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Thursday, February 11, 2010

With Great Power comes, well, something...

Last year I linked to R.A. Lafferty's short story "Slow Tuesday Night" (The new syfy channel that replaced the old Sci-Fi channel no longer have it up on their website, but you can find it in internet archives here.) It's a story about a world in which things happen fast. You should read it.

Sometimes I think it was written about Twitter.

For example, last night, before bed, I noticed this: http://hidenseek.typepad.com/come_out_come_out/2010/02/cannot-chase-paperchase.html It looked like a pretty clearcut case of plagiarism by a large company from a small crafter. I linked to it in Twitter, with a post saying

Fascinating Paperchase plagiarism over at http://bit.ly/cdrzKZ . Bad Paperchase.

I went to bed.

When I woke up, it was to articles like this:
http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/art/news/paperchase-forced-to-deny-it-copied-artists-work-after-twitter-backlash-1896894.htm and http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/retailandconsumer/7215124/Paperchase-forced-to-deny-it-plagiarised-British-artists-work-after-Twitter-campaign.html and (slightly more balanced) http://www.guardian.co.uk/artanddesign/2010/feb/11/paperchase-design-hidden-eloise.

Now, the truth is, I didn't campaign, and I didn't mobilise 1.5 million people. I pointed a few to the link, they read the article, looked at the picture, went "No, you can't do that" and spread the word themselves. There's a community of crafters out there making small-run or handmade things who individually lack power, but together are a force to be reckoned with. And the mass of people are, on the whole, very good on the whole right and wrong thing...

But it's so strange. We're not quite in a world in which the established media have the power they used to, or at least, they are playing catch-up, and that's odd, and different, and sort of fun. And it's also a tremendous amount of responsibility. The first time this happened, about a year ago, I decided I had to use these Twitter powers only for good. And that's still the plan.

But you can't plan on it. And you can't second-guess what's going to happen. I suppose you try and do the right thing, and hope for the best.

Which applies as much to life as it does to Twitter.

...

Now, in case you weren't following, I won two SFX Readers Poll Awards, handed out at the SFX Weekender on Saturday. (The Full awards list is here.) These were my acceptance speeches (they'd told me which award would be handed out first, so I put the big news after the second award):

BEST NOVEL

Hullo.

I wish I could be with you, but I’m in LA, at the animation awards, waiting to see whether Coraline has won any Annies. I keep trying to master the whole bilocation thing but so far without any luck.

I came up with the idea for The Graveyard Book in 1985, sitting in a little English country graveyard, watching my son pedal his tricycle between the headstones. I put down the words from 2005 to 2008. Last night someone asked me how long the book took to write and I didn’t know if it was three years or 25 years. I’ve written a lot of books, but it’s one of my favourites, and it means a lot to me that it’s one of your favourites too. I want to thank Dave McKean and Chris Riddell, who illustrated it, and Sarah Odedina, my editor at Bloomsbury, because I don’t get to thank her enough. But mostly I want to thank you.


BEST COMIC

I love Batman. I’ve loved him for over 40 years now, and when I was offered the chance to write the “last” Batman comic, I jumped at it. Whatever Happened To The Caped Crusader was really a kind of a love letter to everything I had loved about Batman, and at the same time it was fan letter to all the people who had, over the years, made the Batman I had loved – Bob Kane and Bill Finger, Dick Sprang and Neal Adams, Adam West and Frank Miller and the list goes on and on...
I was delighted that people enjoyed it. Nobody would have enjoyed it even a little bit if Andy Kubert was not an amazing genius of great brilliance, capable of drawing like Brian Bolland or Berni Wrightson whenever I’d ask him to, and equally as capable of drawing like himself. I was more than happy to have been asked to make it, I’m thrilled you liked it.

Oh, and there's something else.

Over the years SFX, and its readers and their votes in the polls, have always been very kind to me. I thought I’d return the favour with what used to be called, in journalistic circles when I was a boy, a scoop.

As anyone who’s read my blog knows, I’m a big fan of a certain long-running British SF TV series. One that started watching -- from behind the sofa -- when I was three. And while I know it’s cruel to make you wait for things, in about 14 months from now, which is to say, NOT in the upcoming season but early in the one after that, it’s quite possible that I might have written an episode. And if I had, it would originally have been called “The House of Nothing”. But it definitely isn’t called that any more.

Countdown. You’ve got about 14 months.


Which I decided to announce mostly because being coy was getting wearing after 18 months. (No, I've never lied about it, and the only things I've flat-out denied were made-up stories about Ice Warriors or episode placement.) I'd let Steven Moffat and co. know ahead of time. And it got fairly well reported -- accurately by SFX in http://www.sfx.co.uk/page/sfx?entry=exclusive_neil_gaiman_confirms_doctor, picked up by papers like the Guardian - http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2010/feb/08/neil-gaiman-dr-who - and then much more cautiously by the BBC itself in http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/entertainment/8503737.stm with the headline Neil Gaiman 'has written Doctor Who episode' (as if it's a direct quote, which it isn't), with a line at the end saying A spokesman for Doctor Who would not confirm Gaiman's announcement. which left me scratching my head, wondering why I got the quotation marks and odd deniability, or the sense that they were poised to follow it up with Gaiman admits 'he made the whole Doctor Who thing up'. Oh, funny old BBC news website.

...

Dan Guy, webgoblin of this parish, and I, have put up a proper Facebook fan page to replace a couple of ones people had put up in the past that everyone seemed to think was actually me. Not a lot of content there, and there are no plans to put up anything you can't find here. It's at http://www.facebook.com/neilgaiman

(Thanks again to the magic of Twitter, where I complained that we couldn't figure out a way to make it happen, and were contacted by Facebook almost instantly.)
...

