Tomorrow I walk the Great Wall of China. Not all of it, though.
I just did an interview with CCTV-9, along with a local literature professor and the director of the British Council, and I'll post here when I find out when it'll be broadcast.
So the conference was terrific. 5000 Chinese SF fans, a host of Chinese authors, a Russian Cosmonaut, several Japanese writers and a clutch of Western authors – one English author (me) and Canadian author Rob Sawyer (who is probably the most famous and beloved foreign SF author in China), Nancy Kress and Michael Swanwick, not to mention David Brin for the first few days with his family en route to WorldCon in Japan, along with author David Hill and about a half dozen North American and Australian or New Zealand SF fans, academics, and people who thought it would be fun to go to Chengdu, and two Americans who already lived there.
And it was. Lots of fun, that is.
You can read about it here...
And the food...
The trouble with the food is that I really like it. Not just sort of like it, but really like it. After a couple of occasions when I stopped enjoying something after finding out what it was, I decided not to worry about what things were, or at least, not to ask. Mostly I'd just eat it and enjoy.
I remember in Singapore feeling like I was being fattened for the slaughter. In retrospect my time in Singapore was like a slimming week at a health farm. In Chengdu our Chinese hosts wanted to make sure that we were being fed and were happy, so every meal was, literally, a banquet. I can probably manage about one banquet a week in real life. One a day if I have to. Here I'd eat a large breakfast (because I do when I travel, because you're never sure when you'll eat next. Probably a big mistake in retrospect. But I loved the Chinese breakfasty things...) and then once the conference was over we'd find ourselves having a banquet for lunch. Followed, just at the point where I was beginning to feel no longer uncomfortably full, by a banquet for dinner.
Chengdu is in Sichuan province, where the Szechuan cuisine comes from. The food is great. I mean, I liked pretty much everything I put in my mouth. But it's now lunchtime on the following day and I am still feeling full from yesterday.
I'd met Rob Sawyer
before at the Hugo awards in Toronto, but we didn't know each other, met Nancy Kress with her late husband Charles Sheffield at ICFA in Florida, but didn't really know either of them, so enjoyed getting to know them (and Rob's wife Carolyn). I knew Michael Swanwick a little better because we share some enthusiasms -- James Branch Cabell and R.A. Lafferty and Hope Mirrlees for three -- and it was marvellous talking with Michael, who knows an awful lot about everything.
My view of the conference is sort of fragmented -- I signed a great many things for an awful lot of people. I talked and was translated as I talked. (I think my interpreter Heather was pretty good, because when she translated my jokes, people laughed.) There was an international forum on the future of SF or something like that.
The conference was about Science Fiction and about fantasy and about the future. My favourite bit of the conference was probably outside the conference – after it was over, a meeting in a teahouse between some of the Chinese authors and some of the foreign authors, just comparing notes and finding stuff out.
Let's see. Pandas. I knew about the Chengdu Panda reserve because I had a friend who worked there for a summer. Really, it was all I knew about Chengdu. It's lovely. And it's a wonderful thing being an honoured foreign guest somewhere like that -- you get shown all the cool stuff, get to see Pandas, red ones and giant ones, and then find yourself put in a blue disposable smock and gloves (to protect the pandas from you, asnd not the other way around) and you get a year-old Panda placed on your lap. Utter, utter happiness. Better than any number of awards. Makes being a writer completely worthwhile. I suspect that world peace and harmony would come about in weeks if people just got to put pandas on their laps every few months. Honest.
Then it rained. Real, monsoony rain. Nancy Kress told me that she couldn't get any wetter and I assured her she could, and it kept raining and she did. Lunch at the Panda refuge restaurant was a banquet, where the food just kept coming. (It would be easier if you knew how many dishes would arrive. But you never do. And when you think, Ah, that was all the food, you are surprised by the arrival of another five bowls.)
From the Pandas we went to a museum to learn about the Jinsha people and culture in that part of the world in what, in England, would be considered prehistoric times, only it wasn't prehistoric for them. The museum was fascinating. Unfortunately we weren't quite sure where we were or what we were seeing, and the Museum Guide wasn't up to giving us the five minutes of background that we needed to figure it all out, so we had to work it all out as we went along -- we were initially shown bones and excavations and had no idea who left the bones or even that there was a thriving city of 10,000 people there back in the dawn of time, and we only put it together on about the third or fourth museum room. Amazing stuff, though -- jade and gold workers from before what I would have thought of as history.
From the museum we travelled to another part of Chengdu, and dinner in a courtyard. Which, apart from it being the second banquet of the day, was amazing, lots of tiny courses, each brought over, and mostly I just ate and sometimes asked what I'd just eaten ("That sweet course? the red things in the white stuff?" "Those are wolfberries in cloud-fungus." "Gosh.") A full moon.
Michael Swanwick and I looked at a pavement, where a pile of garbage, an old cassette tape, and what looked like an old videophone were to be found, and we said, at the same time, “It's a Bill Gibson moment,” because it was, so I took a picture.
And back to the hotel. Where I fell asleep sitting up in a chair trying to do email. Which was why I only posted a picture of me and my panda as a blog entry that night.
Yesterday we got into a bus which took us to the Leisure conference. Outside, Michael Swanwick sat on a dragon head and achieved enlightenment.
Truthfully, I'm not quite sure why we were there or what it was for, but it was enormously enjoyable: a presentation on Chengdu and the Sichuan area as a holiday destination, I guess, and the future of leisure in Chengdu. Whatever it was, we had a wonderful time: we watched twin girls demonstrating a tea ceremony, three girls playing amazing things on ancient native instruments,
songs were sung, talks were given, speeches were made, and at one somewhat surreal point the North American contingent were chivvied up on the stage to massacre “Oh Susanna”. I videoed the event, and have made it very clear to all involved that for a significant amount of money I will refrain from putting it up on YouTube.
The Russian cosmonaut, on the other hand, could sing.
