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Thursday, January 26, 2012

A speech I once gave: On Lewis, Tolkien and Chesterton

I gave this speech in 2004, to the Mythopoeic Society. I thought it was already somewhere on this website, but it isn't, it's only up at the Mythopoeic Society website. I hope no-one there will mind if I put it up here (mostly for me, for ease of finding it later.)

 

Mythcon 35 Guest of Honour Speech

By Neil Gaiman

I thought I’d talk about authors, and about three authors in particular, and the circumstances in which I met them.
There are authors with whom one has a personal relationship and authors with whom one does not. There are the ones who change your life and the ones who don’t. That’s just the way of it.


I was six years old when I saw an episode of The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe in black and white on television at my grandmother’s house in Portsmouth. I remember the beavers, and the first appearance of Aslan, an actor in an unconvincing lion costume, standing on his hind legs, from which I deduce that this was probably episode two or three. I went home to Sussex and saved my meagre pocket money until I was able to buy a copy of The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe of my own. I read it, and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, the other book I could find, over and over, and when my seventh birthday arrived I had dropped enough hints that my birthday present was a boxed set of the complete Narnia books. And I remember what I did on my seventh birthday — I lay on my bed and I read the books all through, from the first to the last.


For the next four or five years I continued to read them. I would read other books, of course, but in my heart I knew that I read them only because there wasn’t an infinite number of Narnia books to read.
For good or ill the religious allegory, such as it was, went entirely over my head, and it was not until I was about twelve that I found myself realising that there were Certain Parallels. Most people get it at the Stone Table; I got it when it suddenly occurred to me that the story of the events that occurred to Saint Paul on the road to Damascus was the dragoning of Eustace Scrubb all over again. I was personally offended: I felt that an author, whom I had trusted, had had a hidden agenda. I had nothing against religion, or religion in fiction — I had bought (in the school bookshop) and loved The Screwtape Letters, and was already dedicated to G.K. Chesterton. My upset was, I think, that it made less of Narnia for me, it made it less interesting a thing, less interesting a place. Still, the lessons of Narnia sank deep. Aslan telling the Tash worshippers that the prayers he had given to Tash were actually prayers to Him was something I believed then, and ultimately still believe.
The Pauline Baynes map of Narnia poster stayed up on my bedroom wall through my teenage years.


I didn’t return to Narnia until I was a parent, first in 1988, then in 1999, each time reading all the books aloud to my children. I found that the things that I loved, I still loved — sometimes loved more — while the things that I had thought odd as a child (the awkwardness of the structure of Prince Caspian, and my dislike for most of The Last Battle, for example) had intensified; there were also some new things that made me really uncomfortable — for example the role of women in the Narnia books, culminating in the disposition of Susan. But what I found more interesting was how much of the Narnia books had crept inside me: as I would write there would be moment after moment of realising that I’d borrowed phrases, rhythms, the way that words were put together; for example, that I had a hedgehog and a hare, in The Books of Magic, speaking and agreeing with each other much as the Dufflepuds do.

