Monday, January 12, 2004

Small potatoes

Just noticed the existence of a new book on magic by Jim Steinmeyer, and immediately ordered it. Some years ago my friend Jules Fisher gave me a copy of a book called Art and Artifice, several essays on magic and illusion by Jim Steinmeyer (one of which is about reconstructing a long-forgotten vanishing donkey trick) and I was fascinated, educated and enlightened by it. Steinmeyer makes the mechanics of illusion more interesting to read about than I would have believed possible. The new book -- his first from a mainstream publisher -- is called Hiding the Elephant. I'm really looking forward to it: for information.

One day, I hope that Teller will write a book about magic. This is because a) Teller is a really good writer -- elegant, precise, and he makes words work hard, and b) Teller knows his magic. For now, all there are are articles and journal entries over at -- for example, this one, about Donna Delbert "the Rosie the Riveter of magic" and her dark secret.

Finished Dave Gorman's Googlewhack Adventure which is about lots of things, including what an author will go through in order not to write a book. Three quarters of the way through the book I felt guilty for not having found a googlewhack, so I did, and left it at, then went back and finished the book. Which is really funny and odd and very hard to put down, and which is, I suspect, a slightly better stageshow than book.

Several people have sent me links to the following news story:

BERLIN (Reuters) - German police are investigating after an angry man returned a computer he had just bought saying it was packed with small potatoes instead of computer parts.
The store replaced the computer free of charge but became suspicious when he returned a short time later with another potato-filled computer casing, police in the western city of Kaiserslautern said on Monday.

"The second time he said he didn't need a computer any more and asked for his money back in cash," a police spokesman said.

Police are now investigating the man for fraud.

That's what I call a news story.

Hello. Longtime fan here. I'm into your novels most of all, but my question has to do with _Sandman_. Were the portraits of the Endless inspired at all by the family portraits which come to life in Gilbert and Sullivan's _Ruddigore_? I once saw an absolutely magical production of that opera, where the living paintings stepped down in much the manner of the Endless.
Thank you,

Not consciously; but almost definitely yes. Ruddigore (or: The Witch's Curse) was always my favourite of the Gilbert and Sullivan operas. I knew it off by heart by the time I was about ten, and was even in it as a schoolboy, when I was twelve. (I was one of the corps of bridesmaids. It was an all boys school. I was very young.)

At my school we have to do a magor language assignment call the literature fair.We have to select a novel of our choice and do a summary on it and information about the author and stuff so if you could tell me any information about the novel Coraline or some information about yourself it would be helpful please reply back

You want to look at the website for Coraline. It's called, and it has sections for Coraline and for The Wolves in the Walls., or you can go directly to Coraline with There's a bunch of Frequently Asked Questions at Also you can see my head turns into a cat's. I don't know why it does this.

Dear Neil,

Why did you decide to make Bab Naga fat in Fables and Reflections when all the stories of her I've read make a point of saying how very thin and bony she was.


Baba Yaga? She was thin when I wrote her in Books of Magic #3. I think that Duncan Eagleson (the artist) just wanted to draw a line between his Baba Yaga and Charles Vess's.

Hello Mr. Gaiman!
Perhaps everyone would like to be reminded that 1602 issue 6 of 8 is due out this Wednesday! Also, since this is suppose to fund your Miracleman court fight, and the appeal was made recently by Todd McFarlane, is the appeal over so quickly--just an hour in court? And when is the ruling expected-any idea? Is 1602-the comic book- selling well enough to fund your court fight and hopefully publishing of Miracleman, or will the sales of the hardcover and trade paper books be more useful? Dave G.

Right. Issue 6 comes out this Wednesday. The way the appeal works, the lawyers on each side filed briefs and replies, and made their oral argument (that's the thing you can listen to online). Now the judges ponder, and sooner or later we get a written judgement. And then Todd can appeal to the Supreme Court, I suppose, if he doesn't like it. (He recently failed to get the Tony Twist case to the Supreme Court, but it's going back to trial, so I suppose it could eventually get back up to the Supreme Court.)

1602 the Comic Book is selling very well thanks: according to CBR news 1602#5 was the second bestselling comic of its month, and the bestselling in terms of retail value. marvel is donating their profits on 1602 the comic to Marvels and Miracles. They'll get to keep a lot of the profits on the book version, though, which is fair.

Hi, Neil. Hope all is well as the weather seems to be getting dreary. I have a couple of questions. First, what is your favourite smell? Mine's thunderstorms.

