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Sunday, January 31, 2010

Still Alive

Because people have started commiserating already (and prematurely), there's an article from the LA Times that's been widely syndicated that's pretty good:

http://www.latimes.com/lat-neil-gaiman-sl,0,1690916.storylink

But the headline that's showed up a few times (variants on Graveyard Book Movie Is Dead*) is not good or reliable or, well, true. Someone couldn't resist a pun. And now people are reading the headline not the article and reporting the headline as news. So...

What I say in the interview is: we were setting up the film of The Graveyard Book at Miramax, but then last autumn Disney closed down Miramax (and just put it to sleep forever), so The Graveyard Book film is now being set up elsewhere. In "putting a movie together" world that barely counts as a hiccup.

When the producers are ready to announce who's putting it out they will. In the meantime everything seems to be coming together just fine.

[Edit to add: a few people have mentioned I sound a bit glum in the interview. I'm sure I do. It was done when Zoe had just been put to sleep.]


PS. This is Bill Stiteler's favourite version of the headline.




*to be fair, in some places, and I even think in one version of the LA Times online, the interview has also gone up with the headline Graveyard Book Movie Still Alive Says Gaiman. But the Dead one seems to be gaining currency.





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Friday, January 29, 2010

Phone card query...

I noticed that Maddy managed, without trying, while she was in the UK, to run up a $600 phone bill, using data on her phone. Which mostly came from a day when she was stuck in an airport that was closed, and her cousin browsed the web for a bit on Maddy's phone to kill time. T-mobile now charges $16 a meg for data when you're out of the US. To put that in context, according to Vodaphone's site, "On Mobile Broadband 50MB is approximately 100 Emails & 4 Hours browsing", and on T-mobile's rates 100 emails and 4 hours of browsing (running google maps etc) is $800. I asked T-mobile if they didn't have any plans that would work better if you're going abroad and, no they don't.


Which just seems wrong. And, strangely, I was pleased to find this out, as I've got my Nexus 1 and was planning to use it when I travel abroad over the next couple of months, particularly during the middle of March, when I go from the US to New Zealand to the Philippines to Poland to Moscow to the UK... and had Maddy not set off alarm bells, I could, I have no doubt, have come home to a $5,000 phone bill without even trying.


What I'd like is an international SIM card with cheap international data rates: I don't really want to come back from that trip with another 4 SIM cards I'll never use, having lost a morning in each country trying to find a Phone company with a SIm that'll give me data. There has to be someone out there -- and I don't care where they are -- with a decent international data service that covers the world, or enough of it that I don't have to switch it out all the time, and for the kind of rates that don't cost an arm, a leg, a spleen, a different leg, a kidney and both lungs.


Does anyone out there have any suggestions? ("Buy a new Sim everywhere you go" does not count as a suggestion, although it was the most popular thing I heard on Twitter.) Let me know -- and if I find anything good, I'll report back.



Edit to add,"why don't you use wifi and hotspots?" while a bright idea,isn't really a useful suggestion either. Not if I want to use the nexus 1 for things like Google maps or Twitter as I travel. And I  will use skype for my phone calls home, yes.


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Time. It's waiting in the wings...

I'm behind on blogging right now, as I try and get ahead (well, catch up) on work.

One hasty thing for you lot to ponder: in about ten days, on the 9th of February, this blog will be nine years old. (It started on the americangods.com website, and then, when we were given the neilgaiman.com domain, transmigrated. This was the first actual post.) The webgoblin pointed this out to me, and we think we should do something to celebrate the blog's 9th birthday. I have absolutely no idea what.

If you have any ideas for wonderful things that would make people happy, let me know. Or, better still, let the all-powerful webgoblin know, at http://www.neilgaiman.com/feedback/

Thank you all for your Zoe letters and notes and thoughts. Maddy sent this to me a couple of days ago. It's her as a toddler, playing with Zoe as a kitten:




...and because time always brings things even while it takes things away, this is Maddy as she is now, over Christmas in Scotland, taken by me on my Lomo:


...

Off to LA for a friend's Bat-mitzvah, then next week I'm talking at UCLA and UCSB. (Details and ticketing info at http://www.neilgaiman.com/where. In each case, the numbers of people involved mean it's very doubtful that I'll sign anything after, although I'll try and sign stuff before so they can have signed objects for sale.) (And a very early warning: I know where I will be on the Hallowe'en weekend 2011.)

Also, I think this is the first time I've won an award for a poem, so thank you to all at Starshipsofa, and the Mythic Delirium crew. (And, per that link, there are still a few copies of the Mythic Delirium Anniversary Issue with "Conjunctions" in it.)

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Monday, January 25, 2010

From the Department of Only In Fiction


Strange moments of juxtaposition that make you feel like you're living in a novel:

It had been the kind of day that meant I never quite got to look at the post. After dinner I opened the various packages on the kitchen table.

