Neil Gaiman
Journal Neil"s Work Cool Stuff & Things About Neil Message Boards Where"s Neil Search MouseCircus.Com FAQs
You are here: Home » Journal
Archives  |  RSS  |  Translations  |  Labels  |  Tumblr

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

An assortment of bits...

Good evening. As I type this, I'm watching The Horn Blows at Midnight with Holly, on a long white sofa with sushi pillows. She wanted to know if the film was as bad as Benny made it out to be on his radio shows... (well, no, but...)

You know, while you're writing a book, it's yours. No-one else gets to read it unless you ask them to. It's sort of private and secret and it's, well, as I said, it's all yours. Then one day, some months after it's finished it gets published, and then the reviews start, and now it's public property and it's not yours any more. But you have several months to sort of grit your teeth and start getting used to the whole review thing.

Marcus Gipps is a bookseller in the UK, and he gets advance readers copies of books, such as, well, Anansi Boys. And he reviews them. Which meant that this morning he sent me a link to his review of Anansi Boys up at http://www.livejournal.com/users/marcusgipps/16062.html, four months before the book will be published. (It's probably worth mentioning that what Marcus is writing about is an uncopyedited, unedited, not the draft of the book that will be published, version.)

I was more than a little relieved to discover that it seemed like Marcus had read the book I'd written, and seemed to have enjoyed it.

...

I spent about 45 minutes a few days ago in the X-Men 3 offices, seeing what they'd planned for the movie, watching animatics of some of the sequences, admiring the concept art. I heard people there muttering about the fact they'd got a movie coming out in May 2006 and they didn't seem to have the budget to make the film they were planning, and how they'd probably be reduced to a pulse-pounding tiddlywinks battle between Magneto and Wolverine in the final sequence -- but they all seemed very committed to the project, while hoping that their budget and time issues could be worked out with the powers that be. So I was sad to see from Ain't It Cool that Matthew's left the film. If it's true, then I suspect it means that the Stardust film may be happening rather sooner than anyone expected.

...

Over at http://www.interaction.worldcon.org.uk/hugolink.htm are links to this year's Hugo Award nominated stories. I love that you can read them all online, and that there are links to some amazing things to read. For example, this biographical essay, taken from the nonfiction collection by Phil Klass (AKA William Tenn)http://www.dpsinfo.com/williamtenn/constantinople.html is compulsive reading, of the "you couldn't make that up" variety.

...

I sometimes find myself in awe of people like art speigelman, who smoke in front of audiences in places that smoking isn't allowed. So I was amused by this exchange from an English literary festival, where Christopher Hitchens was smoking...

Female audience member Excuse me. I'm not usually awkward at all but I'm sitting here and we're asked not to smoke. And I don't like being in a room where smoking is going on.

CH (smoking heavily): Well you don't have to stay darling, do you? I'm working here and I'm your guest, OK? And this is what I'm like; nobody has to like it.

IK Would you just stub that one out?

CH No. I cleared it with the festival a long time ago. They let me do it.

FAM We should all be allowed to smoke then.

CH Fair enough. I wouldn't object. It might get pretty nasty though. I have a privileged position here, I'm not just one of the audience, so it would be horrible if everyone was like me. This is my last of five gigs, I've worked very hard for the festival. I'm going from here to Heathrow airport. If anyone doesn't like it they can kiss my ass.

IK Would anyone like to take up that challenge?

(Laughter. Woman walks out)


...

As a follow-up to a couple of different things I've been talking about here recently -- audiobooks and The Last Unicorn sequel -- this page http://www.conlanpress.com/html/comments.html features people's comments on Peter Beagle reading The Last Unicorn.

...

This blog gets quoted in an article on Moleskine notebooks. Which I mention mostly because I've been feeling guilty for about three years for losing the address of someone who sent me a gift of some moleskines, back when you could hardly find them in the US, and I've never said thank you. So if it was you, thanks so much and I'm sorry I lost your address. (There. A small karmic weight off my mind. But I still feel guilty.)

...

Someone kindly wrote to let me know that Anansi Boys is slightly more expensive in Canada than it is anywhere else in the world. $369 to be precise, although it's $351 for Chapters Indigo Members. I wonder how long that'll stay up there...

Talking about typos, I discovered this on Making Light.

...

Hi Neil, thanks for the information on how to behave at a book signing, and if you ever come near where I live, I assure you, I won't try to secretly tape you! That being said, however, I work for my University newspaper, and I have been formally dared by the staff to try and set up an interview with you, and I have to tape you legally, no climbing in through windows or anything (well, that makes it a little bit more difficult, and really clashes with my "journalistic style", but rules are rules and you can't go back on a double dog dare, not even with infinity, I tried.) So I'm wondering, how would someone set up an interview with you? I couldn't find the info on your site, and I won't win the box of mini donuts in our office fridge unless I do it "professionally", so any information you could give would be great. I would even share the donuts.

Cheers! Cassie, University of Regina, Saskatchewan

Well, you being in Canada, you'd want to contact the press department of Harper Collins Canada. Which twenty seconds playing with google, suggests that this page -- http://harpercollins.ca/contactemailus.asp?uid=12 -- would be the one you'd use. I trust that'll get you your donuts.

There doesn't seem to be a similar webpage for the US -- but an e-mail to Jack.womack at harpercollins.com should work.

If you're in the UK and you need an interview from Headline, contact lucy.ramsey at
headline.co.uk. (They've also got the new covers for the UK paperbacks up at the Headline site.)
I'm not actually certain who people in Singapore, the Philippines should contact for interviews (most requests have been coming in through the FAQ line so far). In Australia, you'd go to http://www.hha.com.au/.

iffiness

Just a small post to say,

a) I neglected to say that the pen that comes with the Really Useful Book journal, with the special light on the end to reveal the invisible sayings, also writes invisibly.

b) While I've heard from a few people that specific places have announced where I'll be signing in the US in September/October (for example, Cody's books has me listed as signing there on September 30th at http://www.codysbooks.com/blog/index.jsp) I don't yet have a complete list. It'll go up here as soon as I do.

The UK tour will be in November, probably from around the 4th to the 20th. Again, when I have dates I'll post them here.

c) I just went out to my little writing cabin for the first time in a few weeks. What a perfect day to go and write beside the lake, I thought, when I got out of the car. How fresh and wonderful everything smells. A good day to be alive. Opened the door, thought "gosh, smells a bit iffy in here" so I emptied out the rubbish bin beneath the sink. I turned on a ceiling fan, and nothing at all happened, and somehow the iffy smell seemed to have become even iffier. I went and looked in the fridge, with a sinking sort of feeling. The light did not go on when I opened the fridge door. It was warm in there. Everything in the fridge was warm. When I opened the door, the iffy smell became, well, rather less iffy and a lot more definite.

A little detective work and I found, near the door, a small note from the local power company, dated two weeks ago, letting me know that they had been by to change my electricity meter but I was out. It didn't say that they'd cut off the power if I didn't phone them back, but I suspect that's what they did.

I sighed, and drove home, and now, rather late, am about to go and work in the gazebo at the bottom of the garden instead. It's not by a lake, but at least it only smells like fresh-cut grass, so that's all right.

I feel like I should at least link to something funny before I go. So here's the Adventures of Lethem and Chabon....

Monday, May 30, 2005

So you're going to a signing....

I hear you'll be within shouting distance in the next coming months. I'm aware of the stupidity of my question but it bears asking just the same:Will you be offended if you were asked to sign a paperback edition of your book instead of hardbound? And related to that, are the royalties the same whether you sell the paperback or the hardbound edition of one of your books?

No, I won't be offended at all.

Harper Collins asked very tentatively this year if I'd let them limit items signed on the ANANSI BOYS signing tour in September/October to just copies of ANANSI BOYS, and I told them that I wasn't going to do that, and we'd stick with the same old signing rules we've always done (which is, depending on numbers, I'll sign unlimited copies of ANANSI BOYS, and probably two or three things people have brought with them or bought there).

I don't know if the shops in Australia or the Philippines or Singapore are going to have any specific rules -- if they are I'll try and post them, or you can check with them yourself.

My personal rule is that, sure, I'm happy to sign it, whether it's a hardback or a paperback or a comic, or old or new or whatever. I don't go on signing tours to make money (I suppose there's an argument to be made that they increase goodwill and thus increase the odds of someone buying your book next time, or something, and publishers are very aware that they're selling books NOW that they would have sold over the next few months but might not have sold that week); I do them because it's good to go and meet people, and because, while exhausting, they're also more or less fun, and because it makes a change from sitting in a room and making things up. And it makes numbers into people, which I like.

Whether you have a hardback or a paperback, whether it's a pristine object encased in lucite and nitrogen or is a much-thumbed book held together with duct tape and stains, it doesn't matter to me.

Royalties for authors -- it's generally around 8-10% of the cover price of a paperback and around 10-15% of the cover price of a hardback. Sometimes these are on sliding scales (8% to 10,000 copies, say and 12% to 50,000 and 15% thereafter). It tends to be much less for comics.

