Tuesday, August 05, 2003

Several readings coming up. The First Amendment. And The Bible (er, adult content).

I should probably mention the reading and signing I'm doing for New York is Book Country next month again -- it's a ticketed event for NYIBC, and once the tickets are all gone, they're all gone. Tickets are available here. ("Neil Gaiman! He's Cheaper than Steve Martin!")

Also a reminder that I'll be talking and signing at the Novello Festival in Charlotte NC, on the 18th of October. Tickets and details are here for that one. ("Neil Gaiman! He's also Cheaper than John Grisham!")

And once that I don't think has been mentioned before, for the West Coast: I'll be in San Jose, at the Center for Literary Arts, on October the 16th -- "in conversation" in the afternoon, and then doing readings and suchlike (and a signing) in the evening. Details here at

And that's probably that for appearances this year in the US.


I'll be signing in TORONTO at Chapters Festival Hall, 126 John Street, Toronto ON
(corner of Richmond/John) 416.595.7349 Saturday August 30th at 1 pm

Hurrah for Felicia Quon from Harpercollins Canada who organised it...


Dear Neil,
Regarding the case of Jesus Castillo. Have you found that things like this happen just as often outside of the United States? Or is this country really as conservative as it seems? Do things like this ever make you want to leave and move back to England? It's disgusting that something like this could happen in the 21st century, will we ever grow up and join the enlightened people in this world?

Yes, things like this happen elsewhere. What's important is that, in the US, you have a First Amendment -- freedom of speech is a human right. And it's down in writing. Guaranteed by law.

You also have people chipping away at that, continually. From the California Tax Authorities who decided that Paul Mavrides would make an excellent test case for their redefinition of comics from literature to sign-painting, to the nightmarish Kafkaesque judgement on poor Mike Diana (among the things that the judge ordered were that Mike be fined a thousand dollars, sentenced to a year's suspended sentence, forbidden to be within ten feet of anyone under 18, and, most scarily, forbidden to write or draw anything anyone might find obscene even for his own amusement -- with the local police ordered to make random unnanounced 24 hour spot checks on his place of residence to make sure he wasn't secretly creating art and disposing of the evidence...).

You also have people who redefine Freedom of Speech as Freedom of the Sort of Speech that doesn't make them uncomfortable. (As in "Well, yeah, I'm for Freedom of Speech, but Mike Diana's comics are just icky.")

There's a reason why some of the fund's biggest supporters have been foreign, I suspect, which is that we know what it means not to have Freedom of Speech guaranteed.

I like the First Amendment. I think it may be one of the best things that America has. It's an ideal, and like all ideals, it may be let down by individuals (there's a reason why the ALA has a Banned Books Week page -- and it's an eye-opener) but that doesn't make it any the less important or meaningful or less worth fighting for.

I very nearly sent a publisher in Sweden to prison, for printing a bible story I had retold (the story, from the Book of Judges, contains a very nasty rape and murder*, which we depicted as a very nasty rape and murder) which fell foul of a Swedish law forbidding the depiction of violence against women. Sandman was seized several times by the police in the UK (where the UK Customs were seizing Robert Crumb books as obscene at the same time that BBC2 was screening a documentary on Crumb's art). It's no better elsewhere, and often it's worse...

I don't recommend leaving -- or at least, not because you see the walls closing in. I recommend making your voice heard, instead. Writing to your representatives and voting are two really good ways to start. Support organisations that stand for the same things you do.

The most interesting thing about the CBLDF is that it is an unbelievably broad church politically -- from far left to far right to Moderates and Don't Knows and Out on the Absolutist Fringes; the only thing that unites the members (and the board, and the board of advisers) is faith in the medium, and in the First Amendment.

From the Book of Judges...

A man and his concubine are stopping off on the way back from Bethlehem. An old man has given them shelter, but the men of the town have come out and are demanding of their host that the man be thrown out to them, so they can rape him. The old man has a better idea....

22: As they were making their hearts merry, behold, the men of the city, base fellows, beset the house round about, beating on the door; and they said to the old man, the master of the house, "Bring out the man who came into your house, that we may know him."
23: And the man, the master of the house, went out to them and said to them, "No, my brethren, do not act so wickedly; seeing that this man has come into my house, do not do this vile thing.
24: Behold, here are my virgin daughter and his concubine; let me bring them out now. Ravish them and do with them what seems good to you; but against this man do not do so vile a thing."
25: But the men would not listen to him. So the man seized his concubine, and put her out to them; and they knew her, and abused her all night until the morning. And as the dawn began to break, they let her go.
26: And as morning appeared, the woman came and fell down at the door of the man's house where her master was, till it was light.
27: And her master rose up in the morning, and when he opened the doors of the house and went out to go on his way, behold, there was his concubine lying at the door of the house, with her hands on the threshold.
28: He said to her, "Get up, let us be going." But there was no answer. Then he put her upon the ass; and the man rose up and went away to his home.
29: And when he entered his house, he took a knife, and laying hold of his concubine he divided her, limb by limb, into twelve pieces, and sent her throughout all the territory of Israel.

(Whoa, sticking a chunk of bible at the bottom of a post. I feel spookily like Dave Sim, all of a sudden. )