Tuesday, October 30, 2001
Josh Kirby has died.

It's been almost twenty years, I think, since I last saw Josh: a beaky, blinking, owl-faced artist, who lived in a crumbling East Anglian rectory. A dreadfully nice man. These days he's famous for the UK covers of Terry Pratchett books - covers he painted in a busy, colourful, explosive bigfoot style. For a few years in the mid 80s, every funny fantasy novel (and many that only aspired to be funny) published in the UK had a Josh Kirby cover. Terry Pratchett got the really good ones. The lesser lights of comic fantasy got paintings that looked like they were knocked out in an afternoon, or several afternoons (if memory serves he only painted by natural light, in the one room of the rectory where the sunlight was at its best).

At the time I met him, before this, he was still an SF cover artist, doing the covers for Bob Silverberg's Lord Valentine's Castle series -- huge, intricate paintings which, he grumbled, the publishers ran in a ribbon-high strip around the cover.

I remember being astonished to discover how many styles he had and how many covers of books that I'd read as kid he had painted. He did the Pan Book of Horror Stories covers, for example, before they went over to photos of eyeballs in buckets, and most of the Alfred Hitchcock presents short story collections -- wonderful paintings in which he'd create Hitchcock's face out of vultures and beasts, or instruments of murder...

The only cover I ever had by Josh was the German version of Good Omens. (It's not one of his great covers, alas, but I'm very happy that it exists.)

People stick in your memory as you last saw them. He was 72 when he died. In my head he's still in his early 50s, and will be forever.

Here we go. Something wise for you to read that I didn't write. (You may have to log in to the New York Times site to read it.)

On the other hand, driving to Madison I did pass a church with a huge sign outside proclaiming that it would, on Sunday, expose the true satanically evil nature of Hallowe'en to the faithful and the curious...

It made me think of something which may be urban legend (ie I read it in a newspaper, but then, I've worked for newspapers so do not automatically assume they describe the world as it is) -- that in the UK, starting about 15 years ago, the Thatcher government began actively to encourage Hallowe'en celebration, in order to distract people from private Guy Fawkes celebrations.

Guy Fawkes is the November 5th fireworks celebration. Folklorists, and the occasional sociologist, long ago noted that the parts of England that celebrated Hallowe'en didn't get into celebrating Guy Fawkes, and vice versa. (There's a fascinating map to that effect in one of Iona and Peter Opie's books on children's Lore and Language.) It had long been a wish of governments and health authorities to stop the back-garden bonfires and fireworks of Guy Fawkes Day -- given the number of people, children and adults, who would find themselves waking up in their local burns unit on November the 6th. Making fireworks illegal was not an option. Redirecting people's attention most definitely was. Thus, active governmental support for American-style Hallowe'en.

Not sure if it's true or not, although it feels true.

I do know that, as of 1996, I couldn't find anywhere that made the cardboard Guy Fawkes masks (like the one V wears, in Alan Moore and David Lloyd's lovely V For Vendetta). And the props department of the BBC, who said "We can find anything" when I asked them about it, were forced to admit puzzled defeat when they went looking for one for me.

Monday, October 29, 2001
I started looking around at the web site to see what was currently on here, and noticed that there's a photo labelled me in a graveyeard in Sau Paulo in 1998, which I am pretty sure ought to say Buenos Aires instead, as it's the Evita necropolis.

Went to convention. Home now. Tired. Glad it's over.

An FAQ in asks I've tried clicking on that link for the old Avon Books Neverwhere site, and I've reloaded and I've fiddled with the URL and I've searched, and it says it can't find that page or ANYTHING from What's up with this?

What's up with it seems to be that is not yet bug free. What they have done is archived the last five years of the world wide web. But they've discovered the demand outstrips their capacity to provide. It has worked for me (or I wouldn't have put it up), but it doesn't now -- I just get an error retrieval message. is long since defunct, but the stuff is archived. I'm hoping that we can put it back up as a little appendix to

...and it works. CLick on
to see the long-lost Avon books Neverwhere site. You may have to reload a few times to get it to work.

Saturday, October 27, 2001
e-mail from Cliff Biggers (who does the Comic Shop News) tells me about as a place where the audio files that were on the scifi channel may be found. And I am hoping that the old Avon Neverwhere site, and the Stardust stuff, can be found there....