If I were you, I'd assume that I'm being very well recompensed by my publishers, and that as far as I'm concerned, readers are readers and booksales are booksales, and I am convinced that everything sort of works out for the best.

(See http://www.neilgaiman.com/journal/2003/03/dont-know-how-youll-feel-about-this.asp
and the follow-up, http://www.neilgaiman.com/journal/2003/03/i-was-there-in-cleveland-in-1999-when.asp).

Back in 2001 I did a post with helpful signing rules for people going to signings, which I've reposted, with additional information since, at least once -- http://www.neilgaiman.com/journal/2003/08/one-that-includes-repost-of-helpful.asp -- and I should probably stick it up over at the FAQs, or do a revised FAQ thing, or just make it easy to get to on its own, or something.

For now, I'll repost it here, so forgive me if you've read it before (and if you're one of the people who reads the LiveJournal feed, please remember that you're reading a feed, which is why there isn't a LiveJournal cut, because the last time I posted it I got at least a dozen letters from people telling me off). And I'll include the preamble from the last time I posted this, which was before a Borders Wolves in the Walls signing.

Depending on the number of people there we'll limit the number of things I'll sign, in order that everyone gets something signed. But if you have a best-beloved something you want signed, feel very free to bring it along. Some authors will only sign The New Thing. I'm not one of them. (I normally try and do something whereby it's 1,2 or 3 things that get signed PLUS as many copies of The New Thing as you want.)

Some stores are especially nice to people who buy the New Thing, or buy the New Thing from them -- they have special lines or put you to the front or something. I don't believe Borders does.

Back in April 2001 in the original American Gods blog I scribbled out a bunch of suggestions for people going to signings -- I'll repost them here, partly so that they're in a journal entry with a permalink.

I have been asked to give some dos and don'ts for people coming to signings. And although I've written do's and don't's and suggestions for stores before (and may possibly reprint them here, for contrast), I don't think I've ever written any suggestions for the people who actually make the signings possible.

If you've never been to any kind of signing with me, the first thing you should know is, wherever possible it'll start with a reading and a question and answer session. Then you'll be herded into lines (or, the first 50 people will be called, just like at a deli counter) and I'll start signing stuff for people. And that will go on until everyone's done, and happy, and out the door.

So here you go... Some dos and don'ts in no particular order...

1) It can be a good idea to call the store first and find out if they have any specific ground rules. Some do, some don't. Will they be handing out numbers? Will you have to buy a copy of American Gods from them in hardback to get prime place in the line or will it be first come first served? What about books you bought somewhere else? Can you bring your ferret?

2) Get there reasonably early if you can. I'll always try and make sure that anyone in line during the posted signing times gets stuff signed. At evening signings I'll always stay and make sure everyone goes away happy, but on this tour there will be several places where I'll need to go from a signing to another signing, so don't cut it fine.

3) You may own everything I've ever written. I'm very grateful. I'm not going to sign it all, so you had better simply pick out your favourite thing and bring that along.

4) As a rule, I tend to tell stores I'll sign 3 things people bring with them � plus any copies of the new book you buy (if you have six brothers or sisters and buy one each, I'll sign them all). But stores may have their own policies � and we may wind up changing the rules as we go in order to make sure that everyone gets stuff signed.

5) Eat first. I'm not kidding. If it's a night-time signing of the kind that can go on for a long time, bring sandwiches or something to nibble (some signings with numbers handed out may make it possible for you to go out and eat and come back. Or you may be first in line. But plan for a worst case scenario of several hours of standing and shuffling your way slowly around a store). (If it's a daytime signing somewhere that a line may snake out of a store into the hot sun, bring something to drink. I always feel guilty when people pass out.)

6) You may be in that line for a while, so talk to the people around you. You never know, you could make a new friend. I've signed books for kids whose parents met in signing lines (although to the best of my knowledge none of them were actually conceived there). And while we're on the subject, bring something to read while waiting. Or buy something to read � you'll be in a book shop, after all.

7) Don't worry. You won't say anything stupid. It'll be fine. My heart tends to go out to people who've stood in line for hours trying to think of the single brilliant witty erudite thing that they can say when they get to the front of the line, and when it finally happens they put their books in front of me and go blank, or make a complete mess of whatever they were trying to say. If you have anything you want to ask or say, just ask, or say it, and if you get a blank look from me it's probably because I'm slightly brain dead after signing several thousand things that day.

8) The only people who ever get short shrift from me are the people who turn up with tape recorders who try and tape interviews during signings. I won't do them � it's unfair on the other people in the line, and unfair on me (and I was as curt with the guy from the LA Times who tried it as I am to people who decide on the spur of the moment to try and tape something for their college paper). If you want to do an interview, ask the bookstore who you should talk to in order to set it up.

9) Take things out of plastic bags before you reach me. Firstly, it speeds things up. Secondly, I once ripped the back off a $200 comic taking it out of a plastic bag, when the back of the comic caught on the tape. The person who owned it was very sweet about it, but tears glistened in his eyes as I signed, and I could hear him wailing softly as he walked away.

10) Yes, I'll happily personalize the stuff I sign, to you, or to friends. If it's a birthday or wedding present, tell me.

11) Remember your name. Know how to spell it, even under pressure, such as being asked.

[If you have a nice simple name, like Bob or Dave or Jennifer, don't be surprised if I ask you how to spell it. I've encountered too many Bhobs, Daevs and even, once, a Jeniffer to take any spelling for granted.]

12) No, I probably won't do a drawing for you, because there are 300 people behind you, and if I had to draw for everyone we'd be finishing at 4.00am � on the other hand, if you're prepared to wait patiently until the end, I may do it then, if my hand still works.

13) If it means a lot to you, yes, I'll sign your lunchbox/skin/guitar/leather jacket/wings � but if it's something strange you may want to make sure you have a pen that writes on strange surfaces legibly. I'll have lots of pens, but they may not write on feathers.

14) At the start of the tour the answer to "Doesn't your hand hurt?" Is "No."

By the end of the tour, it's probably going to be "Yes."

15) Yes, you can take my picture, and yes, of course you can be in the photo, that's the point isn't it? There's always someone near the front of the line who will take your photo.

16) I do my best to read all the letters I'm given and not lose all the presents I'm given. Sometimes I'll read letters on the plane to the next place. But given the sheer volume of letters and gifts, you probably won't get a reply, unless you do. (On one previous tour I tried to write postcards to everyone who gave me something at the last stop on postcards at the next hotel. Never again.) If you're after a reply or to have me read something, you're much better off not giving it to me on a tour. Post it to me care of DreamHaven books in Minneapolis.

(And although things people give me get posted back, on the last tour FedEx lost one box of notes and gifts, and on the tour before that hotel staff lost or stole another box. So smaller things I can put into a suitcase are going to be more popular than four-foot high paintings done on slabs of beechwood.)

17) No, I probably won't have dinner/a beer/sushi with you after the signing. If it's a daytime signing I'll be on my way to the next signing; and if it's an evening signing I'll be heading back to my hotel room because I'll be getting up at six a.m. to fly to the next city. If there actually is any spare time on the tour it'll've been given to journalists, and if there's any time on top of that old friends will have started e-mailing me two or three months before the tour started to say "You'll be in the Paphlagonian Barnes and Noble on the 23rd. That's just a short yak-hop from my yurt. We must get together," and would have got themselves put on the schedule. (Still, it never hurts to ask.)

18) If you can't read what I wrote, just ask me. After a couple of hours of signing my handwriting can get pretty weird.

19) If I sign it in silver or gold, give it a minute or so to dry before putting it back in its bag or closing the cover, otherwise you'll soon have a gold or silver smudge and nothing more.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

A Small Sunday Number Ponder

Just a small Sunday morning ponder about numbers...

For reasons that are much too complicated to explain (which is to say, I don't know what they are) the website at www.neilgaiman.com is subscribed to two completely different statistic trackers, to let the webmistress know how many come to the site and where they come from and so on. Mostly, I think we have two trackers because they tell us different things. Only one of them, for example, lists the searches that bring people to the website, something that is normally a very useful tool for a blogger who is otherwise completely out of ideas -- it's like the comedy store comedians who, when all else fails, look out at the audience and say "Hey, is there anybody here tonight from New Jersey?" (you may need to insert somewhere else in place of "New Jersey" depending on where you live and whether or not you have comedians there) and figure that should get them some laughs. You should always be able to get an amusing and interesting blog entry based on the fact that people turn up at your site having googled for Awesome Cameltoes or Jam-smeared Scouts or Cleavage Tentacles or something. I remember waiting for the arrival of the stat thing that would give us search phrases like a kid waiting for Christmas, only to discover that, month in and month out, the phrases that people seem to turn up here with are pretty much always the same, and they aren't very interesting. Here's April's top twenty search phrases, with numbers, from Google:

1 neil gaiman 6,881
2 sandman 616
3 gaiman 481
4 neil 413
5 american gods 366
6 "neil gaiman" 267
7 neverwhere 220
8 the sandman 204
9 mirrormask 191
10 neil gaimen 175
11 neil gaiman blog 166
12 dave mckean 155
13 neil gaiman sandman 135
14 sandman comics 130
15 blog 124
16 sandman gaiman 108
17 neilgaiman 99
18 anansi boys 84
19 neil gaiman journal 76
20 gaiman blog 65

(And the only thing that I found odd about that is that if you Google the word "Neil" using "I'm Feeling Lucky" it brings you to this journal.)