The first thing I opened was a secondhand copy of "The Inner Hebrides and their Legends" by Otta F. Swire, and I opened it to a random page and read,
"...the third of May, when the Devil and his angels were cast out of heaven (and therefore 3rd May is a day on which no important undertaking should be begun and on which it is unpardonable to commit a crime)..."

That's interesting, I thought. I could put that in a story, the next time I need a date of ill-omen. I put the book down.

I opened the next envelope. It was huge, and came from Bloomsbury books in the UK, and contained -- well, what it contained was on the note accompanying it, which said, in tidy handwriting,

Dear Neil
I'm delighted to enclose proofs of the Bloomsbury edition of "Instructions" (to be published on 3rd May).
With best wishes,
Madeleine

That's a bit heavy-handed, I thought. If I were writing this, I'd drop the 3rd May date in on something that happened tomorrow, to give everyone reading a chance to forget.

Real life is so strangely written, sometimes.

Right. Back to work. I think tomorrow I may do a "These books have arrived here and are currently sitting on my kitchen table and extremely interesting," post, complete with photos. You need to know about Charles Vess's Drawing Down the Moon, for a start.

...

Also, while I think of it -- the Bela Fleck Danse Macabre that I gave an iTunes link to last week, is also available on Amazon.com.

And I'm honoured to be nominated for the The ComicsPRO Industry Appreciation Award
The 2010 nominees for the ComicsPRO Industry Appreciation Award:
o Neil Gaiman
o Steve Geppi
o Paul Levitz
o Dave Sim
o Bob Wayne

The 2010 nominees in the posthumous category for the ComicsPRO Industry Appreciation Award:
o Will Eisner
o Carol Kalish
o Phil Seuling
o Julius Schwartz

If I had a vote (I don't, not being a comics retailer) I'd probably vote for Paul Levitz, by a hair, with me in last place, on the living-people list, and, um, choosing between those last four names..? Ow. Not easy. Four giants who made the world of comics what it is. I am glad I am not a voting comics retailer.

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And in the End...

I slept with Zoe last night, in the attic. She would get down to throw up, then come back up on the bed. When I woke up she was down in her cat-bed, though.

The vet came at midday. Lorraine, and I, and Mary (my ex-wife) went up to the attic with her. We said our respective goodbyes to Zoe, stroked her, petted her, talked to her. The vet warned us what would happen, injected Zoe with a sleeping drug (she yelped and tried to get away), then, after she had calmed down, after she had thrown up, when she slept, injected her with something to stop her heart. I stroked her head at the end.

(There was a strange moment of euphemistic double talk at one point, as I asked the vet, "So that was the drug that puts her to sleep?" and was told, "No, the next one puts her to sleep. This one just makes her unconscious." "That was what I meant. This one puts her to sleep. The next one 'puts her to sleep'." "Oh. Right.")

It was so hard. Harder than I imagined. I sent photos from my phone to Olga, when it was going on, because she was already back in San Francisco and wanted to know what was happening, but I'm not posting them here.

If it was not winter we would have buried Zoe out the back, in the makeshift cat graveyard near my gazebo, but the ground is frozen hard under the snow, and I am not prepared to spend the next few months with a small dead cat in the freezer, awaiting burial, so the vet took her away to be cremated.

I don't have anything more to say about it. I feel sort of empty and used-up right now. In a few minutes I'll go back downstairs, phone in some copy-edits on a short story and then go and write something.

Since my last post another 400 emails have come in, pretty much all of them from people saying, I'm sorry about Zoe, let me tell you about what happened to me and my cat. I keep reading them -- sometimes they depress me, mostly they just make me feel part of something bigger than me: a thousand people going "there was this one particular animal that touched my heart, and I can tell you about it and not seem weird because you're going through it too".


People have asked about where to donate money to, and we're pointing them to http://www.greatlakesbengalrescue.com, which is the cat charity that Lorraine supports and works with.

And that's about that.

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Saturday, January 23, 2010

Olga's arrival

Early this morning I picked up Olga, who had flown all night to get here, from the airport. A diversion due to a traffic accident routed us through St. Paul, which we took as an omen (as we drove up to it and realised that we were both starving) that we were meant to eat breakfast in Mickey's Diner. So we did. Olga spent a lot of the time playing with the Nexus 1.

We drove home through fog and something that would have been an ice-storm if it had been two degrees colder, but was just drizzle. Eventually, we got here, and headed up to the attic. I was worried that Zoe would have died while we were away, or not really be there any longer, but no, she was awake and there. Still Zoe's weaker each day. She responds less, and while she's happy to be petted, tends, mid-pet, to get down from the bed, walk away until she's somewhere away from where she sleeps, then make a sort of yelping barking screechy noise like a small eagle in distress, and throw up a foamy liquid.


Eventually, Zoe stopped throwing up and relaxed.


