Saturday, January 31, 2004

Zap, crackle and bop

Fred the Unlucky Black Cat spends all of his spare time trying to remove the conical white plastic collar that the vet put on to stop him licking his stitches. He tries to remove the collar by rubbing it, continually, over and over, against the carpet, or against a blanket or the carpet-covered-cat-climbing-thing-I-got-him-to-keep-him-busy. Rub rub rub rub rub rub rub, over and over, in the dry air of a wintery bedroom. As he does this he builds up static charges which do not discharge, then wanders the room with all his fur on end, attracting hair, dust, small pieces of paper, fluff and lint, a black cat slowly going grey with dust. I am sitting here typing, and I just felt Fred go past, six inches away, like a prickly ghost of static wind. It occurs to me that if I actually reach down and touch him, the immediate result will be a lot like these images. Or these films.

This is possibly a pointless question, but i don't find the only answer i can come up with on my own to be at all satisfactory.

When introducing a character with a profession that i find horribly interesting which people may or may not have heard of (in this case, a Doula,) do you find that it's best to set the story aside for a few moments and take the time to explain it, create a conversation or situation within the story in which the character explains his/her profession, or to leave it alone and let the reader research it themselves if they're really all that curious.

Anyway, i get the feeling that it's probably best for a writer to do whatever it is they think feels the best. But, on the off chance that any of these options just don't work out well i decided to ask.


Well, you're writing to communicate. Unless part of what's important about the story is that the reader not understand something, if you're using a word or term that you know most people reading won't understand, then explaining it somewhere, somehow, not necessarily the first time you use it, is a wise idea.

As for how you do it, that's your call. If you do it with enough assurance, you can simply tell people things. Or you can have your characters tell people things. Or you can footnote. Or have a dancing paperclip leap in and explain, then fly out of the story never again to be seen. As you say, do what you think best: that's the joy of being a writer. You get to make your own rules and build your own worlds, and things happen the way you want, because you say so.

There are gorgeous Escher snakes in motion at (via the ever-impressive Shanmonster).


I heard from Jim Frenkel, packager of YEAR'S BEST FANTASY AND HORROR (formerly the Datlow/Windling one, now the Datlow/Link-Grant book) that they're taking my story from SHADOWS OVER BAKER STREET, "A Study in Emerald", which made me very happy. That story's also been taken for the new Strahan & Haber-edited SCIENCE FICTION: THE BEST OF 2003; and "Closing Time" (From Michael Chabon's McSWEENEY'S MAMMOTH BOOK OF THRILLING TALES) has been taken for the Steve Jones MAMMOTH BOOK OF BEST NEW HORROR anthology. Leading the casual reader to assume that there are an awful lot of stories about mammoths being written these days. All of these things make me very happy.

And demonstrating that this blog has a strange and far-reaching power, beyond what you or I would ever have dreamed, if you go to you will read about the intersection of Wodehouse, London, and A Certain Argentinean Author, by John M. Ford, inspired by something someone said here last week.

I tried to post this and discovered that the server is down. It's a weekend thing, I suppose. Still, it also allows me to throw in a little ray of happiness and sunshine, via Scott McCloud. -- who is now selling, amongst other things, Bucket Full O' Kittens desktop patterns through Bitpass. (You can read the story of the Bucket Full O' Kittens at

Friday, January 30, 2004

Talking Volumes

I'm writing about your Talking Volumes event on Feb. 15th. I'm assuming, and I could be wrong, that you will be available to sign copies of Coraline afterwards. Will you also be selling copies of Coraline? What about The Wolves in the Walls and The Day I Traded My Dad for Two Goldfish? I'd like you to sign copies of them for my daughter, and I'll buy them there if possible. Otherwise, I"ll go out and get them beforehand.

If you don't have time to answer this (say by Saturday?), I'll just buy the books beforehand. (Saturday should give me two weeks to find them, which is why I picked that date. Not to put pressure on you, or anything.)

According to the Talking Volumes producer, Heather, "Yes, we have a local bookstore set up in the lobby, and they try to bring as big a selection as possible." I think you can be sure that there will be copies of CORALINE there, but no idea what else they'll have, so if there's something special you want to get signed, I'd suggest making sure you have it when you come.

And as far as I know, yes, I'll be signing stuff afterwards. How many things each person can have signed will probably depend on the number of people who want something signed and how much time we have there.

There's an article on Coraline and me done especially for the Talking Volumes event, by Eric Hanson, at the Minneapolis Star-Tribune:

(You have to sign up I'm afraid.)

My favourite bit is from the very wise Daniel Handler, who articulates something that has always irritated me about journalists who ask about how "children" respond to something, as if all children are one huge amorphous jelly creature with one opinion, one set of likes and dislikes, one set of fears...

"I find his books more frightening than mine. But I don't necessarily find them inappropriately scary," Daniel Handler said. Under the pen-name Lemony Snicket, Handler is the author of the gothic and moody "A Series of Unfortunate Events" books. "One thing that always annoys me is when children are talked about in one large, broad category; it's like the last allowed bigotry in society. Clearly, Mr. Gaiman's books would be too scary for some readers and not scary enough for some readers. I would be hard-pressed to think of a story that didn't have at least some threat of something in it. And Neil Gaiman takes that threat very seriously, as do I."

Also, as you will observe from the Talking Volumes website, we seem to have accumulated a support band who are currently going "erk" at the idea of playing live for 60,000 MPR listeners.

Hey Neil,
Just wanted to let you and your readers know that if they are going to the Talking Volumes event in St. Paul and are not members of MPR or the Loft and are out of the area of St.Paul they will be better off just going to, or calling ticketmaster for tickets. That's where I ended up ordering my tickets.
Also, while I have your attention, can you just verify one more time that there will indeed be a signing at said event? Thanks for your time.

Which is dead helpful; although you can become a member of Talking Volumes for free at the Star Tribune Talking Volumes Website -, and get the ticket discounts and so forth that way.

Diamonds, bottled dragon, the Queen of Sheba's hairy legs, et cetera.

The world is full of wonderful news: Jonathan Carroll sent me a link to this BBC news story about a cow that ate 2000 diamonds, and ...

The suspect cow was given a strict diet of dry fodder, and an all day vigil has been launched to see if the diamonds might appear from its' rear end.

It was not long before sparkling cow dung began to be seen.

The dung is now regularly diluted to make it easier and more hygienic for Mr Gohil and his workers to retrieve around 20 to 25 precious stones a day.

I suppose that the fact that we have 2000 diamonds, worth in all about $800, which is 40 cents each, means that these must be very small diamonds indeed...

Meanwhile several people wanted me to know about the pickled dragon found in an Oxfordshire garage:

Hey Neil,
thought you might get a kick out of this article

there's a better picture at this page
Imagine finding that in your garage. Good luck with the new book.

And I have almost nothing to say, except that it's very beautiful, and that if ever I saw a baby dragon, I'd want it to look like that. And that the idea of German Science Fraud to Make English Scientists Look Silly is an odd one -- as if the first thing an inquisitive biologist wouldn't do is open the jar. (Although it looks like the first thing they actually did was simply to make the embarrassing thing go away.)

yeah, i know it's a bit much to ask, but could you identify the gods in American Gods? I recognize a few, but...

You know, if you were Turkish, you'd be in luck, as the Turkish edition of American Gods has a 20 page glossary at the back, listing sundry American Things and most of the Gods. Which was something I thought about doing when I finished writing it, and then thought "no, people will have so much more fun finding all this stuff out on their own," thus proving that, as so often, I have no idea what I'm talking about.

In the meantime there's a good start over at It's not complete, but it gives you some basic information and places to look for more details. And, of course, Google is your friend, if you want to follow anything further. If you want to know more about Bilquis, and who she was, and why she had to keep shaving her legs, and why she recites the Song of Solomon on the streets, you could just google and find yourself on a page with a huge amount of lore on it, like, or a picture of her monument at

Other great god sites are

Pantheons at

And the Slavic Home Page

On this website -- for those of you with RSS feeds and LiveJournal thingies -- there are lots of oddities you have to really poke around to find, including the bibliography I started doing for American Gods. I got half way through, and never finished it, so the confidence trick, coin magic and prison entries remain unfinished to this day. But it gives you a number of good books and background and is at

Hello, Neil!

