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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Another Year

Let's see. The biggest and the best news of the day is that Terry Pratchett is now Sir Terrence of Pratchett. Hurrah. 

I shall doff my cap the next time I see him. It will be the best-doffed cap in the land.

I shall buy a cap first, specially.

...

I spent half an hour yesterday talking to a reporter who was working on the obituary of someone who is currently very much alive, even in good health, and it was, well, very odd. I'd always known that obituaries aren't just knocked up (or perhaps tossed off. Look, neither phrase sounds particularly wholesome) on the spur of the moment by some dusty but hard-working obituarist whenever someone kicks the bucket, but that they are written ahead of time, often rewritten many times over the years (The Daily Telegraph's are the best. I don't know why this is, but it's true. Here's their obituary for Eartha Kitt, and this is my favourite Telegraph obituary ever, because it contains the lines
Despite a brisk code of discipline, Singleton took a laissez-faire approach out of the classroom. Every November 5 the smallest boy in the school was sent down a tunnel to light the very core of the bonfire. None, so far as anyone can recall, was ever lost.)
But this was strange -- discussing a living person as if they were dead, talking about their influence with (I hoped) balance, such that, when they died, they quotes would paint a picture for people who knew nothing about the person of what they did and why it mattered.

...

I thought I ought to say thank you to everyone who bought a copy of The Graveyard Book this year. It's been on the New York Times bestseller list since it came out, at the end of September. I'm astonishingly grateful, and so, in this time of economic scariness, is my publisher. Thirteen weeks on the New York Times list is a very long time.

...

In Odd and the Frost Giants, a very small book I wrote, we meet a boy called Odd, in Norway, in Viking times.

I keep thinking that there are two more stories of similar length I want to tell, each with Odd in it. One where he goes to Jerusalem, on the same route they did in the Orkeyinga Saga, and set one a few years after that where he goes a great deal further East -- but I was never sure why any Vikings would go further East than Jerusalem. And then Cheryl Morgan linked to this article (and pointed out that the Vikings were smart enough to bury people with the rubbish swords), and I read:
The tests at the NPL have proved that the inferior swords were forged in northern Europe from locally worked iron. But the genuine ones were made from ingots of crucible steel, which the Vikings brought back from furnaces thousands of miles away in modern Afghanistan and Iran.
And suddenly I knew an awful lot more about Odd, and his travels, and, more particularly, what the third Odd book would be.

...

Having just read the judgment in the Fox v Warners Watchmen case over at http://bradfox.com/downloadables/watchmen_dec2408_order.pdf
I find myself moving from "those grasping Fox people" to being puzzled that Warners are even fighting the case (well, I'm not really -- Warners gave Paramount the right to distribute the movie in the rest of the world when they got the Watchmen option back from Paramount. If they lose the US too, they've paid for a big expensive movie and don't keep, well, anything). Fox had exercised an option on Watchmen, then returned the rights to the producer, reserving for themselves the right to distribute the movie, but leaving the producer the option to buy Fox out. The producer didn't buy them out, so they still own the rights to distribute it.

The bit that leaves me most puzzled about this is that in the world of movies, people are obsessive about rights, because if they aren't, things like this happen. Read the judgment -- it's in readable English.

...

Dearest Author -

What with the new Christmas jumper and other assorted black clothing, how do you manage to keep them sparkly (or at least presentable) in the presence of assorted non-black petittude (most notably Dog)?
As the owner of similar clothing/pet colour combinations, and cupboards full of just-cleaned-and-yet-still-
furry garments, I'm intrigued. Are you spending an inordinate amount on laundry these days, or is there a small army of men&women-wot-do just out of shot in every photo standing ready to apply rolls of sticky-backed plastic and other anti-fluff devices to you after any pet contact? Mayhap a special fur-removing filter for the seemingly ever-present camera lenses? Hmmm. Anti-static personal force-field? Not so good for pet-snorgling that though.
Ah well, the winter nights are long and enquiring minds wander..

Pondering,
Karen L




I have family and an assistant who are very good about handing me those rolls of sticky stuff if they think I'm covered in too much white dog or cat hair.

That wasn't a very interesting answer, was it?

Trawling Youtube you can't fail to discover many interviews with writers usually on American TV. There's a positive dearth of such stuff in the UK. What does that tell us about the dumbing down of UK telly? I've yet to see an author of 'genre' fiction (sorry it's a hateful term) getting five minutes to promote a new novel. Doesn't it get you down?

Nope. I think that the US and the UK are equally bad at putting authors on TV, but then I'm not sure it does anyone any good to put authors on TV anyway. The UK occasionally comes up with a  decent South Bank Show or BBC Four "Worlds of Fantasy" series, which is more than you get in the US. The UK has Radio 4, which is always good to authors, and the US has NPR, ditto.

Anyway, the UK and the US both fall short when we remember that mystical kingdom known to us today only as "Canada", long since taken by the seas and the sands,  and that once there was Prisoners of Gravity.



(I cannot watch this. I just tried and I had to stop. The me in it is like a tadpole that's just shedding its tail. He seems really sweet; I just want to wait until he's cooked.)

Neil -
I'm know you get a ton of these requests, but I figured it was worth a shot.
Jason Webley is playing a free show in Philadelphia this Monday,1/5/09, at a small venue. Neither he nor the venue have any marketing it seems, and I don't think most of his Philly fans know about it. But they do know about you. So I was hopeful that you would link the info on your blog.
The Venue:
http://info.thesanctuaryarts.com/

and of course the Artist:
http://jasonwebley.com

cheers!

'tricia


Consider it posted. Jason is an amazing live performer.

Hi Neil, Can you offer any advice/thoughts or even threats to the would-be writers out here, who have a lot of ideas for stories, but can't decide which one to start? Thanks!

Sure. You pick one. If you're me these days you pick the one that's most overdue and causing the greatest number of people the most headaches by its lateness, but I don't advise doing that when you're just starting out. (I'm not sure that I'd advise that when you've been doing this for ages.)


...

Okay. I have to work now.

Thank you all for reading this, for writing to me, for being funny and sensible.

