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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Adventures in the Screen Trade


It’s a beautiful spring day: the cherry trees and the plum trees are covered with white blossom, and the apple trees are in scarlet bud; the bees are finally out and exploring; the trees have their spring leaves on, translucent green; the sky is as blue as it has been this year; the grass is no longer a sad wintry brown, but is now green, dotted with yellow dandelions and purple violets and pink and white wildflowers, and I’m down at the bottom of the garden writing. Birds are singing outside, Jason Webley and T.V Smith are playing on the ancient gazebo CD player.

I’m writing, but I thought I’d stop writing what I'm meant to be writing to put my thoughts down on paper (which is silly expression, as they are going to go from keyboard to computer to Blogger. But put my thoughts down on screen just looks wrong).

It’s been a strange few days. Not a bad strange.

My episode of Doctor Who (it’s called “The Doctor’s Wife”, and the title really isn’t a cheat, although it may not mean what you think it means) went out in the UK and in the US on Saturday. I stayed away from the Internet as much as I could, for my sanity, not knowing what people would think and not really wanting to know.

I checked in on Twitter while the BBC Broadcast was going out, though, and was amazed to see thousands of unread messages, and to see that Neil Gaiman was a trending topic in the UK, along with Suranne Jones and TARDIS, and that we were, at that point in the evening, out-trending the Eurovision Song Contest. (Briefly and oddly, enough people were arguing on Twitter about whether or not Suranne Jones reminded them of Helena Bonham Carter, that somehowHelena Bonham Carter was a trending topic on Twitter as well.) And later that evening I went back to see that TARDIS was trending in the US and Canada, and that over about eight hours I'd received or been mentioned in about 20,000 Twitter messages.

I couldn’t remember the last time I’d seen that amount of concentrated enthusiasm for something I'd done. It felt like “The Doctor’s Wife” had touched some kind of nerve. Er, in a good way. A happy nerve. Not everybody loved it, and not everybody liked it, but it seemed that the overwhelming majority of people did. (I think it is a good thing that all people do not like all things equally, by the way. There is, as the Romans pointed out, no arguing with taste, and trying to convince someone that they should like something they don’t or not like something they do is pointless and foolish. We like different things, and it’s part of the joy of being human, and part of the reason that I can make a living making art.)

And then I spent the next 48 hours feeling like I was coming back from very far away. The nervousness didn’t evaporate when the episode had been broadcast, as I'd expected it to. It slowly ebbed as the messages came in from friends who’d seen it and liked it, and as I showed the finished episode (and the full Doctor Who Confidential, which is called “Bigger on the Inside” which was the episode’s original title, not to mention the label I’ve put on the blog for anything with a mention of my episode of Doctor Who in it since that first dinner with Steven Moffat) to Maddy and her friend Anna-Rose, and they liked it.

I answered a lot of questions on Monday morning on the Guardian Website (click on the shortened answers to see the full answers, or read the comments, and there's one at the end that isn't in the shortened list) and marveled as I answered the questions at how much of TV is a response to the limitations of budget and time – both time to shoot, and time to tell your tale. (The response to most questions of “Why didn’t we see…?” or “Why didn’t we learn why…?” is that, well, we did once, in one draft of the script or another, but either I cut it for pacing, or it was left on the cutting room floor after it was shot.)

And another day along and I got my equilibrium back, and the odd mood faded, and now the world feels normal again, and the thing that I’ve spent an astonishing amount of the last two years working on is done and out in the world, and it doesn’t only belong to me any longer.

And if you liked it (and yes, I liked it, very much) the credit goes to the amazing cast – Matt Smith, Suranne Jones, Arthur Darvill, Karen Gillan, Elizabeth Berrington (who I never met) and Adrian Schiller, Paul Kasey and the wonderful voice of Michael Sheen; to the director Richard Clark, the designer Michael Pickwoad, the script supervisors, first Brian Minchin and then Lindsey Alford, the W Producers, Piers Wenger and Beth Willis and Sanne Wohlenberg (it’s amazing how many of the most memorable lines in the script came out of Beth saying “Yes, but I don’t get it, WHY don’t they…?” and me realising I needed actually to say something I’d just assumed everybody would follow); and most of all to the Oodfather, Steven Moffatt, who encouraged me in my madness, rescued me when I told him I’d written too many drafts and couldn’t do it again, gave the script several of its best lines, and who even rapidly rewrote a couple of scenes at the last minute when locations vanished due to budget.