My own share of surreality had occurred a few minutes earlier when a chef had expertly demonstrated a dessert called, I think, Three Cannon Shots, in which rice is balled and bounced off a drum-top into a container of powdered sugar and cinnamon (I think), and then I was called up to demonstrate the technique as performed by an amateur. I managed to get all the balls into the right place on the third attempt.
Some of the statistics were astonishing. You could eat in a different restaurant in Chengdu every day, and not repeat a restaurant in 80 years....
Then lunch. David Hill, author and former chef, had made a Jambalaya using local ingredients, which was the strangest fusion cuisine I think I've ever eaten.
It was great, unique, filling... and was thus immediately followed by a hotpot banquet.
On the bus and to a local high school, where we were presented with flowers and saluted, introduced and led out again, leaving only the Cosmonaut and David Hill to talk to the kids.
Then a short shopping trip – I bought Maddy's birthday present and some books of postcards.
From there we headed out of the town for the Grape Festival. I think I'd sort of imagined the Grape Festival as something that probably went back thousands of years to Jinsha times, and I kept on thinking that until I saw people selling grapes beside the road, beneath huge red umbrellas.
The grapes were huge mauve California-style grapes, at which point it occurred to me to ask. “How long have grapes been grown here?” Turned out that they were a very recent crop, that the festival was four years old, and the grape vines were indeed originally from California. The people used to sell watermelons beneath the red umbrellas.
From there to a banquet.
And the food just kept on coming...
I skipped breakfast this morning. Just packed, and flew to Beijing, and I wrote most of this on the plane.
Random observations: Chinese planes are, on the basis of the two I've taken so far, nicer than US planes. Better service, cleaner, more comfortable. They remind me of being on planes in America twenty years ago, when it was less unpleasant.
Random observation two: Chinese driving and road-crossing techniques seem to exist in a cheerful anarchy that would get you killed in most, perhaps all, other countries. I have watched five cars drive abreast on a three lane highway. I've not yet seen anyone using a seatbelt. Haven't yet seen any accidents, which is very odd.
(Of course, she is.)
The Great Firewall of China is very real. No blogspot or livejournal of any kind seem to get through. People send me links I can't read.
But I could read this NYT interview with Bill Gibson.
And I loved this NYT OpEd on Jack Kirby.
Right. Today it's Pandas and a Temple. Or something.
This one shows the big Mao in the background. The conference is in the Science and Technology Building.
Blogger has just put a video icon up. Let's see what happens....
(The videos and photos are from my elderly Nokia phone, so the quality, especially of the little videos, is pretty dodgy. And the glitter confetti cannoning down on us at the end just looks like video noise.)
I gave a "thank you" talk here representing the foreign guests at the top of the red carpet. Then, later in the afternoon, I gave a talk on Fantasy -- examing the roots of fantastic literature and pointing out that they were the same as the roots of mainstream literature, and then talking about the recent divide between realistic and fantastic fiction and why I thought this was and why it seemed to be repairing itself. And then I talked about imagining things and why people should.
I also signed a lot of things. There are about 4000 people at this convention and they like their signatures.
A little info trickled in on the things I wondered about yesterday...
Theatres make very little money from films they show. I know that the cinema I work at in the UK sells the tickets for £6.60 each and makes around 50p off each ticket. Most of the cinema's profit comes from the refreshments, which is why the cinemas charge so much for the food and drink. I hope that answers the question on the last blog post.
(Neil, I'd appreciate it if my name wasn't used, since talking about my job like that is technically a breach of my contract.)
and one from the UAE... (we have blog readers in the UAE. Who knew?)
Not so much a question as a comment from someone who saw Stardust in the United Arab Emirates. The UAE is very much a movie-going culture (in the extreme summer heat there is little else to do) and it is quite rare for films to do badly, but Stardust was poorly marketed and very few people seem to know what to expect of it, and consequently whether or not to see it. I must say I loved the film, as did the people I know who did go to see it.
Sensible Guardian Blog article on adapting books into comics at http://blogs.guardian.co.uk/books/2007/08/comic_versions_of_books_need_a.html. And now, breakfast...
Here's the view from my window. And my reflection. The yellow morning mist has gone though. I'll try and be quicker with the camera tomorrow.
Went to Minneapolis airport. Flew to Tokyo. Changed planes. Flew to Shanghai. Got off plane. Got bag. Walked through customs. Thought, "I ought to find out about how I get to my hotel," when I saw my name written on a sheet of paper, and someone said "You're Neil. We're science fiction volunteers. We'll get you to your hotel now." And they did. Magic. (They were Vicky and Hida, and they read this blog, although they weren't sure if I really wrote it or if I got someone to do it for me. Er, behold. It is me actually. Thank you both.)
Sleep now. Up and fly to Chengdu first thing in the morning.
On Aug 24th at 7.00pm at the Chengdu Bookworm there is some kind of meet-and-chat with the visiting authors (I think) and the public, and I expect some signing.
And on August the 25th at 3.00pm I'm going to give a talk on The Nature of Fantasy at the conference hall of the science and technology museum.
And here's a Daily Scans link to a two page comic that Mark Buckingham and I did to celebrate Alan Moore's 50th Birthday: http://community.livejournal.com/scans_daily/3895760.html
Neil- Sorry to waste your time, but as someone who is away from home frequently, I thought you might have some insight on the matter. I am starting a new job next month that will require me to be away for extended periods. How do you cope with doing this? My daughter is eight, and she is having a rough time with the idea of Daddy being away (and I am as well-and not taking the job is not really an option), and I'm hoping you can help. Please don't use my name if you post this.Thanks!
It's always hard. For years we never went on holiday, because I was always so glad to be home and Going Somewhere felt like work. Being home, with my books and my family, ah, that was a grand adventure....
When Maddy was that age and younger I went away for several months to work on American Gods, and I'd still read to her every night, over the phone (she'd have a copy of the book as well at her end), which somehow helped. She'd still get half an hour or forty minutes every night, and I'd read her a chapter and then we'd talk. We'd also write poems in email back and forth. It helped -- having a rhythm, having something predictable and time that was hers. And trying to make it as much of a game as we could. But it's not perfect. And it's never easy.