At the point where they both seemed comfortable, I went off to take the Dog (who is unimpressed by the lack of attention he's been getting) for a walk in the sleety rain. Or the rainy sleet. It's harder to keep warm AND dry than it is to keep warm. This is me deciding that it may be a mistake trying to take a photograph on a nice new phone-camera in the freezing rain with rapidly numbing fingers.


Not that the dog minded. He was just happy not to be bored and left on his own in the kitchen.



...

You know, the FAQ mailbox has filled with messages from people, from many, many hundreds of you, almost all of you telling a heartbreaking or heartwarming (or, very often, both at the same time) story of how a beloved cat died. I'm reading all of them. Sometimes it's uplifting, and sometimes it feels like I'm marching through The Valley of the Shadow of Death of Cats. But I am reading all of them, and I appreciate them so much.

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Zoe update

I slept in the attic bedroom again last night. Zoe seemed weak and listless when I went in, and was huddling on the floor by the heater. She smelled weird, like bile. She got out of bed a couple of times in the night, to throw up a couple of teaspoons of foam. Then I'd clean her up and bring her back to the bed, and she'd snuggle and purr.

When I woke up this morning, she was in her cat bed on the floor. I cleaned up the vomit-foam that had happened while I'd slept. Now I'm off to drive through something that appears from wunderground.com to be a full-on ice-storm to go and get Olga from the airport and bring her back to spend a last day with her cat.

And I'm wondering what it is about this small blind cat that inspires such behaviour -- mine, Olga's, Lorraine's.... I've had cats in this house for 18 years, and there are cat-graves down by gazebo. Two cats died of old age last year. It wasn't like this.

I think it may be the love. Hers, once given, was yours, unconditionally and utterly.

Right. Off into the ice-storm. (Yes, I am taking a big four-wheel-drive thing, not the Mini. Yes, I will drive very carefully.)

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Friday, January 22, 2010

Where Are They Now?


Because I don't think I can do another Zoe post today, here's one that might make you smile.

From Dec 1977. A punk band, sort of. We grew up to be, left to right, an eminent artist, me, one of the secret masters of British Comedy, (standing) a Meteorite Man, and, (bottom right) um, I have no idea, and not just because he left the band or vice versa shortly after. (His name is, or was, Simon Wilson, the last time I saw him it was 25 years ago and he had just stopped working in the securities division of a bank. A few years ago, after a signing in Texas, an old schoolfriend told me that he had heard that Simon was dead, although that might have been someone else. I hope he's not dead.)

So far I've been extremely disappointed by Meteorite Men: I keep waiting for them to find a Peculiar Glowing Meteorite that will turn Geoffrey into an enormous lumpy Kirbyish monster and then the other Meteorite Man will have to battle him until the effects wear off. It still hasn't happened. On the other hand, it's got lots of cool meteorite hunting in it, and it's really fun TV.

Also, there's still most of the season to go for them to find a proper glowing meteorite that will transform Geoffrey into Nott-Kin: The Thing That Shambles like a Man. So I will keep watching.

As a tiny side-note from the past: Geoff and I went to the Adverts gig advertised at the bottom of the poster, and I've been a fan of T.V. Smith's ever since (and am currently reading his travel diaries, How To Feel Human).

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Zoe, part two



So far, a profoundly odd day. I slept up in the attic bedroom with Zoe, much to the irritation of my dog. The above was the view when I woke up, captured on Nexus 1 camera (as was the accidental video, below). Weirdly, no allergy symptoms at all. Normally I have to wash my hands after touching her, or my eyes itch and swell and go red. No problems at all today. And I lay in bed with her while she did that kneading-dough thing that contented cats do, and checked my email and learned that a TV series I've been working on for 12 years has just come together, and then the phone rang and I was offered a film to write and direct, and it all seemed very unreal and unlikely and far away.

I'll sleep with her again tonight. Olga (her other person - here's what she writes about Zoe) flies in tomorrow, and the attic bedroom is Olga's that night.

Zoe can't eat or drink - the tumour blocks the oesophagus, and she throws up everything, even water - and we're hydrating her subcutaneously. On Monday, Lorraine and I take her to the vet (edit; no we don't; the vet comes here, which will be much less traumatic for her), who will put her to sleep, which is a euphemism, and we stay with her to the end.

Thank you all for your kind and sensible messages. They mean a lot.

video

...

Something small that made me smile:

Did you know that people over at the Amazon Blueberry Girl page have started writing their reviews in Blueberry Girl meter?

I didn't, but I looked, and they have, I particularly liked Mariana Chaffee's.

It is good to make art in odd places.

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Thursday, January 21, 2010

A SMALL CAT STORY, and tabs to close

About twelve years ago it became very apparent that my house was going to fall down unless Something was Done: the rear part of the house, built about 30 years after the main house (which is about 120 years old), had no foundation and was pulling away from the main house, but shared a roof with it. None of the things we could do to fix this was cheap, so we gritted our teeth and let builders demolish the rear of the house and put up four storeys of new-old house behind. We added bedrooms and basement rooms, and, given that the upstairs bathroom had been tiny, we had a big bathroom put in.

