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Saturday, May 31, 2008

hurrying out

http://www.publishersweekly.com/article/CA6565500.html#chat

is what breakfast was like yesterday. Judy Blume, Sherman Alexie, Eoin Colfer, Jon Scieszka and me, up on a big stage having much too much fun in front of 1200 people.

(Breakfast today: Neal Stephenson and I talking about fountain pens to each other, not in front of an audience.)

When things get less hectic I'll tell you about the rest of yesterday and post many amusing wossnames to close some Tabs. But for right now. That's all. Running off to Entertainment Weekly photo thingummy in a minute....

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Thursday, May 29, 2008

Perilous roads

The link in here is I think one of the best things I've seen in ages...

Hi Neil,

I just read the following article and had Anansi flashbacks:

http://www.tribune.com.ng/22052008/news/news2.html


"What could be described as a fairy tale turned real on Wednesday in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, as a cat allegedly turned into a middle-aged woman after being hit by a commercial motorcycle (Okada) on Aba/Port Harcourt Expressway."

It must be very interesting (or, in turn, quite dangerous) to live in a place where myth is still a living thing.


Joey


Dangerous, yes.

Nigerian Tribune learnt that three cats were crossing the busy road when the okada ran over one of them which immediately turned into a woman. This strange occurrence quickly attracted people around who descended on the animals. One of them, it was learnt, was able to escape while the third one was beaten to death, still as a cat though.
The woman looks hurt and dazed in the photo...

When the Nigerian Tribune got to the scene of the incident near Garrison Junction, the cat-woman was seen sitting on the ground with blood all over her body. The right side of her face had a deep cut from what was gathered to be from a cutlass.
She was later taken to a hospital for medical attention. It took the intervention of policemen to prevent the mob from killing her.

And I suspect it's better taken as a warning against crowd stupidity than as a warning against the perils of lycanthropy.

...

I see from the internets that Rich Johnston's carefully worded "Well, Neil and Steven Moffat had dinner, and Neil hasn't said no, but there's many slip between cup and lip..." thingummy on his rumour site became "It's an open secret that..." when it was reported on Aint It Cool News and that's now transmuted into "OMG NEIL IS WRITING DOCTOR WHO BEST NEWS EVER" on the next round of news sites, and most of my mail today (except for the one from the young man who wants to know how to get out of doing military service, which just left me flashing on the last part of Blackadder Goes Forth) is asking why I haven't told everyone all about it...

Look, if it ever gets to the point where I know that I'm actually, definitely, for certain, writing an episode of Doctor Who, I'll post it here. In big red letters. Or green. You'll know when it happens, trust me. I may even get Maddy to write the entry for me, and include photographs of cats doing amusing things in it. It'll be a proper blog post. Promise.

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Monday, May 26, 2008

So you want to be an editor...?

Sometimes the smartest thing to do is to know who to ask.

For example,

Hi Neil.

How does one become a book editor? (I figure I'll ask you because
although you're not one, I'd be willing to bet you know quite a few.)
Having done some soul searching (brought on by a recent new job in
corporate America), I find that of all things in the world, my
favorite is reading, and if I can do that for a living instead of data
entry, that would be excellent.

How does a person get into the world of editing, if they don't really
know anyone in it to start with? I don't have a ton of editing
experience except for the semester I spent as an adjunct professor,
which isn't really the same thing at all, but it's the closest I've
got.

Any suggestions on what to do/who to contact/anything else you might
believe to be useful?

Thanks,

Leila

I really didn't know. I've edited a few anthologies but I have never been an editor, so I asked editor and Boing Boing moderator Teresa Nielsen Hayden, who has answered editorial questions here in the past. And she was busy (probably moderating something) so she passed it on to her husband Patrick, who is Senior Editor and Manager of Science Fiction at TOR books (according to Wikipedia). And he said,

There are no credentialing bodies for book editors. Some houses require university degrees for editorial positions; some don't. (I'm a high-school dropout.) Interning with established publishers can get you noticed if you're brilliant. So can some kinds of editorial freelancing--first reading and copywriting, or even copyediting and proofreading, if the house is the kind where production and editorial talk to one another. There are a few college-level programs that specifically train for book-publishing jobs, although I've never noticed that their graduates are more successful in the business than anyone else. Fundamentally, a book editor at a publishing company is nothing more than a person the publisher trusts enough to rely on, and publishers, as a class, are notorious for making decisions for all kinds of reasons, some scrutable and some in-.

One thing most editors in New York publishing have in common, though, is that they live in or near New York, and the same tends to be true of people who get hired as beginning editors. Another thing they tend to have in common is that they were already hanging around with publishing people: authors, agents, other editors. Publishers aren't looking to hold a national competition for the most promising "born editors," they're looking for people who can do what they need right now: acquire good books and shepherd them to publication. Successful editors tend to be people who get this.

That said, although to be an editor you'd better enjoy reading, you'll find as an editor that there's never enough time to do all the reading you need to do. You'd better also enjoy writing copy, public advocacy, coordinating between multiple departments, and never quite knowing what the day's challenges are going to be. It's a lot more like running a small business than it is like reading all day.

For which my thanks. More Nielsen Hayden wisdom can be found at http://www.nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/ and, soon at http://tor.com/.

[edit to add: Sharyn November sent me http://www.sharyn.org/editor.html -- a page of excellent advice from an award-winning editor.]

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Friday, May 23, 2008

I survived!

Thank you so much to Henry Jenkins and his team, to the 1300 people who got tickets (and apologies to those of you who didn't get in) and to everyone who thought me burbling on about the nature of genre was interesting (or at least, didn't rustle sweetpapers or cough loudly to signal your lack of interest).

It was fun.

I understand that the Julie Schwartz lectures will be available on DVD, so if you weren't able to make it, sooner or later you will still be able to hear me explain how the relationship between hardcore pornography and the stage musical illuminates the relationship between genre fictions, and other suchlike thingummies.

I think Julie would have been pleased... I hope he would have liked it. Now we have to decide who gets to give next year's speech.

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A quick one...

Very quick one -- I should be working on the speech but

Jennifer Tanner sent me this:

"book covers with pictures of ladies (often holding candelabras) running away from ominous houses with one light on in an attic room?"

check! look here

http://www.morticiasmorgue.com/gothic.html


While not an enormous collection, it does sound like the webmistress has far more than are showcased and might be able to help you find a specific image.


Exactly what I needed! You really can find anything on the internet. (Disappointed that none of the running ladies outside houses are holding candles. All the candles are being held by ladies standing, or inside.)

And the response from UK readers is 75-25 in favour of "a sunday roast" being a chicken, with many people adding that they'd be surprised if it was anything else these days, and the minority stating that, no, a roast is definitely part of something that once wandered around on four legs, as it is in the US.

Thanks. Back to work...

Edit to add -- nearly forgot. Cat Mihos is at http://www.balticon.org/ and will have lots of stuff from http://neverwear.net/store/ there. Including the mousepad below...

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Thursday, May 22, 2008

"Hunting for rabbits again, Vicar?"


A few months ago my friend Harry Bliss (it's possibly more accurate to say my acquaintance Harry Bliss, as we mostly wave at each other in email and have so far failed to have dinner or save each other from drowning but I like him very much on the basis of not knowing each other very well) sent me a drawing that he'd done that needed a caption. It was a Jack Kirby Monster on the side of a building, with a cheerful Harry Bliss man on the phone inside.

I pondered it, and a month later sent him a suggestion, and he said it was funny but that the New Yorker had already bought the drawing for their caption contest.

I see from Mark Evanier's blog that the New York Post have run a piece accusing Harry of Plagiarism:

Thomas Lammers, a professor at the University of Wisconsin in Oshkosh, said he thought the cartoon looked familiar. He then dug out the original from his collection, which had the same monster as the New Yorker cartoon and the same background.

He said he e-mailed the magazine about the similarities two weeks ago, but never heard back. He said the editors "probably had no idea what the source" of the image was when they saw the cartoon, but the lack of any credit to Kirby in the piece stuck in his craw.