It famously only existed because the owners of the National Enquirer had a black and white printing press and, after the Enquirer went colour, nothing to print on it.
I stopped reading it in about 1992, picked it up again in around 2000 when a friend got a job writing for it, and I had a wonderful time suggesting stories. I noticed they rewrote them to put jokes in, though -- weak, "don't take any of this seriously" jokes.
A few weeks ago I heard from my friend Bob Greenberger (who worked there) that the owners were closing it down.
So I picked up the final copy today, because I was passing a cash register and it was the last one after all. Even allowing for the probability that it was filled with articles they'd commissioned and hadn't run because they weren't very good, or that they were reprints, it... well, the whole tone of the thing felt wrong. The articles were just silly. It wasn't story logic any longer. A baby gets delivered in an avocado because the sperm donation got mixed with avocado sushi... There wasn't the feeling reading it that anyone could have believed it. Not children, not the stupid, not someone who'd been born and raised on Mars and this was the only thing they'd read. It was like the joke had become nobody could believe this stuff. And now nobody was buying it. It had a Sergio Aragones drawing though, and some comics...
I can't believe I'm sitting typing about the long-lost glory days of the Weekly World News. Probably, it was of its time anyway.
And truly I've always preferred the Fortean Times.
Summer ended yesterday. It rained and it was cold, and I went and brought the cats indoors -- Coconut and Princess had gone off and become garden-and-woods-dwellers, just coming back to be fed. Today they were wet and miserable and taking refuge in the gazebo, so they are in the Cat half of the house.
(The house has divided itself, post Cabal, neatly into Cat and Dog. The TV room is in the Cat half of the house, but I seem to wind up using the Slingboxes to watch TV in the Dog half of the house, because he worries more if I'm not there.)
I bought goldfish -- two medium-sized ones and five tiny ones, that would have simply been hoovered up and eaten by the big ones that died, and the tank looks bright and nice and occupied.
Bathroom reading has been the giant DC Comics PHANTOM STRANGER Showcase collection, much of which I'd never read, and my respect for Len Wein just went up (and it was high to begin with). The early Phantom Stranger stuff doesn't work particularly well -- he's a man in a coat who turns up. Then Bob Kanigher creates a sort of template for disaster, in which four teenagers (called The Teenagers) stumble into something that may be mystical or may just be Scooby Doo, and Dr Terry Thirteen -- the Ghost Breaker -- and the Phantom Stranger keep arguing over which is which, and occasionally Tala Princess of Evil turns up and tries to snog the Phantom Stranger, telling him to kiss her and come over to the dark sice, and he says things like "Never shall I submit to your hellish blandishments!" and he doesn't and then the mystery gets solved. It's possibly the worst recipe for a comic ever created. Slowly other writers -- Denny O'Neil and Gerry Conway -- sensibly drop the Teenagers, and edge Terry Thirteen into a back-up feature, and don't do quite as much of the "I am Tala, Mistress of the Dark! Snog me and come over to the Dark Side!" stuff. And then Len Wein comes in and in the space of an issue turns it all around, makes the Stranger the star of his own book, redeems the whole thing and pulls it together. And over the next twelve issues Len pretty much creates the whole Phantom Stranger character and his dynamic that we've got today (allowing for the barnacle encrustation that any character gets over thirty years of being in the funny books) and he even makes Tala cool. (And then I made her a waitress in Books of Magic.)
I'll be signing books in Beijing on Friday the 31st of August at 9:30am at the Harper Collins stand at the Book Fair.
At some point that same day (I don't have a time yet) I'll be doing a signing and a reading at http://www.beijingbookworm.com/ -- Bookworm "Beijing’s premier English language lending library, bookshop, restaurant and events space".
If you're in the UK on Tuesday the 25th of September, and you want to hear Ms Susanna Clarke, author of Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, in conversation... then you should be at the Bloomsbury Theatre
15 Gordon Street
Everyone who's anyone will be there. I'll be there. Actually, I'll be up on the stage, being the other half of the conversation. (The half that says, "Now, Susanna, tell us...")
Put it in your diaries.
I saw Stardust today and loved it (as did my mom, whom I dragged with me), but I came out with a few questions.
1) The new ending: did that come from you, or was it an invention of Jane's and Matthew's?
Er... bit of both. I suggested some events for the scene in the witch's lair, which were the kinds of things I'd assumed that we needed as far back as the first time I did a treatment for Stardust. But Matthew and Jane had reached a lot of the same places that I had because they were the sort of things you'd do in a film. (You need Septimus and the witches and Tristran and Yvaine in the same place, for example.) The happier ending was Matthew's. I'd suggested that he shoot the other one too, but really I don't think it would have worked with the film he made.
2) I don't know was a "sequencer" does, but I noticed in the credits that one J.J. Connolly was credited with being it. Would that be the same J.J. Connolly who wrote Layer Cake?
It would indeed.
3) Was Matthew Vaughn consciously intending the shots of Captain Shakespeare while during Septimus' attack on the ship to echo the shots of Buffalo Bill dancing in the mirror in The Silence of the Lambs, or was the similarity coincidental?
I think it's coincidental. Or, perhaps, imaginary.
4) Are there plans to publish the screenplay? (Or will it be included in the visual companion coming out in September?)
It's in the Visual Companion. Which was published in paperback on July the 10th, according to Amazon. http://www.amazon.com/Stardust-Visual-Companion-Stephen-Jones/dp/1845764226
5) Speaking of which: any insight on why the visual companion and the soundtrack aren't being released for another month, rather than concurrently with the film?
The Companion's been out for a while now, at least in paperback. It's a beautiful book. The hardback is listed on Amazon as not being out for a few weeks, though.
