Tuesday, April 30, 2002
So in a never-ending quest to try and make sure that things turn up here before they turn up in other places, here's the cover to "Two Plays For Voices" which will be coming out from Harper Audio on CD and cassette in August. When people ask me what my favourite medium is, I tell them radio plays, and then they normally look at me funny. These are two of the radio plays I had in mind, starring respectively Brian Dennehy and Bebe Neuwirth, which gave us a total of three Tony Awards between our two leads.

So I'm home again from a short stint of hiding-and-just-writing, which worked okay up to a point this time, but there are too many things that people need now, or yesterday, or last month, or six months ago, and I'm still nowhere near catching up. If I concentrate on all the things I've done so far this year rather than all the things I haven't done it feels less like a disaster (and I've written a lot). But right now it's a Red Queen's Race, and I am running as fast as I can to stay in the same place.

On the other hand, the weird 90 degree weather is over, the snow that immediately followed it has melted, and some very confused and nervous-looking daffodils are doing their best to reassure each other and the world that it's a normal Spring, which gives me hope.

Let's see... waiting for me were a couple of books with stuff by me in -- A Quest-Lover's Treasury of the Fantastic edited by Margaret Weis, which reprints "Chivalry" (which is I suspect more or less neck and neck with "Troll Bridge" for most reprinted story), and The Ultimate Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy the all-five-Hitchhiker's-Books-in-one-volume for which I did an introduction, a sort of all-you-need-to-know-about-Douglas-and-Hitchhiker's-crammed-into-three-pages.

Okay. Back to writing...

Sunday, April 28, 2002
I was amused, in a shaking-my-head sort of way, to hear that the buying info: Coraline page, in the new SO YOU'D LIKE TO section, pushes a lengthy (and not at all me or Coraline-related) article on Serious Bondage, Fisting and so forth. Amazon has got Coraline listed as a children's book, which means that it's probably happening elsewhere on Amazon and they are probably getting lots of grumbles from people whose kids are hunting for Harry Potter on Amazon and coming back asking what BDSM stands for, and is an Erotic Power Exchange anything like a Super Power Exchange? Oh well. They'll fix it soon enough, I expect.

Too many deaths. Too many people I know. Too many names that come with memories.Locus :George Alec Effinger is dead -- He wrote a wonderful story for the Sandman Book of Dreams, a Little Nemo in Slumberland pastiche. We had several meals in good restaurants, always discovered and recommended by him, and would discuss rewriting famous books from the points of view of more interesting characters than the ones who told them originally. I didn't know him well, but I knew him as the partner of a friend, and we'd make a point of getting together, eating and chatting, at conventions. No more.

And two entries down, on the same page, I learn that Joan Harrison, author Harry Harrison's wife, has died. I've not seen Joan or Harry for over a decade, but I first interviewed Harry for Knave in about 1984, in London's Natural History Museum for reasons that escape me now, and Harry wrote the introduction to Ghastly Beyond Belief, and I knew them both socially, and liked them both very much, when I lived south of London and they lived mostly in Ireland. Joan was the kind of person who made you feel, instantly, like family, if she liked you, and she liked me. When they'd talk about the famous SF people of the 40s, 50s and 60s, she was the one who'd say things like, "Well, of course his wife left him, and I couldn't blame her, it was just after that party, the one where he hit Bob Sheckley with a glass ashtray, you remember, Harry?" giving me a much more interesting and personal version of the history of the Science Fiction field than I might otherwise have had.

I remember when reading the Year's End Obituaries, in the Year's Best Fantasy or SF collections, I'd be looking at a list of names, which often meant something in terms of the work but nothing as people. These days they're all too often people I know.

It's also been pointed out to me that, due to a bug, you can't currently nip to the archives and look at the April 15th entry, because March is there twice and April not at all.

Appropriate messages sent to the appropriate people.

Saturday, April 27, 2002
It's been pointed out to me that the definition of SF as "anything I'm pointing to when I say this is SF" originated, as so much in the field originated, with Damon Knight. (See the 15th of April entry of this journal.)

I used to have an English accent. These days I have a transatlantic accent, of the kind that the Americans think is probably English, the English think is probably American, and the Australians and New Zealanders know is neither an Australian nor a New Zealand accent.

If you want to hear what that sort of accent sounds like, you can listen to the HarperCollins complete and unabridged version of Coraline on audio, coming out in late May -- May 18th, I believe. (And read by me.)

The only person who will have real problems listening to it is me. Hearing my stuff in audio is a bit like listening to a message on a telephone answering machine I left for someone else -- I wind up stabbing for the delete or skip button in embarrassment.

Which meant I wanted a Coraline that I could listen to, so when talking to Bloomsbury, the UK Coraline publishers, who wanted an English accent, and a female one at that, I suggested someone who I thought would be, in every way, perfect for it -- able to cope with the accents, with the humour, with the stuff that's too scary to be humour, with everything in there.

I had a number one choice, last seen (by me) playing Bottom on the West End stage, and didn't have a number two or a number three choice.

Bloomsbury asked the number one choice, and she said yes, and has recorded the UK unabridged audio book. Which is something that I am looking forward to hearing no end...

...Coraline read by Miss Dawn French. Half of French and Saunders (the curvier half) and doer of much else besides.

Is that cool or what?

Thursday, April 25, 2002
In your journal for April 25th, you mentioned that the best definition you found for science fiction was "Science fiction is anything I point at when I say 'This is science fiction'." I was wonderring about what you would think of the definition my Contemporary Fiction teacher told me back when I was in college.

Basically he said that any fiction that relies heavily on science or technology should be considerred science fiction. In this case, Star Wars would be SciFi because of all of its technology (but it would also be Fantasy considering where it takes place, the whole "Hero's Journey" theme in plot, etc.) My teacher went on to say that this would even include things like ER (which, as we all know, is Drama), which mostly deals with medicine. I guess from his perspective, SciFi is not a genre in itself, but a facet of other genres (Fantasy can have SciFi elements, Drama can have SciFi elements, Active, Comedy, etc.)-Scott

Well, from your description of what he said, I don't think your Contemporary Fiction teacher would have recognised SF if it came up behind him wearing a gorilla costume and bit him on the bottom. There's oodles of SF that's utterly nontechnological (Samuel R. Delany? Ursula K. LeGuin? Ray Bradbury,anyone? J.G. Ballard? Theodore Sturgeon?) while a medical drama like ER or a contemporary novel about a man stripping down and rebuilding his vintage car are almost certainly not SF.

Sure, genre isn't exclusive. But SF is, pretty obviously, a genre, and to try and define it out of existence (by defining it as "any fiction with science/technology in") seems silly. Sure, some SF is fantasy, but then, all fiction is fantasy. It's not true. It's made up. We take that as a given and move on.

Or to put it another way: if SF is the thing I'm pointing to, when I say "this is science fiction" I rather doubt that your Contemporary Fiction teacher and I would necessarily have been pointing to the same things.

But defining SF is a game for mugs or academics or people on panels at SF conventions: they'll talk about SF being about the way you look at the world, about the science in SF being elastic and including such sciences as botany, sociology and history, or, as Judith Merril sensibly suggested, the S in SF standing for speculative, not science, fiction, and for that matter, since we're already in the future of so much twentieth century SF, the retro and fungible nature nature of SF as a force towards a literature of ideas, rather than simply a static medium, which thus resists formal definition and....

You see? Simply talking about definitions for SF and pretty soon you find yourself using words like fungible. Trust me. It's a mug's game. You'll get further with the pros and cons of putting an apostrophe in FAQs.

Mr. Gaiman, Although a festive "Publication Day Signing" sounds fun, particularly the bit about the singing rats, I confess I am much more interested in seeing you read/perform "Coraline" live than in standing in line all afternoon to collect a signature. You had mentioned wanting to do a reading tour. If this is a possibility would you please keep myself (and others) posted? Thank you much for your time, have a lovely day. -Kathryn

Well, it's not the kind of thing that, as a suggestion from an author, seems to have set the publishing world alight.

I will be reading the whole of Coraline over two evenings at the Chicago Humanities Festival toward the very end of October.

From my point of view, I would love to make the West Coast Event a reading of the whole of Coraline, somewhere comfy with nice acoustics, like the Palace of Fine Arts in SF (and I'd presign enough books that the bookstore sponsoring it could sell enough books to pay for the event). I suspect that from a publisher's point of view, this is a strange and peculiar and untried thing nobody's done before -- and how can they think an audience would want to sit still for 3 hours...? (Which seems to me much more fun than standing in a line for 6 hours.)


