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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Hang on, I thought, if I read this in a book I'd be a bit worried


The shots of the hare carcass and eagles have mysteriously vanished from my computer, so here is the highland cow who stares at me when I ride my bike.




My favourite, perfectly non-fictional conversation from today:

Scene: Somewhere in the Highlands & Islands. In a car. George is a local, and I am giving him a lift home.

Me: You know, George, I think that wood over there is where the golden eagles nest. There's a pair I've seen around a lot -- the ones I saw eating that hare -- and they always seem to go back to the wood around that black house on the hill. I've spotted both of them perching in those trees...

George: Could be, Neil. They wouldn't be disturbed much - the people who own that house came up from down South, but they stopped coming when they discovered it was haunted. (Realises he may have said something wrong. Decides to add something cheery.) At least your place isn't haunted.

Me: No. But it's cursed.

George: I wouldn't pay any attention to that. (Pause. Then, helpfully,) As long as you don't try and leave the house to your son, everyone should be fine.



Michael, my son. Not cursed yet.





PS: Not sure how long I'll be at Number One on this TIME list of the 140 Twitterers to follow -- probably not long -- but you can stop Sarah Palin's inexorable rise into first place by voting for me at http://www.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,2058946_2059139_2059131,00.html

PPS: These black and white photos of fairy tales look more like fairy tales do in my head than anything I've ever seen before: http://www.evilsunday.com/disturbing-fairy-tale-black-white-photos/

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Sunday, March 27, 2011

Being Alive. Mostly about Diana.

I'm in the UK right now, in the middle of nowhere, working on Monkey, about to go offline for a few days.

I came over to do three things: to give the BBC a day to promote Episode Four of the next season of Doctor Who, which I have written; to see Hilary Bevan Jones, a wonderful producer with whom I've been working for years, about a couple of things; and to see Diana Wynne Jones.

Thursday I was interviewed about Doctor Who all day. Mostly the interviews would go like this:

Them: "So, can you tell us the title of the episode?"
Me: "No."

It was a fun but sometimes frustrating day.



(This is a photo of Diana Wynne Jones around the time I first got to know her.)

Diana's been my friend since about 1985, but I was a fan of hers since I read Charmed Life in about 1978, aged 17. I've loved being her friend, and I'm pretty sure she loved being my friend. She was the funniest, wisest, fiercest, sharpest person I've known, a witchy and wonderful woman, intensely practical, filled with opinions, who wrote the best books about magic, who wrote the finest and most perceptive letters, who hated the telephone but would still talk to me on it if I called, albeit, always, nervously, as if she expected the phone she was holding to explode.

She adopted me when I was a 24 year old writer for magazines of dubious respectability, and spent the next 25 years being proud of me as I made art that she liked (and, sometimes, I didn't. She'd tell me what she thought, and her opinions and criticism were brilliant and precise and honest, and if she said "Yee-ees. I thought you made a bit of a mess of that one," then I probably had, so when she really liked something it meant the world to me).

As an author she was astonishing. The most astonishing thing was the ease with which she'd do things (which may be the kind of thing that impresses other writers more than it does the public, who take it for granted that all writer are magicians.But those of us who write for a living know how hard it is to do what she did). The honest, often prickly characters, the inspired, often unlikely plots, the jaw-dropping resolutions.

(She's a wonderful author to read aloud, by the way, as I discovered when reading her books to my kids. Not only does she read aloud beautifully, but denouments which seemed baffling read alone are obvious and elegantly set up and constructed when read aloud. "Children are much more careful readers than adults," she'd say. "You don't have to repeat everything for children. You do with adults, because they aren't paying full attention.")

She dedicated her book Hexwood to me, telling me that it was inspired by something that I'd once said about the interior size of British Woods, and I wrote a doggerel poem to thank her.

(Hang on. I bet I can find it. There.)

