Tuesday, September 21, 2004

A Dictionary of Miracles

So the bathroom reading currently is the Reverend E. Cobham Brewer's "Dictionary of Miracles". And this morning, under the entry Stones Crying Out I learned that:

Bede Preached to a Heap of Stones (AD 672-735). On one occasion, we are told, the Venerable Bede preached to a heap of stones, thinking himself in a church; and the stones were so affected by his eloquence, that they exclaimed, "Amen, Venerable Bede!"

And I immediately began wondering who observed this, in order to report it. I mean, it obviously wasn't the Venerable Bede himself, for someone who can't tell the difference between a heap of stones and the inside of a church isn't going to be a particularly reliable person for reporting back, and anyway in this case "Venerable" is not simply an honorific but also a euphemism for either "barking mad" or "as comically blind as Mr McGoo"... (And what, I suddenly wonder, do those dates mean? If they were the Bede's dates, then he lived to the age of 63, which isn't really particularly venerable, not even for then. On the other hand, if it's how long he preached to the heap of stones for, I'm not surprised they gave him an "amen" at the end. They probably also had chorus of "For he's a jolly good fellow" followed by a whip-round in order to send him somewhere there weren't any stones.) (Right. I just googled, and those were his dates. Ignore that last parenthetical statement.)

Now, I think it's reasonable to assume that if the Venerable Bede mistakenly thought that he was in church, surely the hearty "Amen" from the stones would merely confirm his belief that he was in church, and then he'd wend his venerable way home having completely missed the fact that a miracle had just happened. Which means that either there had to be someone standing beside him, clearing his or her throat from time to time and trying to point out that they weren't actually in church after all, or possibly a particularly chatty rock mentioned it later, from whom the story came down to us...

Sorry. It's just amazing what you can learn from a good Dictionary of Miracles. I mean, did you know that "St. Fursy (A.D. 650) had a clock which an angel brought him from Heaven. One day the monks of Lismore, in Ireland, observed a clock floating in the air, and asked St. Cuan, their abbot, what the prodigy meant. St. Cuan replied, "Oh, it is St. Fursy's clock, come from Bury St Edmunds, in Suffolk. As St. Fursy cannot come himself to Lismore, he has sent his clock to represent him." (Which is followed by a note which states that "The clock was shown in the Abbey until 1468" although it neglects to mention whether that was the year that the clock stopped floating in the air, or vanished, or whether that was simply when it flew back to Bury St. Edmunds.)

They don't teach you about Saint Fursy and his incredible floating heavenly clock in school, you know. Hurrah for the Reverend E. Cobham Brewer.

I just thought you should all know that.

Hello,I very much love your work, but let's get right into the question for now. I was reading on IMDb (which admittedly is not the best source for reliable news) that Robert Llewellyn will have a role in MirrorMask. Since I very much enjoyed his work on Red Dwarf, I've been trying to find out how much of a role it is; is it a cameo, or something larger? (I also heard Stephen Fry is involved, which would be excellent.)--Austin Ross

Robert Llewellyn plays a gryphon. It's a larger role than a cameo, although he's not one of the principals. He fails to devour our heroine "bones and all". He's very funny. Stephen Fry plays a librarian, made of books.

Hi Neil, the song from your Polish website is 'History Repeats Itself' by A.O.S. It can be found on the Natural Born Killers OST. By the way, while reading 'The Neil Gaiman Audio Collection' info I was puzzled by this: 'Cinnamon: This charming fable of an exotic princess who refuses to speak currently exists only on Neil's official website' - well, maybe I'm silly, but I can't seem to find it anywhere... Conrad M.R.

That's because HarperAudio got a little confused. Cinnamon is indeed on my official website -- but it's, not, which is DreamHaven's mail-order stuff-by-me site. Go to to read it. It has marvellous illustrations by the supremely talented Jill Karla Schwarz, too. (And she's still doing online comics at -- she's just put a new ADDGirl adventure up, called "The Minion", which seems to be a parody of "The Apprentice", although I couldn't figure how to get it beyond page 2. Edit: It's a two pager. I am a twit.) And thanks to all of you who provided the AOS information.