C.S. Lewis was the first person to make me want to be a writer. He made me aware of the writer, that there was someone standing behind the words, that there was someone telling the story. I fell in love with the way he used parentheses — the auctorial asides that were both wise and chatty, and I rejoiced in using such brackets in my own essays and compositions through the rest of my childhood.
I think, perhaps, the genius of Lewis was that he made a world that was more real to me than the one I lived in; and if authors got to write the tales of Narnia, then I wanted to be an author.
Now, if there is a wrong way to find Tolkien, I found Tolkien entirely the wrong way. Someone had left a copy of a paperback called The Tolkien Reader in my house. It contained an essay — “Tolkien’s Magic Ring” by Peter S. Beagle — some poetry, Leaf By Niggle and Farmer Giles of Ham. In retrospect, I suspect I picked it up only because it was illustrated by Pauline Baynes. I would have been eight, maybe nine years old.
What was important to me, reading that book, was the poetry, and the promise of a story.
Now, when I was nine I changed schools, and I found, in the class library, a battered and extremely elderly copy of The Hobbit. I bought it from the school in a library sale for a penny, along with an ancient copy of the Plays of W.S. Gilbert, and I still have it.
It would be another year or so before I was to discover the first two volumes of The Lord of the Rings, in the main school library. I read them. I read them over and over: I would finish The Two Towers and start again at the beginning of The Fellowship of the Ring. I never got to the end. This was not the hardship it may sound — I had already learned from the Peter S. Beagle essay in the Tolkien Reader that it would all come out more or less okay. Still, I really did want to read it for myself.
When I was thirteen I won the school English Prize, and was allowed to choose a book. I chose The Return of the King. I still own it. I only read it once, however — thrilled to find out how the story ended — because around the same time I also bought the one-volume paperback edition. It was the most expensive thing I had bought with my own money, and it was that which I now read and re-read.
I came to the conclusion that Lord of the Rings was, most probably, the best book that ever could be written, which put me in something of a quandary. I wanted to be a writer when I grew up. (That’s not true: I wanted to be a writer then.) And I wanted to write The Lord of the Rings. The problem was that it had already been written.


I gave the matter a great deal of thought, and eventually came to the conclusion that the best thing would be if, while holding a copy of The Lord of the Rings, I slipped into a parallel universe in which Professor Tolkien had not existed. And then I would get someone to retype the book — I knew that if I sent a publisher a book that had already been published, even in a parallel universe, they’d get suspicious, just as I knew my own thirteen-year old typing skills were not going to be up to the job of typing it. And once the book was published I would, in this parallel universe, be the author of Lord of the Rings, than which there can be no better thing. And I read Lord of the Rings until I no longer needed to read it any longer, because it was inside me. Years later, I dropped Christopher Tolkien a letter, explaining something that he found himself unable to footnote, and was profoundly gratified to find myself thanked in the Tolkien book The War of the Ring (for something I had learned from reading James Branch Cabell, no less).
It was in the same school library that had the two volumes of Lord of the Rings that I discovered Chesterton. The library was next door to the school matron’s office, and I learned that, when faced with lessons that I disliked from teachers who terrified me, I could always go up to the matron’s office and plead a headache. A bitter-tasting aspirin would be dissolved in a glass of water, I would drink it down, trying not to make a face, and then be sent to sit in the library while I waited for it to work. The library was also where I went on wet afternoons, and whenever else I could.


The first Chesterton book I found there was The Complete Father Brown Stories. There were hundreds of other authors I encountered in that library for the first time — Edgar Wallace and Baroness Orczy and Dennis Wheatley and the rest of them. But Chesterton was important — as important to me in his way as C.S. Lewis had been.
You see, while I loved Tolkien and while I wished to have written his book, I had no desire at all to write like him. Tolkien’s words and sentences seemed like natural things, like rock formations or waterfalls, and wanting to write like Tolkien would have been, for me, like wanting to blossom like a cherry tree or climb a tree like a squirrel or rain like a thunderstorm. Chesterton was the complete opposite. I was always aware, reading Chesterton, that there was someone writing this who rejoiced in words, who deployed them on the page as an artist deploys his paints upon his palette. Behind every Chesterton sentence there was someone painting with words, and it seemed to me that at the end of any particularly good sentence or any perfectly-put paradox, you could hear the author, somewhere behind the scenes, giggling with delight.
Father Brown, that prince of humanity and empathy, was a gateway drug into the harder stuff, this being a one-volume collection of three novels: The Napoleon of Notting Hill (my favourite piece of predictive 1984 fiction, and one that hugely informed my own novel Neverwhere), The Man Who Was Thursday (the prototype of all Twentieth Century spy stories, as well as being a Nightmare, and a theological delight), and lastly The Flying Inn (which had some excellent poetry in it, but which struck me, as an eleven-year old, as being oddly small-minded. I suspected that Father Brown would have found it so as well.) Then there were the poems and the essays and the art.
Chesterton and Tolkien and Lewis were, as I’ve said, not the only writers I read between the ages of six and thirteen, but they were the authors I read over and over again; each of them played a part in building me. Without them, I cannot imagine that I would have become a writer, and certainly not a writer of fantastic fiction. I would not have understood that the best way to show people true things is from a direction that they had not imagined the truth coming, nor that the majesty and the magic of belief and dreams could be a vital part of life and of writing.
And without those three writers, I would not be here today. And nor, of course, would any of you. I thank you.