I noticed that the Stardust score is already on iTunes, not sure why it won't be out for another few weeks on CD though. (Deepdiscount has it as 28 August, Amazon as September 11th.)
i did this to learn After Effects for my Masters Course at Central Saint Martins.
Dr Jon in Australia sent me this:
You've prolly been flooded with this link already, but in case you haven't:
Death drops scythe, adopts 'softer' look
"A small religious group that worships the grim reaper and is fighting for government recognition unveiled a softer image of their Death Saint today: a woman with a porcelain face, brown, shoulder-length hair and long thin fingers."
Quite interesting, especially in light of the "adoption" of the Endless Death as a Deity-Of-Choice by some in the neopagan movement.
and then there's
maybe not all that necessary for you, but at least it's a clever idea. just wanted to pass along the link in case you hadn't seen it yet.
http://www.riteintherain.com/ Rite in the Rain Notebooks: All-Weather Writing Paper
=^.^= canton ...
You never know... I can imagine needing one of those, even though I tend to feel that spelling it "write" would have increased my desire to use their notebooks.
Current travel plans now have me going from Chengdu to Beijing for the Beijing International Book Fair which means I'll be in Beijing during the Hugo Awards (sigh). And I'll now be in Japan about three weeks after that. I'll put details up here as I get them of any signings or events or anything.
I thought you might be interested to know that tickets for The Wolves in the Walls are now available to the general public. The show runs from October 5 to October 21 at the family-oriented New Victory Theater in NYC.
The Direct link: http://www.newvictory.org/show
The Make-them-work-for-it link: http://www.newvictory.org
Hurrah. I'm not yet sure if I'll be there -- I'll only just have got back from the massive traveling-everywhere-trip to China, Italy, Sweden, Japan, and the UK, and there's a point where it's nicer to be home than in New York, even if it is New York. But Wolves is a wonderful show. And I really do want to see what they've done to The Wolves In the Walls during the recent rehearsals. (I believe this version will be closer to the one that premiered in Glasgow in the Spring (as discussed here) than the one that toured in the Autumn.)
Let's see -- a few people wrote to ask why I hadn't announced here that Hard Candy director David Slade was going to be directing Neverwhere, as widely reported on the web. For example...
Mania is reporting that Neverwhere is going to get the big screen treatment with director David Slade and your script from 2000.
I was surprised, because I hadn't heard anything about this here but reading it makes me very excited! It's not too early for me to get excited about this, is it?
Yes, it is a bit early I'm afraid.
It's my fault; I'd mentioned to the journalist from MTV, after the filmed interview was over, that Lisa Henson and I would be seeing David Slade, who loves Neverwhere, at Comic-Con, but I'd assumed that bit of the conversation was off-the-record. And we did see him, and he's enthusiastic, and so are we, but nothing's set and signed yet, so it isn't news. (And this will, I suppose, remind me to say less when the cameras aren't rolling.)
And on the subject of things that aren't news, I was fascinated today by a new definition of "reportedly", which is apparently now a synonym for "we just made this up". As in several newsfeeds suggesting that Stardust's budget "reportedly ballooned to $200 million". (The budget was $70 million, and that, I'm afraid, was that; Matthew Vaughn's MARV films put in half, Paramount put in half. If it'd ballooned even to an extra million, we'd have had a Lion and Unicorn battle.) (Here's an article on the Visual Effects in Stardust for the curious.)
The curious can keep track of Stardust's takings around the world over at http://www.boxofficemojo.com/movies/?id=stardust.htm
(My favourite strange Stardust story was the journalist interviewing me in the UK a few months ago who wanted confirmation on the rumour he'd heard that Matthew Vaughn had proved so willful that he'd been quietly removed toward the end of shooting and that "the producers" took over directing. Even after I pointed out that the producers on the film were, in order of power, Matthew Vaughn, rather distantly followed by Lorenzo Di Bonaventura -- who was mostly off in the US dealing with Transformers stuff, and who doesn't direct -- Michael Dreyer -- who was rather busy producing Stardust -- and, er, me, and I wasn't going to try and fire Matthew and direct Stardust, not for all the little plastic toys in China -- and this was obvious nonsense, he still gave me the unconvinced Where's There's Smoke look, because a friend of a friend had told him...)
My favourite movie discovered today is an animation of the Bayeux tapestry -- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bDaB-NNyM8o
There are review sites I've never dreamed existed. STARDUST was rated Very Offensive at the Christian Spotlight website, while the Catholic Bishops Conference seem to find it less so (while warning of both implied premarital sex and a character born out of wedlock as a result of said implied premarital sex).
Sorry for your loss,
That's good to know. We buried them deep in the pumpkin patch.
Hello, Mr. Gaiman,
Regarding the Coraline musical, do you know if Mr. Merritt intends to release it as a CD? It's extremely unlikely that I'll be able to get to go see it live, but I am a huge fan of both of you, and would love to be able to hear the musical, even if I can't witness the spectacle for myself.
Down the line, I hope so, yes. It's a bit early to say. I'm not completely sure where it will premiere, but I'd love to hear an original cast album...
There are now ripe tomatoes, although I'll be in China when we get that magical surplus of tomatoes that leads to Salsa making day. I'll miss the grapes ripening on the trellis, and the apples on the tree. And it's the first decent grape crop we've ever had.
At least I'll have the Birdchick (and Occasionally-Beeing Bill) to keep me informed on Honey, bees and birds and suchlike. (Sharon's latest post about birding out here is at http://www.birdchick.com/2007/08/benefits-of-dead-tree.html)
I'll also miss my family and I'll definitely miss my dog (I know I ought to miss the cats, but they never seem to mind me leaving). I won't miss Holly as much though, because by the time I wash up in the UK she will have moved there for good, and she probably will be looking for a job and a flat, and a father who can be hit up for a meal will definitely be a good thing.
I went to bed by candlelight last night, and did nothing yesterday but write, read a little, and, sometimes, walk the dog. No internet. No email. Almost no phone (a cell phone with an ever-declining battery meant I only used it when I had to).
It was great.
