Wednesday, April 30, 2008
Monday, April 28, 2008
Posted by Neil Gaiman at 5:46 PM
Before you read this familiarise yourselfand goes on from there. I'm looking forward to seeing whether it works when read aloud. Todd's got the work-in-progress version of the print up at
with the text. Note the position of the escape hatches,
the candles that will light in the event of a forced landing
to show you the way out. The author will make an announcement.
Posted by Neil Gaiman at 1:59 PM
The Bride of Frankenstein
Films deliver their pleasures in different ways. Most films give you everything they have to offer the first time you see them, leaving you nothing for another viewing. Some deliver what they have grudgingly on first viewing, only to reveal their magic on subsequent occasions, when things become increasingly satisfying. Very few films are dreams, configuring and reconfiguring themselves in your mind on waking. These films, I think, you make yourself, afterwards, somewhere in the shadows in the back of your head. The Bride of Frankenstein is one of those dream-films. It exists in the culture as a unique thing, magical and odd: a lurching story sequence as ungainly and as beautiful as the monster itself, that culminates in a couple of minutes of film that have seared themselves onto the undermind of the world.
It's a lot of people's favourite horror film. Dammit, it's my favourite horror film. And yet...
My daughter Maddy loves the idea of The Bride of Frankenstein: she's ten. Last year, captivated by the little statue of Elsa Lanchester in frightwig that stands, facing a statue of Groucho Marx, on a window ledge half-way up the stairs, she decided to be the Monster's Bride for Hallowe'en. I had to find her imagery of Karloff and his bride-to-be, e-mail her photos of them. Several weeks ago, finding myself in sole charge of Maddy and her friend Gala Avary, I made them hot chocolate and we watched Bride of Frankenstein.
They enjoyed it, wriggling and squealing in all the right places. But once it was done, the girls had an identical reaction. "Is it over?" asked one. "That was weird," said the other, flatly. They were as unsatisfied as an audience could be.
I felt vaguely guilty – I knew they would have enjoyed House – or is it Ghost? – of Frankenstein, the one with Karloff as a mad scientist, and John Carradine's Dracula, not to mention a Lon Chaney Jr. wolfman – so much more. It's a romp, after all. It may not be scary, but it feels like a horror film, and it would have delivered everything two ten year olds needed to be satisfying.
The Bride of Frankenstein doesn't romp. It's oneiric, a beautiful, formless sequence of silver nitrate shadows, and when it ends I wonder what happened, and then I begin to rebuild it in my head. I've seen it I do not how many times since I was a boy, and I'm almost pleased to say that I still can't quite tell you the plot. Or rather, I can tell you the plot as it goes along. And then, when it's done, the film begins to scum over in my mind, to reconfigure like a dream does once you've wakened, and it all becomes much harder to explain.
The film begins with Mary Shelley, Elsa Lanchester, all sly smiles and period cleavage, talking to an intensely dull Byron and Shelley, introducing us to a sequel to the original Frankenstein story. And then it's moments after the first film, Frankenstein, and the story starts again. The monster survived. The status quo has been restored.
Henry Frankenstein (Colin Clive) is getting married to the wimpy Elizabeth (Valerie Hobson). (The wimpy Elizabeth is the real bride of Frankenstein, and is, I suspect, given the film's title, one of the main factors responsible for the confusion in the popular mind between the scientist and his monster.)
Ernest Thesiger's Dr Pretorius, a far madder scientist than our Henry, strides into Henry Frankenstein's life, like a man bringing a bottle of absinthe to a reformed addict. Dr Pretorius, waspish, camp,unforgettable, trolls in from a world much more dangerous than Henry's. He's sharp and funny, steals scenes, and has a marvellous sequence with bottled homunculi – lovers, a king, a priest. This has something to do with his own alchemical researches into creating life, and, I find myself thinking whenever I watch it, nothing at all to do with the film at hand. It sits in the mind like a dream, inexplicable, a moment of movie magic. I find myself fancying director James Whale as Pretorius here, the homunculi his actors, ready to lust or lecture or die as he desires.
Henry Frankenstein himself is feverish, and strangely absent from the film that bears his name, emotionally and truly. The alcoholism (and perhaps the tuberculosis) that would soon enough carry off Colin Clive is already muting his vitality. All the monsters have more life in them than Henry Frankenstein does now, and watching the film I imagine that they will live longer, once the action is over.
Karloff plays the Monster. His face is part of the strange experience of the film: we have seen many people since Karloff who have portrayed Frankenstein's Monster, but none of them were the real thing: they looked too brutish, or too comical – Herman Munsters in waiting. Karloff is something else: sensitive, hurting, a former brute now learning language and longing and love. There is little in the monster to be frightened of. Instead we pity him, sympathise with him, care about him.
(The sequence with the blind hermit is subject to slippage in my mind with its parody in Young Frankenstein. I worry, when I see the blind man in Bride, that he will pour hot soup on the monster, or set light to him, and am always relieved when they survive the meal unscathed. Instead, unable to see the monster, the hermit is the only one who is able to look at the monster without prejudice.)
James Whale, directing the film with elegance and panache, builds lovely catacombs. There is a terrible beauty in each perfectly composed shot, just as there is wit and poetry in William Hurlbut's script.
Of course, it's hard to care a twopenny fig for either Henry or Elizabeth, and I suspect that Whale knew that: from being the tragic focus of the first movie, Henry Frankenstein now becomes the film's Zeppo, a bland lover in a cast of shambling zanies. It's one reason why the film feels so subversive, and so deeply surreal. In Bride of Frankenstein, all is prelude to the unwrapping of Elsa Lanchester, the revelation of the true Bride, the one that the movie's really named after. She is revealed; she hisses, screeches, is terrified, is wonderful, and once we have seen her there is nothing left for us. As Karloff's monster realises that she, too, fears him, he slips from joyful hope to despair with a look, and moves over to pull the now traditional blow-up-the-lab switch.
