Friday, April 30, 2004

From the postbag...

Looks like I'm not the only person to have strange iPod updating problems. Several e-mails from people who had crashed iPods or computers in the attempt (and here's a blog entry from someone who had the pretty much exactly the same experience I had):

Not really a faq, but you're not the only one with iPod updating problems:-

I got an iPod for my birthday on wednesday, and I think I'll be waiting to update mine. Did you ever find a suitable cover for 3G iPods in the end?

(I'm still using the grey podsleevz I got at the end of last year, because it fits into the inMotion speakers cradle. There's probably something better out there these days though.)


Hi, Neil,

Just wanted to interrupt your writing briefly to let you and (potentially) your readers know that Apple has posted a potential fix for the iPod updating problem.

=Brian J. Geiger
Member of the Apple Consultants Network

Thanks -- that's good for the OS X problems, but there seems to be something going on over on the Windows XP side of the fence as well.

Dear Neil,

Just a random thought question, really ...

Do you ever worry that people will ever misinterpret comments on your blog that you meant sarcastically? I'm thinking particularly about your sage response yesterday to the article about the arrested 15-year-old, that "people should be taught not to draw the wrong things". Wouldn't you be horrified if someone else quoted that in support of strengthening art censorship?

I'm sure such a thing must have happened to you before. Just curious.

Good (continuing) luck with "Anansi Boys" et al,


It hadn't occurred to me that people would think that I meant that people should be taught not to draw the wrong things. (I was tempted to continue that sentence, "No, what I meant was that people should be taught not to think the wrong things..." when I realised that, yes, someone could assume that was indeed what I meant.)

I suppose that there are people who could fail to notice when I'm deploying irony, exaggerating for humorous effect or just burbling. But I'd hate to have to take this journal down to the lowest common denominator, just in case. I think you lot are brighter than that.

Just wanted to tell you, rather than ask you, something. If and when you decide to research the police, be prepared for the fact that the first thing they will do is research you for crime records, etcetera. Then you still may find that the situation is very tense. Everyone is afraid that you'll write something damning about them for all to see. It's best to ask for the name and whereabouts of a retired cop in the Fraud Squad, who will be glad to reminisce and won't have as much to lose. Or at least, that's how it is in Canada. Bev

Well, when I wrote American Gods, I made contact with some Wisconsin police who were incredibly helpful -- they gave up much of a day to answering my questions, showing me around the jail facility, and then taking me on a "ride-along". In my experience people generally like answering questions about their speciality, and correcting misinformation. The trick is normally finding the right people in the first place.


The Met doesn't employ people to talk to novelists (though it would be a great job), but that's because there are some very nifty books that handle the task for them.

Though I hate to entice you away from writing and into research, you might as well order one or two of the following so that you can take a look at them on the way to the next draft.

First, there is the trusty A Writer's Guide to Police Organization and Crime Investigation and Detection by D.J. Cole. It's a few years old now, and doesn't cover the Fraud Squad directly, but it gives a good background on UK investigation techniques and the way the Force is structured.

For more specific fraud detail, check out Fraudbusters: Inside Story of the Serious Fraud Office by Mark Killick. This covers high-profile, high-value frauds in the UK up until 1998 and includes, it says here, "many interviews with Britain's top fraud investigators".

And finally, you might be interested in Financial Crime Investigation and Control by K.H. Spencer Pickett and Jeniffer M. Pickett, which deals with how company auditors deal with having to detect fraud before the police get involved. Again, it's a UK publication, but will be available from all the usual sources in the US.

Alternatively, dial 999 and ask for emergency literary services.

All the best,

David Varela

Right. Books ordered. And I'm very grateful...

OK, your turn with the question, mine with the answer:

The police seem entirely happy to help writers get it right: friends who are members of the Crime Writers' Association ( are forever going to talks on the finer points of procedure -

It's funny, I was re-reading all the good reasons at the beginning of this blog about why it wasn't going to be about the process of writing (as opposed to publishing) the book. And now we're on to the next book, and blogging about it, and it's fascinating - I'm glad it's working out, blog and book alike!

Best wishes


Actually, it's one of the coolest things for me about the blog -- writing The Monarch of The Glen, for example, was made much easier because there's a reader of this journal who lives near where it's set, and when I mentioned here that I'd not been able to get there to the research I'd hoped for, she offered to read the manuscript and point out errors.

And there's the web, of course. The Metropolitan Police have an excellent site, I learned yesterday -- is filled with fascinating stuff. As they say, of the Nigerian fraud, We can issue all the advice, advertise the existence of the frauds but there is no doubt that everyday of the week there is a victim sitting in a hotel room in London, Madrid or Johannesburg (the current hotspots) just waiting to receive his/hers $26,000,000 in black money, which sounds like a story in its own right...

Lawrence Block writes a good article about the whole book-signing thing at, although the answer to his final question (how long before the bastards start wanting the damned books signed in blood?) is 1988, and it was Clive Barker signing at Forbidden Planet New York (a quick google gives us the story in Clive's own words --

Good morning, Neil. Nice to hear, er, read that things are going along well on the new novel. I wanted to be a writer when I was in university, and got my BA in English Writing, though I haven't written anything of interest since graduating 7 years ago.

Anyhow, I was thinking about writing and I see that you write things out longhand. I always tried to write things out longhand which led me on to a "quest for the perfect pen". I still have not found the ultimate "smooth writing, never splotch" pen, though now my quest has turned into a search for the most expensive pen I've ever seen. So far the most expensive pen I've found was about $400US. That was here in Kyoto Japan.

What type of pen do you use when writing and why? And what's the most expensive pen you have seen?

Glad you got your iPod working again. Perhaps they need to make a patch for the problem, they could call it iResurrection...

Have a great evening there in the States. Drop me an e-mail if you ever make it to Osaka / Nara / Kyoto area in Japan. I'll give you a really neat tour of some old and very fascinating places (and not the typcial "please come here, Mr. Foreigner!" places.)

Jeffrey Shaffer

The most expensive pen I've seen? No idea. But my favourite fountain pen of all (the one I'm mostly writing Anansi Boys with) is an 80 or 90 year old Waterman Ideal; I like the shape and feel of it, and the way the nib moves across the paper; it makes beautiful marks. Of modern pens, I like the feel of the Lamy 2000, although it's a writing-a-novel sort of pen, not a signing-your-name pen.

Thursday, April 29, 2004

The one where I try to update iPod software

The problem with putting the new iTunes 4.5 on the house computers is that it then decides you need to update the software in your iPod. So I did. Of the three iPods in the house, Lorraine's 20 Gig updated just fine (once I stopped trying to do it on her iMac and plugged the iPod into a Windows box), Maddy's elderly 5 gig updated fine but lost all its files on the way, and my 40 gig...


Well, it was interesting. I learned lots of things. For example, after starting the install, the computer decided, midway, it "couldn't mount iPod". Then I got a little Apple symbol on the iPod screen, and nothing else. Rebooting the iPod didn't do anything except bring the little Apple back. A certain amount of work and research online (well, eventually googling "iPod hack troubleshooting" actually found the information), and I discovered that by pressing the forward and back buttons at the same time I could put the iPod into "disk mode" and attach it to the computer, and while iTunes immediately told me it wasn't a proper iPod and I should "restore" and delete everything, Xplay and Ephpod had no trouble seeing it, and showing me that everything on it was still there. So I copied the things Nick Powell put on my iPod while I was in the UK for "Wolves in the Walls" onto the desktop with Xplay, ran a few of the Ephpod utilities, deleted a song it said was hopelessly corrupted, and tried reinstalling the iPod updated software again. This time it worked, successfully, once I manuevered my way past the Scylla and Charybdis of the computer screen telling me not to unplug my iPod, and the iPod telling me it needs to be unplugged (the iPod was right). So I'd now updated the software...

Except I still only had a little apple on the iPod screen, and nothing else.

I was now out of clever things to do, so I didn't do anything, and a few minutes after that the iPod battery ran down, and when I plugged it into the wall to recharge (which seemed wiser than plugging it into a computer to recharge), it started up just fine. With all files and settings intact, and (I discovered this morning when it went off) the alarm function, which had stopped working, now working again.

Which I'm posting for those of you who have yet to update the software on your iPods. I think about a third of you may be in for an interesting time.


Mark Askwith sent me a link letting me know that the secret service are keeping us protected from 15 year olds with anti-war art projects, which is a weight off my mind.

The drawing that drew the most notice showed a man in what appeared to be Middle Eastern-style clothing, holding a rifle. He was also holding a stick with an oversize head of the president on it.

