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Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Quick morning soccer ponder

I hear from sources on the Stardust set that this Sunday will see a football match between the two films currently at Pinewood -- Stardust and the current James Bond film.

And the idea of a Stardust vs Bond football match keeps running through my head, "...and it's Ernst Stavros Blofeld and he passes to Felix Leiter and... oh, he just got turned into a goat. And there's a cluster of excited ghosts over by the goal-mouth, one of them just ran through Le Chifre, and the ball, the ball's gone up..."

I also hear that the release date of Stardust has moved back to Spring Break -- March 9th 2007. And that there will be a whole Stardust-the-movie presentation, with footage from the film and special guests at the San Diego Comic Convention this year.

So now you know everything. (Holly says she had the best birthday in her whole life this year. Including use of the studio golf cart for the day.)

Hello there, Mr. Gaiman.I don't have a question. I just thought you'd like to know that I named my two guinea pigs after you and Ray Bradbury.I am also rather technologically inept, so this is probably in the wrong section. Sorry about that. -Sarah

Not a problem.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

why I am not a restaurant critic...

So I had two of the best meals of my life in New Orleans. The Cafe Adelaide meal was one of the three best Top Restaurant Experiences I've ever had. And then, two days later, at the Delachaise, I had one of the best food times I can remember. Poppy's husband Chris is a chef, and I don't get to see him very often (and I like him) so when Poppy told me he couldn't eat with us as he'd be working that night one one of us suggested we go and eat where he cooks, and let him feed us. And so we did.

The Delachaise is a long bar, the shape of a railroad dining car, and Chris was all the kitchen staff. All of them. Which meant that the meal was the best food I've ever had completely prepared and served by one other person (if you see what I mean). We were lucky in that the bar crowd hadn't really arrived yet, and the other people eating had pretty much finished by the time that we got there, and we were in a booth near the kitchen.

There's a lot to be said for just letting good chefs just feed you, if you trust them. They get to do their best to impress you and if you're lucky you get to be impressed. I'd be hard-pressed to pick a favourite dish out of the dozen plus dishes (none of them too big) Chris brought to the table on Sunday evening -- the BLT-style tomato things were remarkable, the pomegranitey dip the name of which I've forgotten was astonishing, the halibut-and-sweetcorn an amazing foodie mixture of textures and tastes, the forbidden-rice thingie was a delight, the two soups in one bowl gazpacho-roasted cold tomato soup was pretty much perfect, and the desserts and cheeses just kept coming and surprising (and all were delectable, especially the little soft cheese and rosemary honey thing). Oh, and we started with the the two-sauce French fries. The satay sauce.... oh, the satay sauce...

It's such a good thing I don't live in New Orleans. I would rapidly become astoundingly rotund.

I also met many of Poppy's cats and was attacked by her flamingo.

ALA was fun, what I saw of it -- mostly, what I saw was the work in front of me in my hotel room, alas. I went to the Alex Awards presentation, and like the other four people on the panel, I made a short speech. Unlike them, I completely forgot to say anything about the actual book that won the award (which this time was Anansi Boys. Last time I won one, it was Stardust.) (I told them about the last time I was at ALA, though.)

Also attended (as an audience member) a panel for librarians on Graphic Novels, which left me with the distinct feeling that, if I had been a librarian and had known nothing about what was out there in graphic novels and gone to that panel for information, I would have come away with the impression that most graphic novels are manga. Which seemed to do a disservice to the huge range of graphic novels out there -- the panellists were very well-informed and articulate, but only Jackie Estrada in her initial talk about what was out there seemed to be talking about anything that wasn't manga. And when a Japanese librarian got up and asked pointedly whether there were any other kinds of more respectable graphic novels than the boy-love manga the panel had been talking about, they told her about the educational manga that were now available in the US, as if there weren't any other educational or non-fiction graphic novels out there. Good intentions but, sitting in the audience, it felt a bit blinkered. I felt the same way I would have done if all they'd talked about was superhero comics. Good but I'd hoped for much more.

Suw drew my attention to the most bizarre piece of spam she's ever received:
http://chocnvodka.blogware.com/blog/_archives/2006/6/27/2058856.html

As the co-creator of the Dread Sigil Odegra, I would also love to find "...matching illustrations from independant sources. I have thus far seen a bas-relief serpent, a crude ink drawing, and a written description that likens the Odegra to the M25 London orbital motorway, but I would really like some more input, preferably one from a historical source, or a fraud so well done that it can pass for historical."


Hi Neil!

I need your help! I am a volunteer at 826LA (www.826LA.org), located in Venice, CA, and we need help finding some artists to help with our English Language Learner camp we are offering this summer.
The program is designed children whose second language is English. During the program, kids will do lots of different projects so that they can improve their english in all aspects.
One of the projects we wish to do involves comic books! We want to help the kids create their own superhero.
The problem is, we don't have any artists that can pump out reasonable looking superheroes in a short amount of time. I've tried finding any contact info for local comic book artists, but have failed to find anything beyond a pr email. I was wondering if you could post this on your blog and ask for the help of any artists in the Venice, CA or even the SoCal area who would like to help?
Anything would be appreciated. Thanks for your time.

-Jeremy
www.826LA.org


Consider it mentioned -- and I'm sure some of the other places that comics artists gather will happily mention it further.

Monday, June 26, 2006

HMG

It was twenty one years ago that I was woken up at about eight-thirty one morning by Mary, my wife, letting me know that she was in labour and that she had already phoned the maternity hospital to let them know, and we were leaving now. And, possibly because I seemed rather agitated by all this information, she said she thought it might really be better if she drove and I timed the contractions. We owned an elderly, tiny yellow MG midget at the time, which she fitted herself into somehow, and she drove us like a maniac through tiny curving Sussex backroads to get to the Maternity Hospital, while I timed the contractions and worried.

I'd somehow got it into my head that the baby would be a girl, and, after the kind of long and protracted negotiations that normally result in the drawing up of borders in Eastern European principalities, we'd settled on "Gemma" as a name.

We pulled up in front of the hospital by nine, and by about ten I was amazed and delighted to find myself proudly holding a small, baldish, grey-eyed baby who seemed to be taking in everything that was going on and had a very sober look on her face, as if she wasn't quite sure whether she entirely approved of any of it.

"She doesn't really look like a Gemma," I thought. "Bugger." I checked. Mary didn't think she looked much like a Gemma either.

And I drove home pondering the naming issue, with Lou Reed's Walk on the Wild Side running through my head.

Somewhere in there twenty one years went by, and I continue to be amazed and delighted by her, and really most appallingly proud. Right now she's on a different continent beavering away...

Happy 21st Birthday Holly.

...

Dear Neil,

Thank you for responding to my question and for clarifying your statements. When I read your post I was under the impression that you were linking Randy Constan's website to the paedophilia controversy surrounding Alan Moore's "Lost Girls", and obviously, this worried me. I agree that Randy is not an "innocent bystander" in that he IS publicly displaying an unconventional take on Peter Pan, but I will maintain that he is an "innocent bystander" in the paedophilia debate going on with "Lost Girls". Many people (including high school bullies) immediately assume that gay or effeminate men are paedophiles or child molesters, and I was sincerely concerned that you were (perhaps unwittingly) propagating this mentality. This also confused me because I'm familiar with your (and Alan Moore's) contributions to the wonderful "AARGH" benefit comic book. It's a relief to know that this isn't a case of serious mixed signals, and that you were only linking it to Alan Moore 's possible Peter Pan-related legal problems, and not to anything else.

Thank you for keeping us posted on all of the press (both positive and negative) "Lost Girls" is receiving. I feel that we (especially in the US) need to maintain a mature and open-minded discourse in the topic of sex and sexuality, and I hope that "Lost Girls" can be a catalyst for this.

Sincerely,

David McHale


Not a problem. It hadn't occurred to me it might be taken that way.


Dear Mr. Gaiman,

I am a co-editor for a magazine called BBT Magazine (Blood, Blade, & Thruster – The Magazine of Speculative Fiction & Satire), with it’s first issue to hit the stands in Mid-August.
I am writing with the hopes that you would be willing to do a brief e-mail based Q&A. Some questions will be fairly silly since we are combination of satire and Spec-Fic. (Think Realms of Fantasy meets The Onion.)

“10 questions with Neil Gaiman,” would be lovely if you are willing. We would simply email them to you and you could reply the same way.

If you don’t think you would have time for that, “5 questions with Neil Gaiman,” has a nice ring to it. Slightly better than, “Neil Gaiman answers one question!”

If you decide not to take part in or Q&A interview, I suppose we could do something like “Neil Gaiman snubs tiny little start-up magazine, crushing the lungs of editors and fans alike!” on the cover, although it sells far less magazines and we would be reduced to tears.

We have a link to your website on our website already because we truly are huge fans. This would be a real coup for our little magazine and we hope you’ll consider taking part.

Besides, think of all the good Karma you’d receive from helping troglodytes such as ourselves.

Thanks you so much for your time,
Lucien Spelman Editor, BBT Magazine
www.bbtmagazine.com


The sad thing is yours wasn't the only FAQ line request for a five-question email interview yesterday. There were four others, and I actually wound up saying yes to the Spanish one because I've not done a Spanish interview in ages, whereas I've done lots of US interviews, many for little start-up magazines. So this is a sorry for you, and for the other three requests for interviews from yesterday, and all the ones that came in last weeka nd last month that I haven't even had time to say no to. Good luck with the magazine, though.

