Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Ups and downs

Woken today by a tree being cut down outside my window. It was an elm, which was not happy -- it had some kind of elm disease, and was splitting down the middle, but the garden looks very empty and odd without it. I wonder what kind of tree I'll plant in the spring to replace it...?

Cool things arrived today. One of them was an advance copy of Barnes and Noble's EDGAR ALLAN POE: SELECTED POEMS AND TALES, a book for which I wrote the introduction. It's gorgeous -- luscious colour drawings and scratchboard illustrations by Mark Summers, amazing production values, and it's priced at $14.95, which seems to be about $10 less than I'd expect a package like this to retail at.

But then, it's published by Barnes and Noble for sale in Barnes and Nobles, which I suspect means that they can afford to price it more cheaply -- as publisher and as bookseller they can afford to make a smaller profit, and still to make a healthy profit (and, of course, the material is public domain).

I'm not entirely sure what I think about B&N becoming a book publisher (according to this NYT article they've been publishing books for a long time). But on the evidnce of the Poe they're certainly making excellent books.

The second cool thing I got was the tape of the 13 Nights of Fright material -- the two Fox promos and the thirteen intros and outros (there are actually a few more that weren't on the tape -- variant versions that we did for the Hallowe'en marathon).

I enjoyed it. I thought that I was kind of stiff at the beginning. Luckily, during the first couple of intros, Malena is wearing The Dress. When she walked onto the set in The Dress, one of the crew took several involuntary steps backwards and banged his head into the camera boom and didn't seem to mind the whole bleeding everywhere thing. Malena in The Dress has that effect on men. (On the evidence of today, women mostly just want to know how it stays up.) Anyway, the point is that many people won't be staring at me for the first few shows. Many of the viewers may not even notice me. And by the time Malena puts on a slightly less jaw-dropping piece of attire, I've become comfortable with the autocue and the studio and her, and it's all very pleasant. (The card on her website shows her wearing the slightly less jaw-dropping dress, which was impressive, but didn't make anyone walk into anything.)

It's kind of fun -- on the 13 Nights material I get to be a straight man (mostly) and Malena functions to make everything interesting and funny, and all without saying anything. (Well, she says one word.) And having showed the footage to everyone at home, it got a thumbs up (Maddy thought that the bits that stay the same from intro to intro were boring, but otherwise she liked it all, particularly when we do the silent movie bit and the magic stuff in the Chandu the Magician intro/outro, and the Phantom of the Paradise intro where I mention her and how much she liked the film.)

Fox Movie Channel are planning to put loads of extra material online, along with the daily competions to win 13 signed sets of all the Harper Collins books. I'll keep you all informed.

On the down side for the day, the place I was going to go to on Wednesday, to hide out and write for a month isn't habitable, thanks to Hurricane Jeanne, so I have to come up with an alternative. This has left me rather grumpy, because I hadn't thought to plan as far as Plan B, because Plan A was so good.

On my political point, I'll be brief: gonna vote on November 2nd? If so, wish to share, or are you sworn to secrecy?Have you run afoul of farmland sheriffs or gained a nickname among them like "that damned Englishman?" I know from my time in Iowa that small-town, county sheriffs love even the smallest problems and quirks. I had one report to my farm with flak jacket, fingerless black leather gloves and an M-16, raring to fight, but that's another story.

Nope. You have to be American to vote here. (I'll vote in the UK elections, though.) And I've never run afoul of any smalltown sheriffs that I know. The local small-town police were very happy to take me on ride-alongs and show me round the jail when I was writing American Gods.

Neil,If you haven't checked out Art Speigelman's "In the Shadow of No Towers" yet...I'd certainly recommend it. I got my copy Amazoned to me today and it is extremely powerful, unapologetically partisan brillance, while also having a subtle humanity ink-brushed amongst the clash and clamor. A. Speigelman honestly and frankly, reveals his own struggle with a threatening mental collapse as he suffers from post-collapse syndrome. This sturdy, generously sized book cannot replace what was lost, but it is certainly a monument to an artist's passion about his country and his attempt to draw our attention to the terror that continues to this day, although from within. Gregory from Midd Tenn

I have it and I love it. While he was creating the "In the Shadow of No Towers" stories, art would e-mail the finished strips to his friends whenever they were done, so I read them all as they were coming out, but I'd read them on a screen much smaller than the page they were going to be printed on, and the cumulative effect of all of the strips, one after another, is stunning.