Tuesday is the official publication date of American Gods in paperback in the US. It's nominated for a Hugo Award for best novel, a Bram Stoker Award for best novel and the author has already received a gold star for spelling, so you must go out and buy copies for everyone you know, or else, er, something terrible will happen. Many many famous dead people, including Napoleon, Shakespeare, Socrates and Thomas Jefferson did not read American Gods and are now dead. Don't let this happen to you or your friends.

Also the dump bin with the books in it lights up.

There. I should have been in book advertising.


Reading aloud is always fun. Like Shakespeare I have little Latin and less Greek (not the fault of various schoolmasters, who tried hard, more the fault of changing schools age 13 from one way of teaching classical Latin and Greek to a completely different one, which left my head spinning), but when, last night, I got to the bit in the last chapter of Diana Wynne Jones's The Ogre Downstairs, when the Hell's Angels grown from Dragon's teeth start speaking in Greek, I remembered all I could and started sounding the words in Greek letters out to Maddy. Only to discover, to my amusement if not hers, that the Hell's Angels were speaking English, and colloquial English at that.

Probably an Edward Eager next.


Seeing as you'll be on tour for Coraline before long, what is the process for convincing my local bookstore to convince you/your agent/whoever to book a signing or some such thing there? We're in western North Carolina (Asheville), where I know you have many fans, but I've never heard of you having visited here yet. Please come. It's lovely here.

I don't know what the procedure is for convincing a bookstore, other than finding the person who works there and organises signings and to say to them "What about Neil Gaiman, to come here and do a signing? No... Neil Gaiman, not Neil Diamond. He's an author. No, I know Neil Diamond is a songwriter, not an author, we're not talking about Neil Diamond. Neil Gaiman. It's pronounced quite differently. He's a famous author who has a lot of fans in this area. Well, obviously, if you haven't heard of him he can't be that famous. But he does have a lot of fans and we'd love to have him come and do a signing..."

What they then do is go and talk to the publisher. Coming to me rarely does any good, as I simply point the store back to the publisher. And then the publisher weighs lots of arcane lore like where I signed before and how many of what chain versus how many independents and who reports their sales to where and whether they'd physically have room for the people in the line, all that, and slowly it puts a list together of shops in which I ought to appear the next time I go on the road.

Then several months later the person who organises signings at your bookstore stops you in the aisle and asks pointedly where you were at the Neil Sedaka signing they put on last week.

More in from GM Zoe -- Your March 17th journal had the Coraline cover. FYI, Previews has a slightly different cover here an overlaid silhouette of scary hands and rats)

and then

In today's Diamond Previews, it lists the special edition of Coraline having a run of 4000 copies (as opposed to the 500 run you mentioned on the March 15th Journal)

(They relist all of your novels, and list a whch doesn't see to be up yet)

The Diamond-only edition, with the 16 extra pages (notebook pages, a little explanatory text, variants of Dave McKean illustrations, etc) will be limited to 4000 copies. Of these 4000, 500 copies (or less) are going to be signed and limited. I'm not entirely certain what the conditions are for retailers and customers being able to get either one of the 4000 or one of the 500. You'd think I'd know, but, other than knowing it's a backlist promotion, I don't.

The cover that Diamond reproduces is essentially the same cover as the one I put up here -- the main difference is the typeface and layout, which is correct on the one that I posted here on the journal.

The silhouettes of rats and hands and such will, on the finished book, be done with a glossy, reflective overlay (except on the Diamond limited edition, where it will apparently glow in the dark).

Wednesday, April 24, 2002
When I was young I co-assembled a book called Ghastly Beyond Belief. I remember that the best definition of SF I found was more or less "Science fiction is anything I point at when I say 'This is science fiction'". If this ever moves from news story to reality I bet that almost nothing will be SF. "Nope. That's not science fiction. It's literature." "That's not SF, it's social commentary."

Tuesday, April 23, 2002
It's just been announced officially that I've signed a contract with Harper Collins/Morrow for another two books and a short story collection, something I mentioned we were working on, back in this journal around Xmas. You can read about it here


Plans for Coraline promotion include a signing on publication day -- July 1st or 2nd -- somewhere on the West Coast, and one a week later in New York. The West Coast one might be LA, might be Bay Area, might be Seattle -- it depends which store wants to host a publication day Coraline party the most, I expect (Balloons! Clowns! Trained singing rats!). I know Harper Collins Childrens is going to start talking to the various possible stores very soon.

(The New York Location is already decided, but the date isn't firm yet.)

Then August will be a UK tour (and Edinburgh Festival appearances, and no I don't have the details yet, although I know I'll be doing two events at the festival, one on the childrens' program, one on the adult).

September, once kids are back at school, and people have had a chance to read Coraline, will probably contain a few US signings, maybe in Children - Specialist bookstores, maybe in areas of the US I've not signed.

And somewhere in there is a few Canadian signings.

So that's the plan for the UK and US. No information on anywhere else in the world -- when I have it, I'll post it up here.

Monday, April 22, 2002
A message from Beth Tarr pointed anyone interested in a bibliography of books by me at Lucien's Guide Volume II: About the Author It's a site she's put together to help librarians who want to know what this Sandman thing is they are being asked about.

Meanwhile, anyone interested in everything I've every written should go and look at Grand Moff Zoe's bibliography at


And I've just got an e-mail from the webmaster and US contact for the Friends of Punch and Judy at . She is a Punch and Judy Professor herself, and, of course, lives in St. Paul, fifteen minutes away from the downtown Minneapolis Hilton. (Why "of course"? Well, I sort of expected it, somehow. See the journal post about Punch and Judy. That's how the universe works.) So I suspect we'll be able to have a proper Punch & Judy show at World Fantasy Con.

Sir, In the Journal recently it said "I was an overnight success, albeit an overnight success with thirty or so books in print" I was wondering if there was a comprehensive list you knew of and why only 4 of those books are listed on the "other books" page? -Brian

Because the only books that HarperCollins (who run and maintain this website) put anything up about on this website are the ones that they publish. It's not that they have anything against putting something up on Good Omens, or the Sandman graphic novels, or The Day I Swapped My Dad For Two Goldfish, it's just that someone would have to write the material and put it together for them, and that someone would probably be me, so it just never seems to happen.

There was a new bibliography that was done for the website, and should have gone up some months ago. In the meantime, going to any of the online booksellers and typing in "Neil Gaiman" should give you (er, does it quickly on Amazon where it gives 69 results but some of those are introductions and suchlike) well, it should give you a fair idea.

If you pick up a copy of Smoke and Mirrors, it has a pretty good "by the same author" listing in the front, although it was so long and unwieldy we cut it back for American Gods.

Looking at Amazon, incidentally, it's sad to see that they've got rid of the editorial content -- the SF/Fantasy and the Horror "Subjects" used to be well maintained and terrific resources, filled with interviews and articles and knowledgable criticism. Now all that material has vanished, and the lead pages for the subjects are barren. Pity.

Sunday, April 21, 2002
By the way -- seeing that you lot, as has been demonstrated on a number of occasions, seem to possess the sum total of all human knowledge between you....

I suggested to Greg Ketter, in his capacity as one of the organisers of the 2002 World Fantasy Convention, that a traditional Punch and Judy show might be a cool thing to put on (particularly as Dave McKean is the artist Guest of Honour), and he agreed, pointing out that very few Americans have seen a real Punch and Judy show.

There's probably a web site listing every Punch and Judy professor in the world, and there will probably coincidentally be half a dozen of them in the Minneapolis area around Hallowe'en... but Greg has no idea where to start looking.

So if you are, or know, a Punch & Judy professor in the US who might be interested in performing at World Fantasy Con, you can stick something on the FAQ line, or, more usefully, e-mail Greg at

Mr. Gaiman, What on earth is going on with Dave McKean's Cages finally be released? Bud Plant says that the book is coming out in May and Amazon.con says that it will be released in April. I've pre-ordered a copy, but I'm worried that it won't be coming out anytime soon. What have you heard about this? Thanks a bundle. Andrew

Duly forwarded to Dave McKean, and within about ten minutes received an e-mail saying

I had an email from Titan last week saying they'd have copies in week or 2,
so i guess the same would be true for NBM. So it should be out in May. Cheers, Dave

So now you know. Dave also says he is working on The Wolves in the Walls, our picture book for impressionable adults of all ages.

Someone sent me a worried FAQ message some time ago, explaining that they had learned that writers didn't write their own books, and the person was hurt and disillusioned.

And I did my best to explain that writers write their own books. Just try and stop us. Celebrities, on the other hand, mostly get people to write their books for them.

Check out this Washington Post article for interesting details.

Saturday, April 20, 2002
Hello, this is not a FAQ, but rather a list of questions. I am a student, and have been assigned a project on which I ask people in my future field of work (Writing for me) several questions. You, being one of my favorite writer, matched only by Stephen King, are the perfect person for the interview. There are only six questions, and should all be easily answered.