There was gas, so for dinner I walked out into the garden, pulled some ears of corns and ate them. And when it got dark I went to bed.
I got so much writing done, and did not even feel guilty for not trying to get on the web, or for not knowing what emails were coming in.
The only tragedy is I just discovered that two of the three goldfish have died in the night -- I suppose because the air bubbler wasn't bubbling air. And one of those fish -- the huge white one -- was about ten years old, or more, was/is about a foot long, and had survived everything (including an idiot once pouring water from the dehumidifier into the tank, that idiot being me) and he had outlived every other goldfish over and over. Sigh.
I'll miss him.
There's a Beowulf Podcast up at http://www.beowulfmovie.com/forreview/Beowulf_Podcast_ep1.mp3
and it's over on itunes at
My old friend Steve Bissette writes about Stardust and why it's important that Charles Vess got a credit on the poster and the film at http://srbissette.blogspot.com/2007/08/flights-of-fantasy-bava-stardust-t.html
I suppose it will be very lonely here in the meantime. You could always go hang out at the Fabulist. Or go buy that shirt you've been meaning to pick up. Or go watch Jonathan Ross make out with Neil, because really, I could watch that all day. (Jonathan's ode to masturbation just moments earlier is up now too.)
And, failing all that, here's a movie about fish.
The Official Web Elf
Labels: Neil gets disappeared by storms
(That was as far as I got before the power went out. Now the power's back on and the internet is up and the dog is asleep on the floor, and the next round of thunderstorms is about ten minutes away. So this isn't a blog post. It's an excuse for not posting.)
The coolest thing that happened today was that Stephin Merritt sent me a CD of his CORALINE musical. All the voices are Stephin sped up and slowed down, and the only instrument is what sounds like a toy piano, so it's sometimes hard to extrapolate it into a full-blown full cast musical. Still, the lyrics are amazing --
"I am Miss Spink--" "And I am Miss Forcible--"
"Elderly thespians fallen from grace--"
"We never married so we're undivorceable--"
"Tripping on clippings all over the place."
Big thunder. Dog head between fingers and keyboard. stop now.
The email from Paramount that came in earlier today contained good news -- Stardust opened at Number 1 in Russia, and took 3 million already -- and bad news -- we were Number 4 on Friday night in the USA and took 3 million. Which means, it went on, that the projections are that we'll easily break $100 million internationally; and that as the majority of US reviews are good to excellent*, and the exit polls they've done on people coming out are as good as could be hoped for, that Stardust will hang around for a little while longer in the US (which is, after all, about 40% of the theatrical market) and hope that word of mouth does what the ad campaign has significantly failed to do.
* Stardust reviews can be read at
(Although the review collections leave out the NPR review at http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=12688902
which I like mostly because it describes it as reminding him of the Princess Bride with a healthy dollop of Blackadder.)
There's a fascinating article about Stardust and The Princess Bride, and about how Paramount marketing seem to have come a cropper on the same pitfalls that The Princess Bride did:
Could you, by any chance, post the mole footage? I know it seems silly, but of all the animals I've seen living in Minnesota (foxes, deer, bears, minks, otters, grouse, pheasants, giant snapping turtles, chipmunks, bald eagles and a few pelicans), I've never actually seen a mole. I feel very curious about the look of the thing.
Sure -- let me see if I can figure out how to put it up here directly through blogger without putting it onto youtube or something first. It's just film from an old phone, and it's small to begin with.
I really enjoyed this presentation and annotation, by Teresa Nielsen Hayden, of a letter from an Australian bookselling chain who think they deserve more money from small publishers, so are trying to charge them for the privilege of being stocked, and the reply from an irate but sensible publisher:
So a few months ago I noticed that things had stopped working. The Slingbox. Various computers. The house network didn't do what it used to. Something was wrong.
I got the electrician who had redone the junction box, where all the cat 5 cables come out to the house, while I was away. "You did it wrong," I told him. "Everything worked before you came." He inspected all the cabling and told me, no, it was all fine.
It wasn't fine. A couple of computers were okay, but the rest of them couldn't get on to the network. Even the network printer didn't work.
Yesterday he came back and we tried to figure out what was wrong.
"I don't understand it," he said. "I mean, I hooked them all up right..."
I went on to the web and checked what where the Cat 5 cable wires are meant to go. There was a huge illustrated colour diagram showing all the different wires, orange and green and blue and brown and their stripy equivalents, and where they fit in the head. "So you did them like this?" I asked.
"Er..." and he looked, and he checked. "No. No, I didn't." It turned out he'd put them in in an order of his own devising. The strange thing was that a couple of the computers had managed to get on the network anyway, despite that.
So he put all the wires where they should have been. As if by magic, things started working...
Except for the Linux computer in the attic, which can no longer find the network.
And for those of you looking for your own falling stars...
I don't know if you're aware of it or will even be in the right circumstances to watch it, but tomorrow (Sunday) night around 11ish to Monday morning 6ish the Perseids are making their appearance. The peak of Perseids will be during the predawn period Monday. The professionals are saying it will be a wonderful shower with a lack of moonlight and the shower peaking at 80 meteors per hour. Even Mars will enjoy the show. Anyway, I thought this would be something you'd enjoy.
What's odd is that I've lived here for about 15 years, and never knew half of what was out there. Yesterday the two of us met a dozen huge wild turkeys, back by the beehives, and they ran or flew off into the trees grumbling and cackling. The day before that we encountered a mole -- "the little gentleman in the velvet jacket" as the Jacobites used to toast him -- with huge paws scrabbling velvetly through the leaf-mould, and I pulled out my phone and filmed him for a few seconds. I've seen fireflies and fireworks, discovered skeletons and mushrooms and all manner of interesting plants. I learned what walnuts smell like when they're still on the tree (a strange mixture of citrus and carpentry). I've met grouse and rabbits (Cabal chases rabbits unsuccessfully when he spots them. Sometimes he doesn't spot them. Several times I've been convinced that he had actually spotted them and was pretending not to because he wasn't sure what he'd do if ever he caught one) (He has no such compunction about chasing cats. Yesterday he shot off after poor Fred, who went straight up a tree where he relaxed and was superior). I've seen some amazing wildflowers too.