I had a quirky little question about novel-writing that I don't believe I've ever seen come up. Perhaps it's not something most people think of in-depth at all.

When you write (and if you know others' styles, perhaps you could offer that, too?), do you just write and let it take you, the characters, and the world wherever, only pausing to research something when the need arises? Or do you write out full dossiers on the characters, the world, religions, places, etc, along with plot points that you want to get to, research for those, etc?

In short: do you just write mostly, research when needed, or do a lot of research, then write?


Mostly what I do is research without knowing that's what I'm doing. I'll get obsessed with things and want to know all about them, without having much of a reason that I can articulate, then ten years later I'll realise that it's composted down into somewhere that a story is growing.

But I'll do both, often on the same project. I'll write until I need to find something out (how do you perform an autopsy?), then find it out. Or I'll go and find everything I can out ahead of time (I think my Egyptian gods will be in Cairo Il. -- I wonder it's like there?), and then forget it during the writing process. I never write out full dossiers on characters and so forth, because I'd rather put the time into writing them and find out that stuff that way, but I don't think there's anything wrong with doing the dossier method, it's just not for me. (I don't think there's anything wrong with any method of writing that gives you a book at the end of it.)

Hi, Neil. I was introduced to Sandman about six years ago, and since then have managed to get hold of pretty much all of them, not all that easy in South Africa :).
I had this sudden idea a while back, while I was reading through them, of documenting the characters and the relationships to each other. Who's who, and who's their father and their friend and the person who killed them etc etc.
So I sat down with preludes and nocturnes and started writing down the names of all characters I encountered, including people who only appear once, if they are named. I got distracted around the fifth or sixth book, but by that time the list had hit something like 300 distinct people. Quite scary.
I'm still keen to do this. I thought that it could include info on people who actually existed and all sorts of stuff. I do a lot of Flash actionscripting, and I thought that that might be an interesting way to do it.
What I'm wondering about now is if it'd be polite to ask for permission/blessing on this one. It'd need to include images from the books, which would be credited, and I'm not entirely sure how that all works.
Mm. Enough gabbling.

It's certainly polite to ask, and you have my full permission, for whatever that's worth. Basically you make sure that you tell the world that the images you're using are copyright DC Comics a lot.

Came across this site, and it seemed like the kind of thing you would find amusing!


You're right. I do.

Recently I'd seen an interview that you had done for a Seattle t.v. station for the comic book defense fund. You had eluded to doing a "higher" budget version of Neverwhere:The Movie with Jim Henson Productions and Dave McKean. What is the status of this project? Also, please do not allow Hollywood to make a Sandman Movie. It would be like redoing the Mona Lisa in crayon.

The Neverwhere movie project seems to have got new life recently -- the last thing I heard from Lisa Henson was that they had a financier and were working out some details. I'll make an announcement or link to a press release as soon as something's a bit more solid.

I'm afraid I can neither allow or prevent Hollywood from making a Sandman movie -- DC Comics owns it, not me, and they've sold the rights to Warner Brothers. Which does not, of course, mean that a movie, good or bad, is going actually to be made.

Dear Neil,
Is Johnny Depp going to be in Good Omens?
Or is that just too good to be true?
Hope you are feeling much better.

He was going to be playing Crowley, when Terry Gilliam was going to be directing it. These days Terry's gone on to things that he was able to get the finances for, although he has left behind a script, and I doubt that any of the casting he did for Good Omens will come into play. Unless he comes back to it one day, of course.


Fred the Unlucky Black Cat is now home from the vet. He has a comical and conical white plastic collar around his neck, to stop him licking his wound. His belly is pink, discoloured, knobbly, hacked and stitched, and looks rather like something from an 80s horror movie.

Fred's tumour has gone off to the university for testing.

Fred seems perfectly cheerful, although he looks baffled by the collar-cone, which will remain on until he gets the stitches out, in a couple of weeks.

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Fred the Unlucky Black Cat part The Next

Still sick. Still grumpy. Or to put it another way:

Ow! I am purged till I am a wraith!
Wow! I am sick till I cannot see!
What is the sense of Religion and Faith?
Look how the Gods have afflicted me!

It's not that bad at all, really. I'm just in the final stages of the cold, the place where you have the headache and you're all clogged up and stuffy and the sides of your nostrils are red and raw, and you start pronouncing words like Mamba "Babba" (fortunately, I have had no cause to say "Mamba" to anyone today); also I am getting very tired of chicken soup.

I would be feeling much more sorry for myself than I am if it weren't for Fred the Unlucky Black Cat, whose paw has healed nicely... just in time for him to spend tonight back at the vet's, having a tumourous lump removed from his chest. Poor thing. Let's hope it's not malignant, although with Fred's luck, I'm afraid it almost certainly will be. So I'm feeling sorry for Fred, and worried about him. He really is a very nice cat, and is very easily made happy, as long as you have the bottletop from some bottled water around for him to play with.

Got some writing done, but also spent all idle moments today (ie, whenever I was on the phone) signing the Certificates of Authenticity for the Diamond 1602 Dr Strange statue.
I'm not quite certain what I'm actually authenticating with my signature -- possibly that the statue is a statue, or that the certificate is indeed a certificate. I'm pretty sure that my signature isn't authenticating my signature, anyway.

Let's see: a strange homonymic moment today reading an account of the Angouleme festival on the Sequential site -- an excellent Canadian Comics blog I discovered via Journalista! I suspect someone taking notes over a telephone in the following sentence: Seth also talked about Schulz's impact on his work, and Osamu Tezuka was sighted as a pier by all. ("That thing! Sticking out into the sea! The thing that people are walking up and down on -- what is it? "Why... I think it must be famed cartoonist Osamu Tezuka.") [The words intended were cited and peer.]

Indyworld has an terrific article on Angouleme as well.

It'd be easy to fill an entire journal entry with things lifted from Journalista! Like an excellent interview with Seth and Eric Reynolds about Fantagraphics' upcoming complete Peanuts series (50 books to be published over 12.5 years).

Or the fact that Wally Wood's famous "22 Panels that always work" is up on line -- something pretty much every comics artist I've ever known has a fifteenth-generation photocopy of, pinned to a wall somewhere in the studio. And also Ivan Brunetti's own "22 Panels that always work*(*Sometimes)", which, interestingly, no artists I've ever known have ever had up on the walls of their studios. (Except possibly Ivan Brunetti, of course.) But which have a certain Oblique Strategies charm to them, and I seem to have used 13 out of 22 of them in 1602.

The quote at the top of this entry is from a favourite Kipling poem called "Natural Theology", by the way.

Next entry, I'll answer questions and things I expect. Now I think I'll stop writing and go and have a very hot bath, and there will probably be eucalyptus involved somewhere. And so to bed.

Monday, January 26, 2004

Just me and some Olbas Oil and a copy of !Limekiller!

Having somehow managed to avoid actually getting sick for many months, I now have a cold, and am Officially Grumpy about it. (Although I've been almost getting a cold for a couple of weeks, so it's sort of a relief to actually have it now.)

Today I finished the adaptations for Dark Horse of my short stories from Smoke and Mirrors, THE PRICE and DAUGHTER OF OWLS, which will be coming out in one volume by Michael Zulli. Michael already did the art, basing it on the short stories. THE PRICE has the same sort of treatment that Harlequin Valentine had (ie, it's astonishingly faithful), but Michael took a sort of looser, funkier approach to DAUGHTER OF OWLS, partly in telling a three page short story over twenty pages -- but also moving it in time, from a narrative written in the 1640s to a narrative being written in the 1890s. So I rewrote it, to take it out of John Aubrey-speak and move it a couple of hundred years later, and to add in a nun that Michael had drawn, and so on. I came perilously close to bringing some of the Daughter of Owls poem out of mothballs, but it sounded too modern, so I didn't.