"This is a guy who was a very popular comic-book artist. He co-created the Fantastic Four and a lot of other things people made a lot of money off of, and never got proper credit then, and isn't getting proper credit now," he said.


And while I'm happy that it now says Drawing by Harry Bliss, after Jack Kirby at http://www.cartoonbank.com/CapContest/CaptionContest.aspx?id=145 it's hard not to feel that Prof. Lammers has sort of missed why it's funny -- it's because it's a Jack Kirby monster and a Harry Bliss man. That's the point. Like the New Yorker spokesman says,

"Harry did it with all good intentions. He thought it was an overt reference, and not an attempt to plagiarize. He thought it was a tribute," Cassanos said. "To people in the comic world, it's a recognizable image."

Which is the magic of Jack Kirby.

Ah well. Speaking of cartoons:

As you probably know, long ago and far away, Phil Foglio did two pages of art for a Good Omens comic he wanted to pitch to you.

That never quite went anywhere, but they still have the art. But not for long: Kaja just announced that they'll be auctioning the art off, with proceeds to go to the Alzheimer's Research Trust.


From memory, it mostly never went anywhere because nobody ever pitched it to us -- Phil showed the pages to me and I thought they were funny, and that was sort of as far as it ever went. Pity.

But glad they'll be going to a good cause.

...

A couple of questions:

1) Would anyone in the UK who hears "She's cooking a roast" be surprised if the thing that was roasted was a chicken?

and

2) is there an internet resource that collects book covers with pictures of ladies (often holding candelabras) running away from ominous houses with one light on in an attic room? Things like http://en.dcdatabaseproject.com/Dark_Mansion_of_Forbidden_Love/Covers

It just seems like there should be, and I can't find one.

...

Here's me being interviewed for the Book Expo America podcast (I'm half-asleep in Australia, the interviewer is not). We're talking about The Graveyard Book (which isn't out in the shops yet, but we're raising awareness of it among the people who will be at Book Expo America -- booksellers and librarians and the like.
http://www.mediumatlarge.net/2008/05/neil-gaiman-interview-get-your-bookexpo.html

(The breakfast I talked about stars Sherman Alexie, Judy Blume and me and will be MCed by Eoin Colfer. Introductory remarks by Jon Scieszka. It's cheap compared to the author lunches or teas but is only open to people who have registered for the Book Expo.)

...

Here's me at seven in the morning on Triple J breakfast radio in Sydney: http://mpegmedia.abc.net.au/triplej/breakfast/neilgaiman_pod.mp3

...


Here's me with a bruise on my face and a swollen nose (but the black eye is facing away from us) being interviewed at the New York Comic Con last month...

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Without fireworks

Advanced Reading Copies of The Graveyard Book have started going out. This is the first review I've spotted.

"The Witch's Headstone", Chapter Four of The Graveyard Book, is nominated for a Locus Award. http://www.locusmag.com/2008/LocusAwardsFinalists.html for the full list -- It would be an excellent reading list, incidentally: I don't think there's a book or story on the list that isn't readable, cool, or doesn't deserve to win its category.

They'll be awarded next month, on Saturday, June 21, 2008 in Seattle WA, during the Science Fiction Hall of Fame Awards Weekend. I was toastmaster for this a few years ago, and it's a wonderful event. https://secure.locusmag.com/About/2008LocusAwardsAd.html (Note that The SF Hall of Fame ceremony, inducting William Gibson, Ian & Betty Ballantine, Rod Serling, and Richard Powers at the SF Museum Saturday evening, will be ticketed separately. Also that some members of the Hall of Fame are no longer with us.)

Rebecca Fitzgibbon interviewed me when I was in Hobart a few weeks ago, and sent me a link to the article at http://www.news.com.au/mercury/story/0,22884,23670222-5006544,00.html

Right. Back to signing Todd Klein's prints (in a purple ink called "Tanzanite") -- you can see what they look like, and learn about Todd's process -- at http://kleinletters.com/Blog/?p=1184.

Back to signing. I'll try and make the next blog post more exciting. Sorry.

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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

They went to the stars

There are lots of articles about Rory Root from all across comics... Here's Tom Spurgeon, and Brian Hibbs and this is a lovely tribute and an excellent round-up.

He was such a good guy. The world of comics is better for him having been here.

...

So there's news articles that say that Steven Moffat is taking over Doctor Who, and other articles saying that Russell T Davies is leaving and then there's lots of emails arriving today saying things like,

'Lo Neil,
As a great fan of Doctor Who, I've been dancing around the room after hearing that Steven Moffat is taking over as Chief Writer and Executive Producer of the series in 2009. Russell T Davies has done a brilliant job bringing the series back to life, but now that he's decided to leave I can't think of anyone better to take over than Mr. Moffat.

Anyway- my real question is whether or not we'll finally see a Neil Gaiman DW episode? We're all quietly hoping the idea came up during your dinner back in March in Bar Shu... I know you're a very busy person, but it would be the perfect combination for so many fans!
Rachel


I think it's great news -- what Russell Davies did over the last few years was remarkable: as a writer and as a show-runner he brought Doctor Who back, sure-footed and smart and with a heart. (And even the few mis-steps were easily forgiveable. Maddy and I agreed that there were bits of plot in "The Doctor's Daughter" that necessitated not just suspension of one's disbelief but the surgical extraction of said disbelief before dangling it over a vat of bubbling acid in the hopes that it would shut up. We loved "The Unicorn and the Wasp" though).

I'm really excited about Steven Moffat taking over -- always assuming that it's not just a publicity stunt on his part to try and get "Blink" a Hugo, as a countermeasure to Mr Cornell's car-crash-to-get-the-sympathy-vote.

And it was a terrific dinner: they do fantastic dry-fried green beans at Bar Shu (it doesn't sound like it would be fantastic from the menu, but it is).


Hi Neil!

I wanted to let you know about an experiment of mine and I think your fans might be interested in! You may have heard about 1000 Journals (www.1000journals.com), the traveling journal project where people around the world passed around journals and notebooks and drew/wrote about their thoughts about anything! Well they've continued the project at www.1001journals.com! I have started three notebooks that will (hopefully) eventually be filled by your fans around the world with drawings, poems, random thoughts, etc about your work. I was wondering if you could put a word out to people and let them know about this experiment so we can start sending them around to fans everywhere! They can create an account at www.1001journals.com and sign up for Journals #2932, 2933, 2934. It's currently capped at 10 people per journal but I can increase the signup capacity once the cap is reached! I think this would be super fun!

Thanks

Katherine


It's posted. Good luck.

Neil,

I was reading your blog about the Tasmanian tiger a bit ago and found it very interesting. Today, while perusing the BBC news site (I like seeing many sides of an issue) I found this: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/7408840.stm

I thought you would find it interesting.

Thanks,

Lily

I'm fascinated by this one. I really want to see a Thylacine in the flesh...

...

Renee French is posting a drawing a day at http://reneefrench.blogspot.com/


...



Why have I never posted this here? The peculiar genius of John Hodgman tells the truth about Hobos...

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Monday, May 19, 2008

Rory Root

Mark Evanier's blog is the only one I check more than once a day. It's almost always guaranteed to lift my spirits, and even Mark's obituaries tend to be for people who had good lives or made good things, and were not gone before their time. And then today I clicked on it and saw that Rory Root had died...

I've known him for nearly 20 years. And he was fifty -- only three years older than me.

Last time I saw Rory I told him I'd stolen his omnipresent bucket-size cup of coffee for Mrs Higgler in Anansi Boys. He was introducing me at a speaking event, something that made him uncharacteristically terrified. And I told him about the time I'd popped into Comic Relief when he wasn't there, because I was walking past and I thought I'd wave, and had come out having bought $300 worth of books...

He was one of the best comics retailers. Someone with a philosophy on selling comics and graphic novels, on respecting customers, on pushing The Good Stuff, that set him apart back in 1989, when we first met, and that put him far ahead of his time. And he was a nice guy to boot. I liked him enormously, and will miss him just as much.