And it continues like that, on and on and on. You have to get down to #322 before you get "Naked Pillow Fights" -- although at #399 we discover that one lone person searched for "dinosaurs and the bible space and time cavemen paintings buy tape" and down below that there's one sad "gaiman wet t-shirt" which left me wondering what the person was looking for and why, and one "Cthulhu sex" which left me wondering whether they'd liked it when they found it. (Although it probably took them here.)

But I've wandered off the subject. So. Two different trackers-of-stuff. And this morning, with them both opened (looking at where people go on this website, so I sound intelligent next week when I talk to HarperCollins about what we're going to do in the Big September Redesign) for the first time ever, I wondered if they said the same things...

And they don't.

According to one of them, for example, there are 65,822 people in the UK reading this, making 7.97% of the traffic to the site. According to the other, in April the UK gave us 44,707 visitors (and 4.43 % of traffic).

They both seem to agree that we only had one person in from Mongolia, and one person in from Albania. But one of them reported about 150,000 more visitors to the site in April than the other did (about 850,000 as opposed to about a million), although the one that saw 150,000 fewer people overall also saw 130,000 more people from the US than the other one did. They even disagree on pure "hits" -- one sees 11.5 million in April, the other 11.3 million. If anyone has an explanation, I'd love to know what it is. In the meantime I shall resolve to take internet statistics with even more grains of salt than I used to.

(None of the numbers having to do with this website and journal mean anything anymore. The last time they meant anything was around September 2001, and I learned that we had around 20,000 readers, and decided not to stop because, well, 20,000 readers was an awful lot of people. These days it's no longer an awful lot of people, it's just abstract numbers.)

(Which reminds me -- according to http://www.livejournal.com/syn/list.bml?page=1 there are 10,445 readers of this blog's syndicated livejournal feed, while according to the officialgaiman's page at http://www.livejournal.com/userinfo.bml?user=officialgaiman there are 4,918. Anyone have any idea which is accurate?)

Hi Neil,I just thought you might want to mention to your fans in the Philippines that the bookstore chain that's holding your book signing in July has set up a mailing list where fans can get updates and news about the event. It's at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/gaiman_fullybooked/. Can't wait for you to get here! Cheers,Tania Manila, Philippines

I'm looking forward to it as well. (Did you know that there were 1484 visitors to this site from the Philippines last month? Well, that or 2,557, depending on which counter you believe.) Consider it mentioned.

And before I go off and start the day, Bob Sheckley's flying home.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

a really useful book

Back in October I mentioned that I'd written the text for Dark Horse's REALLY USEFUL BOOK. I wrote it, and I forgot about it until the book arrived here this morning. It's a red faux-leather-bound journal which looks like this:




It comes with a pen that is also an ultra-violet flashlight, which illuminates the invisible advice in the top corner of each page. Which, when I was told about it by Dave Scroggy, I thought sounded needlessly gimmicky, but which, I discovered this morning on opening the thing, is actually enormously fun, because what you get is a lovely Dave McKeany blank journal to write in, and you only get the peculiar but helpful messages (like "look behind you" or "it was in his pocket all the time") if you actually shine the light thing on them. And I've wandered around the house showing it to people.

I assume that mine arrived a little early. (I checked the neilgaiman.net just arrived page at http://www.neilgaiman.net/just-in.php -- and it looks like the MirrorMask PVC figures have arrived, but they didn't mention the journal.)

(There's a description on the Dark Horse page from which I just stole the picture.)

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Looking or listening...

Greetings from sunny (er, um, dreary, grey, and drizzly, rather) Cambridge, Massachusetts. There's an interesting article about the validity of "reading" audiobooks today in the New York Times (http://nytimes.com/2005/05/26/fashion/thursdaystyles/26audio.html). What's your opinion on audiobooks? Do you think listening to them qualifies as reading, or do you think that the two are really separate experiences. Given your comment today that Lenny Henry reading the audio version of Anansi Boys is "a happy thing, and a good thing," I'm inclined to assume that you like audiobooks to begin with, so my question has more to do with whether or not you think audio can be a substitute for print or not. Best, Margaret (P.S. Maddy is really the star of your blog. You do know that, right?)

Oh yes. Actually, I suspect that I am merely a supporting player in THE *MADDY*GAIMAN* STORY and am perfectly happy for this to be true.

So, audio books. And once again, Harold Bloom demonstrates his twerphood to the world. "Deep reading really demands the inner ear as well as the outer ear," said Harold Bloom, the literary critic. "You need the whole cognitive process, that part of you which is open to wisdom. You need the text in front of you." From this we learn that art and wisdom only go in at the eyes. What comes in by the ear is manifestly a lesser experience. The corollary, of course, is that real writing gets written down by the hand, and only inferior, wisdom-less writing gets dictated by the mouth, which is why Paradise Lost must have been rubbish...

Again, it's just snobbery and foolishness.

I don't think the experience of reading a book and the experience of hearing a book are the same. I tend to think the experience of hearing a book is often much more intimate, much more personal: you're down there in the words, unable to skip a dull-looking wodge of prose, unable to speed up or slow down (unless you have an iPod and like hearing people sound like chipmonks), less able to go back. It's you and the story, the way the author meant it.

If well-read, an audio book can be magic. If competently read, well, it's normally okay. If less than competently read it can set your teeth on edge.

There are some authors -- Poe, for example -- who are at their best when heard. (Here's a link to MP3s of The Pit and the Pendulum and The Raven, read by Basil Rathbone.) I always find Mark Twain somehow richer in audio.

I don't believe there are books I've never "read" because I have only heard them, or poems I've not experienced because I've only heard the poets read them. Actually, I believe that, if the writer is someone who can communicate well aloud (some writers can't) you often get much more insight into a story or poem by hearing it.

(I do, however, believe that abridged audio books are the work of the devil and that abridgers-of-books will probably have a special place in hell, where it will just be them and Harold Bloom, and there will be nothing for anyone to read but the Readers' Digest Condensed Novels for all eternity. It still bothers me that there are people who've heard the audio version of Neverwhere, who think they've read the book.)

Apart from Neverwhere (which was well read by Gary Bakewell, and abridged sensitively for the first 2/3 of the audio before descending into a sort of frantic and desperate attempt to hit a few of the book's high points on the way to the end), I'm really pleased with the audio versions of my stuff so far -- George Guidall's reading of American Gods was terrific, and Dawn French's reading of Coraline was outstanding.

There's definitely a part of me that feels that Lenny Henry's reading of ANANSI BOYS will be in some odd way the definitive text, but that's because Lenny was there when I came up with the idea, and much of the time while I was writing it, I was hearing Len's voice in the back of my head. (I actually found the original outline for ANANSI BOYS yesterday, the one I wrote in 1998 and never looked at again, while looking for cool things for the Hill House edition, and it was so odd to see the moments of occasional, almost coincidental congruence with the novel I wrote in 2004).

I don't have any judgement when it comes to any of the readings I've done, apart from a vague sort of embarrassment (I think I said somewhere that it's like hearing a message that I left on voicemail -- mostly I just think Do I sound like that?) But I like doing them, and I'm pleased that they're out there, so people can hear what the stories sounded like in my head when I was writing them.

...

People ask me sometimes why I support the CBLDF, and why, as an Englishman, I tend to wax rhapsodic about the First Amendment. This is an example of why I think the First Amendment is important: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/4576663.stm.

I think that each of us has the right to his or opinions, and to express those opinions; and that each of us has the right to argue with those opinions, to comment on them, to agree with them, to ignore them utterly. I don't think people should be imprisoned, hurt, killed or punished for having opinions or expressing them. And I think that has to apply as much to opinions and speech I find repugnant as speech and opinions I'd happily endorse -- because there are people out there who find my opinions and writing and speech repugnant.

...


Hi Neil,

The link to the derelict London cemeteries was wonderful. I thought, if you enjoyed that, you might also enjoy this link:

http://members.aol.com/crescntcem/index.html

Which is a pictorial guide to the cemeteries of New Orleans. It's great stuff. Especially check out St. Louis No. 1 (where they shot that scene from Easy Rider) and Odd Fellow's Rest, which is one of the most desecrated cemeteries in the city.

I have family buried in Metairie Cemetery, which has in my opinion some of the most unusual and beautiful tombs anywhere (the angel in Chapman and Hyams is my favorite).

Enjoy!

Leigh Butler


...

And my friend Dan'a, who is the better or at least prettier half of human beatbox and all around good bloke Matt Chamberlain, wrote to tell me that matt and i were reading your journal and he says to tell you to tell Maddy he doesn't know what a 'sting' is either... Which probably demonstrates that Matt spends much too much of his life drumming for Tori and Bowie and Fiona Apple and people, and not enough time in Las Vegas supporting comedians so obscure that only Mark Evanier could tell you who they are and why they matter.