Thank you as well to Steven Manfred, who for years has been my personal mysterious Doctor Who Dealer, and who, when I embarked on this madness, also became my personal Doctor Who Encyclopedia.

(And thank you, thank you, a thousand times thank you, to Russell T. Davies, who brought Doctor Who back from the void and put it back together and sent it back into the future with its mission in place: to entertain, amaze and induce wonder in its audience while sending a certain number of them to watch from the relative safety of behind the sofa.)

The episode still hasn’t made it to Australia yet, so I’m not going to try not put up any real spoilers here on the blog, but I may link to places that will spoil it for you, so you click on anything at your own risk.

If you’re in the UK, the episode's up on iPlayer for the next five days. Here's the link:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b011884d/Doctor_Who_Series_6_The_Doctors_Wife/

If you’re in the US, BBC America are repeating it on Saturdays, along with an awful lot of Doctor Who episodes. Check out their schedules or their Doctor Who pages.

If you're in Canada, it's streaming at http://watch.spacecast.com/doctor-who/doctor-who-season-6/doctor-who-the-doctors-wife/

The BBC Doctor Who pages have an interview with me up where I talk about two of the cut scenes from the episode (one that didn’t make it to shooting, one that was shot but then excised) and where I talk about writing short stories, and Doctor Who, for the competition the BBC is running for young writers.

SPOILERS:











And if you liked the episode, the full BBC Confidential is up on iPlayer for the next 3 weeks. I was thrilled by it – the Hot Chocolate “You Sexy Thing” montage made me nostalgic and delighted. It's a wonderful 45 minute documentary (and you get a crash course in film-set catering in the middle of it).

BBC America now has a cut-down 15 minute version of Doctor Who Confidential up on their website.

The only thing that made me a bit wistful is that Amanda wasn’t around for either the nervousness or the subsequent relief – she’s with her sister, at a Yoga retreat in Europe, off the web, phone and email, and getting all stretchy while, I hope, recovering from being arrested for playing the ukulele in public in Amsterdam.

Lots and lots of fanmail on the episode coming in. Thank you all. This is my favourite, from Michelle Springer:

Hello Mr. Gaiman! On behalf of the "Doctor Who" fans of McMurdo Station, Antarctica, I wanted to thank you for your amazing episode this past weekend! Of the 151 people wintering in isolation here, we have a small but very devoted group of "Who" fans, and your episode was definitely the best we've seen so far this season... in fact, it kept some of us up late, standing out in the cold and talking about what had happened, because we were too excited to go into our warm dorms! Thank you for such a fun episode, from the bottom of the world!


I think I loved that so much because 150 people in the Antarctic feels like the setting for a Doctor Who episode in its own right.


...


My weight and shape seem to have settled down, so I now need to buy a whole new wardrobe of clothes that fit me. Also, I got my blood tested this morning, and my cholesterol numbers have dropped from 221 in October (and, I expect, at the end of January, when I started taking care of myself) to 151 this morning. It's remarkable what eating vegetables and exercising will do when you get serious about it. Hurrah for vegetables.

I haven't actually settled on the Next Audio Book While Exercising yet, though. I've auditioned a couple of books so far, but not found one I like. I have learned that I don't like "rereading" - listening to books I've already read - while exercising. I definitely need an element of What Happens Next? to make myself want to go and exercise for 40 minutes.

Nicole Quinn won the American Gods Full Cast Audiobook contest -- she was the favourite voice of all three judges, and recorded her parts on Monday.

I loved the 20 finalists, and I've listened to a bunch of the other 1300 contestants now, and was so impressed at the quality of entries.

I talked before about the cool secret thing that I was planning concerning Audiobooks.

It's not secret any longer. http://www.acx.com/ The Audiobook Creation Exchange. I'm going to put together a line of audiobooks -- books I'd like to hear that do not exist as audiobooks yet -- using Audible's ACX system. I think it's going to be fun. If you're an author, an agent, a studio producer/engineer or an actor you should definitely check out the website.

I'm not down the bottom of the garden writing any longer. It's much later, I'm in bed, and I really ought to finish this blog entry and go to sleep.