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What's Your Story?



I asked Jon Howells, Waterstones National Press Officer, about the story card on which I wrote an original short story -- what would happen to it and when. There's some information at the Waterstones website , but he filled me in on the rest of it:


What's going to happen to your card? The original, along with those by all the other authors involved, will be auctioned on June 10th at Waterstone's Piccadilly, the largest bookshop in Europe. This is an invitation only event (your invite will be with your shortly - it would be lovely to see you there but, given where you live, we'll understand if you can't make it), and the auction will be run by a Sotheby's auctioneer. Margaret Atwood will be joining the proceedings live from Paris, and will write her story using her LongPen machine. All the money from the auction will go to English PEN and Dyslexia Action.

The following day, all the storycards will be available to read at Waterstones.com. Outsize facsimiles of the cards will also be on display in the windows of all our stores for people to read, and they will remain there for a month.

There's also a chance for our customers and the general public to get involved with writing a story for the What's Your Story? campaign. They can pick up a storycard in our stores to fill in and return, and online we've developed a nifty tool that allows people to write (and customise) their own stories - full details can be found at
http://www.waterstones.com/waterstonesweb/navigate.do?pPageID=200000637. This has only been live since late last Thursday and already over 700 stories have been posted.

Three (2 adult and one child) of the best of the public's stories (and the best from a similar competition for our booksellers) will be published alongside all 13 of the author stories in a one-off print run Postcard Book, which will be available from the beginning of August at our stores and Waterstones.com - price is TBC. The winners of the public competition will also win a place on an Arvon Foundation writing course (if they are over 18), or £500 of Waterstone's vouchers (if under 18). All profits from the sale of the postcard book will go to
English PEN and Dyslexia Action.

So now we all know. Sounds a wonderful project. (I assume the writing a story competition bit is only open to UK residents, but I may be wrong as it's not listed as such in the terms and conditions.) I don't know if I'll be able to get to the auction in person. But it sounds wonderful. And I need to find out how people can put in remote auction bids and suchlike for the cards (or, if they plan to bid in person, how they can get invitations to the event).

...

I took this yesterday from the kitchen window. As a small child, I was convinced that all animals walked around on their hind legs when we couldn't see them, and spoke fluent English; sometimes they wore clothes and probably drove really tiny, brightly-coloured cars down hidden streets between the bushes. This raccoon did nothing to disabuse me of the idea:




...


Michael Dirda wrote a lovely article about Charles Fort, and Jim Steinmeyer's biography of the man. When I read,

Steinmeyer views Fort as a representative 1920s figure, but to me he seems in a slightly earlier mode: The antiquary with a hobby horse. Fort and his 40,000 slips of paper recall Marx researching economics in the British Library, H.W. Fowler compiling his picky Modern English Usage, the editors of the Variorum Shakespeare and the Oxford English Dictionary noting arcane interpretations and elaborate etymologies, J.G. Frazer tracing hanged gods and ancient ritual in The Golden Bough.
I remembered a long-abandoned idea for a short story I meant to write, probably called "Charlies", in which Karl Marx and Charles Fort, both working obsessively in the British Museum Reading Room Library sixty years apart, wound up with each others notes and books, so Marx published The Book of the Damned in 1867, prompting international revolution followed by a Russia organised on Fortean lines, with falls of fish and such everywhere, while Charles Fort published Das Kapital in the 1920s, and is still remembered today as a beloved crank, The Fortean Times a small press publication dedicated to economic theories about the eventual downfall of capitalism. (I gave up on it mostly because, whenever I'd tell communists about it, they'd look disapprovingly at me, which I figured took out half the potential audience for the story then and there.)

(On the other hand, the companion piece, "Kens" about Kenneth Williams and Kenneth Halliwell, may still get written one day. You never know.)

...

Here's a review of The Dangerous Alphabet.

And finally, The Graveyard Book has its own dedicated website at http://www.thegraveyardbook.com/, courtesy of Subterranean Press. It has an interview with me on the front page, but it also has many exciting things up, such as Dave McKean illustrations -- http://www.thegraveyardbook.com/illustrations/...

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Sunday, May 18, 2008

Literally last minute doodle reminder

Just a reminder.... the National Doodle Day auction has an hour to go. Quick! Bid for a good cause!

(Last year, Barack Obama's doodle went for $2075... I hope we can get some of the high scoring doodles up to those kind of figures. Please don't make me run for president. Of anything.)

The National Doodle Day auction has begun. Proceeds will benefit Neurofibromatosis, Inc. (nfinc.org).

To immediately access the eBay auction --
http://search.ebay.com/_W0QQsassZnfinccharity

Direct Links to Neil Gaiman's doodles plus his fave doodles on the auction block:

Ebay link to doodle #1

Ebay link to number 2

Kendra Stout: Ebay link here

Cat Mihos: Ebay link here

Fred Hembeck: Ebay link here

Sergio Aragones: Ebay link here

Gahan Wilson: ebay link here

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Saturday, May 17, 2008

not really about anything...

Let's see -- spoke at Maddy's school yesterday, to about a hundred 13 and 14 year olds. Survived. The pear tree and the cherry trees are coming into blossom too. Tomorrow, without the glorious leadership of Bee Boss Sharon Stiteler, I get to inspect the Kitty hive and go and see how the queen is doing...

I'm currently spending most of the time in the gazebo at the bottom of the garden, alternately writing a sort of outline for something and proofreading The Graveyard Book. This is the US edition of The Graveyard Book, and now I'm taking all the corrections and fixes I did to the UK manuscript when I was in Australia and transferring 90% of them over to the US version (only 90% because I'm letting a few Americanisms that my UK editor had problems with stand -- particularly the ones my otherwise wonderful UK copy editor and I butted heads over. )(There's me at two in the morning on Skype muttering, "Look freak out can't just be a newfangled Americanism -- it's in Fanny Hill, for heaven's sake...") [For the curious, http://fiction.eserver.org/novels/fanny_hill/09.html five lines from the bottom.]

....

If you're on the upper East Coast and sad that you won't get to see me at MIT as all the tickets have sold out, you could -- and should -- down your sorrows in Cory Doctorow reading from Big Brother. If you click on http://www.cbldf.org/pr/archives/000357.shtml you can learn all about it....

What: Cory Doctorow Benefit Reading For CBLDF

When: Sunday, May 25 at 5 PM; VIP After Party at 7 PM

Where: Comix, 353 West 14th Street, New York, NY 10014

How Much:
General Admission: $20/advance $25/day of show;
VIP Admission: $100/advance only, includes preferred seating, copy of the book, & After Party with open beer/wine/soda bar

Tickets:
General Admission tickets available at
http://comixny.com/event.aspx?eid=416&sid=1302;

VIP Admission available at
http://store.fastcommerce.com/prod_cbldf-ff80818119f1676e0119f2fbcdc91642.html



You should go.

...

I know that David Tennant's Hamlet isn't till July. And lots of people are going to be doing Dr Who in Hamlet jokes, so this is just me getting it out of the way early, to avoid the rush...


"To be, or not to be, that is the question. Weeelll.... More of A question really. Not THE question. Because, well, I mean, there are billions and billions of questions out there, and well, when I say billions, I mean, when you add in the answers, not just the questions, weeelll, you're looking at numbers that are positively astronomical and... for that matter the other question is what you lot are doing on this planet in the first place, and er, did anyone try just pushing this little red button?"


There. Thanks. Sorry about that.

...

This came in from Laurel Krahn -- I've already mentioned Fourth Street Fantasy on this blog, one of my very very first American conventions, the one at which I first discovered the joy of talking to Patrick and Teresa Nielsen Hayden (amongst others) and failing to argue with Steve Brust:

Any chance you could mention the return of Fourth Street Fantasy Convention in your journal/blog thing? We've extended the pre-registration date from May 15th to May 31st to give us all more time to plug the convention, it also gives those who haven’t registered yet a bit more time to gather the funds together to do so.

