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Thursday, September 30, 2010

Banned Books and Ig Nobels

It's BANNED BOOKS WEEK!

Would you like a graphic novel reading list? The Huffington Post gives you a slideshow of the ten most challenged graphic novels...


The list will probably surprise you.

...

Tonight I found myself on the stage of the Ig Nobel Awards, sitting in a row of seven seats, each of which had NOBEL LAUREATE on a piece of paper except for the one that said NEIL GAIMAN, and that made me feel both pleased and (in a very good, almost reassuring way) insignificant.




The Ig Nobels are funny and glorious and exist on the intersection of science and silliness.

I gave a speech -- a 24 second speech, followed by a seven word summary -- on Writer Identification. The theme of the evening was Bacteria. I'll post a link to the video of the evening when it goes up, and you can see what I said. (And how fast I said it.)

...

Right. Bed now. (Oh. If you're in New York on Saturday, Lemony Snicket wants to buy you a free ice cream: http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/childrens/childrens-book-news/article/44661-three-words-free-ice-cream.html)




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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

My Week In Pictures

I got up particularly early this morning in order to blog, and the first piece of email was a request from Steven Moffat for me to write Production Notes for Doctor Who Monthly about my episode, so I wrote that and there was my blogging time gone.

So instead of a well-considered discussion of my last ten days, I'm going to carry on from where I left off, in pictures.

This is Liam McKean, son of Dave and Clare McKean. He is standing beside the Garden Thing, which is something strange and artistic and faintly haunting that his sister Yolanda made.

I had a wonderful day at the McKeans. We picked blackberries and apples from their orchard.


This is Clare, above, picking blackberries. It's scary and thrilling to think I've known them for quarter of a century.

Dave, below, has just finished lunch in the George in Rye. I agreed, as I left, to write a children's book called FORTUNATELY, THE MILK for him.

I accidentally left lots of things to charge telephones with in their house, so they would not forget me.




I stayed overnight with my daughter Holly (in photo with her eyes tactically closed) and her flatmate, my scary god-daughter Hayley Campbell, offspring of Eddie and Anne Campbell of Brisbane.
This is an accidentally moody black and white shot of Thea Gilmore and Nigel Stonier, at the Radio 2 studio in Manchester the next night. Thea has a really great new album out called Murphy's Heart, and you can get a taster of it over at http://www.theagilmore.net/welcome.cfm.
From there to Bristol, where I saw Diana Wynne Jones, with special surprise she-was-just-leaving-as-I-was-arriving guest Robin McKinley. (You can read Robin's account of the visit at her blog, which is http://robinmckinleysblog.com/2010/09/23/fame-sort-of/)
The last time I was there, in April, Diana was not in good shape. This time she was much more chipper and happy. She's writing another book, and has a book after that she wants to write, and she remains one of my favourite people in the world.

From one old friend to another: Terry Pratchett and I met for Sushi in Cardiff the following evening, for Mysterious Reasons That We Are Not Announcing Yet. This is a photograph of us toasting Something Unexplained with champagne.




The next day was Doctor Who. Normally writers do not have much to do on set except step on things and get in the way, but I had agreed to be interviewed by Doctor Who Confidential, so I was indulged as I did the sort of things writers love to do which are normally frowned upon.

Like sneak into the prop stores, looking for Daleks to hug. (Fortunately, I did not see any weeping angels.)

Like being interviewed by Charlie McDonnell on the TARDIS steps (http://charliemcdonnell.com/an-explanation/)

Like stealing a TARDIS and head off across the infinite vastness of Time and Space battling evil wherever it occurs...

Sorry. Did I say that out loud? I meant, take a picture of myself on the TARDIS set.

I said goodbye to Director Richard Clark and the amazing Matt Smith (who makes even my duff lines sound good) and left Cardiff on the last train, missed the last train to Heathrow so shared a cab with a Greek Doctor who had come up from Swansea and missed the last train too. A couple of hours sleep, and then I flew to Boston...

Where, on Sunday morning, I found myself working as a roadie for Evelyn Evelyn, as they performed a Super Music Friends at the Yo Gabba Gabba! concerts for an audience of mostly three year olds and their parents.

They performed "Elephant Elephant", which you can see enacted by puppets here.

I liked this photo of them in the Wang Theatre dressing room...
Then I walked over to Boston Public Library, where Karen Hesse, Jerry Spinelli, Grace Lin and I were being honoured as Literary Lights for Children. http://www.bpl.org/general/associates/literarylightschildren.htm

It was a wonderful event, filled with enthusiastic schoolkids, and followed by a signing. I spoke last, and by the time it got to me, Jerry and Karen and Grace had already said everything there was to say, so I talked about the importance of daydreaming and why you should stare out of the window sometimes or actually a lot.