Hi, Neil - I am sure you will hear this many, many times... but I wanted to chime in and say that when I read "I don't really know how much longer this blog has to go," it was a bit of a shock. I know it's a little silly to have become attached to the blog of an author I've never met, but reading what you write here is a constant joy and entertainment, and I would be very sad to see it go. Please keep writing - here, and everywhere else.

Best,
-Megan


I think all good things end. When I started the blog, in February 2001, I planned to keep it going until September 2001. It's still going, and I'm certainly not planning to end it immediately. But it will end one day. Good things do.

Hi Neil. I don't know if you can answer this question. Since you're the best author who ever lived, you likely haven't encountered this problem. How do you deal with harsh criticism and bad reviews without wanting to slit your wrists? Some of us take our writing very seriously. Please tell me. I'd really like to know.
Thanks... and cheers, mate.


Well, for a start, never take seriously anyone telling you you're the best author who ever lived, because if you do you'd have to take seriously the person who announces that you're the worst author who ever lived.

If you make art, people will talk about it. Some of the things they say will be nice, some won't. You'll already have made that art, and when they're talking about the last thing you did, you should already be making the next thing.

If bad reviews (of whatever kind) upset you, just don't read them. It's not like you've signed an agreement with the person buying the book to exchange your book for their opinion.

Do whatever you have to do to keep making art. I know people who love bad reviews, because it means they've made something happen and made people talk; I know people who have never read any of their reviews. It's their call. You get on with making art.

Hey Neil,

Just wanted to say a big thank you!! I saw you at the Con in Montreal in August and you talking about Gene Wolfe inspired me to get some of his writing...and now I can't stop! I wish I had found him before. Just read Peace...and reread it! Amazing! And gulping down his short stories now. Lots of jewels in "The Best of Gene Wolfe". Anyway, thanks!!

What's your favourite Gene Wolfe work?

Pi


It depends. Sometimes Peace, sometimes the Book of the New Sun, sometimes it's the last thing of Gene's I read.

Dear Neil I am 8 years old and in LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOve with your books so are my two little sisters and my dad. Cant wait to see you at Naperville reads!

Why, thank you. (I actually put this up so that I could remind people in the Chicago area about http://napervillereads.org/events.html and the events on the evenings of the 23rd and 24th of February
The 23rd is 7:00 p.m. Reading / Q&A event for Adult Fans held at Waubonsie Valley High School. This will be a ticketed event, with tickets available at Anderson’s and all 3 Naperville Public Library locations, Nichols Library, Naper Boulevard Library and 95th Street Library.

The 24th is very similar, but it's for families (which just means I'm going to read all-ages appropriate stuff on the 24th, but not necessarily on the 23rd). They are ticketed event, although the tickets are Free.

The Naperville Reads events look crazy busy, but I'm hoping my granddaughter & nephew can meet you at the Family Night on Feb.24 - will there be a signing and/or meet & greet?
Thanks much!
~Chris


I'm going to pre-sign about 3000 books, but not try and do signings each night, because each day is already packed from early in the morning with talks to school classes and groups and a 5 hour signing at the end of each long day will finish me off.

In terms of meet and greet, we'll see. If I can, I will.

Dear Neil,

Two questions:

1) Is the notion presented in American Gods that roadside attractions in America are built on places of power an original one of yours, or can one read more about this idea somewhere?

2) Have you ever driven down the Great River Road on the Wisconsin side? There are a number of unusual (and I think resonant) places along that route, the best of which is the Our Lady of Guadalupe Shrine just south of La Crosse.

Love your work!

Regards,

Chris Ellison
The Netherlands (but originally from Cannon Falls)


1) It's mine, I'm afraid.

2) I did, the first time I drove to Florida, researching American Gods. It was so cold...

OK, OK, so I'm only 20-some years late in asking, but I just found my box of Sandman comics and my son and I have been re-reading them at night, and my son asked: In the first issue, when Morpheus is trapped and Burgess (his captor) dies right in front of him, how come Death doesn't see her brother when she comes for Burgess? I know, I know, it was the first issue and seeing more of the Endless at that point would have been problematic, but still, I promised I'd ask (and now I'm kind of curious to hear what I know will be a creative answer). On a side note, I love how well even the early issues still hold up. I wish I was as good a writer now as you were at 28 (and a half). --Steve and Thomas

Oh, she saw him. They all knew where he was and what had happened to him. But it's not exactly the kind of family who would do anything about it, if you see what I mean.

Hi,
I went to the Magnetic Fields show here in DC tonight. It was, as expected, amazing. Just wanted to pass along word that they don't have the Coraline musical soundtrack at the shows yet, but they will have it later on. I failed to retain the dates given to me by the merchandise salesperson, though. He did say that it will be out in digital form soon too.
While I have your attention...
I was wondering why you chose Scotties as the dogs in Coraline, or if their is any reason behind it. My family has had Scotties since before I was born and I loved the use of them in Coraline, both book and film. Henry Selick's team nailed the way they jump up on you when you come to the door.
My apologies if this has been answered elsewhere. I'm a recent convert to your awesomeness (thanks to BPAL) and the search function gave me pages about people named Scott.
Thank you,
Shannon


I'll ask them when it will be out. [Edit to add, they have it for sale now.] In the meantime, you can catch up with the Magnetic Fields on the road at http://houseoftomorrow.com/calendar.php

And you can watch me (and Sarah Silverman, and Peter Gabriel and Lemony Snickett...) talking about Stephin in a trailer for STRANGE POWERS, a soon to be released documentary, at
http://strangepowersfilm.com/, and also up on YouTube:




And the Scotties came from Miss Webster, my elocution teacher when I was a boy. (I talk about it in this CORALINE conversation at the Well.)

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