2008 was an odd year, with some great stuff in it, and some odd stuff in it. But I'm glad of all the fine things it brought into my life.

I'm lucky. I have good friends, and I have a fine family. I get to work with amazing people. 

And in addition to everything I said in http://journal.neilgaiman.com/2007/12/as-i-was-saying.html....

...I hope you will have a wonderful year, that you'll dream dangerously and outrageously, that you'll make something that didn't exist before you made it, that you will be loved and that you will be liked, and that you will have people to love and to like in return. And, most importantly (because I think there should be more kindness and more wisdom in the world right now), that you will, when you need to be,  be wise, and that you will always be kind.

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Monday, December 29, 2008

At the turning of the year...

...to mark the passing of Edd Cartier (and the nearly-done-ness of 2008). Of all the pulp magazine artists of the 30s-50s, including such masters as Virgil Finlay and Kelly Freas, Cartier was my favourite, particularly his work in Unknown Worlds. Marvellous stuff. If I had known he was still alive, I suspect I would have written him a fan letter. Instead, I discovered the other day, from Locus, that he (and James Cawthorn, who was, with Mal Dean, the definitive Moorcock illustrator) had just died, and now I know that Mr Cartier was alive, it's too late.

...

Michael Dirda is a wonderful essayist, and his appreciation of Hope Mirrlees' novel Lud In the Mist is up at http://www.barnesandnoble.com/bn-review/note.asp?note=20755255&cds2Pid=22560. I loved the essay, because, I think, the qualities that Michael is talking about are the same ones that are in the book when I read it. (I've had people complain to me that they've read it on my recommendation and that it was boring, or pointless, and I'm sure the version of the book they read was. But the book that I love, and Michael Dirda, and Michael Swanwick loves, is described in Dirda's essay. You bring yourself to a book, after all; every book is collaborative.)

...

Today's mail brought a Wii, and a Wii fit: an evil white box that mocks me with its opinion of my distance from an ideal BMI and an unflattering opinion of my age. But it's cold and snowy outside, and I can't imagine anything else making me jog on the spot with apparent pleasure, and it should be a fine supplement to my trainer (who comes in a couple of times a week and makes me work much too hard to get back into shape).

And Maddy likes it.

...

Someone sent me a question asking if there would be any Coraline toys or figurines.  It looks like  a yes. I found a link to them here...




...and it only seems a bit strange, in my head, that there should be Coraline toys.

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Sunday, December 28, 2008

The in-between-days

Watched the Doctor Who Christmas Special with the kids on Boxing Day. I liked it, but kept expecting it to turn a corner and for me to love it, which it, and I, never did. Possibly because the clanky high tech Cybermen have no hold on my heart in the way the silent bacofoil ones did and do, and possibly because of spoilery reasons having to do with never really buying the David Morrisey plot to begin with. Loved the moments of David Tennant-as-companion though, and that Miss Hartigan can come to my funeral in a red dress any time she wishes.

The sun is out. The sky is blue. It's still a couple of degrees below freezing. Bugger. Let's see. A couple of Christmas Day photos -- here's one of me and my small but significant daughter collection. Yes, I have Christmas morning bed-hair, and yes, I am wearing my Christmas Sweater with the black Christmas trees on it.


I've left the hunting-season collar on Cabal because sometimes he vanishes in the snow, and  a flash of orange is useful.



...

Over at http://wordpress.hotpress.com/petermurphy/2008/12/29/2008-we-throw-the-book-at-it/ Peter Murphy writes about the year's books, and then writes about The Graveyard Book, along with  bits of the interview he did with me in Dublin that were never used.

Which reminds me, the Subterranean Press edition should be shipping in a few weeks. I can't wait to see a finished copy.

(And, of course, for those of you who were hoping to get a copy for Christmas but were given cake or jewellery instead, the regular US edition of The Graveyard Book is available from Amazon.com, or from independent bookshops via Indiebound.org, or from DreamHaven's site at neilgaiman.net -- where they have some copies I signed the last time I was in, and where Greg managed to get some more first printings.

And, of course, the whole book is still up for free at http://mousecircus.com/videotour.aspx)

...

For those of you who worry about the blog getting Coraline-the-movied-out, there's only thirty-six days to go until the film comes out in the US. Then there will probably be a week or two where I blog about how it's doing, and then it will recede into the background, as is the way of all things.

In the meantime, expect updates -- mostly because I'm really enjoying what henry and his team are doing to promote the film: http://www.youtube.com/coralinethemovie is the YouTube channel for all the Coraline mini-films released so far, where you can watch how things are made, built and knitted. (I was half-amused and half-appalled to see people on the imdb Coraline chat forum and on the Aint it cool talkback thingummy confidently explaining, as if they knew what they were talking about, that this was actually cunningly disguised to look like stop motion CGI, or that Henry Selick had used computers to do the inbetweening, or something, while occasionally people who had actually worked on Coraline would go "No, it was all done by hand," and were mostly ignored in the squalling democracy of the internet. What's nice about the little films is that you can see how it's done; and it's done by people making things and moving them, a little bit at a time.)

More stuff keeps showing up at http://www.coraline.com/ -- it occasionally doesn't load for me, or gets stuck, but refreshing it seems to take care of that.

I loved the posters available for download  in the living room. This is one of them. Click on it to see it full size.

Do not forget to button your eyes.

And one of the characters now has a blog.

...

good afternoon,
i just saw this posted online and thought you would like the link
http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/news/la-et-gaiman29-2008dec29,0,7701196.story

loved the graveyard book. i have it lent out right now to a coworker who is loving it.

donielle


Thanks so much! It's also up at http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/herocomplex/2008/12/neil-gaiman-and.html with a photo of me sitting on a windowsill looking like I am having my photo taken on a windowsill.
...

Right. Back to work.

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Saturday, December 27, 2008

Small car post

When I mentioned that I was planning to get a Mini Clubman instead of a convertible, so I could move the dog around in it, I got this reply from a reader out there,

Don't blame the dog!!! My Great Dane LOVES my Mini convertible, and there's nothing like a big white dog head looking calmly around from the little blue car :)

Apparently Mini is coming out with a crossover next year, and we're going to look at that as an enclosed dog-transporting vehicle when it comes around.