1.What, for you, is a typical day of writing?

There are no typical days. Overall I try to get up. Sort out any emergencies, answer any queries on the phone (New York and UK). Write. Keep writing. Write more. Sort out any emergencies or queries on the phone (LA this time). Eat dinner. Read to Maddy. Write even more, or read. Sleep.

This is the plan and it rarely works quite as smoothly as that. Tea is also drunk in quantity.

2.What types of benefits, royalties, etc; do you get?

Mostly I get a royalty, which is a percentage of the gross (or sometimes, but more rarely, a percentage of the publisher's net profits) on what I write. I don't get any benefits, as a writer of prose or comics, but because I write films as well and am a member of the WGA, which is the screenwriter's union, I get health insurance, and they will probably come out and bury me cheaply when I stop writing.

3.How willing are the professionals you interview to get information in a certain field willing to help?

I don't interview that many people, except when I want to know things for a book. "Excuse me, I'm writing a book and wonder if you could tell me about..." is a wonderful way to be shown into places the public don't usually get to go, and to have your nosiest questions answered.

4.What parts of writing do you actually DISLIKE? Why?

I don't dislike writing. I dislike lots of the bits that aren't writing, and get in the way of writing. Not getting much sleep on signing tours, and the way my hand hurts somewhere at the end of week two of a tour, for example. The weird sort of trade-offs in terms of publicity and privacy. Not having the time I'd like for old friends. Trying to decide whether or not to audit dodgy publishers who send royalty statements that simply do not add up, or having to sue a publisher who decides not to pay royalties. Hollywood "pitch" meetings, especially ones over the phone, especially when they've contacted me to ask me to do something, and now want me to convince them how much I want to do it.

5.Is there any part of the job you enjoy more than others? A favorite?

There's a thing that sometimes happens on the page, where something wasn't in my head -- or anywhere -- a fraction of a second before I got to that moment in the story or the script, and suddenly I find yourself writing something that's making me laugh or shudder or look at it wide-eyed, and I think, "Where did that come from?"

That's the very best bit.

6.How hard was it for YOU to get a career in writing?

Oh, pretty easy I guess. I got up one morning in the early 80s and realised I ought to be a writer, because it was all that I wanted to do, and I couldn't put up a shelf to save my life. Well, not one you'd actually want to put things on. Then I worked very hard for a very long time, feeding and supporting a family on what I could make with my typewriter, first as a journalist, and then (about the point that typewriters went off into history) as a writer of fiction. I looked around about fifteen years later to find I was an overnight success, albeit an overnight success with thirty or so books in print.

Thank you so much for your time, and I definitely look forward to hearing from you.


If anyone else has an interview-an-author school project, feel free to use those answers in your essay as well.

And this in from GMZoe (and we are all very pleased that Zoe, his small daughter, is out of hospital and home and well) (well I am).

What is the difference between and Advance Reading Copy, a Proof, and a Galley? (And for comics, where'd the term 'Ashcan' originate?)

Okay. Right.

When a book has been handed in, the manuscript is copy-edited, then it's typeset into something called unbound galleys. Sheets of paper with two pages of the book-to-be on the page. The galleys (as these are called) are then proofread -- gone over for errors in typesetting or whatever.

Some years ago publishers realised that they could get attention for books before they were published if they simply bound the galleys into book form and gave them to booksellers and journalists to read (the alternative, still practised, is to send out wodges of typescript, or a photocopy of the loose galleys. This has the disadvantage of not being somethng you can take with you into the bath). Originally these were all very plain -- a single colour cover with the title, the author's name, and a message explaining that this was an uncorrected proof copy and that it wasn't the final text was the most one could expect.

This worked well when there weren't many of them. But then, soon enough, there were publishers everywhere doing this. So the publishers decided they needed a way to draw attention to their hoped-to-be bestsellers and important books -- especially the ones that they thought would attract the most attention if they were read. So they started putting full-colour covers on selected proofs, and printing them on real paper rather than stuff a hair up from photocopy paper.

A couple of my books -- the Workmans edition of Good Omens and the Morrow edition of American Gods -- had bound proofs (no more than a few hundred of them) printed straight from a computer file, which were followed up by proper advanced reading copies, with colour covers, taken from the galleys.

Ashcans were cheap black and white comics of which a couple of comics would be printed, photocopied or duplicated, in order to file for copyright on a name or a title. They existed chiefly in the 1940s. They had a brief resurgence in the 1990s, as a sort of "one more damn collectible" thing. As for where the term originated -- well, that was where most of them were heading.

Several people have written to ask if Mike Carey is going to be writing a Sandman book or comic, and no, he's not. It'll be a Sandman Presents: book, which is the umbrella title that all the spin-offs and so on shade under, until, like Mike's Lucifer, they take off on their own, without needing an umbrella, as it were. He and John Bolton are doing a book about Lyta Hall and the Furies.

Finished an overdue short story yesterday, and realised, as I finished it, that the beats and the theme and even a couple of the images were very similar to those in another story I'd written, five years ago, and another I'd written five years before that. It's funny: you don't start out going "Ah, now I shall repeat myself." You start out to tell a new story newly.

I suspect that the times that you do repeat yourself are because you didn't get it right the first time, but you know there was something there. It's probably why W. S. Gilbert kept going back to the magic lozenge story.

The next short story collection is probably going to consist entirely of first person narratives. Unreliable people, telling unreliable stories. (Which may mean that I'll have to hide any third person short stories in the introduction.)

I've gone off to write for a week. When I left it was in the low 90s F (around 33 C). Now there is a winter storm warning in the midwest -- 80% chance of serious snow tomorrow. I'm now glad I was talked out of hauling the lemon tree, jasmine and so out out of the kitchen, where they've lived all winter, and into the garden...

Friday, April 19, 2002
Good lord. Well, you can go and click on Locus Online: News, April 2002

for the full list, or you can just believe me when I tell you that (ahem):

ConJose, the World Science Fiction Convention to be held August 29 - Sept. 2, 2002, in San Jose, California, has announced nominations for this year's Hugo Awards and for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer.

American Gods, Neil Gaiman (Morrow)
The Chronoliths, Robert Charles Wilson (Tor)
Cosmonaut Keep, Ken MacLeod (Orbit UK, 2000; Tor)
The Curse of Chalion, Lois McMaster Bujold (Eos)
Passage, Connie Willis (Bantam)
Perdido Street Station, China Mi�ville (Macmillan UK, 2000; Del Rey)

No idea if American Gods will win -- that's up to the mathemagical intricacies of Australian Rules Voting, not to mention how many people who liked it vote for it -- but I am starting to really enjoy the fact that so far the book's been nominated for The BSFA award, the International Horror Guild Award, the Bram Stoker Award (and the Minnesota Book Award) and now the Hugo. There's only the World Fantasy Award and the Nebulas left of the genre awards....

I think I'd rather have a book like American Gods, which is neither fish nor fowl, nominated for all the awards, and lose, than have it just nominated for one and win.

But then, I am odd. And more to the point, I already have lots of awards, two of which have fallen off their wall, several of which got lost in the post, and some of which I've never received. (I remember a conversation in Italy, with my publisher, when I mentioned that I'd love to win a Yellow Kid award, as I envied Bill Sienkiewicz's. "You did already," they said. "Two, three years ago maybe.") So one more award isn't going to make much of a difference, one way or another. But a clean sweep of nominations, in genre after genre... well, there's glory for you.

Thursday, April 18, 2002
Now, if you go and look at the Low Red Moon journal you will find Cait's account of the strangeness of Sunday Night.

Reading it, the whole adventure strikes me as rather unlikely. Especially the bit about me explaining the plot of "The Return of Captain Invincible" to them in the final quest to return to the hotel.

Still, if it had been Terry Pratchett instead of me, he could actually have sung the songs from "The Return of Captain Invincible" as well...

Mai Tai say that I'm Old-Fashioned
Tres vin ordinaire
That I want a fresh Manhattan
With white Anglo-Saxons everywhere
A Black Russian's
No Pink Lady
Give her the Singapore Sling
And Moscow Mule is not your baby
So Highball the Vodka and name your sting....
(as evil Christopher Lee (playing Mr Midnight) sings lyrics of course by Richard O'Brien.)

"Tiffany" is not, of course, a blonde drummer in an Abba cover band. She is a buxom red-headed oceanographer. Gwenda Bond, however, is a real person.

Okay. back to writing.

Having grumbled over the tone and intro matter of the BBC's Scott McCloud piece (although not about the interview with Scott), I was pleased to read Locus Online: Reviews by Philip Shropshire which is a page of comics reviews in a mainstreamish sort of vehicle, which seemed to be about reviewing the comics in front of it, and reviewing them well.


