things went exceedingly well. The audience seemed to have a lovely time, as did the performers, and the 826NYC folks were quite pleased. Mr. Balaban mentioned how much he enjoyed reading your story; I though he did a really excellent job of performing it. The members of the Epicuriean Society were very colorful (great names too). I noticed everyone who'd been working in the front of house at Tonic snuck in to hear it read.

It looks like McSweeney's is publishing an book that includes some of tonight's stories, but I didn't really get a good look at it and don't know any of the specifics, including when it might be published.

I was taking care of a few different things during parts of the reading, so I'm sure you're not getting the complete picture here. I hope someone else who got to see the whole thing has written you with the details. And I hope my account isn't too scattered.

All best,
Sarah Bisman

PS Eric kept telling people that you are my favorite writer (this is true). I used to assist him on a regular basis and often raved about your books, particularly American Gods, which I got him to read as well. I'm really looking forward to Anansi Boys and Mirrormask, and enjoy your blog a bunch.


Thanks Sarah. It sounds wonderful. (Sarah followed up by pointing out that of course I'd said the story would be in a children's anthology that McSweeneys would be putting out, and she was very tired. And she was of course right, and I was just grateful that she'd write at 3:00am to let me know.)


Neil,

One of my readers pointed out a few days ago that my blog post on British comics was (a) stupid, and (b) incorrect. I had that horrid feeling of having put my foot in it: he was right. I yanked the post and put up a correction, whereupon another reader emailed this morning and said: "Too late, Neil Gaiman's already read the first post." ... Gah!

I'd have known better had I given the subject even a little more thought.... It was a boneheaded post, and I hope you'll forgive it. Should I ever meet you or your colleagues, any rounds at the pub will surely have to be on me now.

All the best,
Paul


Which I stuck up here because I thought it was astonishingly gracious. A side effect of wittering on about stuff in public is that every now and again you're going to say something stupid or wrong (I know I've been guilty of both here since 2001).

And anyway, it gives me an opportunity to plug the excellent Collins Library books. And rumour has it he'll soon be reprinting a Harry Stephen Keeler...

oops. gotta run.

Mostly MirrorMask

Had a good two days -- starting to get the hang of this. Seen some movies, and am starting to feel like people should be paying royalties to Rod Serling for reusing old Twilight Zone plots. So far my festival highlight is KUNG FU HUSTLE, which was an utter enjoyment from first to last. Also enjoyed THE JACKET until the final couple of seconds when it all went sacharine, and enjoyed HARD CANDY, although I'd expected a few more twists.

Showed MirrorMask to an audience of highschoolers this morning. They were our first ever audience (of people who had nothing to do with the film professionally) and I held my breath until I found out how it had gone down and what they thought of it.

Hey Neil,I'm sure you'll get tons of emails about this but just in case you hadn't, the MirrorMask website has gotten a full makeover and now has content! And pictures! And a really spiffy wallpaper. http://www.sonypictures.com/movies/mirrormask/main.htmlEnjoy Sundance! Don't freeze to death :)~Karyn-Noelle

Oh good. (I'm on an unbelievably slow dial-up and can't check to see if it has a current trailer up, or if it still has the old one, but I'm delighted that they've got the site up at last.)

There. It loaded. I'm afraid they've still got the original trailer up. I'm astonished it ever crept out as anything more than a teaser done by Sony for Comic-con (which is what is was). Dave hated it. I disliked it, and was really upset that Dave's name wasn't on it. I've not met anyone at Hensons who admits to liking it. And it doesn't really give you any sort of taste or feel for the film...

Ah well. There will be a new trailer up in the next few days. And in the meantime there's lots of scrummy stuff on the website.

I am a big fan of your Sandman series. I am also a huge fan of all Jim Henson related works like Dark Crystal and Labyrinth. I am very excited to learn that you are involved with them in creating Mirrormask. I am assuming you wrote the screenplay, but are you involved otherwise? I am saddened to see from the teaser that a lot of the visuals are computer generated. My love for the Jim Henson company comes from thier amazing puppetry and the feeling these works of art convey. It seems that making computer generated "puppets" takes away from that feeling. Actual puppetry is what sets the Jim Henson works apart from all others. Puppetry is a completly different art form and I think it is misleading in the teaser to say that Mirrormask is from the creators of Dark Crystal and Labyrinth, if it is not going to be making extensive use of real puppetry. I'm sure in all accounts you don't really have much say in these matters. But I'm curious about your views on this. Making such puppets and creatures is a dream of mine. I hope this dream must not die.
Sincerely,
Jimmy Brooner


I turned this one over to Lisa Henson to answer, mostly because a) Dave and I had nothing to do with the old trailer, and b) the impression I got from Lisa Henson, Jerry Juhl and other Hensons people I've talked to was that Jim Henson was always pushing the envelope in what you could do. And that he would have liked what we were doing.

(At the Sundance panel on animation the other day Lisa showed a short test from something called, I think, Water Warriors, with a dancing frog and worm in it, both cgi characters being "puppeted" which was amazing -- and just as much puppetry as anything made of cloth or foam. But those techniques weren't used on MirrorMask.)

This was Lisa's answer.


Dear Neil,

Some of our fans do sometimes get upset whenever we do anything
new, particularly if it is not Muppets. When my father was alive, he
was perplexed by this, as the only thing he was ever really
interested in was the next thing on the horizon, the thing that was
slightly technically impossible and perhaps commercially unwelcome.
He began by upsetting "real" puppet fans around the world with
puppets that didn't follow in any of the existing puppetry
traditions, in a field where virtually every puppeteer began as an
apprentice or acolyte of a master traditional puppeteer. (We are still
trying to make it up to those people with the work of the Jim Henson
Foundation!)

Many of the old Henson techniques which one might pine for
nostalgically, like the radio controlled puppets of EMMETT OTTER or
the intricate animatronics of DARK CRYSTAL were at the time of those
productions completely new and innovative. There is a first time for
everything. In the eighties, Jim Henson was on a quest for several
new techniques which were on the horizon. He spent a lot of time
working on interactive projects that couldn't be realized
technologically until a couple of years after his death. He wanted to
make 3D movies. The most important project he envisioned was the
computer puppetry, which involved using puppeteers to "animate"
computer models of characters. I went with him on his initial
meetings with John Whitney and PDI and others to talk about how this
might be achieved. Actually, he successfully made the interface work
for the Waldo character in the Muppetvision 3D movie, and what we are
doing now in computer animated puppetry is just a more complete
version of that concept. If he lived, we would have made the
advancements faster and might have been making full CG programs like
our FRANCES show as early as ten years ago.

Jim Henson used the same performers to manipulate all of his
characters in every puppetry medium, and we follow that same
philosophy. The puppeteer is where the magic of puppetry rests, not
in the style of the model or technology. When Frank Oz puppeteered
Yoda, he brought a magic to the character that would not have
happened if he were performed by his builders (as other shops would
have done).

Finally, is it misleading to say that MIRRORMASK is from the creators
of Dark Crystal and LABYRINTH? Absolutely (it's marketing staff
stuff). It is from the creators of SANDMAN and MR PUNCH and WOLVES IN
THE WALLS. We will be seeing a new trailer shortly and hopefully the
Jim Henson Company's involvement will be properly seen by the public
as having promoted and showcased the unique art and talent of Dave
McKean as the visionary director that he is.