Hey Neil.I followed your link to the BBC Realplayer,but what I downloaded didn't match the screenshots on the BBC site, and a little digging turned up this note on a blog. EDIT 6 May 2004: It looks like this loophole has been closed, alas. I received an e-mail today informing me that the download size has now gone up to 9.75 MB and the file now contains spyware. I haven't downloaded it myself but it looks like what used to be called RealOne Player has now become RealPlayer 10. I am now confused. Have I downloaded spyware or not?Hopefully your readers are clever enough to help.

I don't know. Somebody will, though. This already came in from The Dreaming's Joe Fulgham:

Media Player Classic available for free at will play Real files and iscompletely spyware free. It's great.
For a long time I was unable to listen to Real encoded mediabecause I refused to install their shoddy software. Best,Joe Fulgham

Thank you, Joe.


By the way, lots of messages keep coming in which fall under the general heading of, "I have to write something about you or something you've written. Please will you do my homework for me/ answer the following fifteen questions for my paper on you and Restoration Theatre/ explain why you did or wrote A with especial reference to B and I get extra points if you mention either Virginia Woolf or the invention of the printing press."

And the answer to all of them is honestly, I think you can all write your essays without me. Pretend I'm a dead author. I won't mind. I promise I'll never come to your place of education and say, in the hearing of your teachers, "You do not understand me or my work! Your essay on the solar myth and rebirth in Sandman and American Gods with especial reference to the pagan themes and the use of Pan in the works of Kenneth Grahame was utterly and completely wrong. Hah!" Honest I won't. (Remember, in such essays you don't have to be right. Just convincing. Like St. Cuan and the floating clock. Probably he didn't have a clue why there was a clock floating in the air, but he wasn't going to let that on to the monks. He didn't say "Don't ask me, lads. Could be a Fortean phenomenon, or something dodgy about this morning's rye bread." Nope. He told them it was St. Fursy's clock, and they all went back to their cells quite happy. Go ye all and do likewise.)


This came in -- Strange Horizons runs some good fiction, and (with a couple of recent exceptions) some good articles and editorial pieces too -- they definitely need supporting. (And I'm including the note before the appeal, because it amused me...)

Neil, If you remember, we've run some reviews of and an article about your work:

Help keep us alive and writing about you! :-) This is the note I've been
sending out -- you could post it entire, or an abbreviated version, or a
note of your own. It'd be much appreciated. The fund drive runs through
the end of September.


Hi, folks. It's Strange Horizons fund drive time; twice a year we ask
readers to send a donation to help cover the costs of running the
magazine. Since the staff are all volunteers, the costs in question are
mostly paying for the fine fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and art that we
publish every single week.

Strange Horizons is a Hugo-nominated online prozine, run by thirty
dedicated volunteers who keep the magazine running (for 4+ years now).

We have a great staff, great contributors, and great readers, but what
keeps the magazine going financially is donations. Our content (some of
which gets nominated for awards and reprinted in Year's Best anthologies)
is free to the public, and we pay professional rates to fiction authors.
It's all funded by the donations of readers like you.

If you'd like to help keep us going, you don't have to donate a lot. Even
if you give us $5 (not much more than the cost of a single issue of one of
the major print sf magazines), you'll be entered in a drawing for our fund
drive prizes (donated by generous authors). But if you can give us more,
there are other benefits; give $25, for example, which is less than the
cost of a subscription to one of the major print sf magazines, and you
become a member, entitled to a lovely membership card; this fund drive's
card features artwork by Janet Chui.

For more information, or to donate, see our fund drive page, at:

If you can't afford to donate, or don't want to for whatever reason, there
are other things you can do to help out. You can post in your journals,
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or tell others about our open positions:

So go forth and spread the word! Or just donate. We take PayPal as always,
and (new for this fund drive) we can now accept credit card donations via
Network for Good.

Mary Anne (editor emeritus)