My future mother-in-law, Kathy, threw an engagement party for Amanda and me on Monday evening, which was really kind of her, and fun, and I got to meet lots of Amanda's neighbours and friends and relations, and some of my cousins came in too, to even out the numbers. (Here's the last few days from Amanda's point of view at her blog.)

Yesterday I finally got to see Amanda in Steven Bogart's production of Cabaret at the ART Theatre. I'm not going to enthuse about it here, mostly because the last of the tickets sold out when the first rave reviews appeared. But it was masterful. The things I'd had a problem with during the run-through I saw a month ago had all gone away.

Cabaret was followed by Amanda's Late Night Cabaret, a free-floating event starring an astonishing performer called Meow Meow, and, after that, Amanda herself. I do not have any photos of Meow Meow crowd surfing, alas.

Here are the press comments from her webpage: if anything they're understated.

Meow Meow, accompanied by Lance Horne.

Amanda and Meow Meow duet on "Fake Plastic Trees".

They are doing the Late Night Cabaret again tonight, only more so -- tickets are cheap and available at https://www.ovationtix.com/trs/pe/8419705 until 8:30 tonight, or at the door, and you might want to bring some flowers to fling Meow Meow's magnificent entrance. If you're in the Boston area, come on out. You will, as the Cheshire Cat said, see me there.

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Thursday, September 23, 2010

Interim peregrinatory post, with some photos

I am in Cardiff today and tomorrow. Doctor Who Confidential are going to interview me and I'm now going to steal the TARDIS and explore the whole of space and time fighting evil wherever I encounter it potter about the set for a bit and not look at all suspicious.

I've spent the last few days trying to catch up with friends. The trouble with living in America is there are people I do not see as much as I would like to.

In the Derbyshire Peak District I saw Colin Greenland and Susanna Clarke


Their village has a duckpond.

This is me showing Colin a new-fangled device called A Camera That Is Also A Telephone.




We went to a pub. The Three Stag's Heads. Best pub ever. Dogs everywhere, along with a 300 year old mummified cat. This is the pub sign.

I travelled from there to Kent, to stay with Dave and Clare McKean. They had blackberries, and a son named Liam, and a Garden Thing made by their daughter Yolanda.

And.... something's now being buggy (either Blogger or the hotel internet) and pictures are not being uploaded. So I will stop here for now, and finish tonight, by which time I will have stolen a TARDIS had a giant catching-up dinner with Terry Pratchett.

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Thursday, September 16, 2010

A Spectrum of Stuff

Let's see if this works...

When last heard from I was in Wales, for the Doctor Who table read. And then I was off the world picking plums.

I'm still off the edge of the world right now. I was exhausted when I got here -- more exhausted than even I knew, I think. Too much travel, too much nothing ever quite stopping, too many meals on the road. I felt old and creaky and tired.

I spent my first week catching up on my sleep, eating sensible meals that I made myself, mostly veggies and fruits and fresh-caught fish (courtesy of the neighbours, who would walk up the hill and tap on the window, and give me fresh-caught mackerel and such. I gave them bags of plums). I did a lot of walking. Then I got a bicycle, and started going on daily bike rides, two miles to start with, which turned into six to ten miles each day as soon as I started to get into it. I'd take photos of things I'd pass while bike-riding using my little Nexus 1 phone camera and then knit them together with a stitcher program called Hugin.

An interesting rock.

During the first of the ten mile bike rides, I realised I knew what the next big fictional prose story I wanted to tell is. And that I know the story, or enough of it, but not who tells it, who sees it, how it's told. It may have to go back and forth with different people telling different chapters, and bits in diaries and such. It's tremendously reassuring when that happens - an idea turns up and you know it's big and it has legs and nobody's told that story before. And that if you just get all the pieces into position before you start, the plot will take care of itself. Getting the pieces into place is going to be the hard bit.

It may be a while before I'm ready to start writing it. Lots of thinking to do first. But it's the next big story, I think.

And somewhere in there I lost about 8 pounds, stopped creaking and feeling old and travel-weary and started smiling, and wrote a couple of things that people were waiting for. Didn't write many more things people were waiting for, but I don't feel too bad about it: everything will get written eventually.

On Saturday I stop being a hermit and hit the road. Later in the week I'll arrive in Wales, to see the first couple of days of filming of my episode and be interviewed by Doctor Who Confidential.

