Sunday, September 02, 2001


I think I said already somewhere that this was a particularly strange year for gardening. The sunflowers turned into 25-foot-high triffids, while the plum trees produced a grand total of three (3) plums, and the pumpkins are just weird. I brought back several packets of unusual pumpkin seeds from Amsterdam Airport when I went to Ireland in January, and now am trying to figure out what the odder ones are. If I was a REAL gardener I'd be able to remember where I put the empty seed packets to find out. But then I wouldn't have the fun of going "What ARE these things?" Particularly about the flattish ones that look like enormous vivid orange toadstools. I go out there in the morning and look at them nervously, like a character in an early Ray Bradbury short story.

A gift arrived from HarperCollins a few days ago. It's a black-leather-bound, gold-edged, handmade, one-of-a-kind edition of American Gods -- a thing of unbelievable beauty. It makes me happy just to look at it. It's the kind of thing that makes me wish I had a display case for wonderful things, awards, gifts and whatnot, rather than just finding room for them on mantlepieces and in corners and things. But I don't. They just have to find their places.

In the old days when people used to ask me in interviews what I missed most about the UK I'd tell them the radio. Now I'm getting gradually spoiled, thanks to streaming audio broadcasts: as I type this, The Archers is burbling away in the background on Radio 4. The Archers is probably the longest-running radio soap opera in the world, perfect aural wallpaper, and I am ten years behind (which, oddly enough, doesn't matter, as, give or take the odd fire, rape, mad cow or bankruptcy, nothing ever actually happens on The Archers), and noticing that my-friend-the-lovely-Tamsin-Greig-from-the-BBC-Neverwhere is now in it.

Now I just have to persuade Jonathan Ross to move his Radio 2 show to my waking hours. Or find some brilliant technical way to listen to streaming UK radio on a six hour delay...

And while we're waiting for the FAQ etc thing to get up and running (ho! says older-but-wiser author in a hollow and sceptical voice) I thought I'd answer a few more questions. My favorite recent one was that someone wanted to know about me and Charles Fort, and whether I considered myself a Fortean. I suppose I do. I had to hunt down my Charles Fort books when I was a young teenager, after reading some article in an old SF magazine trashing him (from memory, the article was called something like Lo! The Bold Forteans and was by someone like Willy Ley, and I realised that this was the same Fort that Eric Frank Russell and R. A. Lafferty talked about), and I went down to my bookshop and ordered a copy of the Dover books Complete Charles Fort. And was struck by the poetry, and the delight in ideas. The pickle people. The jelly in the sky (which is why stars twinkle, of course.) Maybe we're property. How to measure a circle. Raining Fish (which one day I was to have a lot of fun with in Good Omens although I'm pretty sure it was Terry who first popped Fort into Adam's hands in the book -- I remember the sheer joy of writing the Fortean version of Radio 4's perennial Gardener's Question Time...) I read him with the same delight, and with the same part of my head, and at the same time as I read E.E. Cummings' prose essays.

There's a story about Charles Fort and Karl Marx that sits in my head in the attic of unwritten stories, on the same shelf in my mind as the one about Kenneth Williams and Kenneth Halliwell. One day...

Hmm. I wonder if those strange flat pumpkin things are really Fortean Phenomena. I should write in to Gardener's Question Time (and Good Omens readers who want background on that bit of the book can go and listen to it here ).