There's a kitten curled up in Kilkenny was given a perfect pot of cream
And a princess asleep in a thornwrapped castle who's dreaming a perfect dream
There's a dog in Alaska who'll dance with delight on a pile of mastodon bones
But I've got a copy of Hexwood (dedicated to me) by Diana Wynne Jones

There's an actress who clutches her oscar (and sobs, with proper impromptu joy),
There's a machievellian villain who's hit on a wonderf'lly evil ploy,
There's wizards in crystal castles and kings on their golden thrones
But I've got a copy of Hexwood -- dedicated -- to me! -- by Diana Wynne Jones

There's a fisherman out on the sea today who just caught the perfect fish,
There's a child in Luton who opened a genie-filled bottle, and got a wish,
There are people who live in glass houses have managed to outlaw stones,
But I've got a copy of Hexwood, dedicated to me, by Diana Wynne Jones

I crop up, in semi-fictionalised form, in a book by Diana -- Deep Secret -- and she told me once that the young Chrestomanci in The Lives of Christopher Chant was sort of based on me too. I'm proud of both of those things, even if it does mean that people who have read Deep Secret sometimes ask whether I really ate two breakfasts while mostly asleep, and I tell them that yes, I did.

So. Diana, who smoked (with joy and delight and enthusiasm) got lung cancer. And so each time I would come to the UK, I'd go and have dinner with her and her husband John, and the dinner would be cooked and accompanied by Dave Devereux, who has been helping them, and somewhere in there I would see our mutual friend Tom Abba, as well. Each time, I'd take a few minutes at the end and I'd make sure that I'd said to Diana anything I wanted to be sure that I'd said, because I knew I might not see her again, and unsaid things are the hardest.





(Two photos of Diana from last September. She'd just stopped all chemotherapy, on the advice of her doctors, who said it wasn't doing any good. When I originally posted the second of them, it was with the caption Here is Diana Wynne Jones looking beatific in her kitchen today. The inexplicable notice is from about 1987.)




(Here's a photo of the two of us together from that September 2010 trip. I think the photo was actually taken by Robin McKinley)

I'd planned to see her yesterday, Saturday, to go down to Bristol with my daughter Holly. But on Friday morning I got a call from Dave Devereux telling me that it was time and I should come now. I called Hilary Bevan Jones, apologised (she was very understanding, as were the other people I was meant to see), and I went to Bristol.

I wrote a letter that night to a friend. I'll quote it here, if you don't mind.

She's at a hospice. It's beautiful there, and the staff were wonderful - helpful and nice and you never felt like you were bothering them, as one does at so many institutions.

I saw the family outside. They warned me that Diana was very frail and changed.

She was on morphine, breathing heavy and hard, as if she was fighting for every breath, and I sat by her bedside. I thought about the phrase "your last breath..." as every breath felt like it could be final. But she kept breathing. I told her you said goodbye. Her hair was whiter and she seemed thinner, but not really changed. but it seemed less like someone was actually there -- as if there was a distance between the person I'd known and the body breathing in the bed. Less of a distance than with a body -- but there was a sense that felt like a certainty that she wasn't going to open her eyes and talk again. This sleep was final, and soon the breathing would stop.

I went out and sat in the waiting room with Tom Abba, and we talked about Diana, and we both cried a bit.

Then I went back in with Tom and we sat some more.

I thought about Dogsbody, which I have to write an introduction to, and wondered what star Diana would be, if she was a star.

I said goodbye again.

Then I went out, and Mickey, her son, went in and sat with her, and I talked to the family. I met Diana's sisters for the first time, although I had heard much about them.

I spent the rest of the day with the family, with John and Diana's sister Isobel and Mickey (with whom I'd shared a room at World Fantasy Con in 1988), and we had a Bristolian Chinese meal, and talked about lots of things.

And I told John I'd come and see him whenever I come to Bristol, and I shall.

It's hard. But I am glad I did it, and they said that Diana was pleased that I was coming, and perhaps somehow she heard me and knew I was there.


I stayed up late that night until I could talk to Amanda back in Boston about what had happened that day, and once I had talked to her I felt better.

In the morning I was woken by a phone call from Dave, telling me that Diana had passed away in the night.

The news was out -- someone had already changed her Wikipedia page to give it a date of death.

I posted this on Twitter:

Rest in Peace, Diana Wynne Jones. You shone like a star. The funniest, wisest writer & the finest friend. I miss you.