News from home:

1) Cabal had an operation to uncompress parts of his spine, as he was having trouble walking. He's recovering. I am still worried. We chat on Skype. Or at least, I talk to him and he tries to figure out where my voice is coming from. Lorraine has done an amazing job of being there and keeping everything going, as has Woodsman Hans, and I am grateful. Now we wait. Lorraine's been keeping things updated on her blog, at http://blog.fabulouslorraine.com.

2) On October the 25th, I'll be on PBS's Arthur. I play a writer called Neil Gaiman.




I'm a writer who's a cat. You can be both.


3) Maddy Gaiman passed her driving test. All of my children can now drive. Ulp.

4) There's an eBay auction going on through http://www.twitchange.com/, to raise money for a Haitian orphanage. Lots of people taking part who will mention/retweet/follow you on Twitter if you win the auction. I've also said I'll call the winner of the "megapack" auction for me and read them a poem or a short story. It seems an easy, sensible way to help raise money for a good cause. The complete list of people offering their services (including Stephen Fry and Nathan Fillion and Rainn Wilson) is up at http://bit.ly/twitchanges....

And you can bid on me, or see where bidding is at, at http://bit.ly/ebayneil

5) Matthew Cheney's been writing about Sandman, chapter by chapter, each week. Here are the links to the first 8 episodes - the whole of Preludes and Nocturnes: http://gestaltmash.com/2010/09/sandman-meditations-preludes-and-nocturnes-cheat-sheet/ while The Doll's House begins with http://gestaltmash.com/2010/09/sandman-meditations-tales-in-the-sand/

6) Over at the TOR website, they've reprinted my story "Bitter Grounds", originally from Nalo Hopkinson's Mojo: Conjure Stories, and later in Fragile Things: http://www.tor.com/stories/2010/09/bitter-grounds.

The illustration is a painting by Rick Berry, working into a painting that he, and I, and my friend SuperKate, were doing in his studio one night (he writes about it here, photos by me).


7) No, that was all. Just six things. There isn't a seventh. It's like the rainbow, where they changed Purple to Indigo and Violet just to make it more interesting.

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Tuesday, September 07, 2010

New Yorker Festival Information. Also treeclimbing.

It's been announced. I'll be interviewed by Dana Goodyear for the New Yorker Festival on Sunday October the 3rd at 1.00 pm.

The complete Festival schedule is up at http://www.newyorker.com/festival/schedule/glance

Tickets will go on sale on Friday at noon, Eastern time. http://www.newyorker.com/festival/tickets for info. Getting on the internet from here is hard work, so I probably won't remind you.

I'm disappointed that I won't get to see Ian Frazier or Malcolm Gladwell talk, as they are both on when I'm on. Not sure if I'll get in to New York in time to see Michael Chabon and Zadie Smith on the Friday night, although I'll do my best. I definitely want to see the Live From New York SNL panel on the Sunday (waves at Bill Hader and Seth Myers).

Also, the Stardust movie is finally out on Blu-Ray.

And yesterday I climbed a tree, and picked a shopping-bag full of plums. I think I should climb more trees. Have already cooked and/or eaten most of them. Tomorrow I go back up the tree. Depending on how the writing is going I may or may not ever come down again.

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Sunday, September 05, 2010

Had we but world enough, and plums.

I'm off the edge of the world right now, and have unplugged from the Internet. I have no phone signal, and the kind of spotty, barely-there occasional internet connection that would have been amazing in, say, 1992, but right now is the equivalent of not having an internet at all. (You cannot watch a YouTube video, for example. Big emails take forever to come in, and these days all emails are big.)

There is a plum tree, however.



And there are sheep.


I am writing, except when I go for walks or cook. Eating sensibly and exercising and just grabbing some peace and quiet to work in. For the first couple of days I mostly slept, finally recovering from the combination of transatlantic jet-lag and late-night-Melbourne-video-conference.

Yesterday I assembled an office chair to sit and write in, and I am sitting in it now.

Tomorrow I plan to pick some plums. I miss my family and my dogs and the world, but I'm loving the recovering, and loving the silence. I'll rejoin the world at the end of the month in, I hope, enough time to see the filming of some of my Dr Who episode. Then back to the US for the Boston Library talk and Amanda in Cabaret* and the New Yorker event and the Ig Nobel prize night, and the world will start again. And probably the blog will too.



*Over half the Cabaret performances are now sold out, before the official opening night. If you want to go, you should book a ticket. Or there are VIP tickets for sold-out nights. Signed, someone who left it too late for one night he wanted to go and had to buy a VIP ticket to a sold-out night.

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