It's lovely stuff, but then, Michael Zulli does lovely stuff.


I had several sensible and literary links to put up, but I feel like my head is filled with cold porridge, except for my sinuses, which have carefully and delicately been packed with molten lead, so instead I will draw attention to the potential hypothetical danger to (probably endangered, and easily traumatised) tropical leeches of exploding giant minor celebrity breasts. Full details here. .

And I see that Bill Gates apparently thinks that the solution to Spam is a

"payment at risk" system - the electronic equivalent of a stamp - would mean the senders of e-mail would pay a fee if their mail was rejected as spam.

The system would not deter genuine e-mailers, such as friends and relatives, who would be confident their mail would be accepted.

These days I stop in at a webmail site once a day to check the "bulk mail" folder for real e-mails that haven't reached me. For almost a year my e-mails to people DC Comics would, for the most part, not reach them. Eventually we discovered that the word "Sandman" automatically triggered DC's spamtraps... I find myself much less confident that my mail would be accepted than Bill Gates is. gives Chairman Bill's promise to eliminate Spam within the next two years unless he doesn't.

Saturday, January 24, 2004

More songs about buildings and stars

What's your favorite place in London?

It seems like a perfectly straightforward question. "What's your favorite place in Boston?" Ask me as a lifelong Bostonian and I'll tell you about the Mapparium, or Zaftigs Deli, or the one street corner near City Hall where you can stand and spend a half an hour pointing to spots where pivotal moments in American history occurred over a 20-year period. Or even the Public Garden, home to the smallest suspension bridge in the United States.

None of these spots is an absolute world-beater. But I think they're great. It's what I think of when I think of home.

In a few months I'll be visiting London for the first time. I'm reading "Nairn's London" with great delight and Googling ferociously for some sort of P.G. Wodehouse monument to have my picture taken in front of. But I'm looking to spackle in the gaps of my sightseeing with personal and highly subjective advice from locals.

But it doesn't work. I ran it past my three London pals and even put it to a lady traffic-reporter I met at a dinner party last night. They always get bogged down in "Well, what do you want to do?" or "Are you interested in shopping?"

No no no. "You _lived_ there. You probably _enjoyed_ it. When you think about a place that in _any_ small way sums up the ineffable ginchiness of the place for you, what pops to mind? I am willing to sign a waiver absolving you of all responsibility should I actually go there and wonder what the big deal was."

That's what I _wanted_ to say, but I didn't want to frighten a woman I'd just been introduced to, So I muttered something about shopping and she said that Harrod's was pretty nice.

So I put it to you: What's your favorite place in London?

Hmm. If you put it like that, it's probably the roof of the Midland Hotel, well, the whole building really, in front of St Pancras Station. It's currently off-limits to the public, as it has been for thirty years, although it's being renovated, which is both good, as otherwise it would crumble, and bad, as the derelict gothic quality of the place is part of what I respond to. I think there are guided tours, though, and if there aren't a quick Google gave me a virtual tour. Neverwhere was filmed there, which gave me the freedom to wander to my heart's happiness, and so was my film "A Short Film About John Bolton", although I was directing, and had much less time to wander.)

It used to be the British Museum Library Reading Room, but that isn't exactly there any longer.

Other candidates for favourite place would include the churchyard of the Actors Church in Covent Garden, particularly if you can be there on Sunday May 9th 2004. (Here's the link to the 2003 event), Down Street Station, Albert Bridge on a warm evening, and the house that Tori rented in Lissom Grove in the mid-90s that was, in itself, a bridge over a canal.

But for me a lot of the fun of London is less about favourite places and more about favourite walks. The joy of London is in the wandering from one place to another and watching it all change and shape itself around you. If you're going to be a tourist in London, you could do a lot worse than


I see from Mark Evanier's blog that I may be going on strike later in the year. (I suppose the best thing about being a writer on strike is that you're still allowed to write. You just aren't allowed to give it to anybody to read...)


It seems like everyone and their pet monkey has something being made into a musical. Gregory Macguire's novel Wicked just opened on Broadway. Jerry Springer: the Opera is playing in London. I saw Eric Idle's Greedy Bastard tour in November and he let it slip that they're working on a musical version of "Holy Grail" for Broadway. (I could go on forever...)
Have you ever been approached to have something of yours put to music?

(pictures Crowley and Aziraphale tap dancing while singing "Where Oh Where has the Antichrist Gone; Where oh Where Could He Be?")

Oh man...

Which reminds me of some very cool news: Jerry Springer The Opera is coming to Broadway -- for details.

No-one's ever asked Terry Pratchett and me if they can turn Good Omens into a musical; but there's a theatrical WOLVES IN THE WALLS that Dave McKean and I have given our blessing to that I'll give you all more news on as it evolves, and Stephin Merritt wants to do a musical version of Coraline (yes! your children will run screaming from the theatre! But screaming beautiful songs!).

The current Irish production of The Day I Swapped My Dad For Two Goldfish has a song in it, but only one.

I can't imagine American Gods as a musical, although a Neverwhere musical or a Stardust musical might be kind of fun.

Of course, you never know what people will make into musicals. My friend John M. Ford just sent me an e-mail about UNDERSTANDING COMICS: THE MUSICAL in which he included some lyrics from one of the proposed songs... I forwarded it to Scott McCloud. It seemed the kindest thing to do.

And mentioning Neverwhere reminds me of this:,11711,1130611,00.html which is a faintly grisly news story that I made up in 1997, while writing Neverwhere the novel, and was faintly surprised to see it had occurred pretty much as I had described it, only in real life.

Twenty Four

And the Twenty-Fourth of April 2004 is 24 Hour Comics Day. for details... My favourite bit of information was:

To help creative individuals participate in 24 Hour Comics Day, various comics retailers across the nation will host special 24 Hour Comics Day events. They?ll be offering creators space in which to work on their comics in a group atmosphere, so that everyone keeps each other?s energy up. Food and drink will be supplied. And while some stores are simply renting some working space in a nearby hotel, others will have the creators actually working inside the store, so that curious fans can actually watch this comics creation taking place. Some shops will even stay open for the full 24 hour period of the event, giving comics readers that rare opportunity to buy comics at 4 AM.

Right now it's only retailers in the US, but I suspect that once the word gets out there will be 24 Hour Comics marathons occurring all around the world.

(The 24 Hour Comic meme has spread over the years -- there have been 24 hour plays and 48 hour movies as well. No 24 Hour novels, operas, or skyscrapers that I know of, but it may be only a matter of time.)

It is, of course, Scott McCloud's fault. (And there's a page all about it on his website, with links to lots of them including mine, at (As I've said here before, I'm really enjoying The Wrong Number. So far it's the best 50 cents I've spent on comics in the last couple of decades.)

Friday, January 23, 2004

bits. bobs. blobs. blits.

I just visited and realised I could get a visual representation of where I signed last year. I ticked every country where I did a book signing in 2003, and it came to 17 countries (I also stopped over in Iceland, but didn't sign anything there), and it produced this map:


create your own visited country map)

(That Pacific side is next, I hope.)


I wrote here a few months ago about Jim Vadeboncoeur's magazine ImageS. He just sent me an advance copy of the second black and white Annual. It's gorgeous -- a host of wonderful turn pre-1923 illustrators and illustrations, oddments from the greats, and a portal into (or portrait of) a vanished world. The Norman Lindsays alone are woth the cost of the publication. The bad news is that once the next one is published Jim's putting ImageS onto hiatus for a while. However the back issues remain available, and the next Annual is still to come out, and it's something that anyone who fancies themselves an artist, or a lover of fine illustration, might want to seriously consider checking out.


Went with Maddy and my assistant Lorraine last night to see Pacific Overtures in Minneapolis (Mary wanted a report back on the show before she goes).

