Saturday, April 30, 2005

The Speech I Just Gave at the Nebulas

Welcome, to the Nebula Awards, on this, the 40th anniversary of the founding of the SFWA. That's the Ruby Anniversary, for anyone wondering what sort of gift to give.

And forty years is a very short time in the life of a genre.

I suspect that if I had been given the opportunity to address a convocation of the most eminent writers of science fiction and fantasy when I was a young man -- say around the age of 23 or 24, when I was bumptious and self-assured and a monstrous clever fellow -- I would have a really impressive sort of speech prepared. It would have been impassioned and heart-felt. An attack on the bastions of science fiction, calling for the tearing down of a number of metaphorical walls and the building up of several more. It would have been a plea for quality in all ways - the finest of fine writing mixed with the reinvention of SF and Fantasy as genres. All sorts of wise things would have been said.

And now I'm occupying the awkward zone that one finds oneself in between receiving one's first lifetime achievement award and death, and I realise that I have much less to say than I did when I was young.

Gene Wolfe pointed out to me, five years ago, when I proudly told him, at the end of the first draft of American Gods, that I thought I'd figured out how to write a novel, that you never learn how to write a novel. You merely learn how to write the novel you're on. He's right, of course. The paradox is that by the time you've figured out how to do it, you've done it. And the next one, if it's going to satisfy the urge to create something new, is probably going to be so different that you may as well be starting from scratch, with the alphabet.

At least in my case, it feels as I begin the next novel knowing less than I did the last time.

So. A ruby anniversary. Forty years ago, in 1965, the first Nebula Awards were handed out. I thought it might be interesting to remind you all of the books that were Nominees for Best Novel in 1965...

All Flesh is Grass by Clifford D. Simak

The Clone by Theodore Thomas & Kate Wilhelm

Dr. Bloodmoney by Philip K. Dick

Dune by Frank Herbert

The Escape Orbit by James White

The Genocides by Thomas M. Disch

Nova Express by William Burroughs

A Plague of Demons by Keith Laumer

Rogue Dragon by Avram Davidson

The Ship That Sailed the Time Stream by G. C. Edmonson

The Star Fox by Poul Anderson

The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch by Philip K. Dick

I love that list. It has so much going on -- SF and Fantasy of all shapes and sizes, jostling side by side. Traditional and iconoclastic fictions, all up for the same lucite block.

And if you're wondering, the 1965 Nebula Winners were,

Novel: Dune by Frank Herbert

Novella: "He Who Shapes" by Roger Zelazny and "The Saliva Tree" by Brian Aldiss (tie)

Novelette: "The Doors of His Face, the Lamps of His Mouth" by Roger Zelazny

Short Story: "'Repent, Harlequin!' Said the Ticktockman" by Harlan Ellison

... it was a good year.

Forty years on and we're now living in a world in which SF has become a default mode. In which the tropes of SF have spread into the world. Fantasy in its many forms has become a staple of the media. And we, as the people who were here first, who built this city on pulp and daydreams and four-colour comics, are coming to terms with a world in which we find several things they didn't have to worry about in 1965.

For a start, today's contemporary fiction is yesterday's near-future SF. Only slightly weirder and with no obligation to be in any way convincing or consistent.

It used to be easy to recognise SF written by mainstream authors. The authors always seemed convinced that this was the first novel to tackle Faster Than Light travel, or downloadable intelligence, or time paradoxes or whatever. The books were clunky and proud of themselves and they reinvented the wheel and did it very badly, with no awareness of the body of SF that preceded them.

That's no longer true. Nowadays things that were the most outlandish topics of SF are simply building blocks for stories, and they aren't necessarily ours. Our worlds have moved from being part of the landscape of the imagination to being part of the wallpaper.

There was a battle for the minds of the world, and we appear to have won it, and now we need to figure out what we're doing next.

I always liked the idea that SF stood for Speculative Fiction, mostly because it seemed to cover everything, and include the attitude that what we were doing involved speculation. SF was about thinking, about inquiring, about making things up.

The challenge now is to go forward and to keep going forward: to tell stories that have weight and meaning. It's saying things that mean things, and using the literature of the imagination to do it.

And that's something that each of us, and the writers who will come afterwards, are going to have to struggle with, to reinvent and make SF say what we need it to say.


Something that, after half a lifetime in this field and a lifetime as a reader, that I think worth mentioning and reminding people of, is that we are a community.

More than any field in which I've been involved, the people in the worlds of SF have a willingness to help each other, to help those who are starting out.

When I was 22, half a lifetime ago, I went to a Brian Aldiss signing at London's Forbidden Planet. After the signing, at the pub next door, I sat next to a dark, vaguely elfin gentleman named Colin Greenland who seemed to know a lot about the field and who, when I mentioned that I had written a handful of stories, asked to see them. I sent them to him, and he suggested a magazine that he'd done some work for that might publish it. I wrote to that magazine, cut the story down until it met their wordcount requirements, and they published it.

That short story being published meant more to me at the time than anything had up to that point, and was more glorious than most of the things that have happened since. (And Colin and I have stayed friends. About ten years ago, he sent me, without the author's knowledge, a short story by someone he'd met at a workshop named Susanna Clarke... but that's another story.)

So. Twenty two years ago.... Six months later I was in the process of researching my first genre book . It was a book of SF and Fantasy quotations, mostly the awful ones, called Ghastly Beyond Belief. [And here I wandered off into an extempore bit of quoting from Ghastly Beyond Belief, by me and Kim Newman, mostly about giant crabs. And space crabs too. I'm not going to try and reproduce it here, sorry.]

-- and I found myself astonished and delighted by the response within the field. Fans and authors suggested choice works by authors they loved or didn't. I remember the joy of getting a postcard from Isaac Asimov telling me that he couldn't tell the good from the bad in his works, and giving me blanket permission to quote anything of his I wanted to.

I felt that I'd learned a real lesson back then, and it's one that continues to this day.

What I saw was that the people who make up SF, with all its feuds -- the roots of most of which are, like all family feuds, literally, inexplicable --are still a family, and fundamentally supportive, and particularly supportive to the young and foolish.

We're here tonight because we love the field.

The Nebulas are a way of applauding our own. They matter because we say they matter, and they matter because we care.

They are something to which we can aspire. They are our way -- the genre's way, the way of the community of writers -- of thanking those who produced sterling work, those who have added to the body of SF, of Fantasy, of Speculative Fiction.

The Nebulas are a tradition, but that's not why they're important.

The Nebulas Awards are important because they allow the people who dream, who speculate, who imagine, to take pride in the achievements of the family of SF. They're important because these lucite blocks celebrate the ways that we, who create futures for a living, are creating our own future.

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Friday, April 29, 2005

Three photographs

This one is from the photo shoot in January. I'm trying not to squint. Every twenty seconds I'd move further along the wall, as the shadow of a nearby building ate more of the sun. Kimberly is on the left.

