Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Before you set out for the comic store

This came in and is helpful...

Because people probably want official word...

Before the wailing and gnashing of teeth begins en masse, I thought I'd let you know that my local comic book store has informed me the new release date for 1602 #8 is April 14. That made it a disappointing trip today to the comic book store for me (and possibly others).


I've not heard anything officially from Marvel on this, but I'll assume it's correct (surprised it's two weeks away). Thanks so much.


And you probably didn't know that material from Oprah is too salacious, lubricious, and rude to be rebroadcast by Howard Stern. Apparently, it is.


Hi Neil.
In the May issue of the British mag Bizarre there is an article about Harry Stephen Keeler. In it you are listed as a fan of his as well as the author of The Matrix and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.I know you have a link to the Matrix (wrote a short story??) but the League?

Obviously Bizarre have discovered that all British comics writers are aspects of the same creature, something that the Alan-unit, Grant-unit, Neil-unit, Milligan-unit and other parts of this semiautonomous writing entity have tried to keep hidden for years. Now, alas the secret is out. We shall procede to activate the closing down sequence...

Anyway, I've no connection with the League, other than reading and enjoying it, and my Matrix connection is just one short story, "Goliath", on their website, written before the release of the first film. But I am a fan of Harry Stephen Keeler...

So no change there, then.

Well, on the good side, I would appear to be the next President of the USA at Presidential Deathmatch 2004. On the downside, I have Lord Havelock Vetinari as my Vice-President, Terry Pratchett's Patrician. Which means that my main function as President of the USA would be to think I'm in charge, be a prime assassination target and the butt of the anger of the crowds, while my Vice-President actually runs the country, dictates foreign policy, and keeps me in office (and alive) as long as I'm useful to him...

Includes your actual philosophical French

Flew home yesterday. Pleasantly surprised to discover that I had an aunt on the same plane (she was on her way to Miami, changing in Minneapolis) and it was her birthday. Then, off the plane, Maddy and I went to Hair Police and got our hair cut, and home.

A ponder about yesterday's Round the Horne post: Brian Cooke made a comment in the Round the Horne -- Revisited programme, about the Julian and Sandy characters, to the effect that "what we laugh at, we aren't frightened of" (some of his programme notes are in this Guardian article, but not that comment). Which, on the plane home, suddenly crystallised my problem with the shape of the material in the "Revisited" show.

On the original Feldman-Took show, we mostly aren't laughing at Julian and Sandy, although, as Feldman and Took commented, they rapidly became the showstoppers, and we're certainly not laughing at them because they're homosexual. Much of the humour in the Jules and Sand material comes from the knowledge that, on the contrary, they're laughing at us. The parlare/polari they talk is a cant whose function is not to be understood by those not part of the cognoscenti, a theatrical slang adopted by the gay underground at a time when male homosexual acts were imprisonable offences in the UK. One can be fairly certain that Sandy isn't talking about piano-playing when he tells you that Julian is "a miracle of dexterity on the cottage upright", and that Kenneth Horne (and most of us listening) are missing the significance of much of the conversation. It's transgressive humour that majority of the audience is not actually supposed to get. They know it's funny. They don't know how funny. (And it's radio comedy -- you can't stare at it until it makes sense.)

The web being the web, you're only a google away from most of what you need. So here's an extract from a Julian and Sandy conversation to try to show you what I mean. (The boys took on different jobs each week. This week, they seem to be the Carnaby Street foxhunt...)

HORNE: Hello - is there anybody there?

JULIAN: Yoicks, tally-ho, ducky!

SANDY: We are your actual Carnaby Hunt. Jule's MFH - I'm the Whipper In.

HORNE: And very nice you look, too. How many of you are there in the hunt?

JULIAN: Just Sand and me so far.

SANDY: And, of course, Reynard.

HORNE: The fox?

SANDY: No, ducky. Reynard La Spoon, the choreographer - he's a close personal, ent he, Jule?

JULIAN: An intime - you'll get on well with him. He's your type - all butch.

SANDY: But questing. You must have seen his work. He does fantastic things on the television.

JULIAN: You know, they all come trolling on in form-hugging black and do evocative things with chairs and ladders and planks of wood. He once done something with a bentwood chair that made Robert Helpman's eyes stand out like organ stops.

SANDY: It was his own fault for standing so close.'Course Reynard's classical trained.

JULIAN: Oh, yes. He's got your full classical.

SANDY: Started in John Cranko's Nutcracker and worked his way up.

JULIAN: He supported Dame Margot's Sleeping Beauty when Nureyev backed out.

HORNE: And he's the only other member of the hunt, is he?

SANDY: So far - but we're hoping to attract your show business clientele.

HORNE: And where do you hunt from?

JULIAN: Oh, here - in Carnaby Street.

HORNE: There can't be many foxes in Carnaby Street.

JULIAN: No. Not foxes. There's not what you could call a plethora of foxes round here, but you still have the thrill of the chase.

HORNE: The chase? But what can you find to chase in Carnaby Street?

SANDY: He's very jejune, isn't he, Jules?

JULIAN: It's a quality I admire in him. Would that I still had it. (Sighs) 'Ou sont les neiges d'antan', Mr. Horne -

SANDY: That's your actual philosophical French. Still, don't brood, Jule, you'll get lines.

You can read more of the sketches at


And changing the subject about as much as it can possibly be changed...

I just thought you might like this. It's really spooky and very real. The best photos are at the end.


And I was fascinated, chilled. Without the photographs it would be like reading a piece of post-apocalyptic 60s or 70s SF. With the photos, it manages to become a journey into hell that I wanted to go on too. Real life sense of wonder.

Go read it. If it's crashed because too many of you are going to look at it, put it off a day or so and then check again.


Over at the Mumpsimus, Matthew Cheney talks about teaching (and reading) my short story "Bitter Grounds". (It's in Nalo Hopkinson's uniformly excellent anthology Mojo: Conjure Stories, and will also be reprinted in one of the upcoming Year's Best Collections, but I don't actually remember which one, which as I type it I realise sounds like bragging and is actually merely incompetence combined with jet-lag. The three stories from last year, "Study in Emerald", "Closing Time" and "Bitter Grounds" have been taken by about five different upcoming Year's Best anthologies and I've completely lost track of which story is in which book. But am very happy about them all being republished.)

Sometimes short stories can be a balancing act -- there's a joy to writing something that doesn't give everything up on first reading, but you still want to give people enough on first reading to have enjoyed themselves. Gene Wolfe's definition of good literature as that which can be read with pleasure by an educated reader on first reading, and re-read with increased pleasure comes to mind. I suspect that my ideal reader for "Bitter Grounds" reads it once, goes "hmph..." and then, a week or so later, with the story sort of itching in the back of her head, goes back to read it again, and finds that it's topographically reconfigured into a completely different story.

Monday, March 29, 2004

Oh, gruntfuttocks...

Saw "Round the Horne -- Revisited" at the Venue theatre this evening, which, from the reviews, I was very much looking forward to. It was all faintly depressing: competently performed, but... well, I love Marty Feldman and Barry Took's Round the Horne radio show, broadcast between 1965 and 67, and I really don't much care for what I've heard of the final 1968 season, written by Took and Mortimer & Cooke. The show was assembled from material from the whole series by Brian Cooke, the only one of the original writers still alive, and it feels sort of lifeless and final seasony (which is sad: he has the whole of Round the Horne at his disposal). The audience consisted mostly of people older than me, who remembered the show from the first time around, with a smattering of gay male couples there probably because the Jules and Sand characters have achieved Iconic cult status. ("I'm a cult," Kenneth Williams said to me, in 1985. "I'm an enormous cult. People stop in the street and point to me and say look, it's that cult from the television.")