I was lucky enough to see the English National Opera production of Pacific Overtures in 1987, and loved it. Last night's production was not in that class (although the "Welcome to Kanegawa" scene was funnier) although it was well-acted and sometimes well-sung. Maddy fell asleep at the end, and I worried that she hadn't enjoyed it, although I woke up this morning to find that she'd already located a CD of it and was singing lustily along to Chrysanthumum Tea.

(I didn't find it as bad as this review. But I did find myself sometimes mentally subsituting what was going on on the stage for what should have been going on on the stage. "Pretty Lady" can be a heart-stopping beautiful song, except it wasn't.)


Though I'm disappointed Wolves in the Walls didn't at least get a Caldecott nod, I am quite pleased that they gave Mo Willem's Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! a Caldecott honor. You have read it, right? Right?

(Then again, if you were to win a Caldecott or Newbery award I would probably become quite insufferable; my library co-workers would have to ostracize me until I could behave myself.)

(scroll down to the bottom)


Wolves in the Walls can't get a Caldecott -- Dave McKean's neither a US citizen nor a resident, and because it was published in the US first, it wasn't eligible for the equivalent UK prizes. (And it's strating to collect its share of prizes. It was a New York Times Best Illustrated Book of 2004, and has just received an Italian honour that I need to get the details on before I put it up here.)

I haven't read Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! I take it that I should.


Hello, Mr. Gaiman.

I'm another friend of kittybecca, whose story you posted a link to in your blog today. I am also helping her, relevantpink, plutomoment and various others get her life back together again. I wanted to reiterate that Becca was very touched that you mentioned her here and invite you to check in on any of our journals (hosted at to see how the effort is progressing, should you have a chance.

Thank you again for your help.

Russ Matthews

You're very welcome (really the thanks should go to Elise, who made sure that I knew). I'm just lucky that there are so many readers of the blog, and that they, and others, are helping Kittybecca and her daughters.


I keep meaning to mention the various 1602 sites. In the meanwhile, Julian Darius has an excellent background on 1602, with notes from this journal, at I should mention that I did, in the end, get my way, and the last issue, #8, is even longer than the first one was.

Fred the Unlucky Black Cat

Fred the unlucky black cat gets put out once a day, so that he can get some exercise. Unfortunately for Fred, Fred's idea of exercise consists of attempting to beat up other neighbourhood cats to demonstrate to them what is self-evident to Fred: that he, Fred the cat, is the toppest, coolest, dangerousest, bossest cat there is.

The other cats just think he's a tosser.

Fred was a stray who only became an inside cat after receiving a gaping leg wound (Sharon Stiteler, official Bird Lady of, thinks it was an owl-inflicted wound) which meant that he lived at the vet's for a month before he was allowed home, and it was another month before he was allowed outside. Once that had healed there was the oozing head wound. This morning I noticed he was limping, and not using his left front paw. An expensive visit to the vet's later they've discovered another ulcerated wound. So now he's taking his antibiotics and limping around the attic, looking faintly martyred, and all the other cats of the neighbourhood are glad of the peace and quiet.

I wish I could explain to him that if he left the other cats alone, they'd leave him alone, and they don't react to every tiny wound by going into some kind of septic meltdown, and he does. But there's no explaining things to cats.

(I was heartbroken to discover just now that you can no longer watch Sharon Stiteler, official bird lady of, in full televisual action with the Mouse Incident, over at, but as soon as it's up somewhere I'll put up a link to it.)

I keep playing the new Magnetic Fields CD over and over and over. I know it's a proper album, because my favourite songs keep shifting and changing and rising and falling, like wax in a lava lamp. I'll ask Claudia Gonson whether I can review/talk about it here or whether everything including the title and why the tracks are in alphabetical order is under a wossname of utter secrecy until the time is right. Clampdown.

With no wish to be difficult I would like to enquire on why the order of stories in The Sandman: Endless Nights. I've played with several posibilities, but the only one plausible seems to be based on the last names of the waiters.

They're more or less in the order they were written, with Barron Storey's in the middle because it was written in three or four sections between the beginning and the end of the project. (Waiters? There were waiters in it?)

Yesterday's mystery post brought many responses -- too many to put up here. This was probably the most informative:

Hi Neil,

Please allow me to be your online youth culture Babelfish.

The email says:

"Y halo thar buttsekcs!1! LOLOL! You bought an N-Gage didn't you Neil..

The first bit is relatively straight forward and translates as, "Why hello
there, buttsex!"
~~Buttsex has a funny sound you see...and is used most effectively at
utterly random intervals...that's as good as it gets on that one I'm

The "1" in the middle of the exclamation points began as a typo, marked by
the lack of a shift key...however as online chat culture progressed it
became an entity in its own right, and has since become a bit like a clever
quip and inside joke.

"LOLOL" began life as a simple anagram for "Laugh Out Loud" among chatters
on mIRC and other chat programs...the trend now is to add "OL"s to the end
to signify just how hard and/or long someone is, in fact, Laughing Out Loud.

The "N-Gage" reference is a new handheld gaming device, created by Nokia,
that is the butt[sex?] of jokes by avid computer game players. Hence
purchasing an N-Gage would be a disparaging comment about one's choice in
personal electronic equipment.

The "PWNz0r3d" is a convoluted phenomenon. Its humble origins are from the
"Doom" and "Quake" (both online video games) scene during the mid-late 90's.
A player, after killing another online player, would gloat by saying that
they he had "owned" the now dead player.
When trying to type quickly, often the "o" would be missed and the "p" would
be hit instead, creating "pwned." This took off as yet another
typo-turned-inside-joke and lots of people in online games became "pwned"
instead of "owned."

The random capitalization and numbering of the word is what is
affectionately known as "HAXXOR" speak, and is used mostly by kids online as
a way to psudo-code their correspondence. The 0 is equivalent to a "o," the
3 is a backwards "E" and thusly close enough to merit using in that vowel's

Below is an oft-used, but hardly comprehensive decoder list of HAXXOR.

A - 4
B - 8
C - <
D - d or D
E - 3
F - f or F
G - 6 or g
H |-| or h
I - 1
J - j or J
K - |< or k
L - |_ or L
M - /\/\ or m
N - Usually /\/, sometimes just N.
O - 0
P - p or P
Q - q or Q
R - r or R
S - 5 or S
T - 7 or T
U - u or U
V - v or V
W - \/\/ or w
X - >< or x
Y - y or Y
Z - 2 or Z

And there you have it. Probably much more information than you'd
expected/wanted, but I'm a fan of the etymology of online communication so
thought I'd help.

Kind regards,

~~Jeremiah J. Shaw~~

and this was the funniest --

In regards to the undecipherable message, this is my best attempt at a translation.

Translation from l33t to English (Babelfish should have a setting for this, but doesn't yet, to my knowledge):
"Why hello there, butt-sexy, I am laughing out loud. You bought an N-Gage, didn't you, Neil? Owned."

Translation from l33t English to normal conversational English:
"Why hello there, Neil, I find you very attractive. I think it is amusing that you have bought an N-Gage because it is an infinitely inferior piece of technology to the one that I own. Behold, as I demonstrate my superiority via the use of poor grammar."

That last sentence is implied, although not directly stated.

Best of luck in translating future l33t-based messages.

Elena Perez

I'm not entirely clear on whether buying an N-Gage is something one does literally here or metaphorically. Ah, mysteries. Anyway, no, I haven't got one. On the other hand, just when I thought all my gaming interests were one with Nineveh and Tyre, this came in:

Are you aware of the appallingly addictive Hamlet text adventure found here: ?

I miss text-based adventures like Zork and Adventure. Stab Claudius With Scissors. Talk To Ophelia. Get Fluff.

and in just five minutes' playing I was hooked. (Play flute. Talk to ghost.)