June 20 - 22, 2008 in Minneapolis, Minnesota with Guest of Honor Elizabeth Bear.

More details at http://www.4thstreetfantasy.com/


My friend Lillian Edwards pointed me at the TechnoLlama blog, where over This, this and finally this post the entire matter of Dr Who knitting patterns is discussed to within an inch of its life.

I crochet, and I'm a Doctor Who fan, so I've been following the thing with the knitted pattern a little. I've always had a set of Lil' Endless on my mental list of things to eventually crochet, but now that you've mentioned that DC is a bit strict about things I think I might just keep them to myself instead of writing up a (free, not to be sold) pattern. What would your feelings be about crochet/knitting patterns of your characters? It's not just The Endless I have in mind, I've done a seven legged spider before, and there are several other characters or concepts that I think would make neat projects.

As long as things aren't being sold in quantity, DC Comics is incredibly unlikely to grumble about it.

I don't mind at all, as long as it's not commercial. I don't mind anything that's creative, and I especially don't mind if people ask nicely first.

(I mind, very much, things like people selling on ebay CDs with PDFs of the complete Sandman books on them.)

(Nobody is going to complain if a fan turns a Barbie into a Death -- although I heard that DC said no to one of those appearing in a book of photos of interesting Barbie dolls. Nobody is going to grumble if a fan puts up a "how to make Barbie into Death" guide online. If someone put up a how to guide, and then one day hundreds of Death Barbies turned up on eBay, I can see Warners lawyers trying to close it down...)

...

Had a conversation with Paul Levitz the other day about Gaiman's Law of Superhero Movies, which is: the closer the film is to the look and feel of what people like about the comic, the more successful it is (which is something that Warners tends singularly to miss, and Marvel tends singularly to get right) and the conversation went over to Watchmen, which had Paul explaining to me that the film is obsessive about how close it is to the comic, and me going "But they've changed the costumes. What about Nite Owl?" It'll be interesting to see whether it works or not...

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Friday, May 16, 2008

Drunken air part two

This is a film that Sharon Stiteler took yesterday of our bees buzzing around in my plum trees. I actually started wanting the bees because of the plums, because there were never any bees when they were in bloom...


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Thursday, May 15, 2008

Drunken air

Under the plum trees, covered in blossom before they get leaves (so they look drifts of snow) the air is so thick with the scent of plum blossom that it's like walking through wine.

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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Brief Trademark Ponders

A few interesting links related to Trademarks (not to be confused with copyright, but people do, and so do I). For example, the Open Rights Group (of which, last time I looked, I was Patron, but I don't have to do anything except be on the letterhead and possibly make the cucumber sandwiches) posted http://www.openrightsgroup.org/2008/05/08/bbc-removes-doctor-who-fans-knitting-patterns-from-the-web/ -- the story of a fan who was told by the BBC to take down the Dr Who knitting patterns from her website. Interestingly, the Head of Communications at the BBC left a message on the ORG blog, and amplified it on the BBC news site, pointing out that their problem was not with the creator but with the people who were taking her designs, making the toys, and selling them on eBay.

One commenter said, My own opinion is that the BBC would be correct to target Ebay sellers and anyone attempting to make a profit from their intellectual property, as is their right. Unfortunately rather than do this actively, they have chosen the easy option of attacking a person whose only ‘crime’ is she has the imagination and flare to design knitted patterns and make them available not for profit, based on Dr Who characters...

Which was the last thing I read before reading this Boing-Boing article, this Beat coverage, and this follow-up blog posting from the person who was running the ebay auction: Warner Brothers lawyers closed down a children's cancer charity eBay auction because it was selling original Superman drawings...

And mostly, I'm just glad that I'm not a corporate trademark lawyer.

(Also, I think -- and have thought for about 17 years, ever since the Comic Relief Comic problems -- that Warner Corporate needs to change its policies with regards to DC Comics and charities and allow DC Comics as much latitude as, say, Marvel. But it hasn't happened yet.)

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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

what you can't help doing

Sorry about the font-mess of yesterday's post. I did it using Safari on a PC, and the result was hellish. Obviously these are not two things that work well together when playing with Blogger. And each attempt to clean it up on my part made it worse. (Thanks to the Web Goblin for fixing it.)

I did a second draft of the Waterstones "What's Your Story?" story (only a few words I wanted to change, but it meant handwriting the whole thing out again), and FedExed it off today.

My thanks to the Eagle Award voters -- I was thrilled that Absolute Sandman volume 2 won an Eagle Award for Best Reprint. (Last year it was Absolute Sandman volume 1. Next year the vote will probably be split between Absolute Sandman volumes 3 and 4, and something else entirely will win.)

(I was looking to see if there were covers for Absolute Sandmans 3 and 4 up yet at Amazon, and noticed that volumes 1, 2, 3 and 4 are all on sale for $62.37 [and that they are going to weigh a grand total of 29 lb altogether] and the last two have 5% preorders discounts up as well. Which I mention mostly for those people who write to me and grumble about the Absolutes being $100 books.)





Not sure if the cover for Absolute 4 is a mock-up or the real thing. I suspect it's not the final, mostly because I'm pretty sure that face is from Sandman #1, and for Absolute 4 we'll be taking a cover portrait from somewhere in the last 20 issues.


...

Regarding the Julie Schwartz Memorial Talk at MIT on the 23rd of May: To reiterate from the other day -- over at http://cms.mit.edu/juliusschwartz/tickets.html we learn that Tickets to the event are $8.00 and will be available at the door, pending availability. There won't be any available on the door, because they have almost all sold out. The website has a list of places selling the tickets -- yesterday there were about 60 tickets still out there. So this is a sort of a last call -- you can try phoning the places at the website to see if they still have tickets...


...

An ebay auction with a story... I've been rereading some old Batman comics recently, although I don't think I'd want these. But the story that comes with them is wonderful...

I'm worried and upset about the earthquake in China. From Nancy Kress's blog I learned that at least some of the friends we made in Chengdu last summer are okay -- and so are the pandas.

...

Rice pudding re-prompt! Once you get home to proper milk, of course. "Your general guidelines for a batch of rice pudding please, Mr. Gaiman!"Thank you!! ^_^b

I'm working on it, honest. Decided to figure out the proportions I'd used by a) finding a very similar recipe on the web and starting from there and then b) fiddling with it.

Two night's ago's rice pudding (the web recipe) was much too salty and wrong. I fiddled with the proportions and last night's was a lot better but now too sweet. Tonight's rice pudding would have been perfect I have no doubt but I forgot to buy more milk, so I didn't actually make one.

Dear Neil,

The press down here in Brazil have enthusiastically announced you'll be here for the Paraty International Book Fair, first week in July. But since you're also scheduled to lecture at Clarion, I'd like to ask if this is true. Or maybe you have a doppelganger. Or maybe the organizers here had a dream. Or maybe you're taking a weekend of from Clarion down here in Rio (if so, it'll be winter here, and rainy, not the best time to come...) Best regards,Eric

That sounds right, yes. (I teach Clarion the 3rd week in July.)

Hello hello hello,

To quote one of your other fans, “I have a question for you about writing”. I find that my own writing will echo the style of which ever author I am currently reading. Any idea how I might get around constantly mimicking others?

You write more.

I don't think there's anything wrong with copying other people's styles -- it's a skill you'll need, after all. Many actors begin as mimics. You don't worry about it, and keep writing, and after a while you'll have written enough that you can't help sounding like yourself, whether you want to or not.

Style is what you get wrong, that makes what you do sound like you. Style is what you can't help doing. Style is what you're left with.

(I just googled "style is what you can't help doing" because it sounded half-familiar, and I wondered who said it originally, and discovered that it may actually have been me, as I found myself looking at an extract from a speech I gave to an audience of comics artists and writers in 1997 at ProCon in Oakland:


We are creators. When we begin, separately or together, there’s a blank piece of paper. When we are done, we are giving people dreams and magic and journeys into minds and lives that they have never lived. And we must not forget that.