Friday, October 26, 2001
This came in on the FAQ line...I apologise if this is answered somewhere else in the site, but I've been looking for two days, and... anyway.
A while back there was in Scifi's website a reading of Chivalry. It doesn't appear to be there any more -- I was trying to play it for my mom, again, who loves it -- and I can't seem to find it anywhere on their site. I was wondering and rather hoping that it had moved here. Or moved somewhere.
Is it still around?

I don't think so. The web site used to have an astonishing collection of readings by SF authors, but I think they decided they were taking up too much space, so they are now gone. Which is a real shame -- I hope some of them were being saved for posterity: they had some really fine writers doing some astonishing readings.

Chivalry was actually taken from my audio book, Warning:Contains language, which is available from DreamHaven Books. I'll see if it's possible to put a track or two from it up on So that's not gone for good. My reading from Stardust is, though, and I suspect the story from 999, "Keepsakes and Treasures", has gone too.


We drove down to Madison for Madcon, tonight, through strong, cold, wintery winds. Stopped off for dinner in the Wisconsin Dells. I'd never been through the Dells before -- yet another unlikely part of the world that must have been secretly created by Bill Finger, oddly charming out of season and in the dark, with leaves and cardboard boxes spinning through the air.

Tomorrow Harlan and I go back to our story. SHOOT DAY FOR NIGHT. Will it get finished over the next few days, in a roped off area in front of an audience? It had better. There are people who paid good money for copies of the finished story three years ago, so I don't have any plans to leave the table at which Harlan and i will be writing without something finished and done. Well, except to go to panels, or to answer various calls of nature.

The Gene Wolfe story is finished now -- I wrote a bibliography at the end of it today. Now I need to reread it, and then send it to Gene, and then it's all over. It's called A WALKING TOUR OF THE SHAMBLES: LITTLE WALKS FOR SIGHTSEERS NUMBER 16. It'll be illustrated by Randy Broeker and will be published by Bob Garcia for World Horror Con in Chicago next year, at which Gene and I are Author Guests of Honour and Randy is Artist Guest of Honour. It's the 11th-14th of April 2002. (Other G's of H include Jo Fletcher and Jill Thompson and Beth Gwinn, not to mention Gahan Wilson.) Details at

I read a little of the Gene story at MIT a few weeks ago, and by the end of the reading a young lady had already registered the fictitious URL for a place in the book, and as soon as I send her some e-mail there will be more to see over at

I share my hotel room with many flies and many more ladybirds (aka ladybugs, lady beetles). And so to bed. (Actually I'm typing this in bed. But "And so to turn the light out" just doesn't have the same sort of resonance.)

Wednesday, October 24, 2001
It turned cold today; the winter that had been hanging around the edges of things happened simply and easily and much, much too early, and it started to snow. Well, not to snow, exactly, but occasional snowflakes would tumble and glitter, with a sort of "we may not look like much now, but wait until we come back with our friends" kind of quality to them.

Did a press release/telephone press conference this morning to announce that I'll be doing a 6 issue miniseries for Marvel next year; Marvel are kicking in all their profits to help clarify the status of Miracleman, so that, Lord Willing and the creek don't rise, we can get Miracleman back into print and available and, down the road, Mark Buckingham and I can finish the story we started. The company I've set up to sort all this out will also, if all goes well, not only take care of the original creators of the material, but also use licensing revenues and other profits to benefit comics charities (in this case, the CBLDF, and ACTOR -- a charity to help take care of Golden Age creators -- as well).

The project itself is really going to be fun. It'll have a beginning, a middle, and an end, and feature a cast of dozens. None of whom I'll have written before. (Well, actually, none of whom anybody will have written before in quite that way.)

Also heard that Milo Manara is going to do the Desire story in the Sandman hardcover, which made me enormously happy.

The other thing I did today was, I got a haircut, so I shall look rather less like an old English Sheepdog, or even a man with a mop on his head, at Madison this weekend. Where I shall, with luck, finish a collaborative story with Harlan Ellison that we began at this convention 3 years ago.