Probably the best way to get an interview with me is to go to Harper Collins (or Headline or Bloomsbury in the UK) and let them know you'd like an interview the next time I go on the road or head out to promote a new book (it'll be in September this year in the US, for Fragile Things). And then there will be a few days in which I'll do nothing but interviews.

Dear Neil,I know you know about the Sultan's Elephant - if you were sorry you missed it in London, and want to catch it somewhere, it said in the Guardian yesterday that it will be in Antwerp (Belgium) from 6 – 9 July, and then in Calais at the end of September and Le Havre at the end of October. Just gorgeous, it is. Lorna.


...

And more on librarians and food next post, I think.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Indisputedly, my dear Watson

Woke up from strange, riotous, brightly coloured dreams (of the kind that follow a dinner at the Cafe Adelaide with Patrick and Poppy so substantial and remarkable that I can at present never actually imagine eating again) opened my eyes and stared at a grey and black hotel wall, black and white photograph, black fittings and fixtures, and was, for a moment, convinced that the world had slipped into black and white and there was something wrong with my eyes.

I think that eating in New Orleans is something that should always be done in company with Poppy Z. Brite. You get astonishing service, amazing food and a big green ribbon on your table that tells the serving staff that you are to be looked after as if you were some kind of a god. A magical experience.

...

You've got a wrong phone number in your blog.The Comic Shop Locator Service isn't 1-800-COMIC-BOOK, it's 1-888-COMIC-BOOK.(Oddly enough, you can also reach it by calling 1-888-BOOGA-BOOGA)--Nat Gertler

...

http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio/aod/networks/radio4/aod.shtml?radio4/twentyeight_acts was fine comedic value for money. (Twenty eight acts in twenty eight minutes, recorded at the Edinburgh Fringe. Some duds, but not as many as you'd imagine, and they're over quickly.)

...

My friend Kit (who writes as C.E. Murphy) recently moved to Ireland and went to see the Coraline puppet show in Cork, which she really liked: http://mizkit.livejournal.com/98594.html -- I don't think she moved to Ireland just to see a puppet show, that was just an extra bonus.--Carl Rigney

Thanks, Carl. It sounds wonderful. Hope I get to see it this year. If I get a list from the Puca people of where it'll be showing around the world I'll put it up here.

Kind sir,I expect you'll get this question a lot after your most recent post. About the CNN article on Lost Girls...I was a little blown away to hear that Alan had used characters in his book that are apparently undisputedly owned by someone else. Isn't this just blatently and unarguably wrong and illegal? Or am I missing something? Thanks for all you do. John

Well, that could have been a fair summing up if it wasn't for the adverbs undisputedly blatently and unarguably. There's rather a lot of argument and dispute here, I'm afraid. If you want to take a deep breath and read this first -- http://www.alia.org.au/publishing/incite/2004/12/copyright.html -- you may be somewhat the wiser as to what they are.

The current status of Peter Pan is hugely disputed. That's why Disney was able to publish "Peter and the Starcatchers" and its sequel "Peter and the Shadow Thieves" along with a whole line of spin-off books, without any permission or (as far as I know) legal challenge from or compensation to Great Ormond Street Hospital, for example. There are many unauthorised Peter Pan sequels, and the Hospital has not been vigorous (or successful) in prosecuting them, particularly outside the UK (I note the Dave Barry Disney prequels are being published now in the UK.)

(Meanwhile, while Disney doesn't have a copyright on the underlying characters, it does have copyright on its depiction of them.)

It's further complicated by the fact that there is apparently some out-of-copyright Peter Pan material, and that the "perpetual copyright" granted to Great Ormond Street is probably only for the play "Peter Pan" and possibly the spin-off book "Peter Pan and Wendy", not for any of the other Peter Pan material Barrie wrote; and as I said, the "perpetual copyright" means the hospital continues to receive the income stream from the book and the play it would otherwise lose. (But it's a UK law, and it only applies to the UK.) And GOSH have also now licensed their own "authorised" sequel to Peter Pan.

It's even further complicated, because a graphic novel like Lost Girls or a book like Wendy (here's the Amazon link) is not a retelling of Peter Pan, using the characters from the book, but a reinterpretation of it. In Alan's book an adult woman called Wendy remembers playing in the park with a bunch of neighbourhood kids, and a scary adult paedophile with a hand deformed like a hook. There are resonances with the events of Peter Pan, but they are resonances.

So...

As far as I can see (and I'm not a copyright lawyer, and I am as capable of getting the wrong end of the stick as the next blogger), you can't do The Further Adventures of Tinkerbell and also use a Disney Tinkerbell on the book cover. But outside the UK, you could probably write and publish The Further Adventures of Tinkerbell. You definitely can in Australia. But wherever you were, you wouldn't have too much trouble writing a book about a wild, tempestuous, fairy-like girl that people called Tink, and her sad fixation on a local boy named Peter that might have somehow inspired J. M. Barrie.

And I keep wondering what would have happened if Shakespeare had given the revenue to Romeo and Juliet to the Cheap Street Home for Indigents and Mendicants, and Parliament had enshrined some kind of perpetual copyright in the law for that play. I don't think it would have been a good thing in the long term, even if many mendicants and beggars were helped by it, because it would have removed a piece of world culture from the table.

...

And finally, I keep forgetting to wish a Happy Fifth Birthday to the gang of assorted rapscallions and red-balloon-wagglers at the www.Neilgaiman.com message boards. They've been talking for five years now. Wish them belated birthday wishes at http://neilgaimanboard.com/6/ubb.x?cdra=Y&s=733605825

Friday, June 23, 2006

A quick shufty

Email just came in from editor Nick Lowe letting me know that the Entertainment Weekly Eternals piece is out today. (And that they took off the Junior from Mr Romita's name.) And Nick asked if I could mention the comic shop locator (1-800-COMIC BOOK) for people wanting to find a copy of Eternals but not sure where to start.

Busy copy-editing the UK and the US editions of FRAGILE THINGS at the same time, trying to make sure they're very similar books... (although the stories that were already published in the UK edition of Smoke and Mirrors won't be reprinted in Fragile Things to avoid too much confusion). Argh. let's do a quick shufty through the mail...

Dear Neil,

Could you explain the link between Alan Moore's pornographic comic book and the site you linked all of your fans to and why it is "traumatising"? I poked around the site you linked, and don't see how a ballet dancer/jazz guitarist/children's charity worker who makes his own costumes is related to Alan Moore's sex book.

Unless of course you were simply poking fun at an innocent bystander, which I guess makes sense, in a high-school bully sort of way.

I did notice some of the people pictured with him in costume, and I've seen people like this at your signings. I don't think it would be beyond imagination for any of these people to be among your fans and supporters.

I was merely wondering what your intentions were in posting this link.

Possibly disappointedly yours,

David McHale


Er. The link is "controversial" takes on Peter Pan.

I think that Lost Girls is uncontroversial and untraumatising, despite whatever tabloid flak comes its way over the next few months (here's the CNN article and I'm sure that The Sun, News of the World etc will be jumping in very soon), and that it's less traumatic than a middle-aged man dressing up as the Disney version of the character Peter Pan, and doing a website that plays you "When you wish upon a star" which is also obviously not a traumatising thing, but that was sort of the point.

The "Peter Pan" website was popular in a "have you seen this?" sort of way about five years ago, and it made me smile to see that it was still up from the Wikipedia Peter Pan article. I figured if it still made me smile, it might make other people smile. Which I assume is its purpose, or one of them -- if you put up a website like that you aren't an "innocent bystander". You're inviting people to link to it and to react to it with amusement or delight or revulsion or to find it charming or whatever. I think it's funny. Your mileage may vary. (Not sure how you got to high-school bullying from there.) But, yes, the connection you missed was Peter Pan.


Hi Neil-

I was curious to see if you had any response to the question about typos in the first issue of The Eternals:

http://comicfoundry.blogspot.com/2006/06/typos-are-eternal.html


Yup. Those are typos. Nothing compared to some of the ones we got in Sandman or 1602 though. They happen. Luckily, God invented the trade paperback as a way to let us fix these things.

Dear Mr. Gaiman,

I read your advice to the 23 year old writer ('tricia), about how to deal with feeling like a crap writer when you're so young. But what do you do when you're 30? I've written a novel that only my friends want to read (bear in mind, one of those friends is a book editor at a major US paper), but no agent or publisher wants to touch?

What does one do when they can't get a break? I want to write, but no paper will hire me to write. Right now I'm an editor at a website, but I'd barely call it editing. I write screenplays and am working on other prose projects, but I guess what I'm getting at is, should there be a point when one must say "enough is enough. This isn't going anywhere. It's time to stop before this starts to hurt more than I can bear"?

I bear responsibility for my actions as a writer, I know, and I've squandered many chances. I am at a low point, and I'm not sure that words of encouragement will mean anything to me at this point. They don't sound sincere. Overnight success takes years to happen, and I haven't been able to get that groundwork done. Is it worth my time to continue this fool's mission?

Sincerely,

Christopher


You can give up if you like. It's okay. The world won't end. I'm not really sure what being 30 has to do with it, though. Some of my favourite writers barely started being published until they were in their forties.

Sometimes it's a good thing that no-one wants to publish your first novel. I'm really glad nobody wanted to publish mine. There are an awful lot of publishers and agents out there, and I suspect if I'd sent my first novel to more than two publishers someone eventually would have published it. (This would not have been a good thing, but persistence would probably have paid off.)