Lisa





Sunday, January 23, 2005

Quick one

There's an article on Mirrormask (and interview with Dave McKean) at http://www.sltrib.com/utah/ci_2533756. (sorry about that)

(Edit done from the street in Sundance, following a slightly baffling Adobe brunch. And I am, I have learned once again, completely crap at recognising celebrities.)

Saturday, January 22, 2005

From Sundance

Lots of people wrote to tell me there's a live action Beowulf film being made already -- it's at http://www.beowulfandgrendel.com/ . I honestly don't see it as a problem. Our film won't be that one (which looks really cool). It's a big playing field. And other people wrote to ask if we were doing the whole story, and we are: as far as Roger and I were concerned, the last act of Beowulf, an old king at the end of the Age of Heroes, was the key to the whole story.

After posting last night went down to the Layer Cake party to chat to Matthew Vaughn, which was pleasantly odd (the party, not Matthew, who was refreshingly normal). It took until this afternoon before I found Dave McKean on Main Street, immediately following which I found myself being interviewed on the street by The Electric Playground (http://www.elecplay.com/). Which reminds me that at SPACE, there's a tiny interview with me and Dave McKean about MirrorMask up: http://www.spacecast.com/ -- with a couple of actual clips from the film.

Have not seen any films yet. Have, however, eaten sushi.

And I'm out of time and on a dial-up link, so I shall simply point the people who wrote wondering about the safety of Minis to http://www.autoweek.com/article.cms?articleId=5294, which someone helpfully sent me.

Friday, January 21, 2005

An astonishingly professional post for once with barely any bats in it

Let's see...

yes, I'm at Sundance. No, I've not done anything exciting yet -- just sat in my hotel room and worked. Not sure when Dave McKean will turn up tonight, or what kind of shape he'll be in when he does.

Lots of messages asking me about the rumours of a BEOWULF movie that have hit the web, and the story in today's Variety. So...

In 1998 Roger Avary asked me to cowrite a script for Beowulf for him to direct. We went off to Mexico together and wrote it as a sort of Dark Ages Trainspotting, filled with mead and blood and madness, and we went all the way from the beginning of the poem, with Beowulf as a hero battling Grendel, to the end, with Beowulf as an old man fighting a dragon. Robert Zemeckis really liked the script, and his production company, Imagemovers, bought it, for Roger to direct. (Imagemovers had a deal with Dreamworks at the time.)

Dreamworks, for whatever reasons, didn't want to make it, and -- eventually -- the rights to the script reverted back to me and Roger.

Roger went off and made Rules of Attraction. Last year he decided he wanted to make Beowulf as his next film. He started putting it together...

Meanwhile Bob Zemeckis couldn't get our Beowulf movie out of his head. After the motion capture experience of Polar Express, he wanted to take the techniques on a bit, and make a film intended for adults with them. He and Steve Bing approached us about the script....

And, after a certain amount of to-ing and fro-ing over the last month, Bob Zemeckis will be making a film of Beowulf, from our script. Roger and I are signed on to do any rewrites necessary (I suspect that some things that were easy to write for live action would be impossible or extremely costly to do as motion capture. But then, things that would have been impossible to do as live action may be easy as motion capture, so overall it should work out.)

(No, it won't look or feel anything like Polar Express. When Bob Zemeckis told us the art style he had in mind our reaction was "Well, of course.")

Roger and I are also executive producers on the film, and from what I've heard so far we're expected to work, it's not just a courtesy title.

Roger's a little downcast about not directing Beowulf, though, so I've just agreed to go somewhere odd and write another film (a remake of a film I love, but wouldn't mind updating) with Roger for him to direct. (If I say "in my copious spare time", can we all agree that it should be read as if someone had actually invented the sarcasm mark as a unit of punctuation, and that "in my copious spare time" can be assumed to be inside sarcasm marks?)

And that's all about that.

....

Inquiring minds want to know.What did you do with that bat? You didn't hurt the poor little thing? Bat are really very lovely creatures. They're great for the ecosystem.So fate was given to that bat?Just asking.Sincerely - Yoga Gal

I put him out the back door and watched him fly away. I hope he found somewhere warm to go back to sleep.

Hi Neil--I don't know if you'll remember me, but you kindly visited my library in Salt Lake City (in celebration of its grand opening) a couple years ago. I believe you called it the coolest library in the world, or something to that effect (which made us all giggle and try very hard not to look smug.) Think luv sacs...

Anyway, I wanted to first post an answer to your Sundance sold-out-Mirrormask-showing problem. Even though screenings are sold out, it's still possible to get tickets, if you have the time...
>From the Sundance "Insider's Scoop" FAQ:"The film I want to see is sold out-what now?
Hmmm. . . where do we start?!? If you really want to see a film, stop by one of our box offices to check ticket availability. If there are no tickets available, you can still head over to a theatre and join the Wait List line. What's the Wait List?If tickets at the Box Office are sold out, try the theatres. One hour before each screening, numbered Wait List cards are distributed on a first-come, first-served basis (up to two cards per person). Thirty minutes before screening time, tickets are sold based on card number order. Every year, hundreds of people see films on Wait List tickets. The larger the theatre, the more likely it is you'll get in. Wait List tickets are cash only. If you don't get in, your money is refunded on the spot." >
From http://festival.sundance.org/2005/?=insider&28 Best Julie teen librarian etc., Salt Lake City Public Library

Thanks Julie. (Of course I remember that signing. You were the Buffy fan.)

Hi Neil--You recently wrote of reading "the new Library of America H.P. Lovecraft collection". I couldn't find a reference to it on their site or at Amazon. Can you provide any additional info about the book?Thanks for all the stories, the blog, the support of the CBLDF, and for good manners. Have fun in Sundance! Geoff Scott

It's definitely up on Amazon (here's the link), although it wasn't yet up at the LOA.org site.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Bats and Cats

You know that the world is getting a little surreal when the oddest thing you did all day was catch a bat using a shrimping net and a tennis racket (the tennis racket was used to cover off the top of the net, you'll be relieved to hear, and not, as I erroneously assumed when my assistant Lorraine brought it up from the basement, to whap the little fellow around the room), and as you go to bed, having found yet another cat-murdered roll of toilet paper in the middle of the office floor, you realise that you don't actually know where the cats are getting the nightly fresh toilet paper rolls from. It's as if there's some secret stash of toilet paper known only to the cats...

Thought for today:

I used to love having a video recorder. If I was going to be out, and there was something I wanted to watch, I would simply tape it to watch later. That I almost never actually watched the program I had taped did not matter. I'd taped it, and so didn't feel like I'd missed it.

Now, many years later, I have a DVR TIVO thing. It's wonderful. It automatically records things that I think I might one day want to watch, while also, just to be helpful, recording things it thinks I might want to watch but I don't. And then � and this is the good bit � I don't watch any of them. But I no longer have the vague feeling that I'm missing out on things. Tivo: it's watching TV so I don't have to...