When the shoot was done, my daughter Holly, who had been doing her homework in the room next door, and occasionally coming out to laugh at me, helped use up the last few pictures on the roll. She looks like she's having fun. I think I look a little dazed.

This is the one we're going to be using on the book jacket of ANANSI BOYS. It was taken in the first two minutes of a many-hour photo session, on the street next to Kimberly's studio.

Photos were taken by and are copyright Kimberly Butler (except the one of her taking the photo of me. I don't know who took that one. Probably her assistant Byrdie).

Jetlag morning

Lot of flying yesterday and now I'm home again. For a day. Last night's useful post was written, but was eaten by weasels. Next week is the last week of Beowulf-with-Avary-and-Zemeckis work for a long while, and then I get to be home for about a month, if you don't count the trip to New York for Book Expo, and right now I just like the idea of sleeping in my own bed for a couple of nights running.

Lots of questions and comments from you lot waiting for me when I got home, along with lots of books I had things in [including the Strahan/Haber Fantasy Best of 2004, Jon Scieszka's Guys Write for Guys Read, which contains the true story of why, when I was eleven, my headmaster hit me with a slipper and thus why books are dangerous, the George Alec Effinger collection Live From Planet Earth] and the DC Comics Death Bust, which really looks good (up there with the Merv Pumpkinhead and the Desire busts). Here's a picture of the prototype, but the finished thing seems significantly cooler -- for a start her expression is much less severe than this:

Lots and lots of messages and questions and such waiting for me.

Hi mister Gaiman... I'm french and my name's stephanie. I juste have one simple question. Have you heard of bookcrossing, and do you have an opinion about it ? I'm a bookcrosser myself, and must warn you that any answer will be shared with my bcer friends ! Thank you.

Hello Stephanie -- well, you could listen to BBC Radio 4's OPEN BOOK, which has its page at and listen to the latest program. It's only up until Sunday, I think, but you can hear me being interviewed by Mariella Frostrup very early one morning about bookcrossing. (I think the Bookcrossing stuff starts about 20 minutes in.) Otherwise, you'll have to search this website to find out...

Hi Neil!I don't suppose there's any chance of the ANANSI BOYS audiobook coming out early, is there? (I'm facing a long, boring cross-country drive at the end of August.)-Kristin

I don't think so. I managed to get the CD of me reading Coraline out early, but I don't think that it'll happen this time.

Hi Neil,Launching straight into my big question - do you ever plan to visit India? I assure you that if you ever landed in Bangalore or Bombay you would get a massive reception. There is a loyal fan base here who will go to hell and back (literally: the back streets of cities; dealing with a suspect salesman who is not REALLY a bookseller selling a rare secondhand copy of the Books of Magic; I could go on.) to get our hands on a Neil Gaiman comic.So would you brave the monsoon and come? Regards,avantika.

Happily. But this year is spoken for, and next year is already full. And, for that matter, nobody's actually invited me to India.

The good news, BTW, is that Headline are pushing very hard to have their cool, spiffy, uniform new editions of my previous books out by the time that I get to Australia this year, in mid-July.

Dear Neil: As I'm always trying to shove more people to the theatre, an FYI that Playbill Online ( is offering $47 tickets (that's 30% off) to the NYC production of Shockheaded Peter through its online club, which is free to join. Also, any thoughts on the resurrection of Sweeney Todd next year? I heard Cyndi Lauper as Mrs. L??? Oy vey.Toodles,christine with an x

If it's the production of Sweeney Todd that was on in the West End last year, in which the actors are also the orchestra, I thought it was pretty interesting, if somewhat confusing to people who didn't know the story.

And anything I can do to help plug ShockHeaded Peter in New York...

How has what you've written connect to events in your life and what awards have you won?

Indirectly. Most of them.

Why do you write your,or any books/novels?

I write my books/novels because if I don't, I can't guarantee that anyone else will.

I write other people's books and novels because... actually, I have no idea why I write other people's books and novels. Until I read this question, I didn't even know that I did.

Neil, Just curious to find out if the media has been pestering you about your take on the Hitchhiker movie because of Don't Panic. And what is your take by the way? Steve Stanis

A little, but I'm coping (one interview, now up at the Christian Science Monitor, and an anecdote at IGN The people who made the film have been really keen on my seeing it, and if I hadn't been quite so peripatetic over the last few weeks it would have happened already. As it is, I'll be paying my money to see it like everyone else.


When you start writing movies, you soon find yourself joining the Writers Guild. (The best bit of this, if you're in the US, is that you get health insurance.) When I joined, I discovered that the Mississippi is a dividing line between the Writer's Guild East and West, and living, as I do, a few miles East of the river, I found myself a member of the Writer's Guild East. Until a few weeks ago I assumed it was all one Union, and that this was a simple jurisdictional thing, for ease of administration or something. And then, from the Writer Action board, I noticed that the East and West bits were having problems. So I did what I normally do when puzzled about something like this, and asked Mark Evanier to explain it to me, which he did:

It's now getting weirder, at least according to this article:

It's all sort of sad, really, especially because the Writer's Guild is, at least in theory, a really good thing. (I'm still puzzled about why one job needs two unions divided by a river.)

It's my birthday. I'm sure you've gotten a huge number of birthday requests...mundane, bizzare and everything in between. But all I ask for on this day when I pass the two-decade mark is this: could you post a sort of wolf-ish picture of yourself? Maybe even in a longish sort of coat? That'd be fantasic. Thanks hon. ~Jady

You know, I've already missed your birthday. (Happy birthday.) Oddly enough (well, I did talk about them on this journal when they were taken, so possibly not that oddly) there are some photos answering to that description, and I just need to get versions from the wonderful Kimberly Butler that she'd be happy with me posting here.

I also need to post the official author photo that'll be the Anansi Boys jacket photo, which I like, mostly because I don't like being older than the majority of the photos out there, and I always feel that it's a good thing to get recent ones up.

And one final post. I normally don't put the ones like this that come in up here, but this one just made me smile, and I wanted to share it.

I just wanted to say THANK YOU!!!

My husband and I took our then 5 year old son, Jared, to hear you read in Charlotte, NC, 2 years ago. Jared had your book, Coraline, signed then. (You had been sick, and you read your poem, Crazy Hair, which he LOVED!)

Well, fast forward to this year and last, when in school, I was told that he had visual and auditory processing delays, because he wasn't reading 'at his level'. I ended up pulling him out of one of the best schools in our state to homeschool him, because I truly did NOT believe them, and didn't agree with their assessments. He was simply young for his age, I felt. He was only 6 then, and I felt they were just pushing the kids too hard.

Anyhow, that was last November, and we really backed off on how much we were 'requiring' him to read. We read lots TO him and with him, but didn't expect him to read much on his own. He felt like he was too 'dumb' to learn to read, because of how the school had treated him. (That was HIS words, not mine!)