Still I was pleased by how visual people talking in front of microphones is, which bodes well for my not-the-life-of-Jack-Benny play, if I ever finish it.

Yet another FAQ message that is not at all a question but a sincere thank you. Thank you for posting the American dates of Thea's tour! Thanks to you I had the wonderful pleasure of seeing her when she played Eddie's Attic in Atlanta. You should also admonish all readers who did/do not catch a tour date of hers. They missed/are going to miss out on an absolutely wonderful show! She really is an amazing performer. I also got two of her currently not available in the US albums for $25. Last I checked they were going for about $30 a piece on/at Amazon and Tower Records. So, again, thank you! Thank you! Disappointed you weren't there (also noticed no mention of seeing her-- sorry you didn't/won't get to!), but I think the other two English guys sort of made up for it. Nigel Stonier is quite possibly the tallest extremely nice and skinny man I have ever met. And he has your hair. You might want to ask for it back. Sorry for all the forward slashes; I was trying to take into account all eventualities.

It's been really good to hear from all the people who went to see Thea. I was pleased that many of you went out, and sorry that more people didn't. Still, it's obvious that the ones who did got something very special and personal... (Here's Ryan's adventure.)

So, for those of you reading this in the New York area, she'll be performing the last gig of the tour on Wednesday at Joe's Pub 425 Lafayette Street, 212) 539-8778, at 7:30pm. Go and see her. If you tell her you heard about the gig from this journal she'll give you a signed postcard. Promise. Tell her and Nigel I said Hi. Go on. You know you want to.

Hi Neil, if you see this, or at least hi Julia --

Just a note to say that Neil Gaiman's Journal is today's Feedster Feed of the Day. ("Feed of the Day" is a service we do for Feedster users, pointing them toward a new or timely or under-appreciated or just plain unexpected RSS feed.)

I'll vote for you over Captain Jack Sparrow any day--even if he wrote novels, he's probably too stoned to blog them. I also love your Journal's fun opulent look--none of that fake-amateur sparseness, or what the heck are graphic designers for?

Hoping many click through to enjoy your work,


Follow-up to the dragon in a jar story from earlier this year...

Good thing you didn't need to do this. We'd have had sleeping sickness
cropping up in the early 20th Century, and echoes of Baghdad being

Oh. Hang on. Is there something you're not telling us?


Good lord, he said extremely drily, about the dragon. Who would ever have believed it?


The deadline being upon me, I wrote down a true story this morning, an anecdote from my schooldays, for Jon Scieszka's Guys Read project, for a fundraising book, and sent it off to him. His reply reads...


This is perfect -- naked ladies, candy, and corporal punishment. All wrapped up in one cautionary tale. What could be more guy?

Thanks again for helping out. I'll keep you updated on the latest.


As for where you can read the true story of me (aged 11) itself, naked ladies, golden-glass-toffee, and corporal punishment included, as soon as I have the details of Jon's book I'll post them here.

Sunday, March 28, 2004

Good lord


I'm not sure if you're aware of this, but you're very close to becoming the next president of the United States.


"Very close.... if you and Terry can just beat Captain Jack Sparrow," you mean?

Sleeping the weekend away

Sorry about the radio silence... not sure if I was sick or just tired (I think probably the latter) - I was working solidly from the moment my plane landed, and when the weekend happened I just sort of went to sleep for most of it. Yesterday afternoon I woke and went for a long walk across town, to check out the British Museum Great Court, and to see what they'd done to the Reading Room. I found myself very nostalgic for the Reading Room of old (remembering, among other things, the old Indian man with the purple woollen scarf, who would come in in the morning, order his books, then doze until closing time) but really appreciating the court, and glad they had kept the feeling of what the Reading Room was, except, of course, for the atmosphere of hush. (I like hush in reading rooms.) There's a wonderful bookshop in the courtyard as well.

Anyway, the Wolves in the Walls theatre work has been excellent, except that I'm going to be writing more of it than I'd planned on going in, when I'd assumed someone else was going to be doing all that. And now, after a week, it's become pretty obvious the someone is going to be me. But I really like my collaborators, and I think it will be a really cool project: an opera for children, that would do for children's opera what something like JERRY SPRINGER THE OPERA did for the adult breed.

I've seen more of the Mirrormask film. Each thing I see is more amazing than the last, but it's been very hard on Dave McKean, who had assumed he'd be working on it three days a week, and approving stuff done by other people, and who has instead been working on it five to seven days a week, until quite late each night. (The sphinxes, small winged cats with human faces, which I was worried would seem too cute and not menacing enough, are absolutely terrifying.)

The hardest part of Mirrormask is simply the budget. No-one will ever believe what Dave's done for the money, after seeing the film. On the other hand, if he'd had more money to do it, he would have got a lot more sleep over the last six months.

Let's see -- very behind in posting things: is the secret origin of Vertigo. And it's funny.

Hello Neil!
This is less of a question and more of a request-- I have a website about American Gods ( which attempts to list all of the gods and mythological beings in the book, and I get a lot of wonderful people emailing me with additions and corrections. (Lots more since you posted the link on your blog awhile back, so thank you for that!) I had been saving a bunch of these emails to reply to them when I had time to give a decent reply, i.e. Spring Break. Unfortunately, I use webmail, and some random server crash erased all my saved emails. I'm hoping that if you post this on your blog, these people will see this and email me again, rather than continue their lives believing that I have chosen to ignore their messages. Also, I did update the site rather a lot, including a section that I think is kinda neat, with maps that (attempt to) document Shadow's travels.
So anyway, thanks very much if you could pass that along! (And if not, well, I imagine they'll all get over their unanswered emails :) )
Have a lovely day/evening/whenever!


Consider it passed along: E-mail Renata with your annotatory information on Gods...

Not a question, but a link: is an amazing cell phone recycling program which takes cell phones of all ages and models from voulenteers. If the phone can be refurbished, it is given to women's shelters for battered women to make emergency phone calls on, or loaned to people on organ waiting lists. If the phone is so badly worn that it cannot be saved, it is recycled in the most environmentally friendly manner possible. Since I'm willing to bet a lot of your readers are techies like myself, they probably have a great many cell parts lying about. This would be a great opportunity to do some spring cleaning, and help a worthy cause.

Shalene Shimer


Is American Gods appropiate for 12 year olds? My son is 12 and he wants to read your book. What do you think?

I think that it's probably not appropriate for the generality of 12 year olds, but that it would also depend on the twelve year old in question. There may be some smart, literate 12 year olds for whom it would be the book they're desperately looking for.

I've always considered myself lucky in having parents who never minded what I read, which meant that I would sometimes get into trouble at school for reading things that the school considered inappropriate, but also meant that at the age of 12 I was perfectly happy to try and decode things like Moorcock's Jerry Cornelius or Karl Glogauer books, which are books that today I wouldn't hand to most 12 year olds.

Kids tend to be pretty good about dealing with books they aren't ready for yet. They start them, then decide they're boring, and put them down.