...which just made me look out of the window at the ice and snow, and wonder when the temperature would get up to around freezing again. Once it gets up to freezing around here you can drive around with a car filled with twelve year old girls, with the top down and the heaters blasting if they all wear coats. I did it once at the request of Maddy and her friends, so I know.

But driving around at minus 10 with the top down would be a poor thing to do, to a dog or a driver.

Which is why today (almost exactly three years after getting it) I traded in my Mini Convertible for a Mini Clubman, and bade goodbye to the wild driving-with-the-top-down-for-three-weeks-in-the-middle-of-the-Midwestern- summer-when-it-wasn't-raining days of my youth.

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Friday, December 26, 2008

Pondering Gaiman's Law of Superhero Films

Back in May I posted,

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...


And I wound up pondering that when I noticed that Frank Miller's The Spirit film had racked up a sad little 15% fresh over at Rotten Tomatoes.

The impression I get with Watchmen is that, with whatever changes they've made, and whether or not it works as an adaptation, if they manage to get it released it will do just fine, because there's a tremendous amount of attention that's gone into getting it as close as they can in a movie to the look and feel of Watchmen the comic.

There may be exceptions to Gaiman's law of comic-book inspired movies, but it's definitely the way to bet. The films that look and feel like what people liked about the original comic succeed. The ones that move away from that tend to have a rough time to the degree that they move away from it.

(It doesn't say anything about the quality of the film in question, I should point out. You could make a film you called Batman, in which Batman's costume is pink and green and he's a lawyer who works all day and into the early evening to save a small  health-food franchise from being taken over by a big conglomerate, and at night he goes on a succession of dates with odd people... it might be a wonderful, amusing, strange film, but what people know they want in a Batman film is a Bat-costume and crime-fighting and evil villains and night and Bruce Wayne and the rest of it, and it would be a very bad Batman film and it would fail.)

(And for that matter it doesn't seem to matter if people have read the comics or not. If you get what makes the character work, if you get what people like about it in its platonic ideal, you have a successful movie -- Iron Man being a lovely case in point.)

Which, I suspect, is why Sin City and 300 worked. They were like having the comics happening up on the screen. The thing that people liked about it was there. With The Spirit, what the reader responded to is Eisner's lightness of touch and mastery of story, his humour and his humanity -- and a world that looks like Eisner drew it.  The moment that it's obvious that that isn't there it almost doesn't matter what is there instead. According to Gaiman's Law, the more Sin City looked and felt like what people like about Frank Miller's work on Sin City, the more successful it was going to be with audiences, but the more The Spirit feels like Sin City and not like Will Eisner's The Spirit, the less successful it's going to be.

Ah well.

This is the link to the Will Eisner The Best of the Spirit collection that I did the introduction to. It's a wonderful way to start to discover The Spirit. Go and read it...

...

And here's another video from the talk I gave and interview I did with Henry Jenkins (a man my daughter Holly describes, with awe in her voice, as "The Dude...") at MIT earlier this year. J. Michael Straczynski is going to be the next Julie Schwartz lecturer. Find out about it at Henry's Blog:





*Not to be confused with Gaiman's Law Of Being An Author, which states that on getting your first published copy of anything, and opening it to the bit you did, you'll see a typo.

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Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Black trees. Black Sweater. Amazing kids.

Woken by Holly going "Dad. It's not six o'clock in the morning like you said on the video. It's nine. You have to get up now." So I did, and put on my amazing new Christmas Sweater (black Christmas trees on black,  how cool is that?) and we went next door for lots of gift opening. The best present was from my kids who'd made me and their mum a book each of photographs of themselves and us, with letters to us from each of them. (Holly tells me she made them using blurb.com). I was fine on the photos but went sniffly on the letters.

Here's a small video (stolen from the Harper Holidays pages) from Harper Collins on why books make great gifts . Sorry about the sound on my portion.


video


And to complete the occasional series of CBLDF tee shirts, here is James Kochalka Superstar with a nice Christmassy one. Well, it's got green and red in it anyway.


And finally, Jeff Smith's Bone shirt, which is very lovely and not in the slightest bit Christmassy. Like all the t-shirts, you can get it at CBLDF.com in the apparel section. And there's lots more stuff there (ie. signed comics, books, prints, not to mention fragrances and memberships).

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My Box

So, as you know, the CORALINE movie people have been sending out boxes to bloggers. Fifty boxes in all. So far 22 have surfaced. The ASIFA site (Box 37) is keeping track of them all (with pictures) at http://www.animationarchive.org/2008/11/more-on-our-coraline-suitcase.html and Metafilter has a handy list up at http://www.metafilter.com/77652/The-Coraline-Boxes
(I was amused by the people who equated sending a blogger a box with the '50s payola scandals, which seems rather to miss the point: there's no quid pro quo here, and, as far as I can tell, nothing you can do in order to get a box, apart from have a cool blog, nor anything you are obliged to do if you get a box, not even write about it.)

I think my favourite of the boxes is http://www.knitty.com/blog/2008/12/my-coraline-box.htmlbut it's a close thing.

For those keeping track of the fifty boxes: I did not get one of those fifty boxes-for-bloggers. There are still 28 in the wild.

I got a one-off box-for-an-author.

It looks like this:






Like this in close-up.


It opens to reveal red-velvet padding...



Incidentally, photographed because they were also on the kitchen table* -- the US edition of the Steve Jones CORALINE: A Visual Companion arrived here a few days ago. It's lovely. Steve tells the history of the book, the history of the film, shows how it came to be, tells about the various other versions of Coraline -- the puppet ones, plays, the upcoming Stephin Merritt musical** and so on.

I also got the new UK edition of Coraline the book with the film tie-in cover, and I discovered that they seem to be seriously using the "Coraline looking at us poster" as the cover, with "An Adventure too Weird For Words" as the tagline.