Sundance Etiquette

Hello Neil,I hope you enjoy Sundance. We attended in 2003 and had an amazing time. So much to see, ah, eye candy.I plan on attending the Sarasota Film Festival and have a quick question on etiquette. Would it offend to bring a book for you and Dave to sign? Thanks for your time, Yvette

There's probably a post I should write about Sundance and Sarasota... so no, Dave and I wouldn't be offended if you brought a book to sign, and ask politely at an appropriate moment. Depending on the number-of-people-who-want-things-signed-at-any-one-time to where-we-have-to-be-next ratio, we'll happily sign whatever you've got.

Someone wrote to ask if they should say hello if they saw me (or Dave McKean) on the street or at a screening at Sundance, or if we'd be upset if they did. Of course say hello. We're unlikely to bite and just as unlikely to be rude. On the other hand, please do not try and pitch either of us your latest script or idea for a film or a novel or comic: we're the wrong people for that, promise.

I've also started getting the pleading e-mails from people who want MirrorMask tickets for Sundance, and think I can help. I'm afraid there's nothing I can do at this point. All the screenings are sold out. They were, so I'm told, some of the fastest-selling tickets of the Festival, and all the spares that Hensons had have been assigned. Having said that, while I don't know what the procedure at Sundance is for returns/no-shows/people-who-were-plus-ones-who-turn-up-on-their-own, it's always a good bet that even a sold-out screening isn't going to be completely sold-out.

It's Chris from The Beguiling. We've just put the first four auctions from Dave Sim's Tsunami Relief project up online at http://search.ebay.com/_W0QQsassZbeguiling. If you could find a moment to mention it on your journal, I'd greatly appreciate it.

Absolutely. A lovely Dave Sim cover, an equally as lovely Jeff Smith cover. I'm donating a framed Simon Bisley Batman painting to the auction, one that Simon gave me many years ago, to convince DC that he really could paint Batman, for a project that never happened called The Night Circus; and I wanted to donate something else -- perhaps an original manuscript or something. I need to have a good rummage in the basement, I suspect.

...

Nice article on Stephin Merritt and the Magnetic Fields at CNN.com, with a very odd photograph. http://www.cnn.com/2005/SHOWBIZ/Music/01/19/
music.magnetic.fields.ap/index.html




(In reality, of course, Stephin Merritt is not actually enormously tall, nor is Claudia Gonson doll-sized.)

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Gubbins and such

Spent the day mostly in bed reading C. S. Lewis's lovely "English Literature in the 16th Century", which is an excellent book to read if you're sick, and looking at the new Library of America H.P. Lovecraft collection -- I was fascinated by how much more disturbing and subtle the stories are in the original Lovecraft texts, shorn of the August Derleth exclamations and tendency to suddenly go into italics for the final half a sentence...!

...

There. Wrote that last night, then, rather to my surprise, fell asleep before finishing the post. Trying very hard to get over this fluey whatever-it-is before I have to leave for Sundance.

Very aware that there are too many open windows with things I meant to post, too many interesting/useful/heartfelt FAQ messages I meant to put up and answer. I'll try and get a start on them anyway.

I promised a friend I'd point people to this World Wildlife Fund site -- they're trying to preserve the Endangered Species Act, which is, I think, a sensible thing to do.

Enjoyed Chris Priest's Guardian review of a book on Rats (not an Endangered Species) filled with lines like "If you are in New York while you are reading this sentence," Sullivan says, "or even in any other major city... then you are in proximity to two or more rats having sex." In a major city, I suspect the same may be true of people, of course.

Interesting interviews with Los Bros Hernandez at the Onion: http://www.theonionavclub.com/feature/index.php?issue=4103. (It's weird for me to think that it's a decade since I interviewed them for The Comics Journal in a Hollywood hotel, an interview that began with me and Los Bros having lunch and watching the rather public final death-throes of the Paula Yates-Bob Geldof marriage.)

Interview with Terry Gilliam over at The Independent. http://news.independent.co.uk/people/profiles/story.jsp?story=601883.

Lots of people writing in to ask about "lurghi/lurgi/lurgie", all of them convinced that it's a word that's only used in their family. I knew it was a word the Goons used, and it looks like it originated with them as well: http://www.worldwidewords.org/qa/qa-dre1.htm for information.

Somehow I thought the US Government would be able to tell the difference between real academic qualifications, and the kind you buy from online places that send you Spam. It appears I was utterly wrong:

Agencies tasked with defending America from terrorism were among the top employers of workers with phony diplomas identified by the GAO. The Department of Defense employs 257 of them. Transportation has 17. Justice has 13; Homeland Security, 12; Treasury, eight.
The GAO also found that two diploma mills alone have received a total of nearly $170,000 in payments from a dozen federal agencies for tuition for 64 employees. [...] as a serial fake-diploma shopper, Callahan is one of the worst offenders among the senior officials identified from the eight federal agencies the GAO surveyed. At least 28 senior-level employees had degrees from diploma mills, the GAO found, while cautioning that �this number is believed to be an understatement.�


And I was saddened to discover the reason why British comics are in so parlous a state, at http://www.collinslibrary.com/blog/2005/01/american-invasion.html -- Britain's graphic narrative culture is now dwarfed by the US: they have no Crumb or Spiegelman, say, nor a Ware or a Clowes. I don't know of anything like a Fantagraphics there. (Weirdly enough, I thought that the UK was doing disproportionately well, until I read that entry, given that the US has no Alan Moore or Dave Gibbons, no Grant Morrison or Hunt Emerson, no Brian Bolland, no Dave McKean and no Leo Baxendale, no Bryan Talbot.... Given that Crumb lives in France these days, I daresay you could even stick me in on the UK list.) (And it's a really interesting blog, except for that nugget of dimness.)

Neil,I remember a while back you mentioned something about the some CBLDF perfume (proceeds go to CBLDF, not comic book flavoured perfume - though that would be cool). You said to let you know how it was if anyone bought it and well, I did. It is called Oisin and smells quite nice. Very light and clean. I quite enjoy it! Thanks for letting me know about it. I'm always glad to smell nice for a good cause.-Courtney in Arkansas

You're very welcome. There is something haunting about the smell of old comics, although I'm not sure that that smell of paper-and-time would be quite so appealing on a person.

Well you do certainly seem busy so I don't really know if you'll get the chance to reply. Unlike all good obsessive fans I will not claim to be your number one fan. I'm sure too many people will make announce and crown themselves "NUMBER ONE". Instead I would like to claim to be your "NUMBER TWO" fan. My question is simply this: I am having a hard time find your book called "Angels and Visitation" If you have any idea where I could find a copy either through mail or ordering online please let me know. As always I will be the next person in line to review your material.Signed your number TWO fan,aaron.

Angels and Visitations is currently back in print, because I wasn't comfortable with the eBay -book dealer prices being charged for the book. You can get it from DreamHaven, who are the publisher -- with the isbn number you may well be able to order it elsewhere, but I know that DreamHaven definitely have it. (Here's the search result -- they have sixth printings, a few first printings, and a very few of the signed-by-me-and-all-the-artists-limited-gold-edged-paper-in-the-slipcase edition left.)

And finally...