Writing short stories is often a very good way to learn. And the thrill of seeing a short story in print can keep you going for a while -- and there are certainly paying short story markets out there.

But you can give up, too, if it makes you feel better.

The lady on the plane next to me yesterday explained, when I told her I was a writer, that as a former English Major she had had dreams of being a major novelist, but she was making a living instead, and she hoped to one day have enough free time to write.

And I remembered Gene Wolfe getting up at 5.00 am every day and writing two pages before going in to work, and I told her that if she wanted to be a writer she ought to write. ("It's like most jobs," I told. "It's amazing how much of it just consists of showing up." But she didn't believe me.)

Neil,
Only just saw that Coraline is being shown in Cork for a very very
limited run - http://www.corkfestival.com/coraline.html One show was
on today at 1600 (too late now) and there'll be two shows tomorrow.
Anyone in Cork should try and get to see this and drag all their
sticky nieces and nephews along too.

Damien.


Bugger. I'd meant to put something about that up last week. Yes. (Also I really want to see it.) If anyone goes and is reading this, let me know how it is.
It'll be playing at the Donegal festival in July.

Hi Neil,

I'm a frequent reader of your journal and often think about asking a question but can never think of anything that you probably haven't been asked umpteen times before. Then I see your a Boosh fan and finally I have what I hope is an original question (and admittedly a rather irrelevant one).
Who is your favourite Boosh villain? Of course we all love the Hitcher but I feel the Spirit of Jazz and Evil Tree are often overlooked because of this.
Love your work and am looking forward to all the new things you have in the pipeline for us.
I'll stop wasting your time now. :)
Cheers,
Simon


Either Old Gregg (I mean, he's a cross-dressing sea-monster) or Mr Susan, ruler of the Mirrorworld, with his 17 mirrors.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Alan on the radio...

Woke up to several dozen versions of this:

Hi Neil, in case you don't know, Alan Moore was on BBC Radio 4 this morning talking about some legal trouble Lost Girls might have with UK publication. There's a link to the broadcast here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/today/audio/full_alan_moore_interview.ram

but you'll need RealPlayer.

Thanks, John Wilson


Great interview. He talks about a lot more than the potential legal troubles [which, honestly, I can't see actually happening: the point is not that this is Peter Pan, the point is that it uses the reader's familiarity with the events of Peter Pan to impart significance to a completely different story... and according to the possibly correct Wikipedia entry, "...in 1988 the government had enacted a perpetual extension of some of the rights to the work, entitling the hospital to royalties for any performance or publication of the work. This is not a true perpetual copyright, however, as it does not grant the hospital creative control nor the right to refuse permission"].

Alan talks about the inspiration for Lost Girls, the accusations that a paedophile could use these books to "groom" a child, sexuality and its part of growing up, and the potential of pornography as an art form. And then the interview wanders over into Alan's troubles with Hollywood and gets very funny indeed.

It looks like there have been an amazing number of Peter Pan "sequels". But nothing in Lost Girls will ever be quite as traumatising as this.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

A midsummer afternoon's post

Spoiled by the TIVO-Slingbox combination (whatever you want to watch, wherever you want to watch it), I started wondering why I couldn't play the music on the house's music hard drive wherever I was in the world. Why be limited to a mere 60 gigs of iPod content, if I was in a hotel room somewhere with broadband? So I asked my son Mike, home from college for some of the summer, who has been having much too much fun in the last few weeks in his spare time overhauling the house network, moving the email accounts so they are now hosted by gmail, and doing similar fun things. He went off and found a server for the house music. Then I grumbled (after using it in Seattle) that I couldn't search for anything using it, so he cheerfully went off to build something that would search ID3 tags and then stream it for me when it found it.

I think I am also spoiled by having a son around.

In case you weren't aware, I wanted to let you know that Coraline's "Other Mother" has been nominated in Bloomsbury's search for the most popular literary villain. Of course, Zaphod Beeblebrox is also on the list, so I'm not sure how much faith I'd put in the results.Also: huge fan, thank you for writing, etc. And on the unlikely chance that there absolutely MUST be a question in this email for you to read it, Ninjas or Pirates?

Pirates, of course. But my respect for ninjas has shot up since I learned from The Mighty Boosh that they also hand-deliver cutting-edge style magazines.

That's actually a really good list of villains. I was going to request that everyone reading this go to http://www.bigbadread.co.uk/ and vote for the Other Mother, having learned my lesson about mobilising the internet from the Greatest Living British Author list, but I cannot find it in my heart to do so, mostly because there are such great villains on the list it would seem like cheating. (Bit puzzled about the listing of the Child Catcher from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, though. It's been many years since I read the book, but I could have sworn he was only in the film and the subsequent musical-of-the-film, and not in the Ian Fleming novel.)

Thought you might be interested in the first of our multi-art series of podcasts with Terry Gilliam...

Direct link: http://www.quickstopentertainment.com/?p=135
Frontpage link: http://www.quickstopentertainment.com

As the conversation evolves in the coming weeks, there's plenty of discussion about his plans for the film of Good Omens as well.

Oh good. He owes me and Terry Pratchett a groat each, though.

Hey Neil,I just wanted to let you know that I think the first issue of The Eternals is fantastic! JRJR's drawings and Matt Hollingsworth's coloring complement each other beautifully. This is the first time I'll be able to follow a monthly series of yours as it's released, and I couldn't have asked for a better beginning. Can't wait for next month! Paige


It's out? Oh. Good. Glad you're enjoying it. I'm just having too much fun asking JRjr to draw impossible things, and then he does.

Over at http://www.comicbookresources.com/news/newsitem.cgi?id=7629 you can see the loveliness of the Rick Berry covers to Eternals #2 and #3.

More on the Savannah production of Neverwhere -- it looks like the new theatre it's in is in need of money, or it will lose the space the day after the last performance...

http://www.connectsavannah.com/show_article.php?article_id=830

...

LA artists interpreting pre-schoolers channeling Pooh: http://www.nineteeneightyeight.com/storybookshow.html

I like the art and the idea, not quite sure how I feel about the Disney connection (probably good -- the characters are copyright after all, but I had to think about it) and went and checked the Fabulist at www.fabulist.org before posting this, because really it's only impressive these days if Olga hasn't put it up first.

And finally, it being the summer solstice, my assistant Lorraine has finished the house hunting process, contracts were exchanged, and she got to walk around her new house today deciding what colours she was going to paint the walls.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Lost Girls redux

I was asked to write about Alan Moore and Melinda Gebbie's Lost Girls for Publishers Weekly. And once I had written the article, I discovered that they needed something half as long. So I cut it and rewrote it, and that's what's on the stands this week. Here's the original version of the article, for the curious, and because there were some good bits that I missed.


LOST GIRLS


When I first started writing comics for adults, I found myself forever needing to explain that, no, I wasn't writing those kind of adult stories.

The boundary between pornography and erotica is an ambiguous one, and it changes depending on where you're standing. For some, perhaps, it's a matter of whatever turns you on (my erotica, your pornography), for some the distinction occurs in class (i.e. erotica is pornography for rich people). Perhaps it's also something to do with the means of distribution – internet pornography is unquestionably porn, while an Edwardian publication, on creamy paper, bought by connoisseurs, part works bound into expensive volumes, must be erotica.

Alan Moore knows his words.

Moore has always championed underdog media: his work in superhero comics exemplifies this. That Watchmen was on Time Magazine's list of the greatest novels of the 20th Century is less surprising than its existence (it is a masterful superhero comic about time, mortality, age and nuclear fear, amongst other things) in the first place.

Almost ten years before Alan Moore's The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, (a story that took many of the figures of Victorian popular fiction, including Alan Quatermain, Mr Hyde, the Invisible Man, and combined them in one huge romp), Moore, in collaboration with expat San Franciscan underground artist Melinda Gebbie, began Lost Girls, with a similar, although less fantastical, conceit – that the three women whose adventures in girlhood may have inspired respectively, Alice's Adventures In Wonderland, Peter Pan and Wendy, and T
he Wizard of Oz, now grown, meet in a Swiss hotel before the first World War. Wendy, Dorothy and Alice, three very different women, one jaded and old, one trapped in a frigid adulthood, one a spunky but innocent young American good-time girl, provide each other with the liberation they need, while also providing very different (and, needless to say, sexual) versions of the stories we associate with them – we go with the girls, in memory, down the Rabbit Hole, to Oz, and to Neverland.

Lost Girls began life, next to Moore's From Hell, in Steve Bissette's ground-breaking anthology Taboo. The first few chapters were collected by Kitchen Sink Press, but Kitchen Sink sank, and many readers wondered if Lost Girls would ever be completed. That it has been is cause, in the world of comics, for slightly disquieted celebration. Lost Girls is, after all, self-avowedly, pornography.

As an exercise in the formal bounds of pure comics, Lost Girls is remarkable, as good as anything Moore has done in his career. (One of my favourite moments: a husband and wife trapped in a frozen, loveless, sexless relationship, conduct a stiff conversation, laced with unconscious puns and wordplay, moving into positions that cause their shadows appear to copulate wildly, finding the physical passion that the people are denied.) In addition to being a master-class in comics technique, Lost Girls is also an education in Edwardian Smut – Gebbie and Moore pastiche the pornography of the period, taking in everything from The Oyster to the Venus and Tannhauser period work of Aubrey Beardsley.