...

Neil, I just finished reading the Mirror Mask illustrated film script and I noticed something I wanted to ask you about. In almost every one of your stories, with the exception of Wolves in the Walls, fathers in your works seem to be either incompetent, indifferent or non-existent. Is this a conscious decision on your part, and, if so, why?Looking forward to Anansi Boys, Mark Goldberg

Not really. Actually, I think that Morris Campbell is a very good ringmaster, and he's not a bad dad. He's just not very good at coping with the situation he finds himself in, and anyway, it's Helena's story. Dunstan Thorne in Stardust was a pretty good dad, under the circumstances. ANANSI BOYS is all about a father-son relationship, in its own way.

But unless you're writing a story about parents, they tend to be marginalised, because if they're on stage and being effective and cool and wise then there's nothing for your lead character to do. If Coraline's parents hadn't been somewhat distracted, and had paid her all the attention she wanted, and sorted everything out when iffy things began to happen... then you wouldn't have had much of a story, especially not a story about a girl going up against something dangerous and learning to be brave and to figure out what was important for herself. In The Graveyard Book, my next novel, the hero's family are all dead when the story begins, because if they weren't there wouldn't be a story.

But there's a children's book I'll write one day called FORTUNATELY, THE MILK which is all about the adventures of a dad, which will, I hope, redress the balance.

...

I wasn't particularly impressed (or interested) when Amazon.com brought out their "statistically improbable phrases" feature. But I loved it when Roddy Lumsden at Vitamin Q put a list of them together -- it felt like a poem.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

The Anansi Boys Question of the day

The weird thing about this blog is the way that questions come in about things I keep meaning to talk about. It's been happening for four years, so you'd think I'd get used to it, but I never do. For example, this morning I wound up having a long conversation with my agent and then with my editor about making sure that people didn't think that ANANSI BOYS was a sequel to AMERICAN GODS. And this evening...

Obvious question, I suppose, but just to keep things straight, is Anansi Boys a sequel to American Gods?

So, a good and timely question. No, ANANSI BOYS isn't a sequel to AMERICAN GODS. I actually came up with the idea for ANANSI BOYS a couple of years before I started to write AMERICAN GODS, and borrowed Mr Nancy from ANANSI BOYS (which hadn't yet been written) for AMERICAN GODS. (Oddly enough, while looking at my hard drive today I found an early outline for ANANSI BOYS, and oddly, a four or five page opening couple of scenes from a ANANSI BOYS screenplay I wrote before I decided that the story would be happier in prose.) Which means that there are things you may know about Mr Nancy if you've met him already (his fondness for Karaoke, for example, or his love of Carrie) that might resonate for you in a different way in ANANSI BOYS.

I imagine it's set in the same world as AMERICAN GODS. (But then, several careful readers have pointed out that AMERICAN GODS is set in the same world as STARDUST, and the two stories don't taste anything like the same.)

The only true sequel to AMERICAN GODS so far is a novella about what Shadow did next called "The Monarch of the Glen", published in Bob Silverberg's LEGENDS II.

This is how I described ANANSI BOYS in a cover letter to the proof copies that are going out to booksellers and people:

My new novel is a scary, funny sort of story, which isn�t exactly a thriller, and isn�t really horror, and doesn�t quite qualify as a ghost story (although it has at least one ghost in it), or a romantic comedy (although there are several romances in there, and it�s certainly a comedy, except for the scary bits). If you have to classify it, it�s probably a magical-horror-thriller-ghost-romantic-comedy-family-epic, although that leaves out the detective bits and much of the food.

And I got an e-mail today to say that Mr Lenny Henry will be reading the unabridged audio book version, and that it'll be available in the US and the UK. This is a happy thing, and a good thing. (Lots of Lenny goodies are now up at http://www.lennyhenry.com/home/funny_bits_video.asp?pID=5 incidentally.) The Audio ANANSI BOYS will be out when the novel is (September 20th) and will be downloadable, will be out on CD, and will also be available as an MP3 CD.

...

Those of you who wonder what it must be like to live with a writer, wonder no more. All is explained (robotically) at http://www.livejournal.com/users/scott_lynch/127371.html

...

ANother review of the STARDUST play at http://www.windycitymediagroup.com/gay/lesbian/news/ARTICLE.php?AID=8324

and from The Dreaming I found that the Green Man Review had done a review of The MirrorMask Script Book -- http://www.greenmanreview.com/book/book_gaimanandmckean_mirrormask.html

...

You're talked about in the Eric Rice interview with Kevin Smockler as part of his virtual book tour. It's the quicktime movie at http://blog.ericrice.com/blog/_archives/2005/5/24/883053.html#attachments). Do you think you could have had the career you've had (eg in all the different media) if you haven't been in Science Fiction and/or Fantasy?

Interesting. (One minor correction -- although I've worked on a couple of video games over the years, it was in each case immediately followed by the games company going under, and none of the games ever got as far as being made. But I have written radio plays, so it evens out.) I think he's right up to a point -- the fact that I enjoy working in so many areas is made easier by the way that speculative fiction is now a language spoken by so many media. But it's also because I really like working in different fields, and I'm always interested in trying to make new mistakes in new areas. I do think there have always been people like me, who wanted to try as many media as they could, but it's easier to see now because there are more media and because these days people notice.

...

Jason Erik Lundberg's article on my short stories and identity is now up in polished form at http://www.strangehorizons.com/2005/20050523/switcheroo-a.shtml. It's probably worth warning you that it contains spoilers for the four stories discussed ("Troll Bridge", "Other People", "Foreign Parts" and "Harlequin Valentine") -- and, I suspect, contains a thesis that probably spreads into several longer works.

Lots of people have written in to let me know that I'm officially a blogebrity.

And I keep forgetting to mention that I read an advance copy of Seth's WIMBLEDON GREEN and loved it. A funny, paranoid, charming, comics-obsessed graphic novel (it's at the bottom of this page). Definitely worth keeping an eye out for.

And a final lovely link from a Jasmine...

H'lo, A little while back you mentioned you'd be doing a graveyards book. I thought you might like: derelictlondon.com, and in particular http://www.derelictlondon.com/cemetery.htm. There's a mention of a West Norwood Cemetery with catacombs, and I wonder if this was the place to which that door in your basement lead once upon a time?

No, that was a much tidier graveyard. But I love all the ones on that page. (Incidentally, I filmed A SHORT FILM ABOUT JOHN BOLTON in Stoke Newington, and the Good Omens author photo of Terry Pratchett and me was taken in Kensal Green Cemetary, which is where G.K. Chesterton hoped to go to Paradise by way of.)

And finally...

Neil:> From reading your journal over the last few years, I know you don't mind being put right on teeny-tiny things like this, so here goes: What Maddy does with the chopsticks isn't, strictly speaking, a rimshot. A rimshot is when you hit the drumskin and the metal or wood bit round the outside (the rim) at the same time, with the same stick. It produces a loud 'crack' sound, and is a useful way to put in an accent, or compete against guitarists with their amps turned up to 11.
What Maddy does (ba-dum, tish!) is probably best referred to as a sting.
Trust me, I'm a drummer (I've waited decades to be able to say that!). Cheers, Peter Flint Buckinghamshire, England

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

News! News!

There's an article on Alan Moore and his further falling out with DC over the V for Vendetta film at http://comicbookresources.com/columns/?column=13
and I'm pretty sure that most of the people reading it are going to be going "oh no, Alan's severed more ties with DC" or whatever. Me, I rather felt that Rich had missed the big important news story, which is offered as a squib at the end.

Alan's proposed to Melinda Gebbie and they're engaged! This is so unutterably cool. (I wonder if they'll move in together, or if Melinda will still live around the corner in the Place of Dolls.) Anyway, this blog would like to officially tender its congratulations to them both.


Sheckley, CBLDF, bits

Lots of things from other people. Berry Sizemore says, of Robert Sheckley:

I have good news for everyone. First, Anya has a Paypal account ready.
Please do me a huge favor and update the link at your site. It is
driving people to my Paypal account and now it is time to point it to
Anya's account:

ROBERT SHECKLEY FUND PAYPAL LINK

(NB -- this is the correct link to spread about.)

There is good news about Robert. His condition continues to improve.
His writing and laptop is slightly exagerated. He's doing both, but
just enough to communicate with Anya. It looks like he will be coming
home on Thursday, if a complicated exchange between the current doctors
and the Mt. Sinai doctors occurs. It's a matter of translating charts
and prognosis and etc., plus a phone call or two.


It struck me yesterday that actually the best form of fundraising for Bob Sheckley would be for someone to bring his best novels and short stories back into print in the US in mass-market form. Given that Douglas Adams was happy to acknowledge in interviews how much what Bob did in the 1950s and 60s resembled what Douglas did many years later (and actually Bob was Douglas's first choice to write the Starship Titanic novelisation)it seems like this is a perfect time to make his work available for a new generation.

This came in this morning from Charles Brownstein of the CBLDF, which I thought I'd put up because I know that artists read this thing...