I should post some photos of him here. When we got him, he had a grey ruff around his neck, from three years of being chained up. These days he's just white all over, so much so that someone who had seen him at the beginning wanted to know if we were bleaching him. He still looks a bit like a wolf. He barks a bit, which he never used to do, to let us know that people are at the door. And he doesn't know why I'm sitting and typing when I could be off wandering the trails at the back of the house, the ones that used to be completely overgrown and forgotten. The ones I never used to walk at all.
(One oddness, for whatever it's worth: audiences, and most of the people-just-posting-about-how-they-saw-a-preview, really like, and make a point of mentioning how much they like, De Niro. They like Michelle Pfeiffer, but they love De Niro. Professional film reviewers, on the other hand, adore Michelle Pfeiffer while most of them seem uncomfortable with De Niro.)
So.... last year there were Neil Gaiman shop and product discussions, started initially by the fact that people were already making their own tee shirts, mugs, mousepads and suchlike on Cafe Press. Many of you sent in suggestions.
And now, in a small way, we've started the thing up. We're already talking about the next wave of stuff, but right now there are two tee shirts: a limited elegant grey Anansi Boys shirt drawn and designed by Dagmara Matuszak, and an unlimited black "Scary Trousers" shirt designed by Kendra Stout. (I look very grumpy on this one.)
For some reason blogger isn't uploading pictures, so you will have to go to http://www.neverwear.net/ and check them out for yourself.
is their website. I'll be on towards the end of the second hour (the hour that some stations don't get).
John Scalzi writes wisely, as usual, over at his blog about Stardust and how he thinks it'll do:
and I couldn't see anything there to disagree with.
I have no doubt at all that Stardust will do brilliantly around the world, rock out on DVD, and become one of those films that is beloved. But how it will do this weekend... ah, that's a mystery. I was fascinated by this article about success and failure -- and, more importantly, the perception of success and failure -- in movie box office:
I remember the first time I went to Hollywood, with Terry Pratchett, in 1992 I learned that you could frame any conversation about something you wanted to do in a plot that Hollywood Execs didn't understand or had a problem with if you referred to another movie that they'd seen. ("So why don't they...?" "Because they forget about it, um -- just like at the end of RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK." "Oh. Got it.") And it was useful for talking about the feel of things -- you simply positioned what you were talking about against or with other films.
By 1996, when I went back to Hollywood, something had changed. I remember naming a movie in one of those conversations -- talking about look and feel or about lighting or about something like that -- and having the Exec look at me as if I had something unpleasant on my shoe, and he said, simply, "But that film didn't make any money." He couldn't understand why I would even have brought it up.
Over on Charles Vess's blog you can see a photo of us at the end of the premiere, me in a tuxedo and him not, because he forgot his shirt studs.
The birdchick does a honey from our hives taste test over at http://www.birdchick.com/2007/08/go-see-stardust-and-little-about-our.html
It was a screw-up - the publisher reused the names from the previous year, by accident. They wrote to me and apologised, and I told them that somewhere in my basement I have a handful of copies of the UK edition of THE SANDMAN BOOK OF DREAMS in paperback, which proudly lists Stephen King on the cover as having written a story, for reasons no-one was ever able to explain. That time we were lucky, and we caught it in time to pulp the print-run. But sometimes you can't.
Can I download the clip of Maddy's interview of you? I want to hear it over and over again to boost myself. It's just inspiring to listen to a daughter interviewing her dad. It makes me want to write more too, just like you; and just like you, you write for the people important to you.
Easy (well, easy after a quick Google anyway). It's at the Harper Collins Digital Media cafe -- http://harpercollins.iamplify.com/ -- and the direct link to the free download is http://harpercollins.iamplify.com/product_details.jsp?productId=807
As you'll ultimately be getting one of the Coraline puppets, I thought you might like to see how they're being made: http://www.maryrobinettekowal
That would be cool even if I wasn't getting one...
Ignorance, madam. Pure ignorance. Or at least, ineptitude when it comes to labelling.
Stephen in Bristol
They've put quite a lot of work into it, including links to YouTube excerpts from Catty and the Major.
Good to know. Although the Catty and the Major in my head was infinitely more disturbing (and looked more like a Hanna-Barbera cartoon). A few seconds googling showed that you can read the first couple of chapters of Lint online at http://www.scribd.com/doc/38738/Steve-Ayletts-Lint
although the effect of Lint is cumulative.
(Currently reading Sarah Salway's Tell Me Everything, because I really enjoyed her novel Something Beginning With, the kind of idea for book's structure I wish I'd had, and written in a way that kept up with the structural conceit.) (It was retitled The ABCs of Love in the US, just to limit the readership.)
is deliciously evil as a witch who wants to cut out Yvaine's heart and eat it to gain eternal youth and beauty for herself and her sisters. (Well, mainly for herself.) She shows great comic timing and isn't afraid to play with her glamorous image, or look grotesque when her character, Lamia, is at her most decayed and desperate.
It comments on the should you take kids question:
"Stardust" also calls to mind last year's "Pan's Labyrinth" .... in that it superficially appears to be suitable for the whole family, and it's really not. It's never as terrifying as "Pan's Labyrinth" but it does get dark; in a broader sense, though, kids just might not get a lot of the nuance. Their parents are truly the target audience here
Weeks and weeks into this Summer of Disappointing Movies, we have finally unearthed a decent gem of a film. This is the one you take a date to; especially if your significant other wears an ankh or has a Death (the D.C. comic character) tattoo somewhere or owns all the Sandman graphic novels. Paramount Pictures has graciously brought the fairy tale back to the screen, with a quality not seen since The Princess Bride. Forget Narnia, Terabithia, and Hogwart's - it's all about Stormhold and the fallen star.