The student said the head was enlarged because it was intended to be an effigy, Cravens said. The caption called for an end to the war in Iraq.
The school did their duty and reported the boy to the police, who called in the secret service.

I was glad to see that, according to the article, following his encounter with the secret service, the boy was "disciplined". People have to learn not to draw the wrong things.

While Dianna Graf let me know that in the future, the word "darling" is going to be forbidden in the London Theatre world, due to potential sexual harassment issues. I don't know where such endearments as "love", "lovey" or "sweetie" stand in all this.

... many actors stress that rather than being unnecessarily affected, the use of the words is mainly because in their transient working world, it is virtually impossible to remember everyone's name.

I expect that the use of the word "mate" is probably okay. Unless it's a suggested course of action, of course.


The novel goes well. I discovered yesterday while writing, when one character did the logical thing and called the police, that I was going to have to learn a lot more about the UK police force than I thought, probably the Fraud Squad. It wasn't in any of the outlines or plans. Am now torn between stopping and researching, and chuntering on -- I think I'll chunter on just making things up, and then do my research on the way to the next draft, and fix things then. (I wonder if the Metropolitan Police have someone whose job it is to talk to novelists...)

I'm fascinated by the creative process of others. I know you write your first draft longhand - and congrats for hitting the 100 page mark of Anansi Boys this week! Do you count the pages you've written longhand or do you know about how many pages that will equate to your final book?

Good luck writing - I'm looking forward to the finished product!

I average about 250 words a page, in longhand in the book I'm writing in (I know that when I've done ten pages I've done something over 2000 words), so it's probably equal to about 80 pages of a novel (which come in about 300 words a page). (I'm currently on page 130 in longhand.)

Having said that, I also know stuff will get added and changed and expanded and so on when I start typing. I mean, I'll know what Daisy does for a living on page one, rather than realising it mid-sentence on page 115, which will make my life so much easier.

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

heigh ho the glamorous life

A couple of things that made me smile in recognition: this Posy Simmonds cartoon is for any of you writing novels today:,12694,1168224,00.html; while the last part of this article, the form letter from John Cleese, is for any of you wondering how to deal with all the books that come in asking to be read and for helpful blurbs :,6109,1201821,00.html. (I should have a form letter, instead of my current system of two piles of books that came in with a blurb request, with the books on the first pile being more likely to be read than the books on the second pile, but neither of them having any strong likelihood of being read before the book is published...)

Just wanted to say hello to you and ask a question. So hello, and here's my question. =)

I'm a big fan of fantasy films/books and the Jim Henson one's. Fantasy films like that are what I wanna direct. I'm trying to work on one as a short film right now but here's what i want to know. im really looking forward to dave mckean's and your's film Mirrormask. I've looked all over for images and registered at the site.

So when is a teaser trailer coming out? i'm dying to see some moving images from this film. i just so hope it gets a theatrical release. also what's the budget on the film? i heard 3 million from one site, then 4 million and then 5 million. can you tell us what the budget is? or at least give a ballpark figure. for someone like me who's working on almost no budget. it's always an interesting thing to know.

- Marco

It was four million dollars, and beyond that I don't know. I spoke to Dave this morning, and they're all working as hard as they can, while slowly going mad with worry about overloading the office electrics and what the render nodes are going to do next. "One day," I assured him, from the safe distance of 4,000 miles away, "you'll look back on this and laugh." In the meantime he assured me that what they were outputting from the render farm looked amazing, and I'm certain that it does.

I'm amused to find that there is a Sinister USB Duck at It's USB 2.0 and its eyes blink when you transfer data.

Of course there is. Of course they do. Why am I not surprised?

(And remember, there is an authorised, legally downloadable MP3 of The March of the Sinister Ducks up at, for those of you who have not yet heard it.)

Hi there. I just thought I'd tell you that your journal is now responsible for me wasting about an hour every day before I start writing, reading the accounts of your daily exploits and following the strange and informative links you keep putting up. My question is, how the hell do you do it! I know that you've got quite a bit of time as a fulltime writer to explore these things, but still I shudder to think of your output. Comics, books, films, TV appearances, its just frightening. Does your wife remember your name anymore! I have problems with my partner just writing for two or three hours a night. Your journal may steal an hour but your work ethic is inspirational. Good show old man
Ok, here's the actual question, the writing of which partially excuses the existence above rant. I'm writing a comics script (yeah I know, who isn't) and I was wondering where you stand on how much direction you should give in the text to the artist. I've read your script for Calliope and have found it to be extremely useful as a starting place (I've put all my non-dialoguey bits in caps and everything), but still find myself wondering how much of an iron-grip I should have over the direction the art will take. Finally do you personally request many changes in an artists finished work, or do you consider this to be an infringement on their role in the co-creation of the work.

Ta ta for now, and thanks for the words!

I'll rarely request a change in the art -- I can think of maybe a handful of changes in Sandman, a couple of facial expressions in 1602, little else. Mostly if an artist got it wrong it was because I didn't describe it very well. As for how to write a script... it's whatever works best for the artist you're working with and for you. That may be detailed panel by panel descriptions, it may be classic Stan and Jack Marvel style ("Jack, maybe some kind of big menace is coming in from space, while the Fantastic Four are being evicted from the Baxter Building, yeah?") and then putting in work when the art comes in. Most writers find their own level of description, and learn how much they can rely on the artist to bring his or own point of view. Some of them draw stick figures. You do what works. (I put a lot of this in the essay in SANDMAN: DREAM COUNTRY that precedes the Calliope script.)

As for the journal... I dunno. It's become this weird thing in its own right, partly because of the sheer number of people around the world who are now reading it. About half a million people (508,456 last month, if I understand the figures properly) coming by plus the livejournal syndication and the RSS feeds and stuff. (People were on for 58,365,915 seconds last month, which Google tells me is 1.84954374 years, for whatever that's worth.) Which is a fair incentive for posting something rather than not: knowing you have an audience. And as long as Harper Collins is happy to keep the site up and pay for it, I'm happy to keep writing it.

On the other hand, a few posts that I know I have to give some thought to, the kind that are sort of on my mental to-do list, take me as long to get around to as anything else that people are waiting for.

The people reading it provide me with some of the content, some of it turns up on browsing, and some I run across on other blogs -- without the link from Scrivener's Error for example, I would never known that Warner Brothers is happy to claim in court that pretending to masturbate is a vital part of the writing process for FRIENDS, in an appeal court document filled with statements like:

Reich admitted at his deposition he had pantomimed masturbation in the
writers' room during the time Lyle was employed on 'Friends.' He also agreed he and
other writers discussed sexual conduct and foreplay in the writers' room and break
room. Reich also acknowledged he and others altered inspirational sayings on a
calendar in the writers' room so that, for example, the word 'persistence' became
'pert tits' and 'happiness' became 'penis.'

but we soon learn that

Here, defendants argue the sexually explicit conversations among the writers
were not gratuitous but had a compelling business purpose: to generate ideas for jokes,
dialogue and story ideas for the show which routinely contains sexual innuendos and
adult humor and situations. According to the defendants no alternative to these sexual
brainstorming sessions exists.

So there you go.


No hurry as I know you are very deeply busy writing (saw the journal entry), but if/when you get a moment, please tell me where I can get the Greek editions of any of your works. I suspect I should just order them from a bookshop in Greece, but just in case I can do buy them in the U.S., I'm asking. I was thinking about translating a bit of Coraline into Greek for fun and wanted to compare translation styles.

I don't know of anywhere in the US that sells foreign editions of my stuff, I'm afraid (I just looked at Dreamhaven's, but couldn't find anything there.) I think you'll have to order it from Greece. (I think the last book I saw from Greece was the Greek edition of Sandman: The Dream Hunters.) Good luck.

Tuesday, April 27, 2004


I did mean to mention that today (April 27th) was free scoop night at Ben and Jerry's, and that tomorrow (April 28th) is free scoop day at Baskin & Robbins -- and for every free scoop they serve they make a literacy donation. But it's just me being vaguely helpful, because we don't have any local B&Js or B&Rs where I live.

On page 117 of Anansi Boys, and it's properly chugging along, and I'm moving more and more into "go away, I'm in the middle of my novel" mode. This is the kind of dangerous mindset in which you put babies in baths then wander off for an hour, or you get messages from friends letting you know that they're prisoners of kidnappers in foreign nations and you are their only hope to alert the proper authorities, and you really do mean to mention it to someone, but somehow or other it wanders right out of your head.

I know there are a host of things I meant to post here, but they aren't in my head right now (at least the head's firmly attached, so I can't put it down somewhere and forget it).