I submitted to questioning about Coraline to the book club of which my wife is a member (they got to read American Gods early too). It was a bit like being on Oprah, only without the extra half a million sales. They seemed divided 50/50 on whether or not it was scary, but they all seemed to have enjoyed it. And, at their request, I read them a couple of pages of it. Am also talking to the Chicago Humanities Festival about reading it aloud over a couple of days in late October.

(Incidentally: The word on the street is the English Actress who I -- and Bloomsbury -- want to read Coraline for the Bloomsbury audio edition is currently reading it to her daughter and enjoying it, so I think I'm in with a chance.)

DNA/News is, currently, the press release about the documentary I narrated on Monday. Which will be out in a few weeks. The script contained some fascinating interviews (including Terry jones explaining why he recorded all of his voice parts for Starship Titanic in the nude).

Still writing like a mad thing. Still playing Thea Gilmore's Rules for Jokers over and over. One day I shall catch up.

Wednesday, April 17, 2002 is an article that my attention was drawn to at the BBC site. I found myself concentrating on the way the article was phrased as much as the (very interesting) content -- and agreeing with Rich Johnston's comment right at the bottom. I mean, when young journalists like, um, me were writing the first round of "comics are growing up" articles in 1986, I don't think we expected the same approach in articles written in 2002. I start to fear that in 2020 there will be another round of "Wham! Smash! Kerpow! Comics Have GROWN UP!" headlines...

Someone e-mailed me to enquire whether I thought it was a good investment strategy to buy a Coraline Proof from e-bay. I doubt it -- there are proof collectors out there, and proofs feel like something that ought to be collectable, but on the whole they're worth the most in the months before publication to people who want to read the book. Prices spiral down at publication to about even with the book, or cheaper, then slowly -- ever-so-slowly -- creep up again. That's what happened with American Gods, anyway, and anecdotally from friends and booksellers.

At home, writing like a mad thing.

And read to Maddy again tonight, for the first time in five days. She came down to World Horror for a couple of days, and had a very good time indeed, as only seven year olds can have at conventions. (I doubt many of the other convention attendees made much use of the hotel swimming pool, for example. Well, I know I didn't.) She discovered she likes fountain pens, after borrowing mine to sign with, and she was approached to write poems by a Tanguera editor. "I'd love to read some of your poems," said the Tanguera. Maddy looked uncomfortable. "Your dad says they're really good." Maddy shifted from foot to foot. "And we pay ten dollars for every poem we use."

Huge seven year old grin at the prospect of unbounded wealth ahead. "Dad will send you some of my poems," she said, very definitely.

I reminded her of this tonight. "Oh," she said. "It's all work, work, work. Once I get home from school I have to practise my violin, and I have to do reading for school, and then we do reading... now I have to write poems too."

I suppressed a smile. "At least you aren't bored," I pointed out.

"I'm never bored," she said, as if that were obvious. "It's just I'd like a bit more time to play on the computer."

Someone on the FAQ line told me that the ladybirds are actually japanese bean beetles. Everyone told me to vacuum-cleaner them up (which would work better if this weren't a very old house with very high ceilings) to avoid the smell and to move them in quantity. One person added our dog has taken to eating them (I guess because they move - dogs, go figure), and without getting too graphic, let's just say that the digestive system of the common canine does not alter their odor. Aren't you glad you know that?

I can add one piece of information to the whole japanese bean beetle lore: goldfish will eat all of a japanese bean beetle, even the spotted wing case, but they don't eat the wings. I figured that out when I notice the drifts of beetle-wings on the top of the water in the goldfish-tank.

Tuesday, April 16, 2002
I shall, on consideration, omit last night�s adventures (the short version: it was a very long drive for a sushi dinner that wound up consisting of half a pack of peanut M&Ms and a can of Red Bull), and refer you to International Horror Guild Award-Winning author Ms. Caitlin Keirnan�s online journal for details. If she�s written them. is the place to go and look.

Went to a studio in Chicago this morning and recorded the voice links for a documentary on Douglas Adams. Mostly I did it as me, but every now and again I�d go �how would Peter Jones have done it?� and say it like that.

Peter Jones was the voice of the Book in the audio versions of The Hitchhiker�s Guide to the Galaxy. Also, he played the Prime Minister convinced he was Superman in the original TV version of Whoops! Apocalypse. (There was a film made with the same title but with all the funny bits left out.) I told Andrew Marshall, one of the writers (and one of the inspirations for Marvin, the Paranoid Android), this, many years ago, and he sent me a photo of Peter Jones, Geoffrey Palmer and the other actors playing the members of the British Cabinet, all convinced they were (and costumed as) Superman, Green Lantern, Hawkman, and, if memory serves, The Flash. The photo, alas, vanished when I crossed the Atlantic, many years ago.

Got home, after my plane was cancelled thanks to the cargo door being stuck, to find that while I was at World Horror Con, something truly horrific had happened at my house. Er, ladybirds. Well, not really ladybirds, which many Americans call ladybugs, but some kind of beetle that looks almost exactly like a ladybird. They crept into the house in the autumn and hid in cracks. Today was the first day of summer, with temperatures in the 90s. (Five days ago there was snow on the ground and it was the end of winter. Spring seems to have been omitted this year, and will probably finally turn up in July where it will turn out to have been put under some newspapers, or to have slipped behind a chair, and been forgotten about.) The ladybirds-which-aren�t have decided that hot weather means that they should immediately breed in record numbers without bothering about going outside, so they creep everywhere, making otherwise normal surfaces move and writhe like something in a Ramsey Campbell short story, and they dive bomb people who are trying to write their journal entries. Also if you flick them off your pillow, they emit an extremely unpleasant smell and you have to stop typing and go and wash your hands.

How was World Horror Con? Actually, it was really fun (except for the outside signings, which were too far away, and it seemed to me that there wasn�t much point in doing two signings outside the con and only one inside the con � nobody at the convention seemed quite sure what the etiquette was for getting things signed, as, apart from the mass signing on the Friday night, there were no con-signings scheduled. There was another mass signing in an outside bookstore on the Sunday evening, but no-one had mentioned it to me ahead of time, so I didn�t put it up in this journal, so we didn�t get hundreds of people coming out for it, which was a good thing as I was really pretty tired by the end of the convention, and was doing it on adrenaline and luck.) I bought an alien rabbit in the art auction. And the people were so cool � just getting together with Gene and Rosemary Wolfe, with Gahan Wilson and Peter Straub, with Cait and her assistant Jennifer, with Kelly Link and Ed Bryant and I could keep typing names and names and names, but the point is that these are good people and they have really cool stuff to say, and they make me laugh.

The best bits of the con for me were interviewing Gene Wolfe, co-hosting the IHG Awards with Gahan Wilson, and performing in a radio play adaptation of the Gene Wolfe story �The Tree is My Hat�.

Stopped off at DreamHaven on my way home, signed a pile of copies of The Walking Tour of the Shambles, and some Dream Trades and Harlequin Valentines for Greg Ketter. We talked a little more about the dedicated Gaiman site they�re going to be putting together, and I got quite excited at the idea of putting together a bunch of recommendations for all the people who want to know what kind of authors or books for children I�d suggest, or SF authors, or poets...

American Gods should be out in paperback in a week or so.

And, according to Locus, Damon Knight is dead. I only met him once, with Kate Wilhelm in New Orleans, but we were on GEnie together, and as I was growing up I read what Damon wrote, edited and criticised. On GEnie, I was always conscious that this was Damon Knight, and if he was crusty and persinickety, then he'd earned the right to be crusty and persnickety, and he was astonishingly perceptive as well. He sent me a copy of his novel, Humpty Dumpty, in ms. form, to offer any input, and I never sent back any input because I couldn't think of anything to say.

Saturday, April 13, 2002
Well, this is simultaneously a question and a bit of shameless self-promotion (and I'm subjecting myself to the risk of writing about living authors instead of dead ones who can't tell me how wrong I am!). You described Dream as Byronic at least once; to what extent did you consciously conceive of him as a type of Byronic hero?

He fits the profile of the Byronic hero very closely. And here's where the shameless self-promotion comes in. I've written an article on Byronic heroes in popular culture (a miniature version of an as yet unpublished book on the topic), and Dream is one of the heroes discussed. It's at if you have the time and inclination to check it out.

Er, quite consciously. At least as a variation on a theme. When one plays with archetypes one should know what the archetypes are one is playing with.

Dateline: World Horror Convention, Chicago. 2002. Location: An Airport Hotel.