(I just found a photo of the bath in question, taken immediately following my discovery of LUSH bath products, at http://journal.neilgaiman.com/2007/10/teabreak-over-back-on-my-head.html)



For months, the house was a building site. The place where the bath was going to go, a mass of water pipes and insulation, was also the place where Zoe liked to bed down -- the hot water pipes warmed the soft insulation and created a perfect sort of a cat nest.

The builders put in the bath on a friday afternoon.

Zoe doesn't mew. She does a sort of a "mwelp?" noise, as if she's talking to herself about things that puzzle her or that she's trying to remember. It's not very loud.

Truthfully, I don't know which happened first, whether I noticed that Zoe wasn't around, or I noticed that the bath was going "mwelp?".

I didn't know how to find any of the builders, but I knew how to find their boss, dragged him away from his dinner, and together we uninstalled a large bath. It took a while. And when, finally, we lifted it up, deep down in the pipes and insulation, blinking at the light, was Zoe. I picked her up, and she chewed happily on my chin, and said "mwelp?", and went back to sleep.

Which I write down here because it is a small story that I would hate to die with her.

Lorraine is bringing her home tonight.

Thank you all for your good wishes (and spare some for Olga -- http://olganunes.com -- who always planned to come and take Zoe home again, as soon as Olga was in one place long enough.)

...


Amanda's nominated for both best-dressed and worst-dressed at the Golden Globes, at http://gofugyourself.celebuzz.com/go_fug_yourself/2010/01/globes_bestworst_012210.html. I'm pretty sure that either would make her happy, so I voted for her in both categories. (Here's a link to a picture of us, with her wearing the lovely Kambriel dress she was photographed changing out of after that after-party.)

(She's on a plane to France right now, for the Midem Conference, then on to Australia. We rendezvous in New Zealand, mid-March...then I'll go to the Philippines without her for two days and rejoin her in Poland. And, between now and then, I will miss her.)

...

I think I may abandon Chrome on the Office Mac Quad thing until it comes out of Beta. I am tired of waiting for up to half a minute while a "resolving host" message comes up, almost every time I open a page, and then quite often it telling me that pages that do exist don't, while the various online suggestions for ways to fix it have made not a blind bit of difference.

Back to Camino and Safari, and I think I'll play with Opera for Mac as well. (Which I just have, getting links for this post, and it's blazing.)

...

I wrote two out of the eight books on the Library Journal's best Graphic Novels 2009 list, which was very kind of them. I was glad they had the Crumb Genesis on there. It's an amazing work.

...

It's probably still a secret, but what the hell, it cheered me up today and I will tell you: I'm going to be in an upcoming episode of ARTHUR. Today they sent me the script, and it's a delight: with luck it'll have kids all over the world making their own little graphic novels, and will usher in the dawn of a new golden age of comics and creativity. And without luck it'll still be a really good PBS kids' cartoon but with me in it. (No, I do not know what kind of animal I am going to be.)

...

And finally, a photo, taken by Amanda, of the Golden Globes afterparty CORALINE contingent (L to R; John Hodgman, Henry and Heather Selick, some author):


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Zoe.


There is a cat named Zoe who lives with us. It's like living with a fluffy bundle of love. Fourteen years ago, she was a barn kitten in a place my daughter used to ride. The farmer went down to the barn, threw a towel over the kittens, caught her, brought her to us and we went home with her. She was a barn cat, although there was definitely some Siamese in there somewhere.

She spent the first few years of her life loving us and avoiding strangers. A few years ago she went away with a friend who fell in love with her and was loved in return and it seemed cruel to part them. When the friend (Olga, former webelf) became a travelling gypsy-girl Zoe came back to us, theoretically waiting until Olga had a permanent place or country again. Zoe's lived in the attic for a while. About eighteen months ago I realised that she was completely blind. People go up to the attic, or sleep in the bedroom she lives in, and they love her, and she loves them back.


She lives in the turret, wary of the Great Rambunctious Dog that lives downstairs but can't get through the cat door (much to his dismay). She spends most of her days on a bed, resting comfortably. But when a person comes into the room she lifts her head into the air and makes noise "mewp! mewp!" as if to say "I'm here! I know you can't see me, so I shall make this noise to guide you!" And when you scratch her head she appreciates it like no other cat. And when you leave, she makes the noise again, lifting her head as though to say "foul winds have blown you from me! you are lost! I shall make this noise so that you can find me again!" -- and, of course, you can't leave, so you go back and pet her again and again.

"I used to try and write in the turret," Neil told me, "but the only thing that would happen was that I'd pet Zoe all day." This is not in, and of itself, a bad thing but it interrupts the Great Works of Literature.