I seem to be writing about 2000 words a day right now, which, if it keeps up at this pace, means I'll finish the zeroth draft of the novel in a month. But then there's the Fox Movie Channel 13 Nights of Fright filming in the middle of it, which may derail things, so I probably won't get anywhere near that. But I can dream.

And if you're currently a kidnap victim somewhere, and you're relying on me to pass your message along to the appropriate authorities, um.... I'll get back to you....

Monday, April 26, 2004

the requisite closings of tabs and windows

Quick late night post. I got to page 100 of Anansi Boys tonight, and I have a pretty good idea of what's going to have to happen to it on the next draft, or when I start typing it, anyway (which I expect I'll start doing before I've finished writing it), which is good. It feels like a novel now. It's made it properly off the ground, -- if you remember this post, where it hadn't yet -- and it's reached the kind of cruising altitude at which you can use electronics. Now I just have to try and keep it in the air without ploughing into the side of any mountains, and then land it safely when it's done. (I think I'm finished with the aircraft metaphors now, thank you.)

And I finished my introductory essay on Edgar A. Poe today, for a book of Poe short stories and poems, which is also good.

A few links, so I can close a bunch of windows and tabs.

Interesting article on fatness and fitness and health and pseudo-science at,3605,1200549,00.html -- it's an unabashed polemic, and a fascinating one, of which my favourite line is The single most noxious line of argument in the literature about obesity is that black and Hispanic girls and women need to be "sensitised" to the "fact" that they have inappropriately positive feelings about their bodies.

For those of you who liked the i-ducks, but immediately asked yourself "But I don't need a glow in the dark duck USB memory -- why can't I have a Godzilla on my desk with four firewire ports on its back instead?", your salvation is at hand:

I loved Roger Lancelyn Green's books on myth, when I was a boy. Now his son Richard, a Sherlock Holmes scholar, has died in magnificently mysterious circumstances. is the best article on his death I've run into so far.

Dr Knapman said there was not enough evidence to rule in or out suicide, murder or a sexual act gone wrong.

Mr Lancelyn Green was found in his bed, surrounded by cuddly toys and a bottle, after a wooden spoon was used to tighten the shoelace around his neck.

And from his sister's evidence, we learn that shortly before his death He had sent her a strange note with three names and their telephone numbers on it which had seemed to Ms Lancelyn Green "to be the beginning of a thriller novel".

The document had "Please keep these names safe" written on it.

So -- a mysterious death, eh? The game would appear to be afoot.

Meanwhile, my favourite American newspaper article is from the USA. Teacher accused of ordering a student to be thrown out of the window.

You know, when I was a boy, teachers threw their own students out of windows. They didn't get other students to do it for them. (The two boys later told principal Kenneth Daniels that they threw the girl out the window because they did not want to be written up for disobeying a teacher. Throwing other kids out of windows: just say no.)

Author, bon vivant, and connoisseur of filthy dictionaries Jonathan Carroll sent me a link to an obscene Italian online dictionary, filled with such gems as:

trombare (verb)
+ to copulate used as standard expression in Tuscany, it means have sex in a funny and no-problems way. litterally; playing the trumpet

and once I'd finished reading the Italian dictionary I found that the site is filled with unorthodox dictionaries in a great many languages and I discovered that, according to their Cantonese dictionary,

tset ha tset ha
(adv.) + stupid fool! 'tset' is the penis. 'tset ha tset ha' is to describe a person who are very ugly that really looks like the Penis! When you say 'tset' in Cantonese it is close to the number'seven' .So people in Cantonese may also say 'lay go yeun hol seven!' which means you are very ugly! you also looks like the penis!

A quick browse through a few more dictionaries and now I will never be able to look at Catalans the same way again, I think Hungarians are deeply amusing, and frankly, I hope that any Swedes reading this are properly ashamed of themselves.

Anyway, lots of great alternate words for anyone who may suddenly feel the need to swear on the radio or TV.


And somewhere in my mysteriously-missing-presumed-lost notebook (damn it. Or, with my new, international vocabulary, zoblings) I have an unfinished piece I was writing for this journal about the new Magnetic Fields CD "i". In the meantime here's an interview with Stephin Merritt from the New York Daily News.

Apropos of which, this just came in:

Dear Neil,

For all the Magnetic Fields fans in England, they are playing the Lyric in Hammersmith in London around the middle of June. Or so I've been to believe.


He's right -- the dates are June 10th, 11th and 12th, and the details are at


The final part of Arie Kaplan's series on Jews in Comics is up at


Steve Harley, of rock band of my youth Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel, keeps a diary over at Now, I like much of Steve Harley's music, and I'm sure he's a very nice man, but as a diarist he's often a sort of rock and roll Pooter, with an unfortunate tendency to aim for profundity and miss the target completely, and is thus, unconsciously, quite often extremely funny.

[Extract removed following polite request.] [You have to go and read it all yourself now.]

On the other hand, punk god T.V. Smith's occasional diary entries are a joy -- here's his journey to play at a rock concert in Finland last summer

"Talking of which," says Jukka, "have you ever heard of the great Finnish sport of swamp football?" Seems two teams gather together in a swamp that goes up over their knees and attempt to kick a ball about. (...)
When we get back to Tampere we sit out on Jukka's balcony and crack open a beer. I tell him I am a bit worried about mosquitoes after they nearly ate me alive last time I came here in the Summer and he is moved to tell me of another Finnish sport, which involves fifty men standing in a large tent full of mosquitoes. Whoever has the most feeding on him after a given time wins.
Finally, one sport I could be good at.

I wonder if he's ever going to write a book.

Saturday, April 24, 2004

Dangerous things to do with pickles, sparklers, gardens, etc.

I suspect that the problem with anti-terrorism laws is not that they get used against terrorists, but that once they're on the books they can be used against anyone. This gentleman, for example.

Now, when I was younger, I would have nodded sagely, having read the article, and concluded that obviously Ken Olsen had, at some point, made ricin, using a coffee grinder and castor beans, and was interested in bomb-making, therefore he was probably planning to murder someone. But I have now known too many people who had their own areas of odd neepery and just wanted to do things, sometimes things their neighbours would have seen as very peculiar things, to see what happened, or to see if they could; the people you talk to late at night in convention bars who tell you how to make a pickle glow by hooking it up to the mains, or who tell you about the fun they had doing unwise microwave experiments or building a Tesla coil and learning what happens to CDs when you put half a million volts through them, or the time they built a breeder reactor out of common household utensils, in order to get an Eagle Scout badge in Atomic Energy. ("David Hahn taught himself to build a neutron gun. He figured out a way to dupe officials at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission into providing him with crucial information he needed in his attempt to build a breeder reactor, and then he obtained and purified radioactive elements such as radium and thorium". Luckily for him, he did it in 1993 and not now.) Not to mention making sparkler bombs.

Some people like to grow poison gardens. It doesn't mean they want to poison people.

From the article, it looks like the crime Ken Olsen committed was having made ricin, and The presence of ricin violated federal law, and prosecutors, lacking evidence to charge Olsen with attempted murder, instead charged him with a little-used law intended for terrorists: possession of a biological agent with the intent to use it as a weapon.

I'm not saying that he wasn't planning to kill his wife, by the way, although of course, he wasn't charged with that, and I think that attempted murder is a big accusation to throw around, which you need to be able to back up. I am definitely saying that there are statutes on the books that already existed, if the authorities had wanted to charge him with attempted murder. But charging someone who was obviously not a terrorist under terrorism law is a shoddy use of those laws, and a lesson for the rest of us.


Are you aware that historians have managed to pin down, within reasonable doubt, the club where Aziraphale learned to gavotte? Really. I saw it on the internet.

All of the variant bibles we talk about existed as well, except for the Charing Cross Bible and the Bugger All This Bible. Good Omens is really a very educational book.


When people send you stuff, and you copy it into your journal, are you not tempted to correct the speling mistakes, and grammatical errors?
paul, sheffield, uk

Not particularly -- I'll sometimes quietly fix spelling for people, especially if it would be too distracting otherwise, but mostly I'll just cut and paste.

Dear Neil--
Do you ever look at stuff you wrote when you were a teenager and shudder and think, "Thank god I never tried to get this published?"
The reason why I'm asking is this: I'm sixteen, and I just finished my first novel last October, and my mom wants me to send it out to publishers. She doesn't think anyone will accept it--she used to be a magazine editor and she knows how hard it is to get published-- but she does think that when I'm older and a better writer I might have a chance. So she says I should start making contacts now.
I half want to do it, because I'm afraid if I don't start soon I'm going to lose my nerve. And I half don't, because I don't want to give people a bad first impression. I'm still learning how to write, and I don't want the mistakes I made when I was a kid haunting me later on.
So what would you do? Do you still have a few early unpublished novels skulking in the back of your closet which you hope will never see the light of day?