Lots of people wrote from Angouleme to let me know that Season of Mists won the Angouleme prize for best story which is a real honour, most of which goes to Anne Delcourt, who translated it, and to Guy Delcourt, who last year took a huge chance on publishing Sandman in France when the conventional wisdom (at least as explained to me by French publishers who didn't want to publish it) was that the French readers didn't like, and wouldn't read, story-driven comics. Thank you Guy, thank you Anne.


Elise Matheson is putting together a care package for someone who had her house burn down, and asked if I could mention it here, what with there being lots of nice people with hearts the size of oceans who read this journal, and I said sure. The details of the family and the fire are at

Thursday, January 22, 2004

How on Earth did this post get this long?

Let's see...

Yesterday I was on Katherine Lanpher's Midmorning show on Minneapolis Public Radio, talking about CORALINE and writing, and taking questions. It turned out it was the last hour of Katherine's last-ever show (she's been doing it for 6 years, and is going off to join Al Franken in New York). It was a very fun interview, and ended with Katherine breaking the news that she was leaving and saying her thank yous and goodbyes. She had it written into her contract that she can come back and do the Talking Volumes interview though. You can listen to the Midmorning interview streaming in RealAudio by clicking here.

Dave Sim's been writing and drawing and lettering Cerebus for a very long time. I know that, because I've been reading it for eighteen years, month in, month out. Dave offered to put me on the complimentary list several times, and I said no, because I liked buying Cerebus. Finally, when my local comic shop closed down, I said okay, and these days they arrive in white envelopes. In two months' time the last white envelope will arrive. I keep getting e-mails from people asking me to opine on Cerebus or on Dave, and I keep declining to comment. Mostly because if you've been reading something for eighteen years, you really want to see how it's going to end (well, I do. What is the scritchy thing in the box? I do not feel it bodes well for our Aardvark) before you talk about it. Forty pages to go. I'm proud of Dave for finishing his story, and hope he gets some rest now: he deserves it.

I wish he were happier about what he's done (he may be happier in real life than he comes across in the interviews and text pieces). But I don't remember being happy about finishing Sandman. Relieved it was over, and very conscious of how far each issue was from the platonic ideal of the issue that had existed in my head before I started to write it, mostly. And that was just nine years of work, not twenty five.

About a decade ago, he did, in the pages of Cerebus, the very best parody of Sandman anyone's done to date (and I have seen many of them). Swoon, Snuff and the rest of them. Dave and I have been faxing back and forth for a while: he's offered to auction the three funniest pages from that storyline (it's in Cerebus Book 8, WOMEN) for the CBLDF, and wanted me to pick them. I'm happy to pick them, but I thought it might be more interesting to see what you people thought... I mentioned this a few months back in this journal entry (and got a few responses) and we may actually get a full formal competion up. But in the meantime, it's Cerebus volume 8, WOMEN. And you may want to pick up Cerebus books 1-7, as well, otherwise I'm not sure how much sense it's going to make.

I noticed a link on Journalista! to, where a number of people give their opinions about Dave and Cerebus, and was pleased to see, down at the bottom, a short piece by Gerhard, who has been collaborating with Dave -- drawing the backgrounds and the world -- for as long as I've been reading it, in which he talks about his collaborator. The Dave that he describes is the one I've known since 1987...


Thea Gilmore is coming to America to play music. I've been a fan of Thea's for some years now, since hearing a song called Resurrection Men, and now, several CDs later, I'm more of a fan than ever. She's a really powerful, smart songwriter. Gigs in Houston, Austin, Santa Barbara and Tampa are up on her website (not to mention the Guardian Festival and the Calgary Folk Festival), with more locations to come. Keep an eye on for more details and more dates.

And if you go to the gigs, say hi to Thea (and Nigel Stonier, who will be there too) from me.


The belt is now on the turntable. Piles of mouldering singles will soon be played. I'd play all the ancient bootlegs as well, except they've all come out in official form since, released by the artists on CD, so there's not much point, except to glory in the pop and buzz. There's probably a program that will allow me to make them into MP3s and neatly fill in the ID3 tags and such as well. In all probability it's software I already own.


I would really like to talk to you and Terry Pratchett one on one. So could you please tell me how i could.

Well, your best bet is to be somewhere that both Terry and I are, and then to walk toward us at a steady pace, looking friendly and unthreatening, and say something cheerful like "Can I buy you both a drink?", and then, social niceties done with, begin to talk.

We're both perfectly approachable, unless you run towards us waving knives.

Y halo thar buttsekcs!1! LOLOL! You bought an N-Gage didn't you Neil.. PWNz0r3d

I've read this a dozen times, and it doesn't make much more sense than it did the first time. Ah well. Once again I feel culturally out of touch. It's like all the spam that arrives promising to show me naked famous people I've never heard of.

Hi Neil! (since you gave permission for fans to call you by your first name during the Q&A at the Last Angel's Tour out in St. Marks , which rocks by the way) I just heard through a semi-reliable grapevine that you're either working on currently, or plotting a new comic series. Any tidbits you could drop on premise or characters? Better yet, how about a little of both?

Also, I wanted to thank you for encouraging those of us who do write to keep on doing so and helping in the ways that you can to point us in the right direction of publishing companies. Most people wouldn't take the time :)

The world of comics is filled with semi-reliable news. Several weeks ago I got lots of e-mails from People In The Know telling me my big secret was out and that I'd be writing X-Men for six issues, which came as a complete surprise to me, because I'm not.

So no, I'm not plotting or working on a new comics series right now. I'm working on the new novel, and am working on the authors preferred text of American Gods right now, to make sure it really, really is the author's preferred text.

I owe Marvel one more series after 1602, but really haven't done any more than kick around a couple of possibilities so far, and I have no idea what it will be (although I do know it will be around the same number of pages as 1602).

So after reading Monstrous Regiment (Terry Pratchett), I was compelled to read The Man Who Was Thursday (G.K. Chesterton). Soon after, I got into an argument, of the friendly and philosophical type, with a friend regarding who might be the most overlooked author, today, of the last 100 years. I was hard pressed to find a better example then G.K Chesterton, who in his time was immensely popular, and having recently read many of his works (not even denting his life's output) they stand the test of time remarkably well for someone who seems to have been largely forgotten.

Do you think the stigma of religion has pushed him to the back of the literary bus, or has his work just not aged well? His books are just as entertaining as Edgar Rice Burroughs best work, and have much more depth. Can a deeply religious writer still be relevant? Or does moralizing have to take a more ambiguous tone to be acceptable?

Looking forward to hearing you speak at the Fitzgerald Theater next month.


I don't think the stigma of religion pushed Chesterton to the back of the bus. If anything, the Catholic readers have helped keep the more obscure Chesterton in print. (It's a very long bus, by the way, and Chesterton isn't anywhere near the back. Trust me on this.) I think the biggest problem is that he wrote one novel of genius (The Man Who Was Thursday), one remarkable work of science fiction that cannot be read as SF but cannot be read any other way (The Napoleon of Notting Hill), a bunch of novels that didn't work even when they were published (The Flying Inn, the Ball and the Cross) some astounding short stories (many of the Father Brown Stories, The Club of Queer Trades) some terrible short stories (many of the Father Brown stories) some amazing essays (Tremendous Trifles, for example) some unreadable essays (anything on distributism), some wonderful poems. I think if anything marginalised Chesterton it was that his writing became a way to subsidise his political creed, and that he wrote too much.

(On the other hand, I'd never have put him into the category of an unambiguous moraliser: The Man Who Was Thursday is one of the most ambiguous books I've ever encountered, and its morals are deeply uncertain.)

The first Father Brown book, The Innocence of Father Brown, is online at by the way. I don't think there's a duff one in the bunch.

Dear Neil,

since there's a lot of talk about Alan Moore at the moment, I thought I'd ask your advice...

A couple I know have just moved in opposite 'Sea View' - if they invited Alan round for a cup of tea would he be likely to accept?

Also perhaps you know if there's any biscuits he'd prefer?