I'm sure it has already been brought to your attention, but a lovely webcast (if that is the right word for these things) of you reading excerpts from your novel at the National Book Festival at the Library of Congress website. As of today, it is the featured webcast. At anyrate, it was a very enjoyable watch for someone who was not present at the live event and made the interminable wait for a ride home more enjoyable. Website available at http://www.loc.gov.-Emily

It has, by several people, and I meant to post it before. (It's me, at the National Book Festival, reading some early chunks of Anansi Boys.) And there's Peter Straub and Neal Stephenson and a host of other excellent writers up there too... (and if they vanish from the front page, you can find them at http://www.loc.gov/bookfest/04/cybercasts/) (And as a note, it's strange to see me with a beard. It went after Fiddler's Green, and I've dropped about a stone in weight since then, through the patented Neil Gaiman "Don't Snack So Damn Much And Would It Kill You To Go For A Walk Occasionally?" Diet, which means there are all sorts of things I can now wear that I haven't worn for, oh, about five years...)

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

cough. glare. repeat.

Everyone else is now up and better, back at school or back at work, which is my cue finally to collapse with the lurghi and go to bed for the day. Death: The High Cost of Living script is done, and I'm very happy with it. I started typing the second half of Anansi Boys yesterday, and found myself wishing for a word processing program that would do for novels what Final Draft's scene navigator function does for scripts -- essentially, take all the scenes and bits and put them on moveable cards, so you can get an overview.

I thought this story was fascinating. I wonder if it'll get to the point where the US media doesn't cover things happening in the rest of the world, from fear of seeing nipples or hearing bad words. (Given some classical Greek traditions, I can't help feeling that Olympic viewers got off easy.)

Farah Mendlesohn is one of the smart academics and good critics. She just let me know that This year's project is an extensive survey on science fiction for children and YA from 1950-2005. I've opened a blog (TheInter-Galactic Playground: http://farah-sf.blogspot.com/) to record some of what I'm reading, but much more important is thequestionnaire. I really want to be able to reference my arguments to reader response -- so much of kid lit criticism is hot air, and sf barely exists in the criticism.

If you felt inclined to steer your blog readers to the questionnaire site (Questionnaire at: http://sfquestions.blogspot.com/) I would be incredibly grateful. It would hugely increase the volume of response. Comics *do* count in this survey.

The bibliophiles among you will want to head over to the Clarion Benefit Auction at http://www.msu.edu/~clarion/auction/auctionpreview.html, where many wonderful books are listed, for a very good cause. Hill House have generously donated some of the limited editions (and some of the Incredibly Limited Editions that I've not even seen yet) that they've done of my stuff. [Note the bidding starts on Jan 28th.]

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Zoinks! Jinkies! Jeepers!

You know, all those years I spent as a kid watching Scooby Doo, I never once thought "This is probably how adults really behave". I was, of course, wrong. This CNN story about the haunting of a castle estate in Austria...

http://www.cnn.com/2005/WORLD/europe/01/16/austria.ghost.ap/index.html

tells us that

The 42-year-old woman, whose name was not released, was convicted on nuisance charges after she allegedly spent weeks masquerading as a ghost and making mysterious noises, Austrian television reported.

Police captured the woman on videotape after the jittery owner, who employed the suspect's husband, begged authorities in the alpine province of South Tyrol to solve the mystery.


Traditionally, of course, the authorities are meant simply to laugh at the castle's owner, who is then supposed to offer the job to a gang of pesky kids.

(Thanks to all of you who sent me the link.)

...

Dear Neil,I told my husband that a deer crashed into the side of your Mini, but the car was not damaged at all. He was quite astonished that this was possible. I have wanted a Mini for some time and consider this story as yet another block of evidence that Minis are as safe as I believe. My husband however is still skeptical and wants to know if the deer died. I'm sorry if this question is in bad taste, but he really wants to know. Valery

I don't know what happened to the deer. It was night in the dark woods out by my writing cabin, and I looked around, but it had gone, leaving only the wing-mirror twisted up, and, oddly, what can only be described as a "deer print" on the side of the car, to tell me I'd not imagined it. It wasn't until I inspected it the following day, that I realised that it hadn't done any other damage (and the wing mirror simply twisted back into position.)

And this was the message after yours, Valerie. You may want to show it to your husband:

On the durability of Mini Coopers. I'm a volunteer fire-fighter in the Santa Cruz, CA, area. We had a mini drive off the two-lane highway and hit a telephone pole head on. It went through the pole, and into a 3-4' dia redwood tree. The tree stopped the car for good.The car was totalled, but no glass was broken, and the driver had a bruise on his arm. Very impressive for a 45mph or so impact. The car's front end was demolished, but otherwise was intact. The pole's bottom tore out the underside of the fuel tank, which caused a fire, but I forgive a car that. It's rare to go through something like a telephone pole in the first place. They tend to do pretty nasty things to cars... Enjoy the Mini, drive safely, and hope it serves you well,
Aaron

...

Those of you who were at Fiddler's Green may remember hearing me read a short story called SUNBIRD, which I wrote to be my daughter Holly's 18th birthday present and finished when she was 19 and a half (on my May 2003 European Tour I remember hearing the proverb "The knifemaker's children eat with wooden forks" but I no longer remember which country I was in when I heard it).

I've given it to McSweeneys, for an anthology of children's fiction they will be putting out to raise money for http://www.826nyc.org/ which should be published in the autumn of 2005.

I was just sent this news item from Newsday, that says that "... Cynthia Nixon, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Sam Rockwell, Justin Theroux, Kristen Johnston, Bob Balaban, Martha Plimpton, Parker Posey - shake well and mix for an evening called "How I Learned to Read." Add a dash of host Eric Bogosian. These worthies will deal with some never-before-heard stories for children from contemporary authors including Jonathan Safran Foer, Nick Hornby, Neil Gaiman, and George Saunders, with one or two classics from Mark Twain, Dr. Seuss and Roald Dahl. It happens Jan. 24 at Tonic, 107 Norfolk St., with sensibly priced tickets. A nonprofit tutoring center called 826NYC will benefit. The group helps students from ages 6-18 develop writing skills and use English as a second language. Call 212-477-8150.

..which sounds extremely cool. If anyone goes, let me know how it went and what they read.

...

http://www.guardian.co.uk/weekend/story/0,3605,1389496,00.html is an article by Jon Ronson about Day-glo, which I found fascinating. I suspect G. K. Chesterton would have enjoyed the paradox at the heart of the article. (Did I mention how much I enjoyed The Men Who Stare at Goats, Ronson's latest book? No?)

...

Neil: Just found out that you can purchase tickets for the Mirrormask screening at the Sarasota Film Festival (assuming I'm reading the webpage correctly) You can buy them online at: http://www.sarasotafilmfest.com/
Mirrormask and a break from the horrible cold; sounds good to me! Sax in Ohio

...

Dear Neil,January's "Empire" film magazine says that you and Dave McKean are doing the film of "Signal to Noise". Is it going ahead then? All I can find under "Search" is an old entry suggesting Dave was hoping to do it in 2003.I'd have expected to hear it mentioned at neilgaiman.com first, but then again "Empire" obviously take an interest in you as they've had several items on MirrorMask.Anyway, if it's happening I'm sure you'll tell us all about it in good time. Hope the current endeavours are going well,Kirsten

Dave certainly wants it to be his next film, and there are several entities who would like to finance it, but we've not yet even written the script. Not sure why Empire would be announcing it. (Dave did a screen test, a couple of years ago, under the auspices of the British Film Council, to see whether some of his odder ideas, like filming with multiple cameras, would work, and I think he was overall, happy with the effects.)