Well, last month, he found the book you'd signed on our bookshelf. He remembered seeing you, and talked about it endlessly. Then he said, "I'm going to read this!" I was afraid, frankly, because it's NOT a first grade level book at all. But HE READ IT!!! I went into his room at night and snuck it out so I could read it (bad bad mommy!!!), so I could discuss it with him, to gauge how well he was understanding what he was reading. I wouldn't say he got EVERYTHING, but he got enough to be able to relate the story back to me.

I can't tell you how grateful I am, to you for writing it, and for doing the tour that sparked his interest.

Jared has been voracious since then, reading well above his level, and everything he can get his hands on. I knew he had it in him, it just took Coraline to spark that interest for him to WANT to read.

Thank you SO much!!

Heather Hubbard

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Demon Days

Let's see... yesterday I had an emergency "please make me look less like a fuzzy hedge" haircut (after discovering -- yesterday morning-- that I was going to have to be photographed this morning), bought many pairs of R. M. Williams black jeans in the R. M. Williams shop, watched Lenny Henry trying out some standup at lunchtime, and then took part in a conference call to the US about the mysterious TV series. Also did a small pile of e-mail.

This morning I got up very early and went off to spend the morning in a cafe in Notting Hill with Damon and Jamie, talking Gorillaz, and the nature of story, and why an imaginary cartoon band can have more integrity than some flesh and blood ones, and all that sort of stuff (all while having our photo taken). Enormously pleasant -- I'd not met Damon before, and hadn't seen Jamie since we went to Berlin for the (first? second?) anniversary of the coming down of the Berlin Wall, about fifteen years ago.

Then I fedexed the tape of the interview off to Wired. I saw Sarah Odedina, my editor at Bloomsbury, for lunch, and talked about the next book I'm writing, which is called The Graveyard Book, and which is for her.

(I had the idea for the book in about 1985, when we lived just over the road from a graveyard, with blocked-off-tunnels beneath the house leading to the graveyard, and the graveyard was also where my two-year-old son used to go to play. And I thought at the time I'd put off writing the book until I was good enough to do it justice. Which, in retrospect, was probably partly silly -- you don't get a better book at different times, just a different book -- but probably in other ways sensible, because the idea of writing The Graveyard Book used to scare me, and now the idea of writing it just makes me inordinately happy.)

After that I saw Colin Greenland and Susanna Clarke (cool bookwrap video interviews with Susanna here) and shortly after that I realised that it was suddenly time not to do anything anymore, and that the whole hot-bath-and-sleep thing seemed peculiarly attractive. And although I suspect I've left lots of things that have happened over the last couple of days out, that's what I'm going to do now.


Sunday, April 24, 2005

more from the mailbag...

Okay -- I've got e-mail (backlogged, so it arrived by the ton). And I should be typing the TV thing, but I have another 20 minutes before the "Internet Access Pass" thing runs out, so I shall answer questions instead.

Hello! I wonder, why is Svankmajer's Faust one of your "not favourite" films? That filmic opinion aside, (for Brazil's a fave of mine as well) please know I think you are an excellent writer and one whom I would write all sorts of obsessively fan-like things to, if I did not already know how inundated with such writings it seems you can be!Utter sincerities,Charlie P!

Er, because it's not? Svankmajor's ALICE is definitely one of my favourite films, and Conspirators of Pleasure would probably make it into the lower reaches of my top thirty favourite films. But I think I wanted more from his Faust than it delivered. I love moments from it, but it's not "one of my favourite films". Doesn't mean I disliked it.

Hello, "Sheepdog-haired" Neil I was re-reading Smoke and Mirrors, and i found something there. You said you were working on the Beowulf movie. Well, weren�t you doing that now?! And, am i mistaken, or did Chritopher Lambert already done a Beowulf movie (which was waaaay too bizarre!!).And i didn�t quite understand what Mirrormask is. Is it a book, movie, tv-series, comic book?well, i can�t wait to read Anansi Boys, so yeah...we fans are very glad you already finished it.take good care...and get a hair cut, mate.your fanRafael

Same film. I wrote the first draft, with Roger Avary for Roger to direct, in May 1997, and it was very nearly made back then. Roger started to put it together again last year as a film for him to direct, but Robert Zemeckis, who loved the script, made us an offer we couldn't refuse, and now Mr Z is the director, and the film is on schedule to be released on Oct 2007.

As far as I know, the Lambert film had the word Beowulf in the title, but has nothing else in common with the story. The upcoming Beowulf and Grendel looks much more faithful and interesting. Our Beowulf is going to be a big, motion-capture film spanning fifty years.

MirrorMask is a film. There's a beautiful book of the script-with-1700 Dave McKean Storyboard illustrations (not to mention e-mails from me to Dave, song lyrics, introductions, afterwords, etc) coming out next week from Morrow, and then in September, when the film will be released in the US, there will be an Art book, and a smaller picture book of MirrorMask (I got to read the finished version of the children's book last night, with all Dave's new illustrations and photos and design stuff, and it's really cool and odd and made me happy).

Mr. Gaiman,I was simply curious as to whether or not you knew who would be doing the audio book reading of ANANSI BOYS. Here's hoping it's you -- I loved your reading of CORALINE. Matthew

Assuming that we can all make our schedules happen, and that Harper Audio and Lenny's management can make it work, it will be the very lovely Mr Lenny Henry (who has, I hope, recovered from his cold).

Hi, Neil. Are you really going to be in the Philippines? This isn't a joke, is it? Will you be having a signing session here? If yes, which bookstore? - Anna L.

Unless something huge happens to upset everything, I'll be in Singapore, the Philippines and Australia in July. I'll know my movements, what's happening on Death, and suchlike for sure in a couple of weeks, and should be able to announce the entire tour schedule then. So have patience. But it's definitely not a joke. (Wouldn't be a very funny one if it was, would it?)

Dear Mr. Gaiman,I was looking for banners to link to your site, but I don't quite like the banners you have put up. I was wondering if it could be possible to:a) either update the banners/ put more banners on your siteb) make a banner myself (I was thinking of creating a banner based on the Coraline cover, would that be a violation of copyright?)I hope it's not a stupid question. *blush*Kind regards,Joyce

It's not stupid at all. We're planning lots of new banners for when Anansi Boys comes out and the whole website is overhauled and redesigned. (Which is getting more and more important because there are so many interesting things to read on the site that there aren't really any easy links to any longer. I mean, not even the webmistress Julia and I know what's here any longer...) But feel very free to make banners. Send a link when you have and I'll try and mention it here.

Hi Neil,

Please forgive the length of this e-mail, as I'm trying to get a handle on an idea and would really appreciate your feedback if you have the time. Like most folks who fill up your inbox, I'm a fan of your work. I've been reading since I was half the age I am now (30), primarily The Sandman series and Good Omens. I have also enjoyed the intersections between your work and Tori's.