I don't know. I do know that he'll be perfectly civil and cheerful in either accepting it, or declining it. Their best bet might be to knock on that amazingly carved front door, tell him they're neighbours, and that they'd like to have him over for a cup of tea. Again, as with most authors, I don't recommend rushing toward him, screaming and waving knives. (He'd probably turn them into balloon animals or stoats or something, anyway.)

I'd tell you what kind of biscuits he'd prefer, but if I don't it at least gives them a conversational gambit if he says yes to the tea, and it'll keep some mystery in their life if he declines.

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

You think they're cuddly, but I think they're sinister...

Many of you have e-mailed me the location of an MP3 of THE MARCH OF THE SINISTER DUCKS. I'm extremely grateful, and have listened to it, and it was as strangely wonderful as I remember. I put it on my iPod and was made happy.

I thought about posting the link here, but worried that

a) if I did, and if several thousand of you downloaded it, the person on whose site it rests (and who put it into MP3 format) might find himself hit with traffic bills he was certainly not expecting, and

b) then there's the whole copyright thing.

So I telephoned Translucia Baboon, writer for The Sinister Ducks and maker of stereo "Quack Quack" noises (currently residing in the body of Alan Moore) and asked if he'd mind at all if I posted it here. And he was very happy to give his full permission. ("The world must be warned about those ducks," he said. "It's all true.")

So, for those who need to listen to it, which is, trust me, all of you, "The March of the Sinister Ducks"can be listened to at (Thanks to Julia Bannon for putting it up originally.) It's an MP3, 3.2 megs in length, and was Ahead of its Time.

Sneering and whispering and stealing your cars, Reading pornography, smoking cigars...

I'd post something interesting about my failure to get the turntable working so I can play "The March of the Sinister Ducks", which has inexplicably been going through my head recently, or about a day spent mostly trying to get off the phone, or about negotiation with Maddy concerning the Tooth Fairy ("It's half a tooth, Maddy! That's no good to the Tooth Fairy. I mean, if she's building a castle out of the things, she won't go, great, half a tooth, I can use that." "Dad. Look at this house. There are half-bricks, aren't there? At corners and things. I bet she'd be able to use half a tooth. And she wouldn't have to pay out the full amount, anyway.") but I've just discovered (well, it just filtered through my head) that I'm on Minneapolis Public Radio's MIDMORNING show tomorrow, to talk to Katherine Lanpher about CORALINE and other things and the upcoming TALKING VOLUMES appearance at the Fitzgerald, and that if I'm going to get there on time and under my own steam I should go to sleep now.

How do I get the jounrnal through Live Journal? I can't figure it out on livejournal and I'm hoping you know?

Good luck with the new book, I'm looking forward to reading it.

You go to and either click on officialgaiman to read it, or you add it to your friends list.

Or it's the fifth one down at

Inuki kindly did up an FAQ for officialgaiman Livejournal feed users, and I have been remiss in not posting it. So it's at

The Sinister Ducks song is still going through my head... (Damn you, Translucia Baboon). It's not like it's on iTunes. And anyway, I've already got the single. 45 rpm. Kev O'Neill sleeve art. The whole bit. If I could just figure out how you thread the belt on a Sony PS-LX250H I'd be able to hear it.

(Hums, pensively:

Nasty and small: undeserving of life.
Ducks. Ducks. Quack-quack. Quack-quack.
They'll sneer at your hairstyle and sleep with your wife.
Ducks. Ducks. Quack-quack. Quack-quack.
Dressed in plaid jackets and horrible shoes,
Getting divorces and turning to booze.
Ducks. Ducks. Quack-quack. Quack-quack.
Ducks. Ducks. Quack-quack. Quack-quack.

Saturday, January 17, 2004

Running forever through wolves and forests.

Today I had my photo taken, for an American Library Association Series of author photo posters. (The poster won't be out for months. You'll need to get something else in the meantime, like their Sherman Alexie poster. Or their Orlando Bloom READ poster. Or their P. Craig Russell Sandman poster.) The photographer explained that she was going to do a straightforward photo (which she took), and that later she wants take some more imaginative ones -- me looming from the darkness, me with paint or ink dripping from my hand, that kind of thing. And then she mentioned that she wanted to also take a photo of me as the mythological or literary character of my choice, and wondered who I'd like to be.

"Red Riding Hood's Wolf," I said, because I went perfectly blank, and that was the first thing that popped into my completely blank head. So I'm going to be Red Riding Hood's Wolf in a photo, although this may not be obvious to anyone except the photographer and me.

Afterwards, she asked why...

I honestly didn't know, so I started writing, to try and figure it out.

I think part of the idea of Red Riding Hood's Wolf (why her wolf? Possibly because I was given a Ladybird book containing the story of Little Red Riding Hood, when I was an infant, and that was the first time I'd encountered the image of a wolf standing on his hind legs. He wore a jacket, at least in memory he did, in the paintings, and was talking comfortably to Red Riding Hood, who was chubby and pretty, and much older than I was, and I could absolutely understand what he saw in her, and for me Sondheim's song "Hello Little Girl" was already beginning to come into existence, as text not subtext: obviously, this meeting was to be the start of a beautiful friendship, one that would last -- girl and wolf -- forever). The wolf in the story represents an awful lot of stuff -- the danger and truth of stories, for a start, and the way they change; he symbolises -- not predation, for some reason -- but transformation: the meeting in the wild wood that changes everything forever. Angela Carter's statement that "some men are hairy on the inside" comes to mind: as an image, in my head, it's the wolf's shadow that has ears and a tail, while the man in wolf form stands in his forest (and cities are forests too) and waits for the girl in the red cloak , picking flowers, to come along, or, hungrily, watches her leave...

There's a woodcutter, and an axe, but at the start of the story, the wolf is waiting again, and he's just fine.

When I was a boy, when I grew up I wanted to be a wolf. I never wanted to be a wolfman. I didn't really want to be a werewolf, except for a few years in my early teens. I wanted to be a wolf, in a forest or in the world.

Later, as an adult, I remember encountering the story of Red Riding Hood in its original form, a French version that predated the cleaned-up ways of telling the tale I'd already encountered, and the bleak sexuality of the story came through: when she encounters the wolf in her grandmother's bed, he eats and drinks her grandmother with her, then tells her to take off all her clothes and throw them on the fire -- she wouldn't be needing them any more, -- and, finally, she joins him in the bed naked. And then, with no more ado, he eats her. And there the story stops, sometimes with a direct moral -- not to talk to strangers -- and sometimes without it. The story disturbed me, and I put it into Sandman, in the Serial Killers' Convention story, where it represents a number of things at once, and is also itself.

The wolf defines Red Riding Hood. He makes the story happen. Without him, she'd just be another girl on her way to her grandmother's house. And she'd leave her goodies behind, and come home, and no-one would ever have heard of her. But he's not just her wolf: he's all the wolves on the edge of the world, all the wolves in all the stories, all the wolves in all the dreams of wolves; flashing green eyes in the darkness, dangerously honest about what he wants: food, company, an appetite.

And if I could be any literary figure, I think, today, I'd be strangely happy to be him.

If you asked me tomorrow I'm sure I'd pick someone, or something, quite different.

Friday, January 16, 2004

infinitely late at night

One long blogger entry from last night was somehow eaten despite precautions, and now the computer is being extremely irritating, and dropping connections all over the place... so I'll wait until I figure out how to make everything work to post anything more than a brief wave (waves cheerfully).

I wore a suit and tie this evening (how odd), and am right now listening to the new Magnetic Fields CD which won't come out for several months, and is perfect and heartbreaking: having been very clever (well, all right; brilliant) on 69 Love Songs, now Stephin Merritt is being simple and honest and it hurts. Astonishing stuff.

It looks like people will be able to get the various audiobooks through iTunes pretty soon. In the meantime, have sorted out all their hiccups and American Gods (read by George Guidall) (lots of complaints about all the sex and swearing on the site, I see) and Coraline (read by me, with music by Stephin Merritt) (no complaints about the complete absence of either sex or swearing on the site) are up and available right now, and Two Plays For Voices will be going up very soon (I'll let you all know when it happens).