Goodnight.

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Saturday, May 07, 2011

Life, and other Spoilers

I got up astonishingly early this morning to take Maddy to State for Violin (solo and duet), then I spent much of the rest of the day doing Dad duty -- taxiing, taking photos and suchlike -- as Maddy went to Prom. It all seems alien and weird to me, Prom and such, like something people made up in films that doesn't actually happen in real life. (It definitely didn't happen in my life: the nearest we ever got to it was the Sixth Form Disco, during the course of which I discovered that any music I liked could actually clear a dance floor in seconds.) But it means much to her, and is such an American symbol...

I'm in a strange, reflective mood: my youngest child is so very grown-up. She and I went to pick up the final bits of stuff for her Prom in Bridal shops this morning, and I found myself pondering life and adulthood and marriage and suchlike, and wondering whatever happened to the little girl who woke up from a nightmare and told me there were wolves living in the walls of her room.

Which meant that when I was sent this Because the Origami video, this evening, I got slightly more sniffly than I might otherwise. But it's a beautiful film.

Because the Origami - 8in8 from Ben Jacobson on Vimeo.

(It's also generating intense and passionate discussion over on Facebook.)


....

It's a week until my episode of Doctor Who airs. Saturday, May the 14th, at 6:30pm.

I'm excited. I'm also very aware that Spoilers can ruin some or all of the fun of an episode. I don't like them, myself.

Last season I knew everything that happened in Doctor Who, was sent a script for each episode as it was completed. Then my episode was moved. For this season I chatted to Steven Moffat for twenty minutes about what he wanted to do with the arc, what he wanted me to slip in to my episode, what was changed between this season and the one the original one was meant to be in, and then I went away and wrote.

It's great. I can watch as a viewer, with my family and friends, and not know what's coming next.

But for the curious...

The BBC has put up a page of links to stuff about my episode. There's the "Next Time" Trailer. There are two minute-long sections of story. There's an introduction, in which Arthur and Karen talk about the next episode, and I can be seen reading a bit of script. And there's a trailer for the next Doctor Who Confidential.

If you're not interested, or you are very interested but want to keep yourself Spoiler Free, click away now. I'll put a bunch of space between this sentence and the next thing, where there will be a slightly spoilery image, and the name that the episode is called.













And look, the next thing isn't anything to do with Doctor Who. It's a photo I took this evening of my dog, to give you a chance to click away from this page, and in case your eye does that thing where it just sort of wanders down...


Last chance to leave...







Okay. You're on your own. We're in Spoiler territory now. This is the Trailer:





People have asked if I am the voice that's heard in the episode. I am not. It is the voice of the wonderful Michael Sheen.

This is the first of the previews. It's from the first few minutes of the show and doesn't give much away at all...





The second preview doesn't currently have an embed option I can find. It's at http://www.bbc.co.uk/doctorwho/dw/videos/p00gszls and the story is well underway by the time this bit happens. It is Very Spoilery in the sense of telling you stuff that you would otherwise know only by watching the episode.

Here is the Introduction, in which Karen Gillan says I am clever, and I read a bit of script. It's not very spoilery.



The page I got all these links from is here... http://www.bbc.co.uk/doctorwho/dw/news/bulletin_110507_02

This last, from the Blogtor Who site, is the Doctor Who Confidential trailer from this week. When I went to Cardiff last year I was followed everywhere by the Confidential team, which was brilliant as it meant I was allowed to poke around in crannies and wander all over and generally do things that writers are (very wisely) discouraged from doing (as recorded in this blog entry). It's long enough ago that I have no idea what was actually filmed or said, and will be watching it next week when it airs very nervously, hoping my hair doesn't do anything particularly unlikely while people are looking. And yes, Spoilers.


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Thursday, May 05, 2011

Weasel-necked pencils. Part I hope the last.

So, according to the City Pages Matt Dean has sort of apologised. Not in the way that grown-ups do, where you say you did something wrong and you know it.

He's apologised for calling me names, he says, because his mother made him. (He doesn't seem to have apologised for calling me a thief.) He also says that, as a rich person, I should also do some charity work, which sort of dropped my jaw.

At this point, I'm just glad his mother (of whom, I must say, I am now a fan) didn't bring him round to my house with a hand on his collar and make him apologise in front of my whole family, while clearing her throat and giving him meaningful glances the whole time.