Truth to tell, I don't like the "Too Weird For Words" line -- it's like someone went "Uhh... I have no idea what this is or how to describe it," and, combined with the poster picture, makes me suspect that the UK film people are worried about telling people that it's a beautiful, funny, sometimes scary little movie. Personally, I think you should sell things for what they are, because that way the people who do like them will find them. If you try to give the impression that it's a ... well, something else (from the poster and tag line, a cute silent movie about a little girl who lives in a house?) you'll miss the people out there who would have liked it, and the people who go wanting the thing they think you're selling will be puzzled and disappointed.

But the film doesn't come out until May in the UK, so there's still plenty of time to hope they change it, I guess.

I'm hearing wonderful things from people about the imaginative ways Laika/Focus are promoting it in the US right now, including trains that go past posters that appear to move -- real life animation, which turns the subway walls into a giant flip-book. (And look! A storefront in New York that seems to have become a Coraline world.)

I'm digressing. Below, you will see the Coraline that wasn't in the box. She was a gift a couple of years ago from Henry and his team -- a painted model.





This is the one that was in the box. See the lines on her face? That's where you can replace eyes, mouths and so on. At the beginning of the film-making process Henry wanted to keep the lines, but was outvoted, so they were digitally erased.





She has the cat in her satchel and they are both fully articulated.



See?


Everything moves...



Even the cat's tail.




............................................................................................................................................



*Also on the kitchen table in this shot, the edge of a few copies of the George Walker Writer's Prayer print I found while looking for something else, artist's proofs which I'm going to send over to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund to auction.

And while I think of it, this is a small reminder that, for late presents, or for What To Do With Holiday Gift Money things, the CBLDF shop at http://www.cbldf.com/ is filled with wonderful signed goodies, including books and posters and suchlike, along with memberships, and fragrances, and even t-shirts.

Like this one from Frank Miller:




gives information on the musical, and discount ticket information about the theatre.

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Monday, December 22, 2008

it was just meant to be some snow photos but i kept adding to it...

A handful of photos from the last two days. The first two were taken while it was snowing, the others the next day, after the snow had stopped. They tend to have a dog in them, because if I'm walking anywhere, he's off ahead, scouting for danger and potential rabbits.

 

 

 

 
 


...

Hi!

Have you seen/heard about the Coraline keys yet? I was on my way to work yesterday and walked past a boarded up building that is usually covered by posters and pretty wonderful street art.

Yesterday it was covered with keys. I looked closer and realized that the tops of they keys were buttons, and grabbed one because they were lovely looking. They were also made of metal, and had a good heft. Once I realized that they were for Coraline, I grabbed a BUNCH (there were literally at LEAST a hundred).

I can send along a picture if you like.

Just wanted to let you know! (I'm in Chicago, by the way). I also have a couple to customers at the bookshop where I work, and was especially happy to give one to the couple who bought a copy of Coraline. That was nifty.

-Lauren


So I wrote back and said, No, this was a new one on me, and yes, I'd love to see pictures.

Hi again!

Here are links to the last few keys left on the wall. Also, a photobooth picture so you can see the key up close (albeit backwards).

http://flickr.com/photos/bibliogrrl/3122751843/in/photostream/
http://flickr.com/photos/bibliogrrl/3122756337/in/photostream/
http://flickr.com/photos/bibliogrrl/3123571466/in/photostream/
http://flickr.com/photos/bibliogrrl/3123563662/in/photostream/

Hope you're not buried in too much snow up there - we keep getting waves of it here.

Thank you again for everything you do. You are one of my favorite authors to handsell at the shop where I work (and have been for years) - I'm always trying to convert new people.

Happy holidaze!

-Lauren Vega
bibliogrrl.livejournal.com


Thank you Lauren.
...

At the end of the Coraline screening, two code words turned up on the screen. I learned from http://www.sneakerfiles.com/?s=coraline&x=0&y=0 that they have to do with a limited edition of a thousand pairs of Coraline sneakers, that you win, rather than buy.

...

Dear Neil

if I click on your name in Amazon.com, I get one set of bestselling books. If I type your name and search for you I get a completely different set of bestselling books.  Why is this?

Joe

That's a bit mad, I thought. So I tried it. Clicked on my name as the author of The Graveyard Book, and got this set of books (with Absolute Sandmans 3 and 4 in the top ten), then tried typing in my name,  which gave me a whole Amazon Store of me, with no Absolute Sandmans to be seen anywhere, and a completely different bestselling order.

As to why is this... I have no idea. With luck, someone at Amazon is reading this and will write and enlighten us all.

...

Jouni Koponen's amazing prints arrived. I thought about it, and decided that I'd have enough to send out as New Year gifts, and, given that a lot of people were about to be disappointed, I could forego the copies that would go into my basement (or possibly attic) to be pulled out in the years to come as gifts to charities who need things to be auctioned. So I've sent 250 of the Jouni prints to Cat... (she blogs it at http://kittysneverwear.blogspot.com/, 
and you can order them at http://www.neverwear.net/store/index.php?main_page=product_info&products_id=27)

Meanwhile, my Xmas card from Jouni arrived. And he's put it up on his blog...

...

When things get quiet I'll sign things. (I ought to do it while I'm on the phone. Sometimes I do.)  http://kylecassidy.livejournal.com/472660.html
is the saga of one man's autographing Odyssey.

Over on the FPI blog, I am interviewed and eat lunch. 
Also you get a nice link to Todd Klein's wonderful prints. Todd has now sold the last of the first printing of the print we did together, and is on to the second printing. He's selling them signed (by me and by Alan Moore and Alex Ross respectively) for $20 each. Details at http://kleinletters.com/BuyStuffTop.html

...




Hi, I was sort of wondering about your thoughts of 'literary fiction' and 'genre fiction' and the mixes of both. I would classify your work as something of a mix, leaning towards the literary side.

This has actually been something of concern to me. I'm writing stories and I'm working on a novel (that hopefully I'll complete) and I've sort of been thinking about that a lot lately, about how such a work as mine would be received and looked at critically and all those sorts of things.