Did a reading from A Walking Tour of the Shambles and I read the single chapter of Coraline that I hadn't written yet when I read the whole book in Denver a couple of years ago, for the five or six people at the reading who were also in Denver and had stayed up until 2.00am at my Read-the-whole-of-Coraline reading back then. Then did a Q&A panel with Gahan Wilson, where Gahan would ask questions and I would witter on and on and on. I think Gahan had plans to cover my whole career, but I don't think we got further than 1987 before our hour was up. Still, it was enormous fun.

Took part in a much more pleasant mass signing last night, made really fun by the fact I had small daughter Maddy there to help out. Helping out mostly consisted of leaning over my shoulder and saying "Are you going to do a drawing for them?" whenever she liked the look of anyone, or wanted to see a drawing. She took exception to the goldfish I would draw in people's copies of DAY I SWAPPED MY DAD FOR TWO GOLDFISH and would add more bubbles coming out of the goldfish mouths. She also, very proudly, signed several books for people who asked her to. ("I signed Madeleine in that one, for a change, instead of Maddy," she told me, at about signature number three, thus indicating that she was finding her own solutions for the big question of How to Sign the Same Things Over And Over WIthout Getting Bored Or Repeating Yourself. Then, having had enough, she went off to the hotel pool to swim, and I kept right on signing.)

Had one of those conversations last night with academic and critic Gary Wolfe about children's literature, fantasy, Lucy Clifford, E. Nesbit, how fiction ages and changes, what Victorian fantasy is still read and so on that I only left, with regret, when I realised that I was about to turn back into a pumpkin, and stumbled bedwards. It was the kind of conversation which remind me why I enjoy conventions, despite all the bits I don't.

Got the final draft of the Douglas Adams documentary I'll be doing voice-over for on Monday morning. Was sent a draft last week, and wound up rewriting all of my bits so they sounded like me and not like the bloke from E! Hollywood True Stories. The writer's included all of that and folded it together, and I think it works.

Friday, April 12, 2002
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Removed the link to the Babycakes URL for now -- we seem to have slashdotted a little Finnish server. I'll put it back up when they mirror it to somewhere that can cope with people clicking on it.

(You know, I know what I meant, and you probably know what I meant, but that sentence would have been incomprehensible a decade ago....)

Also stuck up a very long answer to a question about DreamHaven Books and copies of Angels and Visitations trading hands for a thousand dollars a copy over in FAQs.

And I was perturbed to hear that there is one American city that will be spending $273,000 this year to combat Goth culture -- defined in this article from a paper in Hannibal MO. ("Our motto: We're tired of the fava bean and chianti jokes") as "kids who wear black and think dark thoughts".

Maybe they'll spend the money on an ad campaign ("Cheer up!" "Wear bright colours!" "Remember, it's not as bad as all that!" "Smile -- and get a haircut!"). Maybe it'll be one of those Hill Street Blues things ("Remember, there are people thinking dark thoughts out there!"). Or they will just spend $273,000 on buying little happy colourful things which they will present to anyone they see wearing black and/or looking gloomy.

But somehow I don't think so.

Too tired for a sensible post.

Not sure of the logic of doing a signing in a public library forty minutes away from the convention (if the directions work. 70 minutes if they don't.) (Ours didn't.) I think the rather odd choice of a location has something to do with the Evanston library having really good press contacts, which they must not have bothered to use. Anyway, I signed for about a hundred people, which meant that most of the other authors in the room, who did not have a hundred people there for them, (a) cheerfully hated me and (b) knocked off after twenty minutes and went and did something more sensible instead. And I just signed for an hour or two.

Tomorrow morning I have a reading and Q&A, immediately followed by Gahan Wilson interviewing me. I'll be doing other stuff through the con, on Saturday and Sunday, but it's things like interviewing Gene Wolfe, so I'm dead puzzled why both of the events with me as the focus are within a three hour period early on a Friday. I suppose the people doing the programming thought it would be tidier like that.

After the signing Jill Thompson and her husband, Brian Azzarello, took me out for wonderful sushi at a restaurant called Katsu (2651 W. Peterson Ave, Chicago 60659) for sushi that was really world class, and I was impressed, and we all ate too much. ("You must eat last piece sushi," said the hostess. "Is lucky." And we looked at her like Mr Creosote in The Meaning of Life, being offered his wafferthin mint. "Maybe one of you need some luck?") Jill and I both talked too much, and Brian mostly listened, and smiled in all the right places.

And goodnight.

Wednesday, April 10, 2002
Posted without comment: Which Member of the Endless Are You? (thank you, gag-girl, for the link.)

Receiving some astonishingly ill-informed hate mail about the copyright thing. And some people making very sensible points. Heigh ho.

A gentleman from Finland recently asked me over at the Well if I had any objection to his posting a comics adaptation he'd done for himself of my story Babycakes. Seeing he asked nicely, and wouldn't have posted it without my permission, I said sure.

Lots of people writing to ask what I think about Yahoo! News - Online Sales of Used Books Draw Protest.

I think it's mostly a fuss about nothing. No-one's doing anything illegal or immoral. (And, coldly and bluntly, if your book sales are such that the resale of some review copies -- probably less than a hundred copies -- is going to significantly hurt your royalties, then you really aren't making enough of a living from your writing for anything to matter.)

If you buy one of my books (or are sent it to review) it's yours. You bought it (or were given it). You can sell it on. I don't have any more of a problem with Amazon listing the used copies than I do bookstores having used book sections. It's their store.

You can buy a book new, buy it in hardback or wait for the paperback, find it used or as a collectible. I don't mind. What I care about most is that people are reading.

As I said when I discussed this at length in the piece I put up on this journal, that was quoted in Wired, last month, books don't come with single-end-user licenses, and I think that's a good thing.

I wondered how long it would be before the first early copy of Coraline went on sale at e-bay. Sigh. Well, I hope it goes to someone who wants to read it, and not just put it in a bag in a basement.eBay item 1530074877 (Ends Apr-17-02 10:11:44 PDT ) - Neil Gaiman Coraline ARC Dave McKean


Snow has gone, so I went out today and hung bars of smelly soap in socks from young apple trees. Do not believe anyone who tells you that hair, urine (human or wolf), deer repellent, dried blood, or any of the other things that are reputed to stop deer eating young apple trees actually work. They don't. You will come out one morning and find nothing but a nibbled-down stump.

Hanging really smelly soap in socks from the trees, however, works like a charm. I used to get it from hotels, but hotel soap has improved too much in recent years, so now I go to the soap aisle of the supermarket, close my eyes, and walk until it gets really unpleasant. It may seem unlikely, or silly, but we have apple trees these days, and we used to only ever have stumps. And very satisfied-looking deer.


And I saw the American Gods header, and it has lights which flicker down the lightning bolt, and is very impressive indeed. Also very silly. You can be both.

Reading your blog on fan fiction, you mentioned 'slash' fiction - what in the world is that? Shalene

Figuring that someone out there had probably put it better than I had, I typed
What is slash? into google, and found an instant essay for you.

For those in too much of a hurry to click, slash fiction is basically erotic fan fiction, normally TV series based, pairing off two (er or more I suppose) members of the same sex who don't normally couple for the cameras. From the "/" mark in the middle of "Kirk/Spock" or "K/S" fiction, which is where it all started. ("But Spock," said Kirk, huskily, realising, finally, irrevocably, what his true self had been trying to tell him ever since the beginning of season one, "it's so huge. And it's green." "And it would be logical for you to... touch it, Captain," said Spock. And so on. It's normally written by extremely nice ladies. I have several very sane, respected, and respectable friends who write slash fiction, and do not try to make me read it.)

(I wasn't making up the Knight Rider thing either: I remember a table selling printed fanzine slash fiction, before there was ever a world wide web, with several volumes of "Now impale yourself upon my throbbing gearshift" stories which I thumbed through with delighted and horrified amusement. But then, I was never a David Hasselhof fan.)

Neil -

Related to the hot blog topic: What should one do to report a website that one suspects is in violation of copyright? I myself have come across a site that contains: a) information and images about Richard Powers' novel "The Gold Bug Variations" that readers of the book will find quite helpful; b) the whole book, every damn word. There's no way this is legit, but what can I do about it?

I'm slightly afraid of what nastiness might result if I were to contact the site's author. Some sort of discreet, one-stop online copyright-violation-reporting service seems ideal . . . does one exist?

This is a matter close to my heart. If no such service exists, surely certain publicly interested parties ought to examine the notion. Whom should I contact? (Paging Harlan Ellison . . .)