Mr. G-Speaking of wishes for collections, whatever happened to the planned Death book, collecting both miniseries in one book?I think, last year, you said that they'd planned to publish it in the fall, but you'd convinced them to hold off til spring '04, as you had such an awful lot of stuff coming out at once as it was.Is it still going to happen, some day?Yours cheerily,Mark James Schryver

I don't think it is going to happen. Not sure where the decision not to do it came from, but the last thing I heard was that people at DC were worried that if they did that book then readers would stop buying the individual books of The High Cost of Living and The Time of Your Life. (Someone once pointed out to me that those two books really have each other's title, and whoever it was might be right.) So that's where things are at at DC unless they change.

Hi Neil,Enquiring mothers would like to know: did your Maddy get home safe & sound from her camping trip?

She did, thanks. I believe she got a bit wet at some points, but when you're ten that's part of the fun.

Dear Neil,I just read that you drove to Chicago in your Mini. I'm wondering how comfortable the Mini is for a long road trip? I really, really want one but I must have a car that is comfortable for driving the length of California every now and then. Thanks,T-

It's comfortable, yes -- actually surprisingly so. I wasn't sure how it would hold up for long trips, but it's really fine. It's worth remembering that the Mini is, at least for the driver, a pretty spacious car. Penn Jillette drives a pink one, and he's 6' 6".

Hey Wordsmith,

Your interview is up on
And aren't you the dashing young fellow?



Not sure about the young or the dashing, but I'm definitely a fellow. Was pleased to see that on the site they've put up Eric Frank Russell's story "Allamagoosa". I've long had a soft spot for Eric Frank Russell (I like watching an Englishman of Russell's vintage write in a sort of "american slick" style, and I like his sense of humour). I reread the story this morning, and realised that for 99% of the story, you could make the spaceship a 1940s seagoing naval ship and not notice anything had changed. But then there's the last few paragraphs...

And this is true:

What's Gene Wolfe like, someone asked. Well, thanks to your Last Angel Tour my (now ex-)husband and I got the chance to find out in Chicago, when we won dinner and some time with you at the reading as a CBLDF fundraiser.

Because Gene and his wife Rosemary were there, and Rosemary was not up to climbing the stairs to the second floor where the CBLDF members' reception was held or to the special box where they were supposed to sit. So you asked us to make them comfortable in the front row of the theatre, and to bring them some snacks from the reception and keep them company for a while.

And they were lovely, terribly lovely, to us and to each other. They treated us like long-lost grandchildren, and while they told us a few stories about genre fiction's great lights and their adventures with same, mostly they asked us about our lives - what we were doing with ourselves, how we'd met, what our life was like. They wanted to know all about how we'd come halfway across the country to attend a Neil Gaiman reading and wait on a couple of old romantics who couldn't quite grasp what a gift it was to sit and talk with them.

It was humbling to meet legendary people so utterly uninterested in Being Important. I would have stayed with them all night except that they finally shooed us off to go join the reception, because they were just that gracious, that they realized we might like to join in even though we were having a swell time with them in the otherwise empty theatre.

Sheila Addison, Denver

And that's what Gene's like too, and Rosemary. They're very kind, and very gracious.

(That was the same evening I told Gene -- very proudly -- that I'd finished American Gods in first draft, and that I thought I had finally learned how to write a novel. And he smiled at me and said "You never learn how to write a novel. You just learn how to write the novel that you're on." Wise, wise man.)

You know, I miss doing those reading tours. The 2000 tour was called the Last Angel Tour because it was meant to be the last one ever, but I'm starting to wonder whether people would mind if I did another CBLDF Reading Tour in 2005 or 2006.


I got a call from Pete Atkins today. Pete's an old friend, and is half of the two Petes behind HillHouse Publishers, who did the limited edition of American Gods, with the restored material. The next book we'll be tackling is Neverwhere, and we'll try and create the most complete version of the text there's ever been, along with lots of bonus goodies. So I'm sending him all of the drafts of the novel, along with all the drafts of the TV series scripts and the original outline for the story and so forth -- there were files I'd not looked at in twelve years. Pete was my editor on the restored American Gods text, and I deferred to his judgement on whether something should be restored or omitted, except in those rare cases where I didn't, and I'm really looking forward to working with him on Neverwhere. I suspect that the Hill House edition of Neverwhere may wind up like the Rhino Elvis Costello CDs -- a slipcase containing two books -- one book that's the album (or in this case, the novel), and the other containing all the B-sides and rarities (scripts, outlines, character descriptions, all that).

(There's a review of the Hill House edition of American Gods here, by the way, where you can learn about what the people who bought the book actually received.)