If I were the parent to a 12 year old who wanted to read all 600 pages of American Gods, I'd probably let him or her read it, but suggest that if there were bits he had questions about that he come to me and ask. And possibly suggest that he start with books like Stardust, or Neverwhere...


I just read a rather amusing column by Dwayne McDuffie at, where he describes his mortification on discovering that Justice Clarence Thomas was a major fan of one of his comic books. This is more of a testament to the quality of the comic than any sort of insult towards Justice Thomas, but I digress.

Have you ever been completely moritifed (or, if you're too much of a gentleman to essentially tell a fan you hate him/her, even just pleasantly surprised) to discover somebody reasonably famous was a fan of your work?

-- Ed

I'd heard Dwayne's Clarence Thomas story before, from Martha Thomases when she was DC's PR, but it's funnier from Dwayne...

I don't think I've ever been mortified, no. I've never assumed or wanted anyone reading my fiction to think the same as me, and tend to believe that the magic of fiction is the magic of getting to experience what it is to be human, and to share that with people with whom you have nothing in common, personally or politically or culturally.

I would probably be mortified if someone tried to use my fiction as a justification for doing something I regarded as monstrous. But then, lone gun nuts tend to be fans of The Catcher in the Rye and many serial killers were big readers of the Bible. And, to the best of my knowledge, no Supreme Court Justices have yet been caught indexing their Sandmans looking for quotes.

I get a huge thrill when I learn that people who I admire are fans of mine -- Philip Pullman coming up to me last year to tell me he liked my fiction made my week, but that's because I'm a fan of his. The famousness thing on the other hand, being told "Hey, famous person X is a huge fan of yours" tends to make me go "Oh, that's nice" and then forget all about it. Partly because it doesn't seem very real, and partly because readership is a democracy.

(Lenny got mentioned in the last post because he'd specifically mentioned a photo for the journal, he was dressed as Beyonce Knowles in a Guinness factory, and because we've been working together for well over a decade now -- Neverwhere was Lenny's baby. Mostly, famous people I just sort of know don't get mentioned here, for fear of this blog turning into Andy Warhol's diaries.)

Lots and lots of recent FAQs asking more or less the same thing, of which this is an example:

Hello Neil.Just wanted to ask(although I'm pretty sure lots of other people have already asked), is there a chance you'd read a story of mine(which i promise isn't about vampires ala anne rice or a fantasy rip-off) and tell me what you thinked about it(in a couple of words)?

I guess the short answer is no.

The long answer is:

1) I don't have time. I might have time to read your very short thing. I don't have time to read all the things I'd have to read for everyone else out there who also wants me to read their story or poem, if I said yes. I used to read things, and send back helpful postcards, but there was more time in the world in those days, and golden statues sang like men (or did I simply dream that bit?).

2) Last year I had someone accusing me of stealing story ideas for one of the DESPAIR stories from letters she'd written, and she only calmed down when I pointed out that the story in question was based on a true local story, and offered to send the newspaper clippings to prove it. Up until then I'd been kind of blase about this thing of people claiming you'd stolen their ideas for your stories. Now I've become much more wary. I realised that people really could get upset, thinking I'd stolen their ideas, and became much less willing to read things that people had written.

Right. I'm now awake... off into the day (well, evening).

Thursday, March 25, 2004

The snapshot that wasn't.

"We need our photo taken together," said Lenny. "You can stick it up on that journal thing of yours."

Unfortunately, or fortunately, the make-up lady's camera chose that moment to stop working, so I'm not posting a photo here of me and Lenny Henry. He was filming, for his new TV show, a rock video sequence in which he plays, er, Beyonce Knowles.

We were in a Guinness Brewery, and the air was filled with the smell of Guinness ingredients cooking.

I've known Lenny for many, many years. He's about six foot three, heterosexual, and normally wears nothing more extreme than occasional eye-dazzling Oswald Boateng suits. Seeing him in full Beyonce make-up and wig, not to mention padding, expressing his female side, was one of the oddest things that happened today. There were other odd things that happened today, but that was the oddest. It's going to be a very funny video...

A good day's WOLVES work, too.

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

putting wolves into your walls...

It's all going incredibly well.

I'm afraid this is going to have to be very brief as I need sleep: yesterday, arrived in UK, met Steve Jones and signed lots of bookplates for him for his Dark Delicacies signing of the new edition of the Mammoth Book of Vampires (or possibly the Vampire Book of Mammoths), then first meeting with Julian Crouch (designer/director), Vicky Featherstone (director) and Nick Powell (music), then up to Hourglass Films to see Mirrormask footage, and then a working dinner with Dave McKean, who was going to be shooting his pick-up shots at Pinewood today, so we went over the script for all the dialogue that had to be shot and got it all exactly right. Today was more Julian, Vicky and and Nick, which included a trip to look at scary doll's houses at the Museum of Childhood, and then we all went to see Kiki and Herb (not to mention Stephin Merritt and Claudia Gonson).

No time to answer questions, so here are a couple of quick things ---

I am almost certain you will have seen this or been sent it a million times, however, the Guardian has an article (,7792,1176710,00.html) about a town in California that fell for the dihydrogen monoxide joke and promptly banned it.

and this from John Innes...

Hi Neil,

Journal readers might be interested in the snapshot of book and CD recommendations that you gave me when we talked before your signing in London. Yours along with those for Alastair Campbell, Bill Bailey, Daniel Lanois, Gerry Anderson, Jamie Lee Curtis, Johnny Marr, Ravi Shankar and Tony Bennett (among many many more) can be found at....

All the best,


and Ricky Gervais, Rob Brydon, Robert Plant etc etc... what an astonishing list of people...

Monday, March 22, 2004

I really ought to post this and get on with printing out my boarding card...

Sorry to have confused any of you by last night's late-night-post (memo to self: get new head). I'm going to the UK for a week to work with various suspicious characters on the Wolves in the Walls theatrical adaptation. No, there won't be any signings or appearances, unless you happen coincidentally to be standing next to me in a bookshop or behind me in the line for the tube, and ask nicely.

Saw Thea Gilmore last night in Chicago. She was terrific! And I got a signed postcard! Thanks so much for recommending her. It was a great show!

Mary Roane

Argh! I meant to remind everyone last week that Thea was touring, and forgot completely. So, the Thea Gilmore US gigs remaining are:

Monday March 22nd 2004 One Trick Pony, Grand Rapids, MI 616 459 4788

(According to the link, this gig is FREE. It's also tonight. Mention that you read about it on this blog and you get a signed Thea postcard.)

Thursday March 25th 2004 Club Cafe, Pittsburgh 412 683 5363

Friday, March 26th 2004 Skippers Smokehouse ? Tampa FL USA 813 238 8001

Saturday March 27th 2004 Eddies Attic, Decatur, Nr Atlanta GA404 377 4976

Wednesday March 31st 2004 Joe's Pub, New York 212 625 3750
If you get a chance, go: she's amazing.

Did you know that your journal is listed in Technorati's top 100 Twice? You are at #58 and at #80. It is at If you don't know what I'm talking about Technorati is a blog ranking system.