ITEM! Support the GA Defense In CBLDF Auctions

The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund has launched a series of auctions to
assist in the defense of Gordon Lee. This week's items will launch
today at 1:00 PM Eastern Time. They are:

League of Extraordinary Gentlemen volume 2, #1 -- Signed by Alan Moore
& Kevin O'Neill

Batman #608, RRP Edition -- Signed by Jim Lee

Sandman #50, variant cover -- Signed by Neil Gaiman

In The Shadow of No Towers poster -- Signed with orginal drawing by
Art Spiegelman

Angry Christ Comix -- signed with original Dawn drawing by Joe Linsner

http://search.ebay.com/_W0QQfgtpZ1QQfrppZ25QQsassZcbldf

CBLDF Executive Director Charles Brownstein says, "Waging the
aggressive defense of a First Amendment case requires the best
attorneys, and the best attorneys require a lot of money. We're
launching this auction initiative to help offset the investment we've
already made in this case, and to help shore up money for the trial.
We're lucky to have received a number of generous donations of art and
collectibles and over the coming weeks will be releasing them to the
public to assist in our cases. I hope people will be generous in
their bidding, because it comes at a time where every dollar we
receive makes a major difference."

ITEM! Call for Art Donations

The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund is calling upon artists and
collectors to make donations of original art and rare collectibles to
assist in summer fundraising. CBLDF Executive Director Charles
Brownstein explains, "Summer represents our busiest fundraising
season. We run auctions at the major shows including Comic Con and
Wizard World where the money raised can sometimes pay for an entire
phase of a case. This summer we're calling upon the creative and
collecting communities to make a donation of original art or similar
rare collectible for us to include in those auctions. A piece of art
that may be resting in someone's file drawer can help us pay for a
motion to be written or an argument to be waged."

Donors of art will receive a letter of acknowledgment from the CBLDF
that includes the amount the piece raised on auction. Donations can
be sent to: CBLDF, PO Box 693, Northampton, MA 01061. For shipping
information to a street address, please e-mail Charles Brownstein at
director@cbldf.org.



I saw a press release this morning that said that MirrorMask will be opening in New York on Sept 23rd. But seeing it also said the film was codirected by me and Dave McKean, I'm not sure how much credence to give it.

There's another review of the Stardust stage play at http://gaychicagomagazine.com/ad.stage.asp

Will Eisner's final book, The Plot, is reviewed positively at the SF Chronicle, and less positively at the Boston Phoenix http://www.bostonphoenix.com/boston/arts/books/documents/04681353.asp.

(Incidentally, if you're in New York, there's an Eisner exhibition at MOCCA until September -- http://www.moccany.org/exhibit-eisner.html for details.)

I'm pretty sure that I've mentioned the Post A Secret website here in the past -- http://www.postsecret.blogspot.com/ -- but more and more people are reminding me about it, and the postcards are getting prettier and stranger.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Where I'll be signing ANANSI BOYS in the US

I'm home. Waiting for me were: one (numbered) ANANSI BOYS bound proof (#1 of 450) -- it's not really even a bound galley, it was printed from my raw manuscript and is filled with odd typos; about a dozen copies of the ANANSI BOYS first chapter extract booklet-thing the publisher did for Book Expo (it has a drawing of a seven-legged spider I did on the front); and some ANANSI BOYS pamphlets.

The pamphlets contain information for the booksellers, and they list, in the details of the marketing campaign, the 16 US and Canada tour I'm going to be doing, starting on September the 20th and ending around Oct 12th. (The pamphlets also have a picture of me on the cover and FALL UNDER HIS SPELL in huge letters and are thus deeply embarrassing, so it's probably a good thing that I didn't see them first.)

Anyway, according to the pamphlet, I'll be signing (in Alphabetical Order) in Austin, Boston, Charlotte, Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, New York City, Portland (OR), San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, Toronto, Vancouver, Victoria and Washington DC.

If where you live isn't on the list, I'm really sorry. I don't pick the locations -- it's done by Harper Collins and tends to be weighted towards a) bookshops that report to the New York Times, and b) places that put in proposals for signings that Harper liked. (Which then tends to be weighted further towards places that I've signed before because they know what to expect and put in proposals that assume they'll be getting several hundred people and that they know what to do with them.) I'm certain that the San Francisco signing is actually a few different Bay Area signings, and have my fingers crossed that Harper Canada aren't going to make me go back to whatever the place was I signed in Vancouver last time (I'm pretty sure it was a Virgin megastore) where I tried to use the microphone and discovered that I was speaking over the store's Public Address system, which couldn't actually be heard in the place they'd put the reading.

I don't know actual store locations yet, although I should get a list very soon, and will post it here and on Where's Neil as soon as I do.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

More proud but bemused fatherhood

So, I'm the father of a graduate. ("Okay, Dad. This is the deal. You've got six years to get an honorary doctorate from somewhere. You can't get it from anywhere that I'm studying, and you can't get it when I actually graduate anything, as you have to be there.")

Mike's also taught me to use the text-message-to-google trick, which suddenly started making life easier, finding restaurants and films and meeting places. If you use text messages, it's an astonishingly useful thing to have at your fingertips when you're, for example, in a cab and quite lost. http://www.google.com/sms/howtouse.html is the link. (I tried it back when they rolled out the feature, it didn't work well, and I forgot about it. In the meantime, they got the bugs out. Now, after two days, it's become invaluable.)

Maddy, meanwhile, has learned to do a rimshot- Good evening and welcome to the Maddy Gaiman show! And now... the moment you've all been waiting for... (drumroll please)......MADDY GAIMAN!!!!! "Thank you, thank you, thank you very much. I want to thank everyone for coming tonight! But I must bid you goodnight. So, now, before it gets to, like, two in the morning let's hear sports from Neil Gaiman"- (Sorry about that. She got to type while I went off and sang a goodnight "The Teddy Bears' Picnic" to Holly, which is something I always keep expecting her to grow out of and am always oddly relieved she hasn't.) Anyway, Maddy has now mastered the rimshot. With chopsticks as drumsticks. She spent this evening's meal telling bad jokes ("Little Old Lady Who?" "I didn't know you could yodel!") and then giving herself a rimshot (ba-dum-tink) with the chopsticks, table and glassware. It was funnier than it sounds. Which meant that tonight's dinner at one point consisted of me trying to explain my theory to Mike and his friends that people could become Spamomancers and foretell the future by what kind of spam they'd received from Persecution H. Foisting or Flange X. Innuendo that morning, while Maddy did told jokes and rimshots and Holly and Mary were down at the other end of the table trying to have a sensible conversation...

What was the title of that comic you did on the mudrder mystries that was to do with angels? I'm asking because I read it once and since then i cant find it anywhere. Mainly because I don't remember the name.

"Murder Mysteries".

Since you often mention "libraries under siege" articles, I thought this one, about the Las Vegas libraries, might be of interest. http://www.lasvegassun.com/sunbin/stories/sun/2005/may/20/518789934.html What's particularly irritating is that it's not a story of a kid who came to a library on his own and checked out adult material. It's a kid who came to the library with his grandmother, showed his grandmother an adult anime video from the library's adult collection that was labeled as suitable for audiences 17 and up. Together, the boy and his grandmother checked the video out, and it wasn't until they got home, and the grandmother saw scenes of graphic violence and sexuality that she looked at the box and saw that it indicated that it was inappropriate for children. And still, somehow, the library is apparently at fault for, well, not just assuming that the woman was not doing her job as the boy's guardian. And then the newspaper runs this editorial, and the story got picked up by the local TV news, because "Library Porn" makes a better headline than "Local grandmother can't be bothered to pay attention to what her grandson is watching, even when she's with him."

and Bill Massolia sends this link to another review of Stardust -- http://www.dailysouthtown.com/southtown/tgif/201tgthe.htm

and he mentions that there will be an NPR review this Friday with clips.

and

Hey Neil, I'm really sorry to have to bother you about this but I kind of need the fan-made clip where you're reading this - 'I slept for about ten minutes, then woke up from a strange and haunting dream, in which darkness had come to the world, a strange blackness from Outside. I was riding in a train through a desolate landscape. No people anywhere. Buildings stood, and leafless trees, but the colours were wrong and the sky was dark grey.... yadda yadda... world, which darkened slowly and terrifyingly to complete blackness... ' in the background. I just spent around 2 hours searching it with no avail.. T_T Could only find the link to your post on the 19th of September 2002. Sorry, and if you could help me locate the link it will be very very helpful indeed.

Steph

Sure. It's at http://www.thedreamproject.org/
and was a brainchild of the excellent Olga Nunes.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

A break from copy-editing

I got to watch while Mike graduated last night, and it was really rather a wonderful thing to see. It's odd to think that his entire college education has occurred since I've been keeping this blog, something that only occurred to me when Holly mentioned last night that when Mike graduated from High School, she came in to check what I'd written in my journal and helpfully closed the window on the screen containing a long and heartfelt post that had not yet been published. (It's on Sunday June 3rd at http://www.neilgaiman.com/archive/2001_06_01_archive.asp)

So...