I am currently at University, studying communication and rhetoric. My dissertation topic revolves around how people construct identity and community in their blogs. One of my sections deals with celebrity and blogging, and I'm writing a paper about how the structural features and biases associated with the genre alter the enactment of both individual and communal identity. In English, that means I'm looking at how people design their blogs to see if/how they alter community and identity.

The cases I'm looking at are your blog and Wil Wheaton's blog. I chose them because you are both celebrities who take their celebrity in stride, have loyal fans, and have mentioned reading each other's blog. The part where you two differ greatly is in the structure of your blog. Wil allows comments on his blog posts, while you post reader questions and your responses. Commenting is not allowed on your blog, although you do provide a separate bulletin board for discussion and there is a lot of chatter over at your syndication on LiveJournal where everyone assumes that you never read it. From what I can tell, you don't write responses on the bulletin board or in LiveJournal.

I was wondering if there was any reason you decided against allowing comments or if you ever even considered it. I've searched all over your site and the Internet, and I can't seem to find an answer. I realize that there is a certain amount of control you can have over the conversations that take place in your blog by not allowing comments, but I'm not convinced that's the reason why you don't have comments - although it is an interesting after effect. My guess is that this is how the publisher set your blog up to begin with, and you're used to this convention from answering fan mail before you had the blog. Also, while Wil calls his blog a "blog," you refer to yours as a "journal," and typically, journals don't have comments because they are usually reports/reflections of some sort. How has the choice worked for you? Do you plan to use comments in the future? I've read your reply about asking someone to create an FAQ for the LiveJournal folks who think they're replying to you, but other than that I'm not sure how you feel about all of this. If you have the time, I'd love to know the real reasons so I'm not just throwing darts at warm butter.


Mostly, it has to do with the fact that a) it evolved this way over the last four years and it seems to work, and b) I've been part of online communities a few times over the last two decades -- primarily Compuserve in the late 80s and Genie in the early 90s -- and I know how much time it takes to do it properly.

I can just about manage to find the time to keep this blog/journal/diary/thing as a monologue with a certain amount of question-answering whenever I can fit it in. I wouldn't have the time to devote to it if each post became a dialogue, and in the blogs I admire that do have response structures (Teresa Nielsen Hayden's marvellous Making Light for example) the feedback-interaction is where all the interesting stuff happens. has its message board over at which I feel discharges my karmic wossname.)

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Two Days...

Yesterday's post: Long day -- got off plane, to hotel, showered and shaved and discovered that somewhere across the Atlantic my hair -- which was in need of some judicious cutting anyway -- had turned into a strange sort of sheepdoggy thing. Then up to Hensons offices to spend the afternoon in a very long, quite good meeting about the Mysterious TV Series, which may even have a name soon. All spare moments between now and Monday need to be spent writing the treatment for it and plots for the first four episodes. Dinner with Julian Crouch (who co-directed the astonishing Shockheaded Peter -- now with an American Cast in New York, and as I've said before here, anyone who likes creepy things should definitely go and see it), planning stuff for the Wolves In the Walls children's opera, which looks like it will be done by the Improbable Theatre Company in association with the National Theatre of Scotland -- Julian thinks it'll premiere in Scotland next March and probably open in London next July. Now we all just have to finish writing it, of course. In late June we'll workshop what we've done so far with actors -- quite possibly in the Shetlands. I'l report back as things happen.

Hotel has internet-of-a-sort in basement, but I can't get online with my own computer yet, so e-mails are probably unanswered. Oh well.

I'm just starting to notice that I actually have finished Anansi Boys, something which is beginning to make me very happy. I think it may even be a pretty decent book. I hope so.

(Stopped typing here because I realised I was so jetlagged I couldn't see straight. So saved the draft and slept, which was very sensible.)

Today's post: Spent the whole of today in talks about what Dave and I want to do after MirrorMask. Right now, after a day of solid talking, I think it's fair to say that we don't know, but that we have a pretty good idea of what we don't want to do, and a pretty good idea of what the options are. (I kept talking about how I want to do something Faustian, and talking about the way Faust themes through some of my favourite films, like All That Jazz, or Brazil, or even some of my not favourite films, like Svankmayer's Faust. Then we chatted about favourite films we hadn't mentioned. "Er, the original Bedazzled," I said. "That's Faust again," said Dave. Which may mean that I want to write something Faustian, and may mean that we'll wind up doing something quite different. But it was interesting.)

And from now until Sunday night, with a short break to work with Dave on the Signal to Noise film tomorrow afternoon, I'll be working on the Mysterious TV treatment.


Lots of messages from people asking about whether or not Matthew Vaughn's going to be directing Stardust. I like and respect Matthew very much and he wants to make Stardust more than anything (I wrote "make Stardust really badly" first and then realised that that could be misinterpreted). The rights to Stardust at this point are still controlled by me and Charles Vess. Currently, I'm just keeping my fingers crossed for Matthew to survive directing X-Men 3 --what he tells me of the schedule ahead sounds pretty gruelling for all of them.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

finishing things

There. A finished ANANSI BOYS has gone off to the publishers in the US and the UK (although I need to write an Acknowledgments page to say thanks for everyone who helped) and I've just finished the second draft of the MirrorMask picture book and sent that off. Beowulf's almost done -- Roger Avary's currently got the script, and he'll e-mail it to me when he's wrapped up the final sequence and I'll give it all a final polish, but it'll still be with Bob Zemeckis before the May 1st deadline.

Chicago was fun.

I'm trying desperately to finish an outline for a Mysterious Television Project before leaving for the UK tomorrow, and there are a bunch of smaller things that I have to do, but I don't feel as nightmarishly stretched-to-snapping point as I did last week, when it all seemed more or less impossible and I was trying to remember why I'd ever thought writing for a living was a good idea when there were much more sensible jobs out there, like shovelling solidified fat-blockages from sewers...

It's astonishing how much more cheerful a place the world becomes when you start to finish things.


Lisa Snellings has finished her overhaul on my statue. I was expecting some glueing and dusting and a little fix of the motor. Being Lisa she's completely recreated it, repainting it (here's the rat before and after) attaching new things to it, reinvented it. I really hope that she can put up some footage of it moving.


Lots of requests from people in bookshops saying things like:

Hey, I work in a Barnes and Noble, and I was recently reading your entries from the American God's editing process, and you mentioned people requesting advanced reader's copies. Is there anyway for me, as a bookseller, to request that our store get a copy of Anansi Boys when it comes out? (Or even, better, more than one copy? I know of at least two other people I'll have to fight to get it.)Thanks for your time, love your work (duh!), and all that jazz.~Christine

and the honest answer is, I don't know. I think there may be advance copies at Book Expo America (and according to the Book Expo America site, I'll be signing there from 2:00-3:00pm on Saturday June 4th, at table 23). It may be that all they're giving out at Book Expo are chapbooks containing the first few chapters, though (I'm not quite sure). I do know that there's not any point asking me for Advance Reading Copies -- probably best to talk to your Morrow rep, or talk to HarperCollins directly (and if you're in the UK, talk to Headline).