But Elsa and Karloff are the perfect couple, too vivid, too alive to have died in the final explosion. Even as Henry and Elizabeth fade from the imagination, the monster and his mate live on forever, icons of the perverse, in our dreams.
Posted by Neil Gaiman at 4:04 AM
I got in this morning after 30 hours travel, determined not to sleep. I walked out to Harvey Norman and bought electrical stuff I'd forgotten to bring, most of which works, then stopped at Sushi-e for lunch (good, but overpriced). Then back to the hotel. More proofreading. Also a bath. I just met James Croll, an old school-friend who went into the Adventure Holiday trade, who moved to Sydney last year, and who is helping set up my Secret Travel Book Expedition.
"I think that if this works," he said cheerfully at the end, "We'll set up an 'In the footsteps of Neil Gaiman' expedition." (I think "If this works" probably means If I survive it. Um.)
Many people have written to point out that there is no U in Qantas, and almost as many of you have written to say that hawthorns can be bushes or trees (I knew that -- the problem is that in the text I refer to the same hawthorn as both things, and I sort of need to pick). You also have lots more examples of writers who have been in PR or publicity. But I am brain dead.
Sunday, April 27, 2008
Posted by Neil Gaiman at 5:12 AM
Life is good. I proofread the first 60 pages of the UK version of The Graveyard Book on the way out (is it a hawthorn tree or a hawthorn bush because I describe it as both? Can something I describe as spike-topped metal railings also be described as a fence?), and I slept. (Yesterday I found my iPod Nano, mysteriously missing for a year, in the pocket of a coat I last wore, er, a year ago, so went to sleep on the plane listening to 1941 Jack Benny shows.)
I seem to do a lot of proofreading in Australia. (There's those patterns again.) Last time I was in Australia, for the Sydney Literary Festival, I was proofreading Fragile Things. Tomorrow I'll try and wrap up the US and UK proofs of Graveyard Book.
If I hadn't slept I would have read -- I'm currently reading Michael Chabon's Gentlemen of the Road. It's wonderful -- a [Chabonesque] [Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser]-ish story, filled with swordfights and intrigue and people in disguise. (I just edited that sentence -- I'd written "currently reading for pleasure" as if there was some other kind of reading -- the sort you endure, I imagine.) And there are those patterns again, as I read an essay by Michael in the LA Times that made me grin with delight.
Go read it. It's lovely (and not because it says something nice about Sandman). It's up at http://www.latimes.com/features/printedition/books/la-bk-chabon27apr27,1,909788.story
I took photos of the newly-released stage adaptation of Neverwhere earlier this week in Chicago. I'm not sure if this is the right way to get these to you, but I wanted to send along a link to the pictures from the show since you weren't able to see it in person.
It looks amazing -- I have to try and get to it in May, before it ends.
Though I should be finishing up a paper for my English literature course, I couldn't help but procrastinate and ask you a question.
You see, I'm a college student as well as an aspiring author. However, I'm currently majoring in public relations. That's right, I'm one of those freaks who uses writing to make people money, doesn't mind public speaking and actually gets excited at the thought of a marketing plan.
My question to you is, is it common for business people to show up in the more creative side of the writing business? Have you ever met anyone who worked in advertising/PR/marketing for awhile then gave it up for novels?
Furthermore, do publishers like to see that an aspiring author has a business background?
While I do love having my course work during the day and unleashing my imagination at night, I do hope to one day combine the two of them when my novel gets published.
Anyway, thanks for your time. Once all this final exam business is done I can get around to reading AMERICAN GODS; I certainly enjoyed ANANSI BOYS and look forward to more books with deities gone wild.
To take your second question first, publishers don't care. If you're selling a novel they don't care if you have a business background or a nursing background or a carpentry background or a writing background. If they have a story about you that they can put in the press releases, that may make life easier for the publicist ("Author Maisy Green was raised by wolves in the jungles of India. Sold into a freakshow she taught herself to read from abandoned newspapers and a complete library of Agatha Christie novels stolen from Delores the bearded woman, a crime for which Maisy was subsequently imprisoned. Her talent was recognised when her first novel, WHO KILLED ROMULUS? was shortlisted for a Writers Behind Bars Award.) But they don't care about anything more than whether you can write and make them turn the pages, and whether they can sell your book.
And to take your first question second, yes, it's common for writers to also be business people. And doctors. And editors of Plant Engineering magazines. And all sorts of other professions and inclinations. I've known a number of publicists who were also writers -- Jack Womack at Harper Collins, who was my publicist for some years, is also Jack Womack the amazing author, and he's kept writing while working as a publicist.
I've also known some sales and marketing people who started out as writers and then became business people and hoped for the time to write, or wound up with a company policy that stopped them writing, and they normally aren't the happiest of people. (I've never had writers tell me, drunkenly, that they wished that they were in marketing, while I've definitely listened to marketing people drunkenly mourn their vanished writing careers.)
Saturday, April 26, 2008
Posted by Neil Gaiman at 11:27 AM
I've been thinking about the Siegel & Shuster families regaining the rights to Superman, and it raised some questions to which I can't find ready answers and thought you might have.
(I'll use your works as illustrative points since you know what rights you have to your works.)
If a character is created by more than one artist (Superman by Siegel & Shuster, Tim Hunter by yourself & Mr. Bolton), do both artists or their estates have the right to separately sell licensing, merchandising rights, etc? Could the Siegel estate sell the rights to a Superman movie to Fox, the Shuster estate sell the rights to a Superman movie to Universal and DC still make films with Warner? Also, do you have the rights to just the characters, or do you have the rights to sell the stories you wrote for, say, "Sandman" or another serial owned by another person or company?
It bothers me that there might be a potential for a David Niven "Casino Royale" situation with other characters of whom I'm fond, especially the Man of Steel.