I did know, yes. It's something to do with the vaguely non-standard way this blog was originally set up, so we were appearing falsely lower than we really are, because Technorati wasn't noticing when people linked to permalinks. Kevin Marks at Technorati helpfully did some twiddling, and so did Sunil at authors on the web, to enable the journal to show up more accurately further up the list, but it also shows up in its original position. Pretty soon I expect it'll just have one entry.

Kevin is also responsible for sending me this link to a story from the SUN, made strangely less grisly rather than more by their editorial decision to show you lots of pictures of black widows and termites just like the ones that killed the unfortunate gentleman in Dusseldorf.

Hi Neil,

I just read the Guardian article about Dasani that you posted on your journal. If you look at the ingredients on a bottle of Dasani, they list "water" and "salt". They actually put salt in the water to make you thirstier! After I found this out I stopped drinking Dasani, but this article will ensure that I will never drink it again. Yuck!

Love the journal,

You know, if you google Dasani ingredients you wind up at and discover that she's right (although I suspect that the salts are added to make it taste like it hasn't just come out of a reverse osmosis filter, rather than to make you thirsty enough to consume more or their product). It doesn't mention the bromides or the bromates that caused the UK recall of Dasani, though: I wonder if they're UK specific, or just omitted.

From Mark Evanier's blog I wound up watching Dennis Miller not bothering to interview Eric Alterman; it's a really sad little bit of television. It's the kind of TV that you only get when nobody's watching, and the host knows that no-one's watching and no-one cares. It's not about politics, just about professionalism, and the impression one gets from the clip is that Miller has simply given up.


Having been on both sides of the writer-fence, does this article ring true for you?

Ring true in the sense of "did it really happen, or does the person writing it believe it happened"? Sure. Ring true in the sense of "is this what it's like?" Well, not for me, but I've been extremely lucky -- partly because most of my publishing horror stories happened early in my career, and partly because I've had, since 1987, a lot of readers, who have come with me to at least check out what I was doing next, most of whom have realised they're under no obligation to like everything I've written. Again, I'm lucky: my books are in print, and new people are finding and reading my novels and graphic novels all the time, so I'm not really worried that even if the book I'm currently writing is really awful and everyone hates it and no-one buys it and I wind up a pitiable and discredited laughing stock for even having tried to write it that that will mean the end of my career, because people will (I suspect) still read Sandman and Neverwhere and Stardust and Smoke & Mirrors and American Gods... And the book after that will be different anyway.

But I think that Jessa at Bookslut has the most sensible take on it: as she points out, this is not an author with sound commercial instincts. If "Jane Austen Doe" (who also doesn't have the best instinct for picking catchy pseudonyms) was slightly more savvy she would have published the article under her own name, so that curious people could click on Amazon links and such and actually buy some of "Jane Doe's" books. (Seeing that she considers herself blacklisted by half of the New York publishing world, putting out the article under her own name couldn't have made matters worse.)


I recently recommended to a nephew who has started to write poetry, and thought I should pass it along. Lots of meat there, and wisdom, and information, elegantly compressed. It's the sort of website that makes you want to go and write a Sestina, and that can't be bad.

Sunday, March 21, 2004

the way the future wasn't

I think what I find oddest about this article in the Guardian is how old-fashioned it feels. It's like stumbling across an article about how flying cars and jetpacks are starting to get really popular, or how the Martian landers have discovered, not just evidence of traces of prehistoric water, but mirror-surfaced formal canals. It's an artefact from an Asimov future that somehow wound up in the strange Dick-and-Ballard construct we currently inhabit.

The system is based on the work of Professor Stephen Hawking, author of A Brief History of Time, who argued that such was the ability of computers to digest information and come to conclusions about future behaviour that, given enough computer power and data, human judgments could be predicted.

You see, that's scientists for you. Just as you think they're really spending all their time reviewing curry houses, they pull a Hari Seldon.

Hi Neil,

Just a heads-up for those of us in the not-so-frozen north,
Magnetic Fields will be at the Pantages Theatre, 710 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis on Thursday, June 24. Showtime is 7:30. If you don't want to pay the Ticketmaster inconvenience charge, tickets are also available at the State Theatre boxoffice, the Electric Fetus or Let It Be records. Tickets on sale 3/24 at 10:00 a.m.
I really loved what Alan Moore had to say about Julie Schwartz...we should all be so lucky to live a life so well, or to know someone who has. Thanks for sharing it.

Mary Zieska

Consider it mentioned. I think I'm probably going to be their support act for that gig, as well, if the timing can work out.

To the UK tomorrow, for a week of WOLVES IN THE WALLS...

Saturday, March 20, 2004

It ain't easy being green

Another two Muppet episodes watched with Maddy and Mike last night (Julie Andrews and Peter Sellers). I'd forgotten how -- for want of a better word -- irrelevant many of the guests were to what was happening on the screen.

The post yesterday brought the thirteen videos for something that it seems will probably be called "Neil Gaiman's Thirteen Nights of Fright". I'll be filming the links in mid-May. I didn't pick the films, but they're an interesting and eclectic bunch of titles, ranging from all flavours of horror to borderline SF, covering about 50 years of stuff. (I don't plan to make a new career of this, I should add. But I'm really looking forward to doing it once.)

Last year, in a hotel room in New York, my agent Merrilee and I sat and figured out the year to come. Deadlines and projects and things to say no to and things to say yes to and so on. This year she volunteered to come out to me, here in the land of the melting snow. Somehow it all seems a bit more hectic and crazed this time, as we try to figure out the shape of my life and work in the months to come. it's fitting in all the goofy things that make life fun, like recording the next CD for Harper Collins (it'll contain THE DAY I SWAPPED MY DAD FOR TWO GOLDFISH, THE WOLVES IN THE WALLS, CINNAMON and possibly CRAZY HAIR) and spending a few days as a horror host...

Let's see.... Avenue Victor Hugo Bookshop in Boston is closing. Interesting article here on why.

I like the convenience of bottled water, although not the price. I was amused by this Guardian article, in which we learn that Coca-Cola take tap-water, run it through a reverse-osmosis filter, then add sedatives and carcinogens for taste... Coca-Cola said it was voluntarily withdrawing all Dasani "to ensure that only products of the highest quality are provided to our consumers".

Small public service announcement: Unrelentless is not a word. Relentless is a word. Unrelenting is a word. Unrelentless doesn't mean "even more relentless than if I just said relentless". If it means anything it means "not relentless at all".

A dozen or so people have suggested I watch the "Cat With Hands" film. For some reason, the messages would always come in when I was on a dial-up connection in a hotel or an airport. But I finally watched it, and in the interests of fairness, checked to see what the first suggestion was:

Dear Neil,

On the off-chance that 27,000 people haven't already sent you this, I thought I'd send you the link to a short, creepy film, "The Cat with Hands":

I hope you enjoy (?) it.


I enjoyed it enormously.

Hi Neil,

Just a note to let you and your readers know about a troubling law that may soon be passed in Canada, and which poses a serious threat to artistic expression here. Bill C-12 removes "artistic merit" as a valid legal defence in obscenity cases involving the representation of minors involved in sexual acts - and goes a step further by demanding the defence prove how the work in question serves the "public good." This last point is the most troubling aspect of the new law, as it opens the door to attacks on works of art that, while not pornographic in nature, could still be banned for failing to meet such a strict mandate (works like, for instance, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen). We've had real problems with censorship in Canada, so this is a genuine concern. Arts groups are mobilizing against the proposed new law, and we've set up an information page about it at ( It would be great if you could help us get the word out about this matter.