I've got one children's novel I wrote when I was 21ish that I'd not want published under my name now, but if one of the publishers I'd sent it to in 1982 had wanted to publish it, I'd not feel the urge to go back in a time-machine and murder them to prevent it from happening. There are a couple of short stories in boxes that I'll never ask anyone to publish, and three short stories that were published that I'd probably only allow to be collected in a Complete Short Stories Volume I, when I'm very old, with a note suggesting they're only for completists and curiosity seekers. But I'm not embarassed they were published -- they were important steps on the road to getting to be me, and they were published, and simply being published is the most important tool a writer can have for learning: the moment it's published you see all the flaws you couldn't see when you were writing it, and if you're smart, you'll learn from them.

I've become slightly more sanguine, I suppose: some of the things I wrote when I was in my twenties I couldn't write now -- I'm no longer the person who wrote them, and something that, five years on from having written it, simply embarrassed me, now I can look at and shrug, or smile, or, with the story that'll be in Gothic ("Forbidden Brides of the Faceless Slaves of the Secret House of the Night of Dread Desire", I think it's called) I liked it so much when I read it I simply did a second draft, shortened the title, and sent it off to be published.

I suppose what I'm saying is don't second-guess yourself. Send the novel out. Write a cheerful cover letter telling them you're sixteen and you're sure you'll get better, but this is your first novel, and you hope they like it. No-one's going to not want to publish your next novel because they don't like this one. If they see potential, they may want to read your next one more.

Friday, April 23, 2004

somewhat less sinister ducks

I wasn't going to post tonight -- trying to catch up on e-mail and backlogged interviews and things I've promised people.

And I wrote 10 pages of Anansi Boys today, and it seems to have found itself, and Graham Coats failed to sack Spider (who he thought was Fat Charlie) and Fat Charlie met Daisy (aka the vodka and orange) and it was really fun and funny. Tomorrow may be hell, but today was a good writing day, and on the good writing days nothing else matters.

So I was going to skip blogging and just go to bed. But then I accidentally clicked on the site, and discovered the i-duck. for details. It's a 256Meg USB memory storage device, and it's a glow in the dark duck. Look.

Of course, they only glow when you plug them in.

Even simply blogging this makes me feel like I'm at the cutting edge of technology. iDucks. Of course.

Meanwhile, Charles Stross demonstrates that satire is dead; and the Onion does an excellent interview with Ricky Gervais. I spent an evening at a very small birthday party Ricky was at November 2002, and was sort of expecting him to be David Brent, and was incredibly relieved to find him a dangerously giggly enthusiast instead.

In the Book Television clip, you say that you said, "Fuck, I got a Hugo." Way back when in your journal, you wrote about saying, "Fuck, I got a Nebula." Which one was it? Or was it fuck, you made the same speach for both?

You know, it's all in the journal. (I'd estimate that 90% of the questions that come in have answers in the journal, at this point.)

Anyway, here's the Sept 2002 Hugo award entry:

and here's the April 2003 Nebula Award entry (and the title of the entry sort of clarifies things, I hope)

Hope that makes it perfectly clear.

Thursday, April 22, 2004

No swearing in this one

What I did today: I went to a high-tech studio in the backwoods of Wisconsin ("It's like a Bond villain's headquarters," marvelled Beth Friend, my producer, and, frankly, it was, except for the oddly missing shark pit) and I recorded a spoken word CD for Harper Collins which is currently called "The Neil Gaiman Audio Collection" although I hope that by the time it comes out it'll be called something more along the lines of "Two Goldfish, an Enormous Number of Wolves and One Tiger". On the CD are readings of: THE DAY I SWAPPED MY DAD FOR TWO GOLDFISH, THE WOLVES IN THE WALLS, CINNAMON and the poem CRAZY HAIR.

It was fun. Not a lot more to say, other than my producer gave me a new Greg Brown 'Best of' CD, If I Had Known..., which came with a DVD I'm looking forward to watching.

(The Day I Swapped My Dad For 2 Goldfish will be out from Harper Children's in August. It'll come with a free CD of me reading it, along with a new cover by Dave McKean and an afterword by me.)

Charles Vess -- magical artist and the man behind Green Man Press -- wrote to ask me to mention the Mythic Journeys festival, and the book that he and Karen have put together to accompany it, "Ancient Spirit, Modern Voice"

And this came in from Stewart Lee, and it reminded me I don't plug enough stuff for people in the UK, who comprise 4.96% of the traffic on So here you go:

Dear Friends
Please could you be kind enough to post this on to anyone who might want it, and to any websites and lists or press things, and maybe mention it in any newspapers or media that you control, and also buy some tickets. BAC has had a big funding cut and this is to help keep it running as normal. It should be a good night. There will be sausages and a late bar.
S Lee

Friday June 4th - BAC Sausage Night at Battersea Town Hall, behind Battersea Arts Centre, Lavender Hill, Battersea. A Benefit for Battersea Arts Centre, hosted by Stewart Lee.
A wide range of gourmet sausages will be available on the night. And there's a late bar.
Doors and bar 7.30. Showtime 8pm.
Acts include
Simon Amstell (C4?s Pop World),
Arnold Brown (inventor of alternative comedy),
Harry Hill (TV Burp),
Harry Hill?s Pub Band (Special Reunion Show),
Stewart Lee (creator of Alan Partridge),
Lee Mack (ITV?s The Sketch Show),
Al Murray (Pub Landlord and Trebor Mint Advert Man),
Catherine Tate (BBC2?s Catherine Tate Show),
Richard Thomas and Kombat Opera (Jerry Springer The Opera creator).
It's 15 UK pounds from, or call BOX OFFICE 020 7223 2223, although the website is better.


Incidentally, the essay I wrote in the SIMCITY 2000 game is now up in the exclusives section of I'm not sure any longer whether it was written just before or just after Sandman 51, which talks about the dreams of cities.

"A Study In Emerald", and the script for Sandman 24 (which I put up on Compuserve about 15 years ago, and which some unscrupulous types have now started selling, or trying to sell, on eBay) will be going up any time now.


And it's just two more days until 24 Hour Comics Day...

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Skip this entire entry if you don't like swearing, especially by your elected Representatives.

Home again, after a road trip. The Mini is a lot more comfortable than I'd expected, over the long haul, and the GPS system was a lifesaver (it made things like stopping off at a specific diner in Chicago at midnight for something to eat a doddle, instead of a problematic challenge). I had a great, if exhausting, time at Penguicon -- loved meeting Steve Jackson, and the Slashdot gentlemen (Rob and Jeff), and generally making lots of new friends...

Lots of American TV shows use British profanity very casually. My father (who is British) finds the casual use of "bleedin' hell" more than just mildly offensive. How seriously do people in Britain tend to take words like "ponce" and "bloody" these days?

Depends on the people, really. And the pendulum swing. I'm sure there are still people in England you could offend with a well-placed "bloody", but I've not met one for a very long time indeed.

But generally speaking, I think you'd have to work fairly hard to shock with language in the UK. In 1976 The Sex Pistols were goaded into saying "shit" and "fucking rotter" on TV and a national outcry occurred. (It may have been the last time that the word "rotter" was used unironically on UK TV.) (Here's a transcript.) A couple of months ago John Lydon described the viewing audience as "fucking cunts" and only 96 people blinked, according to the TV regulators complaints webpage at

We also learn, from the OfCom decision, that There is no absolute ban on bad language on television. However, the use of such language must be defensible in terms of the context (for example the programme content, scheduling and warnings). While this is an entertainment programme, viewers were aware that this was a live programme, featuring Johnny Lydon in the Australian bush.

Luckily, the US will be protected from all that sort of thing, and there will be an absolute ban on bad language on television -- I recently discovered that a bill has been introduced before the House of Representatives which seeks to clarify the seven specific words and phrases that should be legally deemed profane (and is the sort of bill that's by definition too dirty to be reported in newspapers or on TV or radio, so I shall perform a public service and post it for those who can't be bothered to click on the link):

HR3687 reads, in full:

To amend section 1464 of title 18, United States Code, to provide for the punishment of certain profane broadcasts, and for other purposes.


December 8, 2003

Mr. OSE (for himself and Mr. SMITH of Texas) introduced the following bill; which was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary


To amend section 1464 of title 18, United States Code, to provide for the punishment of certain profane broadcasts, and for other purposes.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That section 1464 of title 18, United States Code, is amended--

(1) by inserting '(a)' before 'Whoever'; and
(2) by adding at the end the following: '(b) As used in this section, the term 'profane', used with respect to language, includes the words 'shit', 'piss', 'fuck', 'cunt', 'asshole', and the phrases 'cock sucker', 'mother fucker', and 'ass hole', compound use (including hyphenated compounds) of such words and phrases with each other or with other words or phrases, and other grammatical forms of such words and phrases (including verb, adjective, gerund, participle, and infinitive forms).'.