I think you mean "Thunderball" not "Casino Royale" -- the problem with "Casino Royale" IIRC was simply that someone else owned the film rights,and used them to make a parody after the bond films had become successful. Thunderball was co-written (started out as a film treatment with someone else, which Fleming then novelised, and the someone else sued and established that they co-owned the copyright on the treatment) which allowed "Never Say Never Again", which has the same plot, to be made...
The short answer is, Yes you do. And it's not as simple as that, because there's trademarks and suchlike to consider, and most the comics examples you're pointing at are Work For Hire and owned by the company.
Look over the Posner decision (which is up at http://www.projectposner.org/case/2004/360F3d644/ -- the link from two days ago seems to have died.) If I feel like licensing out a Medieval Spawn comic -- or Medieval Spawn underpants -- I can. It's co-created, not work for hire, and co-owned.
If DC Comics wished to avoid future problems with Superman and the estates of the creators, I cannot help feeling that, seeing DC knew what the law said, they should have done a sensible deal with the Shuster family in 1999, rather than forcing them to fight a nine-year law case. That way the Shusters go, "Thanks for the money, of course everything will stay like it is," rather than, "Eww. You people are nasty. Why did you make us fight for something that was ours? We'll go and talk to Marvel and Twentieth Century Fox about licensing a Superman movie." It's what I would have done, if I was DC and Warners anyway.
My assistant has just pointed out that I am leaving for a plane to Australia in 40 minutes and am blogging in pajamas so will I kindly back away from the keyboard...?
Only time for a quick link to the Neverwhere circus-play at http://www.actorsgymnasium.com/site/epage/46772_314.htm If you get to it, send a review and I'll try and post it or link to it...
Off to airport. But first -- clothes!
Later. Five minutes until I leave the house. I seem to have just destroyed one cell phone and lost the other, which means I may be buying a new one in Narita airport. Argh. Meanwhile, if you want to learn too much about an author and his notebook...
Friday, April 25, 2008
Posted by Neil Gaiman at 11:15 AM
It's Abi Sutherland's reworking/retelling/translation of my poem, The Day The Saucers Came, into LOLcat. I like it better than the original, but I'm not sure that it would work if it wasn't informed by the existence of the not-LOLcat one (if you see what I mean). (Here's me on YouTube reading the original at Yale: http://www.you tube.com/watch?v=JUkEPaN_BFY).
And two from the mailbag:
I am a lawyer. I co-authored an article on fair use that was published last summer in the Journal of the Copyright Society of the United States. A large section of it was a wordier version (punctuated by many many legal citations) of what you wrote in your journal today. In practice, the most important single factor in determining whether a fair use has occurred is not money, it is how transformative a work is. You have a good grasp of copyright.
Moreover, you have a good grasp of the trickiness of copyrighting derivative works. The legal answer regarding that King James concordance is that the person who owns the copyright owns a "weak" copyright. (The more original creativity in a work, the "stronger" the copyright. If this concordance is completely uncreative - if it is really just a list of words that a computer could generate - there is no copyright whatsoever. If, however, the author has organized the concordance in a way to show some creativity, there is a "weak" copyright.)
Unfortunately, in practice, a "weak" copyright is pretty strong when owned by a powerful company. For example, the woodcut illustrations in the original edition of Alice in Wonderland are in the public domain and have no copyright protection. Disney's depiction of Alice - clearly a cartoon version of the public domain woodcut Alice - is, however, copyrighted. Technically, this derivative work should be a "weak" copyright. However, when the video game Alice by American McGee came out, American McGee's Alice was a brunette who looked nothing like the Alice most people think of. American McGee should have been able to copy the public domain Alice, just like Disney did, but I assume that American McGee didn't want to risk taking on Disney. (That was probably not the only consideration that went into it - they probably also didn't want little kids buying the game by accident, either - but Disney's copyright in the derivative work must have been something they considered.)
I really appreciate the fact that, despite being a writer, you do not seem to have a rabid approach to copyright. I think many readers, who feel defensive on behalf of their favorite authors, don't understand the benefits of having copyrights that are not absolute and that expire. The creative sphere as a whole gains something from a public domain and fair use. (Author's heirs are often anything but open to creative reimaginings, or even creative criticisms, of a work - the highly litigious Margaret Mitchell estate comes to mind.) If our modern attitudes towards copyright had always existed, you would not have been able to freely quote Shakespeare (who never had copyright protection) in Sandman, and the story would have lost some of its richness. Similarly, it would be ridiculous if you had to have Rudyard Kipling's heirs sign off on The Graveyard Book. Copyrights should not be powerful to the point where they suppress new ideas or criticisms.
I very much look forward to The Graveyard Book.
Your latest blog entry about legal court cases inspired me to put up a bit of information on my personal blog that goes into aspects of the joint authorship elements of your case, and the transformative works issues that will be important in J.K. Rowlings'. If you are interested you can read it at: http://wise-old-sage.blog-city.com/gaiman_joint_authorship_and_transformative_works.htm
I did link to your posting so my readers could reference it. I hope you don't mind.
while Scrivener's Error pointed me at
and the hypothesis that this is primarily a trademark, not a copyright case.
Considering your latest encounter with a large metal pole, I got to thinking about health insurance. As an author and one who is more or less self-employed (right?), how do you go about getting decent health insurance not only for yourself but for your family? Wouldn't it be much easier to move to Canada or back to the UK where they are reasonable enough to have universal health care?
How? I write movies.
True answer, even though it sounds silly. As long as I have a certain amount of income coming in from Hollywood, I'm covered by the Writer's Guild which had very good Health Insurance when I became a member, and has significantly less good health insurance these days, but it's still an awful lot better than having no insurance for me or my family.
(Occasionally friends ask why I'll write movies -- they're a huge drain on time and emotion, most of the scripts one writes simply do not get made, and when they do get made it's all-too-often nothing like the thing that you thought you were writing, and unlike novels you've given up control from the outset, you can find yourself being lied to or fired or cheated, and while I make a lot of money writing scripts I make a lot more money writing books, which I own and control for ever, and from which I get foreign income, and so on. And I say "Health Insurance," and if they're from America they normally get it, while people from countries that regard healthcare as a human right, like education, think I'm mad.)