Whenever there was down time (when I wasn't out photographing some author or eating dinner or looking at the bees) I would say "I'm going upstairs to pet Zoe," and Neil would smile and say "that sound like a loovely thing to do. She would like that very much."
She's been throwing up a lot this week, so we took her to the vet. They found a mass inside her, blocking off the pathway between her mouth and her stomach. No food or water was getting in. Last night we took her to the U of M veterinary hospital, where they investigated further.

The news is as bad as it could be. It's a tumour, it's huge, it's malignant, it's rare, it's extremely fast-growing. There's only been one case where they even tried operating on a cat to remove it, and the cat died the next day.

I want her to come home from the hospital, and die peacefully among people who love her.

Two cats died last year - Pod and Hermione - but they were eighteen, and so old it was a mercy of sorts, and was expected. I was sad, but their deaths just felt like the final page had turned. This one hurts.

...

I was going to write a long blogpost today about how I was quoted as saying I "wasn't anyone's bitch" in the New Yorker (something that I don't remember saying, because it's not the kind of thing that I'd say, unless we'd just been talking about the Entitlement Issues blogpost) and how yesterday I was deluged with FAQ emails (and a handful of Twitters) explaining, with varying degrees of civility (which I appreciated) or incivility, that having used that phrase undid all the good I'd ever done by writing positive women, supporting RAINN etc, because it showed that I was minimising the horror of rape and revealing my underlying misogyny (I think it started here); and I apologised a few times on Twitter and in the New Yorker chat; and how this morning's FAQ email has been filled with people saying "Look, I'm a feminist and I have to tell you I'm really disappointed in you for giving credibility to those people from yesterday who are trivializing very real issues..."; and how I'm rapidly moving into "a plague on all your houses" mode; but honestly right now, I haven't the heart, and probably it's only getting to me because I'm actually really worried and upset about a very small cat. So I think it's better that the blog goes unwritten, and if you have strong opinions on the matter you should post them on your own blogs, and, for the time being at least, leave this one alone.

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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Bela Fleck's Danse Macabre now out...

Over the last 15 months I've got dozens of messages like this (picks one):

Hello,
I recently heard your interview with NPR and just fell in love with the banjo version of Danse Macabre. I thought it was very clever and I wanted to be able to listen to it in it's entirety. I've looked and there doesn't seem to be a version that I can download via itunes or the like. If there are plans to release it, please let me know. Otherwise, I was hoping that I could get the track from either you or Bela Fleck. Please let me know. Looking forward to The Graveyard Book!
Glenn


So I am delighted to announce that banjo king Bela Fleck has put the wonderful version of the Danse Macabre he did (with Ben Sollee on cello) for The Graveyard Book up on iTunes. Available for download at 99 cents. (I don't know whether there are any country limits on this, but there shouldn't be.)

http://itunes.apple.com/us/album/danse-macabre-with-ben-sollee/id345249895?i=345250245

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Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Roundup of hasty strangeness...

Various partly-composed blog entries seem to have vanished, which means a VERY hasty rundown of stuff, rather than the leisurely stroll through the last few days I was hoping for.

1) Peter and the Wolf was wonderful. No, it wasn't recorded/videoed. I'd love to do it for posterity with Gary Fagin (my cousin! His grandmother and my great-grandfather were brother and sister) and the Knickerbocker Orchestra, if a way can be figured out to make it happen.

2) I went to the Golden Globes for Coraline. We lost. But we lost to Up! so no surprise there. Amanda, who was with me, wore a classic 1920s beaded dress with very little underneath it, and nobody noticed me at all. The Golden Globes were interesting. The strangest moment was as we were leaving the NBC party, the photographers grumbled that they hadn't got any photos of us going in, so we agreed to pose for them... and when they complained that Amanda was no longer wearing the amazing beaded dress she'd worn on the Red Carpet, she changed back into it for them (with me holding up a jacket as a makeshift changing area -- the area was deserted but for photographers). They took photographs. (When shot with a flash the dress looks a lot more naked than it did when I was standing next to her.) My favourite bit was that when the photos appeared Amanda was named and I was listed as "and guest".

My favourite afterparty moments: talking to Robert Downey Jr about the Baker Street Irregulars (he hopes to attend the Dinner next year, and I am an invested Irregular), and watching Steve Merchant and Amanda trying to figure out where they know each other from (she'd been on his Radio 6 show). I mistook some Hollywood Power Broker for a producer I know and was in my turn told how much someone had loved my performance in a movie I wasn't actually in. So it goes.

(I've hung onto the envelope with the Golden Globes and afterparty invitations and such in, and I'll donate it to be auctioned for Haiti.)