On the Robert Sheckley front. What seems to have happened is:

Bob got extremely -- dangerously -- ill in the Ukraine.

The convention that brought him in checked him into a private hospital. (Bob apparently bought insurance in order to get his visa but could not find the card while his lungs were collapsing, nor has it surfaced since.)

This was a good thing, as he would have died otherwise. He needed to be put on a ventilator in order to breathe.

The convention managed to cover the first hospital bill, but they couldn't cover the second. (Nobody expected him to be that ill for that long or that expensively.)

A family friend, and Bob's daughter Anya, are out in Kiev.

Now he needs to be brought home and hospitalised in the US.

Berry Sizemore, who runs the Mike Moorcock website, has offered to help by setting up a PayPal account.

In Russia, Robert Sheckley is still one of the most-read and most-respected of American writers (proving that the Russians have excellent taste in SF writers), which means that this is turning into big news.

Once he gets home, the family is still going to have to raise money for his US hospitalisation.

There's information over at: http://www.multiverse.org/postp40822.html#40822

(and the paypal account at Robert Sheckley Relief Fund (Note, the content of this link has changed to Anya's account.)


...

Peter Sanderson has written about the MirrorMask book at

http://comics.ign.com/articles/617/617904p1.html -- it's a really interesting article. My only response to his occasional wonders of "or am I reading too much into it...?" is No, he's not.

...

I learned about this Guardian interview with Terry Gilliam over at The Dreaming. http://film.guardian.co.uk/cannes2005/story/0,15927,1485600,00.html
Sometimes when I tell people why the Terry Gilliam/Johnny Depp Good Omens rolled over and died (with $45m raised from the rest of the world, Terry went out to Hollywood to find out which studio was going to pay $15m for a $60m Terry Gilliam film, and found that none of them were) they look at me as if I'm making things up again. It's nice to see Terry explaining it.

...

More reviews of Stardust the stage play...

This is from the Chicago Tribune.

And Bill Massolia (who adapted it) writes to tell me that the production of STARDUST in Chicago has been nominated for the Joseph Jefferson
Awards. That is Chicago's equivalent of New York's Tony Awards. The awards are
not given out for some time but I wanted to let you know.


...

Someone asked about "proud as punch" -- http://www.worldwidewords.org/qa/qa-ple1.htm

...

Kimberly Butler has put one of her wolfish photos of me from last year (although without the weird photoshopped eyes) up on her revamped website, but I'm not going to link to it directly because if I did you might not look at the Ray Bradbury photos she's got up, which are two of the most joyous photos I think I've ever seen. http://www.kimberlybutler.com/Portfolios/Celebrities/index_A3.html (I'm at the bottom right.)

And before I go, a small wonder about http://www.theconservativevoice.com/modules/news/article.php?storyid=5755. Why would anyone transcribe the phrase "all absolutely cock-a-hoop" as "all absolutely @#%#*-a-hoop" I mean, it comes from the phrase to set cock on hoop, to drink festively. You'd need to be an extremely conservative voice to want to give the impression that George Galloway had suddenly been overcome with an attach of Tourette's while testifying...

Right. Maddy says she needs the computer. I'm back to copy-editing.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Prouder than Punch

I'm in Washington DC to see Mike graduate. He's 21, taller and better-looking than me, and he knows more about computers than I'll ever know. The whole family are together for the first time since Xmas, and it's rather wonderful. I shall wear the Hungarian waiter's jacket I found in Aardvarks on Melrose, and I shall be prouder than Punch.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Sheckley Update

To answer the people from Russia who wrote to me concerned that the Robert Sheckley medical appeal going on there was a scam, I just got this from Alisa Kwitney (Bob's daughter):

Yes, Boris is working with Anya, my half sister, and Simon, an old family friend, and they are trying to raise money to pay for his lengthy hospital stay. Bob became ill when on an SF convention in Kiev and was put in the hospital, where he has been on a ventilator. His situation is improving, but there is a long, hard road ahead to recovery. He really wants to come home. Right now, it looks as though there is a possibility that the Consulate may help bring Bob over, but as I understand, that will be a loan from the gov't. And once here, Bob will need a lot of medical care and rehabilitation.

So, no, it's not a scam. I'm not sure why no-one's trying to raise money outside of Russia. If an authorised appeal starts, I'll happily link to it.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

cows and crows and doing the SF trifecta

I'm copyediting ANANSI BOYS at present. This mostly consists of either nodding or of scribbling "Stet" in the margins (meaning "leave it as I wrote it"). Mostly the copyeditor has worked hard to make me look good.

Every now and again, I'll use google to check things. For example a paragraph like,
In Mrs Dunwiddy's house there was pine-scented hard toilet paper. Mrs Dunwiddy believed in economy, and pine-scented hard toilet paper was at the bottom of her economy drive. You could still get hard toilet paper, if you looked long enough and were prepared to pay more for it.

And then I'll wonder whether you can still get hard toilet paper, and find myself reading an article in the Daily Telegraph about the eighteen-year long battle the British Civil Service waged in order to be allowed soft toilet paper, and also establish that, yes, you can get hard toilet paper if you try hard enough.

I'm practically well, but now Lorraine-my-assistant seems to have gone down with the plague.

The inability to tell porno films from foreign films may cause interesting apologies from the New York Times, but my favourite correction of recent months is still the Observer's inability to tell the difference between a cow and a crow. (If they'd just left it as "cow" most readers would simply have assumed that there was a missing "r" -- but then someone decided that "heifer" was a better word than "cow", and it all got very silly.)

The Locus Awards nominees are out -- http://www.locusmag.com/2005/News/05_LocusFinalists.html -- I was hugely pleased to see that I've got a short story listed, but don't honestly think it deserves to win, given the competition. (An excellent list of stuff to read on those lists, though.)

Discovered last night that Nokia has piles of interesting software for the 6320 (which is my phone). They have software to turn the face into an analog clock. They have software to turn it into a flashlight (and even, if I understood it correctly, a mirror). All sorts of fun-looking things, which they will happily send to your phone for a small fee as long as you don't happen to have an American phone number... Now wondering whether it's worth bothering to install them when I go to the UK next and stick in the English SIM card.

An email conversation with GMZoe uncovered the fact that I'm a planet in Star Wars, a character in Star Trek and a race of aliens in Babylon 5. It's the first time I've ever truly felt like the answer to a trivia question.

Hi, Neil. A friend of mine is an English Lit professor and she's preparing a lesson on the use of metanarratives. She asked me if I knew of any good examples of metanarrative in comics or graphic novels. I assumed there was a good chance this could be found in some of your work, but I've drawn a blank.Any help? Thanks, Jeremy Bear

Well, there was the story in Batman: Black and White. And I've seen several papers over the years arguing either that the whole of Sandman is a metanarrative, or (more successfully) that The Kindly Ones is a metanarrative.

Several writers commented on the Star Times Stardust review...

Neil! Finally my faith in myself as a writer has been restored.The review of the Stardust play calls the story "slight but charming". When I was at school (the last time I had much feedback on my creative writing) my teacher used to infuriate me by writing "Charming but slight" or "Slight but charming" on every story I wrote.I may say, if "Stardust" is slight, then I'm very happy to be. Though that is not a word I would have associated with it. Charming, yes. Nimble, magical and frightening, too. And lovely, dark and deep.

and

After reading the Chicago Sun Times review of Stardust I am curious as to what you reaction was to the comment that it is a "slight but charming fairy tale"? I realize that everyone is entitled to their opinion of an author's work but I'm really at a loss as to what she might mean by the term "slight". Dictionary.com defines "slight" as "of small importance. Lacking strength, substance, or solidity". None of these definitions seems appropriate for Stardust. It is a fairy tale with very rich, detailed characters who have history and depth to them. The tale is quite strong, is substantial, and is a very solid, well-written tale. To me the reviewer uses her opening paragraph to insult both you and the readers who consider this novel to be one of their favorites. Enough of my ranting, however, I was just curious.

It didn't bother me -- I think it's a Chicago house style thing. I remember when there was a Chicago theatrical adaptation of Signal to Noise, some years ago, being puzzled by the reviewer explaining that the comic-book foolishness of Neil Gaiman had been elevated by the theatrical adapters, but then he pointed to something that had been added by the adapters as the "comic book" silliness he meant, and something original from the graphic novel as the kind of thing that the adapters had brought to it, and I realised the reviewer was faking the whole thing.

(I was, however, amused that the book was "slight" in the first paragraph, but that the play was created by "chipping away the excess" of the book in the fifth paragraph. It's an achievement, being both slight and excessive at the same time, especially in a 55,000 word book.)

But honestly, I'm just pleased that the play is getting good reviews.