Thursday, January 15, 2004

Hoping not to get a cold.

Several of you seemed to be thinking that I was saying there aren't people living under New York. I wasn't saying that: I was saying that Jennifer Toth's physical facts didn't always work. Whether that's because she was disguising locations, or accepting rumour as fact (my guess), or exaggerating, I don't know. I do know how easy it is to rely on information from guides and so on, and get things wrong. (I did it in Neverwhere once, and had to fix it in a later edition.)

Hi Neil,

Following up on the recent discussion of Mole People, I just wanted to mention Dark Days ( ), an awesome, touching documentary by Marc Singer, and its commentary track on the DVD. Singer arranged the film as a way for all of them to pay their own way out of the tunnels once the film was sold, and the people he filmed helped him film it--disassembling shopping carts to use for tracking shots and rigging up lighting underground to have enough to meter a shot. It's really a beautiful film, and no, sadly I had nothing to do with making it. I did get to meet Singer himself when he visited the Documentary Institute at the University of Florida a couple of years ago and he was both quiet and modest. But I can, without compunction, recommend the film purely on its own merits.

Best wishes,

John J.

and an answer to my idle question:

Life of Pi" is on the Top 100 most frequently mentioned books of 2003 list twice because the program that generated the list is counting different editions as separate books: the "Life of Pi" at #10 is the paperback edition, and the "Life of Pi" at #79 is the hardcover.

According to the explanation elsewhere on the site, the system relies on people not only mentioning a book but also providing a link to it at Amazon or Barnes & Noble or whatever. Amazon and B&N and whatever count different editions as different books, because that makes sense in a book-selling context; the tracking software has inherited the distinction, which doesn't make sense in the context of "what books are people mentioning?", because it would take a lot of work to build the idea of 'different editions, but one book' back into the system.

Thanks... I should have checked, shouldn't I?

I think it is interesting that there seems to be no actual personal information about yourself anywhere. Not even a smidgion in your books. Why so tight lipped and evasive?

Heather H.

I didn't know I was. I sort of thought that there was an awful lot of personal information in this journal over the years, quite a lot in the fiction, and a fair amount in the various scholarly biographical articles and suchlike that have been published over the years, not to mention the sundry magazine profiles. Certainly more than a smidgen. There are some books and some short stories which are pretty much autobiographical as well. (I'll let you figure out which ones they are, though. We tight-lipped and evasive people enjoy making other people do all the work.)

hi neil,
did you hear about a dream machine (made in Japan i think)that can control the dreams, you can put a photo of a person and one essence...
who is Frank Quitely? is a pseudonym?

You mean the thing in this article ? I think it seems faintly silly. And yes, Frank Quitely is a pen name. And this just in from Scott McCloud:

Hi Neil --

I just uploaded The Right Number Part Two!:
25 cents, just like before.

I quoted you on the order page 'cause you said a nice thing about
Part One and I quoted Warren Ellis 'cause he said a nice thing about
the micros system. Hope that's okay.

I'm fond of several parts of it and can easily live with the rest.
Which is pretty good for me.

I would so like to do this sort of thing for a very long time. Keep
your fingers crossed for me. ^^

Best Wishes,


(Go and read it. It's really good.)

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Which Square?

a hasty helpful one, as I'm running around doing stuff madly right now --

Hey Neil-

A little confusion on the blog this morning, I think. The helpful and groovy soul who sent in information on Washington Square Park actually linked us to an article on Washington Square in Philadelphia, whereas the Sandman story in question was set in New York.

The interesting part of this, though, is that Washington Square Park in New York was once a potter's field, too. According to the accounts I've read, there may be anywhere from 15,000 to 25,000 people, many of them slaves and yellow fever victims, buried under the park. It's claimed that when the park was turned into a parade ground, practicing troops often found their cannons' wheels caught in the ruts of graves that had collapsed in on themselves under the weight above them.

The park was also used as a hanging ground. It's said that if you walk up to the northwest corner of the park, you can still see the "Hangman's Elm," the tree the British hung people from before and during the Revolutionary War. The "hanging branch," however, was cut down by the Parks Department several years ago. (If you've noted all the disclaimers I've used, it's important to remember that a lot of this has become wrapped up in folklore over the years. Still, while the details may now be murky, the basic facts remain true.)

More information on Washington Square Park in New York City can be found at


this link as well to


Nick Monteleone
Resident New York City History Geek

Thanks, Nick...

And this is interesting, although I can't figure out why Life of Pi is on there twice....

More questions answered, and Harry Stephen Keeler mentioned.

Mr. Gaiman:

What is your favorite smell? Crimson asked this question in her message and you didn't answer. The public needs to know these things!


Sorry. It's a very specific autumn smell -- the first time you go out in the evening, and you realise it's really autumn and there's mist and leaf-mould and maybe even a tang of frost in the air, perhaps even the woodsmoke from a distant fire. It's an octobery-novembery sort of smell that carries winter with it, and it makes me happy to be alive.

On one of your recent Blog entries, you said Sure. Tell a story you care about about people you care about, and make the reader care what happens to the people in the story. Let your message come second to your story. And when you're done, have a friend who's good at spelling and grammar and things like that proof-read it for you.

I'm an admin for, a website that was created to host Harry Potter fanfic and original fiction and poetry, as well as art and book discussions. I've been asked at least a dozen times in the past year, "how should I write a story?" and while I can make suggestions and give ideas, your statement about ideas and beta reading is terrific and I would love to be able to put it into our FAQ and on the "How/Why Do You Write?" forums. Is it ok if I do so?

Be my guest. Glad to be of use.

Dear Neil,

Was just wondering if you'd heard of PS238 ( yet. It's a new webcomic based on the concept of a grade school for children of superhero's - an X-men academy for youngsters, if you will. I think you'd be especially interested in pages 9 through 11...


I don't think it is a new webcomic - I remember someone sending me the link quite a while back. But over a dozen people have sent this in today, so it either seems to have been rediscovered by the world or there's an organised campaign to get me to plug it. But the comic is funny.

When you mentioned recently your friend Jules Fisher had passed along a book to you...did you perchance mean the brilliant lighting designer Jules Fisher, and if so, I wonder what transpiring of events lead to you two meeting...
-lighting design geek steph

It's astonishing how many things have already been answered on this peculiar journal. If you read you will find out how I met Jules Fisher.

I am wondering, why didn't you answer the question as to how you keep your svelt figure? I thought you would have an amusing, yet polite, answer.

Not the person who asked how you keep lean and mean,

Er, honestly, I don't. (Have a way to keep the svelt figure, I mean. Not I don't have an answer.) I tend to seesaw (not as an exercise). I'll write and eat and not exercise enough, and then eventually notice that I'm putting on weight, at which point I pay more attention to what I'm eating and get an exercise regimen going, and lose the excess pounds and get fit, and that tends to last until I next go on tour or something, when I eat too much and don't get any exercise and it starts all over again.

When it's time to start getting fitter, I've got a stepping machine, and a mini trampoline, and I'll go for walks and things. I'm fortunate in that I seem able to lose weight without too much effort, so far.

and two messages from someone called wcitymike...

Neil, I'm doing this via the FAQ line because I'm not sure of another way to contact you, but I really thought you might enjoy this, if you've not run across its subject material already:

Looks like _Neverwhere_ may not have been very far off the mark at all ...

I read the straight dope article, and was a bit surprised. I'd read The Mole People, enjoyed it very much, but had thought it at least partly fictional. And then this came in:

Neil, a follow-up on that last post ... there's evidently some dispute as to whether the 'mole people' story is actually legit. Here's the link

Which made sense -- after I'd read it, I'd tried to find out more on the stuff in The Mole People which stated that Grand Central Terminal "goes down six levels beneath the subway tracks. There is no complete blueprint of the tunnels and tracks under the station. Many tunnels were begun but abandoned. Some were built but forgotten," and discovered it simply wasn't so.

and another New York one...