3) The New Yorker profile is out. It's pretty good actually, although given the amount of time I was on the phone with the New York Times Fact Checker for, I'm surprised at the number of things Dana still got a little bit wrong (from the Golden Age Sandman "killing" people with his gas gun on up, or down). I found myself feeling protective of the readers, and was disappointed that there wasn't actually more about the stories in there: the huge signings and bloggings and book-sales numbers such are a tiny by-product of the stories, and, for me, not the most interesting bit (it would be like seeing someone describing a classical concert: the funny man with the stick waving it around at the front, and all the people in their best clothes sitting patiently while other people blow or pluck or scrape or bang at things on the stage, which all seems a bit peculiar if you aren't talking about the music). Glad it's done, though.

Dana and I are doing an online chat/ Q&A about it tomorrow at 3.00pm EST, and you can ask us questions about the article there: http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/ask/2010/01/questions-for-goodyear.html

4) Over on eBay Dave McKean is auctioning a drawing from The Graveyard Book for the Haitian Health Foundation. He has no plans to sell any of the other Graveyard Book drawings -- this is the only one he's offered for sale. The link is here. The auction has three days to go.

5) Thank you all for your congratulations. I'm still grinning...

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Friday, January 15, 2010

Telling the World: An Official Announcement


Dear The World,

we are going to get married,

signed,

Amanda Palmer and Neil Gaiman






Photo by Kyle Cassidy

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Thursday, January 14, 2010

Something really cool. Read this one.

This morning's meeting just got out early, so I have time to Blog a little. As Maddy says, W00t.

I'm in New York right now, having meetings from dawn until long after dusk on all manner of things, including a movie adaptation someone cool wants to do of one of my short stories, some people who want to adapt a novel as a musical. I recorded some Public Service Announcements for National Library Week. Lots of finding out what's going to happen now Marvel owns Marvelman (more information when I am at liberty to talk). Had an Annotated Sandman discussion. Saw conjoined twin sisters Evelyn and Evelyn play their debut gig (Amanda Palmer and Jason Webley are presenting them to the world. They are very shy).

Tomorrow morning is the first PETER AND THE WOLF rehearsal. Very happy and a bit nervous about it (it'll be on Saturday Night in New York. Details are at this link.)

Saturday, January 16, 2010
7:00 pm
WFC Winter Garden

Lower Manhattan’s own professional classical music ensemble, The Knickerbocker Chamber Orchestra, continues its second season with a new twist on a classic work and a world premiere! Sergei Prokofiev’s children’s classic, Peter and The Wolf, is given new life when special guest Neil Gaiman, winner of the 2009 Newbery Award and author of Coraline, narrates this tale.

The evening proceeds with the world premiere of And Bold To Fall Withal – Henry Hudson In The New World composed by Gary S. Fagin for tenor and chamber orchestra. The work celebrates the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson's sail into New York Harbor and features Jason Danieley who was described by The New York Times as "the most exquisite tenor on Broadway."
It's in the New York Times. It lasts an hour. It's free. See you there?


Most exciting news was an email from The House on the Rock. Now The House on the Rock is a real place about an hour west of Madison Wi, that I write about in American Gods, and I had to tone down my description of it and leave things out in the book in order to make it believable.

It's a monument to kitsch and wonder and madness and uncertainty. It contains the largest carousel in the world, which nobody ever gets to ride (although people ride it in the book. It takes them somewhere). I know that people read American Gods and then visit the House on the Rock, because they tell me at signings and in email, and it looks like the House on the Rock has noticed this too.

Tom Kupsh at the House on the Rock suggested some kind of event for fans. I asked what he had in mind, and this is what I got back:

Here are the ideas we have so far:

--Although the tenth anniversary of publication is 2011, we would like to do something this year (and maybe next year as well). We would like to do this over the Halloween weekend--perhaps a three day event.

--I suggest you go to our web site at thehouseontherock.com and see the facilities that we have at the three sites. We have a limited number of rooms--about 200; there are a great number of rooms available within easy driving distance. We also have some conference rooms available and are accoustomed to handling large groups.

--We are working on a way to allow a limited number of guests to ride the carousel.

--We want the fans of American Gods to give us their ideas about what the weekend should be.

--We want all the suggestions, ideas and guidance we can get from your end.

--Most of all, we want you to come and celebrate with us.


If you're interested and you have ideas then send them to me through the FAQ line and I'll make sure they get to Tom. What kinds of talks or panels (for example) would you like to attend? Or give? Do you want to dress up as American Gods characters? (I don't think I've ever seen any American Gods COSplay.) Do you want... well, I don't know what you want. But if you tell me, I'll tell Tom.

I'm pretty sure it'll be one hell of a Hallowe'en.

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Sunday, January 10, 2010

Eagle stones

(Warning: the close-up photo at the end of the first section may not be for the sensitive.)