Which is rather an odd list, isn't it? It seems to be suggesting that "it's pissing down" or "he was slightly pissed" (in either the US sense of angry, or the UK sense of drunk) is comparable and equal to the chorus in Jerry Springer The Opera describing the devil, in song, as "what a cunting cunting cunting cunt".

I'm hoping that, if the bill is passed, it'll simply prompt people to be more imaginative in their choice of on-air obscenity...

There. Enough swearing for a while...

Or almost. After all, I was once asked, by Book Television, what my favourite word was. And now it's up online, currently at as their link of the week. And if that doesn't belong in this post, I'm not sure what does.

I've noticed how you sometimes post about people who could use the help, and I thought that you may want to know about my friend Adam's ebay listing, . He's a great guy who came down with epilepsy around age 25 and has had to deal with the difficulties that come with periodic seizures for the past several years.



I do like the idea of selling Good Karma through eBay, although perhaps a dutch auction might work better...

Cory Doctorow was nominated for a Nebula award, and didn't, alas, win. Still, he's blogged the award speech he didn't make.

Which reminds me: Hi Neil,

I read a news article today about the Nebula awards last weekend in Seattle. It commented on your acceptance speech for Best Novella (Coraline) read via proxy by Harlan Ellison, and implied it (the speech...not Coraline) was written with a sly intent towards getting Ellison to say embarrasing things.

Would you be willing to share the details with all of us who love your humor but miss these chances to experience it first hand?

Cheers from rainy Portland OR,

Here's the news article:

and here's the speech that Harlan found himself reading...

NEBULA ACCEPTANCE SPEECH, to be read by Harlan Ellison...

From Neil Gaiman

If it wins.


Neil wanted me to read the following.

First of all, I'm incredibly grateful that the SFWA voters gave Coraline an award for best novella. While it's the shortest book I've ever written, it took the longest to write -- an average of 3,000 words a year over ten years, which makes it a wonder it was ever finished at all, or that it was the same book at the end that it was at the beginning.

Secondly I'd like to thank Harlan for accepting the award on my behalf. The knowledge that the person reading the acceptance speech will actually say whatever I write here is deeply intimidating. Think about it: for the first time in my life, possibly for the first time in anyone's life, I can make Harlan Ellison say, literally, anything. And he will. Because it's my acceptance speech. He's not going to extemporise here, or suddenly start telling a joke about a duck trying to buy a condom or something. He has to read what I've written. I could make him proclaim his love of the Republican party, or reveal his membership in Al Quaida. I could write down the words "I, Harlan Ellison, am actually a science fiction writer" in my awards speech, and he'd have to say them. I wouldn't actually do any of this, though, because Harlan's revenge would be swift in coming and incredibly funny whenever he told people about it. Well, incredibly funny for everyone except me, anyway. I'd still be in Hibernia, pursued by enraged lascars and apothecaries.

Coraline was published as a children's book. A Nebula award for best novella bespeaks a willingness on the part of the voters to look in places where you might not expect them to look, and I'm incredibly grateful for that. I wish I could be there tonight. It means a lot to me. Thank you.

I wish I could have seen Harlan deliver it (but then if I was there to see it, I would have had to make my own speech).


Did you notice that Mad Magazine did a parody review of your Endless Nights book? Rather funny, I thought. Especially as your parody is Neil Graveman. Yes. Fun. Who doesn't love Mad?


I've been parodied in MAD? Good lord. I must exist, then. I was wondering.

So I popped over to the MAD site, to see if their Endless Nights parody was up, and couldn't find it; found this, though -- a rather sweet bunch of rejected heroes -- the writing's not particularly funny, but it's nice to see Frank Miller and Jim Lee parody themselves...

The weirdest thing about this journal is the peculiar aptness of some of the questions. For example, this came in today: Hi. (And congratulations on the Stoker!) Way, way back your blog was chronicling some mild efforts to discover whatever happened to Victoria Walker, who wrote The Winter of Enchantment and The House called Hadlowes (or was it Hadlows?) about thirty years ago. A friend of mine gave me a photocopy of her own childhood copy of The Winter of Enchantment for my 40th birthday (I normally don't approve of unauthorized copying of an author's work but it was that or a $1200 first edition) and stirred my interest again.

I thought you'd probably have mentioned it if you'd heard, but did you ever discover if she did anything else, or why (or if) she stopped writing?

To follow this, people can (and probably should) read the original Victoria Walker post here, at

then this:

and finally, this (which also contains a description of the books):

...and the answer is that oddly enough, last week a very smart reader of this blog did the correct google, put two and two together, sent an e-mail, got an answer, and all the pieces fell into place. And then things moved very fast...

So, yes, Victoria Walker is still alive and writing, has been found, and all will be revealed. (I don't want to scoop anyone on this, so that's all I'll say for now.)

Sunday, April 18, 2004

Quick News Item

Penguincon is over. I am somewhere east of exhausted.

Coraline was given the Nebula award last night for best novella by the Science Fiction Writers of America. For the rest of the awards information, and a photo of the awardees (and Harlan Ellison standing in for me) go to

Patrick Marcel, our French correspondent, wrote to me a few weeks ago to point out that the last mysterious fires village in France was the fault of the local mayor, who was setting light to things. Now this just in on the mysterious fires village in Italy:

This is the second time I've written you to tell you something rather than ask you a question. Since you followed somewhat on the blog the whole "strange Italian fires" story, I thought I'd point you quick to James Randi's new commentary about it. Apparantly he has a man on the inside with a couple interesting facts. Mostly he talks about how the fires never happen unless people are there, and a couple instances in which they've essentially ruled out (super)natural causes.

- Jason Crain

Saturday, April 17, 2004

braindead, following auction

newbie british author to be--Can you point me in the right direction please?
I am just about to sign a contract with a top-tier lit' agency. they seem excited. It is exciting! BUT I dont know if what from what regrading the legalities of it all. They seem to want ALL things related to the works? is that standard for a newbie author?

I'm not sure what it is that they're asking for -- the right to represent your work in all media? Or something else? But I can certainly point you in the right direction: Join the Society of Authors. They will happily advise about things like this; that's what they do. (Here's their FAQs.) Last year, they sorted out a UK publisher I'd had trouble with, very impressively.

I don't think there's anything quite the same outside of the UK, but as you're british, they're the place you should go.


I'm at Penguincon. Today I needed to send a fax from my computer -- idly googled, and realised I could do it as e-mail, using the header information at And I did. And it worked. So I thought I'd pass the information along.

And the Fiddler's Green convention site has just gone live: for details. It's a limited membership convention: only 500 people. They've got me as a guest. Over the next couple of months they should announce everyone else who will be coming, as each person confirms. It should be a very impressive bunch. And all profits will go to the CBLDF.

(Which reminds me: the Penguincon auction was in support of the CBLDF - and I've just stumbled away from it. It lasted for almost four hours, and raised about $4,300. Which is a good evening's work, although added to the 3 hour signing this afternoon, means I'm now braindead.)

Albatross and chips.

There's that moment at the end of Around the World in 80 Days (and for that matter Dave Gorman's Googlewhack Adventure) where you realise that, because of international datelines, our heroes have gained a day, and are not, in fact, late.

I had one of those, driving to Penguincon, only it was the other way around. I suddenly realised, as I crossed the border into Michigan, that I was now on Eastern Time, and had just moved an hour ahead. I'd expected to arrive about 6:30 pm -- time enough to print out some things to read, to stretch my legs, eat or drink something, recover a little from a day's driving, and then start the 7:00pm reading. It would be tight, but I could do it.

And then, it dawned on me that, even though it was 3:00pm, and even though I only had a 3 and a bit hour drive ahead of me, I was still going to arrive at 7:20pm, not 6:20 pm. On the other hand, if I didn't stop for petrol, if I didn't stop for anything, if I drove at speeds that would make Martin Semmelrogge blush, I might be able to do it. I called Anne, my con liaison, and asked her to get me a copy of Shadows over Baker Street to read from, as I wasn't going to be able to print anything out.

I parked outside the hall at 6:58pm, walked inside, took the book from Anne, hugged my son Mike, then walked into the hall, up to the podium, and read them "A Study in Emerald"...

I had an odd dream the other night that you were driving a bus filled with a bunch of your fans and telling us stories. It was a dark night and the trees cast long shadows across the street. And for some reason you insisted that when we all stopped for dinner some of us would indeed have to eat the albatross.