Neil, Over a year ago I remember you mentioning on your blog that DC/Vertigo was working on a Death trade collecting both mini-series. I'm wondering whatever happened to that? Will it ever see the light of day (perhaps it's being held off until the movie is released?), or has Vertigo let it slip into that dreaded area known as "forgotten projects"? Thanks, Greg

They decided not to do it for now -- I think mostly because they worried it would cut into sales of the Death: The High Cost of Living and The Time of Your Life paperbacks.

my best friend is betting me twenty bucks you won't post this

She's right. I won't.

Dear mr. Gaiman, I know you probably won't reply to this, but I have to ask anyways (the inner comic book geek in me says "why not?")That project you're now working on for Marvel, is it IN continuity? As in, will it be set in the current time frame of the Marvel Universe or will it be an out of continuity thing (ex. 1602) and can you give ANY hints on the artist or characters you'll be dealing with?Like I said, I had to ask. thanks a lot, flick

It'll be in continuity and present day, yes. Beyond that, you'll have to wait until it's announced, I'm afraid.

I got a question for you, how do you become friends with what you've written? Perfectionism is hard to overcome, well for me anyway, and I always see the flaws, the clumsyness and that sort of thing. Even when people who I trust in having an as objective opinion as possible say that they like it I don't trust them. Not because I lack self-confidence, there are things I've written that I genuinly love, it's just...When you see the flaws in something it's hard to love it, if it's your own work. I'm fine with it in other peoples work. So, am I making sense? Do you have this problem? And is there anything I can do to make it go away?

Well, it's hard to be a fan of your own work (I'm not a fan of my writing). You'll always see how far it was from what you had in mind when you sat down to write. (The only thing that seems to fix that is time. But time still won't make you a fan of what you've written, and when it does -- when you find yourself laughing at a joke you've forgotten that you wrote a long time ago -- it normally just makes you worry that you used to have it but you probably don't any more.)

If people you trust say they like it, they probably like it, but that doesn't make you respect them any the more or like the story. (It's one reason that editors buying stories is so important for beginning writers. Anyone can say they like it, but sending a cheque and then printing the story -- that's love.)

Also, once it's written, the writer is just one more person with an opinion about the work. It's certainly an informed opinion, but that doesn't make your opinion more right than anyone else's, I'm afraid, whether they like it or they don't.

It's best make art and not to worry. I'll take the satisfaction of having built something that did what I hoped it would do over being in love with my own voice any day. It's safer. Make good art that says sort of what you set out to say and then, when it's good enough for jazz, go on to the next thing.

Hi. I came upon a book called Adventures in the Dream Trade in an online auction here in the Philippines. The book (#689) went for Php8000 ($143)and was bought by another user quickly, before I even got to think about where to get the money. Sob. I understand that there were only 2000 copies printed but I still have to ask this question. Are there any plans for a mass market edition of the book? I mean, I'd still go out of my way to find ANOTHER copy (if I stumble upon one, that is), but it'd be nice to see it on a bookstore shelf beside your other books.Jeeu Christopher GonzalesQuezon City, Philippines

Adventures in the Dream Trade has been out in paperback for a while. You can get it from Amazon or from DreamHaven Books' http://www.neilgaiman.net/ site (I just checked their Just-In site and learned many things, including what the Olson Books "Neil Gaiman" book cover looks like -- it's a sweet photo of me in about 1993, which compares amusingly with the exhausted me of a year ago on the cover of Joe McCabe's lovely book of interviews) and probably from other places as well.

Actually, the paperback edition is rather better than the hardback, from an authorial point of view -- it had an excellent copy-editing going over by Davey and Chip. Which reminds me:

Hello. I have a question about the Fiddler's Green convention. I was unable to attend after paying for my membership and was told that I would be receiving the souvenir booklet via mail, however, I've yet to receive said booklet and none of my emails to the Fiddler's Green website seem to be answered. Is there any way you could help in this quasi-crisis? Adam

I've been assured that the Fiddler's Green people are getting out the souvenir books as soon as they can (most of them got back from the con to find Life waiting for them, and are still trying to catch up). Anyway, I've relayed your concerns.

I think you'll be extremely happy with the Book when it arrives -- it's quite an amazing piece of work.

...

And, finally, a word from our ten-year-old sponsor:

Hello everyone, it is your friendly neighborhood Maddy speaking. I'd just like to say a few words. My dad is a weirdo peirdo shmeirdo, My dad is a weirdo peirdo SPLAT! Thank you very much... now you can carry on with your day. P.S. Remember Dad is a weirdo, but Maddy is the best! P.P.S. La la la, sing with me!! Hmm hmm hmm, hum with me!! Dum de dum, dum de dum with me!! P.P.P.S. Thank you very much and now back to that one weird guy.

Memo to self: suggest to Maddy that she get her own blog. (Maddy also titled today's post.)

Friday, January 14, 2005

From the House of Soup

I'm the next-to-last-person standing in a house of people with something viral that probably isn't flu but might as well be, and which makes everyone who gets it miserable. Thank heavens for a sensible country doctor who wanders over in the evening and is reassuring. Judging from Maddy (the first to get sick) it only seems to be a 48 hour thing, anyway.

Last night's long and interesting post was eaten by a Nortons Update, at the precise moment where I learned that closing a window that tells you that Nortons has updated your computer and made it warm and fuzzy and safe and wants to restart it now has the same effect as clicking on okay. Ah well, you live and you learn and you curse computers.

I've forgotten most of what I wrote -- I talked about the deer that ran out into the road and crashed into the side of my Mini the other night, causing a grand total of no damage at all and leaving me with a newfound respect for the solidity of Minis; about how this blog is coming up for its fifth year of existence on February 9th 2005 and how or whether to celebrate it; I said that yesterday I'd finished the third draft of the DEATH: The High Cost of Living script, and would today be printing it out and scribbling on it before doing any final changes and sending it off to New Line; I mentioned that the mysterious and remarkable Roger Avary thing was getting even more mysterious and remarkable; and I drew everyone's attention to the Chicago Tribune article by Rob Elder about Jessa and Bookslut. Also I mentioned that anyone who enjoyed Teresa's infodump on agents might want to go and look at the http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/006006.html#006006 where Teresa says

Contemplating this universe of bad advice makes me feel at once curmudgeonly and appalled. It makes me want to put out a book called The Oppressively Real Guide to Writing and Publishing. Sample chapter titles:

Why You Shouldn�t Write.
A Taxonomy of People Who Are Out To Get You.
Myths and Legends of the Author Tribe.
Ever Wonder Why They Call It Submission?
Things That Won�t Happen.
Some Mistakes We Have Seen.
Recurrent Episodes in the Life of the Writer.
You Can Still Escape.


She must write this book. The world needs it.

I seem to remember finishing by pointing people to Lisa Snellings' (she of the Neil Rat and the Poe Rat) lovely spanking new website journal.

And somewhere in there I talked about the temperature (minus 9F, minus 23C).

...

i normally wouldn't want to bother you with this but because you just "finished" a book, and therefore probably have more free time, i was wondering if you could maybe look at the questions submitted at mousecircus.com. i submitted a few and i am sure quite a few other people must have submitted some, too, but for a long time no new questions have been answered. (i know this idea must seem very overwhelming, but there are a lot of us who would really like to hear responses to our questions.) thanks!