Peter Darbyshire

Consider it posted. I think that artistic merit is an important criterion; otherwise it becomes a problem that Juliet was almost fourteen...

Dear Neil,

I wanted to let you know that the Tori Amos Tribute Show/RAINN Benefit will be happening again (this is our third year) in Carrboro, NC on Saturday, April 17th, 2004 at the Temple Ball Gallery.
Maybe you could spread the word, and mention it in your journal..?

Here is a link:

Your contribution and support of the event last year helped us greatly, and any help you can lend in advertising would be very much appreciated.

There will be about 15 performers from all over the country performing only the music of Tori Amos on a Bosendorfer and other instruments. You can even see the songs they will be playing at:

There will also be some wonderful Tori-related artwork this year in our gallery/RAINN fundraiser. We will have originals by Herb Leonhard, Paulina Stuckey, porcelain doll maker: Pat Kochie, Kabuki and Darevil artist: David Mack, Laurie Paris, Ken Vint, Nanci Wilson, and Eryn Merwart. We will also have prints by Ken Meyer Jr., Paul Elia, Bob Masse, and Michelle Ivy Berg, and David Louie. Here is a link to our sponsors page:

All proceeds from the event will be donated to RAINN (, which supports the nation's only toll-free 24 hour rape crisis hotline.

We are very excited about the event, and hope people will come out to help us pay tribute to an amazing musician and leader, as well as support a very good cause.

Thank you so much for your help!

Lisa Ray
Executive Director

P.S. I enjoyed the Wolves in the Walls very much, and I love that the father plays the tuba.

And a couple of days ago I got an e-mail from Bill Sienkiewicz with his Tori illustration, which is the cover to the calendar. Really gorgeous. (It's the first image at

And I should have mentioned the other day that people can also read the Strange Little Girl Stories at

Thursday, March 18, 2004

What Alan said about Julie...

I wasn't sure what I was going to say this morning at Julius Schwartz's memorial. None of my Julie anecdotes really go anywhere, and they all sort of reduce down to we just liked each other very much, and I was in awe of him, and Julie got a huge kick out of the fact that I cared and was interested and was impressed by his stories of the early days of SF ("You know who that guy in the photo next to me is? Huh? Countryman of yours. Eric Frank Russell.") And then, as I arrived, I was asked if I would read something that Alan Moore had sent to be read, and I said I would love to. He said everything I would have wanted to have said, and said it better than I ever could.

So I read it at Julie's memorial, trying to pace and pitch it as Alan would have done, and afterward people kept coming up to me and asking if I could post it, or copy it for them. Alan graciously gave his permission for it to be posted here. Bob Wayne was kind enough to send it to me in electronic form, so I didn't have to type it all in again.


Just off the 'plane from England, anything except fresh out of Kennedy, within an hour or two we'd all been introduced to Julie, all us early eighties economic migrants, awestruck, wide-eyed, staring like religiously-converted lemurs as at last we met our childhood's god, the intergalactic cabby who wouldn't shut up, the curator of the space museum. We loved Julie in the way that we'd love anyone we'd known since we were small, who'd shared with us that secret, rustling, flashlight-dazzled space beneath the midnight counterpane. We loved him in the way that we loved covers with gorillas on.

We followed at his heels, a quacking flock, along the migraine-yellow dot-toned hallways at the DC offices, and if he thought of us as irritating Carl Barks nephews, as the Hueys, Deweys and Louies that he's never really wanted, then he didn't let it show. Quite the reverse. Julie indulged us like a visiting school-trip for pale, consumptive English orphans, fragile coughing invalids at Fresh Air Camp. He sneaked us presents, file copies of some treasured Mystery in Space pulled from the morgue drawers in his office, from which rose the perfume of his life, long decades of pulp pages, fifty thousand comic racks in every corner magazine store that you ever visited or dreamed about.

He knew a captive audience when he saw one, and appreciated our appreciation. All the anecdotes were new to us, the creaking chair-bound jokes fresh as this morning's lox. The funeral for a much-feared fellow editor he told us of, whereat the section of the service set aside for testaments and kindly words concerning the deceased stretched into long, embarrassed silence until someone at the back stood up and ventured the opinion that the late lamented's brother had been worse. We were a pushover. He made us laugh, he knocked us dead, and then there was the scrapbook, with its pages full of letters, pictures, signatures. "I am, sir, your devoted servant, H.P. Lovecraft." Photographs of Julie, young with diamond cutter eyes behind wire-rimmed spectacles. Men in dark coats and Homburg hats on winter corners in New York, grey vapour twisting up from manhole covers, from cigars. "You see the crewcut kid, the newsboy there? That's Bradbury." We'd gape and nod, could not have possibly been more impressed if he'd said, "See that old guy in the toga, standing by Ed Hamilton? That's Zeus."

And now we hear that Julie has been�discontinued? Cancelled? But they said the same about Green Lantern and the Flash back in the early 'fifties, so we can't be certain. This is comics. There'll be some way around it, be some parallel world Earth-Four Julie, born thirty years later to account for problems in the continuity, and decked out in a jazzier, more streamlined outfit.

A funny, brilliant, endlessly enthusiastic twelve year old got up in an old man suit, Julie spent his life mining the gold-seam of the future; is too big, then, to be ever truly swallowed by the past. He was a friend, he was an inspiration, was the founder of our dreams. He ruined my reputation as a gentle pacifist by claiming that I'd seized him by the throat and sworn to kill him if he didn't let me write his final episodes of Superman, and how, now, am I supposed to contradict a classic Julius Schwartz yarn? So, all right: it's true. I picked him up and shook him like a British nanny, and I hope wherever he is now, he's satisfied by this shamefaced confession.

Goodnight, Julie. It has been our privilege to have known you.

You were the best.

Alan Moore
Northampton, March 17th, 2004.

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Catching up. No mention of Lord Snooty's giant poisoned electric head.

Lots of people sending messages like this one: Where's 1602 #8? I can't find it anywhere. :/ Is it on a different release schedule since it's the last issue, or am I just not looking hard enough?

And the answer is, it's on a different release schedule -- it was always solicited for the last Wednesday in March. (Mostly because it's 13 pages longer than a normal issue, and we knew that Andy Kubert would need the extra time to finish drawing it.) The good news is, it will actually ship on time: I got the last of the coloured pages from Marvel's FTP site this morning, e-mailed the final lettering draft of the script to Todd Klein this afternoon, and should be proofreading it on Thursday. (I'd suggested that we ship them at 5 week intervals, and that way no-one would notice, but there were reasons it couldn't happen like that, although I forget what they were.)

Is the stuff you wrote for Tori Amos's Strange Little Girls available anywhere? It was up on for an unforgivably short period of time - by the time I knew it was there it was gone. I'd like to read it.

Sure. It's up -- with my permission -- at


I learned from Lucy Anne at The Dreaming that WOLVES IN THE WALLS is nominated for an ABA Booksense award for best children's book. (I can mention this with a clear conscience as the votes had to be in a week ago.)

Hey Neil

I noticed yesterday that along with Plato, Ghandi, and Douglas Adams, you've been included in my "quotes of the day e-mail".

Rock on, boy.

Also. Thank-you for being a writer. I'm glad that you decided to go that route.