Second, a friend has asked me to read his poetry and critique it and whatnot [I believe he intends on sending it to various grad schools], but it's not very good at all. I'm not sure whether or not he's going to have the English department here look at it or not - he's implying that they will, but the department itself is reluctant to do independent studies with students [especially if they don't have very many credits in the department]. Though I don't feel it's my place to tell him that his work isn't very good, should I mention anything? I've read forty or so of them, and only about two of them seem worth anything - I don't think he devotes enough time on them but rather purges emotions and then leaves them as they are. I'm rather stuck for words, and I've had his work for a while; I think he'd like it back.

Thanks for your input on, well, everything.


Some people who ask for critiques want critiques. Others just want praise: the more enthusiastic and fulsome, the better. Possibly your best approach might be to tell him that you liked the two you liked, and why you liked them. There are lots of Miss Manners approaches that will get you out of the awkwardnesses of not giving detailed positive criticism -- you could tell him his poems affected you on a real gut level, in a way you find difficult to articulate, so you won't.

A question about Stardust, and i'm pretty sure i'm remembering correctly, but a thread on the live journal feed has me questioning: The line, written by a certain copper haired song goddess, inspired the section in the story, and not vice-versa, correct?

Just trying to remember,


Well, the first thing that happened was I showed Tori some early Charles Vess Stardust paintings, and she told me she wanted to be a tree. And then she wrote the song to make sure I didn't forget. And eventually I didn't.

How do I get back home?

Have you tried leaving a trail of breadcrumbs?

Hi Neil,
I was just on printing out the "always listen to your pig-puppet" poster when a lightening-stroke of marketing genious hit me (ok maybe it's not *that* good an idea :) ) - you know how kiddies books are often boxed with a stuffed animal featured in the book? Don't you think an edition of wolves with a pig-puppet would be the cutest thing in the world? Is there any chance that the publishers would do that?
Thanks for your time,
Hope the books coming along well,

I dunno. I'll suggest it to them. They came up with the idea of having a free CD in the new edition of THE DAY I SWAPPED MY DAD FOR TWO GOLDFISH, of me reading the book, so they're certainly up for strange ideas.

Incidentally, Coraline and American Gods are now both up on and available for download.

Since you broached the subject in your latest post, I was hoping you could explain exactly what Pot Noodle is to those of us from this side of the Pond. I've seen it mentioned online for years, especially in pieces by Mil Millington (of "Things My Girlfriend and I Have Argued About" fame), but I've never seen a detailed description. Is it merely a British version of the Instant Ramen Noodles available here, or something more elaborate? Prices I've seen (86p for a single serving) seem to indicate the latter, since the dollar equivalent would buy a case of IRN at Wal-Mart, but it could just mean that grocery shopping in England is a costlier endeavor.

Recently saw the video clip of you parasailing in Mexico. I'm curious what other extreme (or not so extreme) sports you might be into or just have tried for the hell of it. Ever skydived? I took up the sport last spring, a few months shy of my 41st, and fell in love.

And what do you do to keep in shape? Since the level of physical activity required for writing easily lends itself to a pot belly and fat ass, how do you maintain your svelte physique?

More than anyone would ever want to know about pot noodles is here:

Dear Neil,
It struck me that zeugmata could be employed to some advantage in a limerick. I hope you like this one:

An author of note and dark fiction,
who speaks with his fans and conviction,
keeps raising awareness,
his child, and unfairness
of comic book free speech restriction.

I posted another couple of attempts at zeugma limericks at if you're interested.



dear Neil,
I recently purchased(through Dreamhaven Books webstore) a book you wrote entitled 'Adventures in the Dream Trade'. I have never seen this book before and have yet to read it, but am curious to know how it escaped my radar. Any information you could give on this would be great.
Thanks for your time,

P.S. Thanks for making Dreamhaven an outlet for signed copies of things for those of us not fortunate enough to live where you tour(I also got a signed copy of Sandman issue 75 from them). I greatly appreciate it.

The whole contents of Dream Trade is here, at the NESFA website -- it was compiled and published in Feb 2002, when I was a guest at Boskone. It's a book of stuff -- the largest part of which is the American Gods blog, from Feb 2001 to September 2001. For all I know it's the first blog published in book form. But it's probably not.

Hi Neil -

Just read the interview you did with Gene Wolfe for "The Knight", at (and possibly other places as well...) I hope you post it; I think others might like to read it, as it's a lot of fun.

And you were right about "Snow Cherries From France" - it's rich and complex and terrific!

Now, about the "Major Greek God" in Stardust.......feeling kinda thick here...hints? Directional signals?

J's Mom

Actually there are two Greek Gods in Stardust. One big one off-stage, and one onstage.

That interview is fun, isn't it? It's been edited down by Patrick Nielsen Hayden, very well, and I think that the unedited version will be published in the New York Review of SF.