Thanks.


I don't worry about it. I don't think about it. It's not something I feel I need to bother with. People put the books where they want to put them, but the books don't change. As long as I have covers that make the books like they might be pleasant reading experiences, as long as people mostly find out about them from other people who liked them rather than being told they needed to read them as a chore, I'm happy. (I'm easily satisfied.)

From where I stand, worrying about how something you are writing is going to be received critically while you're writing it is a whole lot of wasted worrying: there's nothing you can do about it anyway. Why not worry about making what you're writing the best thing that it can be, which is something you can do something about?

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Saturday, December 20, 2008

Trees

Just a small post to say that the snow is falling and falling and falling, and walking the dog is like walking into a Christmas Card, and that http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/christmas08/entertainment/neil-gaiman-hanukkah-with-bells-on-1203307.html is the small, true memoir I wrote for the Independent on Amanda Palmer's tourbus in Chicago two weeks ago.

It should have been a ghost story, but there you are.

...

Mostly the emails that break one's heart don't ever get posted here. This one I replied to, but, with names removed, I'm also putting it up here...

Hi Neil! My name is [name removed]. This is going to be pretty random, but I hope that you actually recieve and read this message. I have been dating [name also removed] and [he] informed me that you were his brother. This christmas I want to make him a personalized journal with photos of his friends and family. I was wondering if you had any photos of your family, the rest of your brothers of even your father. I'm having some trouble collecting photos from [him] and your father's side of the family. I understand that you might not take this message seriously but I honestly hope you do. If you have any doubts about whether I am actually dating [him] or just some crazy fan call and ask him about me, but please don't mention the journal. I don't want the surprise to be ruined. Thanks for you time and hopefully I'll have some pictures in my email inbox soon?

...and I told her that I don't have any brothers, just sisters, and that I didn't know the gentleman she had named, and that I was sorry. And I really am.

I never know how to respond to people who have been dealing with people who pretend to be me (it's happened a few times now) or pretend to be friends with me. This is the first time someone's claimed to be family...

...

Russell Cherrington wrote in to let me know that Harrods still have copies of the Bloomsbury signed and limited edition of The Graveyard Book for 25 pounds. (Most places in the UK are, he told me, out of them, and they're on eBay for 75 pounds.)

sir

what order should I read The Sandman in?

thanks

rob.


It would probably work best if read in order, but it doesn't matter that much. Just make sure you read the last two books last. (Which reminds me: this is one of the most interesting pieces I've read about Sandman in ages.)

...

Also, an Amazon oddity that made me happy -- The Thirteen Clocks, by James Thurber is riding high in the Amazon.com top 100. (#33 as I type this.)It's the one I did an introduction for, and that my burbling about in this very blog helped bring back into print. I'm hoping that people will get it as presents and that they will read it aloud to each other.

It's a wonderful book.

(Edit to add: Aha! It's Daniel Pinkwater's fault! http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=98558194 Listen to the talk.)




(And the UK Amazon is selling The Graveyard Book for 50% off. Which is disconcerting.)

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Thursday, December 18, 2008

Koumpounophobics Unbuttoned


As I type this my house is filled with a film crew who keep making rooms into very similar rooms that are actually film sets, as chairs and rugs and tables and lamps move around, and corridors fill with cameras and crew and monitors and teleprompters and such. I've done an Alfred Hitchcock Presents style monologue about buttons, been interviewed about the origins of Coraline, and been filmed walking in the snow with the dog. The dog turns out to be an excellent actor. One more interview to go tonight...

Some of it is going to be on the Coraline website, and it will be used for other things too.

I saw Coraline last night with Henry Selick, and an invited audience of family, friends and acquaintances. I'd never seen anything from the last half hour, and I hadn't seen any more than clips in 3D before now. It was lovely, and, once it got going, really creepy. I have visions of terrified parents having their hands squeezed by solicitous children who will have to remind them that it's only a movie.

Also, I have now stopped being jealous of the people getting Coraline boxes, because Henry brought me a Coraline of my own. An original puppet, from the movie, in orange pajamas, with a cat in her satchel.

She's beautiful.


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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

N is for....

The Coraline movie people enjoy making treasure hunts. In addition to the amazing Coraline boxes (here is another one that just showed up), they've created an alphabet of Coraline cards, and spread them across the web, in order to promote the completely new, spiffy, relaunched, wondrous and magnificent http://coraline.com/. 

They asked if I'd like the letter N. I said yes.


 


Having spent a little while on the site this morning, my favourite thing is the app that allows you to upload photos and put buttons on the eyes. You can choose the buttons, the photo frame, the size, all that... It's in the Other Mother's Workshop. I think it's most disturbing if the buttons are ever so slightly askew...

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Sunday, December 14, 2008

A twittery sort of a Sunday...

So far I've resisted the siren lure of Twitter, but today was a very twittery sort of day:

NEIL has decided to hand in his Mini Convertible and get a Mini Clubman instead, and blames the dog.

NEIL (inspired by this) took Maddy (age 14 and a few months) for her first driving lesson today, up and down the drive, and taught her how to drive and how to reverse, in the Mini and in the 4-Runner, and we had fun.

NEIL cannot believe how it went from warm, wet and raining onto snow this morning down to the bitter minuses in the afternoon, and now the world is covered with ice.

NEIL really hopes they roll out an update that gets Google Maps working again on his G1 soon.

NEIL has just discovered that Momus is giving away his Creation era albums as MP3s via his LiveJournal (http://imomus.livejournal.com/)

NEIL is discovering that he really likes Chrome. Except for the badly-placed close tab Xs, which seem to mean I'm always closing tabs I wanted to click on.

NEIL thinks http://www.secrettechnology.com/madethis/enemy6.html is dead cool.

NEIL is more delighted than he can possibly say that The Graveyard Book is on so many Best of the Year Lists (and has decided not to link to them any more because it looks like I'm swanking). (Not this.)(Or even this.)

NEIL thinks that this* would have been the world's greatest Christmas song, if the Dalek voice had actually sounded like a Dalek, and if the song wasn't, you know, on every level, crap.