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Sunday, January 22, 2012

An Edgar and an Ill Wind

It's been a bugger of a week: I left my Macbook Air on a plane on Sunday night, and have spent most of the rest of the week doing things like being on the phone to the backup service, learning that the tracking software I'd thought was on there was on there, but hadn't been activated, buying a new computer, etc. I didn't get the thing I was meant to be writing written. I was grumpy.

But, I spent the wasted week getting healthy and in shape and juicing things. And I now have an iPad, with which I am starting to fall in love. (Weirdly, I much prefer my Nexus Android to the iPhone. But never liked the Xoom, and still don't - I have one, but mostly use it as an Audible player, and attempts to use it to write on, with a bluetooth keyboard, early this week were just painful. But I started falling for Amanda's iPad in Edinburgh in August, bought one for myself on impulse, and started writing on it, and discovering that writing on it was easy and pleasant.)

And this morning I got an email telling me that the thing that I would have been working on all week, that I'd already lost 15 pages of...

...was now going to change so radically I would have wasted a week's work if I'd been working on it. So I am happy.

And the thing I've been holding fire on for a week just sorted itself out, too. So I got a week off I would never have had in real life, even if it was a grumpy one, and all has worked out for the best.

And I learned on Monday morning I was nominated for an Edgar Award, by the Mystery Writers of America, for my story "The Case of Death and Honey". I don't write many mysteries, and I've never been nominated for an Edgar Award before. So I was thrilled. (The story, from A Study in Sherlock, isn't online, but you can read about it here.)



My friend Dr Dan just wandered by with a CD. "I see all these photos of you," he said, "that do not look like you at all. Here's a photo I took of you this summer that I like. It looks like you."


I liked it too, partly because you can actually see some of the grey on the side. There's stuff about getting older that I don't like - mostly having to do with eyesight - but I'm enjoying most of it. I like feeling that I have a face that looks like something; when I was young I was convinced I didn't look like anything, and wore dark glasses and big leather jackets so people would have something to remember. But these days I have a face that feels like mine, even if, sometimes, I catch myself in the mirror looking disconcertingly like my father.

It's been really wintry here, but today it warmed up to not-actually-evil, and I was able to pull out my phone and, more importantly, take off my gloves to take shots of the dogs. Who are too often invisible against the snow.

Cabal.

Lola, hoping a squirrel who ran up a tree will run down again, so that she can catch him and turn him into a squirrelly chew toy...

Lola visiting a frozen river...
And some of the beehives, all wrapped up for the winter. The bees are inside, in football-sized clumps, vibrating and generating heat.



...

It's the Chinese Year of the Dragon, so I just drew a wobbly dragon for my Chinese friends. He's based on a picture I saw of an ancient dragon who had three toes but was still Chinese...


I don't know if anyone's going to be able to see this photo posted here, in China. Last time I was there, this blog was cut off by the Great Firewall, but I post for it anyone who can: 恭喜发财

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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