Hi Neil,

Always wanted to ask you a question (and I was too sick to ask you during your talk at New York is Book Country this past Fall) So here it goes:

When you wrote about Death's first appearance in Washington Square Park in New York City, were you aware that the park was originally a Potter's Field?

Here's an intersting article on it's history as a graveyard

Thanks for all the great books!

I hadn't known. (Actually the location in that issue was Mike Dringenberg's: in the script I think I set it in Central Park, and Mike decided that Washington Square park was more scenic.)


Let's see: Spalding Grey is missing, and this is not a good thing.

Many years ago, I met and interviewed Spalding Grey, on the occasion of the publication of Swimming to Cambodia in the UK, and liked him. I hope he turns up safe.

Over at is a complete online collection of Dr Seuss's wartime editorial cartoons (only half of them were previously published).

There's an excellent round-up of the Democrat candidates at of the sort that makes one realise that if only Joe Leiberman had blue skin he'd look exactly like an Oan.

Jessa at the bookslut blog pointed to the discussion at It seems truer in the US than in the UK, but there are book people who love books in the same way movie people like movies. I suspect that the ability to enjoy the work of Harry Stephen Keeler is probably the quickest litmus test of pure book people...

And this one made me shake my head: Marvel tried something similar, when they were in Chapter 11, ringing freelancers and asking for advances back, but as far as I recall the people who got the phone calls just laughed at them.

Meanwhile, One Ring Zero's author project has a title ("As Smart as We Are") and a release date (April), and a quote from Viggo Mortensen.

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

And now a word from our sponsor. LSMFT etc.

If you want to win a signed copy of LEGENDS II, signed by all 11 of the authors, then go to It'll lead you on a small but interesting scavenger hunt across six websites, including this one.

{edited to add:

Hi there!

Got all excited when seeing the sweapstake for Legends 2....until I read that is only for US residents. MAJOR disapointment!!! Please add in your journal that outside US people can't be in the competition... I know many with me got our hopes up there for a second. Sometimes it sucks not living in the US! Ok, I will still get the book as soon as I can get my eager hands on it, but the zero chance of getting a signed issue was a bit sad.

Lilla Lu, Sweden

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.

Sunday, January 11, 2004

Some wonderful Pot Noodles

"Superhero fantasy is unsuitable as a serious theme for literary fiction, for much the same reasons that Pot Noodles are out of place at dinner parties," we are informed in Adam Mars-Jones's Guardian review of Jonathan Lathem's Fortress of Solitude. (Personally, if I felt like that, I would have assumed that the book's title might be a dead giveaway as to potential content, and not even have picked it up.) It's a good thing, I thought when I read that sentence, that no-one had told Michael Chabon that, or we would have never have been allowed to read Kavalier and Clay.

It also reminded me that a wonderful novel that has been out of print for many many years has recently been reissued: Robert Mayer's Super Folks in which a retired superhero who has forgotten his powers comes out of retirement in a perceptive and funny commentary on pop culture. And that Joseph Torchia's heartbreaking novel of a boy's letters to Superman,The Kryptonite Kid, is still out of print -- here's an Amazon link: read the two reader reviews at the bottom of the page. One is a rant about why no-one should read it, and one is a memoir of the book and the author.

I read that you and Dave had access to something like THREE EXTRA HOURS of Labyrinth footage while you were conceptualizing MirrorMask. What are the chances that it will be released to the public? Was there anything truly inspiring that influenced MirrorMask?

No, what we were watching was a three hour long rough-cut of Labyrinth, with the puppeteers rather than voice actors voicing the characters (Dave Goelz's hilarious Sir Didymus made the version in the finished film seem mildly irritating by comparison). Mostly what we learned from it was how good an editor Jim Henson was -- there are some excellent sequences in the finished movie that were just too long as filmed.

Hello! I always wondered why there don't appear any greek gods in your books (I know I know, but I don't count Orpheus and that muse as gods. I also know that Morpheus is one of the sons of Hypnos in the greek mythology blabla. However, I mean the big ones like Zeus, Aphrodite and so on).
I also wanted to thank you for your work. You were my subject for my final examination in english :)
Thank you for your time!
Greetings from Austria,

Well, Pluto and Persephone are in The Sandman "Song of Orpheus", the Eumenides are all the way through "The Kindly Ones", and you'll see Stheno and Euryale in there as well. I'm not sure why you don't count Orpheus or Calliope, though.

And there's one of the major Greek Gods in "Stardust" of course.

One reason why I mostly left the Greek Gods alone in Sandman was that I felt that Eddie Campbell had staked them out as his territory in his DEADFACE comic, and I didn't want to intrude on what he was doing.

Can you give me advice to make a winning fiction story for kids 8-12 years? I want to win a scholarship cause, i dondt have money to finish college. Im thinking of a fiction with a good message, like, trust, or maybe friendship. Am also avoiding speking animals and bad witches.Please i really need the help and i know that Neil Gaiman is a perfect writer, i know he won prices on sfwa and i admire him, so please i will apreciate your help on this. Thanks..

Sure. Tell a story you care about about people you care about, and make the reader care what happens to the people in the story. Let your message come second to your story. And when you're done, have a friend who's good at spelling and grammar and things like that proof-read it for you.

Can I share a bit of success that you kind of encouraged? You often say that the best way to write is to write. So, when an opportunity arose, although it scared the heck out of me, I jumped on it--some freelance for White Wolf. And now the book is published, and my name's on the title page and everything! Wow! Thanks for encouraging us to write.

You're very welcome.

Looked through the FAQ and don't think this as been asked before. When writing do you show your work to anyone before you submit it to an editor or publisher? For instance do you show it to your wife or kids or friends to see what they think?

-Paul Andrews(UK)

No, but I do have a small cadre of beta readers I'll send things to while I'm working on them, when I need opinions (normally for short stories).

Hello Mr. Gaiman,
A while ago you mentioned Do you know that there is another group of free click sites which let visitors support everything from children to chimps? If you do, great! If not, here you go:
If you'd like to post it in your blog sometime too, it would be splendid.
Take care & thanks

what a good idea.

Dear Neil!

Few weeks back I was in a second-hand bookshop and found there a copy of Death: the High Cost of Living. It was a bargain, too, only 8 Euros.

Imagine my surprise, when at home I opened it and realised that somebody had scribbled your name on the first page. I don't see why somebody would forge your name on a comic they're about to sell (obviously the bookstore owner had not seen it or could not prove it was actually your autograph, since the price was so low), so I'm inclined to think it is genuine.

But the doubt lingers... Could you, pretty please, scan your autograph and post it on your site so that I could make sure? If the autograph is genuine, it was a find of a lifetime. If not, it still doesn't diminish the value of the comic in my eyes. :)

Thank you in advance!

Yours adoringly,

The trouble with that is that there are an awful lot of signatures. There's a full Neil Gaiman, there's the one Maddy calls "Nell Gurgle" and then there's the one you get when I've been signing for a long time, which normally starts with an n and then sort of continues a bit and stops. So if I posted one it might not actually be the one I signed, if I signed it...

I suspect that this is the sort of thing that you might be best off asking over in, the message boards.

And for those of you who wanted a little more zuegma. Or possibly a little syllepsis..

Not a question, but a comment: I wrote one of my wordplay columns a few years back about zeugma (, and regular reader/contributor Danny Fahs sent me a couple hundred examples, including some really good ones, and a few with eight or ten noun phrases. ( Of course, they don't rhyme and they don't tell a story, so they're not as impressive as "Have Some Madeira M'Dear" in that respect, but they're still pretty impressive.

Danny also noted that the term "syllepsis" may be more apt for certain items usually labeled zeugma, but I'm afraid I was never entirely clear on exactly what the distinction was, despite the aid of the Linguistic Devices page (

Jed Hartman