One of those sorts of days...


*song replaced with YouTube link (now fixed), due to bandwidth issues.

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Saturday, December 13, 2008

three photos

So normally, when I post photos, I weed out ones in which I don't look particularly cool. No chance of that here.  I am not cool on a level that actually drains cool from the photograph. I was 24, it was 1985, I had a grey leather jacket and a white tee shirt and I look so gawky it's almost sweet. I think I was trying out my "I shall grow facial hair and look like I write Science Fiction and thus blend in with real writers," look. 

It's the Milford SF writers workshop, in Milford on Sea, at which I learned so much

From Left to Right, Colin Greenland, me, Dave Garnett, Rachel Pollack, Garry Kilworth, Paul Kincaid, Sue Thomason, Gwyneth Jones, Alex Stewart (AKA Sandy Mitchell), John Clute, and the late Richard Cowper (real name John Middleton Murry). The photographer was Lisa Tuttle. (Sue Thomason describes that Milford here.)


And a couple of curiosities -- I took these photos in August 1989, of my then-office in our flat in Nutley, Sussex as reference for Kelley Jones for Sandman 17, of what a writer's office would look like, for Ric Madoc's office in "Calliope". This is where Sandman was written until I moved to the US (somewhere early in Brief Lives).




I glance up from where I'm typing this, and I can see the Bill Sienkiewicz Judge Dredd cover still -- it's the scary pink face. Groucho now lives in my bedroom.

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Friday, December 12, 2008

Three things you could buy

Jouni Koponen is a Finnish artist who, every now and again, goes off and illustrates something of mine for his own pleasure. Sometimes the things he does become actual things you can hold in your hand -- he did the illustrated Shoggoth's Old Peculiar chapbook, for example.

Over on his blog, he tells the story of how he...

...fell in love with Neil Gaiman's poem "The Day the Saucers Came" and I got the idea of having this one picture in the beginning, and then just "zooming out" of it so that there's more and more stuff visible. I did couple of pictures and sent them to Neil and he really liked them. Then I did the rest of the pictures and was really happy with myself... and then Neil asked me what are we going to DO with the illustrations... and I had no idea.

We went back and forth with various ideas (basically anything and everything between... let's say from set of postcards to T-shirt printing to illustrated picturebook)... and then Neil was busy with stuff... and then I was busy with some other stuff... and then we forgot the whole damn thing for a little while... and then we remembered it again.

Now, at some point we added Cat Mihos from NeverWear to the "brainstorm" and we came up with an idea of a poster. So, I did a background image and put the illustrations on it... and that was it. Everybody was happy
.

Click on it to see it larger. It's lovely.



It's being printed on card stock. I'm taking some of the print run to be my Hullo It's 2009 and I Seem To Have Missed Christmas Again thingummy for my friends, and Cat Mihos is going to be selling the rest of them through her Neverwear site. There are 500 for sale in all, numbered. Tomorrow and henceforth she will be selling them for $45 each. Today, and only today, and only because they went up on the site this morning with a typo which she is honouring, she's selling them for $25. (Here's the direct link.)

(This is the Neverwear blog. Scroll down for a great photo of Ms. Amanda F. Palmer modelling a Graveyard Book tee shirt for Cat.)

Earlier this year I gave the first Julie Schwartz Memorial Lecture at MIT, mostly about, if memory serves, the relationship between hardcore pornography and stage musicals, and how you could use this relationship to illuminate the nature of genre literature, and after the lecture I was interviewed by MIT media genius Henry Jenkins: the event was filmed and is available now on DVD. http://cms.mit.edu/news/2008/12/neil_gaiman_dvd_available_dec.php is a link to a page with a clip from the interview bit of the evening, and here's the pre-ordering information.

The DVD might make a very nice Mithrastide gift for someone, and sales of the DVDs go to fund things like airfare and food for the next speaker. (One day the Memorial Lecture will be rich enough to do actual speaker's fees, but not yet.) It'll go on sale on the 17th.





And finally, the new Rain Taxi magazine has a sort of a Sandman special, with a Dave McKean cover, in which, amongst other things, Lemony Snicket (or possibly Daniel Handler) promises (or possibly threatens) to kiss me with tongue in joyous Sandman celebration. You can buy it here.

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Thursday, December 11, 2008

Barely a post at all...

Me. Two years old, in Purbrook Gardens, Waterlooville, Hants. I looked on Google Maps, and the place is still there, tree and all. (Expect more strange photos in the days to come from the misty Gaiman archives.)


P. Craig Russell's adaptation of Sandman:The Dream Hunters is marvellous, and he is getting, rightly, real acclaim for it. In this video he tells the story of why he's suddenly found himself drawing another two pages at the very end of the final issue, after the thing was all done.




Right. Back to Batman.

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"I am prepared to offer you a deal if the book does sell..."

People say to me, Neil, you have extremely unlikely hair. Why is this?

And I say, probably it is genetic. Here is a photo of my great aunt Bertha, my grandfather, grandmother, and great aunt Dora, in 1920. Note the strangeness of the hair. My grandmother may or may not have strange hair, although she definitely has a strange hat. (You may disapprove of the cigarettes if you wish. I do not know why my grandmother is holding a cigarette -- I don't think she ever smoked. Perhaps it is my grandfather's.)

(I started a family tree at Geni.com, and invited various family members to it, and the most amazing pictures have been coming out of the woodwork. Or at least, out of my Aunt Janet's box of old photographs.)


Hi Neil,

Just wanted to let you know that the keycode "OTHERWORLD" can be used to access all of the video content thus far on the Coraline website, at least to my knowledge. You might want to post this so other people don't have to bother with the passwords (which are very cool, but somewhat cumbersome). Thanks Neil,

- Peter


That's very useful -- thanks. And there are several new videos up there as well. (I am excited. I get to see the finished film in a week.)

This from Andrew Burday:

Regarding the Australian Simpsons parody case: the judge doesn't appear to be confused about the existence of fictional characters. He's saying that a depiction of Bart Simpson is a depiction of a person as opposed to a depiction of a dog or a space alien. He is quoted as saying that the crime would be more serious "if the persons were real".