The most exciting bit of yesterday was a man coming over (roughly 6 months late) and installing a 2-way satellite Internet thingie, and buggering off again, leaving me to install the software and network up the house and so on. By the end of the day I even had the single iMac working on the system.

Let's see... I promised I'd put in a plug for ConCat, an SF convention in Knoxville TN over the Thanksgiving Weekend (Nov 23-25). Caitlin Keirnan will be there, Yvonne Navarro is the G of H, and if you're extra-nice to the con staff they will send you to the Japanese Restaurant whose speed of service, cold soup and warm sushi was immortalised in American Gods.

Someone on the Well wondered if all the questions on the FAQ page were for real, or if I made any up. I don't make any up -- no need to: there are about 2000 sitting there, unanswered, and around 20 or so new ones coming in every day. I may do a journal entry here every now and again for a few of the questions that aren't FAQ stuff, but that people still want answers to (For example: No, I won't marry you, but thank you for asking whoever you are; yes, I did tell Tori that she had fans in Brazil who would love to see her perform; if you have a reasonably good Japanese restaurant, and you are a first-timer, it can often be a good thing to put yourself in the chef's hands and order an omakase, where the chef feeds you cool things and you get to experiment more or less safely).

Currently reading: Trieste and the Meaning of Nowhere by Jan Morris, and am not as impressed as i had expected to be from the reviews, but am still really interested in Trieste as a philosophical entity, so am persevering. I am less interested in Jan Morris than she herself is, I think, which is why it's a bit of a slog.

And in the interesting coincidence stakes, yesterday I was rereading T. H. White's Bestiary in the bath, and marvelling at the entry on the elephant, particularly the strange and wonderful medieval belief about the Insignificant Elephant who turns up to help fallen elephants to their feet after huger and stronger elephants have failed, and I thought, wouldn't it be cool to write an Insignificant Elephant story; and then I looked at my e-mail, and Steve Baxter and Garry Kilworth and Ian Watson wanted me to write an elephant story for an anthology to benefit elephants. Not that I have much spare writing time, but that seemed too fine a coincidence to ignore.

Having been less than impressed with most of the 'action figures' done for Sandman, I was fearing the worst on the next lot, and got a very pleasant surprise today when I opened a package to find photos of the sculpts for the Destruction, Death and Destiny toys. They look amazing -- the Death one, based on the Dringenberg drawings of her in her posh frock at the start of Season of Mists, is, in my opinion, better than any of the Death Statues they've done in the past; while the Destruction one, based on a Linda Medley painting in the Endless Gallery, made me want to write a Destruction story.

Sunday, October 21, 2001
By the way, a lot of new bits have started creeping onto the website -- the bibliography for American Gods is finally up, for example. We'll get a WHAT'S NEW up soon, I hope. For now, just click around and find stuff...

Adventures in Crime and Space, a good shop in Austin, needs help -- read about it at Buy a book or two from them... *brief public service announcement*

Thursday, October 18, 2001
Headline (who publish American Gods in the UK) ran a strange (but effective) promotional campaign for American Gods. It went like this: they put a band around the book, saying it was as good as Stephen King or your money back, which also dropped the price of the hardback to ten pounds from the official price of seventeen pounds fifty. You had to send back the book and your receipt, and they would reimburse you.

And the response? Well, the book wandered into the top ten bestseller lists in various positions depending on whose lists you look at, and has stayed in the lower reaches of the UK bestseller lists ever since, selling tens of thousands of books.

And in the meantime, a grand total of three letters have been sent asking for their money back (two returning the books as requested in the instructions, the third holding onto it because, while he still wanted to read it again, he just wanted his tenner back).

And then there was a letter from Headline, which arrived here this morning, containing a letter from a reader who enjoyed the book so much he felt bad about only having paid ten pounds for it, so was enclosing a cheque for the additional seven pounds and fifty pence. Headline didn't have the heart to cash his cheque, so sent it on to me asking if I could write a nice note on the back of it to send back to him...

Wednesday, October 17, 2001
Travelled about a bit, then did a mammoth drive home...