It is one of the tropes of pure pornography that events are without consequence. No babies, no STDs, no trauma, no memories best left unexamined. Lost Girls, however, is all about consequences. It's also about more things than sex – war, music, love, lust, repression and time, to pick a handful of subjects (I could pick more). It's the kind of smut that would have no difficulty in demonstrating to an overzealous prosecutor that it has unquestionable artistic validity beyond its simple first amendment right to exist.

Melinda Gebbie was a strange and inspired choice as collaborator for Moore. She draws real people, with none of the exaggerated bodies of superhero comics or of the hyper-endowed people in the body of pornographic comics from Tom of Finland to Japanese Tentacle Porn. Gebbie's people, the women, and the men, have human bodies, drawn for the most part in gentle crayons.

Lost Girls is a bitter-sweet, beautiful, problematic, exhaustive, occasionally exhausting work. It succeeded for me wonderfully as a true graphic novel. If it failed for me, it was only as smut; the book, at least in large black and white photocopy form, was not a one-handed read. It was too heady, dense and strange to appreciate or to experience on a visceral level. (Your mileage may vary; porn is, after all, personal.)

That the material is problematic – no more so than many unillustrated novels, but then, it is, most definitely illustrated, and the -graphy part of pornography is what makes this a graphic novel – is obvious. Top Shelf has taken the traditional approach of a respectable publisher when faced with the problem of bringing out pornography, and has chosen to package it elegantly, expensively and beautifully, thus pricing, shaping, signaling and presenting it to the world, not as pornography, but as erotica. Whatever you call it, there has never been anything quite like this in the world before, and I find myself extraordinarily pleased that someone of Moore's ability actually has written that sort of comics for adults.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

What she said. They said. He said.

Home in time for Father's Day Dinner with 2/3 of my children. (1/3 of them are in London, working hard on a movie set.) I got cards and everything. It made me very happy.

I really enjoy being a father. And I have remarkable children to love. ("Oh, that's so sweet," says Miss Maddy, perhaps not entirely sarcastically, reading over my shoulder.)

Neil
In case someone else hasn't already mentioned this.
I believe the quotation is:
"Be regular and orderly in your life like a bourgeois, so that you may be violent and original in your work"
-Gustave Flaubert


David


There we go. It's listed in lots of Flaubert sites and quotation sites, often without the phrase "like a bourgeois". (Although Wikiquotes also erroneously attributes it to Clive Barker.)

Which reminds me -- one thing that seems fairly new is, not exactly hate mail, but a fair quantity of chiding email coming in from people over the last few months, telling me off for hating love. The people sending me the emails know I hate love because they've read a quote from me where I say I hate love somewhere on the web. Some of them tell me they feel sorry for me. A few of them write to tell me they agree with me enthusiastically. None of them, as far as I can tell, have read Sandman.

I crinkled my brow and went off and investigated.

If you google Gaiman "hate love" you get about 28,000 examples of the same quote. Some of the 28,000 mention that it's a quote from a character named Rose Walker in the Sandman book The Kindly Ones, but many of them don't. It's a speech by a character in a book I wrote which seems to have slipped its moorings, and in its wanderings around the web, become attributed to me personally.

It's probably worth pointing out that there's sometimes a slight difference between the author burbling on the blog or in essays and introductions (the kind of things that get quoted over at http://quotableneil.blogspot.com/ for example) and the things his characters say or think or believe.

...

And I was just about to go and write about Mark Millar's Crohn's Auction,
http://www.newsarama.com/marvelnew/CivilWar/MillarCrohnsAuction.html, when my assistant popped her head around the door and said "If you're writing a blog entry, can you end it with And now I have to go or Maddy and I will be late for our haircuts?"

What she said.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Wild Ginger and Jimi Hendrix

I'm in Seattle. Had a lovely dinner last night with mostly that wild Locus crew, not to mention Eileen Gunn and her John, and Gardner Dozois, at Wild Ginger, then went on the Science Fiction Museum and did a short presentation for "A Short Film About John Bolton". I'd not seen it in a few years, and took some pleasure watching it with an audience of people who knew nothing about it at all.

Dear Neil, i'd like to become a writer,but i have also a lot of doubts:in your opinion,someone who is teetotal,and that doesn't drink can write something significant? It seems a stupid question, but sometimes i think that a lot of writers did this in the past.It seems that you have to respect these conventions to become a writer.Okay,this is a silly question,but a writer has really to be a dandy or a "wild one"? Thanks Neil,Francesco from Fondi, near Rome

I've often heard it said that there are no stupid questions, Francesco. But that one, if it's not a joke, does actually come pretty close.

You should meet some writers. I'm afraid that you may be disappointed on many levels, but you will undoubtedly stop imagining that we are the "Wild Ones" very, very fast.

(Well, we are, but it's mostly in our heads. That's how we get writing done. Be bourgois and restrained in your life that you may be wild and unconstrained in your fiction, as someone or other more or less said.)

And, in my experience, those of us who are wild carousers tend not to stay that way for very long, because if we do, one way or another, we stop writing, sometimes rather permanently.

...

Time just passed.

So the Locus brunch happened. (I didn't serve omelettes, I'm afraid. It was worse than that.) Then the Locus Awards, where Anansi Boys won Best Fantasy Novel (which I wasn't at all surprised by) and "Sunbird" took best short story (which completely took me by surprise -- I'd forgotten that it was even in the running). The Locus Awards have more voters than the Hugos or the Nebulas, as Charles N. Brown himself reminded us, shortly before smashing event MC Connie Willis's small Hawaiian figurine mascot to china fragments, like a rotund, Hawaiian-shirted Jimi Hendrix -- or possibly Pete Townsend -- if they used to smash little ugly china hula-ing figurines instead of electric guitars.

Half an hour until I MC the SF museum Hall of Fame thingie.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Sterilize yourself with fear

I've had trouble posting pictures here recently, so this is a small test to see if it's fixed now...

(It's the picture I wanted to upload yesterday, originally to illustrate how finding out how awful some of the things other people got into print are can improve your own confidence as a writer.)




Yup. Looks good. (Well, looks ghastly. But good.)

(Thanks to the Blogger folk for their help on sorting this out.)

Incidentally, if anyone knows how to get in touch with Alan Craddock, who painted the Ghastly Beyond Belief cover, can you let me know? I've always wanted to see if he still has it and to find out if I could buy it if he does.)

...

Hey Neil, I just wanted to let you know that the McSweeneys Book with the really long title is currently on sale for 5 dollars through their website. It's a chance for any of would be Gaiman completists who didn't get it the first time around.Best,Chris

The link to their summer sale on Noisy Monsters Unfriendly Blobs etc is here. It's a lovely book, and $5 is an amazing deal.

...

Four years ago, Nick Setchfield wrote and asked me about Victoria Walker. (It's at http://www.neilgaiman.com/journal/2002/06/in-e-mail-from-sfxs-nich-setchfield-he.asp) and to save you clicking on it...

He wrote

There's been some interesting stuff on your website about preserving old
> books - but how do you preserve old authors? Jayne on the magazine has
> just tracked down a copy of The House Called Hadlows by Victoria
Walker, her
> favourite fantasy novel from her childhood. It's taken her
20 years.
> There's a photo of Victoria Walker inside, looking like a
magic hippy
> chick, preserved forever in 1971. But where is she now? Why
did she only
> write two books (the other one's The Winter of
Enchantment)? How does
> Jayne find her to thank her for writing the best
book of her childhood?
> If you have any leads, let us know!
>
> Best,
>Nick


and at the time I replied,

And then I got that strange tingly feeling you get when someone mentions a book
you'd loved once and half-forgotten almost for forever -- in this case The
Winter of Enchantment, which was on the shelves in my local library when I was
about eleven, and which I remember as being utterly magical, although the actual
what-happened is a confused sort of jumble of magic mirrors and cats and the
four seasons and victoriana. I did a web search and learned nothing except that
Garth Nix has really good taste in kids' books.

So in my copious spare
time (doomed and hollow cough there) I think I'll take this on as a project. Who
was Victoria Walker? Is she still alive? Why just those two books? Why have they
both been out of print for thirty years? The first thing I thought of as a
resource was this journal. This website is getting (according to a stats email
this morning) a little over 110,000 hits a day, and most people come and check
out the journal, which is an awful lot of eyes and minds. So if anyone out there
knows anything about Victoria Walker -- who she was or is, or any other
information about the books, send in your information on the FAQ line. And feel
free to mention it on other boards, journals and places.

And people did, and it became the sort of saga of Victoria Walker.

I tracked down and read The House Called Hadlowes, and reread the Winter of Enchantment (and talk about them at http://www.neilgaiman.com/journal/2002/10/i-finished-reading-house-called.asp). An eagle-eyed blog reader, Graeme Roberts, made the final links and got the story of Victoria Walker at http://www.ibooknet.co.uk/archive/news_may04.htm. (I talked about it at http://www.neilgaiman.com/journal/2004/05/pens-rules-finishing-things-and-why.asp)

So, bringing things full-circle, I got an email from that man Nick Setchfield this morning, with a press release attached and a link to http://www.fidrabooks.com/walker.html. The Winter of Echantment is coming back into print...

And sometimes people ask why I keep doing this blog, and what's it for. I think maybe, really, it's for things like helping get The Winter of Enchantment back into print.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

what to do when you're crap at 23...