What's really frightening is the motivation the judge gives to the law in his interpretation. In the USA, the usual motivation given for suppressing child porn is to protect actual children who may be involved in producing it. Apparently that is also a motivation for the Australian law, but it obviously can't apply in this case -- again, the judge contrasts this case to one involving real children. However, the judge goes beyond that to claim that the government has a legitimate interest in suppressing material that could "fuel demand for material that does involve the abuse of children."

The scary thing about that is that almost any expression that concerns child porn without condemning it could be read as "fueling demand". (Really, so could condemnations, in that they create forbidden fruit.) This email and your blog post could be said to fuel demand for child porn by criticizing some laws against it. You and I could be prosecuted as child pornographers merely for having spoken out against this attempt to criminalize it. On this understanding of the law, the law legitimately can suppress its own opposition. So much for any democratic process.

(I have tried to keep this short, but to forestall one obvious objection: suppose you had included a link to the Simpsons parody so that readers could see for themselves what was being suppressed, or suppose that a linguistic description can count as a "depiction" under Australian law. Then your post and my email would include depictions.)

Thanks so much.

Dear Neil Gaiman,


Is "Odd and the Frost Giants" out of print? Because I wanted to put it on my Christmas wish list, and amazon.co.uk doesn't seem to be selling any more themselves; it just has links to other sellers.

Thank you for writing, I love your stories.

Emily

P.S. I was one of the too many people who got "The Graveyard Book" signed at the National Book Festival in DC, and I wanted to thank you for drawing the headstone in my copy, because I got to show the picture too my kindergarten class even though the book is a bit too old for them. (They agreed that it is "cool.") I also read them "The Wolves in the Walls" and "The Day I Swapped my Dad for Two Goldfish," which went over well, so I was wondering if "Crazy Hair" has been or is going to be published as a picture book.

Crazy Hair comes out late next year, in the US and the UK.

It looks like Odd and the Frost Giants is out of print, yes. That's part of the thing of it being a World Book Day book. Everyone did things for free so it could be a one pound book, but that only happens once.

Harpers should be publishing it in the US in 2009, and Bloomsbury will republish it in the UK eventually, although they may wait for me to write another Odd story first. (Odd in Jerusalem, perhaps. I'm pretty sure that he went there.)

Lots of people wrote to tell me about the Rebellyon -- http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/2008/dec/03/dresden-dolls-roadrunner is a Guardian article about it, and here's Ms Palmer blogging about it. (Also, http://blog.amandapalmer.net/post/63879023/dispatch-from-aspen-salt-lake has, about half-way down, a nice picture of Amanda and me at my kitchen table signing our way through 700 apologetic cards with a photo of a dead Amanda on the other side. Incidentally, the table was filled with other people eating breakfast, but you can't see them.)


Hello my name is Andrea bucy I have seen the movie stardust and I intend to read the book by you I was wondering if I could possible write a spinoff book that has some of the same characters and setting. But I wanted to get you permission first because if i were to get it published i don’t want someone coming after me cause i stole their ideas. I am prepared to offer you a deal if the book does sell i will offer you royalties of 60/40 50/50 or 40/60 i don’t write just for money but i realize that for some people like Jane Austen do and did go along in life and pay for many things by the money they make from their books. So i am asking you if we can maybe make a contract that says you have given me permission, only if you do give me permission, to use your ideas and work in my story and you will get credit for it.Pleas get back to me.

I'm not really sure where to start on this one. If you want to write fan fiction, you can. I don't mind. Sequels and prequels and meetings and pairings and what have you. You can put it up on the web. But you can't publish it commercially. You need to stay on the non-commercial side of the street, which means you can't sell it, not even if, like Jane Austen, you're in it for the big bucks. Otherwise bad things would happen, involving lawyers from publishers and lawyers from movie studios, and your week would be ruined. Trust me on this.

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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

no coherent theme of any kind

My hair is now shorter, and despite the fact it's no longer just a couple of blocks from Hair Police, I popped in to DreamHaven and signed many, many, many books (http://neilgaiman.net/ship-sign.php). If you want signed books as presents, Greg should have lots (including The Graveyard Book first printings, which are getting a bit scarce on the ground now.)

I'm home. I'm catching up on DVDs while working -- ones that have come in from the various awards things, and others. Shortbus is on right now, and it's impressive on a number of levels. (Also has Sook-Yin Lee in it, who is marvellous, and left me puzzling over where I knew her from until my comics-trivia brain finally pointed out that she was in some of Chester Brown's autobiographical comics about 15 years ago. Also it has Justin Bond in it, who I eventually realised was Kiki, from Kiki and Herb.) Frost/Nixon on DVD tonight. (No real interest in the subject matter, but I thought Michael Sheen is an astonishing actor and was amazing in The Queen, and I had no interest in the subject matter of that film until I watched it. So I'm rather looking forward to it.)

Author (good author) Pat Rothfuss wrote to say:

I started a fundraiser for Hiefer International a couple weeks ago and have been delightedly watching it spiral out of control ever since. I'm matching donations and offering signed books as lottery-style prizes for people who participate. So far, I've been surprised at how eager people have been to help spread the word and donate to the cause.

Two days ago, I heard through the grapevine that you've been a supporter of Heifer International in the past. So I thought I'd drop you a line and see if you might be interested in throwing up a link on your blog to let more folks know about it.

If you'd rather not, I understand completely. I imagine everyone must be constantly clawing at you with a thousand small requests like this, and I hate the thought of adding to that.

But for Hiefer, I figured I'd risk it.

Fondly,

pat


Pat's fundraiser is being detailed on his blog. Lots of people have donated lots of cool things. I'll see if I can find some long-forgotten ARCs for him. Go take part.

(Incidentally, you can win a copy of The Graveyard Book Limited Edition at http://fantasyhotlist.blogspot.com/2008/12/win-copy-of-limited-edition-of-neil.html)

Peter Murphy is one of those people around the world that it feels like I have one long conversation with in dribs and drabs, spread out over the years. When I get to Dublin he interviews me, always in the sitting room in the Clarence, and we chat, and I'm never sure how he's going to turn us talking into a printable interview, but he always does.