I don’t want to sound like an inspirational speaker here. "Be you." "Be the best you that you can be." But this is really important. It’s something that we mostly lose track of when we start, because when we start in comics we’re kids and we have no idea who we are or what our voices are, as artists or as writers.

Young artists want to be Rob Leifeld, or Bernie Wrightson, or Frank Miller, just as young writers want to be Alan Moore, or Chris Claremont or, well, Frank Miller. You’ve seen their portfolios. You’ve read the scripts.

We all swipe when we start. We trace, we copy, we emulate. But the most important thing is to get to the place where you’re telling your own stories, painting your own pictures, doing the stuff that no-one else could have done but you. Dave McKean, when he was much younger, as a recent art-school graduate, took his portfolio to New York, and showed it to the head of an advertising agency. The guy looked at one of Dave’s paintings—"That’s a really good Bob Peake," he said. "But why would you I want to hire you? If I have something I want done like that, I phone Bob Peake."

You may be able to draw kind of like Rob Leifeld, but the day may come, may have already come, when no-one wants a bargain basement Rob Leifeld clone any more. Learn to draw like you. And as a writer, or as a storyteller, try to tell the stories that only you can tell. Try to tell the stories that you cannot help but tell, the stories you would be telling yourself if you had no audience to listen. The ones that reveal a little too much about you to the world. It’s the point I think of in writing as walking naked down the street: it has nothing to do with style, or with genre, it has to do with honesty. Honesty to yourself and to whatever you’re doing.

Don’t worry about trying to develop a style. Style is what you can’t help doing. If you write enough, if you draw enough, you’ll have a style whether you want it or not. Don’t worry about whether you’re "commercial". Tell your own stories, draw your own pictures. Let other people follow you.

If you believe in it, do it. If there’s a comic or a project you’ve always wanted to do, go out there and give it a try. If you fail, you’ll have given it a shot. If you succeed, then you succeeded with what you wanted to do.


And it's still true. (That speech is, along with another speech about tulips and comics, and an essay on how to do successful signings, available in Gods And Tulips, illustrated by Chester Brown, price $3 from the CBLDF commercial website.)(And for those of you after instant webby gratification, the whole Procon speech is up at the Magian Line archives at http://www.woxberg.net/gaiman/magian/3-2.html. But the CBLDF Neil Gaiman store one has a pretty Mike Kaluta cover of me being dead on it. And it's cheap...)

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Monday, May 12, 2008

Beware the wrath of an Angry Penguin

I got back from Australia and realised that the Waterstones story cards were meant to have been completed and returned by last Friday. They were sent out on April 14th, but, due to human error, mine didn't reach me until I was in Melbourne last week, and I didn't even look at the date, just read it hastily, went "Well, that can wait until I'm not touring Australia any longer and I'll have lots of time to think about it...".

But, I discovered, I didn't have lots of time. I have about 24 hours, as it has to be in London at the end of the week. I looked at the card, guessed that I could fit about 250 words on it, and wrote a 250 word story (using the Pelikan flexnib that Henry Selick gave me from http://www.richardspens.com/. I'd been waiting for something to write with it, and this seemed perfect). I have two more cards, in case of disaster, and I might do a second draft tomorrow before FedEx comes. Or I may not. But I find myself, for the first time, a bit envious of Margaret Atwood and her Long Pen...


In response to your bee picture, my eleven year-old daughter said "It looks like an angry penguin." (Me)"Are you sure it doesn't look like an angry bee?" (Her)"Nope, an angry penguin."

Take care!

Gina


I love my job.


Hi!

I have a question about writing. I read your advice, and the thing is, I don't do it like that at all.

For one thing, I don't write a first draft completely, then edit it several times. I work with scenes. I write a scene, I correct it, a re-correct it, I edit it and so on. I usually have a story planned out in my head entirely, so I end up writing the scenes in any order, really, although it's mostly chronological.

I'm guessing your advice would probably be "whatever works for you", but the thing is, I don't know if it works for me. I've never finished a novel yet. Actually, my first novel (which is uncomplete) is resting right now because I met my husband, who's Canadian and couldn't speak French, and I stopped writing in French. I just though, what's the point of writing if the person I love the most can't even read it? I want him to read it /before/ everyone else, not years later.

So I started writing in English, and man is it hard. You think you're fluent in a language, and next thing you know you're struggling to find synonyms or words that have the right connotation, and your characters all speak the same way, because that's they only way /you/ speak. So I'm extremely slow.

I'm just worried that my approach might just be plain wrong, and lead me to never finish anything. I don't know who to ask for advice so I'm turning to you.

I guess my question really is, should I make sure to finish a first draft as soon as possible, even if what I write is crap and has to be rewritten later, or can I polish each piece, put them all together, then polish the result? Is it very important to have a whole to work with, and can that whole be in your head rather than written? (I always spend several months just thinking about a story for hours every day before writing it. By which I mean, that's the way I did it for the only two "real" novels I've started)

Sorry I wrote that much. Feel free to take an aspirin.


The biggest problem I can see with the way you're doing it is that it doesn't seem to give you anything finished. (If it was working for you I'd have no suggestions. There are nine and sixty ways of constructing tribal lays and every single one of them is right, after all.) The second biggest problem is that if you're writing a novel scene by scene, trying to get each scene perfect, you don't get to see how anything works when you put it all together, and that's important. A novel is more than just a sequence of scenes put side by side. It has its own rhythms, and you have to bow to them; a novel, or any long story, is something that has to work when you put the whole thing together.

If you're being forced by the nature of what you're doing (episodic comics or serial television, or even writing a novel at 200 words a day online or in a newspaper) to just write and hope it all works out, that's one thing. But if you're writing a novel determined to make each scene perfect before you go on to the next, and you're writing the scenes out of order, then you're making something that's either going to work or not work when you put it all together. (That's still "write the first draft any which way".)

But it won't excuse you from doing a second draft, because you'll get to the end, and put all the scenes together, and then you'll still have to do a second draft, if only because when you read it you notice that you've got two Wednesdays coming together, and someone's name or eye-colour changes between scenes. Or your heroine seems like a bitch, although that wasn't your intention, because you don't have a scene there that shows her humanity. Or a great scene you wrote and rewrote and honed and rewrote and polished till it shone just doesn't fit anywhere because the thing that's happening at the same time loses all vitality if you cut away from it.

I guess that's one reason I like things like NaNoWriMo -- it makes people write and finish things, helter-skelter and however. And once something's finished, you can always fix it. (The first draft of Good Omens took about 9 weeks. The second draft took MONTHS. And it wasn't until we came to rework it a little after that for the US edition that we realised that we had indeed, without noticing, created a week with two Wednesdays in it.)

Incidentally, I'm in awe of anyone who would even attempt to try to write fiction in a language not her own.

As for thinking time versus writing time, well, that's up to you. But -- and I wish it were otherwise -- books don't get written by thinking about them, they get written by writing them. And that's when you make discoveries about what you're writing. That's when you get the happy accidents.

So think all you like, but don't mistake the thinking for the writing.


...


Remember the National Doodle Day doodles? (I talked about them at http://journal.neilgaiman.com/2008/04/q-was-this-face-that-launched-thousand.html). This just came in...


The National Doodle Day auction has begun. Proceeds will benefit Neurofibromatosis, Inc. (nfinc.org). Gillian Anderson's (Scully of The X-Files) brother suffers from NF. Click here (http://www.gilliananderson.ws/charities/nf.shtml) to read about Gillian's involvement with the cause.

We have 175 doodles on the auction block including many from The X-Files "gang": David Duchovny, Chris Carter, Annabeth Gish, Mark Snow (composer of the well-known X-Files theme music), Mitch Pileggi, and various XF Alumni.

You can easily check out all the available doodles by looking at our Doodle Guide at:
www.gilliananderson.ws.