There's a lovely essay by Michael Chabon about literature and "entertainment" up at http://www.michaelchabon.com/archives/2006/06/introduction_to_6.html. It's his introduction to Best American Short Stories 2005.

...

Neil,
I am a huge fan of both your work and your advice to aspiring authors (I have a post-it note with a quote from you about bear wrestling for when i get discouraged). So I know that your most common advice to aspiring writers is to write.
Well what about when your youngish (23) and you do write, but you just feel like your skills aren't matching your ideas. In other words, you feel like most of your stuff is utter crap.
Did you ever feel like this? And if so what did you do to hone your skills, or improve your techniques?
How important do you think college is for writers?
Regardless of an answer, thanks for taking the time to read these questions.

Truly,

'tricia


That was pretty much how I felt when I was 22-23, too. I had a fairly good ear for other authorial voices, so I could pastiche, and I wanted to be a writer more than most people want to breathe, but I didn't have a lot to say and I knew that I wasn't very good yet -- and also that I had ideas that were better than I was.

What I did was work as a journalist. It forced me to write, to write in quantity, to write to deadline. It forced me to get better than I was, very fast.

It got stuff I wrote into print. There is nothing for a young author that teaches you how to get better faster than reading something you wrote in print -- suddenly every mistake, every infelicity, every laziness, shows up as if in neon letters.

And the process of transcribing conversations forced me to learn to write dialogue and learn the economies of getting speech patterns into just a few words. (Dialogue -- even "naturalistic dialogue" -- isn't how people speak. So you need to learn to distill.)

And I was also lucky in finding myself with several book review columns, being forced to read and review everything, including stuff way out of my comfort zone, or books I simply would never have picked up. (I think writers should read from the shelves they wouldn't normally go.) And it was great reading stuff where I'd read something and go "I may be crap, but I'm better than this." (Working on Ghastly Beyond Belief was a great help on this, too.)

Also I got to do some living. That bit was important too, and much of it was a side effect of being a journalist -- I got to see lots of bits of the world I hadn't known existed, and talk to people I would never otherwise have encountered. That was important too.

So that was how I did it. You'll probably want to do it differently. I don't think any two people are going to take the same path, or need to.

As for how important college is for writers -- I remember someone once asking here if he needed an MFA before he could write -- the awful truth is that no editor, picking up a manuscript, is going to check your qualifications before reading page 1, and no qualifications will keep her reading past page 2 if she isn't enjoying it and interested in what happens next. (On the other hand, to the extent that college makes you write, get stuff into print, read outside your comfort zone, and meet people you might not otherwise meet, I think it's great. But it's not any kind of prerequisite.)

Does that help?

Hi Neil,
You mentioned a short story by Harlan Ellison about the universe getting even with a plumber. I'd like to read it but you didn't give the title of the story. So if you do know the title, could you share it with us?
Jan.
P.S.: I just bought The Essential Ellison, a 50 year retrospective of his stories; more than a thousand pages of madness & mayhem. It's never been easy to get your hands on (old) Harlan stories but on the face of it this is a great collection, published by Morpheus International.


The story is called "The Man Who Was Heavily Into Revenge", and the events of http://www.evanwashere.com/StolenSidekick/ reminded me of it (including the way that the universe, having dealt with the alleged Sidekick thieves, now seems determined to punish the guy who pointed the finger at them).

It's in The Essential Ellison.

When I presented Harlan with the SFWA Grand Master award, I made the point that the reason Harlan was getting the award was because of the stories he'd written, not because of the stories about him or any of the side-issues and brouhahas. The Essential Ellison is a terrific place to start.

Neil-

As someone in the States that also has to use a "dealer" to get new Doctor Who episodes, your post about the phenomenon a few weeks ago made me chuckle.

I'm getting from your comments today about The Idiot's Lantern (i.e. athlete's foot, gangrene, etc.) that you're not enjoying this season of Doctor Who. I continue to find them charming in their own way, and David Tennant continues to impress me and put a smile on my face.

Enough about me, though.

My question for you is: Have you considered writing anything for the new Who series? It would be presumptuous to ask about an episode, but perhaps a novel or audio adventure for Big Finish? I think the combination of Doctor Who + Neil Gaiman would easily make it something that interests most everyone, as well as helping to get some much needed exposure for the program Stateside.

Just a thought.

-Sterling


Did you miss the comments on the first four episodes, which were all positive? Here and particularly Here? (I thought "Girl in the Fireplace" was the high point -- perfectly constructed and a delight from start to finish.) The Cybermen thing was a mess of cliches, bad SF and rubbish moments that gets worse and more nonsensical in retrospect. "Idiot's Lantern" was a bit of a curate's egg -- Maureen Lipmann was marvellous, but I kept feeling that the script was trying to make points about the 1950s rather than simply tell a story set in 1953, and I couldn't believe in any of the people in it as people rather than as characters.

I think David Tennant is doing a fine job, but that some of the scripts for this series weren't in as good shape as those of the majority of the first series.

No, I can't ever see me writing a Dr Who novel (or any "licensed" novel). I don't write novels very fast, and when I do I'm going to write novels that are completely mine. If I was asked to write an episode of Dr Who I'm sure I'd say yes, as long as people were prepared to wait, but they might have to wait for years, as my dance card is very full. (I was asked to write a Babylon 5 episode before Season 1. I finally found time to write one for Season 5. And life was significantly less hectic back then.) It's not like they have any shortage of good people wanting to write Who scripts.

Is there any possibility that you'd ever write an episode of Dr. Who?
[Might be just us, but don't look forward to the two-parter too much.]

Jenn Erik


See above. As for the "Impossible Planet" two-parter, overall I rather liked it. The pacing was a bit off here and there, the Rose part of the ending was sort of pat and unlikely, but I thought it was exactly what it set out to be, a little lump of Lovecraft-in-space-style-solid-paranoid-small-number-of-people-on-doomed-space-outpost-trapped-by-ancient-demonic-alien-wossname fiction. Bad things happening on a distant space station is a sort of SF subgenre all on its own by now, and at least this iteration of it felt consistent.

And I think we're heading into "that's enough Dr Who, Ed." territory here...

...

Dear Mr Gaiman, I don't want to be rude but have you ever heard of LJ Cuts?

Yup. You can find out why I don't use them on the LJ syndicated feed Here and especially Here.

...

On the Stardust casting news front, the latest of the bickering dead Stormhold Princes to be cast(I think he may be Sextus, but don't quote me on that) is the Mighty Boosh's Noel Fielding. Which is good, because his audition tape was astonishingly funny and quirky.

Tab-closing time. I really enjoyed this Carter Scholz essay on the life and career of James Tiptree Jr.

And there are some fun pictures from Balticon at http://www.flickr.com/photos/sfrevu/sets/72157594150587062/ notable not for the pictures of a very jet-lagged and tired me, but for all the shots of Lisa Snellings in a full-body rat-suit. She says that I had figured out backstage that it was her (although she had gone to great pains to convince me otherwise) and that, because I am evil and I knew how hot it was in that rat suit, I made an extra-length introduction saying nice things about her. I, on the other hand, think it's much more likely that any length of time spent cooking in a rat suit is going to seem like an eternity, and that blaming your introducer is completely unjustified. But then, I would say that, wouldn't I?

In a case very similar (as far as I can tell anyway) to that which regained some of the rights to Superman and Superboy for the families of the creators, I see that John Steinbeck's family has regained his copyrights from Penguin books... http://books.guardian.co.uk/news/articles/0,,1796841,00.html

And finally, Saturday June 17th is the last day of London's Comics Showcase (63 Charing Cross Rd). There will, I am told, be alcohol, comics-celebrities, incredibly cheap comics and more. The end of another bloody era, isn't it?

Monday, June 12, 2006

Coraline Casting News

Coraline news. According to

http://www.timeout.com/film/news/1204.html

"Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders will voice eccentric neighbours Miss Forcible and Miss Spink in the stop-motion feature."

and furthermore,

Based on the Neil Gaiman book, Henry Selick ('The Nightmare Before Christmas') is directing, and he told Screen Daily this about the announcement: 'I'd like to say that casting [French and Saunders] was my idea, but the credit goes to Coraline's creative father, Neil Gaiman.
'Spink and Forcible are not the usual comic relief characters of animated films, but as performed by French and Saunders, they will be morbidly funny.'


Actually it was Dawn's idea -- she did the UK version of the Audio Book of Coraline, and afterward she asked me what I thought about her and Jennifer making a film of Coraline. I had to tell her that Henry Selick already had the rights, but then suggested to Henry that Dawn and Jennifer would be a wonderful Spink and Forcible. I'm very happy that it's going to happen.

Maddy would like me to mention that we just watched the Dr Who episode The Idiot's Lantern. I thought it was much better than the Cybermen story, in the same sort of way that a mild case of athlete's foot is much better than gangrene, but I have hopes for the upcoming two-parter...

...

Almost forgot. I just got an email letting me know that the Fabulist has persuaded the powers that be at Dancing Ferret records to release the Future Bible Heroes track from the Where's Neil When You Need Him? CD. Do you want to hear a Stephin Merritt Mr Punch song? Do you want to hear Claudia Gonson pretend to be Angela Lansbury in Sweeney Todd? What about hearing a demonic Mr Punch singing along? You do? Well, click on http://www.fabulist.org/archives/2006/06/future_bible_he.html

Incidentally, they sent me some of the CDs. They are black. Not silver. It's really cool and faintly offputting.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

small followup

I should have checked. Alexa Kitchen has a website of her own at http://www.alexakitchen.com/. Lots of her comics up there.