What does that mean?

Probably that you'd be eating albatross for dinner. ("What flavour is it?" "It's not any bloody flavour." "Well, it must be something." "All right, it's bloody albatross flavour, isn't it? Albatross!")

Dear Neil,
is the "President For Life" in 1602 George Bush? A friend of mine says it is, I thought it wasn't. I loved it BTW.

No, not even a little bit. It's a Marvel character -- I thought it was pretty obvious which one, but possibly I was wrong about the pretty obviousness.

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

complete and perfect spring

Hi Neil,

Do you think it is time to contact Marvel about 1602 #8? I have checked their website, in advance of a disappointing trip to my local comic book store, only to find that it is not listed for release today, or any time soon from what I could tell. Que pasa?


I've already started getting in messages from people who've already read it, so I think you can assume it did ship today, and that a visit to your comic shop won't be for nothing.

Lots of people have written to let me know that the French use Billion in the British way, as explained in yesterday's posting; several of you have pointed out that even the BBC don't use the British Way all the time, and this was probably the most complete and informative post on the subject.

Hi Neil,

Thanks for the little math/language lesson yesterday, I wasn't aware that there was a difference between British and American English. Being only familiar with the American English way of counting big numbers I thought the difference was between English and other languages. Because contrary to what you say, in French we use the same system as in British English with the addition of -ard words. This seems to be also the case in German, Italian and Spanish (without the -ard words in the case of Spanish). In French we use:

1,000,000 - million
1,000,000,000 - milliard
1,000,000,000,000 - billion
1,000,000,000,000,000 - billiard
1,000,000,000,000,000,000 - trillion
1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 - trilliard

Your confusion may come from the fact that both systems were invented in French, but now we only use the so-called British system. For more fun with big numbers you can turn to Asian languages where names are given to numbers with a multiple of four zeros rather than three. Examples (in
Japanese): 10,000 - man, 100,000,000 - oku and 1,000,000,000,000 - chou. A few links where I found some of those info:


Many thanks.

It's Spring. It's suddenly and completely and perfectly Spring. There's a green haze on the trees, and the snowdrops are blooming like anything. I've uncovered the blueberry bushes, and today Lorraine and I tromped through the woods, discovering that recent flooding had given us a sandy beach-like thing down by the swimming hole where there was none before, washed several bridges away, and, in a few places, changed the path of the creek (which is how they describe a small river in this area). I've admired the fallen trees this morning, and the broken branches, and I've hauled many of them off the paths. I've bounced on the trampoline with Maddy and vaccuumed up several pints of the evil ladybird-like beetles from the windows. I've made several phone calls. And I've written stuff. Definitely Spring.

(And if you've been having Spring for a while, where you live, bear in mind that in the upper middle of America Spring turns up very late, and only lasts for a week or so before it turns into the mosquito season where they mend the roads and it's hot and the lightning storms that end the long days where it was too hot to think are better than fireworks.)

Monday, April 12, 2004

Millions and billions and trillions and quadrillians: why you need the British kind.

So, this is a much-too hasty for the subject matter post, but I just learned to my delight and surprise that THE WOLVES IN THE WALLS won "Best Short Fiction" in the 2003 BSFA Award Winners, and I'm dead chuffed.

I've been remiss in posting awards nominations and things here, which is mostly because I forget, so for those of you keeping track of such things...

"A STUDY IN EMERALD" has just been nominated for a Hugo award for best short story. With the permission of the editors and publishers of the anthology SHADOWS OVER BAKER STREET, I'll post it at within the next couple of days, and keep it up until Worldcon, for anyone who wants to read it.

The Eisner award nominations are out at for example and Sandman: Endless Nights has been nominated for a few, as has It Was A Dark and Silly Night....

The Horror Writers Association's Bram Stoker award nominations are also up -- Sandman: Endless Nights and Wolves in the Walls are both nominated...

Next weekend is the Nebula Awards, and Coraline is nominated as best Novella. (I cannot be there -- I'm a guest at Penguincon that weekend.)

(And, looking at the Penguincon site I see that Wil Wheaton can't be there. What a real pity -- I was looking forward to meeting him. On the other hand I see from the page with the Sophia Quach photo of me in the Library Hotel last year that artist Vince Locke will be there.)

I finally figured out (with the help of the mammoth OED) the difference between British and US billions, trillions and quadrillions, and thought I would post it here in case there's anyone else who's been scratching his or head about it for ages...

In order of magnitude, it's million, billion (bi=there's two of them), trillion (tri=there's three of them), quadrillion (Quad = there's four of them).

The British decided the unit was the six zeroes after the initial 1.

So 1,000000 is a million. A UK billion is two sets of six zeroes -- 1,000000,000000. A UK trillion, three sets of six zeroes -- 1,000000,000000,000000. (A UK quadrillion would be one followed by 24 zeroes.)

The US (and France, for some reason) decided that the unit was the three zeroes between the commas. So even though a million starts with two of them -- 1,000,000, -- a US billion simply adds a three zero unit to a million and becomes 1,000,000,000 and a US trillion adds another and is 1,000,000,000,000, while the quadrillion would add another 000 unit to give you 1,000,000,000,000,000 -- one followed by 15 zeroes.

Probably you've known this forever, or, even more probably you didn't even know the British counted big numbers differently to the rest of the world and do not care that they do, but it's something I've been puzzling over since I was a boy, and finally understanding it made me happy.


There are some interesting short films over at:

Hey Neil, have you seen this?
The Exorcist in 30 seconds, re-enacted by bunnies.

I can't seem to stop watching...


Hi Neil,
As an author of some of the most unruly characters since those of Mr. Trellis in Flann O'Briens At Swim Two Birds, I thought you might appreciate some assistance in keeping track of them. Shivering Jemmy of the Shallow Brigade plays a delightfully chilling role in one of the finest pieces of CGI animation I've come across. You can catch her performance here
Do let us know what you think.
Mick Hanafin

I think that really was Shivering Jemmy, wasn't it? I thought it was disturbing in all the right ways, and sent it on to Dave McKean, who I thought would enjoy it. I also think people should read Flann O'Brien books. You could start with The Third Policeman, which is unlike anything else.

And that reminds me that James Stephens' marvellous novel The CROCK OF GOLD seems to be in the public domain, and is up as an e-book at It's not for everyone: the first paragraph of the first chapter is as follows:

IN the centre of the pine wood called Coilla Doraca there
lived not long ago two Philosophers. They were wiser
than anything else in the world except the Salmon who
lies in the pool of Glyn Cagny into which the nuts of
knowledge fall from the hazel bush on its bank. He, of
course, is the most profound of living creatures, but the
two Philosophers are next to him in wisdom. Their
faces looked as though they were made of parchment,
there was ink under their nails, and every difficulty that
was submitted to them, even by women, they were able
to instantly resolve. The Grey Woman of Dun Gortin
and the Thin Woman of Inis Magrath asked them the
three questions which nobody had ever been able to an-
swer, and they were able to answer them. That was
how they obtained the enmity of these two women which
is more valuable than the friendship of angels. The
Grey Woman and the Thin Woman were so incensed at
being answered that they married the two Philosophers
in order to be able to pinch them in bed, but the skins of
the Philosophers were so thick that they did not know
they were being pinched. They repaid the fury of the
women with such tender affection that these vicious crea-
tures almost expired of chagrin, and once, in a very ec-
stacy of exasperation, after having been kissed by their
husbands, they uttered the fourteen hundred maledic-
tions which comprised their wisdom, and these were
learned by the Philosophers who thus became even wiser
than before.

...and it continues in a similar vein for a whole book. I loved it.


For some reason I've decided not to post the Subservient Chicken link, although about twenty people have sent it to me. (I think I've assumed that if twenty of you know about it, then probably the rest of you do as well, and it's even been featured at If you're curious, the snopes link will explain it and take you there.


There was a very odd moment in the middle of reading the Dame Darcy interview at where I thought I'd slipped into a parallel universe, or just had started Forgetting Things. I mean, I know I'm a fan of hers, and lord knows I'd happily write something for her if asked, but... well, read it and you'll see what I mean.


Meanwhile, Michael Chabon writes an essay as a New York Times op-ed piece that is wise and wonderful, and terribly sensible...