Sorry about that. The problem with mousecircus.com's FAQ line is that they go to a department which collects them together and every six months sends me a ten page e-mail of questions. And if it arrives when I'm busy it gets put to one side until I have time. (The way the neilgaiman.com line is set up, the stuff just comes in and I answer it as I go along.) But I've just sent a message to the Harper Childrens department in question and asked them to send over the latest bunch. (There's still no guarantee yours will get answered, of course. And I tend not to answer things I've answered before.)

I love the idea of more free time, but it hasn't happened yet. It probably won't happen until Anansi Boys, and the MirrorMask "picture book" which will be a sort of novella-length illustrated novelisation, are handed in. Given a couple of other things currently going on it may not happen at all, or not for a while. The 'copious spare time' comment the other day was intended to be taken with a large dollop of chilly irony. (Currently I'd really like the time to sign and number the 300 cool things that were meant to be Xmas presents, but are now New Year's Presents, which are sitting, unsigned, on my chest of drawers.) Time is precious.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Time for a Quick One

Just a quick one to say there are a bunch of new MirrorMask stills up at http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/stills.php?id=2303

And I just got an e-mail from Joe Quesada about Marvel mystery project #2. It looks like I've practically got an artist for the project (a really cool one I've never worked with before); and that, following a long conversation between me and Joe, we'll be incorporating bits of stuff from previous plans into something set in the Marvel Universe here and now. And that it'll be fun.

So I'm going to start working on the outline for it in my copious free time...

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Everything you wanted to know about literary agents...

A few people have recently been asking very similar things -- this is an example:

Dear Neil, I know that you touched upon this in your F.A.Q. but I'm very desperate for advice and I don't really know anyone personally to help me out. Without embellishing a little, you are one of my chief inspirations for writing and I would be honored if someone told me my writing was a quarter of your caliber and creativity. That said, you are about the only author I could think of that I would want to answer this question.I'm getting close to finishing what I hope will someday be my first novel and I'm becoming nervous. Not about the book, though. Like so many authors, I'm not afraid to write I'm afraid what I write won't get published. Since publishing isn't very friendly to the poor unsolicited manuscript I'm not seeing much alternative but to find a literary agent. The thing is I'm not sure how to go about that confidently. Like everyone submitting their writing I want a fair shake in a read through and a reputable agent to (hopefully) attach myself with. I don't mean to be a bother but if you could refer me to a website with a listing of good agencies or recommend a few by name I would be very grateful for that. It would be a thrill to have a book in print before I turn 25 (I'm giving myself a couple years room) so any direction you can point my zeal in would be more than I have at the moment.Thank you dearly and regards, Courtney W. IL

I'd been a writer professionally for about five or six years, and had three or four books published before I decided that it was time to get an agent, and I got that agent (Merrilee Heifetz, of Writers House) because she'd just sold DON'T PANIC! on behalf of Titan Books in the UK, and we met while I was in New York, and I liked her and felt very confident in her; she's been my agent for almost 18 years now; which is my way of saying that I don't know much about the ins and outs of getting agents.

I have read Ten Percent of Nothing, however, a book which explains how Dorothy L. Deering, possessing a high school degree, a recent embezzlement conviction, and no experience as a professional writer, editor, or publisher, began operating a fee-based literary agency out of her garage in Nicholasville, Kentucky. Over the next ten years, she racked up a fortune in reading and marketing fees, learning the business of sham publishing as she went along. Later, as the owner of a vanity press, she bilked 1.5 million dollars out of her clients, masterfully manufacturing dreams of literary success until she was brought to justice by Fisher�s investigative journalism, an FBI probe, and the retaliation and testimonies of numerous victims. So I know there are bad people out there who call themselves literary agents.

And best of all, I know Teresa Nielsen Hayden. Teresa's an editor at Tor Books (she's edited other places too over the years) and a weblogger besides -- http://www.nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/ -- and she knows publishing better than anyone else I've ever met. So I asked her...

What I got back was the kind of comprehensive post that aspiring authors should read with care. Study, even. Mark it and copy it and use it as a resource:

Hi, Neil --

Happy to answer.

1. If you're writing fiction, the True Secret Answer is "get an
offer." If you've got an offer, you can get an agent. If you don't
have an offer, you don't want the kind of agent you're likely to get.

a. If you're good enough to get published, having an agent may prove
helpful. If you aren't (yet), you definitely don't want the kind of
agent you're going to get.

i. There is no substitute for writing a book that people want to buy
and read. If you can do that, you can get published. If you can't, no
clever workaround will help, because we can't force people to buy and
read books they don't like.

b. Some ways you might get an agent without getting an offer: Be
obviously and extraordinarily good. Sell a lot of short stories. Have
some other seriously hot credentials.

2. Don't start by looking for an agent. Do your research first. Start
by learning about agents, submissions, publishing houses, the
industry, et cetera. Note: This is a huge subject.

a. No matter how you think it works, the publishing industry doesn't
work the way you think it does. This is true even for publishing
professionals. They know how their part of the industry works, and
they know a lot about adjacent areas, but the further afield they go,
the less reliable their expertise will be. People who aren't in the
industry generally don't have a clue.

i. A phenomenal number of articles about how publishing works are
written by people who don't know what they're talking about. This is
partly because writing about writing, or writing about publishing, is
what wanna-be authors do when they've given up on writing, but don't
yet want to admit it. It's also because a made-up version of the
publishing industry is going to be much simpler and more logical than
the real thing, and thus is easier to write about.

ii. Look askance at articles that credit some industry practice to the
stupidity of people working in the industry, who have failed to see
the simple and obvious solution the author of the article is about to
suggest.

3. There are easily as many scam agents, useless agents, and clueless
agents as there are real ones. They all swap bad information with each
other. The difference is that the scammers know it's bad information.

a. You can't research this subject just by getting online and looking.
You have to stick to good sources.

4. Did I mention that any idiot can write a book about how to be a
writer? When you see someone who's never sold a book, but who's
written a book about how to get your book published, and said book was
published by a vanity house, and said author is nevertheless accepted
as an authority on the subject by a great many aspiring writers, you
know you've wandered into strange territory.

a. The scary part is that I've just described
more than one
Authoritative Source of Advice about Writing and Publishing.

b. Any idiot can put up a website, too.

c. Check out your source's credentials.

i. It's always worth your while to assess the quality of the info
you're getting, because bad advice can cost you such an inordinate
amount of time and effort.


==============

The Essential Resources:

The Association of Authors' Representatives
http://www.aar-online.org/

There are some legit agents that don't belong to the AAR, but not
many; and if an agent belongs, they're legit.

Writer Beware:
http://www.sfwa.org/beware/

Preditors & Editors is one site in two places, mirrored:

http://www.anotherealm.com/prededitors/
mirrored:
http://www.invirtuo.cc/prededitors/

Aspiring writers should read both Writer Beware and Preditors &
Editors. Reading them from start to finish wouldn't be a bad idea.

==============

Further Agent-Specific Resources

Agent Research & Evaluation has a good reputation and a stern
attitude:
http://www.agentresearch.com/

Agent Query,
http://www.agentquery.com/, is an online database of
agent info. I haven't used them. They've been casually recommended to
me.