And it seems to me that curiosity is an amazing weapon in the industrial espionage arsenal, as is the apparency of having obtained something for nothing -- http://www.darkreading.com/document.asp?doc_id=95556&WT.svl=column1_1...

....
It's letters like this one that make me glad that I don't do a problems page...


I really love your work and I think you're a very talented writer. However, I recently read Good Omens and my girlfriend who happens to be a devout christian caught me reading it (I had to read it while she slept beside me, otherwise bad things could (and did) occur). Yes, I probably should have read it in the bathroom or something. :)

I know this sounds absurd, but do you have any suggestions for getting her back? I love her and I love you. I don't know what to do.

-seymour


Your girlfriend left you because she caught you reading Good Omens next to her in bed? And she left you because she's a "devout Christian"? Had she read Good Omens and not liked it and told you not to read it too, or is it just the sort of book that she'd leave a boyfriend over without actually reading?

I keep trying to understand this one, and just end up with my mind sort of boggling.

I think that any attempt you make to get back together with her is going to have to involve you getting across to her the concept of fiction. It's made-up stories. They don't imperil anybody's immortal soul. Possibly pointing out that there isn't actually a verse of the bible where Jesus slags off funny fiction and explains that people who think that Good Omens is funny will send you straight to hell, then warns that there's a special place in Hell for people who read Harry Potter books too, might work. Or she might just think you were being facetious. Pointing out that Good Omens wound up nominated for a major religious fiction award in 1989, that I once got a fan letter about it from an Anglican bishop, and that most religious people find it, er, funny might also be a good idea -- better still would be getting her to read it too and having a discussion about the ideas in it if you want to have some kind of future together in which you can exchange ideas and communicate without fear.

Failing that, I can't see that life is going to be much fun if you wind up spending the rest of it with someone who forces you to sneak into the bathroom at night to get your secret fix of fictional matter. You can give up reading things by me for the rest of your life (I don't mind, I'll cope) but someone who leaves you because you're reading Good Omens is probably going to want you to give up reading an awful lot of other stuff as well before she'll come back. Good Omens is the equivalent of a lightweight gateway drug to the world of heretical ideas in fictional form. Think of the precautions you'd have to take to make sure you weren't discovered before you'd be able to read Dan Brown, or Preacher...

Sunday tabs etc....

The most excitement we're having at this end is that my assistant Lorraine has decided that it's time to join the landed gentry and is house-hunting, and, because I've wound up with an unexpected (but by no means unwelcome) few days at home, I had an enjoyable afternoon yesterday getting a little fresh air and sunshine by volunteering to be her driver as she went looking at houses. Being Lorraine, they tend to be scary-looking thin Victorian places, the scarier-looking, thinner and more Victorian the better. Today, she and her friend Betsy are out looking at more places, and I just got an excited phone call from her which began "I think I just found my house! It's just by the cemetery!" So no surprises there.

Right. It's Sunday Morning, and it's time to close a bunch of Tabs:

Someone sent in a clip from a video of me talking to Heidi MacDonald at the West Hollywood Book Festival last year about why I started this blog...

http://vids.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=vids.individual&n=2&videoid=631337763

And looking at the Beat to do the Heidi link informs me that Alexa Kitchen (now 8 years old) has a new book out.

When Denis Kitchen first told me that his daughter (then about 5) was drawing comics I made the kind of noises that you make when friends tell you that their five year old daughters are writing operas, performing brain surgery or designing shopping malls -- a sort of a "how very sweet and I hope you aren't going to actually show me any of this please god" sort of noise.

And then one day Denis showed me her comics. Which were good. Really honestly actually good, rather than something you just say is good to keep a proud parent happy. So now Alexa has moved into Scott McCloud territory with a book called DRAWING COMICS IS EASY (Except When It's Hard). You can read about it at http://www.comicon.com/thebeat/2006/06/alexa_kitchen_comics_child_pro.html. I plan to buy a copy for myself, and another copy or two for local schools and godchildren and suchlike.

I don't know if it'll be available through Amazon, but if you don't have a local comic shop I bet you can ask DreamHaven about it.

Then again, they may have more information over at http://www.deniskitchen.com/

...

On the theory that what North Carolinans think are the best books may not be what New Yorkers think, the NewsObserver puts together its own list (by asking 32 local authors) of the best books in the last 25 years, and Sharyn McCrumb earns herself a place in Heaven.

Meanwhile, the oddest thing about the reactions to the Book Magazine survey -- like this article in the Times -- is the general failure to notice that it was just another internet survey, and the widespread journalistic assumption that there are thousands of readers of Book Magazine who actually came out and voted. (It occurs to me that if I'd drawn attention to it here and actually asked people to go and vote for me I'd undoubtedly now be one of Britain's top five Greatest Living British Authors, and I'd be feeling sillier than I already am at #21.)

It's not that the survey itself is meaningless... hang on. Scrap that. Yes, it is.

...


Incidentally, if you want to suggest to the SF Book Club what the great SF novels of the 1990s might have been, you should go and investigate http://antickmusings.blogspot.com/2006/06/what-are-great-sf-novels-of-1990s.html

...

Gene Wolfe's story "A Sob In The Silence" is one of the most disturbing stories I've read in a long time. It's in Strange Birds, the chapbook he did with Lisa Snellings (a Locus review of it is at http://slaughterhousestudios.blogspot.com/2006/05/strange-birds-indeed.html).

...

Over at http://www.fabulist.org/ (a site well worth visiting daily - how else would you learn about the Avenging Unicorn Playset?) they are giving away wonders and freebies: http://www.fabulist.org/contests.html . Put up a banner, join their mailing list and win win win. (I was going to put up their little "Magnetic Fields and Damn Sexy Art" link picture here, but Blogger is not cooperating.)

...

While sick in bed last week, I got to read what's out there so far of Gunnerkrigg Court, a really enjoyable webcomic, of the kind that will undoubtedly be out sooner or later in paper form (actually it looks the author's self-publishing it currently in paper form -- http://www.lulu.com/content/215167). It starts at
http://www.gunnerkrigg.com/archive_page.php?comicID=1. Lots of different flavours in there -- it's a semi-gothic funny-sweet school story with mysteries and robots and so forth -- but I kept finding myself reminded of the early days of reading Bone. Nice stuff.

....

Having taken some flak for saying what I thought about the problems with Wikipedia, it's interesting to see that there are people whose opinions of the Wikipedia "Hive mind" problem are significantly lower than mine - http://www.edge.org/3rd_culture/lanier06/lanier06_index.html.

...

Everyone I know (and many people I don't) has sent me this story and picture about a bear treed by a cat.

http://www.gothamist.com/archives/2006/06/10/picture_of_the_4.php

I've had words with my own cats about this. I've asked them what I pay them for and whether they think that cat-food and vet appointments grow on trees. I've explained that other cats can tree bears just by hissing at them. I refer them to my own short story "The Price" and point out that fighting devils is much harder than scaring bears.

My cats in their own turn point to the ten-foot tall reinforced steel bird-feeder pole in the garden that the bear casually bent into a boomerang shape in order to get to the bird-feeders, and tell me to just shut up and feed them and anyway they have some serious naps planned for this afternoon.

I suspect -- from the lack of obvious bear activity in the last few weeks, and from the fact that the most exciting thing that the motion sensitive garden camera has caught is a posse of eleven year old girls on a trampoline -- that the bear has finally moved on. We're right at the southernmost tip of their territory here, after all. I'll put up some birdfeeders next week and we'll all find out.

...

There's a Harlan Ellison short story in which the entire universe cries out for vengeance and starts to array itself against a crooked plumber. Reading this saga of some people who decided not to return a Sidekick that they found, I kept thinking of that story... http://www.evanwashere.com/StolenSidekick/

...

Right. Off to work. I'm retyping a story I wrote in 1984 for the M is For Magic collection, and writing Eternals #3. When we did 1602, we had through to #5 finished before Marvel solicited #1, a much more civilised way of doing it, to my mind. Or at least, less stressful.

Friday, June 09, 2006

oops and nudity

I'm up and about again, thanks. Although I don't think I'm going to be able to fit in the trip to the UK that was meant to be happening before I went to Seattle next week. Which, considering how much I've been on the road in the last few months is probably a really good thing.

Cheers for the interview links - think I need to become one of these lucky people like you who gets to review beautiful looking books like Lost Girls for free.
However I think an NSFW was in order for the rest of the Suicide Girls site - I hit that 'First Time Here? Learn about" button and couldn't really hit Alt F4 fast enough as thoughts of my boss seeing the screen as he walked into work with his morning coffee dashed through my brain.
I hate to moan and know you're sick but it had to be said.


Ah, but the interviews themselves are work-safe. I think it's only if you go wandering off away from the interviews, into the Suicide Girls undergrowth that you find all the naughty nudie nakedness. (It's been many years since I wandered away from the interviews, and I'd thought that you had to be a registered member to actually find yourself looking at the tattoos and curvy bits.) So my goof, and sorry about that. The Suicide Girls website is, for interviews, the online equivalent now of what Playboy was from the 50s to the 70s -- an amazing number of conversations with an astonishing array of people.

...