An open letter to Washington from Artists and Creators


We, the undersigned, are musicians, actors, directors, authors, and producers. We make our livelihoods with the artistic works we create. We are also Internet users.
We are writing to express our serious concerns regarding the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA) and the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA).
As creative professionals, we experience copyright infringement on a very personal level. Commercial piracy is deeply unfair and pervasive leaks of unreleased films and music regularly interfere with the integrity of our creations. We are grateful for the measures policymakers have enacted to protect our works.
We, along with the rest of society, have benefited immensely from a free and open Internet. It allows us to connect with our fans and reach new audiences. Using social media services like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, we can communicate directly with millions of fans and interact with them in ways that would have been unimaginable just a few years ago.
We fear that the broad new enforcement powers provided under SOPA and PIPA could be easily abused against legitimate services like those upon which we depend. These bills would allow entire websites to be blocked without due process, causing collateral damage to the legitimate users of the same services - artists and creators like us who would be censored as a result.
We are deeply concerned that PIPA and SOPA's impact on piracy will be negligible compared to the potential damage that would be caused to legitimate Internet services. Online piracy is harmful and it needs to be addressed, but not at the expense of censoring creativity, stifling innovation or preventing the creation of new, lawful digital distribution methods.
We urge Congress to exercise extreme caution and ensure that the free and open Internet, upon which so many artists rely to promote and distribute their work, does not become collateral damage in the process.
Respectfully,
  • Aziz Ansari
  • Kevin Devine, Musician
  • Barry Eisler, Author
  • Neil Gaiman, Author
  • Lloyd Kaufman, Filmmaker
  • Zoë Keating, Musician
  • The Lonely Island
  • Daniel Lorca, Musician (Nada Surf)
  • Erin McKeown, Musician
  • MGMT
  • Samantha Murphy, Musician
  • OK Go
  • Amanda Palmer, Musician (The Dresden Dolls)
  • Quiet Company
  • Trent Reznor
  • Adam Savage, Special Effects Artist (MythBusters)
  • Hank Shocklee, Music Producer (Public Enemy, The Bomb Squad)
  • Johnny Stimson, Musician

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Monday, January 09, 2012

Of Introductions and Viriconium


Another day of record high temperatures. I am mostly happy because it's astonishingly pleasant walking the dogs without protective clothing and facemasks and such. Also, it means I have a better chance of bringing all the beehives through this winter. 

Which reminds me,

Hi, Neil,

I thought you might enjoy this article on bee keeping:

http://www.elephantjournal.com/2012/01/beekeeping-and-the-ethical-vegan--will-curley/

Best,
Helana

...and I really did. (For the record, I think it's absolutely right for ethical vegans to stop eating almonds, cucumbers, cranberries and other nuts/fruits/vegetables that are pollinated by bees being trucked around the country, bees that are being, from my perspective, exploited and mistreated -- although I don't know of any vegans that have stopped eating such fruits etc. -- but cannot see why such vegans would stop eating honey from small local beekeepers.)

The mail on Friday brought many wonderful things, including a box of copies of  a new edition of Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book, to which I had written an introduction.



One reason I love writing introductions (or rather, I love having written introductions, because I don't love writing them. They feel like schoolwork, and they always take me so much longer to do than I ever think they will) is that I get to point to a work that I like,  usually like a lot, and explain why I like it. You can't explain or point out everything in an introduction, nor should you. If it's done well, an introduction is a bit like sending a friend to a city she's never visited before. You tell her about the restaurants she shouldn't miss, and the places and sights that made you happy the last time you were there, and a few things that perhaps only the locals know. 

I love M. John Harrison's prose and I love his books, and I find the Viriconium sequence fascinating and delightful, which was why I asked for it to be in my ACX audiobook line at Neil Gaiman Presents.

A few years ago, I wrote an introduction to the US edition of the book (the UK edition was introduced by Iain M. Banks, so even if you own the books, you might not have read it).

I said this:



On Viriconium: some Notes Toward an Introduction.


People are always pupating their own disillusion, decay, age. How is it they never suspect what they are going to become, when their faces already contain the faces they will have twenty years from now?
A Young Man's Journey Towards Viriconium

And I look at the Viriconium cycle of M. John Harrison and wonder whether The Pastel City knew it was pupating In Viriconium or the heartbreak of “A Young Man’s Journey Towards Viriconium” inside its pages, whether it knew what it was going to become.