-Laura who bears a slight resemblance to Laura Fraser, though she has a last name that isn't Fraser, but takes great pride in her Door connection anyway.

I'm glad I wound up a writer too. I would have been a crap brain surgeon.

According to an article at,12243,1164894,00.html Dr Stephen Unwin has used a 200-year-old formula to calculate the probability of the existence of an omnipotent being. Bayes' Theory is usually used to work out the likelihood of events, such as nuclear power failure, by balancing the various factors that could affect a situation.

He estimates that there is a 67% chance that God exists.

That's not what fascinates me about the article though. What I loved was learning at the end of the article that, while the William Hill betting agency will not take bets on the existence or non-existence of God...

Mr Sharp said William Hill does take bets on the Second Coming, which currently stand at 1,000/1. For this confirmation is needed from the Archbishop of Canterbury.

When asked about the Disney purchase of the Muppets from Hensons a few weeks ago, I mentioned that, if it meant that classic Muppet Show episodes would be out on DVD then I would be happy. "Actually," someone at Hensons told me, "They are available on DVD." I got home from holiday to find a box of 45 Muppet Shows waiting for me, so last night Maddy and Mike and I watched the Vincent Price episode and the John Cleese episode (the Price was okay, the Cleese was as good as I remembered).

Jerry Juhl once told me that the Muppet Shows contained extra material that we only saw in the UK, because a UK TV half hour was longer than a US TV half hour, and they tended to do UK material. The Cleese show has Miss Piggy and Kermit duetting on the English music hall number "Waiting at the Church", with a pregnant Miss Piggy adding, er, pathos.


Over at the always-fine Mumpsimus, I learned about Greg Beatty's "Aliens Enter the Conversation", and was delighted to find on reading it (at that it's every bit as good and as odd as I had hoped.

If I mention the Badmash Indian Simpsons parody at I can close that Firefox tab with a clear conscience.

Life became more uncertain when I learned that SOME BUTTONS do not work. Elevator door-closing buttons. Pedestrian-crossing WALK buttons. Some work. Some merely give you something to do while waiting for things that would happen anyway. My faith in the honesty of simple machines is shattered.

Not a question really... I just used my local library's new "e-book" option to download and read Coraline (then return it, even, through Adobe!). It's got to be the oddest way I've ever read a book like that, and I'm never, ever going to do it again at 10 at night when I need to go to sleep, especially with a book like Coraline (as it's now 2 am and there's NO WAY I'm going to try to sleep with that in my head). Anyway, thank you for the ... um... nightmares. It really is an excellent book, and I'll definitely be getting myself a real copy as soon as I'm able. In the unlikely event you're interested, I put up a little review on my blog (, though part of me wants to write a long essay comparing and contrasting themes in Coraline to the Wizard of Oz. Right, I'll shut up now. Thanks...

-Laura Gjovaag

I thought the line about 'instant gratification" in Laura's blog entry was right on the money. That does seem to be one of the main attractions of e-fiction: it's for when you want to read it now...

Welcome back Neil! Missed you terribly while you gone, but I am very happy to hear that you had a good time on your well-deserved holiday.
Anyway, less of a FAQ and more of information that I thought you should have: I watched "Pieces of April" tonight, which was a great little indie film, very simple and sweet. I kept getting really caught up by the amazing music that was playing in the background in several scenes, and I was pleasantly surprised at the end to find out the soundtrack was by Stephen Merritt, the 6ths & The Magnetic Fields! I know you've mentioned Stephen's many bands on your site before so I thought you would like a heads-up, in case you weren't already aware.

I was indeed aware -- interestingly the Pieces of April soundtrack has several Magnetic Fields songs on it that aren't on the movie, and aren't on any other Magnetic Fields CDs (including the upcoming masterpiece "i").


And as a final comment, I want to make it clear that spitting at book reviewers is not nice. It doesn't matter what they said about your book. It's not clever, it's not funny, and nobody's the slightest bit impressed... (Water pistols are sometimes okay, though.)

Sunday, March 14, 2004

Back in the snow...

I know that people take holidays all over the place, and I think it's a very good idea. I don't know why I didn't think of it before. Holidays are wonderful things. If you go on holiday you can read Susanna Clarke's novel Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell (which, in my probably biased but not entirely uninformed opinion, is the best English fantasy novel written in the last seventy years: over 800 pages, and when it ends you're just sad there aren't another 800) (it'll be published later this year, and I may write about it at greater length when I've had more of a chance to think about it). And if you're on holiday, you can write your own novel with your toes waggling in the white sand and finish another chapter. You can also mostly avoid sunburn, go on a submarine and swim off a pirate ship and feed the stingrays, and generally have an incredibly pleasant time a long way from the ice and snow with two daughters (one of whom has already gone back to college, bearing rum cakes).

And now I'm home, with several hundred e-mails to read and reply to, and many letters and packages and things to catch up on, and interesting links that people have sent to post. And journeys to make, and things to write and to finish.

And huge fallen pine branches everywhere, from the snowfall just as I left, which need to be cleaned up...

And ice that crunches underfoot; and blowing gusts of snow...

Friday, March 05, 2004

Why I will Not Be Here For A Week.

I just told Karen Berger I was going on holiday for a week. She pointed out that the last time she could remember that I'd actually, honest-to-goodness, taken a real week off, was in 1988.

Holly organised it. There will be no snow where I am going. Nor, as far as I can tell, will there be any internet connection. Quite possibly no working telephones. There will be daughters, however. (I'd hoped not even to bring a computer, but Holly wants something to write her midterms on.)

So I plan to walk and swim and, er, well, seeing I'm bringing a fountain pen, write my novel...

(Look, it's still a holiday, even if you're writing a novel. I went on one in 1988. I know these things.)


And as I go, I leave you one lovely link; Alan David Doane's excellent interview with Alan Moore, at ADD's website. "...if I've had any benign influence upon comics, I would hope that it would be along those lines; that anything is possible if you approach the material in the right way. You can do some extraordinary things with a mixture of words and pictures. It's just a matter of being diligent enough and perceptive enough and working hard enough, continually honing your talent until it's sharp enough to do the job that you require. I hope that if I had any sort of benign legacy at all, that that would be it, but I don't know, I think that my legacy, somedays, like I say, I think that my legacy is more likely to be a lot of humourless snarling, sarcastic psychopaths, but that's just on my black days, pay me no mind..." and lots more equally fascinating stuff.

Snow falling off cedars

It snowed last night.

That's one of what a friend of mine used to call "those British understatey things you do, isn't it?"

Between midnight and morning about a foot of snow fell, covering the world. Roads are closed. School is cancelled. Everything is very quiet, except for the occasional floomfing sound of snow falling off pine trees and cedars. And the occasional crack and crunch of a snow-covered branch falling off a pine tree, and the muffled ow from whatever was underneath. A foot of snow...


This just came in from Claudia Gonson, of the Magnetic Fields:

Dear Friends and family, who either live in Boston or who have access to
nifty websites who can post this information for me:

Please post and forward the following Magnetic Fields show information.
Musictoday, the ticket service, is only allowed to sell tickets for us for 2 weeks
at a discount. So we would like to really let as many people know as possible
about the Boston show before Ticketron get their greedy hands on the show
(after March 19), and double the prices.

So please forward or post the following to every one or place you can think
of, and big thanks!