Listened to Bill Bryson reading In a Sunburned Country as I drove. I enjoyed it. I didn't enjoy it as much as I enjoyed his other books, though, which I felt had more to do with his Australia than with his writing skills. I think what I like most about Bill Bryson is the way he goes off and does something and then writes about it. What I enjoy less is a Bryson potted tour through what other people said about things and places, followed by a very hasty comment on what happened to him when he went there. And Sunburned Country felt almost as if Bryson's visit to Australia was an afterthought, an appendix to the real book, which was his own literary history and geography of the continent.

Also listened to Basil Rathbone and Vincent Price reading Poe in the Edgar Allan Poe Audio Collection. Wonderful stuff. Rathbone was a surprise -- and he gets the lion's share of the good stuff.

Drank about a dozen different kinds of 'energy drinks' as I drove. Red Bull was the only one which wasn't sickly and unpleasant.

Oh, changing the subject, the following was waiting for me from my agents when I got back -- for those of you not in the USA and who have asked, it's the current list of which publishers around the world have already bought the rights to American Gods:

Serbia: Laguna
Spain: Norma
Brazil: Conrad
Holland: Luitingh-Sijthoff
Germany: Heyne
Czech Republic: Polaris
France: Au Diable Vauvert
Turkey: Altin
Poland: Mag
Finland: Otava
Italy: Mondadori
Israel: Opus
Russia: AST

Friday, October 12, 2001
I'm in Washington DC right now. Nothing much interesting to report, so instead I shall recommend Kaz Sushi Bistro (1915 I St NW) -- really, really good sushi, and an intelligent and interesting menu. Not nightmarishly pricy, but not at all cheap.

And I know that I haven't written the post about Thea Gilmore's Rules For Jokers and why it is my favourite recent CD yet. But I shall. Everything happens eventually.

(Am I the only person in the world who wonders where Pentagon people get their words from? Is there a man there who makes them up, and all the others just copy him? I was listening to a briefing on NPR a couple of days ago, and one of them used the world "degradated" to explain what the bombs had done to terrorist training facilities, obviously under the impression that we were in need of a cool new word to indicatate the degradation of something. We have a perfectly good one, of course, already, in "degraded". But someone at the Pentagon added that extra syllable, and now -- I mean, at this present moment in time -- they will all use it whenever they talk. Um, make that conversate.)

Thursday, October 11, 2001

This is the kind of journal entry you can only write at leisure; and at enforced leisure, at that, because I cannot get online, so this will be posted in a day or so. Truth to tell, I don't mind not being able to get online, just as I don't mind that my cellphone is out of service where I am right now. It's a good thing. My only contact with technology is a single phone call home each night, to read a chapter of Daniel Pinkwater's LIZARD MUSIC to my daughter Maddy.She has a copy of her own, at the other end of the phone, and fills in occasional paragraphs.



I was woken up this morning by the sound of artillary bombardment in my dreams. Blam. Blam.Blammety crash. Blam. I opened my eyes, and someone was dropping bricks from the sky. The bricks would crash onto the low roof of the cottage I'm staying in and then thud off the roof onto the grass. I got up, bleary-eyed, and stared out of the window.

Blam. That was the sound of someone dropping a brick onto my car.

The problem, I eventually concluded, was the walnuts. Not the nice, wrinkeldy brown nuts you get in Festive Nut Hampers, but the kind that fall from trees, like compact green cricket balls with the nut somewhere inside. The outer covering contains walnut juice, as I find when I pick one up. In fiction, as a boy, people were forever staining their skin with walnut juice in order to pass for Indians or Arabs, and I couldn't understand how the nut gave the juice. It doesn't. It's the yellow goop inside the green case.

So. I'm hiding out in a pretechnological world, with a wood-burning stove and lethal rains of noisy walnuts, getting some writing done between engagements (viz. an appearance at MIT with Messrs Harlan Ellison and Peter David, and the parents' weekend at my son Mike's college this coming weekend).

The MIT appearance was enjoyable. Harlan was Harlan, and Peter was Peter, and I was me; and I thought at the end that in while Peter and I had enjoyed ourselves we were not quite as in evidence as we might have been, and that someone should just book Harlan Ellison vs. MIT, the rematch. ("In this corner, one distinguished-looking gentleman with wearing a brown suit and orange shoes, who still uses a manual typewriter and who has not even begun to fight; in the far corner, 900 mildly outraged people who wish to further contest Mr Ellison's collective characterization of them as 'Dumb as bricks and a waste of good oxygen'...")