Well, I've always started out by contacting the webmaster (a quick WHOIS search will give you an e-mail address) or the person who posted it, if they have their address up on the page. (Lots of times stuff has been posted without the webmaster knowing it. And they don't want it up, putting their website at risk: I once wrote to the very cool Project Gutenberg people, who make public domain material available on the web, pointing out that Stephen King and Douglas Adams and I were not yet in the public domain, and could they take that page down, and they were mortified.) Seeing I'm the copyright holder and have every right to grumble, no-one's ever done anything more than take the book or story down, occasionally -- very occasionally -- muttering something hopeless and grumbly like "information wants to be free!" as they do, but mostly being very pleased someone let them know that it was up there.

("No, that's pizza," I want to tell them. "Pizza wants to be free. Concentrate on liberating pizza from evil pizzerias. Information, on the other hand, really hates being free, and is never happier than when manacled to a wall, like Kirk and Spock in some piece of late 70s bondage-oriented slash fiction.")

Sending an e-mail to the book's publisher is probably the easiest way to do it, if you don't fancy an exchange of e-mails with the webmaster or the person posting the stuff. (For The Gold Bug Variations it's William Morrow/HarperCollins). Check out the publisher's website, or the author's authorised website if they have one, and send an e-mail to the CONTACT person giving them the website address of the place with the unauthorised materials, and brief details. (For this web site it's Julia Bannon, who would forward your e-mail to the right place.).

Monday, April 08, 2002
This in from my agent, the very wonderful Merrilee Heifetz. (A riser is the thing at the the top of the thing in a bookstore that books by a single author are stacked in. The cardboard bit at the top of a dumpbin. I think.)

I have on my desk your amazing riser for American Gods paperback -- it lights up!
It's so cool! I've never seen anything like it!

And I am consumed by curiosity and a desire to know what on earth this cool thing is going to be like. I have visions of them lighting up in bookstores all over America...

In relation to the current burning topic in your blog, I want to ask how you feel about fanfiction. As a fan author, and a member of fandom, it concerns me; though I'm transitioning to writing only original fiction, much of my refinement as a writer came while I was writing fan fiction pretty much exclusively while my ideas for original work percolated in the back of my mind. And I'm quite proud of some of the work I've done as a fan author, and I'd hate to have to divorce myself from it to gain "respectability" (not that it's ever been high on my list of priorities). I do have my own rules as to what I will and won't write (I doubt I'll ever base anything off of your work, except perhaps an oblique reference here and there, for example), but I shan't get into those details, as I'm curious about what you think about fanfiction, both fanfic based directly on one of your works (even that owned by another legal entity), and fanfic as a whole.

To be honest, I don't really have much of an opinion on fan fiction. I don't actually have much of an opinion on people using my characters in fan fiction. For that matter I barely have an opinion on "slash" fiction (although I still find the idea of Good Omens slash fiction fairly mindboggling) (er, and Knight Rider slash fiction. I think that Knight Rider slash fiction is pretty weird, to be honest).

As long as people aren't commercially exploiting characters I've created, and are doing it for each other, I don't see that there's any harm in it, and given how much people enjoy it, it's obviously doing some good. It doesn't bother me. (I can imagine a time and circumstances in which it might. But it doesn't.)

Either way, it's a good place to write while you've still got training wheels on - someone else's character or worlds. I remember, as a nine-year-old, writing a Conan-meets-some-Ken-Bulmer-sword-and-sorcery-characters. And it's fun to head over into someone else's playground: I've written several stories over the years set in other people's worlds (including an episode of Babylon 5); and if I don't miss the deadline, I'm meant to be writing a Sherlock-Holmes-meets-the-Chulhu-mythos story very soon.

I do understand that there are grey areas, and I think of fan fiction as existing in them. I know authors who love fan fiction based on their stuff. I know authors who have formally attempted to stamp it out. I'm just sort of [shrug] about it.

I don't honestly mind if you stick (for example) Shadow or the Marquis De Carabas into a story intended for your friends, and not for commercial exploitation. I'd rather you put a note at the end saying who the characters belonged to, which most fan fiction people seem pretty good about doing anyway. But I'd hope you'd see it as a privilege and not a right.

(On a similar subject: Every now and then someone wins a local short story competition using a story or plot of mine, and I hear about it (often when they send me embarrassed notes, years later) and I try not to grin, and to look angry, but I haven't managed it yet. I keep meaning to tell Marv Wolfman that I won a school essay competition when I was twelve with a horror-comic plot of his....)

In your journal you mentioned someone who put entire works many authors (including you) up at a web site. That's wrong. I've got that part of the law clear. So at what point do you get testy? I mean, on my web page I've got a quote from The Books of Magic. Is that illegal even if I cite it? More importantly would you get ticked of? I hope not, but then again it's not like you'd ever know about if I didn't send in this FAQ question anyhow. Come to think of it, I'm almost sure you won't know, even given that, so um.. what was I saying? Oh. Yes, nevermind, I've got nothing of yours quoted anywhwere, even though you're my favorite author in the world, honest.

I get testy when people put whole books or short stories or poems up on their website, without permission, especially when they know it's wrong. (A good rule of thumb. Ask yourself, if I were a publisher, and I wanted to publish this, would I have to pay for it? If the answer's yes, then don't do it.)

I'm perfectly happy with the concept of "fair use", which tends to cover extracts from a larger work; I don't mind people posting quotations (from books or stories or comics) to their hearts' content. It's not illegal, or even problematical, unless you decide that the best way to quote from Neverwhere is to scan the whole book in, and your quote is the whole of chapter ten.

How's that?

An e-mail came in from a friend letting me know that the full text of one of my books was up at a website. I went over and poked around, and discovered that, apart from my book, the young man who owned the website had multiple books by Douglas Adams, Orson Scott Card, Bill Gibson, C. S. Lewis, Larry Niven, Terry Pratchett, Dr Seuss, Neal Stephenson, J.R.R. Tolkien and Roger Zelazny posted, among other authors whose works were still in copyright, living and dead.

So I wrote to him and asked him to take my book down, and suggested that he ought to take the rest of the copyright material down too -- the Tolkien Estate and the C.S. Lewis estate have lawyers, after all, and might not be best pleased with him. ("Posting material that you don't have the rightsholder's permission to post is breaking the law, and worse than that, it's extremely bad manners," I explained.)

Am still puzzling over a line in his reply -- immediately agreeing to take the book down (although I notice he's left everything else in copyright up, which is the only reason I'm posting this).

I respect your work highly and try to respect your rights to your work
just as much. I knew it would be potentially dangerous for me to put
books up that were not yet in the public domain, but I did it anyway.

I don't get it. I mean, if you respect an author's work and his or her rights, then why post books by the author, which you don't own, on your website? And as for being potentially dangerous, I can see that, but it's not a brave or noble sort of danger -- it just has the same potential danger that shoplifting has, ie. that someone will put their hand on your shoulder and say "that doesn't belong to you, does it?"

Ah well.

I hope he takes the rest of the copyright stuff down (rather than, rather pathetically to my mind, putting a notice up, after my e-mail, saying that if you are the copyright owner and you tell him to take it down he will. It's like a shoplifter looking around wide-eyed and saying, "What? You mean this stuff in the store belongs to someone? It's not just here for people to take? Well, gee, I didn't know").

Am I testy about this? Damn right I am.

I found this Wendy Cope poem on someone's website (posted, it says, by permission) which says it better than I can, although she's talking about poets, not prose authors....

Wendy Cope's poem about Law Of Copyright

Sunday, April 07, 2002
Quick! Click on Close Encounters ( and go and read a wonderful bunch of authors and books, suggested for your reading pleasure by an equally wonderful bunch of authors, editors, and people (all but one of them good friends or fairly close acquaintances or at least people I've had a meal with, which makes me start to wonder how small a world it is really).

When you're done, go and poke around the rest of the Washington Post Book World site. It's their SF/Fantasy special, and it has lots of fun articles (which work of mine does Michael Swanwick think ought to be a movie, you ask yourself? Click here to find out.) Who is our greatest living SF writer? (Er, that one's not hard if you've been paying attention.) (Clue: I just wrote a travel guide to a mythical part of Chicago with him.) (Give up? Click here.)

And there's an article by Michael Dirda on his visit to the IAFA, which is the only conference I try and get to for pleasure each year (except this one, when I was guest at Aggiecon instead). Which, I should add, has everything to do with listening to John Clute talk about dialogue with the ruins, and nothing to do with the little-umbrella-drinks by the pool and the satiny red bikinis to which Mr Dirda alludes. Honest. (Actually, I have encountered very few academics or authors, of either gender, who should be allowed out in public in satiny red bikinis.)

And, if you like it, drop a line to the Washington Post letting them know what a cool thing a special like this is. Sensible specials on genre, with actual content that's about something and written by people who know what they're writing about, are rare enough at the best of times. Magazines and Newspapers that do it need a pat to the back, or flowers, or something.