Some weeks ago and half-way around the world, I found myself in the centre of  Bologna, that sunset-coloured medieval towered city which waits in the centre of a modern Italian city of the same name, in a small used bookshop, where I was given a copy of the the Codex Seraphinianus to inspect.  The book, created by the artist Luigi Serafini, is, in all probability, an art object: there is text, but the alphabet resembles an alien code, and the illustrations (which cover such aspects of life as gardening, anatomy, mathematics, and geometry,  card games, flying contraptions, and labyrinths)  bear only a passing resemblance to those we know in this world at this time:  in one picture a couple making love becomes a crocodile, which crawls away; while the animals, plants and ideas are strange enough that one can fancy the book something that has come to us from a long time from now, or from an extremely long way away. It is, lacking another explanation, art. And leaving that small shop, walking out into the colonnaded shaded streets of Bologna, holding my book of impossibilities, I fancied myself in Viriconium. And this was odd, only because until then I had explicitly equated Viriconium with England.

Viriconium, M. John Harrison’s creation, the Pastel City in the Afternoon of the world; two cities in one, in which nothing is consistent, tale to tale, save a scattering of place-names, although I am never certain that the names describe the same place from story to story. Is the Bistro Californium a constant? Is Henrietta Street?

M. John Harrison, who is Mike to his friends, is a puckish person of medium height, given to enthusiasms and intensity. He is, at first glance, slightly built, although a second glance suggests he has been constructed from whips and springs and good, tough leather, and it comes as no surprise to find that Mike is a rock climber, for one can without difficulty imagine him clinging to a rock face on a cold, wet day, finding purchase in almost invisible nooks and pulling himself continually up, man against stone. I have known Mike for over twenty years: in the time I have known him his hair has lightened to a magisterial silver, and he seems to have grown somehow continually younger. I have always liked him, just as I have always been more than just a little intimidated by his writing. When he talks about writing he moves from puckish  to possessed: I remember Mike in conversation at the Institute for Contemporary Art trying to explain the nature of fantastic fiction to an audience: he described someone standing in a windy lane, looking at the reflection of the world in the window of a shop, and seeing, sudden and unexplained, a shower of sparks in the glass. It is an image that raised the hairs on  the back of my neck, that has remained with me, and which I would find impossible to explain. It would be like trying to explain Harrison's fiction, something I am attempting to do in this introduction, and, in all probability, failing.

There are writers’ writers, of course, and M. John Harrison is one of those. He moves elegantly, passionately, from genre to genre, his prose lucent and wise, his stories published as sf or as fantasy, as horror or as mainstream fiction. In each playing field, he wins awards, and makes it look so easy. His prose is deceptively simple, each word considered and placed where it can sink deepest and do the most damage.

The Viriconium stories, which inherit a set of names and a sense of unease from a long-forgotten English Roman City – English antiquaries have preferred Uriconium, foreign scholars Viroconium or Viriconium, and Vriconium has also been suggested. The evidence of our ancient sources is somewhat confused, a historical website informs us are fantasies, three novels and a handful of stories which examine the nature of art and magic, language and power. 

There is, as I have already mentioned, and as you will discover, no consistency to Viriconium. Each time we return to it, it has changed, or we have. The nature of reality shifts and changes. The Viriconium stories are palimpsests, and other stories and other cities can be seen beneath the surface. Stories adumbrate other stories. Themes and characters reappear, like Tarot cards being shuffled and redealt. 

The Pastel City states Harrison’s themes simply, in comparison to the tales that follow, like a complex musical theme first heard played by a marching brass band: it’s far future SF at the point where SF transmutes into fantasy, and the tale reads like the script of a magnificent movie, complete with betrayals and battles, all the pulp ingredients carefully deployed. (It reminds me on rereading a little of Michael Moorcock and, in its end of time ambience and weariness, of Jack Vance and Cordwainer Smith.) Lord tegeus-Cromis (who fancied himself a better poet than swordsman) reassembles what remains of the legendary Methven to protect Viriconium and its girl-queen from invaders to the North. Here we have a dwarf and a hero, a princess, an inventor and a city under threat. Still, there is a bitter-sweetness to the story that one would not normally expect from such a novel.

A Storm of Wings takes a phrase from the first book as its title and is both a sequel to the first novel and a bridge to the stories and novel that follow and surround it: the voice of this book is, I suspect, less accessible than the first book, the prose rich and baroque. It reminds me at times of Mervyn Peake, but it also feels like it is the novel of someone who is stretching and testing what he can do with words, with sentences, with story.