And I think I will happily support any attempt to bring adult discourse and adult politicians who behave, naturally and sensibly, like adults to Minnesota. It is a good place and deserves better.

So there's a round-up of some of the articles so far, in one place. You are not expected to read them.

And as a final, final note: I was just interviewed by the Star Tribune, and the reporter told me he'd just spoken to Matt Dean," who," he said, "joked that he's now lost the votes of all the Star Trek fans." Mm.

...

(Also, I checked further. I got one thing wrong yesterday - the full fee was $45K; I took home $33.6 K after the agency commission, and donated rather more than that to the charities in question.)

...

So...

In June I will be doing some talks and possibly also some signings for the new Harper Collins Tenth Anniversary reissue of AMERICAN GODS, with the author's preferred text. It's about 12,000 words longer than the original version.

The first of those events to be announced is that Lev Grossman will be interviewing me in front of an audience at the 92nd Street Y. You can get tickets at their website here.

In addition, I've donated Two VIP Tickets to CharityBuzz to help the RFK Centre for Justice and Human Rights. Whoever wins the auction gets a Meet and Greet before the event, and they will also get Stuff. I have no idea what the Stuff is going to be, but it will be Really Good Stuff, whatever it is. You can bid here.

I may be coming to your town on the American Gods tour. We'll have all the dates and locations within the next week or so.

(The June 24th stop will be in St Paul, where I will be the victim of WITS at the Fitzgerald Theatre.)

Right now I am listening my way through the 20 finalists for the American Gods audiobook competition -- you can listen yourself over at this link. Click on view Round 1 at the top. So far I'm really impressed, and this is not easy. I'm glad there are two other judges, and that it's not just up to me.

And the reason I haven't posted what the successor to Bleak House is going to be (some of you have asked) is I'm not there yet. While I did exercise while I was doing 8in8 and such with Amanda, it was things like going to hot yoga and working out with Leslie Salmon Jones, who is Amanda's trainer and the nearest thing to a superhero I have ever met in real life, none of it was the kind of exercise I could do while listening to Bleak House.

But I'm now half an hour away from the end of Bleak House, and tomorrow will have to decide on its successor. I'm also wearing, today, a pair of brand-new, unworn jeans I bought about 16 years ago, with the vague idea that one day I'd probably fit into a pair of size 30 jeans again, only I never did. And this morning I tried them on, and was happy to discover that I now do. So I am thinking that I need to write a nice letter to Hugh Dickson, who narrated the BBC version of Bleak House (I got it from Audible. Here is the link) and I should thank him for his part in getting me thinner and healthier.

Also, the amazing interest in the American Gods audiobook competition and my own rediscovery of love for audiobooks means that I have started hatching a plan for something secret and cool with Audible.

...

Here's today's PROBLEM WITH SAINTS fan video. This one contains Death (from Sandman) and zombie tourists, not to mention Saint Joan herself, and a photograph of the queen.





...

May 12th is National Doodle Day. It raises money to help fight neurofibromatosis. As for the last 3 years, I've doodled and the auction for my doodles and the others starts on the 12th. My two doodles are up at http://doodledayusa.org/gallery/main.php?g2_itemId=1673&g2_page=2. There's a Sandman one, and there's one that's, er, just a doodle...


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Wednesday, May 04, 2011

The Opinions of a Pencil-necked Weasel-thief...


I'm now home, to Spring and dogs. Had a wonderful time with Ben Folds, Damian Kulash from OKGo and Amanda Palmer making the #8in8 project, which as of 3 days ago has raised over $21,000 for Berklee City Music, bringing access to music to inner city kids in Boston. Given that the minimum donation is $1, I think we've got a lot of people downloading the 8in8 music, and it is doing good things, and for that I thank you all.

If you haven't checked it out, here's a player for the songs and a link to the website. (The one I sing on is the last song, The Problem With Saints, but they're all wonderful, and Amanda, Ben and Damian sing on the other five.)



Here's one of the many wonderful videos people have made for the songs. This one is gloriously funny.




Also a huge thank you from me to all of you who donated to RAINN, who met and exceeded their fundraising goals in April, and told me that the signed posters from Neverwear were a really popular donation incentive. (This is a good thing to know for future such fundraisers.)