Why not move? I like my house, and my youngest daughter loves her school and friends (my older daughter has already moved back to the UK) and I'm happy to write an occasional movie and get healthcare as a side-effect. (Also, I quite like writing film-scripts. It's everything that goes with them I put up with.)
(Incidentally, the pole was a heavy PVC pipe,and not metal, I'm glad to say. Otherwise my face would have been far more banged up than it was. Right now the black eye's mostly gone, the nose has mostly healed, and there's a cut on the lip that would heal better if I didn't keep talking...)
Mark Buckingham and Shelly Bond and I have been plotting and planning over the last month. We've been planning a Sandman 20th Anniversary poster, with as many of the pencillers and inkers who drew Sandman as possible coming back to draw a character or two. We pondered a couple of different ways of doing it, decided that a party would best, and Mark laid out a party and where everyone would be...
Most of the forty-something artists on Sandman who are still alive and drawing said yes -- a handful were simply too busy (alas, no Matt Wagner or Michael Zulli) and there are a couple that we're hunting for.
But the first piece of art came in. It's from Sam Kieth, and is the first time he's drawn Morpheus professionally in, well, twenty years. (And the first time he's drawn Daniel, ever.)
I think it's going to be a fabulous poster.
Thursday, April 24, 2008
Posted by Neil Gaiman at 4:49 PM
The May event at MIT isn't sold out, it's just the tickets were offered to MIT students/staff first. This according to friends of mine at Pandemonium and The Million Year Picnic, both of which are now selling tickets.
A quick Google gave me http://community.livejournal.com/millionyear/33091.html
with lots of information on the MIT event.
If you want to call to reserve tickets (617-492-6763), you must pick them up within 48 hours. No call-in reservations for tickets after May 14th. Four tickets maximum.
I've noticed you're on the speakers' list for the Children's Book Council Australia's conference in May. I was just curious if you'll have time to do a signing in between your two gigs.
If not at the CBCA, do you have plans to do one while in Melbourne this time around at all?
Thanks in advance
If you click on WHERE'S NEIL it will take you to http://www.neilgaiman.com/where/ and you will learn about the three Melbourne, two Sydney and one Hobart events next week. And to answer some other frequently received questions, I do know that it's been twelve years since I was in Perth and a decade since I signed any books in New Zealand, yes. I am also aware that it is unfair on the people in Brisbane and Adelaide that I'm not signing there, and it's even harder on the people in Canberra because, having only one body and two potential locations it could be in, I picked Hobart (where I had not been for a decade) rather than Canberra (where I was in July 2005).
I am compelled, after reading your thoughts on the JK Rowling Lexicon case, to try to sort out in my head if it bears resemblance to your dealings with certain characters you created for MacFarlane's Spawn series. Obviously the cases are different, but I see vague similarities.
While it (the lexicon) existed only on his website, and no one was profiting from it, then I see no issue naturally. The minute it gets published in book form, he stands to make oodles of money from it. Let's face facts here, people would buy it in droves. In that case I feel that he either HAS her permission to do so, or does not. If he does not (which clearly he doesn't), then does it not put him in the wrong? Does he not require her permission to make money with characters and places and ideas she created? Should he not have approached her perhaps to begin with?
I just saw these vague similarities. I realize he is not taking the created characters and making new stories with then (ALA MacFarlane was doing), and taking credit.......it just seems wrong to me. If it's a poorly done book, then that reflects on, not only her, but her world as well doesn't it?
They're similar only, I suspect in that at the end of the day they aren't about the things that people (including the people who were involved in the litigation) thought they were about. I thought the McFarlane case was all about Creators' Rights, and trying to make Todd keep his promises, and his copyright filings claiming that he'd written the issues that I'd written, and all sorts of suchlike things. I think in Todd's mind it was all about proving that He Made His Rules And Was Really Tricky And Everybody had To Do What He Said, or something like that.
But really, in the end, in the appeal court, after the trial jury had delivered their verdict and I'd won all 17 counts on the case, it all came down mostly to this: does the clock start ticking on a copyright breach case when the breach is committed or when it's discovered. There's a three year statute of limitations on copyright claims. In 1996 Todd had filed his copyright claims , claiming to have written Spawn 9 and the Angela series, then three years later, in 1999, he let me know he wasn't going to honour any agreements he'd made with me for the stuff I'd created. Had my clock already run out? His lawyers were certain it had, and even some of my lawyers thought I was on shaky ground.
And the Posner legal decision at the Appeal was, essentially, nobody is expected to patrol the copyright office looking for breaches, and the clock only started ticking the moment I found out about it. (The whole Posner decision is up at http://www.ca7.uscourts.gov/tmp/CR1FGCDA.pdf and is really pretty interesting reading.)
In the Time-Warner-Rowling-Vander Ark case it's not about "is he making money from her ideas?" or "will this stop fan websites?" or any of that stuff that people are talking about on line. It doesn't matter from a legal perspective that Ms Rowling was doing or planning her own encyclopedia, or that the money is going to charity, or any of that stuff, although I'm sure Ms Rowling feels it does (because I would, if I were her).
As far as I can see it's only about a couple of really grey areas of copyright law -- I suspect, and I am SO not a lawyer, that it will come down to whether or not what Mr Vander Ark had done to Ms Rowling's work in his Lexicon was sufficiently "transformative" as to render it a new work.
There's an online annotation of Sandman. If the people who did it -- or if someone else -- decided to publish it, I couldn't stop them even if I didn't want it to come out, even if Les Klinger had finally persuaded me to get DC Comics to let him do an official Annotated Sandman. (Someone asked when Les's Annotated Dracula comes out -- it'll be in October 2008.) That's because it's obviously a transformative work -- it's based on my work, but it springs off from it.