A few people have written in asking whether yesterday's post was a joke. No, I looked out of the window, saw what I thought for a moment was a huge owl then realised was an eagle grabbing for a squirrel who had been dining on the snow beneath the birdfeeders.
The bird looked like it had meant to grab the squirrel by the middle, but its talons were actually around the squirrel's head -- it lifted it up off the ground, the squirrel wriggled, fell out of the bird's clutches into the snow, and shot off, while the bird went to the nearest tree and glared balefully around -- which was the point I got a clear look at it, and it looked exactly like Golden Eagles I've seen in Scotland and in Zoos.

("Could it have been a red-tailed hawk?" asked the birdchick, when we called her and I took the phone from Bill and told her what I'd seen. I didn't want to say it was a golden eagle for fear of being thought odd.

"Only if it was the biggest one in the world," I said. They don't look alike.)

I grabbed a camera with a telephoto lens, and Cabal and Bill Stiteler and I headed out. We took a few pictures of me pointing, and the marks in the snow. Took a picture of a distant squirrel on a tree. Then went further into the woods. Crows were harrying something bigger than they were, but it was always hidden by treetops.



We discovered that, although the temperature was minus 2 F (minus 19 C), the purplish-coloured beehive had bees out sunning themselves. Some adventurous bees were even flying around, although they didn't fly for long before dropping in the snow and not moving any longer. I went back to a safe distance (so they didn't need to come and fly out and investigate me) and took a couple of telephoto shots of sunning bees.






I took lots of photos of the dog. I did not know that by the end of the day there would be a Tumblr site dedicated to pictures of my dog.



It was only later that evening that Bill and I got around to looking at the photos we'd taken, and we zoomed in on the squirrel on the tree, and I realised that he was actually the one who got away...


(Here's Bill's blog entry from yesterday: http://www.birdchick.com/wp/2010/01/where-eagles-arent/. Here's Sharon's entry: http://www.birdchick.com/wp/2010/01/west-bound-and-down/)
....
Dear Mr. Gaiman (Or Webgoblin, who I hope appreciates Who enough to appreciate things about Mr Gaiman's scarf),

Who knitted this scarf?? Is it warm? Did it take them long??

(For reference, I'm going on about the quite lovely TomBaker!Who scarf you appear to be wearing whilst looking for some sort of Eagle).

Overly, don't worry about the question's answers, I just wanted to express my love that my favourite author is wearing a replica of my second favourite Who's scarf. No response needed, I just wanted to give you a giant ':D'. Except there's no formatting, so it can't be giant. I'm sorry.

- Sara, in the process of knitting one of those, Brighton.


It was a gift from Ms Ally B in Montana, who contacted me on Twitter, and sent it through Neverwear. ( She said on Twitter, "I'm not a knitter, though. Learned enough to make the scarf, and then quit.")

Dear Neil,

How do you keep your fountain pens from leaking while you are traveling? I recently flew from San Francisco to New York and back, and both ways my fountain pen (a Namiki Pilot Knight collection pen) the first time I tried to use the pen after landing I ended up with ink all over my my fingers and had to take the pen completely apart and clean the ink out of all the places it wasn't supposed to be. Do you have a secret to keep this from happening, and if so, could you please share it with your readers? Thanks so much!

lindac


I long ago resigned myself to being an inky-fingered scribbler. But having said that, if I'm travelling with a pen with a soft reservoir of the kind that gets affected by changing cabin pressure, I try to remember to empty it before getting in a plane. I have some magnificently stained jacket-linings from times I forgot.

Hi Neil,

I'm a lit grad student studying Hope Mirrlees, and I've started a website (http://hopemirrlees.com) about HM and her work. I'm sending this to you in case it's of interest to you or your readers -- you've been one of Mirrlees' best of most visible champions for so long, so I thought I should let you know.

So far, I have the full text of _Madeleine_ (which is in the public domain in the US) up, along with a bunch of biographical information and links to discussions of her elsewhere on the web. There's UK-based academic working on a scholarly bio of Mirrlees, too, which is awfully exciting -- I should have an interview with her up this month at the site.

I love your site and twitter account, btw. I've been a reader of yours since -- oh god, a long time ago -- and it's a delight to have these bits of your brain floating around online.

Keep warm,
Erin


Happy to mention it. Also, because I'm not sure if I ever have here, to link to Michael Swanwick's excellent short biographical study, Hope In The Mist (with a Charles Vess illustration and an introduction by yours truly). (Now completely sold out, in hard and paperback editions.)

Neil--

I'm the writer and artist of a comic called "Love and Capes". (If you'd a copy, let me know and I'll be glad to send it to you.) The book's been collected by IDW, and I've donated it to a few local libraries and done talks and "chalk talks" at them.

My question is, with you being the Honorary Library Chair, are there programs to put graphic novelists who are decent (I think so, at least) at speaking with libraries who might be interested in having them come out for presentations.

Personally, I've had some success locally here in Cleveland, but I wouldn't mind the excuse to travel. In general, though, it'd be nice if there were some way to match writers and artists up with places that would be like to have them.