Dear Neil, I thought this might be interesting for you and maybe for the readers of your journal. It certainly would be very interesting for me to hear your opinion on this :).
Anyway,you sure know about Robert Sheckley's illness and that though his condition is improving he must stay in hospital for several more weeks. I read through some russian sci-fi sites just an hour ago and discovered that Robert apparently lost his travel insurance card (not sure if it was a card, though), so the sci-fi fans in Russia/Ukraine are raising funds to pay for his medical treatment (and they seem to have some trouble in covering all the medical costs). There's currently a discussion on Boris Sidyuk's blog whether Robert really needs all this help or if it's just a clever trick to rob credulous people of their money (some say that Robert spends most of his money on travelling and doesn't have much to begin with, others say it just can't be that an acclaimed writer from America of all things wouldn't have some financial backup for such emergencies). So what do you think about this - do we have to worry about this kind of problems at all, how come there are still poor american writers in this world and why is it so that nobody outside the russian sci-fi internet community seems to know about Robert's situation? sincerely, Maria (a russian girl currently living in Germany, so please don't pay attention to my grammar :) )

I can assure you that the majority of acclaimed writers from the US mostly don't have medical insurance in place. It's why the SFWA has a medical emergencies fund, why the Writers Guild has so many hardship funds. (I'm fortunate in having my Medical Insurance covered by the Writer's Guild, but that's from my movie work.) Getting sick a long way from home is almost always a dangerous and financially draining proposition.

I don't know if the Russian Sheckley Appeal is on the level, and I've e-mailed Alisa Kwitney to ask. But I know that it's certainly not unlikely that Bob might need financial help to get out of hospital and to get home (as I understand it from Alisa's last email, he may also need a doctor to accompany him home) so if we have to help raise money for his medical expenses, that's infinitely preferable to needing funeral expenses). Does that help?

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Goodness!

Good morning. I think I'm emerging from a lemon-and-honey flavoured gloom back into the daylight. I have things to write. Things to finish. Things to copyedit. And it's time to hang up my dressing gown (bathrobe if you're American) and go and see if I have pair of jeans anywhere and possibly a black tee shirt. (I wound up with a subscription at http://www.blacksocks.com/ so I know I have socks.)

So while many people let me know that also had missed out on hearing anyone actually say "goodness" -- e.g. In re: "cor" May I suggest an English-to-American translation of "Jeez," (or, less precisely, "Wow,") since, as you say, I've never heard anyone actually say "Goodness." -- Susan Ramsey, Kalamazoo -- there were also a number of correspondents who pointed out that, Possibly you haven't hung around with enough Southerners. My mother used to say that (she grew up in middle Georgia during the Depression) and I sometimes say it as a form of slightly sarcastic understatement or Southern-esque subtext; that is, instead of cussing, or when there's really no other response to make. Certain inflections of "Goodness!" can mean "Are you sure you haven't just developed a large hole in your head?" I'm not the only person my age (37) who does this, either; but we are a dwindling tribe.

I'm not sure that any inflections of "Cor" could mean that. But I could be wrong. I know people who can use the word "dude" to mean anything.

Meanwhile, a dilemma:

Hi Neil My well-meaning husband has unintentionally placed me in a very painful dilemma. Last night, he came home and proudly handed me the new Mirrormask script book which he had picked up as soon as he saw it in the bookstore. It looks amazing and I'm DYING to read it but I don't want to ruin the movie itself. Any advice? Should I hide it at the top of a cupboard until I've seen the movie or rip through it and spoil everything like I'm dying to do...? Help please! Maria

I don't know. On the one hand, speaking as someone who wrote it, I had no idea what the story would look like once Dave put it up on the screen; and I ran into a number of people at Sundance who went back to see it again because they'd missed plot stuff because they were too busy watching what was happening on the screen.

On the other hand, if you want to know nothing about MirrorMask before you see it, you're better off hiding the book at the top of a cupboard.

Either way, your husband did the right thing -- given the limited space of bookshops and the weirdness of publishing and the problems inherent in going back to press with big illustrated books, there's no guarantee that you'll be able to find the Script Book in five months when the film comes out. So whether you want to read it before or after, buying it now is wise.

...

An extremely good review for the Stardust play from the Chicago Sun Times at http://www.suntimes.com/output/theater/cst-ftr-star17.html. I'd love to see it, but later in the run, when they've settled into it and the prospect of a rogue author in the audience is less likely to make anyone drop something.

Monday, May 16, 2005

a miscellany...

Let's see...

There's a "raw" review of the Chicago Stardust over at http://wayoffloop.blogspot.com/. The show looks interesting. The review was, overall, positive, but there's a line in there "My theatre-going companion complained that too many things were played as funny. I partially agree - I think it all would have been more effective and funnier if everyone had taken their fairy tale problems more seriously," which reminded me a little of the reading of Chivalry on the Symphony Space audio, where I wanted to take the reader aside and suggest that if she did Sir Galaad completely straight (rather than "big" and comedic), it would have been funnier and work better.

It's like the one directorial piece of advice one wants to give actors is "Er, you know that thing you do...? Well, don't do that." And of course, it's a useless piece of advice, just as the single worst piece of editorial advice I ever got was "er... well, it's not as good as I was hoping it would be. Can you make it better?"

Was sent a link to http://www.bstv.tv/ which amused me enormously, but left me with no particular desire to see a whole TV show based on parodic reality TV concepts (given that my reaction to reading about any new reality TV show is normally a "they have got to be joking" anyway).

...

I'm not really a proper foodie, not like, well, DocBrite (who recently emailed me to let me know that we're going to be eating at The Flower Drum in Melbourne in July, and when Poppy tells me to go and eat with her I always do, because it will always produce a) amazing food and b) an anecdote that nobody else will believe when you tell them), but I was fascinated by this article on the top fifty things foodies should do, which range from the interesting to the "er, no, I don't actually think so".
http://observer.guardian.co.uk/foodmonthly/story/0,9950,1481375,00.html


Hi Neil,
Just a quick question. I am reading Good Omens and was wondering what "cor" meant and if it is a British word. I take it to be slang and along the lines of "Damn" but just wanted to be sure. Thanks for any clarification you can give. I did do a search first on your website and while I did find cor references, there was no explanation of the word. Thanks, Barry


Remember, Google is your friend. I googled "Cor Slang" and came up with
http://www.effingpot.com/slang.shtml and then found a British-American online dictionary at http://www.davidappleyard.com/english/vc.htm where you will learn that the American for "Cor" is "Goodness". (Bizarrely, in the 13 years I've been in America, I've not yet heard anyone use "goodness", as an exclamation.) It's used as an expression of pleased astonishment, or at least it was when I was a boy.

Which reminds me,

..Is the aforementioned night gown black too or is it white or some shade of baby blue/pink well complimented with a cap too? :P (Get better soon!) Steph

Thank you, and I hope I shall. But it was "dressing gown", not "night gown". Which is, probably rather disappointingly, just English for "bath robe" (http://www.davidappleyard.com/english/vd.htm)


Hi Neil,

So now you've mentioned "ShockHeaded Peter" and "The Wolves in the Walls" opera and a stage adaptation of "Stardust" in the past two weeks, and I have to ask again: Have you ever written anything specifically for the stage? And if not, do you think you'll ever? What do you think it'd be like?

(I know some of your stories have been adapted for the stage, though I'm not sure which.)

And for your readers in Canada (or, I suppose, anywhere that Chapters will ship)(or, I suppose again, anyone who couldn't afford "Wolves in the Walls" for whatever reason): "Wolves in the Walls" has gone on some sort of super-sale on the Chapters/Indigo website: (Here's the link.)

I wish this had happened sooner. I would've saved enough money to buy another Sandman trade.

And thanks for doing all your writing stuff. It's a boost to the imagination to see someone using their imagination so well in their stories.

Cheers,
Greg Carere


I'm writing a play in my spare time. I've been writing it for a couple of years. I'm only on page nine, mostly due to an acute shortage of free time, so do not hold your breath.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

The Blue Tit Post

Today, I found myself with an evil painfully scratchy throat and a deep desire not to get up, so I spent the day in my dressing gown and had chicken soup and lemon-and-honey-drinks.

This meant I failed to be properly excited when our visiting bird chick (setting up feederside cameras and so on) caught sight of an English bird that shouldn't have been there at our garden feeders. She was videoing at the time, so was able to prove she didn't imagine it, and was amazed and thrilled and excited. Then she made a few phone calls and discovered that someone in the midwest seems to be breeding them and letting them go, which makes it less likely that the bird in question had been blown across the Atlantic and then had hitchhiked its way to the midwest, and that it may not be counted on the mysterious birding league tables they keep. But it was obviously still one of the coolest things that had happened to her in ages, and I was not properly impressed. At least she had a husband there to react properly.

(Besides feeling a bit under the weather, I also found it hard to get excited about a bird I saw outside my window every day of my life growing up, that's just in the wrong place, and is probably just puzzling about where to find a decent cup of tea, or, more probably, half a coconut.)

In response to "I took the Which SF Writer are You? test at http://paulkienitz.net/skiffy.html -- and was delighted to learn that I am apparently Chip Delany. Who knew?"Well, you knew in 2002 when you took the test!: http://www.neilgaiman.com/journal/2002/12/httpgning.asp
At least you're consistant!