Friday, April 09, 2004


The "Fortean phenomenon" published by CNN as Offbeat News (on April 1st) obviously fooled the uncritical minds at MSNBC news (who published it as science on 4th April). See:

Well, it was certainly reported by CNN on April 1st. But if you're assuming that it's an April 1st Hoax that got out of control, I think you're jumping to conclusions: a quick google shows that the story has been reported on for some time -- here's a February article that's pretty representative:, and here's a website from March showing the fire locations with hypotheses as to the causes: including links to several Italian articles. So, as far as I'm concerned, it remains true-ish, sitting happily in Fortean territories (Charles Fort would have loved to have written about it). (And for those of you who aren't quite sure who Charles Fort was or what he did, you can read some of his books online -- I'm particularly fond of The Book of the Damned at and Wikipedia has a terrific summary of his life and achievements at

(One day I'll write my Charles Fort in the British Museum short story.)

Hi, Neil!
I'm sure you've seen the article about the Mini that was clocked at Mach 3 ( I forwarded it on to my husband in yet another attempt to convince him to let me indulge my Mini lust. His response: 'But honestly--what kind of gas mileage can you expect at Mach 3, anyway?'

Beyond that, we wondered, what happens if you install one of those noisemaker exhaust pipes, and then break the sound barrier?

Oh! Or those little deer whistles--do they get doppler shifted into ultrasonic frequencies as you approach Mach 1, and keep you from hitting bats instead?

All important questions that must be answered! Care to do some research for those of us who only wish we owned a Mini?


How bizarre. When you first take possession of your Mini you have to sign a piece of paper promising not to use the hyperdrive in Earth's atmosphere. I bet that Belgian's going to get into trouble with the Mini Owner's Association...

Thursday, April 08, 2004

The Passion of The Easter Bunny

I get the strangest things from you lot (not that I'm complaining):

I, um... just read it.
Performers Whip Easter Bunny at Church Play

My first guess was that they were using the Flogging of the Bunny to demonstrate the Stations of the Cross, or that someone had taken art spiegelman's crucified rabbit New Yorker cover a little too literally. I'm still not certain how wrong I was, and will quote the whole thing here, because every sentence is a little dada gem.

People who attended Saturday's performance at Glassport's memorial stadium quoted performers as saying, "There is no Easter bunny," and described the show as being a demonstration of how Jesus was crucified.

Melissa Salzmann, who brought her 4-year-old son J.T., said the program was inappropriate for young children. "He was crying and asking me why the bunny was being whipped," Salzmann said.

Patty Bickerton, the youth minister at Glassport Assembly of God, said the performance wasn't meant to be offensive.

Bickerton portrayed the Easter rabbit and said she tried to act with a tone of irreverence.

"The program was for all ages, not just the kids. We wanted to convey that Easter is not just about the Easter bunny, it is about Jesus Christ," Bickerton said.

Performers broke eggs meant for an Easter egg hunt and also portrayed a drunken man and a self-mutilating woman, said Jennifer Norelli-Burke, another parent who saw the show in Glassport, a community about 10 miles southeast of Pittsburgh.

"It was very disturbing," Norelli-Burke said. "I could not believe what I saw. It wasn't anything I was expecting."

Lots of probably quite dull song stuff, followed by spontaneous satanic electrical combustion.

Where can I find a list of songs you have written?

Good question... there may well be a list somewhere on the website, because there's an awful lot of stuff here, especially in the various bibliographies and such. But, because it's useful for the FAQs...

Off the top of my head, there are songs by me (some words and music, some just lyrics) on each of the three Flash Girls CDs, and on the Folk Underground CD. I wrote the English lyrics for both songs in the Princess Mononoke film (the Tatara Women song (not on the CD), and the End title song lyrics), and contributed some (uncredited) lines to Alice Cooper's "The Last Temptation". There's a song called "On The Wall" on the next One Ring Zero CD As Smart As We Are, which I wrote lyrics for, and I also wrote lyrics for the song over the end title credits of Mirrormask.

Here, for whatever it's worth, are the Mirrormask end title song lyrics (Dave McKean wrote the music, and asked for some key words, so it was written to his specs. It makes a bit more sense if you've seen the film, of course...)

If I apologised
it wouldn't make it all unhappen
wouldn't make the darkness go away
If I apologised
it wouldn't mean I was forgiven
wouldn't mean you wanted me to stay

it's a dream
when you seem
to be walking into the sun
we're on first
and we still don't know what we've done
so we don't say anything.

If I apologised
I don't suppose you'd even notice
even though I'd whisper it inside
If I apologised
we could be the perfect couple
Well we could, but only in my mind

if you ask
for the mask
then we're stumbling on through the dark
But we wait
it's too late
And we only had to be asked
so we don't say anything.

It couldn't hurt to try it
It couldn't hurt too much to try
It's there beyond the quiet
it couldn't hurt too much to fly...

Which, I suspect, doesn't demonstrate much more than most lyrics aren't poetry.

Another song question just arrived...

Mr. Neil,

What version of "Spread a Litle Happiness" do you prefer? Specifically, which rendition were you listening to when you put it in Sandman #6? It can't be the Sting one, cause that apparently came out like five years after you made three poor women sing it on a countertop.

No, the Sting version came out in -- well, I remember it as 1982, but it might be '83 -- to accompany the film of Dennis Potter's "Brimstone and Treacle" (a Sting performance that Alan Moore sort of used in his creation of John Constantine, and which John Totleben used as his visual starting point for the character) -- Richard Loncraine, the director had discovered this fifty year old song he thought appropriate, "Spread a Little Happiness", and told me once how thrilled the extremely elderly composer was to get royalties from it, long after the world had forgotten it. So that's about seven years before the diner counter-top encounter, not five years after.

Here's an interesting article I found through slashdot that I thought you might be interested in.
I just hope it doesn't spread.


How deeply strange. A Fortean phenomenon, in the nicest sense of the word. Or of the weird.

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

the sound of the tubas... the sound of the tubas must never stop....

Let's see....

Hi Neil. I've posted an interview with Jonathan Carroll over at and thought you might be interested. After all, I know you're a fan of Carroll's, and would like to see him find more readers as much as I would.

Well, there's that and the fact that this is the first in a *series* of interviews... so perhaps your readers will be interested?

Thanks bunches. Cheers!
--gabe chouinard

It's an excellent interview. Have you visited Jonathan Carroll's site recently? -- I did the essay that introduces you to the site, and tells you who Jonathan is. (I also got Gabe's questions yesterday for my interview....)

Here's the link to the Petition to amend part of the Patriot Act... some fascinating information for readers, writers, booksellers and librarians there:[type]=home

Peter Sanderson has written an account of Julie Schwartz's memorial that is the next best thing to having been there:

Like most of us, you've probably wondered "why isn't there an international tuba day?" and "if only there were an international tuba day, what would samples of four part tuba music sound like?". Worry no more: (It was legitimate research, promise.)

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

oddments. And oh, the white chocolate ribcage...

This came in courtesy of Julian Crouch; I need to warn you all that it is peculiarly addictive:


Peggy Burns at Drawn and Quarterly wrote to let me know that Drawn and Quarterly are having an online spring sale. And while I tend not to simply plug commercial stuff for people, D&Q always do amazing comics and magazines and graphic novels, and, well, now they're a lot cheaper, so mentioning it feels like a public service. Here's the opening of the press release:

D+Q Online Sale: Comics, Posters & Graphic Novels are 20-60% OFF

This is no April Fools joke! For the first time ever, Drawn & Quarterly, , is having a Spring-cleaning sale. At least I hope it?s Spring here in Montreal, it is a balmy 5 degrees Celsius.

In an effort to consolidate our back stock, virtually all comics and posters are 20-50% off while our graphic novels, softcover, hardcovers and limited editions, are priced at 20%-60% off. Now is the time to complete your entire D+Q library with unprecedented prices on all of our cartoonists: Chester Brown, Baru, David Collier, R. Crumb, Julie Doucet, Dylan Horrocks, Jason Lutes, Joe Matt, Max, Pentti Otsamo, Archer Prewitt, Michel Rabagliati, Seth, James Sturm, Adrian Tomine, Maurice Vellecoop and Chris Ware!

AND if you place an order over $50 US/$65 CDN, you?ll get a free copy of R. Crumb's WAITING FOR FOOD #3 (HC)!

Visit: On the D+Q site, all sale items are priced as marked in red.


Heya Neil.

Just thought you'd like to know that after years of backbreaking labor, you've finally made it to the top tier of the Geek Hierarchy ( Congrats, man, and thank you. You're giving me shade from two tiers above.


You know, that's almost too accurate to be funny. But it's still funny.

will neil be at the san diego comic con this year?

I very much doubt it.

Hey Neal!
Did you go see Hellboy. Are you Planning to see Hellboy? Do you even like Hellboy? Please tell me you know who hellboy is. Love the comic, loved the flick


Saw Hellboy last night and very, very much enjoyed it. It was like a Mike Mignola comic, only you could see everyone's feet.