If someone did a website in which everything in Sandman is listed in alphabetical order, as a concordance or lexicon... whether or not I was going to do one doesn't matter. Whether or not someone else is making money off my work and words and ideas doesn't matter. Whether it's a good lexicon or a bad lexicon doesn't matter. Whether it quotes me extensively may or may not matter (how extensively I'm quoted is a matter of Fair Use, but paraphrase me and you are home and dry on that count). What matters is whether it sufficiently transforms what I've done into something else by taking those entries and putting them into alphabetical order. How much original work is being done? The King James Bible is in the public domain. If you made a lexicon or concordance of the King James Bible, listing every person and place mentioned in there, something that would take you a lot of time -- you could copyright it. If someone copied it -- simply took your King James Bible Lexicon book and put their name on it -- could you sue them? Should you?
And, personalities aside, and all the newspaper commentary and most of the bloggage and online opinions, that's the kind of thing that this case will come down to in the end.
Like yourself, I am a fan of Harlan Ellison. However, as a feminist, I get really sick and tired of Ellison's misogyny.
I was wondering how you reconcile the fact that Ellison is your friend and an awesome writer with the fact that he can be really sexist. I'm especially curious because you have two daughters. (And one that went to a women's college! I went to Mount Holyoke, myself.) What do you tell them when Ellison makes denigrating remarks about women? I sincerely hope that you do more than merely laugh it off and regard it as "Harlan being Harlan." Even though he's funny as Hell, his attitude is really damaging. Besides, relying on sexist humor is beneath him and I really don't understand why he does it. I dislike it when Ellison claims to use such humor in a reclaimatory way. He's a white man -- he cannot reclaim sexism on the behalf of women.
I appreciate you taking the time to answer my question.
You know, in my presence over the years Harlan has made some astoundingly denigrating remarks about studio executives, the Walt Disney company, a number of restaurants we've eaten in, several eastern European publishers, food in England, the English (except -- possibly, sometimes -- for me and his wife), editors, other publishers, a (male) science fiction critic, television producers, Fantagraphics, friends of mine, movie producers... the list goes on and on. When Harlan's rude about my friends in my presence I tend to point out they're my friends and he's being a twit, and he either looks shamefaced or he tells me I'm an idiot for liking so many people. There are lots of people, and some classes of people, like studio accountants, that Harlan has been less than civil about. I don't ever remember "women" as a class being on the list. (I remember him once being extremely rude about a female studio head, but that was in her role as a studio head, not in her capacity as a woman.) Which means I read your letter and I'm as puzzled as if it were asking how I can stand Harlan's attacks on people of colour, or the left-handed, or jazz musicians.
As for "Harlan being Harlan," I'm reminded of what the producer of the documentary Dreams With Sharp Teeth, Erik Nelson, said, when I told him that I thought the film was unbalanced, and he should interview some of Harlan's enemies. He said, "That's what Harlan said. I told him, 'Harlan, you're your own worst enemy'."
Off to Australia on Saturday...
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
Posted by Neil at 11:35 AM
I met Douglas Adams toward the end of 1983. I had been asked to interview him for Penthouse. I was expecting someone sharp and smart and BBCish, someone who would sound like the voice of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. I was met at the door to his Islington flat by a very tall man, with a big smile and a big, slightly crooked, nose, all gawky and coltish, as if, despite his size, he was still growing. He had just returned to the UK from a miserable time in Hollywood, and he was happy to be back. He was kind, he was funny, and he talked. He showed me his things: he was very keen on computers, which barely existed at that point, and on guitars, and on giant inflatable crayons, which he had discovered in America, had shipped to England at enormous expense, before learning that they were, quite cheaply, available in Islington. He was clumsy: he would back into things, or trip over them, or sit down on them very suddenly and break them.
I learned that Douglas had died the morning after it happened, in May 2001, from the Internet (which had not existed in 1983). I was being interviewed on the phone by a journalist (the journalist was in Hong Kong), and something about Douglas Adams dying went across the computer screen. I snorted, unimpressed (only a couple of days before, Lou Reed had gone onto Saturday Night Live to put to rest a round of Internet rumours about his death). Then I clicked on the link. I found myself staring at a BBC news screen, and saw that Douglas was, quite definitely, dead.
“Are you all right?” said the journalist in Hong Kong.
“Douglas Adams is dead,” I said, stunned.
“Oh yes,” he said. “It’s been on the news here all day. Did you know him?”
“Yes,” I said. We carried on with the interview, and I don’t know what else was said. The journalist got back in touch several weeks later to say that there wasn’t anything coherent or at least usable on the tape after I learned that Douglas died, and would I mind doing the interview again.
Douglas was an incredibly kind man, phenomenally articulate and amazingly helpful. In 1986 I found myself knocking around his life an awful lot when I was working on Don’t Panic! I’d sit in corners of his office going through old filing cabinets, pulling out draft after draft of Hitchhiker’s in its various incarnations, long-forgotten comedy sketches, Dr Who scripts, press-clippings, always willing to answer questions and to explain. He put me in touch with dozens of people I needed to find and interview, people like Geoffrey Perkins and John Lloyd. He liked the finished book, or he said he did, and that helped too.
(A memory from that period: sitting in Douglas’s office, drinking tea, and waiting for him to get off the phone, so I could interview him some more. He was enjoying the phone conversation, about a project he was doing for the Comic Relief book. When he got off he apologised, and then explained that he had to take that call because it was John Cleese, in a way that made it clear that this was a delighted name dropping: John Cleese had just phoned him, and they’d talked professionally like grown-ups. Douglas must have known Cleese for nine years at that point, but still, his day had been made, and he wanted me to know. Douglas always had heroes.)