But there aren't any ARCs yet, in either country.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Hasty Post

Quick one -- I'm in Chicago. Still in the very sold out 250 seat Court Theatre tonight. Everyone here seems slightly baffled and a little amazed that so many people wanted to come and that the tickets sold out so fast. My apologies to the hundreds of people who have written to me and wailed grievously.

I've turned in a document called ANANSI BOYS FINAL MASTER FILE to my publishers in the UK and the US, secure in the knowledge that I can fix a few things in galleys.

Many, many things still to get finished, but the two biggest are more or less completed, and life suddenly feels marginally less stressful.

(Off to the UK on Thursday for a few days to have some meetings and to interview Gorillaz for Wired.)

Friday, April 15, 2005

From the mail pile

Home again! Not really for very long as this is a most irritatingly peripatetic sort of April, but I am home!

My copy of MirrorMask the script-and-storyboards book was waiting in the mail when I got home -- it's huge and heavy and, really rather wonderful. (Gaiman's law of picking up your first copy of a book you wrote held true: if there's one typo, it will be on the page that your new book falls open to the first time you pick it up. It never fails. It used to make me sad or frustrated. Now I half-expect it.) I think it'll be in the bookshops in the US in about two weeks.

Also waiting was my copy of Tori's tourbook, with my letter to her about the gardening in it. (I keep imagining the reaction of people reading it. "Yeah! Rock and roll! Neil's writing about heirloom tomatoes!" Ah well.)

Last year I talked about the Julie Schwartz memorial lecture.

After Julie died, there were discussions about what would be a good memorial to him. The idea that found favour in the end was that an annual lecture might be a fine way to keep Julie's memory green: an annual talk by an eminent (possibly even preeminent) guest speaker about the things that Julie influenced -- in particular the worlds of pop culture, comics, SF, fandom and the intersection of "high" and "low" culture. DC Comics have been in talks with Julie's alma mater, but as I understand it, the college in question never really went for the idea, so DC Comics boss Paul Levitz is currently looking for a home for the memorial lecture, and is talking to several organisations and educational establishments, but he feels that the word could be got out more widely. Which is where this blog came in...

A number of universities got in touch with me about this and I forwarded everything that came in to Paul Levitz at DC Comics, who then had the Solomonic task of picking one. Anyway, I'm delighted to announce that the Julie Schwartz memorial lecture will be happening at MIT, and will be organised by the Director of the Comparative Media Studies Program (currently Prof. Henry Jenkins).

According to the letter I just received on this, individuals wishing to contribute to the Julie Schwartz Memorial Lecture Fund should make cheques out to MIT, with a note saying it's for the Julie Schwartz Memorial Lecture Fund, and should be sent to Anne marie Michel, Assistant Dean for Development, School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences, MIT, Rm E51-257, 77 Massachusetts Av, Cambridge MA 02139-4307. (And it's always worth pondering what the world of media would have been like without Julie in it.)

When I find out when the first of the lectures will be and who's giving it, I'll post it here.

Other cool things in the mail-pile included a certificate from AudioFile magazine letting me know that the Neil Gaiman Audio Collection had received their Earphones Award. (Incidentally, the latest audio CD, SPEAKING IN TONGUES, is reviewed at by Charles de Lint, along with the new Jouni-illustrated Shoggoth's Old Peculiar chapbook. And at you can hear an MP3 of me reading the what-to-do-if-you're-stuck-in-a-fairy-tale poem, "Instructions". On the other DreamHaven pages they also have MP3s of "A Writer's Prayer" and "Nicholas Was...")

And the best thing was a copy of Poppy Z. Brite's new novel, Prime, which was, to my great delight and surprise, dedicated to me and to Ti Martin, with a lovely scrawly note from Poppy reminding me that I did good things for her for Liquor. (Honestly, most of what I did was a) like it very much and tell her so at a time when she needed to hear that she hadn't wasted her time writing something nobody liked but her, and b) suggest that, since her agent disliked it intensely and didn't seem to want to sell it, she really needed to get a new agent. Both of which were rather self-evident.)

I see from her website and livejournal that Poppy's on tour right now. (Remaining stops on her tour, for those of you who want to go out and see her read and tell her I said hi, are:
Saturday, April 16, 2:00 PM - Borders, 10720 Preston Road, Dallas, TX
Thursday, April 21, 5:00 PM - Lemuria Books, Jackson, MS
Tuesday, April 26, 1:00-3:00 PM - Tower Records, New Orleans
Tuesday, April 26, 6:00 PM - Beaucoup Books, New Orleans
Thursday, April 28, 12:00-1:00 PM - New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival
Book Tent
Friday, May 13, 7:00 PM - Barnes & Noble, Metairie, LA )

Right. I'll be offline from tomorrow until Monday, doing the final scribbling and writing and inputting stuff on ANANSI BOYS. Wish me big luck..

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Roger Avary says Hi By The Way

Film script needs to be done by Friday, novel needs to be in by Monday. Blogging doesn't seem to be happening at all right now, but a few quick bits before I vanish again.

Michael Zulli adapted my short story "The Price" to be one of the two stories in Dark Horse's Creatures of the Night. I was thrilled to hear this morning that we're nominated for an Eisner award for it, but feel I should point out that Michael did all the work. I wrote the short story around 1994: he broke it down, drew it and made it a comic. So credit where credit is due, and it's all his.

(Incidentally, Michael's "Last Morpheus" painting is up on eBay -- Try clicking here for the link -- with an opening bid price of $3001 (because, he tells me, someone has already offered him $3000 for it). Lots of lovely pictures of it there, too.)

I learned yesterday from Locus -- -- that journalist and author John Brosnan is dead. I've known -- I'd known, I suppose -- John for well over 20 years, have nothing but good memories of him. I went looking on Google for a photograph of him and came up with this --
....and also found, on the same site, an embarrassing photo of me age 26 at the World SF Convention in Brighton, having just written the first bit of Black Orchid and plotting the first story of Sandman, wearing my first black tee shirt -- for the curious (and yes, I have redeye behind the 1987 dark glasses).

Good morning, Neil! When you need - or are forced - to step away from writing for a moment, you might enjoy these comics that show how writers through history have dealt with similar situations: All credit to the lovely and talented Dorothy at Cat and Girl ( which is a great comic in its own right, for first posting the link on her site.Best wishes on Beowulf!paul--

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Rest easy

Dozens of people offering helpful suggestions for me and Roger to link up our computers in dozens of configurations and with every add-on component known to man -- I should probably clarify and point out that it's not actually a problem: we're both on wireless, and e-mailing files is as quick a way to get files across the room as anything else (and a damn sight faster than bluetoothing, in truth). So do not worry, and thanks to all.

