Sunday, January 15, 2006

the day the saucer landed...

I woke up this morning to discover that I couldn't get onto the internet, and that, once I'd packed everything (including the tuxedo) I still had forty minutes before the car was due. I'd promised two poems to a poetry website recently, and I had something sort of niggling in my head, and so I started to write a poem. Forty minutes later it was all done. It was solid and funny and cool and real and I bet it'll work a treat at readings. "That was easy," I thought. "I'll do the other poem on the plane." And several hours later, I sat down on the plane, opened a notebook, and wrote a sonnet. It was, I am sorry to report, absolute rubbish.

In between the two poems I had a wonderful breakfast in a Pakistani restaurant in Queens with Claudia Gonson, and was briefed on what's happening with Stephin Merritt's adaptation of Coraline. I can't wait to hear some of the songs he's written.

Lots of stuff I've meant to post in the last week or so. Let's see... not sure if I mentioned that the Playaway is now available. It's a compact audio book player -- you buy it with the book preloaded (current titles at and it's a rather impressive little thing. I think the price-point may be a bit high for something that you have to get suggestions for what to do with it when you've listened to it (, but I can imagine it working really well as something to grab at airports and as a gift.

I'm fascinated by placebos -- the article in New Scientist about placebo painkilling being blocked by drugs that prevent morphine working ( for example, or (a hasty google threw up this as an example, from a Rogaine website) the effect that placebos have in hair restoration ("Almost two out of every three women in the Minoxidil group were evaluated by physicians to have regrown some hair: 13% had moderate regrowth and 50% had minimal regrowth. The rest (37%) had no regrowth. Thirty-nine percent of women in the placebo group also saw some regrowth.") So I thought this article on placebos in The Guardian genuinely interesting --,6761,1686011,00.html

Saw a nice review of MirrorMask at and it's up for a Golden Groundhog award -- you can vote for it at although it looks like the Green Street Hooligans have cornered the whole voting thing already. (The DVD release in the US is still set for February 7th, which means you can give it to someone as a Valentine's Day present, you know.)

My old friend Will Shetterly writes to say:

After this bit of silliness: Family finds comic book gift offensive:

I decided to create a Captain Confederacy comics blog and run the
comics as a free serial. To start with a bit of a bang, I've posted
nine pages, plus letters from the LOC from Walter Jon Williams and
you. From here on, the plan is five pages a week.

All here:

(Will was the first person ever to send me free comics, back in 1985, and I wrote him a thank-you letter, with some jokes that make more sense if you were reading Captain Confederacy.)


I think I liked it better in the olden days, when the voices raised against comics as a medium thundered out their loathing and disgust. There was an amazing Gershon Legman rant, in the middle of The Rationale of the Dirty Joke, about how "people who make horror comics should be put face-first into their own sausage-grinders". There were giant haters-of-comics in those days. These days, the voices don't thunder -- the best we seem to get are odd little grumbles, like, which leave me wanting to read the book it whines about.


I was sent a link to .

Hayley Campbell writes to let me know that Eddie Campbell is one of the bloggers at


There's a MirrorMask audiobook out on CD, read by Stephanie Leonidas.


Hi Neil,Seeing there's a kind-of Voice-Over Hell Thread at the mo'. Here you can find Tom Baker in full swing. It does contain naughty words though. Cheers,Mike Graney

Fun. And magnificently sweary, yes.

Hi Neil,The William Shatner "sabotage" clip can be heard here:
All the best,Shannon Patrick Sullivan

And it's even available commercially --

Here's a link to the Shatner quote (along with several other clips):


When is the Stardust audiobbok coming out? Since you've read it out already, it shouldn't take that long, should it? Or is there more to making an audiobook than just reading it out loud, recording it and mass producing it? Charles

Well, there's quite a bit still to do. Now, what I recorded needs to be cleaned up - they have to remove the sound of paper rustling every time I turn the page, for example, along with any rustles, gulps, audible swallows, fluffs or interesting stomach gurgles. They need to put some music behind me reading John Donne's "Song" I did at the beginning, and choose between all the various alternate takes of the bits I did in a couple of different ways and so on.

There are other things that will have to happen with the CD version -- it will need to be solicited to the booktrade, for example, and then the CDs need to be made and so on -- so those ones will get to the shops in the US in October.

Having said all that, we're now living in a magical world in which there's honestly very little reason why something like the Stardust audio shouldn't be available for download as soon as it's finished. And I wouldn't be surprised if it wasn't available through, iTunes, and the other places that you can buy audiobooks, in a few months from now.

Neil, this has taken me a few days to get around to, and I'm sure you've recieved lots of similar notes, but I wanted to thank you again for the talk at the 92nd Street Y last Monday. I was the guy who told you that when Anansi Boys came out I was recovering from colon cancer surgery and the book was good medicine for me. I didn't get to say that I laughed so hard at certain portions of the book (including the section you read Monday night) that I thought my incision was going to tear. Not easy to give a full belly laugh when your belly has recently been stapled back together. I now tell people that my favorite punctuation mark is the semi-colon, because that's all I have in me.

Anyway, the question: since you're in New York recording the new cd, I got to wondering: how do you decide which stories to include? I know you mentioned not doing certain books because of the voices, but does that also have an effect on stories and poems you record?

Second question: is the appearance in Philly in a few weeks a private thing, or open to the public?

Mostly I record the stories that I think will be fun, or that have worked when read to an audience in the past.

Not quite certain about the Temple event -- I assume it's open to the public because they sent me the information in and asked that I put it on the blog. There's more info (but the old location) up at
this link on the Temple site.


And lastly, I had dinner with Peter and Susan Straub last night, and Susan gave me a copy of her DVD, Reading With Babies. I was impressed enough with it that I went and checked out the website You can see a clip from the DVD at And if you're wondering why anyone should read to babies, you can read the FAQ at