(Sorry. Small Mike Mignola joke there. Very small. And Hellboy was a terrific piece of work.)

Where was Neil Gaiman born?

Portchester. It's a small town on the south coast of England. It has a castle. I left aged two, and have never really been back.

i have only one question... WATS NAIL GAIMAN'S E MAIL?

Good old Watsnail Gaiman. If I see him, I'll ask.

Hi Neil,

I really do love all your work, but I think I would go weird if I bought Coraline with my own money, so Im going to get mum to buy it for my baby sister, so then I can read it. And that is why I consider myself a visionary.

Very wise. That way your mum or your baby sister will go weird instead.

Hi Mr. Gaiman,
I figured if anyone would have the opportunity, desire, or resources to duplicate this amazing piece of art it might be you or some of your friends. Not too often one gets to combine one's love of cake and horror in the same fabulous experience.


That is perfectly sublime. You really need to read all three pages. Phrases like "I had problems with the liver from the moment I tried to take it out of the cake tin" will haunt me for years to come. And oh, the white chocolate ribcage...

Incidentally, over at Scott McCloud's website, there is a poster for sale (suitable for framing, or giving as a present to someone who needs it) assembled from his Morning Improvs. It even has some of those cute bucket full o' kittens in it: Watsnail Gaiman says check it out.

Sunday, April 04, 2004

Lemony Snicket, Scooby Doo, From Hell

I got this from Lemony "Daniel Handler" Snicket last night, and am posting it here with his permission, having first ransacked my address books for people I could forward it to who the Academy of Art might have heard of (according to Daniel Handler they got a letter of remonstrance from Salman Rushdie, and didn't recognise the name).

I'd read the San Francisco Chronicle story, and had meant to post a link to it here.

Hello all,
First of all let me apologize for the mass e-mail, but as some of you know there's been something going on that's a cause for concern. The Academy of Art University here in San Francisco - the biggest art school in the country - recently expelled a student for writing a violent short story, and then fired his instructor for teaching a story by David Foster Wallace the administration also found offensive.

As this story broke in the press ( the school has responded by announcing stringent policies regarding the content of students' artwork (writing, visual art, film, video game design, etc.), what can be taught in the classroom, and who is allowed to speak on campus. This was brought home to me when an instructor at the college invited me to speak to his class (along with the fired teacher and a representative of the First Amendment Project) and I was physically barred from entering the building.

Obviously this is creepy and idiotic, and the First Amendment Project is (as usual) doing a bang-up job bringing these issues to the public. I'd love to add your name - and the names of anyone you forward this to - to a growing list of people who want this kind of nonsense to stop. On Wednesday, an instructor is inviting a horde of artists to speak on free expression, and we'll be presenting a list to the Academy saying "We support free expression and oppose the misguided policies you have recently adopted regarding what can and cannot be expressed at your institution." If you live in the Bay Area, and would like to come down, that'd be great, but in any case, I'd love it if you just hit the reply button so we can put your name below that statement.

Daniel Handler (aka Lemony Snicket)

...and, because I don't know if he wants it made public, I'm certainly not posting Daniel's e-mail here. If there's a website about this put up, I'll link to it. In the meantime, here's the University website.

(Several people have pointed out that it's a private university, by the way, not a public one. But any arts university to start defining what kind of subject for art is safe to make and what isn't is already in trouble.)

In the world of public education, we've got them banning the movie of 1776 from history classes for being too risque.


Meanwhile.... over the years, I've noticed some amazing origami-people in my signing lines. The kind of people who, to while away the boredom, make the most remarkable things out of sheets of paper or dollar bills, and then leave them with me when they get to the front of the line. (Not, mostly the dollar bills.)

For all of them, here is Because you never know when you'll need to make your own Ghiddrah.


Took Maddy to the movies last night. We saw, at her request, Scooby Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed. Before we went I checked out the reviews at, which were fairly uniformly awful (for example, The New York Times's "Scooby-Doo 2 looks like a Saturday morning cartoon and unfortunately feels like one, too," ) then saw the film, and was pleasantly surprised to discover it was, as these things go, a perfectly acceptable Scooby Doo movie, with, well, all the depth and complexity and characterisation we used to expect from the original, er, Saturday Morning cartoons; and not as irritatingly dire as the first movie (which I dozed through at a drive-in and then finished watching a year later on a plane). The Mystery Machine cast explored haunted places, ran away from ghosts, Velma lost her glasses, they unmasked the baddie at the end, etc. Maddy liked it enormously, in a nostalgic kind of way (well, she's nine. Her prime Scooby Doo years were 5-7). And I just found myself puzzled, given the sorry reviews, by what the various critics had been expecting, and what kind of reviews they would have hoped to be able to write... ("For the first Scooby Doo movie, they did the cartoon with live actors. This time they have thrown off the shackles of neo-realism, and Cassavetes-like, use the riders of the Mystery Machine to explore the inner monster within each one of us, making the statement 'And I would have got away with it too, if it wasn't for those meddling kids...' one that applies, unerringly, to us all -- from the children we were to the monsters we have become...." Or possibly, "In the latest film, Monsters Unleashed, Scooby Doo has become an idea, an abstract aspiration for Samantha and Eric (Judi Dench and Jim Broadbent ) as they walk the deserted beaches of an abandoned holiday resort, both "haunted" by the daughter who, we come to realise, may be dead, or may merely have gone to live in Poughkeepsie, leaving behind only an empty and frayed dog-leash from her childhood...")


Several people have written to me from Ireland to complain that the Blue Moon Theatre Company's "Jack The Ripper" is extensively plagiarised (plot and dialogue) from Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell's From Hell. (I think they've all written to me because Alan doesn't have e-mail.) One person seemed to think it a fairly good theatrical adaptation of "From Hell" and was just offended because the "writer" failed to mention its source material. So I mention it here, so that anyone who runs into the people who did it can ask them why they thought "From Hell" was public domain...

Thursday, April 01, 2004

In which an author makes a deadline by the skin of his teeth...

Lots of cool things happened today, all Death the movie related, but you'll have to take my word for it because I'm not telling you what they are. (Which, every now and then, is the frustrating thing about having a journal like this. Cool stuff happens, and I can't talk about it without risking then making the cool stuff not happen, at which point I don't know whether to mention it, and risk coming off like someone going "Nee-ner-na-boo-boo, I know something you don't know" or just not to mention it at all.) (I got "nee-ner-na-boo-boo" from Maddy, who has recently learned that if you and your best friend put on lots of lipstick and then procede to kiss your white kitten, you get a pink kitten, a lesson that I trust will serve her well in later life.)

Diamond posted its "Gem" Awards (which might just be thanks you for those entities that earned them the most money or not, I'm not sure). However, Endless Nights and 1602 #1 were both given "Gems". Here's the link from newsarama:

Thought you might be interested being the author of those and all.


I've never been sure how they choose the Gem awards. Obviously things that make money for retailers have something to do with it. And the last time I got a Gem award was about ten years ago, I think, at a Diamond conference where I gave the Tulip speech, and met Carl Barks.

Hey Neil,
Not a question, but if you can stand yet another thank you/praise about Thea Gilmore- then read on. THANK YOU again for so actively plugging her in your journal and repeatedly telling us all what a great artist she is. I took myself to see her at Joe's Pub in NYC last night- and it was just beautiful. She gave a rocking, funny, poignant performance- and I've never heard anyone do such wonderful things to Paula Abdul's "Straight up Now Tell Me" song. (if it's not already on one of her albums- please beg her on our behalf to add it to her next)The venue was lovely, and the audience was great (not a surprise that I went alone, but found many friends there)- we even got her to do an encore song- and I'm very happy that she plans to come back soon- probably within the year! All I can say is thank the gods that there are still artists like her, and I can't wait to see her perform a again. Thank You.

I'm pleased to say this is one of several from people who went to see Thea in New York and were made happy. Her cover of "Straight Up" is on a CD called "As If..." and I'm pretty sure it's also on the second side of Songs From the Gutter -- I'm not certain, but I think you can still get it from

Thank you for posting the Chernobyl link, it was facsinating.

You may like to know about the charity Chernobyl Children Lifeline

They bring belarussian children on holiday to England. A month here can put months and years on their lives while they are not exposed to radioactive air or consuming radioactive poisoned food.



What a good thing to do.

And, finally, a sort of April the 1st posting...

Hey Neil, thought you might find this funny: SF/F authors can even get their grocery lists published.

at which point I realised I'd missed the deadline, and had promised them a shopping list, so wrote one and sent it in, and they put it up. (Hurrah for the speed of the web.)