The Magnetic Fields will be touring in April and May, 2004. There are tickets
currently available for their Boston show, at the Berklee Performance Center
on May 22. You can receive discounted prices for this show by ordering now
through the URL is

After March 19, these discounted tickets will no longer be available. Tickets
after that date will be available through Ticketron and at the Berklee box
office. For general info on The Magnetic Fields, go to


There. Every time the wind blows the world outside the window goes white.

Neil, why don't you list the audio play version of Snow, Glass, Apples on your website? I performed the part of Prince Charming with Bebe Neuwirth, and think the whole cast did a fantastic job. I'm not sure how many of your fans even know that this is out there.

That must be Mark Evans (hi Mark). It really is listed on the website, but mostly as part of Two Plays For Voices --

But seeing you asked....

Anyone can listen to Snow Glass Apples (and Murder Mysteries) for free over at -- it's up at

You can download it from or through Itunes. And you can buy it on CD or cassette (as Two Plays For Voices).

Short of having the actors come around to your house and perform it, that's pretty much a full set of options.



Have you ever considered self-publishing? Now that you are well established, I would imagine you can move quite a bit of product from your web site and can keep more of the dollars (or pounds sterling) for yourself.

Just curious as to why more successful authors don't self-publish.



I have so much less time to write than I would like; in a world in which I also had to run a small publishing company is one in which I suspect I'd have no time to write at all. Also, I have no desire to run a small publishing company, or a toy company, or any of those things. I like writing. There are people who like publishing what I write, and who are very happy to pay me for the right to publish my work. They have a promotional department, editorial, designers. They have sales reps. They have deep pockets.

A friend of mine runs a small publishing company. They've had a recent success with a thick book that has, in a quiet way, gone on to mild bestseller status. Now, every time they go back to press on it -- as they have to, and want to -- they also have no cashflow, and have to hold their breath, and juggle projects and so on, to make everything work. It's a success that could, if not handled properly, cripple the publisher.

Watching Pete and Pete at HillHouse Press publishing their limited edition of American Gods has been an education for me -- again, it was more successful than they expected, which has brought with it a load of additional problems for them. (Expect an announcement from them within the week on when the books are going out, and the incredibly cool bonus thing that people will be getting, which has been responsible for the recent delay.)

I'm happy to support small presses. I like not being a publisher. I suppose I could take a larger slice of the pie if I was publishing myself, but I'd also write a lot less, unless I was delegating everything, employing people, all that... at which point, why not get an existing publisher to publish me?


what month was the sandman launched in 1989

Sandman #1 came out in November-Decmber of 1988, with a January 1989 cover date.


A few days ago I asked Kristin if she'd fill in more details than the press gave on the Harvard Square protest, and she was very happy to:

What was the point of the PETA protest in Harvard Square? Well, for PETA, it was to get publicity -- one way or another, good or bad -- for their worthy cause. If any of their (occasionally questionable) antics cause one more person to take responsibility for their relations with the animal kingdom, those nutty vegans call the day and the demonstration a success.

For me, the point was to explore some of the issues of public nudity. F'rinstance, why is it that the women were charged with indecent exposure (which, following a conviction, would require us to register as sex offenders) for showing our breasts, with the nipples covered by flesh-colored pasties? Dan Mathews, our tall, blonde cohort in the Spongebob boxers, was jailed for "only" blocking traffic and disturbing the peace. My liberal (quasi-nudist) heart bleeds for the double standard!

Dan Mathews was asked by Professor Palmer to appear in front of the class because of his visible, storied lifestyle -- and what happened in his life to make him chose that lifestyle. Professor Palmer, actually, suggested that he stage some sort of event to give the students a taste of what he does.

Anywho, I hope that serves to clarify the madcap antics a little bit. Thank you so much for your kindness and understanding, Unca Neil. I can think of no one else I'd rather have chastise me for taking off my blouse in public :)

Niece Kristin

Thanks, Kristin. Yes, it's a double-standard, and a very odd one.

There's a Chicago Tribune article on the McFarlane case, which is fairly good (there's a bit of confusion in there between an "idea" and a "script", added in by a commenting law professor who doesn't seem very clear on what it is a writer actually does in comics).

Thursday, March 04, 2004

Setting the record straighter...

Several people have pointed to, an article which says that

After reviewing the script and casting of HELLBLAZER, Comic Kingpin Alan Moore has done the unthinkable. He's washed his hand of the entire debacle. That's right- he's instructed DC to NOT credit him as the creator of the character. And putting his money where his mouth is, he has instructed that the royalties that he was splitting with his co-creators goes EXCLUSIVELY to the artists, Veitch and Bissette.

Often we hear about an artist upset that his creation has been butchered but this is the first I can recall where the creator asked that both name and money be rejected. Moore is apparently so upset at the desecration done to Constantine by Producer Lauren Shuler Donner that he is stating that he will never support a film project based on his work again. DC Toady Paul Levitz is running around trying to get Moore to change his position, but Levitz is the one who had 30,000 copies of League of Extraordinary Gentlemen #5 pulped. The bad PR this move could create in the geek community is of grave concern to Warners and DC

Which is really interesting, except for it not being true.

Oh, it's true that Alan's rejected the money for CONSTANTINE and assigned it to his cocreators, but he's now done that for all films of his and things he's done that might one day be filmed. This was because he was deeply hurt and offended and irritated by being accused in the Larry Cohen lawsuit of having written League of Extraordinary Gentlemen as some kind of studio shill, and because Alan never does anything by halves. Up until the lawsuit his position was that he didn't care about the films people made from his work, but was happy to cash the cheques; after, he decided that he didn't even want to cash the cheques.

His share of Constantine was redistributed among his co-creators, John Totleben, Steve Bissette and Rick Veitch and to Jamie Delano and John Ridgway.

As far as I know, from having spoken to him, Alan's view on Constantine itself is the same as his view on From Hell and League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, which is that he'll probably rent the DVD one day, you never know, hell might freeze over, -- and that the important work is the comic -- the main difference being here that the film is, from what I understand, mostly based on the Garth Ennis and Jamie Delano issues of the Hellblazer comic.

(And, for whatever remains of the record, Alan hasn't seen anything of Constantine -- no scripts, no nothing. Nor has he had any contact with DC on it except for asking Karen Berger to redistribute the money and the credit.)

I tend to feel that the filmmakers started with two strikes against them, simply by casting Keanu Reeves instead of, say, Jude Law, but everything I've heard since has been encouraging, so while I'll be sitting in the cinema with my arms folded and an "okay, convince me" attitude, I'll at least be going to see it.

Wednesday, March 03, 2004

"He wasn't going to leave Pat Benson alone that night, crabs or no crabs."


Not just monster crabs, but STALINIST MONSTER CRABS!

It is, to put it bluntly, THE END OF THE WORLD AS WE KNOW IT.

And furthermore, and most importantly, THIS ISN'T FROM THE WEEKLY WORLD NEWS! Which means it's TRUE!



But, luckily, at present, the only people who have to worry about this are Norwegians, so that's all right. (Unless you're Norwegian, of course.)


It's all in this Daily Telegraph article. If I ran a newspaper it would be on the front pages, not tucked away discreetly inside. I've read my Guy N. Smith novels, dammit. IT'S THE END OF THE WORLD AS WE KNOW IT! WHAT CAN STOP THEIR RELENTLESS MARCH SOUTH?

