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Friday, February 07, 2014

NEWS: Watchmen, Sandman, Chu, Russia and the Clown-Shoes of Cthulhu

I just wrote to Amanda confessing myself the most boring man in the world. My life right now seems to consist of writing and, once a day, jogging. The new iPod nano has decided to do the same thing that the one it replaced did, viz. reboot itself 2 minutes before the end of a timed run, which I've decided to outwit by not telling it how long I am going to run for, which works.
Pages of SANDMAN: Overture are coming in drawn from J.H. Williams, and different pages of Sandman are being written and going out from me to J.H. Williams. The ones coming in are the most beautiful mainstream comics I think I've ever seen. The ones going out are... well, all the characters feel like themselves. And, when we've met them before, they sound like themselves. And it's really strange when a character I've not written since 1995 turns up and all I seem to do for the dialogue is listen and write down what they say. I needed a story within the story at one point, so am telling a story I'd vaguely thought might one day be a giant miniseries as a three page story...
All the introductions I've agreed to write in the last 3 years are all needed now, so I am writing them. It's partly fun, because I get to tell people about things I love, and tell them why I love those books, but because they have all come together it feels a little like homework.
The most fun thing I did today was look at a rough sketch for the cover of the third book with Chu, the little Panda in it, and make a suggestion, and then, much later in the day, see Adam Rex's version of the sketch incorporating my suggestion, which headed straight into cuteness overload territory.
The second CHU book, which comes out in June, is going to be CHU'S FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL in America but CHU'S FIRST DAY AT SCHOOL in the UK, because that's how the same thing is described in the different countries.
You can find out more about it via the Amazon US link at http://j.mp/Chus1st which is the only place I can find anything about it so far...


(The US cover via Amazon)




(The UK cover, courtesy of Bloomsbury)

And ironically, while I'm taking my social media sabbatical, I've been nominated for a SHORTY award.
Let's see...
...
Locus Magazine, the newspaper of the Science Fiction and Fantasy World, has put up its 2013 poll and survey online:
http://www.locusmag.com/Magazine/2014/PollAndSurvey.html
You can vote for the books and stories you read in 2013, and more, and you should. And fill out the survey: it tells them (and everyone) who reads SF. As long as you include your name, email and survey information, your votes will get counted.
And if you do not feel like filling out a survey it's also an excellent round up of the best of the year in novels and shorter work, art and non-fiction.
...
For the last 5 years I've been doing annual doodles for the National Doodle Day -- now Doodle 4 NF -- an annual fundraiser for the Neurofibromatosis Network. I've done two doodles. So far this year, I've only done one, "The Clown-Shoes of Cthulhu", which is up on their website, and which I drew in in an OCEAN AT THE END OF THE LANE signing tour book:


They do not get auctioned until May, by which time there will be another doodle to join it...
...
PEN International (the writer and artist's organisation, of which I'm a member) sent out a letter to the Russian Government protesting the "gay propaganda" laws, the criminal blasphemy laws and the laws that criminalise defamation, and I was one of the signatories.
I noticed people on the Guardian website wondering why PEN wasn't protesting about other bad things elsewhere: it does. Lots of them. Look: http://www.pen-international.org/
Mostly because, as you'll probably know if you've been reading this blog for a while, I'm a Free Speech absolutist. (Here's me explaining why: http://journal.neilgaiman.com/2008/12/why-defend-freedom-of-icky-speech.html). And because I found myself remembering 1986 and protesting Clause 28 (later Section 28) with a comic...


This was the comic I did, drawn by Bryan Talbot and Mark Buckingham. Not exactly subtle, but it was agitprop and I was much younger and less subtle then. (For the complete comic, go to Bryan's website.)
It was in a comic called AARGH! (Artists Against Rampant Government Homophobia) edited by Alan Moore, who has wandered into my life in two different ways this week. Firstly, Jackie Estrada is doing a Kickstarter to make a book of the photos she's taken at San Diego Comic-Con over the years, and includes this picture, in which the strangeness of perspective makes Jack Kirby and Alan Moore look even more different in height than they actually were. Sometimes I think this photo makes it look like Alan is the size of Gort, the eight-foot tall robot from The Day The Earth Stood Still, while Jack is normal-sized Klaatu, and sometimes I think that it looks like Alan is normal-sized and Jack looks like something Alan would have brought along to snack upon, were he not a vegetarian.


(Check out Jackie's Kickstarter. It has many more amazing photos on the Kickstarter page, and I cannot imagine how many photos that will delight comics lovers there will be in the book.)
The other Alan Moore-related news came about because I ran into Dave Gibbons in Las Vegas in early December, and he told me about a book they were putting together showcasing Watchmen original art. I reminded Dave that he and Alan had given me a page as a thank you when we were all much younger, and he suggested I might put it in the book.
As Dave says on this interview page...

I was talking to Neil Gaiman a couple of weeks ago — managed to have a catch-up with him over a cup of tea, which was great — and I mentioned this project to him and he’s got one particularly prime page that Alan (Moore) and I gave him back in the day when he used to help us with sourcing quotations and so on. He’s got the dream sequence — the Nite Owl dream sequence where there are, I think, like 20 panels on the page. So that’s a real iconic and favorite page.

You can see the page itself (and others) much larger than it is below at http://13thdimension.com/exclusive-first-look-at-watchmen-artifact-edition-from-idw/


And I only discovered when it came out of its frame, that when I'd had framed in 1987 I wasn't thinking about acid-free mounts and museum-quality glass and the kinds of things I think about when people give me art these days, and I should have.
(The story of what I did to help on Watchmen and why they gave me the page is here on the blog: http://journal.neilgaiman.com/2008/08/please-stop-my-assistant-becoming-mad.html -- and the link to the 1989 Brian Hibbs interview with a me whom I barely recognise is at http://thedreaming.holycow.com/2008/08/05/gaiman-interview-with-brian-hibbs/)
...
So, signing the PEN Open Letter was something I did this week as a writer.
This video was something I did because it made me smile when I was asked. I suspect that Derren Brown, Stephen Fry, Rupert Everett and co. did it for the same reason. And they did it better than I did:


...
You have six days left to listen to Mitch Benn is the 37th Beatle, a trimmed version of his Edinburgh Show, which I never saw, so I am glad I heard it on the radio. I've been listening to the Beatles while writing recently -- I'd call it comfort listening, except I've barely listened to them since I was in my early teens, so Mitch's history-rant-pontification-and-occasional-parodic-songs came along at just the right time:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b03szxdh
(That'll work on a computer for the next six days. If you follow the link on a tablet or phone, it won't work outside the UK. So use an app like TuneIn Radio and search for Mitch Benn, and it will come up instantly...)
...
And for Charles Dickens' Birthday (it's his 202nd Birthday today), I'm reposting the reading I did, in Dickensian beard and clobber, at the New York Public Library, just before Christmas: http://www.nypl.org/audiovideo/charles-dickens-christmas-carol-neil-gaiman-and-molly-oldfield
If you want to hear Molly Oldfield telling you interesting things about Dickens' reading tours and secret museums, followed by me reading the version of A Christmas Carol from Dickens' hand-annotated and edited prompt copy, now is your chance.

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