...

SEMI-POLITICAL BIT

Lots of my readers are Republicans, just as lots of my readers are Communists, Socialists, Anarchists, Liberals, Greens, Democrats, and supporters of political parties that Americans can't quite understand, like LibDems and Tories and Monster Raving Loony Party such. I'm not a particularly political animal -- if there was a party whose main platform was being nice to people, freedom of speech and supporting libraries I'd sign up for it, but mostly I try and vote, when I vote, which is in the UK by postal ballot, for the person whose politics I dislike the least, and who does the most good for the area s/he represents. Beyond that, I work hard for things like the CBLDF, alongside people of all political hues and stripes for the common goal (in this case, supporting the First Amendment for people who make, sell, publish or read comics).

So it was with a certain amount of surprise I discovered this morning that I'm on the majority leader of the Minnesota Republicans's Hate List. His name is Matt Dean, and he has a thing about my neck.

This surprised me. Until this morning I didn't know that Matt Dean existed. I had never thought about his neck.

Matt Dean, on the other hand, has been giving a lot of thought to me. During a debate on cutting money for the arts, we learn that,
Dean said that Gaiman, "who I hate," was a "pencil-necked little weasel who stole $45,000 from the state of Minnesota."


(He was referring to the events of this - http://journal.neilgaiman.com/2010/05/political-football-in-teacup.html. Read it first.)

I've had reporters phoning me up all morning, wanting to know what I thought about this. (Although not ones from the Star Tribune, interestingly. Although there's a great Star Tribune Blog about it.)

What I think is,

1) It's funny. Sad that this is the kind of thing that elected officials say in public, but still funny. It's the kind of thing that you expect to hear at school from fourteen-year old bullies, before they tell you that they'll be seeing you by the lockers with their friends, not what you expect to see from an adult.

2) It's kind of nice to make someone's Hate List. It reminds me of Nixon's Enemies List. If a man is known by his enemies, I think my stock just went up a little.

3) I like "pencil-necked weasel". It has "pencil" in it. Pencils are good things. You can draw or write things with pencils. I think it's what you call someone when you're worried that using a long word like "intellectual" may have too many syllables. It's not something that people who have serious, important things to say call other people.

4) I don't like being called a thief. I'm pretty sure that I know what thieves are and do. In this case, Matt Dean's claiming that I "stole $45,000 from the state of Minnesota". (I'm not sure where the $45K number comes from. I just checked: I actually received $33, 600 from the Minnesota Library System for a talk that was then broadcast and is still up [look down to second section].)

I do not know whether this man is calling me "a thief" because:

A) I charged more than he's comfortable with for a talk, or
B) People happily pay me a lot of money to come and give talks, or
C) He thinks I gave the talk wearing a stripy sweater to an audience of people who were there at gunpoint and afterwards took their wallets, or
D) He's against the principles of the Free Market, and feels that governments should regulate how much people are paid to talk in public.

But for whatever reason, it seems kind of weird, and is a lie. (Yes, I gave the money to charities - a sexual abuse one and a library/author one, long ago, when the cheque came in, well before this ever became a political football. But that seems completely irrelevant to this: I don't like the idea that a politician is telling people that charging a market wage for their services is stealing.)

5) I think that Minnesota has things it can be proud of - quality of life things, that make it really good to live in this part of the world. The things that have kept me out here for twenty years. One of the biggest things is it has really good Public Radio and a thriving, active, involved arts scene. It makes me sad to see people trying to crush or even diminish these as part of their political agenda.

And also I think that if you're a Republican in Minnesota, and you read my books or my blog, you could do worse than tell Matt Dean what you think of this kind of bullying schoolyard nonsense from someone who's meant to be representing you. Honestly, it makes you all look bad. Here's a page with his details. It has an email address, his office address, and it even has a photograph*.




* (I would not be human if I didn't admit that I looked at his neck in the photograph, to see if it was as mighty and bull-like as I felt he had implied, and that I might have been just a tiny bit disappointed.)



...



I display my neck, pencilly or not, to the world in this picture.

It's from Allan Amato's ILLUMINATE PARKINSON'S Kickstarter. He's raising money for a travelling photographic show and book that will then go on to raise money and awareness for Parkinson's Disease. I signed up to support it, as well as having my photo taken. You should check it out.

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