And, if there's not, you can decree such a thing into existence, right?

Thanks!

Thom Zahler


I don't know if I can decree it, but I can definitely put it out there and see if there's anyone out there who knows.

...

Finally, fascinated by an article by journalist and former UK deputy Prime Minister Roy Hattersley about the people of Iceland in the Times. I won't comment on the content except to say that his experiences of the Icelandic people have been very different to mine, and that his statement,
There are Viking tombstones in the Great Wall of China

left me fascinated, wondering if there was something I'd missed studying the Vikings and the Chinese.


Apart from not having read anything about this ever, and Vikings not having tombstones (they had cairns of stones, though) and the Vikings having either turned up a thousand years later than the Qin wall-building or chucked it in two hundred years before the Ming wall-building, it just seemed the sort of thing someone would have mentioned.

Yes, I know there were trade routes. But this seemed to be implying that there were... what? Vikings building the wall who died and were given tombstones built into the wall? An ancient Chinese wall-building consortium who travelled all the way to Norway to bring back some Viking Rocks as building materials?

I put out a call for information on Twitter and people sent me links to sites about the Tarim Mummies (who died in 3000BC and were probably a lot of things, but they weren't Vikings. Sometimes I suspect they eventually wandered north-west and became the Scots) but even historians seemed blank.

So if anyone out there knows Roy Hattersley, or is Roy Hattersley, I'd love more information. For that matter, if any of you find yourselves on a train or in a bar with Roy Hattersley, feel encouraged to sidle over to him and tell him to get in touch with me. I'd love it to be true. And I'd love for there to be some evidence.

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Saturday, January 09, 2010

Where Eagles Daren't

My friend Bill Stiteler is over at my house today. His wife, Birdchick Sharon Stiteler, is off at a Birding Thing in Atlanta.

Bill just blogged the exciting birding events of this afternoon on Sharon's blog. I'm in the photos in a VERY long scarf, which I wore because it's minus something Farenheit outside and it actually helps a bit.

I am simply going to link to what Bill said and to the photographs therein.

Frankly, I'd be surprised if he doesn't get a Pulitzer for this one.

Go and click on http://www.birdchick.com/wp/2010/01/where-eagles-arent/ for exciting birds and people and white dog action.

(It was a golden eagle, which I've not seen around this part of the world before.)

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Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Home Again, with Additional Dog pictures.

I'm home.

This is the weather the dog likes: crisp, cold, weather that puts him in mind of wolfish ancestors hunting on the steppes.

Me, I put on long underwear and dozens of layers over that, and top it off with the sheepskin Uigur hat I haggled for in Xinjiang, and trudge in the snow behind him. It's frozen on top, so you crunch and rock and hunt for ruts that already exist as you walk, or you teeter-totter across the surface, half-falling at every second step. While Cabal is happy in a world filled with sharp smells and frozen rivers, and he bounces over the ice and snow with joy.





***

Many years ago I discovered (via the currently hiatus-bound Fabulist) Jason Webley. I posted this a link to this song, Eleven Saints, a song Jason Webley wrote and performed with Jay Thompson...



Jason was pleased, and wrote to me to say thanks, and then, a couple of years ago, introduced me in email to his friend Amanda Palmer, with whom he was working on a project, as they worked to bring the music of two conjoined twin sisters they had discovered on the internet to the world. There were two songs out on the internet by the mysterious pair for a long time, but a new song, " A Campaign of Shock and Awe", crept out today: you can hear it at http://www.myspace.com/evelynevelyn. Highly recommended, and not just because of the, y'know, family connections.

...

Right. I do not want to be disturbed tonight. Maddy and I will be beginning our New Year's catch-up by watching the first part of Doctor Who 'The End of Time'.

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Monday, January 04, 2010

Argh

I'm at a counter at logan airport trying to go to Minneapolis. The computer believes that British Airways gave me a paper ticket when I went from London to Boston last week. Just missed my flight home, and I may have to buy a new ticket. And I am blogging this because there is nothing else I can do, while a helpful lady works hard to try to get me home in the face of a ticket that now exists only in theory. It's my nightmare of paperless ticketing finally come true. Ah well. The ladies are funny and helpful and have Boston accents, and the worst that will happen is I buy a new ticket, get home too late to watch Dr Who with Maddy, and spend the rest of my life convinced that FlyBe and British Airways should not be allowed to run anything as difficult as an actual airline with tickets and people and planes.


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Saturday, January 02, 2010

What I said at 3 minutes after midnight on the first...

In the end, at about 3 minutes after midnight in Symphony Hall, I did a sort of a mash-up of the two New Year's Wishes:



Yes, I am indeed wearing a tuxedo.

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Friday, January 01, 2010

Statuesque

Someone has put Statuesque on YouTube.

I doubt it will be up for long; Sky's lawyers will probably ask them to take it down, once they notice. But since it's up, consider this link a New Year's present:

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