Stardust comes well after the burst of summer blockbusters, but looking back, it will be seen as one of the 2007’s best and most fully satisfying adventures.
"Writing a novel is a voyage of discovery," said Neil Gaiman, who has written piles of them (including "American Gods," "Anansi Boys," and "Neverwhere") and sold millions....
But turning a novel into a film is like "running a very sharp-edged maze leading through a minefield, with people shooting at you, in a freezing downpour, having no sense of where the exit might be, pursued by hounds, while blindfolded."
Did you know that they made up a new law in China that prohibits the Dalai Lama, among other people, from reincarnating?
That trick never works.
And finally, this article haunts me: http://uk.reuters.com/article/oddlyEnoughNews/idUKL0145707520070801
It's not that the squirrel sneaks into the shop and steals Kinder Eggs and eats the chocolate. It's that it goes off with the toys inside the egg afterwards. I have visions of the neighborhood squirrels industriously assembling their Happy Hippo Star Wars figurines... But why? Dear God, why?
I'll be at the Chengdu international conference on science fiction at the end of August. I wish I could go from there to Worldcon in Japan but it doesn't seem likely. I'll be flying from there to Budapest and from there to Italy...
(Googling the Chengdu festival, I found this fascinating article on SF in China -- parts one, two and three. We learn that In the early eighties, the Party considered Sci-fi an evil, which could lead the public astray. All sci-fi writing across China ceased. The magazine Science Fiction World was the only survivor of the crackdown. But that things change..."Sci-Fi writing is now supported by Chinese government as it is considered to be a genre that can inspire the whole nation's ability to think imaginatively and popularizes science nationwide, " Yao Haijun, the editor of Science Fiction World magazine, said.)
I'll be at the Mantova (Mantua) Literary Festival on the 7th and 8th of September (I just found some details at http://www.neilgaimania.it/html/view2.php?id=32&nomedb=articoli).
I'll be in the UK at the end of September: The Bath Children's Literary Festival. (Bath as in the beautiful town, not as in a festival dedicated to literature about bathing children. My event is http://www.bathkidslitfest.co.uk/event_J19.htm) There will be an evening reading and Q&A that may also be a signing on Tuesday the 2nd of October. Then the UK Stardust premiere in Leicester Square on the 3rd of October.
I learned this morning that there may be a trip to Sweden and one to Japan in there, but I don't have details and confirmation yet. And probably more to come. (Actually, there is definitely more to come.)
I'd promised myself I wouldn't keep linking to Stardust reviews but then I learned that " This summer, Hollywood will release a romantic fantasy adventure movie again, its likes a long time we never seen this genre made by Hollywood. " And I'm still wondering if the review was translated from another language, or if there was some awful compositing accident in which the words were dropped and jumbled, or if the person who wrote it uses English in their own way. Either way it's very charming, if rather odd.
A more normal one is http://media.www.dailytexanonline.com/media/storage/paper410/news/2007/08/02/LifeArts/A.Modern.Fairy.Tale.To.Enchant.Us.All-2929151.shtml which concludes by saying, To say that "Stardust" bears some similarities to "The Princess Bride" would be fair. This movie measures very favorably against that earlier classic and is the best young adult oriented "modern" fairy tale since. It truly is "The Princess Bride" for this generation. Which is nice. I've tried to explain to interviewers that, no, I don't think it has much in common with The Princess Bride, they're at present the only two things in that genre.
James Vance, is a fine writer and an old friend who has a terrific blog over at http://www.james-vance.com/jvblog/. He's done an interview with me about Stardust at http://www.tulsaworld.com/news/article.aspx?articleID=070804_8_H6_spanc37312 where he asks a few different questions and, as a result, gets some different answers.
And here's the San Francisco Chronicle -- http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2007/08/05/PK27RB3233.DTL&type=movies -- which begins "That disturbance in the universe you may have felt is the potentially unholy alliance between Hollywood and Neil Gaiman..."
Dear Neil ,You do sound a little grumpy.Here's one more thing that might - I hope - put a smile back on your face:
Don't miss out on it, it's wonderful. Greetings from Rome.
You know, oddly enough, I saw this a few weeks ago -- Francisco Ruiz, who made it, was one of the storyboard artists on Hellboy 2, and we shared a bus in to the studio each morning, and when he went back to the US he left me a DVD. Which proves there really are only 500 real people in the world and they all know each other. Or just that the world is a very small place indeed.
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/08/05/movies/05mcgr.html?ex=1343880000&en=f861b08256a54dc3&ei=5124&partner=permalink&exprod=permalink Good interviews with me and with Matthew Vaughn and Jane Goldman. And I liked the description of the film on the NYT webpage, “Stardust” is a fantasy film that can be watched not just by the “Lord of the Rings” crowd, but also by people who wouldn’t be caught dead at a fantasy film.
I no longer remember why I am holding a curtain in the photograph.
Labels: better journalism
What an odd quote, I thought. It doesn't sound like anyone I've ever run into in any Studio ever. It sounds more like someone's idea of a quote from a studio exec. And why would it come from an unnammed studio exec? Studio execs may talk off the record if they're slagging someone off, but they're all about getting their names in the papers if it's something that might resound to their advantage. Even if it's a quote that sounds made up.
“Nobody does goblins like the Brits,” said one Warner executive. “I am not sure it’s healthy. But the world sure love those wizards and ghoulies. It’s your biggest export since the Beatles."
And then I thought no more about it, until today. BRITONS INVADE THE LA FILM SET we discover, in a long non-story, where I learned about...
Neil Gaiman, the novelist whose books Stardust and Coraline are being filmed with Robert De Niro, Sienna Miller and Teri Hatcher.which (apart from the fact the quote itself is either invented or out of context enough to be invented, or is, most likely, an awkward rephrasing of what I said in Time magazine last week -- “Five years ago, I was absolutely as famous as I wanted to be. I’m now more famous than I’m comfortable with.”) is a remarkably misleading thing on so many levels, not least because it implies some kind of interview or that the person writing it knows what he's talking about. (Er, for starters, Warners bought the Sandman rights from DC over a decade ago...).