Got a phone call from Harlan Ellison today. I'd read in Ansible that he'd lost his case against AOL, and had left a message of sympathy and an offer of help on his answering machine. Turns out it wasn't needed at all -- the case (and Harlan's already won against two of the three defendants) has been sent to appellate court, which is where Harlan wanted to be, and has a good year to run before anything's decided and, with luck, good lawyers, and the forces of truth, good and justice on his side, Harlan wins.


Am writing like a mad thing currently, and keeping more or less up with everything except e-mail. Yesterday I somehow managed to squeeze in writing an essay on the painter Richard Dadd as an introduction to Mark Chadbourn's novella The Fairy Feller's Master Stroke. I have no idea how I did it. Maybe time is rubberier than I had thought.


I got Lambchop's Is A Woman yesterday. Overall the album's a bit samey, but the second song, "New Cobweb Summer", does that strange and transcendant thing that Lou Reed's song "Coney Island Baby" does, or does to me, anyway, where it moves from being quiet and restrained to tearing its heart out and making me gasp, and the volume never increases, and it remains every bit as laid back and restrained all the way through as when it began (which is practically lying down in a straightjacket), and when it's over I still don't know how it did it. Absolute magic.

Friday, April 05, 2002 is a lovely article on why American Gods ought to get the Hugo award. Which is, I suspect, probably more fun than actually getting a Hugo award. (Link courtesy of JaNell.)

Just wrote a paragraph for the Langley Schools Project website. (Some of you need this CD. Some of you need it very badly. Some of you definitely do not. It's... well, unique. And sometimes it's really good, as well. And sometimes it's better than good, even when it's, er, bad. Go over to and listen to some of the clips, and you'll see what I mean. Or possibly not.)

A small favour to ask... if any of you were reading the comics press back in 1992/1993, have hung onto your magazines, and still have any interviews with Todd MacFarlane in, particularly where he talks about how he plans to treat the 'guest writers' on Spawn, or his commitment to creator rights, can you e-mail The same goes with transcriptions of any panels Todd was on back then where he talked about that kind of stuff. (Seeing that there's a sort of a gulf between what he's saying now and what he was saying then.) Needless to say we will be absurdly grateful. (And yes, we have the big Comics Journal interview.)


Writing like a mad thing. Wishing that time were more, well, rubbery.

Recently I've had to turn down invitations to Brazil, to Holland, and (and this one hurt) Melbourne (it conflicted with the Edinburgh literary festival, which I'd already agreed to do) and the Frankfurt Bookfair, because the dates were already taken and filled. With luck I can visit all those places in 2004, but still...

Everything would be okay if we just had rubberier time. If you could lean against a week so it would have ten or fifteen or thirty days in it. That's all we need.


One of my favorite books is Count Jan Potocki's Manuscript Found In Saragossa. I review it in the December 2001 journal

Some years ago, knowing my fondness for the book, author Ian McDowell (not to be confused with any other Ian Mcauthors) found for me a copy of the film. It was on two VHS tapes, and had been copied so many times that, despite having started out in black and white, it was now picking up colour. I watched it for weeks, over and over -- two and a half hours worth of quirky, brilliant, intricate, funny, scary, sexy, and strange film, and then put it away and later gave it to a friend: things like this, I thought, should keep moving. Set in Spain, acted and directed by Poles in 1965, it was special. Once I'd given it away I started to doubt that I'd ever seen it all. I'd run across mentions of it from time to time (Angela Carter, saying that the way she and Neil Jordan constructed COMPANY OF WOLVES was inspired by the film of Saragossa.)

And I put it into American Gods.

Last August, a message came in on the FAQ line, from someone at a DVD company, letting me know it would be out on DVD around now, and would I like a copy?

I said yes. (You had to ask? This is why I love being an author.)

And it arrived, a crisp and clean black and white print, a full half hour longer than the version I'd seen. It may be the oddest and coolest film ever made, for those who like stories.

Rotten Tomatoes has collected some of the reviews over at The Saragossa Manuscript (1965): Zbigniew Cybulski, Iga Cembrznska, Joanna Jedryka, Wojciech Has. You can buy it at any of the Usual Suspect places. Tell people you want it for your birthday. Find out if your local library or video store is going to get it in. You need to see this film. Trust me.


Bob Garcia, publisher of A WALKING TOUR OF THE SHAMBLES, the funny-scary 48 page book by Gene Wolfe and me (cover by Gahan Wilson, Illustrated by Randy Broeker and Earl Geir, you know the routine) has got the orders in from Diamond distributors, and found them woefully low, mostly because the book was listed way at the back under horror books, and most comics stores don't read through that far. (The Diamond catalogue is the size of a phone book. I do not blame them.) This means that the print run is going to be small -- about 2,500 copies altogether. If you want one, I'd order it from Bob's AMERICAN FANTASY website directly, or from DreamHaven Books , who will certainly order enough copies from Bob to keep people happy for a few months after publication. Check with your comic store or SF/Fantasy Bookstore if you think they may be getting it in, or ought to and have overlooked it.) (This was a public service announcement on behalf of Bob Garcia, and because I hate seeing things go for silly money on ebay as soon as they're sold out.)

Thursday, April 04, 2002
Now THAT was fast... this just came in from Chris Staros. (And incidentally, we chatted last night on the phone, and some months from now I'm going to write an introduction for something really really cool by Alan Moore that Chris's going to be publishing in the US. More details as I'm permitted to reveal them.)

(I don't think this is the most visited daily journal on the web, by the way. But, as I told Chris, there are about 36,000 of you a month regularly reading it. Which would scare the hell out of me if I stopped to think about it for too long.)

And the special goodie thing for people who mention they read about it here still applies....


Dear Comics Fans,

What a difference a day makes. On Tuesday morning at 8:00AM, April 3rd,
Top Shelf was effectively put out of business, and on Tuesday evening by
8:00PM, April 3rd, Top Shelf was remarkably back in business. There are
not words suitable to express how honored and thankful we are that
within 12 hours this amazing comics community took it upon itself to
bring us back to life. And in this case, it might also be said that the
power of the internet was fully realized.

On Tuesday, after we made the announcement of our book trade distributor
filing for Chapter 11 (and the subsequent fatal impact that this had on
our own operation), we received over 200 phone orders and 850 on-line
and email orders to boot. This staggering 1000 orders has not only made
us operational again (and put several thousand copies of our graphic
novels into circulation), but has also reaffirmed to us that the comics
industry is back, revitalized, and ready to take on the world. We're
even estimating that over 100,000 people received the news or were
personally involved in the discussion of this on-line event on that day.

With this overwhelming support, combined with the (now contradictory)
fact that Top Shelf has always prided itself that every order would ship
out the very next day, we ask for your patience in letting us get all of
these graphic novels, comics, and CDs to you. We hope to have everything
shipped out within the next few weeks. In the meantime, if all this
activity has made you curious about our books, we would encourage you to
ask for them at your local retailer, so that everyone along the chain,
retailers and distributors alike, can also benefit from this spur of
interest. And while this interest in diversity is at the forefront of
everyone's mind, we encourage you to continue in the exploration and
discussion of comics from all the publishers doing quality work these
days: DC Comics, Marvel, Dark Horse, Image, CrossGen, Viz,
Fantagraphics, Slave Labor, Oni Press, NBM, Drawn & Quarterly, Cartoon
Books, Alternative Comics, Highwater Books, the publishers we represent
(like Eddie Campbell Comics, etc.), and all the rest (that we apologize
for not having the space to mention by name today).

If we've learned anything over these last seven years - and witnessed it
absolutely this week - we're all in this together. And the growth and
development of this amazing medium is in the most capable hands
possible: the fans of this industry.

We'd also like to take a moment to give a special thank you to a few
extraordinary people and organizations:

-- Warren Ellis and the Warren Ellis Forum. We've always known that the
Warren Ellis Forum was a formidable entity, dedicated to the discussion
and support of quality comics all over the industry, but their
mobilization in this instance was unprecedented. We can't absolutely
determine what percentage of all the orders were from this distinguished
group, but our estimation is that it was significant. We cannot thank
Warren or the supporters of his forum enough (
& &

-- CrossGen Comics. Mark Alessi and the CrossGen staff collectively
bought $5,000.00 worth of graphic novels and will donate them to the
public library system. This completely novel and generous gesture not
only helped to keep us going (in a big way), but also promises to expose
hundreds of people and libraries to what comics can bring to the world
of art and literature. This stunned us, and is a testament to CrossGen's
contribution to our industry (

-- Rick Veitch and Matt Brady of's Splash and Newsarama
pages. Their amazing coverage, on-line discussions, and links for this
event spurred on an uncountable array of support from the industry

-- Neil Gaiman. Neil took it upon himself to discuss our situation
within his daily on-line journal, which just happens to be the most
visited daily journal on the web. And since he's been known to have a
fan or two (including us), we've been getting a nice bit of support from
there as well (

-- And no less amazing than that of the above, the collective efforts of
the crews at,,,,,,,, etc., whom all
rallied their subscribers, who in turn proudly stated that they had come
from one of these very active sites.