There are some wonderful reminiscences coming in -- I loved this one by Emma Bull. (My family travelled to Minneapolis on the same plane as Diana the time Emma is talking about. Diana used to tell me she had a travel jinx, something I only really started to believe when the plane door fell off.)

I felt sad, but also felt lucky. Lucky that I'd known her, lucky that I'd gone and said goodbye on the Friday and not tried to wait until the Saturday. Lucky to have had a friend like that.

I do miss her, very much. I have some wonderful friends. I have people in my life who are brilliant, and people who are colourful, and people who are absolutely wonderful, and who make the world better for their being in it. But there was only one Diana Wynne Jones, and the world was a finer one for having her in it.

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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

the view from the ice storm

I was home for a day or so but now I am at another airport about to fly all night, and I would rather be home, or rather be in Boston with my wife. But at least I am not driving home in the ice-storm that started as we approached the airport, like my poor assistant is. There's always that.

I'm heading to the UK, where I will do a day of interviews about my Doctor Who episode, and then go and see a sick friend, and then hide out and write for a few days.

In case anyone missed it, Terry Jones is adapting GOOD OMENS into a 4 part television series. Details at http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/monty-python-writer-adapt-neil-168792






I saw a bunch of press about whether there is or isn't a Sandman TV series: as far as I know, nobody has actually optioned SANDMAN as a TV series from DC Comics, who own it. Eric Kripke (of Supernatural fame) pitched his approach to DC and to me last year, and we liked it and we liked him, but it didn't feel quite right at that point, so we passed.

I think that this year the people at DC Comics (and me) will talk to a lot of people who want to make a Sandman TV series, and if we find the perfect person with the perfect way of treating the material, it'll happen. And otherwise it won't.

(Which reminds me: Matt Cheney is still blogging his way through Sandman. He's just reached A Game of You.)

NEVERWHERE is Chicago's One Book. There are a lot of wonderful Neverwhere related events, including two talks from me, a play reading, and a tour of Chicago Below. Details at http://www.chipublib.org/eventsprog/programs/oboc/11s_neverwhere/oboc_11s_greeting.php. I can't do the link as this is from my phone.

And I just saw the finished version of my Doctor Who episode. I was happy -- there were moments and even scenes I missed, but that's always the way. Mostly I was just impressed by the performances, direction and music. And effects. They spent money on this one and it shows.

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Saturday, March 19, 2011

points of departure


  • Mr. G is home. I expect we'll be hearing from him soon. Currently he's decompressing, surrounded by rollergirls.

  • Over at NeverWear.net, there's a new print for sale, Mr. G's poem, IN RELIG ORAN, illustrated by Michael Zulli. Kitty also interviews Mr. Z.

  • The sixth season on Doctor Who will premiere in one month, April 23rd, on BBC America. My understanding is that it premieres on that same day in the UK as well. My household is very excited.

  • Speaking of premieres, six days prior, April 17th, HBO's adaptation of George R. R. Martin's GAME OF THRONES premieres.

  • Sir Terry Pratchett announced, on my birthday no less, that a GOOD OMENS television miniseries is in the works from Terry Jones.

  • Pat Rothfuss has completed his reading tour for THE WISE MAN'S FEAR. I attended both his stops in the D.C. area, and was pleasantly not surprised to see a great many familiar faces from past readings by Mr. G. At the Library of Congress, I sat next to a young woman who, unbidden, told me that NEVERWHERE was her favorite book, and how the last time Mr. G had come to the National Book Festival she had sat on the ground in front of the first row. I didn't tell her that I remembered her sitting in front of me, or that I was Mr. G's unassuming web goblin.

  • I tried to start a #hipstersandman meme but it hasn't gone anywhere. (Picture from a convention sketch by Michael L. Peters: Facebook / site), whom I callously failed to credit originally. Mea culpa.)
            Morpheus was here way before you. #hipstersandman on Twitpic
    I haven't the talent for it that Bill Stiteler has.

  • Be seeing you.

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Saturday, March 12, 2011

A quick in and out

This is just a wave. I was in China for ten days. Am now back from China and about to take my daughter Maddy away for Spring Break. It's been announced that I'm going to write a film adaptation of The Journey To The West, and I am, and yes, I am still writing my non-fiction book about the Journey, only now it will have my film adventure in there too.