==============

People who give reliable advice:

Victoria Strauss, who ought to get a Special Hugo or something. She
has a collection of very good articles on her website, a couple of
which are specifically about finding an agent:
http://www.sff.net/people/victoriastrauss/articles.html

Ann Crispin.

Jim Macdonald, sometimes known as Yog Sysop. He hangs out at
AbsoluteWrite, fighting scammers in the Bewares Board, and teaching
writing in Learn Novel Writing with Uncle Jim.



Me (she said, modestly) mostly, unless I'm feeling irresponsible. You can usually tell.
Further down is a list of some of my Making Light posts about writing,
publishing, and related subjects. I put it at the bottom because it's
so long.

John Savage, a pseudonymous lawyer who specializes in law for writers.
He does a weblog, Surreality Check:
http://savage.authorslawyer.com/journal.shtml.

C. E. Petit, a lawyer who specializes in law for writers, has a weblog
called Scrivener's Error:
http://scrivenerserror.blogspot.com/.

Michelle Sagara.

Kent Brewster, of Speculations/Rumor Mill, has overseen a great many discussions of publishing, editing, and agenting.

Andy Zack is a legit agent who answers questions online.

==============

Selected other sites that track and discuss good guys and bad guys:

Speculations.com, the Rumor Mill:
http://www.speculations.com/rumormill/

especially see Speculations' "Search for the Killer Agent" thread:
http://www.speculations.com/rumormill/?z=451718&f=452061

AbsoluteWrite, the Bewares Board:
http://p197.ezboard.com/fabsolutewritefrm11

WritersWeekly.com, Whispers and Warnings
http://forums.writersweekly.com/viewforum.php?f=14

==============

Miscellaneous:

Sillybean's Publishing 101 has a good selection of current links on
writerly issues, and I'm not just saying that because it links to a
lot of my articles:
http://www.sillybean.net/article/510/writing-and-publishing-101.

Internet-Resources.com is an oppressively compendious list of writers'
resources:
http://www.internet-resources.com/writers/

==============

Bad Resources:

Avoid the list of agents at writers.net. Anyone can type in their own
name there.

The more you know, the more errors you see in the "Everyone Who's Anyone in Adult Trade Publishing and Tinseltown Too" website. http://everyonewhosanyone.com/index.html


==============

Stuff from Making Light, roughly in order of its relevance:


On the Getting of Agents
http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/004772.html

Slushkiller
http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/004641.html

A Brief Note on Linguistic Markers (recognizing scammers)
http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/005540.html#005540

More Linguistic Markers (more of the same)
http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/005555.html#005555

Bad Advice on Cover Letters (Todd James Pierce's bad advice)
http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/005212.html#005212

Taking Your Own Bad Advice (Todd James Pierce digs himself in deeper)
http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/005218.html#005218

Varieties of Insanity Known to Affect Authors
http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/004307.html If it amuses you, "Varieties of Insanity Known to Affect Authors" isalso available on assorted t-shirts, sweatshirts, and tote bags:http://www.cafepress.com/nielsenhayden

Cover Letters (a brief note on bad cover letters)
http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/001505.html

Nudge Note (short: waiting through a submission)
http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/004668.html

Extratextual Characteristics (on categories)
http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/000159.html

How Books Sell (addressing some common errors)
http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/002858.html

Squick and Squee (fanfic as an R&D lab of techniques)
http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/005871.html

Namarie Sue (Mary Sues, and other iniquities)
http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/004188.html

Is It Me -- (things the editor doesn't want to hear about)
http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/004900.html

>From Correspondence: Sneaking Out Under the Literary Radar
http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/002703.html

On Writing Genre Fantasy (brief)
http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/003897.html

The Evil Overlord Devises a Plot (cheap plot tricks)
http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/000290.html The weblog post talks about and links to The Evil Overlord Devises aPlot, but the actual thing is at http://www.sff.net/paradise/plottricks.htm. The fancy automated version of the Evil Overlord Plot Generator (with Murphy's Laws of Combat) is here: http://nielsenhayden.com/overlord/

Looking at The Writers' Collective (scam publishing)
http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/005292.html

Hanging Out In Someone Else's Argument (PC magazine)
http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/002630.html

Look Quick, Before It Goes Away (can't summarize it)
http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/005569.html

Yetanother Book -- (very brief, on stupid advice books)
http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/005596.html

Deserts of Vast Literacy (extremely brief)
http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/001477.html

Wocky Jivvy, Wergle Flomp (scam poetry competitions)
http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/002693.html

The Power of the Press, Sort Of (hapless vanity publisher)
http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/005922.html#005922

Prose and Cons (scam agent Melanie Mills gets busted)
http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/004041.html

Yetanother Variant (touches on publishing scams)
http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/001541.html

Rowling vs. Stouffer (I thought it was interesting)
http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/001463.html

The Underlying Forms of Fraud (a general article on fraud)
http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/001509.html

Communicator Awards, and Other Coincidences (Cris Robbins Agency)
http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/000357.html

==============


How's that?

-t.

......


Quite astonishing really.

Changing the subject, it must be a delight for Waterstones to have solved the potential publicity problem of Joe Gordon's weblog so effectively. That was sarcasm: actually it looks like it's turning into a Waterstones PR disaster -- as the Guardian in http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,3604,1388249,00.html
gets the story out to all its readers, points out that a bookseller that supports free speech and has no policy on employee blogs cannot be seen to have reacted rationally by firing a blogger, then closes its article by extracting every less-than-flattering comment that Joe made about Waterstones and spreading it to a Waterstones-visiting readership much bigger than Joe's blog ever reached before, while the Scotsman -- http://news.scotsman.com/scotland.cfm?id=33932005 also covers it, and they at least go on to use the word dooced, but without mentioning http://www.dooce.com/ and the lady who will undoubtedly beat this blog in the Best of Blog awards - http://www.blogmechanics.com/bob/results.html.)


Just for the record, Waterstone's may be LIKE Borders in the U.S., but they are not a part of the same company. Janice in GA
Happy wife of a Borders employee


Absolutely not.
...

And this came in from Jim Vance. I don't have anything to add to it, other than Jim is, as always, a gentleman, and that I'm very much looking forward to reading the conclusion of Omaha.


When Neil announced last spring that my wife Kate Worley's cancer had left our family in financial straits, the show of generosity from friends and fans was amazing. When she slipped away a few weeks later, the response was even greater. During her final weeks Kate was immensely touched by the show of affection represented by those gifts. I suspect that the number of condolences and contributions that followed her death would have astonished her.

Those gifts enabled me to reduce crippling medical expenses to a manageable level, and to provide for our children. For that, as well as the peace of mind it afforded Kate at the end, I am immeasurably grateful.

The gifts eventually stopped coming, of course, but more have recently begun to arrive...which prompts me to ask that no one else send money to us in Kate's memory. The assistance received made the difference between survival and desperation, and the accompanying sentiments provided emotional support at a time of desolation. But if this were to resume, I'd begin to feel as though I were profiting from Kate's death. That's not the way I want to remember her.