And then, no longer baroque, M. John Harrison’s prose became transparent, but it was a treacherous transparency. Like its predecessors, In Viriconium is a novel about a hero attempting to rescue his princess, a tale of a dwarf, an inventor and a threatened city, but now the huge canvas of the first book has become a small and personal tale of heartbreak and of secrets and of memory. The gods of the novel are loutish and unknowable, our hero barely understands the nature of the story he finds himself in. It feels like it has come closer to home than the previous stories – the disillusion and decay that was pupating in the earlier stories has now emerged in full, like a butterfly, or a metal bird, freed from its chrysalis.

The short stories which weave around the three novels are stories about escapes, normally failed escapes. They are about power and politics, about language and the underlying structure of reality, and they are about art. They are as hard to hold as water, as evanescent as a shower of sparks, as permanent and as natural as rock formations. 

The Viriconium stories and novels cover such aspects of life as gardening, anatomy, mathematics, and geometry, card games, flying contraptions, and labyrinths. Also, they talk about art.

Harrison has gone on to create several masterpieces since leaving Viriconium, in and out of genre: Climbers, his amazing novel of rock climbers and escapism takes the themes of “A Young Man’s Journey to Viriconium” into mainstream fiction; The Course of the Heart takes them into fantasy, perhaps even horror; Light, his transcendent twining SF novel, is another novel about failed escapes – from ourselves, from our worlds, from our limitations. 

For me, the first experience of reading Viriconium Nights and In Viriconium was a revelation. I was a young man when I first encountered them, half a lifetime ago, and I remember the first experience of Harrison’s prose, as clear as mountain-water and as cold. The stories tangle in my head with the time that I first read them – the Thatcher Years in England seem already to be retreating into myth. They were larger-than-life times when we were living them, and there's more than a tang of the London I remember informing the city in these tales, and something of the decaying brassiness of Thatcher herself in the rotting malevolence of Mammy Vooley (indeed, when Harrison retold the story of “The Luck in the Head” in graphic novel form, illustrated by Ian Miller, Mammy Vooley was explicitly drawn as an avatar of Margaret Thatcher).

Now, on rereading, I find the clarity of Harrison’s prose just as admirable, but find myself appreciating his people more than ever I did before – flawed and hurt and always searching for ways to connect with each other, continually betrayed by language and tradition and themselves. And it seems to me that each city I visit now is an aspect of Viriconium, that there is an upper and a lower city in Tokyo and in Melbourne, in Manila and in Singapore, in Glasgow and in London, and that the Bistro Californium is where you find it, or where you need it, or simply what you need.

M. John Harrison, in his writing, clings to sheer rock faces, and finds invisible handholds and purchases that should not be there; he pulls you up with him through the story, pulls you through to the other side of the mirror, where the world looks almost the same, except for the shower of sparks...

Neil Gaiman
Narita Airport, July 25, 2005


....

There.

That's why I like it.

Those are some of the sights to see in Viriconium if you visit.

You can buy Viriconium from your local Indie Bookstore, or online: http://www.indiebound.org/book/9780553383157

You can listen to the audiobook, the one of which I am so proud, at http://www.audible.com/pd?asin=B006L88VMY&source_code=NGAOR0002WS101911



Oh, and adumbrate means to sketch, outline or prefigure.

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Too Much Coming Home.


I'm home, and it's... well, nowhere near as cold as it should be. It was (in case you are interested) the warmest January 5th on record in this part of the world. And I'm really enjoying the warm weather more than I feel I should. 

So, I last posted on New Year's Eve, in Melbourne.

January the First was quiet and extremely hot. Amanda completed her blog about our wedding, which she'd started writing almost a year earlier. (You can read it at http://blog.amandapalmer.net/post/15120706154/the-wedding-blog. When I finished reading it for the first time I got extremely sniffly. You have been warned.)