Douglas was unique. Which is true of all of us, of course, but it’s also true that people come in types and patterns, and there was only one Douglas Adams. No-one else I’ve ever encountered could elevate Not Writing to an art form. No-one else has seemed capable of being so cheerfully profoundly miserable. No-one else has had that easy smile and crooked nose, nor the faint aura of embarrassment that seemed like a protective force field.
After he died, I was interviewed a lot, asked about Douglas. I said that I didn’t think that he had ever been a novelist, not really, despite having been an internationally best-selling novelist who had written several books which are, a quarter of a century later, becoming seen as classics. Writing novels was a profession he had backed into, or stumbled over, or sat down on very suddenly and broken.
I think that perhaps what Douglas was was probably something we don’t even have a word for yet. A Futurologist, or an Explainer, or something. That one day they’ll realise that the most important job out there is for someone who can explain the world to itself in ways that the world won’t forget. Who can dramatise the plight of endangered species as easily (or at least, as astonishingly well, for nothing Douglas did was ever exactly easy) as he can explain to an analog race what it means to find yourself going digital. Someone whose dreams and ideas, practical or impractical, are always the size of a planet, and who is going to keep going forward, and taking the rest of us with him.
This is a book filled with facts about someone who dealt in dreams.
Bologna May 15, 2003
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
Posted by Neil at 11:47 AM
In the shower today I tried to think about the best advice I'd ever been given by another writer. There was something that someone said at my first Milford, about using style as a covering, but sooner or later you would have to walk naked down the street, that was useful...
And then I remembered. It was Harlan Ellison about a decade ago.
He said, "Hey. Gaiman. What's with the stubble? Every time I see you, you're stubbly. What is it? Some kind of English fashion statement?"
"Well? Don't they have razors in England for Chrissakes?"
"If you must know, I don't like shaving because I have a really tough beard and sensitive skin. So by the time I've finished shaving I've usually scraped my face a bit. So I do it as little as possible."
"Oh." He paused. "I've got that too. What you do is, you rub your stubble with hair conditioner. Leave it a couple of minutes, then wash it off. Then shave normally. Makes it really easy to shave. No scraping."
I tried it. It works like a charm. Best advice from a writer I've ever received.
Dear Mr. Gaiman,
are Bill Hader and Doug Jones really tall, or are you much (much) shorter than I've ever pictured?
Bill Hader is a few inches taller than I am, but he's normal-human-being-tall (and in the photo, Bill's closer to the camera than Doug or me, too). Doug Jones, on the other hand, is inhumanly tall -- as Abe Sapiens he towered over Hellboy, as the Silver Surfer he towered over Ben Grimm, as the faun in Pan's Labyrinth he towered over, well, a little girl, but he's absolutely ridiculously gobsmackingly tall anyway. Also astoundingly nice.
Saturday, April 19, 2008
Posted by Neil Gaiman at 9:01 PM
I am no longer in New York during passover and a papal visit (which means the chance of my actually being able to say "Good yontiff, pontiff," has now dropped back from astonishingly faint to none).
The event last night raised a lot of money for the CBLDF, which was good. And we've won the Gordon Lee case, which is better.
And I thought it high time I reposted the link to the CBLDF membership page, for those of you who would like to join, or who need to renew. It's here. (www.cbldf.com takes you to the site that sells the memberships, signed prints and the rest.) (And don't forget that there are levels of membership all the way up to ANGEL at $1000 a year.)
Also lots of cool products, including this new T-shirt design, which I rather like...
Lots of emails from people asking me to comment on the JK Rowling/ Steve Vander Ark copyright case. My main reaction is, having read as much as I can about it, given the copyright grey zone it seems to exist in, is a "Well, if it was me, I'd probably be flattered", but that obviously isn't how J.K. Rowling feels. I can't imagine myself trying to stop any of the unauthorised books that have come out about me or about things I've created over the years, and where possible I've tried to help, and even when I haven't liked them I've shrugged and let it go.
Given the messy area that "fair use" exists in in copyright law I can understand the judge not wanting to rule, and assume that whatever he says the case will head off to the court of appeal.
My heart is on the side of the people doing the unauthorised books, probably because the first two books I did were unauthorised, and one of them, Ghastly Beyond Belief, would have been incredibly vulnerable had anyone wanted to sue Kim Newman and me on the grounds that what we did, in a book of quotations that people might not have wanted to find themselves in, went beyond Fair Use. (Which, I was told by my UK publishers, has now, as a concept, vanished from UK copyright law, although a moment's Google seemed to disprove this.)
Most commentary on the internet seems to break down into people picking sides based on personalities and opinions. As with most grey areas of law, it isn't cut and dried, and even when an appeals court-sized decision is handed down, it probably won't become cut and dried, because "Fair Use" is one of those things, like pornography, we are meant to know when we see them.
Having said that I'm fascinated by the "new rumour" that seems to have sprung up on this -- I noticed it on the Guardian comments page today, when someone began their comment with:
There is a story that Neil Gaimen was paid not to express criticism of Rowling for some of the similarities to his work.
I thought, "if there is, I haven't heard it". As far as I know the only person who ever claimed that was the mad muggles woman, Nancy Stouffer, at,
WDC: I read somewhere that some of the details in Rowling's books could be seen as borrowing from The Sandman comic books--I believe owls carrying messages for wizards was one example. Asked about this, Sandman creator and author Neil Gaiman's response was basically so what? Storytellers pick up bits and pieces from here, there and everywhere all the time as they create original works. Why is this bothering you so much more than anyone else whose "bits and pieces" may have been borrowed (and note I say MAY)? Because you have so many examples? I've seen them on your site and think most of them are coincidental and lacking in substance, no more justifying this brouhaha than the owl messengers would be for Gaiman to throw up his arms and scream plagarism.(This is the Nancy Stouffer whose case, when it went to court, was thrown out and who was ordered to pay two million in attorney's fees and fined $50,000 for "submission of fraudulent documents and untruthful testimony". She lied a lot.)