He's made a commercial for his first book, and it's lovely:



...

About 25 years ago, a rather nervous, very young journalist found himself, along with the almost-a-year-older and much more assured Kim Newman, with a contract to write a book of SF and Fantasy Quotations, (which would end up as Ghastly Beyond Belief). He (oh all right, it was me) wrote letters to people asking for suggestions. Only two people replied -- Isaac Asimov wrote a postcard saying I could use anything of his I wanted to, and he had no idea what was good or bad. The other person who replied was Forrest J Ackerman. Who replied more or less daily for a year -- every day the mail would bring a letter or a postcard from Forrie with a handful of quotes on them. There weren't a lot that I could use, mind, but it was a wonderful thing for a 23 year old journalist to get: letters and cards from Forrest J Ackerman, normally signed "4E", which treated me like an adult and part of the community. Some years later, at the 1987 Worldcon in Brighton, Kim Newman and I met Forrie on the stairs at the Metropole Hotel and thanked him, and he showed us his Dracula ring that Bela Lugosi gave him (or left him, I forget).

Thank you Forrie.

...

Yes, I know that the Hill House website is dark. A Neverwhere Limited Edition Bail Out is still being organised and is being put into effect in back rooms currently. It's taken a lot longer than I expected to get to the point where we're able publically to announce the details. Soon. Very soon. Thank you for your Job-like patience.

And, on a lighter note, should writers get a federal bail out?

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Monday, December 08, 2008

Bloody NorthWest. Bloody Delta.

There's something particularly offputting about hearing a reassuring telephone message from Northwest Airlines assuring you that their transition into the new Delta airlines will be seamless, when you're sitting in an airport trying to phone someone to help deal with how Northwest and Delta have, between them, lost your seat assignment on a flight that's oversold, and have tried to sort it out by helpfully booking you on a flight from a different airport that you aren't going to get to in rush hour before it takes off.

Right now I'm sitting at the gate waiting to find out if I'll spend tonight in an airport hotel.

It takes the joy out of learning that your book is at Number Nine on Time Magazine's Top Ten Fiction Books of 2008 List. (And not on the children's list. Fiction. That's cool.)

Edit to add: I got on the plane. Two hours later we're still sitting on the runway. They think it may be another half or or more before anything happens, so we are allowed to turn on phones. My grump has not abated.

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the word 'person' included fictional or imaginary characters ...

Dear Neil

I'm one of your many fans from Australia. Today in my country a judge made a ruling that could set a dangerous precedent, particularly for readers of adult oriented comics and (especially) the retailers who supply them.
A New South Wales judge has found that a man found with crude, fan made pictures depicting Simpsons characters Bart, Lisa and Maggie having sex.
http://www.theage.com.au/national/simpsons-cartoon-ripoff-is-child-porn-judge-20081208-6tmk.html

Apparently these drawn images are "people" in the eyes of the law and there is no distinction made between this and actual photographs of pedophilic acts.

This worries me for a number of reasons. First of all, I own a copy of Lost Girls. By this definition, I'm in possession of something that could put me in jail and have me registered as a sex offender. Also, this has the potential for a slippery slope that could lead to censorship/ the banning of some of my favorite works, not to mention jail for the proprietors of Australia’s few and far between dedicated Comics shops. To the best of my knowledge, Australia has nothing like the first amendment and I'm not sure if the CBLDF operates outside of the US.

I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on the matter.

Thanks for your time and please, do not stop writing.

Peter M



"In my view, the magistrate was correct in determining that, in respect of both the commonwealth and the NSW offences, the word 'person' included fictional or imaginary characters ...," the judge said.


And I suspect the Judge might have just inadvertantly granted human rights to cartoon characters.

I think it's nonsensical in every way that it could possibly be nonsensical. The Simpsons characters aren't real people. They definitely aren't real children. (Given that they first appeared in the late eighties, they're also all over eighteen now...)

The famous 1967 Wally Wood "Disney Memorial Orgy" poster (http://flickr.com/photos/25308024@N08/2509508040/sizes/o/>(possibly not safe for work, might prompt embarrassing questions from small children, do not click on this if a small reproduction of cartoon characters doing softcore filthy things upsets you)is a parody of Disney's image, an attack in cartoon form on the idea of consumerism and the innocence of cartoon characters, as the Disney characters let their hair down and indulge in a memorial orgy for the late Walt Disney. The idea that you could be arrested in the Western World for having that image in your computer is mind-boggling, let alone for owning Lost Girls, or for doodling members of the Peanuts gang doing things they tended not to do in the Schulz comics, or for reading Harry Potter slash, or owning the Brass Eye Paedophilia special. And, I should warn members of the Australian judiciary, fictional characters don't just have sex. Sometimes they murder each other, and take fictional drugs, and are cruel to fictional animals, and throw fictional babies off roofs. Crimes, crime everywhere.

The ability to distinguish between fiction and reality is, I think, an important indicator of sanity, perhaps the most important. And it looks like the Australian legal system has failed on that score.

I don't know if it's something that they can further legally appeal, or afford to appeal, but I hope they can. If not, I hope that a bunch of Australians will get together to change the law.

I'm sure the CBLDF -- and many other organisations who have concerns about the barriers between art and life, expression, freedom of speech, and, possibly, now, pension plans for cartoon characters -- would offer advice and information. But this is something that Australians will have to sort out.

...

The full version of the Boston Metro interview from the other day has just gone up on AICN.

The Wall Street Journal extracts Laura Miller's excellent book on Narnia.

Douglas Adams' short story The Private Life of Genghis Khan (if memory serves, a rewrite of a TV sketch he wrote with Graham Chapman done for the Comic Relief Book, with an additional Hitchhiker's gag at the end) is up at http://www.douglasadams.com/dna/980707-07-s.html.

And I promise I'll do one of those posts where I round up mail and answer lots of things soon. Very soon.

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