-- And lastly, but never least, the comics retailing and distributing
community. They are the front line of our industry, and behind the
scenes they have always been the ones that have kept the independent
publisher alive. The show of support from this community has not only
been amazing on this particular day, but has ALWAYS been there from the
first moment we entered the business. They have been the group that has
supported us the most.

Again, we want to thank everyone from the bottom of our hearts -- we
could not have done it without you. Top Shelp will continue to try and
put out the best books possible, and we look forward to not only
thanking each an every one of you personally at the Cons this summer,
but also being able to now make some rather cool announcements in the
coming weeks that should be fun and beneficial for the entire industry
as well.

On behalf of Brett Warnock and myself_

Truly, your friend thru comics,

Chris Staros

Wednesday, April 03, 2002
So I wander into a bookshop, and am browsing the children's area at the back, looking for books to read to Maddy (eventually purchased The Ogre Downstairs by Diana Wynne Jones, Magic by the Lake by Edward Eager and From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg) and a young man -- I estimate his age at about eleven -- asks if I've seen Holes by Louis Sachar. I point it out for him. "You took our parking space," he tells me.


"It's okay."

He looks at the small pile of books I'm accumulating in my arms. "You must like reading," he says, with awe in his voice.

"I do," I admitted. "I like it better than anything."

His eyes opened wide. "Are you an author?"

I felt like a species of exotic fauna that had just been correctly identified by a naturalist. "Yes," I said.

His eyes narrowed. "Have you written anything I could read?"

I suggested Neverwhere. "You'll find it in Science Fiction and Fantasy," I told him.

He caught up with me five minutes later, in the CD area, picking out a motley bunch of CDs (including Suzanne Vega's Solitude Standing, as background for the thing I'm writing right now, as is Patti Smith's Land and Tori's Hey Jupiter single with the live Somewhere Over the Rainbow on it, The Langley Schools Music Project , which is even odder than I'd hoped, Bowie at the Beeb, and the remastered Heroes) and said "Er... science what and what?"


"The place where that book you wrote is?"

"Science Fiction and Fantasy. I think it's over that way."

"Oh. Okay."

I don't think he'd ever been out of the children's area before. Arms piled high with stuff I wandered over toward SF and Fantasy. He approached me with a copy of Neverwhere, and I signed it for him (he was Brian with an i and I had to write Hi to Tina in it as well), and left the bookshop hoping that he likes it, or that he puts it on one side until he does.

Anyway.... more Vassar pro-and-anti messages and eloquent opinions, all forwarded to Holly. (And for those of you in the UK currently wondering, it's a college in New York state.)

And we interrupt this blog for an emergency commercial message for a Very Good Cause -- one that I heartily endorse. Top Shelf do great comics. Get Jack's Luck Run's Out, or Through The Habitrails or Hey, Mister, experience the James Kochalka phenomenon, or Good-Bye, Chunky Rice. There's Eddie Campbell stuff there. (Including, in the Bacchus: The King Canute Crowd, a drawing of me pretty much naked, because Eddie has always been amused by my wardrobe.) And if you already have all their comics, you could listen to some of Alan Moore's amazing CDs, or (closer to home) get one of the lovely Craig Thompson "Last Angel Tour" silkscreen posters from them. They are good guys, and it would be a very very bad thing if they were to go under... (and look, free US shipping! and an extra $25 free stuff if you order $100 of books and so on from them. You could get a From Hell for every member of your family!)

Tell Chris I sent you and you found out about it on this journal, and he says that he'll throw in a free special goodie just for you, while stocks last. How cool is that?


Dear Comics Fans,

We have just been informed this week that our book trade distributor has
filed for bankrupcy (Chapter 11). They will continue to operate and
hopefully recover � and we will support this all we can (as our industry
needs them, and they are good people) � but unfortunately, this has
happened at a time when they owed us an enormous sum of money (over
$80,000.00 minus returns). And to make matters worse, the most recent
check they cut us, for almost $20,000.00, bounced this week, in turn
causing the last 30 checks we wrote to printers, conventions,
cartoonists � practically every aspect of the business � to bounce (or
be held) in turn.

To put it bluntly, even with all the hard work we've put in over the
years, if we don't raise $20,000 this month, it could realistically
force us to suspend publishing operations for the foreseeable future.
It's hard to believe but a big domino has fallen right on top of us at
the worst time possible. So, that leaves us no choice but to be honest
and ask for your help.

If 400-500 of you can find it in your hearts to each spend around fifty
bucks on our core list of books below, this would literally pull us
through � We mean that. We've got such a strong future schedule, and so
many cool things to announce soon (including two more Alan Moore
projects and two Film & TV projects), that I'd hate to think that we'd
have to pull the plug right before we were just about to arrive.

In any event, if you can find it in your hearts to help us out, we will
be eternally grateful. We'll be manning the phones personally on this
"drive," and we'll also be sure to keep you informed -- hopefully
letting all of you know in three-to-four weeks that everything's okay
(with your help, that is�).

On behalf of Brett Warnock and myself.

Truly, your friend thru comics,

Chris Staros
Top Shelf Productions
PO Box 1282
Marietta, GA 30061-1282

(770) 425-0551



CHRIS STAROS (770) 425-0551




PO BOX 1282
MARIETTA, GA 30061-1282


(for our widest selection of books)

THE TOP SHELF BOOKS (the short list):


BACCHUS #1, #5-#8, #10, #12-#39, #41-#60 (CB): $2.95 EA.

STRANGEHAVEN #1-#3, #5-#12: $2.95 EA. (REPRINTED IN TPs)




ABE (GN): $14.95

MEPHISTO (CB): $3.95

MERMAIDS (CB): $2.95
SUNBURN (CB): $2.95

HEY, MISTER #3 - #4 (CB): $2.95

THE SANDS (GN): $14.95


THE SOAP LADY (HC): $19.95

BIG CLAY POT (GN): $12.95

CICADA (GN): $12.95
BROKEN FENDER #1, #2 (CB): $2.95 EA.

HAPPY (CB): $3.50

BUGHOUSE (GN): $14.95
BAJA (GN): $9.95

DEAR JULIA, (GN): $12.95

KEYHOLE #5, #6 (CB): $2.95 EA.

UNDER THE BIG TOP (#8, AN): $14.95
ON PARADE (#7, AN): $6.95
TOP SHELF #5-#6 (AN): $6.95 EA.
TOP SHELF #1-#2 (AN): $5.00 EA.

THE STAROS REPORT - 1996 & 1997 (ZINE): $4.95 EA.

SMUDGES (P. SHAW): $7.00

FLIPPER #1 & #2 (AN): $11.95 EA.
JETLAG (AN): $14.50

STRIPBURGER #25, #26, #27, #29 (AN): $7.00 EA.

DEE VEE #2-#14, LIC SPEC, #2001 (CB): $3.00 EA.






CLOCK #1, #2, #3 (PAUL SHARAR): $3.00 EA.


You know, if I wasn't completely tired, and if I didn't have to be up in a few hours to catch a plane, I'd put together a whole page consisting of people's comments on Vassar, good, bad and hilarious. But I'm exhausted and so I am going to go to sleep instead, and tomorrow I'll forward them all to Holly, who can make of them what she will.

I met Jerry Juhl this evening. Former head writer of the Muppets. One of my heroes. I acted really cool, even though this was the man who wrote dialogue for the Great Gonzo. I even learned why Chris Langham was a Guest on the Muppet Show (which will allow me to impress certain friends in the UK with my newfound knowledge the next time I see him). Every now and then in interviews, I get asked "Is there anyone who would turn you into a quivering fanboy?" and I lie and say not really. But I got to eat ice cream with Jerry Juhl... I mean, how cool is that?

Tuesday, April 02, 2002
Shot out to a secret location like a rocket, spent a day with Robert Zemeckis going through the first draft of a script I wrote, word by word, walking round tables, acting bits of a script out, wondering what would happen if scene A were moved to where scene B is now, all that good stuff. It's very interesting dealing directly with a director, rather than with a studio: his concerns are those of a film-maker, rather than a production executive. We seem to have a very similar attitude to the material -- at one point, I hesitantly suggested that the best way to do a thirty second sequence (in the middle of a live-action movie) would be to animate it, at which Bob showed me his copy of the script, with ANIMATE IT scrawled beside the scene.

Also ate some very nice sushi for lunch.

Very interesting. Now on my way somewhere else. Zoom zoom.