Nancy Stouffer: The fact is that initially Gaiman did throw up his arms and yell plagiarism. It wasn't until he had a movie deal that his comments began to change. Initially he was terribly annoyed.
Actually, what I said, on the Dreaming website, long before this place existed, back in 1998, when this nonsense first started, was,
Thursday, March 19, 1998
Neil on Harry Potter and J.K. Rowling
Posted by puck at 3:00 AM PST | Comments (3)
There's a rumour going around that Neil is upset about the Harry Potter books being too similar to The Books of Magic. Neil asked me to post this to clear things up:
"I was surprised to discover from yesterday's [Daily] MIRROR that I'm meant to have accused J.K. Rowling of ripping off BOOKS OF MAGIC for HARRY POTTER.
Simply isn't true -- and now it's on the public record it'll follow me around forever.
Back in November I was tracked down by a Scotsman journalist who had noticed the similarities between my Tim Hunter character and Harry Potter, and wanted a story. And I think I rather disappointed him by explaining that, no, I certainly *didn't* believe that Rowling had ripped off Books of Magic, that I doubted she'd read it and that it wouldn't matter if she had: I wasn't the first writer to create a young magician with potential, nor was Rowling the first to send one to school. It's not the ideas, it's what you do with them that matters.
Genre fiction, as Terry Pratchett has pointed out, is a stew. You take stuff out of the pot, you put stuff back. The stew bubbles on.
(As I said to the Scotsman journalist, the only thing that was a mild bother was that in the BOOKS OF MAGIC movie Warners is planning, Tim Hunter can no longer be a bespectacled, 12 year old English kid. But given the movie world I'll just be pleased if he's not played by a middle-aged large-muscled Austrian.)
Not sure how this has transmuted into "Gaiman has accused Rowling of ripping him off." But I suppose it's a better story than the truth.
The Stouffer stuff was spun by sites like this -- http://www.geocities.com/versetrue/rowling.htm
Did Warner Brothers Pay off Neil Gaiman, Worst Witch and Melissa Joan Hart?Which, given that I don't own Sandman or Books of Magic/Tim Hunter - they were both work for hire and are owned by DC Comics, a Time-Warner company, have been since they were created in the 80s -- have never "squealed plagiarism" except in Nancy Stouffer's sad mad mind and given that both Sandman and Books of Magic were first optioned for films by Warners some years before the first Harry Potter book was published, is not just astoundingly badly written lunatic conspiracy theory nonsense, but easily disproven creepy nonsense.
Warner owns the rights to Harry Potter. They later bought rights to Neil Gaiman's work, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, and distribution rights to the "Worst Witch." They were the three main threats to the trademark.
After Neil Gaiman started squealing plagiarism, "Warner Brothers have optioned Sandman for a movie..." according to Neil Gaiman's website. When it looked like ABC was about to dump "Sabrina the Teenage Witch" Warner went and paid the most it ever did for a comedy. How often does a show a network is dumping switches networks, let alone pay a record amount for it? Was Gaiman and the Harts who own the Sabrina show paid off?
Friday, April 18, 2008
Posted by Neil Gaiman at 8:39 AM
And I want to say thank you to Gordon Lee for bearing up so well and hanging in there. It's hard for the people who think that the authorities are out to get them. It must be much harder when the authorities really are out to get you.
As I said when I made the announcement, the CBLDF has spent over $100,000 to make sure that this attempted miscarriage of justice didn't happen, all of that money raised a dollar at a time from fans and readers and professionals. So two nights ago we had an event for publishers, the kind who publish books (and who are now publishing graphic novels), in order to spread the idea that a) they needed to know what the CBLDF is -- they may need us, and b) we'd like them to take out corporate memberships.
There's a few photos of the event at the bottom of this blog entry...
The CBLDF reading tonight was fun, and Bill Hader is hilarious. (His impression of me listening to Al Pacino pitching his interpretation of the Sandman movie would have been worth the price of admission, if I'd paid to get in, which I hadn't.)
Last Summer I was interviewed (or rather, Winterviewed) all over my house by Miss Winter McCloud -- it's just gone up at http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=article&id=16044
Last week, Sharon and Bill Stiteler came out and we took advantage of a warm Sunday to go and say hello to the bees, and do the spring inspection (and spring cleaning)of the hive. (We'll be putting in some new hives over the next few weeks.) Sharon blogged about the bee inspection over at
I was fascinated by this, in the way you can only be when you once wrote a book about something (actually I'd finished writing the book when most of this was happening. A small glimpse into what might have been on the sequel to the infocom Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Computer Game... -- http://waxy.org/2008/04/milliways_infocoms_unreleased_sequel_to_hitchhikers_guide_to_the_galax/
Thursday, April 17, 2008
Posted by Neil Gaiman at 11:40 AM
I just borrowed an office while waiting for a meeting on the Neverwhere movie, which has come back to life-- they want me to do a polish on the script I did in 1999 -- to check email, so I can't post another photo yet I'll try and do it later.
This just came in from Charles Brownstein at the CBLDF, about the event(s) tomorrow:
There are still a few tickets left for the general admission seating [That's the $20 one, Neil], which can be preordered at NYCC's site, or if supplies last, purchased from the CBLDF on Friday at the show.
There are also some spots left in the VIP Experience [that's the $500 one. Still Neil], which will include an incredible gift bag. Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab has created a beautiful pouch that includes Orange, a new fragrance made for the occasion of the reading, as well as a scent locket, and imps of three Gaiman perfumes. Neverwear is contributing shirts and a discount card, and a variety of goodies. And you'll also be signing for and also giving an original drawing to each VIP ticket holder. VIP tix are still available, but must be procured online.
Details for on-line tickets are here.
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
Posted by Neil Gaiman at 11:56 AM
Let's see. So Maddy read my blog post of yesterday and said, "No, Dad, what you told me to tell them was that I was swordfighting with Spiderman."
Spiderman? That left me puzzled.