Anyway, the question for this email:
Stardust and American Gods have "Brainstorming" editions listed on amazon. What are they? http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/1594970998



Well, as senility begins its slow stranglehold (or possibly I've just been blogging too long) at least I can answer your question. I googled Public Square books, and learned from this press release (http://www.publicsquarebooks.com/PressRelease3.html) that the Brainstorming editions are Spanish Language editions of the books (the Norma Editorial editions) sold into the US.

You'd think that AMAZON or whoever would list them as Spanish language editions, and I expect eventually, they will.

More on Which SF Writer Are You at Making Light -- and a late edit to add:

You've probably heard this from several sources already, but in case you didn't -- I went to take the "Which SF Author Are You" quiz, and apparently Paul has had so many hits he's exceeded his bandwidth and the quiz is down until next month. Bummer.

...

Good luck on opening night to all at the Griffin Theatre production of Stardust (break many legs). The first review I got said,

Neil,

We just saw the Griffin production of "Stardust" in Chicago and wanted to let you know that it's quite well done and a lot of fun. They're suprisingly true to your story. It's a small and intimate space and the production values are quite high. Best of luck with your current projects. We're really looking forward to both "Anansi Boys" and "Mirror Mask".

Best Wishes, Hannah and Amy


Which looks promising. Thank you both.

...

Somebody wrote in suggesting that I should write a short story that I could place in the public domain for people to make films of. I can see a few problems with this --primarily that "We Can Get Them For You Wholesale..." wasn't created to be something that starting out film makers looked at and went "Look, a small cast, two real speaking parts, limited locations, and a solid three act structure in a fifteen minute shape. What a great thing story to try and tell." It just happened that way. I have no idea how it happened, and doubt I could do it intentionally. Things like that -- or to take a possibly more apt example, things like JOHNNY THEREMIN (http://www.johnnytheremin.net/index2.html) -- happen best when you don't set out to make them happen.

Several people wrote to point out various copyright difficulties with the idea of putting out a DVD of different versions of "We Can Get Them For You Wholesale..." and one person wrote with an offer to publish such a DVD. My guess is that if it happened it probably ought to be an all proceeds from this to charity sort of thing, because any other way of doing it would probably lead to lawsuit hell.

Lots of tabs to close so...

Emperor Norton has got onto a coin -- http://www.gaydollarsf.com/

Bob Sheckley's condition is improving (hurrah) -- http://locusmag.blogspot.com/2005/05/impending-news.html#comments

If you accidentally run your iPod through a washing machine, do not try to fix it with a screwdriver, or it may explode (or at least "go pop"). (News story here.) Actually, lots of do nots showing up, like do not wear a dress to your prom, and, if you're from the UK, do not make miserabilist movies.

And now I shall go back to bed (well, I'm typing this in bed, but you know what I mean) leaving you with only some photographs of an abandoned amusement park...

Saturday, May 14, 2005

O HELL

Today was a good day for everything that wasn't mechanical, and doomed for everything that was.

For example, a new DVD recorder arrived. It has a friendly HELLO message on the screen when you turn it on, which is nice. What's not so nice is that it doesn't see any input of any kind, plays a prerecorded DVD about one time in five, and resets itself randomly even then. HELLO, it says instead of PLAY, and then the clock starts again at 1:00 and mostly it stops working completely. HELLO.

And that was only one of several small electric wossnames that, as soon as I touched them, decided that they really weren't cut out for working.

...

Collectors of Lisa Snellings' author rats will be delighted to hear that Harlan Ellison (as Zorro) joins Poe, Lovecraft, and some other author in the set. There's a picture of the Gang of Four here.) (And Lisa's rat-shop is here, but Harlan's not up there yet.)

...

You may remember that I finished a story called SUNBIRD last November, which was Holly's slightly late 18th birthday present (given that she was already 19 and a half). It'll be out toward the end of this year in a book that's called (deep breath)...

A Book of Evil Marauders, Purple Blobs, and Some Other Things That Aren't as Scary, Maybe, Depending on How You Feel About Lost Lands, Stray Cellphones, Creatures from the Sky, Parents Who Disappear in Peru, a Man Named Lars Farf, and Three Other Stories We Couldn't Quite Finish, So Maybe You Could Help Us Out. (Here's a link to the cover.) It's edited (and published by) the editors of McSweeney's and will be raising money for a good thing.

...

I took the Which SF Writer are You? test at http://paulkienitz.net/skiffy.html -- and was delighted to learn that I am apparently Chip Delany. Who knew?

...

I'm going to be the Master of Ceremonies at this year's Audie Awards, which should be fun.

The Audie Awards are given for Audio Books, and they're running a "Pick the Winner" contest -- Everyone who enters the contest will be eligible to win the Grand prize of a complete collection of the 2005 Audie Winners or 5 Runner-Up Prizes of a gift subscription plus $50 worth of audiobooks. http://www.audiofilemagazine.com/audie_contest_05.html

...

Lots of really nice messages following on from yesterday's post about Peter Beagle. Here's a small selection:

Hi Neil,Just wanted to let you know that I followed your link to Conlan Press for The Last Unicorn audio book and while there had a question about the ordering process and so called intending to leave a message (I'm on Eastern time, they're on Pacific, so it was about 6:30am there), but instead got a real live person who turned out to be Connor Cochran, President of Conlan Press himself. Mr. Cochran was informative, intelligent, and a complete delight. He talked to me about books I knew and several that I did not and even did a bit of reading for me of some of his favorite Peter S. Beagle selections. I came away from our conversation feeling inspired about reading, and especially about Peter S. Beagle and his works. He also told me that their little publishing company was taking about 20 orders per week and, thanks to you they've had several hundred orders since yesterday. So thanks for the link, the info, and all that you do.-Stephanie Benson Hampden, Maine


and

Just had to write when I saw that Peter S. Beagle was your gateway to Tolkien. He wrote a book called "I See By My Outfit," about a trip he and a friend took through the American Southwest. He kept stopping at Indian jewelry stands looking for "the one ring." As soon as I finished his book, I headed for the fiction section of the library and found Volume 1 of "Lord of the Rings." This was sometime in the early sixties--maybe 1962 or 1963. Thanks to Beagle, I got in on the Tolkien craze relatively early.


I noticed they had "I See By My Outfit" at the http://www.conlanpress.com/html/books.html site, and it's a book I've always wanted to read.

Neil,Thanks for the heads up about the Peter S. Beagle book. I too stumbled onto him as a child, wandering around Lake Tahoe on a vacation with my parents. In a small, quaint, they-don't-make-em'-like-that-anymore bookstore I came across "The Fantasy Worlds of Peter S. Beagle. It not only turned me into a serious reader for life, it made me want to be a writer as well.Beagle is one of those writers who escapes your memory when asked "who are your influences?", but immediatly brings a smile to your face when someone else brings him up. Thanks again for the info, and the smile.-Steve Gomez

That was exactly my thought. I almost never mention Beagle in a list of influences, but I know that Matthew the Raven was a descendant of the raven in A Fine and Private Place, and that the Death in "Come, Lady Death" was definitely somewhere in the back of my mind when I decided that Death had to be a girl...

...

And a few short ones to conclude with:

Stardust: Why could Madame Semele not see Yvaine? Did I miss anything?

Yes, I'm afraid so. You might want to reread the scene between Madame Semele and the witch-queen again.

(Incidentally, there will be a play of Stardust in Chicago over the next month -- details at http://www.suntimes.com/output/theater/wkp-news-call13north.html). I hope it's good.

Let's end this foolishness once and for all: When is "MirrorMask" being released for the general public to experience?

Isn't "let's end this foolishness once and for all" the sort of thing you're meant to say while hefting a rather large sword? Well, in previous blog entries (like this http://www.neilgaiman.com/journal/2005/04/thats-all-he-wrote.asp) I said that as far as I know it'll be released in the US in September. As far as I know, it'll still be released in September. There. I hope this ends this foolishness. Er, once and for all.

If you can't wait (or if you like Dave McKean art, or if you want a peek backstage) you should check out the MirrorMask book -- http://www.neilgaiman.com/books/mirrormask_hc.asp for details. And that is out now.)
...

A terse one in from, I would hazard, someone in Perth (the one in Western Australia, rather than the one in Scotland).

WHY AREN'T YOU COMING TO PERTH YOU C***?

Er, because the Australian divisions of my publishers picked where I'd go, and they didn't pick Perth.

If it's any consolation, the last time I went to a convention on the Australian mainland it was to go to a Swancon in Perth. And I flew in to Perth, went to the con, then took the four hour flight straight to Sydney to catch a plane home -- where I found myself having to convince an immigration official that I had, of my own free will, flown all the way to Australia in order to spend four days in Perth. This was, I was given to understand, the strangest and most suspicious sort of thing that that particular gentleman had ever encountered...

...

Finally, Karawynn Long sent me a link to a poem by Margaret Atwood about blurbs, and giving them. I may have disagreed with Ms A about remote-controlled signing machines, but I rather agree with her about blurbworld... http://www.web.net/owtoad/blurbs.html
<< Previous [Home] Next >>
Archives  |  RSS  |  Translations  |  Labels  |  Tumblr

Now Available!


Now in Paperback


My current crusade is to make sure creative people have wills. Read the blog post about it, and see a sample will.