Harlan was the big star, but I think overall the three of us made an impressive sort of constellation.


That was the sound of another exploding walnut crashing down from the heavens onto the roof and rattling down onto the ground.

Snuffle snuffle grurp munch.

That was the sound of a large pot-bellied pig eating walnuts. The pot-bellied pigs live on the farm next door. But they wander. And they like walnuts. I suspect the pig's mouth and chin are stained with Walnut Juice.(I just went and checked. They were.)

Me, I really enjoyed the MIT thing, and the company on and off stage, although I could have done without the signing at the end. I read a poem called CRAZY HAIR that I really do have to publish as a book because after I read it people ask me for it; and I read the House of Clocks segment of the story I'm writing with Gene Wolfe for World Horror. And then I drove south, and came eventually to rest in a tiny cottage with a wood burning stove, a spiral staircase, a well-stocked fridge and an antique telephone, for some peace and quiet and writing time.

And autumnal calm and sunlight and October-blue skies. The wind sighing in the maple trees and the high elms. Deer down at the pond, drinking. No cell phones, no noise, no nothing. Just a chance to collect my thoughts and work, in a three hundred and fifty year old cottage under a walnut tree.


Snuffle munch.



Several days later...

I've left the perfect autumnal cottage. Normally on leaving somewhere that cool, I'd post its whereabouts, but then, if I did that it might be fully booked the next time I wanted to go back, and unspoilt and perfect places are few enough in the world.

The lady next door runs a home for pigs. I went down each morning to say my hellos to the pigs and the people: cute little wee black piglings and mighty great boars and snufflers. Not for eating:Vietnamese potbellied pigs, pet pigs, some being boarded, some for sale, some for adoption.

The lady who owns it took me around and introduced me to many of the pigs.

"Now this one," she said, pointing to one small and chirpy looking black fellow in a cage "was a pet pig. He was an ungelded boar, who was owned by people with Pomeranians. But they couldn't cope, and we're looking after him until he can be adopted."

"Why couldn't they cope?"

"Ah," she said. "Well, there's no way to put this delicately. I gelded him myself a couple of days ago. But an un-neutered boar needs to ejaculate at least twice a day to remain healthy. And this fellow, not being neutered, was trying to meet his ejaculatory needs with whatever came to hand. Mostly the Pomeranians. And the family, well, they really hadn't bargained for that."

I agreed that they probably hadn't. And then I shook my head, listening to the grunt and snuffle of the pigs, and contemplating the silence of the Pomeranians.

Sunday, October 07, 2001
Lots of e-mails coming in from friends convinced I'd used a vulgarism (or even an obscenity) they hadn't heard of before. This is from the World Wide Words website...



From Marian Herman in the USA; related questions came from Anne Ackroyd in Australia, Richard Lathom in the USA, and others: "I am not familiar with the term cock-up that you used in a recent column, and am interested in both its meaning and its derivation. It is not a phrase that is commonly used in the United States - indeed, it has connotations that would keep many from using it in a column read by so many subscribers!"

Oddly, in British English it is not these days a vulgarism, or at least only a very mild one. It comes from one of several senses of cock, to bend at an angle, as in - for example - cocking a gun or turning up the brim of one's headgear (so producing an old-time naval officer's cocked hat).
The use of cock-up to mean a blunder or error was originally British military slang dating from the 1920s. The slang sense of cock clearly had a lot to do with its adoption, but this hasn't stopped it being used in respectable publications, and modern British dictionaries mark it merely as informal or colloquial.

The longer phrase I used it in, "a cock-up on the [something] front" was coined in a BBC television comedy The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin some 20 years ago and has become a minor catchphrase. The original was "there's been a bit of a cock-up on the catering front", which was spoken by a former army officer, not over-blessed with savvy, who was totally confused by civilian life and had either forgotten to buy any food, or run out of money to do so.

[I'm indebted to Nigel Rees for confirming the provenance of this catchphrase.]

World Wide Words is copyright � Michael Quinion, 1996-. All rights reserved.
Page created 11 March 2000.