I mean, D'Artagnan I could have understood. But Spiderman doesn't have a sword. So I puzzled over what I could have told a five year old that she would have heard or remembered eight years later as Spiderman, given the kind of thing I was likely to say. Such as, "Tell them it's a duelling scar. And you got it fighting a duel in..."
Heidelberg. Oh. Right. How cool.
I don't think I was very clear yesterday, so, yes, I did actually know about the quest to make coloured bubbles before I wrote Orange.
Over on Kitty's blog, she has photos up of people in their Neverwear tee-shirts. Which I mention here for the curious, who want to see what the site's Webgoblin looks like. He's the first tee shirt. (The now-retired-but-occasionally-nipping-out-of-retirement-to-fix-things WebElf looks like this.)
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
Posted by Neil Gaiman at 3:36 PM
Go on, show us a picture. You know you want to ;-)
Here's a cameraphone pic I took for curious friends. It was taken yesterday, just after the doctor left, still a bit stunned. (In the strange way of these things, my doctor was just driving past, and called to see if I was around and could offer encouragement on his novel, just after the incident occurred. So I had a doctor there in minutes.)
Today I look much less stunned, the nose is even bigger, and there's emu oil and germoline on the cut to stop it scabbing and help with scarring. Opinions around here are divided on whether or not I'll have panda-eyes for New York. Opinions are also divided on whether I should try and cover the bruising up with make-up for the interviews on Friday, or whether I should use latex and a small bottle of Kensington Gore to make it look more interesting (my heart goes with the latter, my head for the former).
I drove Maddy to school this morning. She has an extremely cool crescent-shaped scar next to her eye, from when, as a small child, she ran into the corner of a table. She said,
"Will you get a scar?"
"I like my scar. You know, I get people I've known since kindergarten asking me about it, these days, as if they've just noticed it."
"Really? What do you tell them."
"What you told me to tell people who asked."
I racked my brains. Nothing. "What was that?"
"I tell them I got it in a swordfight."
What is it like to live in a world where one can call up some famous movie producer (or was it a director) and chat? Is it nice? Or is it a little bit lonely sometimes? Or am I just being presumptuous?
Thanks for your time.
Not presumptuous, but it's just sort of irrelevant, at least the famousness bit. Friends are friends and people you work with are people you work with. If you're working with them it takes about 20 seconds to get over the feeling of, "Oh my god I'm in a room talking to X!" and to get on with whatever it is you're meant to be doing (if it's work). If they're your friends you only become aware of the famousness thing when someone else says "Excuse me, was that X?" or asks for an autograph or something.
I wouldn't phone up a famous film director or producer to chat. But I might phone a friend, who produced or directed, and was famous, to chat. Big difference.
I'm lucky in that I'm not a celebrity, and I'm not really famous. I'm well known for what I do among the sort of people who like what I do, and I wouldn't want to be more famous. And famous is, for pretty much all of the people I know who are, a side-effect or by-product of doing what they do, which is pretty much always what they love doing, and it's not a particularly desirable by-product at that.
(Not necessarily a bad one either -- you can do good things with it. Gillian Anderson's used hers to help push National Doodle Day -- a neurofibromatosis fund-raiser that raises money from celebrity doodles. http://doodledayusa.org/gallery2/main.php?g2_itemId=134 has doodles by lots of interesting people that will go up on eBay in a month. Although the ones I like best are from the less famous and the more draw-y, like Sergio Aragones, Gahan Wilson, and Kendra Stout (who did the "scary trousers" t- shirt, and just did a mouse pad for Cat Mihos's Neverwear.net) and Fred Hembeck. Also there are two by me.)
Lonely, when it happens and wherever in the world it happens, is lonely, and that has nothing to do with famousness (except as a sort of an occasional by-product of, Because I do what I do I'm sitting in a hotel-room in a country where I don't know anyone a long way from my family and friends. And authors don't have it bad compared to, say, stand-up comedians or truck drivers). But then, I'm also the kind of person who daydreams about booking a passenger cabin on a merchant ship and going off around the world for six months writing a book.
I have just discovered that brightly colored bubbles are available, and go by the name Zubbles (http://www.zubbles.com/index.asp). Considering the story you read in Helena last year, I thought you might want to know, although since the website has a 2005 copyright date, maybe you already do.
Speaking of the story, I'm really looking forward to "Orange," and the rest of The Starry Rift. It comes out right before my birthday, and it seems fitting that I could get it a year after I got to hear you read "Orange," which was a one-day-late birthday present from my parents (who bought the tickets) and my best friend. (She drove us from Missoula to Helena, even though she'd only seen Mirrormask and knew nothing else about you! She loves Stardust now, and she liked Good Omens, too.)
It's mortifying to discover you're the kind of SF writer who can imagine something futuristic after it's been invented, isn't it? Soon I shall imagine the "air-plane" -- a fixed-wing heavier than air flying machine!
This just came in from Jonathan Strahan, editor of The Starry Rift:
I've set up a website at www.thestarryrift.com which contains
information about the book, downloads of the cover art, short interviews
with some of you (they'll appear one a day over the coming week or so), and
as much relevant stuff as I can muster.
I've also arranged a chance for readers to win some copies of the book.
Thanks to Viking, I'm giving away a copy of The Starry Rift to the first
five readers who email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell me the name of
the last science fiction novel they loved and why. The details are at
Dear Mr. Gaiman,
I was wondering if the techno-masters behind your website might be able to turn the countdown for the upcoming American release of The Graveyard Book, which appears on your homepage, into one of those iGoogle "gadget" thingies. That way I can put it on my 'iGoogle' homepage next the "gadget" I have for Frank Miller's "The Spirit" movie.
Most Sincerely, Daniel Crandall
I forwarded it to Dan Guy, the webgoblin, and he sent back, within a couple of minutes:
Here's an off-the-shelf countdown clock for THE GRAVEYARD BOOK. I may try to create a most customized one as well.