I promised to mention my buddy Cat Mihos's art event in LA on Sunday. This is your invitation (http://i24.photobucket.com/albums/c32/kitty-9thlife/THISlil.jpg) and Cat says to let you know that it's actually an open bar, not a cash bar.

Chip Kidd is guest blogging over at Powells -- http://www.powells.com/blog/?author=59. Chip's one of my favourite book designers, and a novelist and articulate speaker, and is generally speaking much too bright and talented for any one person. I think we should divide him into bits, like a starfish and see if each bit grows up into a mini-Chip.

Hi, Neil. I've never attempted to ask you a question until now because I never know what to say to you other than I love your work. This is not really a question as it is more of a.. have you seen this? type of thing. Since I am also a huge David J fan I see he's re-issuing the music he did for "V for Vendetta"...http://www.davidjonline.com/home.html

I just thought I'd inform you and whomever reads your journal that it will be available again soon.

Cheers,
Jocelyn



and if that weren't enough

Hey Neil,

The Ditty Bops are crossing the US by bike! Hooray for them! http://www.thedittybopsbiketour.blogspot.com/

Matt



I adore the Ditty Bops and love their music, although I have a horrible feeling I owe them a large pile of books that I promised to send them but suspect I never did. (Go and see them. Ask them about it. Report back.)

Here's a small Ditty Bobs video I'm fond of http://www.warnerreprise.com/asx/dittybops_wishfulthinking_450-v.asx

Dear Mr. Gaiman,
this isn't a question, exactly, but in case you are at all interested I wanted to let you know how the first stage production of Neverwhere is going. We, the Savannah Actors Theatre, have just moved into our brand-new space, which is a kind of warehouse compartment. It was originally zoned as industrial. The cast and crew have been sawing, hammering, painting, and coughing on sawdust nonstop for the past week getting it ready for opening. Neverwhere is the very first show to be produced in this space. It is very exciting for all of us, and I wanted to thank you for granting us the permission to do this so that it's even possible. If you happen to be anywhere near Savannah, Georgia from the 22nd of June to July 1st, and chose to come see our show, we would be honored and thrilled beyond description.
Sincerely,
Eve (Door)



I don't know if I'll be able to make it -- but I'll do my best. (A google gives us more information at http://svactorstheatre.livejournal.com/ and

Dear Neil,
there is a question that sometimes creates a nice discussion between me and some friends who criticize your works, I hope you can answer me.

The issue is related to the amount of references - to literature, music, mythology and so on - that you insert in your comics and novels. For me it is very intriguing and enjoyable to discover the origin of all these references: sometimes it is easy sometimes not. The "critics" say that it is difficult understand what you really want to say.

In fact, you don't provide any explanation to these references, neither in footnotes nor in appendices or in any other form. It seems that you don't care whether the readers can or cannot grasp them.
Why this choice?

Thank you.
Clizia



I think that the references to other things in stories are a bonus -- they can add texture and resonance and sometimes humour and magic. But I also tend to believe that stories should work as stories for someone coming to them perfectly cold knowing nothing -- (well, maybe not completely nothing).

And for that matter, if people come back to the stories later, knowing more than they did the first time, sometimes they'll find that the stories have changed and grown while they were away.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Still sick and in bed. Getting really bored of bei...

Still sick and in bed. Getting really bored of being sick and in bed now, thank you.

I just got an email form my publisher to say that I came in at #21 on the Book Magazine list of "Greatest Living British Authors". I would have been a write-in candidate, as my name isn't actually on the list of names you could click on to vote at http://www.thebookmagazine.co.uk/author.asp. I feel and I think that that lists like this are deeply silly on all kinds of levels, but was incredibly touched that so many people must have bothered to write me in. So thank you, to all of you who did.

Speaking of Greatest Living British Authors, over at Suicide Girls there's an interview with the great and hairy Alan Moore (http://suicidegirls.com/words/Alan+Moore+-+Lost+Girls/) and also one with his fiancee, the nowhere-near-as-hairy-but-far-more-lovely Melinda Gebbie (http://suicidegirls.com/words/Lost+Girls+artist+Melinda+Gebbie/), which read together form a wonderful portrait of their romantic and sexual relationship, one that began around the creation of their pornographic graphic novel, Lost Girls. (Oddly enough, I'd more or less forgotten that I'd been the matchmaker, or at least the person who made sure that Alan met Melinda, until I read their interviews, and then it all came back...)

Incidentally, once the 400 word Publisher's Weekly review I did of Lost Girls comes out, I'll post the 900 word version I did here on the blog.

(Edited to add -- normally pressing Publish instead of Save as Draft wouldn't matter, but I chose the millisecond to do it that Blogger went down for maintainance, which is why I didn't give this a proper title. In case you were wondering.)

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

in the wee small hours of the morning

From the a bit late now dept...

Hi Neil,I was wondering if I could ask the advice of an expert in this area...many of my friends are now counting down the days until the end of the world, which happens to be next Tuesday, June 6. Do you think this one will be it and if so, do you have any plans for the Apocolypse? I think, if it were to happen, that I would stock up on movies to see before I die, and chocolate, but I wanted a second opinion first. Sarah

Hi Sarah. Well, I'm sure by now you've learned the bitter-sweet truth. Who would have dreamed that the end of the world would have come to us on rivers of molten chocolate? ("This is the way the world ends -- Not with a bang, but with a Wispa," I thought, before remembering that Wispa bars were discontinued in 2003 and never made it to the US anyway.)

Dear Neil,I'm absolutely thrilled to see the preview page for Absolute Sandman. The colouring seems to improve the story a lot. However, I was wondering if there was a cut off point for the colouring, such as not re-colouring the stories in volumes 9 and 10, since they really don't appear to need them. (This is, of course, assuming that all goes well and there will be more than one volume of Absolute Sandman.) Thank you.-Meg

From Sandman 50 on we're in good shape. I've suggested that we may want to look at newly separating the colour in 21-50, because we could do it better now, but not really changing anything (except for when we get to Brief Lives, which was beautifully coloured by Danny and completely and continuously botched up by the Irish colour separators).

I think you can rest assured that all four volumes will come out. They're already planning the huge display box to put the four volumes into.

...

Hi Neil,
I've been a fan of your work for awhile now and I just came across your site. I've had this nagging question, about authors, stuck in my brain for awhile now and I thought you might have an answer or opinion.
If you really enjoy an author's stories and then you find out the author (not you) is a jerk or believes in some fairly wretched things would you keep reading this author's works?
I suppose it's similar to the whole crazy celebrity dilema. Do I really want to go see a movie that looks good even though that guy is in it?
Thanks,
Kyle


If I were only allowed to read or enjoy art or listen to music made by people whose opinions and beliefs were the same as mine, I think the world would be a pretty dismal sort of a place. I love the work of many creators who self-avowedly believe or believed things that I consider to be "fairly wretched", not to mention wrong-headed, lunatic, irresponsible or simply wrong. Worse yet: there are artists, actors, songwriters, authors, whose work I love, like or admire and who, biographers or historians tell us, actually did things that were utterly reprehensible. And worse even than that, there are all those things by Anonymous, who could have been or thought or done, well, anything, and we'll never know...

Ezra Pound was a fascist, an antisemite on a level that makes the Aryan Nation seem wishy washy, a traitor (or at best, a collaborator), and I'm very glad I got to read his poetry, and appreciate it and learn from it. I could list dozens more without breaking a sweat. Most, probably all, human beings get to do awful things and believe things that other human beings think they should be burned for believing, and they get to do and believe wonderful things too, and artists, writers, musicians, creators, actors, are nothing if not human beings.

The art isn't the artist, the poem isn't the poet; trust the tale, not the teller.

(The sad flip-side is I've met people -- writers and artists -- over the years who I liked immediately, with whom I found myself agreeing on everything to do with art and aesthetics so closely that we might have shared the same head, people whose world-views were pretty much mine, whom I'd talk with far into the night and whom I parted from excited that I'd met them, looking forward to nothing more than reading their writing or looking at their art... and then I would find what they had done, and, at least as far as my taste was concerned, the books would be uninteresting, the drawings ugly or clumsy. And in an odd way, that hurts more than liking the work of someone who behaved badly, or thought in a way that I consider offensive or wrong.)

...

Lots of people have written in asking what I thought about DC's New! Buxom! Lipstick Lesbian! Batwoman!, but luckily the Onion has gone out and surveyed several fictional people, so I no longer need to have an opinion on the matter. http://www.theonion.com/content/node/49201

...

Harpo's Ghost is coming.... and you can win a musicphone with Thea's back catalogue preloaded. http://www.theagilmore.com/

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Damn. We should have done a big Good Omens ad today.

That my family doctor is also a friend is a very good thing. It meant I could call him from an airport, drive myself home, and have him turn up a few minutes later at about 10:30 at night, peer down my throat, put me on antibiotics and tell me to stay in bed and out of trouble for a bit. (Which is what I'm doing. Along with sipping the Nin Jiom Pei Pa Koa, which is a wonderful throat syrup that Mimi Ko has been bringing me from Hong Kong every few years, and which tastes exactly like a medicine that works ought to taste in my head, and thus must work.)

Ever since I was a schoolboy, serious throat ick seems to be my body's way of telling me that maybe I should stop moving around for a day or two and think about getting some sleep, so I guess this is best seen as an enforced day off.