And it's a family affair for Gillian. We have doodles by her sister, Zoƫ, her 13 year old daughter, Piper, and Piper's Dad, Clyde Klotz who also used to work for The X-Files.

To immediately access the eBay auction --
http://search.ebay.com/_W0QQsassZnfinccharity

Direct Links to Neil Gaiman's doodles plus his fave doodles on the auction block:

Ebay link to doodle #1

Ebay link to number 2

Kendra Stout: Ebay link here

Cat Mihos: Ebay link here

Fred Hembeck: Ebay link here

Sergio Aragones: Ebay link here

Gahan Wilson: ebay link here


There are some other pretty nifty ones as well I'd not seen the last time I posted about it (Simon Pegg! Robin Williams!). I was vaguely happy to notice that my first doodle, of something vaguely ifritish, seemed to be attracting more voters than the sort-of-Sandman I did next (thinking, they probably expect a Sandman).


...


This is cool, and I can't wait to read it: http://www.hardcasecrime.com/books_bios.cgi?entry=bk52


...


And finally, from the Sandman 20th anniversary poster, P. Craig Russell's Lucifer and Mazikeen...

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Warning; contains language

Over at Sara Benincasa's YouTube channel, you can see lots of videos made by Sara as she zoomed around in tunnels and behind the scenes in New York for the CBLDF a few weeks ago...

This is Why I Support the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund (the lighting means you can't see the black eye, I'm afraid). (If all four videos don't show up on your feed, then go to the original post.) (This one doesn't contain any swearing...)



Why Frank Miller supports the CBLDF:



(I think Frank's reply is my favourite. It's simple, personal and direct.)

Why Jeff Smith does:



and why Bill Hader does:



Feel very free to spread them around. (I hope that after San Diego this year we'll have a lot more of them to put up and spread around.)

Finally, here's me announcing the conclusion of the Gordon Lee case, at the New York Comic-con CBLDF event (I like the way the camera finishes on Magnetic Field and Future Bible Hero Claudia Gonson):

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Sunday, May 11, 2008

You put your (right-hand rear) leg in...

So, this just came in from Geoffrey Long, Communications Director of MIT Comparative Media Studies :

Hey, Neil --


Just saw the note on your blog about the tickets to the Schwartz event:


It looks like tickets for the MIT talk on the 23rd are going fast -- http://community.livejournal.com/millionyear/34688.html -- although I believe that MIT are keeping tickets back to sell on the day.


Alas, no -- it doesn't look like there will be tickets available at the door after all, due to their selling like hotcakes at the local shops like Million Year Picnic. ...I'm afraid when the tickets are gone, they're gone, and many of the local shops are already sold out.

The microsite for the event is here: http://cms.mit.edu/juliusschwartz/

Thanks again, and I look forward to seeing you soon!
Cheers,
Geoff


Which seemed a bit daunting, given that the hall seats 1226 people, and I'm taking it as a good omen for the first Julie Schwartz Lecture (who was Julie Schwartz? you ask. You can read about him here and you can read what Alan Moore wrote and I read at Julie's memorial here).

I've asked Geoffrey to let me know where any tickets may still be found for any of you, at MIT or in the Boston area, who want to come, and if there are any out there he'll let me know.

The Birdchick and her team won the Birding World Series, which is good news, and "Platypus" Bill Stiteler blogs yesterday's bee stuff along with what he did today (while I slept like a large, moss-covered, jet-lagged log) over at http://www.birdchick.com/2008/05/simple-plan.html -- and because I'm rather proud of it, I'm putting up a dancing bee photo I took yesterday. (Bill put it up as well, but it's much bigger here, or it will be if you click on it, and I pushed the brightness up so you could see the expression on her little bee face as she waves her leg around. What good are bee photos if you can't see their expressions?)




Neil,

Thank you for signing my books after the literary dinner in Melbourne, I get a sense that you were tired, but I appreciate how generous you were with your time. It is always a treat to meet you (that was the second time I have met you the first was a few years ago at comics r us in Melbourne) though I get a bit nervous, don't know why but I do.

The episode of "I should be writing" where they list one of the three pieces of advice is to find Neil Gaiman and he will look into your soul and tell you what you need to hear is Episode dated 9/04/08 the third piece of advice.

Your advice was "keep doing what you are doing" and that was exactly what I needed cos I had not been writing very much up until a couple of weeks ago so that helped me keep faith.

I really wish that I could find more advice on second drafts I mean I got a lot information on how to complete a first draft and now I have to get a second draft finished.

What is the best advice can you give a writer about the second draft of a novel. I mean you spend months on the first draft and you finish it and let it lie for a while, and now you have to work with this thing that is a rough lump of clay, how do you form the book out of this mass of intention and thought.

Thank you for your time.

Karl


The second draft is where the fun is. In a first draft, you get to explode. The objective (at least for me) is to get it down on paper, somehow. Battle through the laziness and the not-enough-time and the this-is-rubbish and everything else, and just get it written. Whatever it takes. The second draft is where you go and gather together the fragments of the explosion and figure out what it is you did, and make it look like that was what you always meant to do.

So you write it. Then you put it aside. Not for months, but perhaps for a week or so. Even a few days. Do other things. Then set aside some uninterrupted time to read, and pull it out, and pretend you have never read it before -- clear it out of your head, and sit and read it. (I'd suggest you do this on a print-out, so you can scribble on it as you go. )

When you get to the end you should have a much better idea of what it was about than you did when you started. (I knew The Graveyard Book would be about a boy who lived in a graveyard when I started it. I didn't know that it would be about how we make our families, though: that's a theme that made itself apparent while the book was being written.)

And then, on the second and subsequent drafts, you do four things. 1) You fix the things that didn't work as best you can (if you don't like the climactic Rock City scene in American Gods, trust me, the first draft was so much worse). 2) You reinforce the themes, whether they were there from the beginning or whether they grew like Topsy on the way. You take out the stuff that undercuts those themes. 3) You worry about the title. 4) At some point in the revision process you will probably need to remind yourself that you could keep polishing it infinitely, that perfection is not an attribute of humankind, and really, shouldn't you get on with the next thing now?

Does that help?

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Saturday, May 10, 2008

still off the clock

So. Home. Fell asleep at about 5.00 am, woke up about 11:30 am, so not back on US time yet.

Today I did some bee-things with Bill Stiteler (we put in a queen excluder today prior to splitting the Olga hive next week) then we planted a bag of overlooked hyacinths we found in the garage, and watched some Dr Who with Maddy (we're now up to Planet of the OOD). Also I walked the dog.

I've just been informed that due to a transfer credit-hour technicality I can't graduate with my college class & must get ONE CREDIT in summer school and walk next year if at all.

Neil, could you tell me anything to cheer me up? An anecdote, a song excerpt, news ("Jill Thompson and I are going to do that Delirium Miniseries we've been talking about for a while!"), anything?

Sincerely,

Nathan Henderson

I'm sorry to hear that, Nathan.

The biggest news that doesn't involve walking along a fallen tree over a river with a dog following behind me is that NPR has picked ANANSI BOYS for the Bryant Park Project book club. Details at http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=90309379
and at http://www.npr.org/blogs/bryantpark/2008/05/book_clubs_new_pick_neil_gaima.html

And in other news... I thought that this was still confidential, but it's been announced on this blog and I assume it's not confidential any longer. So it's definitely news. Hurrah for PEN. Now I have to come up with a story...

Songs? Let's see -- I wrote a song for Peri Lyons' one woman show that you can hear a demo of at her myspace page. It's a 3.00am-in-a-bar song for a generation that's much more likely to be found in front of computer screens than in bars at 3.00 am.

Over at Chris Ewens' Hidden Variable website there are longish clips from lots of Hidden Variable songs two of which are mine -- I'm really proud of "Unresolving". Also, I hope Chris finds a record label for it soon.

How was that?

...

It looks like tickets for the MIT talk on the 23rd are going fast -- http://community.livejournal.com/millionyear/34688.html -- although I believe that MIT are keeping tickets back to sell on the day. (Nope. See next post.)

