Saturday, December 29, 2001
Andres Accorsi is an Argentinean. (He finds my willingness to eat raw fish really scary. He does not eat exotic things like raw fish. Or cooked fish. Or vegetables.) He was my guide when I went to Patagonia and visited the town of Gaiman, a few years back. I e-mailed him to tell him I was worried about my friends in Argentina. His reply...

Oh, you shouldn't. It's not that bad. Political and economical upheaval, a popular insurrection that forces a duly-elected president out of the office, a new president nobody voted shifting towards populist politics (either that, or a massive time travel back to the '70s), violent food riots, a fragile banking system at the verge of utter colapse, plus Racing Club (my football team) winning a championship after 35 long years... This is history in the making, and that makes it interesting, above anything else we can fear. Living in Argentina has become (once again) a weird adventure, but you know us guys... we are quite used to weirdness and adventure.

Which is fair enough. But I'm still concerned.

A recent FAQ question: Hola neil,como va?

Hi,this is Alexandra from Chile

and i will like to ask you ,when are you coming from Chile?,i have now that you have visited Brazil and bla,bla countrys.....but here ,in my skiny country!why you haven't come?

Er, because nobody's asked me. I would love to visit your skinny country. Honest.


I'd have more to post right now but I'm working like a madman trying to get things finished. CORALINE has been turned in proofread and finalised to Harper Collins, and turned in (but not-yet-proofread) to Bloomsbury in the UK.

It's such a strange book. It took so long to write -- the first 7000 words were written in 1991-1992. I didn't touch it between 1992 and 1998, then wrote it in nibbles (often writing 50 words a night before bed) through to April 2000, when I wrote the last 5000 words. In October 2001 I added a chapter to clarify a question from my UK editor.

Reading it to proofread, I was astonished how much of a piece it is. Very gentle, very creepy, very much one book with one voice.


I got a lot of very cool presents. I think my favourite so far is a Wendy Froud fairy, but it only just nudges out the Shiitake Mushroom Log, and the Magic Set. And it seemed like everything this year (except for the Shiitkae Mushroom Log) was something that I actively wanted or needed (including the giant CD rack). The Shiitake Mushroom Log is like those science kits I'd get for Xmas as a kid, only without the capacity to blind or maim. Well, except for the usual capacity to blind and maim that logs usually have.

Just read my favourite book of 2001, Poppy Z. Brite's not-yet-published LIQUOR. It's the story of two young cooks in New Orleans who open their own restaurant. The characters are utterly likeable, and the food, and the backstage restaurant world, are wonderfully drawn. Poppy's nervous, as there's no horror in it, and precious little angst. I don't think she has anything to worry about -- it's a fabulous, funny, foodie New Orleans roller-coaster ride, as gripping as a great Iron Chef episode or Tony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential that's going to make a whole lot of fans who don't know Poppy as a writer of darker stuff. (I don't have time to read right now, and had planned to read the first few pages, to be polite, then put it off until mid-January. Hah. I stayed up half the night and had the kind of bath where you get all prune-like in order to finish it.)


Another FAQ e-mail: I just recently heard about this John Betancourt fellow who has purchased the rights to write Amber novels, and that he plans on releasing a prequel trilogy set in the Amber universe, and I wanted to know if you, as a friend and fan of Mr. Zelazny, have any thoughts on the matter you'd be willing to share.

Well, I remember Roger talking to me and Steve Brust. We'd just suggested that if he did an anthology of other-people-write-Amber-stories that we'd be up for it (understatement), and he puffed on his pipe, and said -- extremely firmly -- that he didn't want anyone else to write Amber stories but him.

I don't believe he ever changed his mind on that.

(When Roger knew he was dying, though, he did nothing to rewrite his will, which means that his literary executor is a family member from whom he was somewhat estranged -- not someone who would have kept Roger's wishes paramount. Which is a pity.)

Would I love to write an Amber story? God, yes. Would Steve Brust? Absolutely. Will we? Nope, because Roger told us he explicitly didn't want it to happen.

Am I going to read the John Betancourt Amber books? Nope. (But I probably wouldn't have read them even if they were authorised, endorsed and ordered by Roger.) Do I think that they are bad or evil or something? Not really -- I don't know much about them, and it's perfectly possible that his point of view is that if it's going to happen anyway it might as well be done with respect (a motivation that has, in the past, impelled me to get involved with several projects).


Er, yes, in the last post, I meant sleep in until 10.00am Xmas morning. Not 10.00pm.


Bill Stiteler sent the link for this (it's about 19 meg -- a quicktime movie):

Nick Nadel sent this link to a piece he'd written:

And both of them made me smile, and made me want to talk John M. Ford into putting up his piece on the Italian director who finished the Animated Lord of the Rings film by rotoscoping PSYCHO ("My, what a very big hobbit Sam is").


More in on the FAQ line...

A Pretty good list of short stories in the area but you have to mention Cordwaner Smith and Jim Ballard's "Vermillion Sands" and SOMETHING by Fritz Leiber.

I of course would add Jack Vances "Dying Earth" but I can understand that not everyone would. Ben


Not sure how frequently asked this is, but I was wondering if you could say a little about reading aloud to people. Not necessarily adults reading to kids (which is of course something every parent should do), but about the degree to which you do, or don't, specifically write what you write with the spoken word in mind.

When I've seen you read from your prose stories, I notice that both the dialogue and the description works well when spoken aloud. You can't say that about all novels or short stories. Do you, for example, mutter your characters' dialogue back and forth to yourself as you write it? Do you choose certain descriptive phrases for the way they taste in the mouth?

I try and hear stuff in my head while I write it. I'm mostly too self-conscious to read to myself in empty rooms as I write, but I do tend to read aloud as soon as I can -- sometimes as soon as something's in first draft I'll telephone friends and read it to them. That's where I hear things that don't work, and fix them.

I love reading aloud. I love reading my stuff aloud, and as long as a book is well-written, or has a certain rollicking something, I love reading other people's stuff aloud. And I always smile very happily when people come up to me to tell me that they enjoyed reading something of mine aloud ("I read Stardust in bed to my wife, a chapter a night." "My boyfriend and I take it in turns reading Good Omens to each other, back and forth" and so on.) and people who

Am currently reading Maddy, my small daughter, Norman Hunter's Professor Branestawm stories.

and last one, for now, from Colin in Walsall,

Do you have any plans for another UK tour in the next year or so? We would love to attend another of your readings.

Just figuring it out right now with Bloomsbury for CORALINE. I may be coming in for the Edinburgh Literary Festival in August 2002, and if I come in for that then there will probably be a Forbidden Planet London signing, just because, well, there always is. As things are sorted out they'll be announced here.