I've finally now seen a few rushes from Stardust, which looked really cool - the De Niro/Gervais scene was wonderful. Visually, it's really interesting - it didn't look like a fantasy film, which I liked, but to be honest I only had a few minutes to look at a heap of DVDs, which then vanished again, so there's not a lot more I can tell you. Some photos of locations are up on ain't it cool - http://www.aintitcool.com/display.cgi?id=23514 and at this forum http://forum.rpg.net/showthread.php?t=266999.

Over at The Dreaming -- http://www.holycow.com/dreaming/ -- Lucy Anne has done a recent update, but also appears to be getting tired. (If you like what she's been doing, let her know. I think she's been doing a fabulous job...)

I see that ANANSI BOYS has been nominated for a Mythopoeic Award this year -- http://www.mythsoc.org/awards.html -- which made me happy. But I wouldn't want to be a voter or a nominee in any category of those awards this year -- too many excellent books for the voters to choose from.

Hi Neil.Is it OK to like the old Sandman colors a lot more? Will they disappear forever?I know the old colors looked real bad in some places, but the one page you showed us was, I think, OK, but the new coloring seemed too computer-y for my taste.Weel, sorry to bother you with color discussion, I shall go back to my own colors now. Thank You.C├ędric

Of course you can like them more if you want. But you'd be amazed at the places in the recolouring where you can now tell what's going on, where you couldn't before.

The biggest difference is in the first five issues, when everyone was new to this and none of us had a clue what we were doing.

Neil buddy,I just finished reading Eddie's Fate of the Artist and I seem to remember hearing about the "Pantry pry spoon" mentioned in the book, from this very blog. Still, I find myself asking, because Eddie seems so esoteric and quirky in the book, is Eddie Campbell like that in real life and does his family really at the mercy of the "whims of the artist" as they appear to be? You would know having known him for so long, so is this really Eddie's world and we're just living in it? Aaron

I think it would be fair to say that, in my experience, the portrait of Eddie and the assorted members of the Campbell family and occasional visitors, as portrayed in his ALEC comics series are accurate. If you were to ask the members of the Campbell clan about it they would probably point out that they spend very little of their life on that sofa, or perhaps that that stopped wearing the dress Eddie always draws them in about a decade ago, or that their perspective on events is perhaps under-represented. But it's just like that.

At the end of this post from last year -- http://www.neilgaiman.com/journal/2005/09/leaving-soon.asp -- Miss Hayley Campbell wrote to tell of an incident that hasn't turned up an Eddie comic, but might as well have done.

The story of my visit to Eddie's house, as reported in After The Snooter, is actually a combination of two different visits, but everything in there happened like he says it did.

Which reminds me -- I loved this little Eddie comic/interview at Powells.com http://www.powells.com/ink/campbell.html

And you can read the first nine pages of After the Snooter at http://www.artbomb.net/pdf/snooter.pdf courtesy of the fine folk at artbomb.net (here's Matt Fraction's review of Snooter.

And I hope that sooner or later someone gets all of Eddie's Alec material collected into one huge book. ABSOLUTE ALEC or ABSOLUTE EDDIE CAMPBELL. I'd buy a copy anyway.


I can't wait to get my hands on the complete Absolute Sandman set. I've read in your journal that Vol 1 is due November 2006. Any target release dates for Volumes 2-4? Will a boxed set of 4 ever be released? If yes, when? I've been trying to complete the 10-volume hard cover set of the Sandman series (specifically the numbered unifying trade dress designed by Dave McKean... I believe it's the second print... Vol 1 is purple and the colors go all the way to green...yellow...red...). I'm missing volumes 2,3,4 and 6 and I can't find them anywhere. I've even tried Amazon.com and eBay. Any idea/tips where I can get my hands on these books?I must say, you are a god among men. Thanks for the wonderful stories.Kind regards,Tonichi Tuason

I believe that Volumes 2 and 3 will be out in 2007, and the final volume should follow in 2008, along with a Bloody Great Box that they will all fit neatly into, for purposes of display. I can't help on the missing hardbacks, but my default answer to "Where can I get..." is usually start with DreamHaven Books' online store http://www.neilgaiman.net/ . (Current info at http://www.neilgaiman.net/news-home.php)


Hi Neil,Thanks very much for the time you took for an interview at Balticon, I know you were tired and I very much appreciate your time. I wanted to let you know the podcast with your interview is live, located at http://shouldwrite.blogspot.com/2006/06/special-show-7-neil-gaiman-interview.html Best,Mur lafferty

I Should Be Writing - www.ishouldbewriting.com

You're welcome. I have no memory of what, if anything, I said during the interview with Mur and Paul, or during the interviews with Count Gore De Vol (http://www.countgore.com/Rack.htm this week only) or with Fast Forward TV, done on the same day.

I just fell asleep WHILE TYPING THIS. Which is my cue I think to stop.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Several Answers

Dear Neil,

the new coloring for the new Absolute Sandman looks great.
I have a couple of questions regarding it:
1) Who's supervising the new coloring, and who's doing the coloring?
2) Were the new reproductions made from the orignal inks/art?
3) Do you feel that the new coloring better represents your original vision, the artist's original vision? is it a matter of technology?
4) will the Absulote Sandman be your "Artist's definitive version" in terms of coloring?

thanks (and very much looking forward to seeing you in Israel),

Avri


1) Danny Vozzo is doing Sandmans 1-8, 17 and 18. Lee Loughridge is doing The Doll's House (9-16). It's being supervised by Karen Berger, Absolute editor Scott Nybakken, and me. And I'm signing off on every panel.

2) No. Most of that stuff was sold 17 years ago. We got a few pages, although the most useful thing was a cache we found in my attic of photocopies I was sent for proofing purposes, and some of the artists had clean photocopies of some pages. There are only a couple of pages now, in Sandman 16, where the black line leaves something to be desired. I bet the originals will surface as soon as Absolute Sandman Volume 1 comes out.

3) Yes, to all three. The original technology means that with every new printing on cleaner paper with sharper inks, it looks worse. There was never the time or the money to fix anything in the old days, and stuff simply went out as it was, sometimes to the detriment of the story. As things went on, we got to computerise the colour, and the technology gradually made things better. Compare Preludes and Nocturnes to The Kindly Ones, just from a standpoint of colour and you'll see what I mean.

4) I very much hope so. Maybe in 30 years the technology will have advanced to the point where we have to do it again, but probably it won't.

(I did look in the FAQ and your blog archives, but I didn't find an answer, so sorry if it's there and I missed it).
Is there a publication schedule, even tentative, for the Absolute Sandman? When should I start looking for it in shops, or dropping heavy hints to my relatives and friends that they should buy me copies?
Thanks
Nicolai


I believe Volume 1 comes out in November 2006.

Hi Neil,

I know I shouldn't trust much of anything I find on wikipedia, but, well, color me gullible. I was reading a bit about the Justice League animated series and how they have essentially banned all Batman characters from the show to prevent liscensing issues with the movie. Then I stumbled on this:

"-Bruce Timm stated in a Wizard interview that they considered featuring an appearance of Neil Gaiman's interpretation of the Sandman character but they weren't sure how to incorporate that character into the tone of the show. He went on to say "But now, it's not even an issue. The whole Vertigo universe is closed off for us . . . ." (Wizard 173, Mar. 2006, p. 69). This is partially due to Gaiman's deal with DC Comics, that no other writer may use the characters he created without his permission."

Now, I can't remember if I read it on your blog or not, but I know that when you had a conference call with my Graphic Novels class last fall, I asked you specifically how you felt about other people using your characters. It certainly does not seem like you to do something like this.

Thanks,
David


I think that goes from an actual Bruce Timm quote to silly editorialising by someone writing the Wikipedia entry.

I always loved the idea of doing a Sandman/Batman Animated cartoon episode, and we were definitely talking about it in '93, after Vertigo came into existence -- I remember talking to Paul Dini about what actors could do Morpheus's voice, and had voted for, I think, John Hurt, although I may be misremembering.

I'd assumed that they lost interest. But there was definitely some kind of Vertigo/DC divide that came into existence in there somewhere, imposed from DC/Vertigo editorial and above, worried, I was told, that a kid would feel pressured by continuity to pick up a "For Mature Readers" title and the world would end.

Either way, nothing to do with me, guv.

Hey, As you've begun The Eternals I realized I had a (somewhat) relevant question for someone who has been in the comic book, graphic novel, whatever we seem to be calling it nowadays world for a while. What with the amount of comics that are out nowadays and the increase in distribution and interest due to comic book based movies and games and the like. Does it phase you at all that the latest releases of the newest sparkliest issues are becoming just as easily-and illegally- available as the mp3? I only ask because a quick search on any bit torrent search engine for V for Vendetta or Hellboy, or xmen will brign up VERY large compendiums of scanned in comics. My question therefore is do you think that in the future this will start causing problems? Do you think someone will step up as comic book equivalent of the drummer from Metallica? Your journals, a great diversion from what is normally a boring graphic design class. Keep it up and keep us informed.
-Jeff


I think mostly people rather like legal things, and tend only to go for the illegal versions when they can't easily access the legal ones. I wish that you could get Sandman, say, through, f'rinstance, iTunes, or just download your monthly comics, if that's what you want to do. It'd be an additional income stream for publishers, and also, I trust, for creators.

Me, I'd still read the paper version. But that's me. I don't download the eBook versions of my novels, either, but I'm glad they're out there for people who want them. (Here's a link to a free sampler -- http://www.neilgaiman.com/works/ebooks/ebookdownload.)
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