Mush! Mush!

Roger Avary and I are writing the new draft of Beowulf. Getting computers to communicate is always interesting -- I can send files to his powerbook via bluetooth but he has to email them back to me, which seems vaguely silly when we're sitting across the table from each other. ("How did we get files back and forth back in 1998, when we did the first draft?" asked Roger, puzzled, the other day. "There were these things called floppy disks," I reminded him. "Oh yes," he said.)

It's going really well -- the writing was a bit slow and odd to begin with, but a couple of days ago it started to work: we did a scene that could only have been written by both of us, an opening that was different and (I think) better than anything we could have done on our own. (And the fortune cookie that I opened immediately after said "Good to begin well, better to end well." Which is very wise.)

Every now and again Robert Zemeckis phones us and asks how it's going, and we tell him, then he says, "Mush! Mush!" whereupon Roger and I put our heads down and go back to hauling this movie across the frozen tundra...


Several people wrote from Australia to tell me I should have taken the baggage-handler-being-fired-for-putting-on-the-camel-head news story more seriously as it may be the key to saving a woman's life (news story here). The woman is facing the death sentence for smuggling drugs that may have been placed in her bags by rogue baggage handlers -- on his blog Jonathan Strahan even suggests that it was the same baggage handler...

Which means that it's probably more than my job's worth to point to the latest news on Cane Toads.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

That's All He Wrote.

Small proud family thing -- Mike's been accepted to Brown for his computer science grad school stuff. (So it's only another six years until it's "Dr. Gaiman", I suppose. How odd and nice.)

(And Holly told me to let the world know that she will be one of the people showing visitors around at Bryn Mawr this year, walking backwards, explaining the college traditions and telling them how many books are in the library. So if you're thinking of getting a tour of Bryn Mawr, you may get Holly.)

Maddy, looking over my shoulder as I type, just said "Ohh -- ooh. Say something about MEEE." So I shall: Maddy just flew out to the place I'm working with Roger, and we get the weekend together. Which makes me very happy and unstressed, and she seems to be enjoying it as well. She is also now eating a bagel and wearing Capri pants but not in that order. ("Yay!" she just said, still looking over my shoulder, "MY paragraph is longer than Holly's! Mwa-ha-ha-ha!" I am raising a breed of demons.)

And a thank you to the people at Final Draft -- some months ago Final Draft went down and took a chunk of Death with it At the time I sighed, grumbled, and did the work again. Yesterday morning the computer crashed and when I loaded up Final Draft most of the previous day's work had vanished. I called Roger Avary, who was on his way over, and in a few minutes I had people from Final Draft talking me through where the backup autosaved files are kept. And as Roger came through the door I had all the lost work back up on screen. Which made me wish I'd done that for the Death stuff last year, and reminded me how very good and cool the people who make Final Draft are.

Hi Neil,there is a book in the latest issue of the Previews catalogue that�s called "Mirror Mask" scriptbook. Is this the "Mirror Mask" graphic novella you mentioned on your blog or something different ? Chris

There are three MirrorMask books. These are:

1) The MirrorMask Scriptbook. This comes out on May 1st from Morrow -- it's a huge book, with the script, all the deleted scenes, all of Dave's storyboards (which is about 1700 drawings), a colour still section, forewords, afterwords, all the e-mails between me and Dave that shaped the story, song lyrics and all of that sort of stuff. It's laid out really interestingly -- the interaction of the script and the storyboards turn it into a sort of weird new kind of comic. It comes out in the UK from Hodder Headline, and the cover looks rather like this:

2) The MirrorMask Graphic Novella/Picturebook. This comes out from HarperChildrens in September, when the film comes out. It's the story told as a story, from the point of view of Helena (our heroine) with lots of new illustrations from Dave and film stills as well. It'll be the same kind of size and shape as WOLVES IN THE WALLS, although with more words. It's the book for the children's section of the bookshop, is about 80 pages long, and comes out in the UK from Bloomsbury.

3) The Alchemy of MirrorMask (so titled because it was felt that The Magic of MirrorMask sounded too much like a Disney book), out from Harper Design in September, which will be a huge and beautiful book and will contain art. Lots of art -- sketches and paintings and computer models and how they did it and all sorts of stuff. This is the book for people who want to know how Dave did it, or just want to see lovely Dave stuff in colour.

Hi Neil,

Just a short one, since I'm also from The Netherlands, and I've bought both the Neverwhere DVD and "A Short Film About John Bolton" at
While Neverwhere is a Region Zero DVD, "A Short Film About John Bolton" is Region One, a problem which is easily solved if you don't mind watching the DVD on your computer and buying a DVD-region-free program. Installing such a program does involve a certain risk though; The first program we tried kind of messed up our computer (not only Media Player), but the second one works just fine (and can be tried out and bought at I hope this helps.
(Love your work, etc.)


Marijke Hobo

I use DVDidle myself to ensure my notebook exists in a region-free world, and it's a terrific program. (In addition, most computers allow you to change your DVD region setting a certain number of times before locking down.) Sorry about misleading anyone -- I'm sure that New Video told me that John Bolton was going to be Region Zero, but perhaps it didn't turn out that way.

"(With the recent MirrorMask novella, it was trying to find US versions of some colloquial British words, of which "punters" turned out to be the hardest to translate.)"Does that ever bother you as a writer? I mean, it's one thing to translate entire languages, but the words you used are the words you used. Americans can Google a word like "punters" if they're just that confused, can't they? I think most of us would rather read what you'd originally written than what you and the editor came up with as an Americanized compromise... Your language should only be as Americanized as you are. ;)--jlr

Actually, I'd prefer that the language is as American as the book is -- I was very pleased when the copy editor caught the occasional "car park" that had crept into American Gods and corrected it to "parking lot".

In the MirrorMask script (and indeed, in the film) the word "punters" is used, and it's pretty obvious what it means from context, but I don't have a problem with the American editors asking me if there's a word that would work better for kids (who aren't going to find it in their dictionaries). The only request from the US I'm pondering right now is changing Helena's "caravan" to "trailer", only because in my head a trailer is so much bigger...

Mostly, I want to communicate. And I'm very used to negotiating words in the editing process -- take a look at where I'm copy-editing American Gods and learning that hessian and burlap are the same thing in the US and two different things in the UK, and so on...

in the end of american gods, what does the line:"That�s all she wrote" means? who or what is shadow talking about? thank you

It's a saying that, if I remember correctly, dates back to World War Two, and it means there isn't any more. The way I heard it, it was the tagline for a cartoon, showing a soldier holding a letter and saying to his friends "It says, Dear John... and that's all she wrote." Let's see -- this is a google moment, isn't it?