Friday, October 05, 2001
In transit right now, so a short post to say that, yes, we do know the FAQs are coming out black on black right now, and, no, we aren't just doing it because we thought it would look cool. This is not frustrating stylishness, as several of you seem to think; this is just a common-or-garden cock up.

But you can think it's style if you like...

Wednesday, October 03, 2001
For anyone who can't find it, the details of the Harlan Ellison/ Peter David/ me thing at MIT are at:

Tuesday, October 02, 2001

From AudioFile magazine -- a review of the audio version of the book. George Guidall gets deserved praise...

Mere days before he is to be released from prison, a man named Shadow learns that his wife has been killed in a car wreck. On the plane ride home, he meets a gruff old man named Wednesday, who may be an avatar of the Norse god Odin. Read dynamically and emotionally by George Guidall�who gives more personalities and ethnicities than one would think possible�the story unfolds with Shadow working as Wednesday's bodyguard in this darkly fantastic travelogue across an American landscape filled with ghosts and ancient gods. The old pantheons seem to be at war with the new gods of technology, media, and fast food. With its roadside vision of American culture and countryside, AMERICAN GODS is right there with TRAVELS WITH CHARLEY and LOLITA. Brilliant dialogue and profound insights into American consciousness show Gaiman to be a visionary and a master wordsmith. Perfect for a long road trip. S.E.S. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award. � AudioFile 2001, Portland, Maine

If you click around a bit you should start discovering new content. It's starting to go up -- there are a host of foreign book covers, for example. Currently they're up in the American Gods section, which is not where I expect they'll end up, but they are there indeed. There's a news section with a bunch of reviews and suchlike there too.

Lots more changes and improvements to come (and yes, the misspelling of American on the archive page will soon be fixed) -- I just re-sent the American Gods bibliography I started in June to Harper Collins, and rereading it I realised I needed to finish it. So it'll go up and then when I get a spare second I'll do a bit more of it.

Thanks to all of you who have written in offering to work on/redesign/fix/improve/overhaul the website. Currently, it's a HarperCollins website, and is designed and run for them by AuthorsOnTheWeb, and those are the people who you'd need to talk to to volunteer your services.

American Gods is still selling very strongly in the US and the UK (and is on bestseller lists in New Zealand) and I'm strongly tempted to ask Harper if they can make "what I want for Xmas/Mithras's birthday etc is American Gods" e-cards for the site that those of you who wanted but can't afford the book can send out to your nearest and dearest.

I've done several FAQ answers so far, by the way.

And the next chance I get to write something for the journal, I shall talk about why Thea Gilmore is the best singer/songwriter to come out of the UK in years and why you all ought to buy Rules For Jokers, her new album. Or you could just go and buy it, or click over to and learn all about Thea. Go on. You know you want to.

Monday, October 01, 2001
There are days that are purely themselves. Today is one of them: Indian Summer at the start of October. The sun bright and warm and golden, the sky blue as a dream, the maples burning into autumn colours in shades of yellow and amber and flame, and several hundred thousand ladybirds on every south-facing surface of the house, crawling and creeping and flying, the bedroom window being pattered by the tiny beetles as they fly headfirst into it , adding a rather strange noise to wake up to this morning. It sounded like someone with a pea-shooter was aiming for my bedroom window.

Things arrived this morning: Sandman Sandglobes (about which there is little to be said, other than that they could have been much worse -- in the first sculpt they sent me the character looked astonishingly like the late Jon Pertwee, which was not really a look that Morpheus was ever known for) and Merv Pumpkinhead soft toys (really, really cool -- easily the best of the Sandman plush toys so far).

Yesterday I went to the Minnesota Renaissance Festival to watch a seven year old daughter play the violin in public. People put money into her basket. She smiled at them very sweetly, and kept on playing. It�s good to know I have a back-up plan if this writing lark falls to pieces.

It looks as if some of the cosmetic work on the site is finally happening, and new material is going up. I sort of imagined that the new journal (this is the new journal, the one I answer questions in and so on) would have a different look from the old one, but it doesn�t seem to have happened yet.

Now is the time for people with suggestions for stuff to do on the website to get them in -- maybe we could set up a suggestion box on the message board or something, he said vaguely. I know I want an audio area, and some content in the �coming soon� places.