Friday, May 28, 2004

From the Mailbag...

Fred the Unlucky Black Cat went to the vet today, as he was obviously in severe stomach pain. Lots of people had helpfully written to me to tell me all the potential medical awfulnesses that his throwing up could have been a symptom of, until I was convinced that his problem was some kind of intestinal cancer or something, but it turned out to be puncture wounds -- some animal had bitten him, deeply, on the stomach. He's back from the vet now, with a shaved tummy, and on painkillers and antibiotics. Sigh. At least we caught it before it abscessed this time.

As you can see from the previous two posts, I've started playing with Hello's bloggerbot, to stick up a couple of the 13 Nights photos. It's okay, but I managed to attach the wrong label to the first photo, and then had to go in and fix it, by which time it had already gone out to the RSS feeds. Sorry if you got it twice.

Hi Neil,

My wife is about to take a trip to Britain to study, is close enough to the trip that she can't start anything real, not close enough that she can start packing, and so is lounging around the house being stressed. Since she's in a "read something to distract me" mood, I finally got her to begin reading _Good Omens_ for the first time (she's mostly a mystery novel reader).

She just read through the "Archbishop James Usher calculated..." bit at the beginning about the world being created in October, 4004 BC. She then was telling me about him, what sort of things he'd done, and what important manuscripts he'd owned, by which I was very amused. She also informed me that his last name is actually spelled "Ussher".

Just thought you might want to know.

Sorry about your having to clean up after the cat. We have a cat here who doesn't understand that having all four paws in the litter box is not sufficient, and so we often end up with urine under the litter box rather than in it. Sigh.

Looking forward to the "13 Nights of Fright" this October. Please put a reminder in the blog so that people remember.


Craig Steffen
[In the Penguicon panel on "blogging as literature", I was the person who stood up and responded by channeling my wife to the effect of "Remember that standardized spelling is an invention of the last 300 years". Same wife.]

She sounds very wise. Standardised spelling is certainly an invention of the last 300 years, and James Usher spelled his name Ussher and Usher. I think if Terry and I were writing Good Omens all over again, I'd listen to Dave Langford at the final editing stage when he said that Ussher is the more usual spelling. (That was my bit, so it was my call.) It's not really the more usual spelling -- a google check shows them as fairly well matched -- but the two-S Ussher people tend to be very proud of themselves for knowing about the two S's, and are sure you've got it wrong, whereas one-S Usher people have normally noticed it's spelled both ways, or don't care. I deferred to the Encyclopedia Britannica, which is a one-s Usher book, and sort of wish I hadn't.

Neil, I was just flipping through the new Previews earlier today and I noticed the solicitation for the "1602" hardcover. It says "1602 Vol. 1 HC."

Volume 1? Is there something you're not telling us?

more-than-mildly curious,
dave golbitz

Nope. Nothing to do with me, guv. I think it's a goof, as the collected 1602 is the whole thing. It's no secret that Marvel are talking to writers about spin-offs (it was, after all, probably the best-selling comic of last year) but there's nothing solid yet, and I don't think any spin-off would be 1602 Volume 2 in any case.

What relationship do you have with Daniel Lazar? I read somewhere that he is your literary agent. Did he take over for Merrilee?

Who? I thought, when I read this, and I googled, and found this -- -- and while my name is there, beside Nora Roberts and Stephen Hawking, it's as a Writer's House author, and Daniel's a Writer's House agent. Merrilee Heifetz is, I'm glad to say, still my literary agent, just as she has been for the last 16 years, and I'm very fortunate to have her.

Several of you have written in asking a question about who's who in A Study In Emerald, and yes, you're right in your suppositions, and it would be a spoiler to say any more.

There is an interview with Stephin Merritt on the Onion A.V. Club website.

There is, and it's a good one, isn't it?

Hey Neil,

I was reading the Orkut community dedicated to your work and and the piracy issue came up. How do you feel about, say, having the whole of Sandman available for free download on p2p networks? Or any (all) other works you've done? Do you think it impacts your sales? Would you like it to go away?



I'd love it to go away, but it's not a genie that's ever going to go back into the bottle. Let's see, what do I think? I was delighted recently when I heard that the guy who'd been selling CDs with PDF files of the complete runs of Sandman, Preacher and so on on eBay is currently having close encounters with comics companies' lawyers. The stories weren't his to sell, after all.

Frankly, I think that the important thing is the wishes of the copyright holder in these things. Does it impact my sales when people post my stuff on the web? I've no idea. Probably not. I'm perfectly happy to put stuff up -- you'll find a number of short stories on, and links to places which have put things I've written up with my blessing (the short story Snow, Glass, Apples is up at The Dreaming -- click on "Stories" for a number of links. There's poetry of mine up at Terri Windlng's Endicott Site. Cinnamon is up at DreamHaven's -- click on Extras.) But I think that, for example, posting the text of American Gods or Neverwhere on your website, as several people have attempted to do, is, apart from anything, astonishingly bad manners.

As for Sandman and the other comics being out there on the web, well, mostly I'm not the copyright holder. I tend to think of it as being slightly more of a grey area -- I'm more sympathetic to people in countries where the work isn't available otherwise, for example. And I'm very aware that what's on screen is not the comic, not in the same way that an MP3 really is the song. (Anyone who's going to read all 2000 pages of Sandman on a monitor has my sympathy.) But I tend to lose all sympathy at the point where the "but it would cost money to buy the real thing" argument gets invoked.

I don't know if you've seen (heard?) this yet, but it is very funny:

It is funny, yes, and is currently my daughter Holly's favourite song.

This Guardian article talking about the contents of a leaked report, invokes Joseph Heller's Catch 22 :

What is one to make, for example, of the way Captain Leo Merck is said to have behaved? Captain Merck, in charge of a military police unit, is alleged to have spent his time in Iraq taking "nude pictures of female soldiers without their knowledge".

His colleague, Captain Damaris Morales, is ticked off for failing to train his troops. One of them proved unable, it is alleged, to get out of his vehicle without accidentally letting off his M-16 rifle. Taguba drily notes: "Round went into fuel tank."

Hi Neil!

My name is Marlon, and I certanly am your best fan in Brazil. I would like to know if you'll come here sometime...
And I want to do a question: What do you think about Brazil?

Please, answer my mensage, do this boy happy...

Sorry for my english errors, I'm learning...

Thank You, Marlon.

I love Brazil and the Brazilians, and would love to come back to Brazil. I think there are a bunch of places I ought to go first, because I've never been there and I know people are waiting, like the Philipines or Singapore, before I go back to Brazil (where I was last in 2001). But Brazil is special.

I'm a big fan, and just wanted to say congrats on the Hugo nomination. "A Study in Emerald" is wonderful; I enjoyed it immensely.
And I was wondering, if you win the Hugo this year, will you say, "Fuck, I got another Hugo!"?
I think it would be rather brilliant if you did.

Lots of love,

Many months ago, I agreed to be the Master of Ceremonies for the Hugo Awards this year (at Noreascon, in Boston), secure in the knowledge that I had neither a novel nor a novella out this year, so wouldn't have to worry about being up for an award (and if you'd told me that a story from a Sherlock Holmes meets Chthulu anthology would be nominated for the Hugo, I would have told you not to be silly). I have no idea whether or not "A Study In Emerald" has a chance, but I'm pretty sure that I'll have been up on that stage for about an hour by that point, and will have talked a lot already, and whatever happens I won't find myself standing blinking in the spotlight, quite astonished and taken aback, with no speech prepared, listening to my mouth telling 4,000 people exactly what I'm thinking, as I did when American Gods won...

And it's time to stop writing this and go to bed. Goodnight.