Look at (about half way down) and


Right. Maddy time. Then work.

Friday, April 08, 2005

...and nail 'em to the wall...

Currently trying to finish the very last Anansi Boys bits while also working with Roger Avary on our Beowulf revision (most of which is about taking what we wrote as a live action movie and re-imagining it as a motion-capture/animated thing). Roger discovered that I have a hitherto undiscovered aptitude for writing rugby song lyrics, so whenever there's an obscene mead-hall drinking song to be written, I get to do it. Yesterday was a song about Hrothgar when young, called "Nail 'em to the Wall".

Nothing much else is happening -- I'm getting further and further behind on emails and suchlike. Dave McKean just finished the MirrorMask "graphic novella" art and design.

I just drew three different seven-legged spiders and fedexed them to my editor at Harper Collins, who will, I hope, like one of them. They want to use a drawing by me as part of the advance stuff, and there's a very brave and noble seven-legged spider in Anansi Boys (who starts out as clay, rather like Eblis O'Shaughnessy in Sandman did) so I decided to draw it. I hope they like the drawings (I get much more nervous about drawing than I do about writing).

Two quick things: First, did you use "rube" instead of "punter" for the Mirrormask book? It's a bit ruder, implying a lack of culture or a backwoods origin, but I've known carnies who used "rubes" to describe the customers.Second, you might want to consider capitalizing Creek, since the original phrase refers to the fear that the Creek Nation might rise in battle and not that a small stream might flood. usual thanks and fannish gwee,Peg.

I couldn't really use rubes or marks instead of punters, mostly because they're such US specific slang (and they sort of imply a "them and us" relationship that "punters" doesn't, not really), and of course, Helena isn't American. I'll do the last tidy on the text in a few minutes and I think I'm probably just going to keep "punters" as it is.

Learning that the Creek in question were the Indian nation and not a stream was a wonderful thing. Thanks.

Hi Neily:

(You've answered a question from me earlier, which in my book offically allows me the privledge of giving you a nickname) I need your help! I't's disastrous, It's terrible! Only you can help!

I reaaaaaally want to read the Hill House edition of "American Gods," but alas, I must eat. While gazing longingly at the Hill House site, I noticed that the book comes with a "Reader's Edition." A glimmer of hope! I immediately contacted them to find out if i could purchase just the Reader's Edition, and they said no. Terrible! These folks need to remember when they were struggling twenty-somethings, lacking the funds to buy $200 novels.

What is a poor girl to do if she wants to read those extra 12,000 words, barring going hungry or taking an unsavory job dancing on tabletops?

pre-emptive thanks,
cynthia silvestri (again)

Neily? (Raises eyebrow. Thinks. Raises other eyebrow.)

Er. If you're after the Reader's edition some of the bookdealers who bought copies of the HillHouse edition to re-sell have split them up (which on the one hand is a bit dodgy, as they got the Reader's Copies for free, and on the other hand is something that they can obviously do as booksellers to earn an honest profit). Best bet is to check the websites for online bookselling --, and so on.

Simply put, I would like to include this site in my links section on my website. I run an English Language Academy in Spain and would like to direct users to something more entertaining and less didactic than what they are used to.Is it possible? Thankyou. John Parker

Of course.

Dear Neil,I've just finished reading Neverwhere, and I enjoyed it enormously. A few of my friends told me that if I liked the book, I also had to watch the BBC series. And thus I went in search of the DVD. Which I found at And then it turned out they only had the Neverwhere DVD available in region code 1 (US & Canada). Since I live in the Netherlands, I need a region code 2 DVD. I've browsed the net and every online DVD shop I know (including the BBC shop) in search of the region code 2 DVD, but unfortunately, I'm beginning to suspect it was never released as such. I did find one used copy of the Neverwhere series on video at, but honestly, I'd much rather have the series on a brand new DVD.And thus my question to you: has the Neverwhere series ever been released as a region code 2 DVD? If not, are there any plans of releasing it as a region code 2 in the near future? I surely hope so, because I'm getting rather frustrated about this whole ordeal. Thanks for your time!Best regards,Helenr.

This is definitely one for the next round of Frequently Asked Questions: whatever it says on the site, the US DVD of Neverwhere (and the DVD of "A Short Film About John Bolton") are both Region Zero. As far as I know, it plays everywhere.

Heya Neil,Michael Zulli's website seems only to have a contact for the webmaster, which is apparently not the best way to get a question to Mr. Zulli, so I was wondering if you could find out for us if he's planning on making the Last Morpheus painting available as a print or poster for the thousands of people who will not be lucky enough to hang the original masterpiece in their parlours.Thanks,Shawn McBee

I doubt it -- Morpheus belongs to DC Comics, who would not look kindly on Michael selling prints or posters. (And the next question is Well, Why Don't They Do It? I'll certainly suggest it to the powers that be.) There's a fun interview with Michael Zulli up at

And finally, I need to find Graham Linehan's e-mail address. I know I have it somewhere, and he badly needs to know that Father Dougal Maguire of Craggy Island is currently 1,000 to 1 to be Pope. People have done things with worse odds.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Be careful what you wish for...

Right. I queried the people who had e-mailed me to tell me we'd moved to the Court Theatre, pointing out that we were already in the Court Theatre, and got an e-mail back explaining that they'd got confused and what they actually meant was it may or may not be moving to Mandel Hall. Sorry for adding to the confusion. So either they'll have a few tickets to release in a few weeks, or they'll have lots of tickets.

Lisa Snellings has started doing the overhaul of my statue, and is documenting it over at I sort of expected a dust-off and a couple of licks of paint and glueing the frog's arm together, and instead I'm apparently getting a full upgrade to Statue 2.0. (I hope she sticks some film up of it moving.)

Meanwhile, Michael Zulli's four foot high painting of Morpheus nears completion at

Good news for Brazilians...

Dear Mr. Gaiman,

I'm a longtime fan and I have been reading you blog for some time now. Never quite got to write to you, since I didn't had much to say. Now I at least have some news, I hope no one has emailed it already ^_^.

Brazilian publisher Conrad is promising a deluxe reprint of Sandman for this year, starting May. It'll be a hardcover, special paper, fully colored version (wich will surely mean costly). The plan is to release the first TPB between May 12th and 22th, at the "Bienal do Livro" (humm... Book fair? Book Con? You pick, it's a big book-related event, all I can say) in Rio de Janeiro.

I find this amazing good news to hear, since Sandman has been fully published only once in Brazil, by Globo Publishing, and it was a quite shabby print, besides being impossible to track down all editions after all this time (it was published while the series was still running, I don't really recall the exact dates). Also, a second publisher, Brainstore, started reprinting the series, but the fact that the publisher broke eventually proved to be a problem to those of us that were collecting the TPBs.