“Three years ago I could walk down the street. Now I am uncomfortable with the attention I am getting,” said the 46-year-old writer, who lives in the distinctly unHollywood state of Minnesota. This is before he sells his 10-part supernatural saga, Sandman, to Hollywood in what could be a record-breaking cash deal.
Ah well. At least it's a positive mention and they spell my name right and namecheck Stardust. I'm probably too sensitive right now. Yesterday I read this Michael Holroyd Guardian article twice before concluding that he genuinely hadn't realised the dedication to Anansi Boys was not written for, as Holroyd suggests, some "great love or friend" that I had not met yet, but was simply a dedication to the person reading the book and was also meant to be funny (something that I get the impression that everyone else reading the book seems to have understood without difficulty), and then I got grumpy on Roger Avary's behalf when I read that
Avary, who despite sharing an Oscar for best original screenplay with Quentin Tarantino for the pair's 1994 tale has directed only two cinematic releases in the past 15 yearsand couldn't figure out what having an Oscar for best writer had to do with how many films you've directed since getting it.
Right. I shall stop being grumpy. Possibly I shall also stop reading newspapers until Stardust is safely out. I just cooked a wonderful meal, and pretty much everything was from the garden. Here are some Russian Stardust posters. Stephin Merritt is sending me some demos from his Coraline stage musical [which is not the movie]. We have honey and bees and blueberries.The world is a pretty good place to live in...
After a while, Holly sighed. "You brought that on yourself, Dad. You wrote the bit in your blog today about not being recognised and not wanting to be famous. And now that happens. See?"
"I could move," I said. "I could head off to the Scottish Highlands. Or Patagonia. I could absolutely go to Patagonia and leave no forwarding address."
"Oh dad," said Holly. And then she pointed out, "You aren't allowed to vanish mysteriously until Maddy's eighteen."
"I could wear a hat," I said, a bit desperately.
"It wouldn't do any good," she said. And she may be right. And if I brought it on myself by writing my previous blog entry then maybe if I don't actually talk about it on this one it won't happen again...
The Birdchick and her husband, "Three Dollar" Bill Stiteler, were over today and we went out to the bees, checked on things, and brought some honey home. I'm sure that Sharon will document our bee day on her remarkable blog -- it's a terrific record of events. I just wanted to say how wonderful the honey tastes, fresh from the hive. And it tastes different to the last batch -- less piney, more fruity. I hope we'll have lots of honey to give to friends at the end of the year, and that we'll have enough to keep us going until next summer.
We're already planning a couple more hives, and today we started to plant wildflowers because, well, it will make the bees happy next year...
I told Sharon I thought she should take her bee-learning experiences and put them into a book. I hope she does.
You know, the funny thing is that LOST DANES FEARED FOOLISH DEATH DURING SCOTTISH STROLL could as easily be a headline for Beowulf as it is for Stardust. But the Danes in question here is Claire and not a bunch of Hrothgar's men directionally challenged and in trouble.
And -- for those of you who wrote in wondering about the scene in the trailer where Charlie Cox ("Cox somehow manages to walk a tightrope between matinee-idol dashing and puckish whimsy, as the film veers from a childlike innocence to an absurdist, Candide-style picaresque." L.A. Times) and Claire Danes ("as the short-tempered star, Danes hurls insults with the lethal accuracy of a screwball heroine" L.A. Times) meet for the first time.
They were -- in the trailer anyway -- apparently the best of friends. But here's a taster of the actual scene: http://moviesblog.mtv.com/2007/08/03/exclusive-clip-stardust/
It's educational comparing it to the way the scene is cut in the trailer.
The retailer who had over ordered the Charles Vess Stardust statues wrote to let me know that he had sold them all within minutes of me posting the link, and to say thank you. I got the impression that he could have sold his statues many times over, so I went to Charles Vess's site, at http://greenmanpress.com/news/archives/105
and found the link to
http://www.statuetoys.com/stardustmoonstarstatue.html where they're selling it for $60 off, at $134.90. But that's a pre-order price, and the thing ships very soon, so you may want to move fast.
I also checked Dreamhaven's wonderful Neil Gaiman & Friends shop, at http://neilgaiman.net/ but it didn't look like they had it listed yet.
Pam Noles has been my minder at San Diego Comic-Con for almost a decade, and the only reason I survived the last three Comic-cons that I've been a Guest of Honour at is that Pam makes sure that I did.
People think I tell Pam what to do at Comic Con, because I am the writer and she is the one-woman entourage, but actually, it's the other way round. If you ever find yourself a guest at Comic-con and Pam looks after you Do Not Sign Things For People When You Aren't Meant To be Signing Them, otherwise you'll find yourself turning up on her hilarious blog described as "The Occasionally Disobedient Guest". You can read about it at : http://andweshallmarch.typepad.com/and_we_shall_march/2007/08/tidbits-from-th.html
(The bit where I was signing for people while, literally, running, was on the Sunday, as I left the Jack Kirby panel and ran for a plane.) (Which reminds me, a few people wrote in asking about the Kirby story I described as one of my favourites --I just checked and it was The Losers in Our Fighting Forces 153. )
(And my Comic-con "Spotlight On..." panel is described at http://www.comicbookresources.com/news/newsitem.cgi?id=11485)
I'm interviewed in the LA Times about Stardust and other stuff, and they gathered quotes from Matthew Vaughn, Claire Danes and Roger Avary: http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/news/movies/la-ca-stardust5aug05,1,7113938.story?coll=la-entnews-movies
(The photo was taken through a glass door, which is why the image is refracted so oddly, and the unusual expression on my face is me looking at the photographer and thinking, "Er, is that going to work...?")
And, more interestingly (for me, at least) Charlie Cox is also interviewed in the LA Times -- http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/news/movies/la-ca-charlie5aug05,0,1998613.story.