Over at Lurid.com, Craig Russell talks more about the adaptation he's doing of Sandman: The Dream Hunters, and you can see more of the art, along with the adaptation he's been working on for the last couple of years of Coraline. (You may or may not be able to see the embedded footage -- although it's now better than it was.)



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internal clockery

Home.

I was asleep by ten and now wide awake at one thirty, and listening to a Radio 4 documentary on John Cooper Clarke. My plans for the future involve trying to persuade myself to go back to sleep. Expect a sensible post tomorrow.

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Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Leaving Downunder

Dinner last night with Margo Lanagan arranged by Allen and Unwin, where she reassured me about Clarion and told me about her new novel (I am excited) and we talked about words and about Australia and about a story I mean to write this year. Then back to the hotel and had a three hour phone call to Bloomsbury in London, calling in the copy-edits on The Graveyard Book. My copy editor was very patient with me, despite the oddness of The Graveyard Book meaning that sometimes things would be a bit counter-intuitive: I had to explain to her how a ten year old (dead) boy could have a twenty year old (dead) grandmother. But most of her queries were wise and smart and (this is important) will make me look good.

A flood of letters from Australians who inform me that I was having my leg pulled over the hamburger thing -- and if you read what I posted and imagine the chef as a dry-humoured assie bloke, that's just how it reads. For example:

> (Unconvinced Five Star Hotel Night Chef.) "If you say so, sir. It's just people here complain if their hamburgers aren't made of ham.


Major possibilities:

a) chef was sadistic or insane

b) chef had quirky sense of humour

c) balance of your mind disturbed by excessive book signing

d) you were unwitting participant in 'candid camera' equivalent

e) you had accidentally wandered into a neighbouring universe

f) other
In Australia, hamburger means ground up cow. Always.

Saw your talk at the State Library in Melbourne btw - very enjoyable, and The Graveyard Book sounds like it's going to be a good one.

cheers,

Steve


I'd go for f). Honestly, she sounded very young, very defensive and, I'm afraid, a bit upset, like someone who had actually been told off a few weeks ago by a hotel guest for the lack of ham in his hamburger and had been determined not to make that mistake again, and now here was a smartarse pom late at night telling her she'd been right all along. And I felt a bit sorry for her.

(This was at the Four Seasons Sydney in George Street -- a nice enough hotel, although the rooms are tiny, but also the first Four Seasons I've stayed in that felt more or less like a Mariott - as if they'd bought someone else's hotel and put a Four Seasons logo on, but not really changed anything else.)

I'm off to the US today, via Narita airport. A few people kindly wrote and offered to show me around during my 9 hour layover, and I was going to take at least one person up on it, but I now strongly suspect that instead of doing anything at all I'll get a local hotel room and try and sleep -- horizontally, rather than sitting down -- between two ten hour flights.

Let me point you at this Boing Boing Entry and this Locus Article, in which Cory Doctorow talks about dandelion and mammalian reproductive strategies and how these things relate to selling things or giving them away on the web -- some of this came out of a wonderful conversation last Christmas between Cory and Rob Brydon and me, which Cory and I carried on the next time we saw each other, at Eastercon. (The ideas are all Cory's. All I did was say, "What exactly do you mean by that?" and "But for Heaven's sake, Cory, what about...?" a lot.)

...

Hi Neil,

Quick question about The Graveyard Book - do you have plans to release signed copies in cardboard dumps as you did with American Gods and Anansi Boys?


I offered, but that's no longer possible for some logistical reason I never quite understood.

Neil,

I'd just like to thank you for your appearance at Books Kinokuniya in Sydney on the 6th. It was a great night, and truly inspiring to see that despite the 500-odd people eagerly queued, you still had time for each one of us.


Thank you also for posing for a photo with a sign expressly prohibiting personal photos (which can be quite shamelessly found at my blog; http://chasinggeese.blogspot.com/2008/05/please-note-awesome.html). It made my night.

Now that's all taken care of I'd like to ask if your short story 'Orange' is in print anywhere, as I've only seen it as a video of a live reading (or memorably first hand, when you were in Sydney in 2006).
Kind Regards,

Luke


Why thank you. "Orange" is in The Starry Rift. You can learn more about it at http://thestarryrift.com/

...

Michael Zulli sent me http://englishrussia.com/?p=1808#more-1808 -- beautiful pictures of fairy tale abandoned Russian wooden houses.

...

Despite following instructions on stripping this computer with Windows Vista down to its work and memory undies, it's still like working with a computer in 1986, in terms of slowness and pauses and delay. Dynamism.com helpfully sent me Windows XP to do a downgrade on it, which I'll do when I get home... I still love the computer, though: it weighs about half of a Mac airbook, and has a DVD drive to boot. But I can't simply type and keep typing - it suddenly stops to inspect itself for fleas or something and loses anything I typed while it was thinking, or squashes words together, or I find myself randomly typing somewhere else in the paragraph... argh.

...

And before I forget, a big, big thank you to everyone at Allen and Unwin, especially Sarah Tran, to all the booksellers (Ellison Hawker, Dymocks in Melbourne and Sydney, and Kinokuniya (who gave me the new edition of A Humument as a thank you for signing there, which made me unspeakably happy), and to the staff and organisers of the CBCA, the Melbourne State Library folk, to various old friends who waved or helped (you know who you are) and all the people who showed up at the signings and made it so pleasant...

And yes, in 1998, I brought the "stick" home with me.

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Tuesday, May 06, 2008

get your YAs out

I talked about Cory Doctorow's Little Brother here a few months ago, because I loved it. They've used some of what I wrote on the blog, with my permission, as a blurb for the book; I'd stand by everything I said.

You can now read it at http://craphound.com/littlebrother/download/ where it's available for download under Creative Commons. And you'll probably like it. If you do, buy hard copies for friends. Or if you happen to be a foreign publisher, buy the rights to it in your language, and publish it there.

In US bookshops, you'll probably find it shelved in YA -- Young Adult -- unless you are dealing with a smart store that has it on display up the front and has also put it in SF and Fantasy. (Lots of debate on Boing Boing and at Mr Scalzi's excellent blog about this. Not a lot I can add to the debate, other than that I sometimes really wish that all fiction books of all genres for any people over the age of about 12 were simply filed alphabetically by author, because as Patrick Nielsen Hayden once pointed out to me, shelving by genre simply tells people the places in a bookshop that they don't have to go. And Sturgeon's Law suggests that they'll be missing out on some good stuff that's shelved in those places.)

...

This was written last night after the signing, and then not posted because I wasn't sure if it was funny or just me being grumpy late at night after signing for many hours.


I get strangely punchy after a long signing. And it was a long signing, for about 500 people.

Back in my hotel room at midnight, wanting something to eat, I phone room service, after looking at the 24 hour menu, which has the same limited selection as any 24 hour menu...

"Room service?"

"Yes. Could I have a hamburger, please?"

"Ah. We've only got beefburgers here. But I could make you one from scratch."

"Make me one what?"

"Hamburger."

"Which is different from a beefburger in what way?"

"Well, we make them of ground-up ham."

"But a hamburger is a beefburger. It takes its name from the town of Hamburg in Germany. It isn't made of ham. It shouldn't be made of ham. It never has been made of ham."

(Unconvinced Five Star Hotel Night Chef.) "If you say so, sir. It's just people here complain if their hamburgers aren't made of ham. Do you want a slice of beetroot on that*?"

"Not really."

And now I wait in my room, looking at all the bags I've managed to strew all over the bed, and wondering whether, if I glare at them hard enough, they will climb off the bed themselves and arrange themselves tidily on the floor, or if I'm going to have to do it for them.

...

Look, me and Eddie Campbell, all blurry at Eddie's blog. I look like Harpo Marx.






*this is a normal query in Australia and not at all odd.

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Sunday, May 04, 2008

two days, one bubble bath


"The Only Photographic Record I have of the evening." (See below.)