There. I have warned you. My task here is done.

Unca Neil, please don't be mad at me!

I was one of the nekkid protesters in Harvard Square yesterday; to be truthful (as is recommended), I'm not a member of PETA nor an animal rights activists in any great capacity. I just wanted to get an interview and article out of the deal, and ended up spending five hours in a Cambridge City jail cell. Most likely, a couple articles and MANY stories and poems will result from the experience.

Your reaction (that we were being frivolous hippies) raises a couple of questions in my mind: how do you feel about animal rights? I know you are a pet lover (I thoroughly enjoy your anecdotes about the World's Unluckiest Cat) ... but do you think we were frivolous in our protest or just in the manner we protested?

Also, have you ever been in jail? If so, do tell ...

I hope you will always, forever be my Unca Neil,

I'm not mad at all -- nor do I think you were silly hippies. As PETA protests go, I'm categorically and explicitly in favour of naked pillow fights. But from the article, I really wasn't sure what this was meant to be drawing attention to, which was really why I pointed it out. It was a naked Pillow Fight. It was at Harvard. "This is nothing compared to what animals go through." This was all I had to go on.

I've now read several other newspaper reports, and I've learned that "The protest was not meant as a criticism of Harvard. Instead, the demonstration came hours before PETA Vice President Dan Mathews was set to address Harvard professor Brian Palmer's popular "Personal Choice and Global Transformation" class." (Leading me to suspect that Dan Matthews looked at his watch, and went "Well, I've got a couple of hours to kill before I have to talk to Professor Palmer's class -- let's all have a naked pillow fight!" and everyone was just swept up in the glory of the moment...)

But honestly, I'm no closer to finding out what it was actually about. (You must know, neice Kristin. Someone must have let it slip. Tell me and I'll put it up here and the world shall be wiser.)

Being human, I'm capable of holding a number of contradictory points of view at once. I'm definitely against cruelty to animals, don't like killing them or having them killed on my behalf, but I'm in favour of eating them, particularly in the form of sushi, and of exploiting them (in obvious ways, like using them to produce insulin, and cheese, not to mention the less obvious ones, like wool and leather) while keeping the cruelty to a minimum. I dislike the fur trade when it exists in order for rich women to display their wealth, and am in favour of it when it helps not-rich people to stay warm in cold places. I'm willing to eat lamb, but rejoiced when Britain's cruellest farmer went to prison (for apparently trying to drown a vet in liquid cow dung who was investigating his cruel behaviour to sheep). I love wearing big leather jackets, and do whatever I can for the local cat population...

(It was the holding of all those contradictory points of view about our relationship with animals that led to me writing the very short story "Babycakes" for a PETA anthology.)

I think that PETA does some good things, some very silly things -- like imploring Fishkill to change its name -- and some bad things -- such as giving kids Bloody Crowns at Burger King or McDonalds Unhappy Meals, or a recent one they seem very proud of, in which Kids in the company of fur-clad mothers will receive PETA's "Your Mommy Kills Animals!" leaflets depicting a demonic mom thrusting a bloody knife into a terrified rabbit, along with graphic photos of animals killed for fur, seem, well, simply wrong. Warning the men of Knoxville that 40% of them will grow breasts might simply be considered a public service, unless of course it isn't true. But the whole getting people to get naked possibly to show their disdain for fur or just their fondness for pillowfighting, strikes me as something to be encouraged.

At least until the giant crabs get here.

And no, I've never been in jail, except for research, which doesn't count. (I mean, they showed me round and let me in and showed me things and let me out again.)

And finally, in keeping with the animal theme of this post, Sharon Stiteler (the Official Bird Lady of Neil -- which I've just realised acronyms rather disconcertingly down to O.B.L.O.N.G) writes to tell me that the TV footage of the bird-house cleaning incident is now back up on the web at

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Fast Food

In the town nearest to where I live there is a shortage of restaurants (real ones. Not sad chain restaurants, of which we have an abundance). Decent restaurants open and then, several months later, they close again.

Yesterday morning Lorraine mentioned that there was a new restaurant in town. It just opened. She ate there last week. I should check it out. Real food. Good food. In the afternoon, I went down to the gazebo at the bottom of my garden to write, where I was soon joined by Maddy, who wanted me to help her write a story. (It was easy. She'd say "I don't know what to write next." I'd say "Well, what happens next?" She'd say, "Well, then the lights go up and a lady comes out onto the stage." And I'd say "Well, then why don't you write Then the lights went up and a lady came out onto the stage?" "Oh. Okay.") Occasionally we'd hear distant sirens.

This morning, Lorraine said, "You remember that restaurant I told you about yesterday?"

"Of course."

"That was the sirens. It's not there any more."

Ah well. That was quick.


Police arrested six shivering protesters on Monday after they braved cool temperatures and staged a nearly naked pillow fight outside Harvard University to promote animal rights.
The five women and one man, members of the group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, were arrested on criminal misdemeanor charges, said police spokesman Frank Pasquarello.

"This is nothing compared to what the animals go through," protester Karla Waples, wearing nothing but pasties to cover her nipples and a pair of panties, shouted to reporters as she was led in handcuffs to a waiting police van.

This is the tragedy of being an animal. Most of them never get to have pillow fights. Only a select few coddled pets even have their own pillows. And, outside of the kind of websites that spam-advertise themselves as being a revealing vision of life as it is lived whenever beautiful women visit farms or zoos, I rather doubt any animals get to wear pasties.

I'm just glad our attention has been drawn to this.


After seeing some of the video clips of you in the gallery section of the site, has anybody ever told you that you have a downright creepy resemblance to Alan Rickman? (Dogma, Harry Potter movies, etc.) Just something that struck me as odd.

Larry Myers
West Lafayette, IN

Well, I don't think I look like Alan Rickman. And I used to be dead puzzled when people would compare us. That kind of stopped when I was on breakfast TV in Finland, last year. I was sitting in the studio, waiting for the second half of the interview to start, facing a huge bank of TV screens, with all the various things that were on TV in Finland at that point playing on them, along with several movies and things. And on one of the screens I noticed Alan Rickman. And then I shifted in my seat, and he shifted in his seat, and I realised that it wasn't Alan Rickman at all. And, as I explained to Lotta, my editor, who had taken me, I sort of understood the comparison to Rickman at that moment. I still don't think I look like him, mind...

But then, TV screens do odd things. Dave McKean and I were standing next to Malcolm McDowell in a New York TV studio for twenty minutes, occasionally making small talk, before he was escorted over to the interview seat, and Dave saw him on the screen and said "My god, that's Malcolm McDowell."


In case you are interested in yet another article about the popularity of graphic novels, there was an article in Sunday's South Florida Sun-Sentinel titled, "Comics animate reading skills in school library."(,0,2896576.story) The article states, among other things, that at the Boynton Beach High School library, graphic novels "account for 1 percent of the library's collection but 50 percent of the books students check out."

Alice, a librarian in Chicago

That's fascinating.

Do you think there's place in the market for a series like Sandman nowadays?

I would think so. It all depends on what you mean by "like". I've seen some very bad comics that were trying to be like Sandman over the years, and some very good ones. I really hope that being "like Sandman" means respecting your audience, and not being like anything else that's out there, rather than "copying Sandman" which is just going to lead to something not as good.