Tuesday, November 30, 2004

listening to unresolving

There's a bunch of MirrorMask photos up at which I found while googling to try and find out when MirrorMask is showing at Sundance. No information up yet on when it shows at the Sundance site yet, although it's now officially been announced as one of the Premieres (at

I managed to get my plane times very wrong today, which meant that I wound up with astonishing, unexpected and uncommitted free time on my hands, which is something I almost never have. So I went online, bought a ticket to Sweeney Todd at the New Ambassadors Theatre, and then ambled down to the theatre, picked up the ticket and took my seat, thinking it was all a bit too easy. This production was not the best Sweeney Todd I've ever seen (that was the 1993 National Theatre production at the Cottesloe, starring Alun Armstrong, Julia Mackenzie and Adrian Lester), but it was far and away the most interesting. The cast are also the orchestra; the story (or so I inferred) is taking place in Toby's mind, after he's gone mad at the end of the play; there are odd little cuts and fascinating stagings, not to mention weird little blurrings where those of us who knew the Bond-Wheeler-Sondheim plot were probably seeing a different show to the people in the audience who didn't. It's powerful, well-performed, deeply odd. The only thing I didn't like was the utterly spurious biography of Mister Todd in the programme booklet, mostly because I spent years researching the bloody story, and know that things like that silly article get repeated as fact, confusing and befuddling poor researchers. Here's a review from the Guardian by someone who saw the same production I did, but I suspect enjoyed it marginally less:,,1270778,00.html. Well worth seeing if you're in London (and plenty of seats available, which is not a good sign).

(I just noticed from a Sweeney Todd site that the Alun Armstrong one was broadcast by the BBC in 1994. I wonder if it's available anywhere?)

I think I liked it back when the dollar was worth something abroad. It's been dropping for a while now, and it's no longer worth a lot outside of the US. I've learned that I cannot allow myself ever to do the "that's actually x dollars" think in my head. It's easiest just to assume that a Pound is a dollar and a Euro is a dollar and that way I only go "Oh, that's expensive" in a vague sort of way, rather than doing the conversion in my head and going "five bits of conveyor belt sushi cost me WHAT?" Four years ago, a dollar was worth a little over 70 pence. Now it's nuzzling 50 pence. Ah well, it's good news for tourists visiting the US and people who buy stuff over the web. (So if you're in some country with a currency that's still worth something, you should probably celebrate this by going to DreamHaven's site and buying a copy of the beautiful Tor Books edition of Charles Vess's Ballads and Sagas, and thus making Charles Vess a rich and happy man.)

Which reminds me -- we announced at Fiddler's Green that Charles Vess is going to be painting Blueberry Girl, a poem written for my goddaughter before she was born; and that Harper Collins will publish it, and that part of the profits will be going to RAINN. I'll let people know more news about that poem as I get it.

Chris Ewen just e-mailed me the song I wrote for his Hidden Variable project. I played it a dozen times or more, over and over, marvelling at what he'd done, and how amazingly good Claudia Gonson's vocals are.

Hey, Neil.I'm just an aspiring 16-year-old novelist from Albuquerque, New Mexico, and I have a few questions to ask. I'll just skip all that boring stuff about you being an excellent writer, coolest guy ever, etc. I'm sure you've heard it before, so I'll try not to be a fanboy. Anywho, I'm currently writing three different books, and all of them have various incarnations (in one form or another) locked in my Never Publish Box under my bed. The stories are very diverse and kinda unusual (I have completely stolen the style of one from your "I Cthulhu" story, and I'm going to hell for that). The problem is, I think that what I'm writing is utter crap. Nothing good, no hidden gems, just complete and utter crap. So what I'm wondering is, should I rip them all up and start from scratch, or just carry on to the end? Wait until something shows a spark of creativity? Or should I give up writing and go for a career as a grocer?Thanks for your time.Pondering...Jeremy Daniel Maes

Well, I was about 20 when I wrote "I, Cthulhu", and I'd cheerfully nicked the style from Robert Nye, particularly his books Merlin and Falstaff. I don't think there's anything wrong with trying on styles when you're starting out -- it's like borrowing hairstyles or hats. And there's many a time that a facility for being able to imitate a certain voice or style has got me out of trouble as a writer. And sometimes it's fun. Eventually, if you write enough, you start sounding like yourself (style is, as someone once said, the stuff you can't help doing).

Anyway, most of what I wrote in my teens was pretty awful, and most of the stories I'd begin I'd never finish -- I didn't really know how to finish them. And even once I'd started finishing them they weren't much good; I'd gloomily compare myself to people like Chip Delany who got his first Nebula nomination two years after he left High School, and conclude that I was falling somewhat short in the whole creating timeless literature at an early age department. And I've turned out more or less all right as a writer, on the whole.

Which is a long way of saying that I'm afraid 16 is much too early to decide you have no talent. There's lots of learning, and living, and writing to do before you're allowed to quit.