I had a marvelous time in China, despite having no access to Blogger or Twitter.  And am now being driven through the snow to take Maddy and her friend on holiday,  and to see my wife for the first time in six weeks. I'll be back twittering and blogging in a week.

I'm attaching a few snapshots from China. The blue statue was taken, appropriately enough, in Dali.




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Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Goo is what tape is all about. Goo is what makes it tape instead of *paper*.

NOTE: Over on the LJ feed, a user asked how he could avoid reading anything written by me. While there isn't a "no-goblin" feed, there is an "only-gaiman" feed1.


Footnotes.

  1. The difference, of course, is that a "no-goblin" feed would include posts by the old Web Elf and Maddy in addition to those by Mr. G, whereas an "only-gaiman" feed contains only posts by Mr. G2.

  2. The "only-gaiman" feed is, perhaps, mis-named, since Maddy is a Gaiman but it filters her out too. Sorry Maddy, and sorry confused users.







Last year, Mr. G and Jim Lee collaborated on "100 Words", a poem by Mr. G which Jim Lee illustrated. It was published in Liberty Comics #2, by the CBDLF, and as a limited edition print on NeverWear.net which benefits the CBLDF. (Cat Mihos writes to tell us that there are only a few copies left, incidentally.)

As of yesterday, "100 Words" is available for $0.99 in the DC Comics app from comiXology. DC is commendably doing the right thing and donating its profits to the CBLDF.




Speaking of NeverWear.net and the lovely Cat Mihos, yesterday she blogged about the latest item to arrive in the NeverWear.net store, a Super-Cabal shirt designed by our friend Jouni Koponen3.




Footnotes.

  1. Some of us got together and managed to scrape up some money to bring Jouni out for the Low Key Gathering at the House on the Rock4. In thanks, he brought us some Finnish candy and a small flask-like bottle of some sort of alcoholic spirit. I did not check any bags on my return flight, so had to go through the screening with it. Neither the baggage screeners nor I were able to find an indication of the volume of the bottle amidst all of the Finnish writing, but they estimated that it was over the limit. So I cracked it open and did shots5 until they stopped laughing and told me that it was now safe to bring it aboard.

  2. Here he is with a giant, orange moose:

  3. I offered some to the screeners too, but they wisely declined6.

  4. They also declined to offer me an enhanced pat-down. Your loss, guys!7

  5. Tiger blood. Winning.







Other notes:



Footnotes.

  1. I've had some, comb included. It's great. It's won the blue ribbon three years running.

  2. She worked on LazyTown! Talk about a triple-threat.


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Tuesday, March 01, 2011

confessions of a time traveler

Your humble web goblin here again. I'm scheduling this post to wait until after midnight the morning of 1 March to go live, in part because guest-posting twice in two days seems gauche, but mostly so that I can then admit that today -- that being 1 March -- is my birthday.

He doesn't know it yet, but Patrick Rothfuss has given me a wonderful birthday present by releasing his next book, The Wise Man's Fear, on this day. I can't wait to read it. (At last, my jealousy of Ms. Day will be sated. Well, on this score, at least.)




Mr. G saw PLAY DEAD a few weeks ago and loved it. I've been following along with its evolution and production via Teller's diary and Twitter, and would really love to see it.

Now, thanks to Mr. G and Teller, should I manage to make it to NYC I can see it at 30% off!

The special Neil Gaiman discount code for PLAY DEAD is now operational.

If your fans go to playdeadnyc.com and click on the link to buy tickets, they can get a discount of about 30% on tickets to any show any day of the week, if then type in "graveyard" under "promotions and special offers."


Mr. G said of it, "It's an excellent evening of pure theatre (85 minutes long, no intermission). I think it would be an excellent show to see with a loved one or a good friend."




I had some queries, via LJ feed and Facebook, as to the creators of the two goblin ears hats in the previous post, and agree that failing to include proper attribution was a dreadful oversight.

The one on the left is by "Purple Primate" who, I have just learned, has an Etsy shop from which you can purchase your own. The one on the right is by Brandon; you can see his other work on his Flicker page.




Mr. G specifically instructed that I should link you to Amanda's latest blog post. And now I have.

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