For the curious, my own Wedding blog is here: http://journal.neilgaiman.com/2011/01/yes.html. It's much shorter than Amanda's, but was written closer to the event. It ends with a paraphrase of a line from Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest.

By perfect coincidence, we celebrated our first wedding anniversary on January the Second in Melbourne watching The Importance of Being Earnest, starring Geoffrey Rush as Lady Bracknell, seats thanks to actor Toby Schmitz, who played Jack Worthing, and had noticed me on Twitter asking for suggestions about what to do that night in Melbourne. Great cast, great production, beautifully designed and put on. It made me think a lot about surfaces and about Oscar Wilde, and what art means and what it does, and the tension between those things. Then, somewhat subdued, as if it had become real that I was flying away and Amanda wasn't, we had dinner and went to the posh hotel we were overnighting in, and, in the morning, I went to the airport. I won't see her now for about three months. Expect occasional wistful posts in the next three months.

I stopped off in Los Angeles on my way home. I saw Scott and Ivy McCloud and their daughters, my fairy goddaughters, Sky and Winter. I don't see any of them enough. The best thing about being my age is knowing people for a Long Time. Long enough that they've had children. Long enough that the children are now adults, or young adults.


I saw Harlan Ellison, and kvelled at his book of essential short stories and essays Encountering Ellison: Harlan 101, for which I'd written the introduction.


(You can get your own copy of it at http://www.cafepress.com/harlanellison).

I had a meeting at HBO about American Gods. Then I flew home. And it was unseasonably warm for January.


It is unseasonably warm, think the dogs. Not that we're complaining. Hunting season has stopped and Cabal's neckerchief is now only for show.

I've been keeping a tumblr blog for a few months now, at http://neil-gaiman.tumblr.com/ and rather enjoying it, posting links to small things or odd things that caught my eye or made me smile.

Yesterday was Charles Addams' Hundredth Birthday, so I posted this on Tumblr, the Addams Family cartoon I bought myself when I won the Newbery Medal. It was originally done as a British Telecom ad, and I saw it in the tube, in London in the late 80s. (Addams had lost the rights to the characters at the time, so only drew them when other people got the rights then hired him to draw).

The captions read:  “I do hope it’s who you think it is, Fester.” And then, “It’s all been wonderful, Grandma – and Fester has at last established his ancestry!” It was to tell people - Americans, mostly -that it was cheaper to phone America than they thought.

...

And all that was just by way of prelude to posting about Viriconium by M. John Harrison, a book I introduced in 2005 and helped to bring out an audiobook of in 2011. But I think I'll put that off one more night. Viriconium deserves its own blog entry.

(Also, in Neil Gaiman Presents: Anita has her first review, while Swordspoint just garnered its first award, an AudioFile "Earphones" Award, with a review that says:
Richard St. Vier, swordsman extraordinaire, often fights duels to protect the honor of a noble—or just the highest bidder. But to fight for his own and his friends’ honor is a more complicated matter. There are so many rules for every kind of engagement—battle, politics, and, of course, love. Author Ellen Kushner delivers her utterly unique blend of modern fantasy and nineteenth-century novel of manners with absolute conviction, affectionate humor, and perfect phrasing. “Neil Gaiman Presents” has provided original music, lively soundscapes, and the voices of some of the audio world’s most distinguished performers. Hearing Katherine Kellgren, Dion Graham, and others sharpen the cutting, insightful dialogue is pure pleasure. B.P. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award
Congratulations to Ellen Kushner,  author and narrator, and to the cast, and to Sue Zizza, who is not namechecked here, and who directed and conceived the production.)

Incidentally, while I was in Australia I read Lift, by Rebecca K. O'Connor. I'd been curious about it ever since I saw that Rebecca saw me tweeting about ACX, decided to do an audiobook of her book using it,  and Kickstartered the money to get into the studio and record it. It seemed a very creative way of using the world to make things happen. I hoped the book was good. It was, and now I'm really looking forward to the audiobook.

...

I should go and write some more.

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My current crusade is to make sure creative people have wills. Read the blog post about it, and see a sample will.