Let's see.... on Saturday I did an enjoyable panel on graphic novels with Nicki Greenberg and Queenie Chan (run by Zoe), which ended too soon, and attended a banquet in a museum, sitting between Nicki G and Elizabeth Honey, during the course of which I bought a Shaun Tan painting in a silent auction for a good cause (it's on this page and is called The Sweet Hereafter).

Sunday morning was the Keynote Speech for the CBCA conference, a mixture of thoughts on children's literature and poems about children's literature. Then I signed books, with a slightly desperate edge because I only had about a hundred minutes before I was due on the next panel -- a fun one about influences, with Garth Nix and Isobelle Carmody. Finished the line with about three minutes to spare. Did the panel. Then signed more books.

Then Eddie and Anne Campbell and Garth Nix and I went to have a drink with the lovely Chloe, who was, as usual, not wearing anything.

Walked back to hotel. Walked past a Lush, thought hah! and nipped in and bought one of the blackberry comforter bars. Got back to hotel. Had bubble bath (with normal sized, non-lovecraftian bubbles). Rejoiced as I stretched out in the bath in how there was lots and lots of time before I had to get back on the road...

The bathroom phone rang. Anne and Eddie were in the lobby. I had somehow zoned and lost half an hour. Hasty shower-off and threw on clothes and ran downstairs...

Dinner with my old friends Peter Nicholls and Clare Coney and their son Jack, along with Anne and Eddie, which meant I got to introduce the Campbells to the Nichollses (and their marvellous, book-lined home). Not to mention their dogs, who took a shine to Eddie. For some reason, the only photographic record I have of the evening is of Eddie Campbell and two dogs.

This morning was interviews, then a reading and Q&A at the Melbourne library, then a signing which went on for a while... soon I will leave in a taxi for a literary dinner and signing. Tomorrow I fly to Sidney and read and Q&A and sign some more. And now I'm going to hit post then do absolutely nothing for twelve minutes.


Nothing at all.


It'll be wonderful.

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Saturday, May 03, 2008

Reminder -- Australian events still to come

These are the remaining Melbourne and Sydney events, as rounded up for me by Sarah Tran, ace publicist...


Mon 5th May
1.00pm
Author Talk & Signing - FREE EVENT
Location:
Centre for Youth Literature
State Library of Victoria -
Village Roadshow Theatrette
325 Swanston St, Melbourne VIC

Contact: (CYL) 03 8664 7014


Mon 5th May
7.45pm
Dymocks Camberwell Literary Dinner - TICKETED EVENT
Location:
Georges Restaurant
819 Burke Road, Camberwell VIC

Contact: (Dymocks Camberwell) 03 9882 0032


Tues 6th May
6.00pm
Author Talk & Signing - FREE EVENT
Location: Books Kinokuniya
Level 2, Galeries Victoria, Sydney NSW

Contact: 02 9262 7996


Wed 7th May
1.00pm
Author Signing - FREE EVENT
Location: Dymocks George St
424 George St, Sydney NSW

Contact: 02 9235 0155

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Friday, May 02, 2008

the dogs and the bees

In the wild I can tell people who read this blog regularly from common or garden human beings because the blog-reading people tend, on meeting me for the first time to say things like, "How are the bees?" which the common or garden human beings do not, unless they are mad in an interesting way, in which case the bees are all in their head.

And all across Australia when asked what was happening at home in bee-world I have been saying, "Er. I do not know."

Meanwhile back at home exciting bee things have been going on without me. Luckily Sharon the birdchick feels guilty about doing terrific bee things in my absence and has recorded the experience of putting in a new hive so that even in Australia I can see what's going on.

Her write-up about what's happening is at http://www.birdchick.com/2008/05/hiving-new-packages.html. Sharon's husband, the inestimable "Ivory" Bill Stiteler made a couple of youtube films about the hive installation that are in her next post, http://www.birdchick.com/2008/05/bee-movies.html (Meanwhile, the view from the trenches as my assistant Lorraine goes and gets the bees from the post office here, and ponders missing the terror and the chaos of last year's first bee-installation here.)



Interviewed yesterday by local paper The Age, for the first time in nearly three years. Had photo taken after interview, and suddenly remembered how astonishingly bad the last photo of me in The Age was. The new photo isn't bad, but I was outside the hotel, the wind was whipping down the street, blowing my hair to one side, and my hair looks odd. Even odder than usual. ("No longer on the fringe," is the caption, which is, I think, probably about the hair and not the meainstreaming of comics.)






Gris Grimly, my collaborator on The Dangerous Alphabet, has his own website at http://www.madcreator.com/.

Hello Neil!!

I just thought you should know that Amazon just sent out an email saying you wrote "75 Simple Ways to Keep Me Happy for Life"

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/157912593X/ref=pe_5050_8735620_pe_snp_93X

I looks like a lovely dog book but I think you just wrote the foreword.

While I am sure your readership is interested in learning about dogs being happy, perhaps Amazon might want to put the correct author on the webpage and email. :)

Always,

Monica


Consider it posted. And no, I didn't write it, only the foreword, which talks about Anne Bobby and how very qualified she is, despite being a famed actress of stage and screen and audio, to write a book on dogs.

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Thursday, May 01, 2008

buy now! etc

In a little over a year Stephin Merritt's CORALINE Musical will see its premiere in New York. According to http://www.mcctheater.com/season0809.html:


World Premiere
May 6-June 20, 2009
Coraline
Music and Lyrics by Book by
Stephin Merritt David Greenspan
Based on the Novel by
Neil Gaiman
Directed by Leigh Silverman

Poor bored Coraline. She’s left to rattle round her perpetually distracted parents’ house all by her lonesome. Then one day, her dreams of a better reality are answered as she steps through an old oak doorway and passes into a perfected replica of her own world. Greeted there by a vastly loving Other Mother and kindly Other Father, she’s thrilled! But, as the saying goes: Be careful what you wish for…

A musical like no other, Coraline sprang from the minds of three of the most wildly popular cult heroes of our time. Adapted from the truly terrifying children’s book by Neil Gaiman (author of the international sensation Sandman), this tale of menace and mayhem is set to music and lyrics by smart-rock iconoclast Stephin Merritt (of The Magnetic Fields), and boasts a book by celebrated downtown actor-cum-auteur, David Greenspan, who serves double-duty as the villain, Coraline’s suspiciously nurturing Other Mother.

“Critics sometimes compare Stephin Merritt with Cole Porter because Porter is shorthand for the kind of smart, urbane lyrics Merritt writes.” –NY Times “David Greenspan is probably all-round the most talented theater artist of my generation.” –Tony Kushner


I've heard about 3/4 of the songs, sung by Stephin himself, and they're wonderful, although that's all I know about it at this stage. If you're interested, the season is very short, and the theatre seats just fewer than 300 people, so it might be a good idea to get tickets as soon as you can -- right now you can subscribe to the season of three plays: Save up to 40% off the regular ticket price and choose your seats before they go on sale to the general public. Details at http://www.mcctheater.com/subscribe.html

And changing the subject a bit, more pictures of people in tee shirts at Kitty's Neverwear Blog -- http://kittysneverwear.blogspot.com/ -- and if you have a good photo of you in one of her tee shirts, you should send it to her and it will make her happy. She's on tour with Duran Duran right now... and her website is http://neverwear.net
which I mention because there isn't a link to it from the blog. I also gave Kitty the Cassette editions of CORALINE and TWO PLAYS FOR VOICES and some ANANSI BOYS MP3s, so if you are looking for them, she has them there.

My friend Larry Marder is bringing back Beanworld, and blogging it -- http://larrymarder.blogspot.com/. Thrilled to see that Dark Horse will be republishing Beanworld and bringing the new ones out. It's been too long.

The terrifyingly talented former Web Elf has her own web site up at www.olganunes.com, while Thea Gilmore has a new CD coming out, a UK tour, and widget. Of these, I am putting up the widget.

and finally, the first review I've seen of The Dangerous Alphabet. He's right -- Gris Grimly is a star...


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