If anyone else who reads these words feels the need to honor her memory, please make a donation to the American Cancer Society in her name. Or do yourself a favor and seek out copies of the wonderful adult comics series she did with Reed Waller, "Omaha the Cat Dancer." After a hiatus of several years, Kate was writing the conclusion of that series during her final days, and we hope to be able to announce the publication of that new material in the near future. That may be the best way of all to honor her memory: keeping it alive by reading the wonderful stories she worked so hard to create.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Why automatic kissing machines are a bad idea etc

You know, I find author tours as exhausting as the next person (assuming that the next person is also an author who gets long lines of people to his or her signings and winds up on extremely lengthy and often fairly punishing signing tours) but I would like to go on record as saying that I think Margaret Atwood's remote mechanical book-signing apparatus is the work of the devil, or at least a really really stupid idea. There's an article about it here in which we learn that:

The machine, created in consultation with computer experts under Atwood's newly created company Unotchit Inc.[...]will comprise two units. The first will consist of a screen, where the author can see and speak to the book reader in real-time, and a tablet on which the author will write the inscription. The second unit will be with the book reader, and will also include a screen to communicate with the author in real-time, and will have a flat book holder as well as an electronic arm and pen that will scrawl out the autograph.

The system will allow the inscription to be edited or spell-checked before being committed to paper and the quality of the signature should be identical to one done in person, Atwood says. The book reader will also be able to keep a record of the on-screen interaction with the author for posterity.

The way I see it, the whole point of a signing is to be able to say hello to the people who buy the books and for them to say hello to you, and for them to know that you picked up that book and scribbled something illegible on it. (In my case, I doubt there are any two signatures exactly the same.)

Not that signing a book is anything like being kissed (unless of course, you are kissed during a signing), but the Atwood Patented Booksigner seems to make as much sense and promise to be as much fun as a machine that would kiss you on the cheek, thus reproducing a kiss on the cheek from a celebrity you fancy, who's a thousand miles away kissing a screen, which then issues you with a slip of paper informing you that you had just been kissed by the person in question, for, as Ms Atwood puts it, posterity.

I'd rather just not be kissed than walk away with my "You were just AutoKissed by..." slip, just as I'd rather not go on a signing tour than use an Atwood machine. In my opinion it's something that should be personal, intimate, faintly silly and include all the spelling mistakes, the illegible bits and the ink-blots. (Signing that is. Not kissing. Unless you'rethe sort of kisser who produces ink blots.)

Neil, Sorry, I'm about to do what you just said wasn't all that helpful but isn't Cal Arts in California an obvious choice? The school was started by Walt Disney for pete sake. Now they might decide that they are much too snooty for this sort of thing but still it might be worth a try. Unfortunately I only have personal influence with the Acting Dean of the Theatre program which isn't really the right department for this. Seems that fine arts is where this lecture should be hosted.

Well, Paul Levitz is pretty busy running DC Comics. If I give him a bunch of messages like this, it's not really going to be of much use to him. I suppose I should have made myself a bit clearer in yesterday's post (sorry). But if you think (and I grabbed this as a sample one of dozens like it that have come in this morning) that Cal Arts (or wherever you've suggested) would be good, then please, go and ask around there, or send an e-mail -- find out if there's any interest. Point people there to my last post. If there's someone in a position to actually make something happen who might be interested, let me know, and I'll pass it along to Paul. But a bunch of messages saying "hey, what about college X, they like pop culture stuff?" doesn't really give us more than, in the end, several hundred names of colleges, mostly without any leads on departments, names, or whether it's really even worth anyone's time making a phone call (or even who to make the phone call to). And having watched Paul spend most of the year in negotiation with a college who really ought to have been interested, but ultimately weren't, I'd rather be able to send him something saying "So-and-so at College/Festival/Convention/Organisation X would very much like to talk to you about this" than "here are the list of places that people think ought to be interested".

I should add that several messages have come in from people who are in a position to make things happen, and that some of them would be really cool indeed.

(Someone wanted to know if I'd be the lecturer -- I think the idea is to have a different speaker every year, so it might be me, just as it might be Michael Chabon or Harlan Ellison (to pick a couple of people who probably won't mind me taking their names in vain) or someone else cool.)

Dear Neil:I hate to ask a question when you're Great With Book, but you clearly Know A Bit About The Book Selling Industry. As an author who grew up in the U.K. and who visits there regularly, can you clear up what may be a dumb question about a bookstore chain? There's an ugly example of a long-term employee of "Waterstone's" who was fired over his weblog--the URL is http://www.woolamaloo.org.uk/2005/01/those-who-profess-to-favor-freedom-and.htm. For those of us from the U.S., is the chain "Waterstone's" the local version of Barnes & Noble's, Wall-Mart, K-Mart, Borders, Chapters, or what? And does this seem "business as usual" or some sort of oddity on their part? Thanks!Bruce Durocher II, who hopes Lorraine enjoys her Orange Peeler.

And I went to the link, and my jaw dropped as I realised this the blog wasn't just another anonymous blogger getting shafted for talking on a weblog, but Joe from Waterstones in Edinburgh, who has organised a number of excellent signings and events for me there over the last eight years, both in-store and out of the store, and who is smart, well-informed, opinionated-but-in-a-good-way and always really professional. He's the only reason I've always done a Waterstones signing when in Edinburgh, rather than go to one of the other options. If I had a bookshop, I'd want him working for it.

To say that I'm disappointed by Waterstones' action would be putting it mildly -- they used to be an excellent chain of booksellers (for American readers, I suppose a bit like Borders) but they seem to have lost the plot over the last few years, and this is an astonishingly foolish and shortsighted thing to do. I'm extremely unimpressed.

I'm glad I don't have anyone who can fire me for comments made on this blog. (Actually, thinking about it a bit more, I'm glad I don't have anybody who can fire me.)

...

When I was a 13 year old schoolboy, my voice was starting to break, and I suddenly couldn't sing for toffee. This coincided with the school production of Oliver! where I found myself given the only non-singing part in the play. For some reason this article made me feel weirdly vindicated.

...

Let's see...

Over at IGN Peter Sanderson writes about "A SHORT FILM ABOUT JOHN BOLTON", the new Creatures of the Night graphic novel, 13 Nights of Fright, and about how I'm a bit all-over-the-place. http://filmforce.ign.com/articles/577/577842p2.html.

(Talking about the 13 Nights of Fright, Peter says The cavernous, macabre setting was meant to represent Gaiman's office, which looked much as I'd imagined it, though with not quite so many video screens. His assistant also looked much as I'd imagined her, though I assume his real assistant will take many more months, if not years, to live this down, which amused me mostly because Malena and the Fabulous Lorraine have become fast friends -- and Malena is going to be singing on Lorraine's upcoming solo CD.)

Roger Avary writes about John Bolton the person, "A SHORT FILM ABOUT JOHN BOLTON", and other things on his blog, the overall link for which is http://www.avary.com/rogeravary/journal/journal.php. [Currently a script that Roger and I wrote some years ago will either be sold to some nice Hollywood people for an awful lot of money, or Roger will make the film himself, and I'll find out soon which it is (either would be good, and it's Roger's call which it's going to be, so I just await the outcome with interest).]

And there's a Newsarama article/interview about "A SHORT FILM ABOUT JOHN BOLTON" over at http://www.newsarama.com/movies/Gaimain_Filmmaker.htm
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