More information can be found (in portuguese) at:

Oh, I didn't really translated the link, just gave a general idea. I don't believe the guys at Omelete's would be very pleased if I translated their news without permission.

Best luck with all your books/scripts/movies!
Leticia Lopes, from Pelotas - Brazil

I was quite fond of the Globo reprints -- it was the very first translation of Sandman anywhere, which meant I'd look at them and marvel that all these characters I'd invented were speaking Portuguese. Also marvel over the lesson in monetary inflation I was getting, as the price of the comic went up from issue to issue, sometimes doubling from month to month. Globo also didn't have back cover ads, so they'd take a tiny bit of a Dave McKean cover and blow it up for the back cover so it was huge. And I still have a Brazilian "Doll's House" poster over the bath. Anyway, I'm delighted they'll be back in print in Brazil again.

just a quick question: is that true that you�re coming to brasil in august????ada

I don't think so. No-one's asked, as far as I know, and I think the travel plans for this year are pretty much mapped out.

Hi Neil,

I am an aspiring writer. I find your writing advice to be extremely helpful, and I have two questions for you if you have time:

1) Once you've submitted a first draft to your publishers, how many rewrites do you go through with your editor?

2) I am learning to write more concisely. I feel that if I can find the one perfect word, instead of relying on a wordier description, my writing becomes not only more graceful but also more potent. I have always admired this aspect of your writing. Did writing comics help hone this skill, given the space restrictions?

And now a cheeky question - are you really going to do an Anansi Boys signing in England? Where will the first notice be put up? (sorry, two cheeky questions, but I'd like to find out about the tickets before they are sold out)


Elese the questionmonger

Let's see. It depends on what it is -- by the time it goes to the publisher there's normally one round with an editor and then it's done. Sometimes it's a big round, and sometimes it's just a few notes and a tidy. (With the recent MirrorMask novella, it was trying to find US versions of some colloquial British words, of which "punters" turned out to be the hardest to translate.)

And I think that journalism really taught me the strict word-count economies that carried over into comics and then into prose. If you've only got 400 words and you hand in a 500 word article, 100 words will go, like it or not. So you try to deploy each word as best you can.

From what I understand currently, although ANANSI BOYS will be coming out in the UK at the same time it comes out in the US (Sept 20th 2005, lord willing and the creek don't rise) I'll be doing the UK signing tour and promotion in November. I have to talk to Hodder Headline and find out what kind of events we'll be doing for it, but I promise I'll announce them here the moment I know, which should give you some kind of headstart.


My assistant, the Fabulous Lorraine, is hopping around the house with a glazed and terrified sort of look on her face, having discovered that her first public gig with her new bandmate Malena is going to at a benefit hosted by Garrison Keillor, who also wants to join in with them on a song. I think it's hilarious.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Chicago Location change

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Monday, April 04, 2005

small happy things

You know, I was in a lousy mood -- I'm way behind on everything, I only get two days at home before getting on a plane and plunging into more Beowulf and one of those days has already gone, I've an injured cat, unopened mail, unanswered email, a year that's already too full (and it's only April), I really really need a quiet week at home and to finish a few things that are almost done, and tomorrow's going to be eaten up with phone calls that have to happen...

...and then, when I'm at my testiest, I get an e-mail from Henry Selick, containing a bunch of art designs for his Coraline movie and demos of four They Might Be Giants songs in MP3 for it, and all of a sudden, the world is a great deal less stressful, and I'm not anywhere nearly as testy as I was before. Actually, I'm pretty cheerful.

I think I'm going to play those songs again now.

quick ones

Thank you all so much for the Spider information. Please, no more. I've now got about a hundred weblinks to read and digest, along with a number of useful summaries of conversations with museum and hospital personel, not to mention emails from the occasional researcher. I'll summarise it all for the interested as soon as I'm sure I've got it all straight (some of it is contradictory).

Meanwhile, a rumour that Life, the Universe and Douglas Adams may be a DVD extra on the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy film at (This was the documentary on Douglas for which I did the narration.)

Yes, I spelled Trekkie and Trekker wrong yesterday. This was a very bad thing to have done, and has upset some people. I trust that those who have written in about it will consider this a formal apology.

Had a long conversation with Ginger at Writers House, who will be coordinating Singapore and Philippines trip, followed by the Australian visit for Continuum in Melbourne, followed by some Australian signings in July, filled with discussions of the "But if I'm flying in via Sydney surely it doesn't make any sense for me to fly from Melbourne to Sydney to Brisbane and then back to Sydney to fly out..." variety, along with a brief debate on the merits of round-the-world tickets and on what exactly constitutes a day off. I'll announce it all here as soon as I can.

And finally,

is a little bit scary.

PS: Fred the Unlucky Black Cat is currently confined -- grumbling and limping -- to a bedroom on painkillers while we find out whether he's going to recover on his own from what the vet thinks are the effects of a nasty fall.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

HP sauce as a coin cleanser and so on

I'm answering questions on writing for a few days over at -- -- which is a writer's resource. (Even if you don't subscribe to access the forums they've got an awful lot of useful information for people who want to write.)

Lisa Snellings is currently interviewing Dagmara Matuszak on her blog. Dagmara's a fabulous Polish artist who illustrated a book I wrote that was meant to be a sort of Christmas Card and got out of hand (which was, in hindsight, not a bad thing) called Melinda. It's an art object much more than it's a book. It's probably Melinda Part One in reality, as I need to write the next bit of the story. While twenty or so people already got their copies from me, I still need a couple of days to address and get out to friends the couple of hundred copies sitting at home on my kitchen table. And with luck I may get those days at some point in May. Or not. Anyway, Lisa got her copy and began corresponding with Dagmara. She's put up the first part of the interview at and the Q&A is in the previous seven posts.

I met Dag a couple of years ago in Krakow, having seen her artwork as part of a small exhibition of art inspired by stuff I'd written, and I knew on seeing it that I wanted to work with her. Melinda started as a conversation between us about me writing something that she could do as a comic, but she then took what I wrote and pushed it to some very strange places.

Hey Neil,I was just wondering if you could tell us if you've written a little piece for Tori's Original Sinsuality tourbook like you did with previous ones? Cheers Neil.Alex.P.s. You're getting me very excited about the Mirrormask books! I can't wait til May for the script book!

Sort of. What they're printing as a foreword is a bit of a correspondence between me and Tori about gardening, tomato names, why an old house needs pumpkins, the failure of last year's plum crop, the rosemary bushes in her Irish house and a load of other stuff besides. It will be very familiar to anyone who reads this blog, but Tori thought it would be fun to put into the tourbook, fitting in with the garden-y theme of the CD and of the tour. So it's not a short story this year, or an essay about Tori, or anything like that. It's gardens, and what I've been growing in them.

Hey - you're on Slashdot!Or rather, your auction is/was here to see the worlds of Geekdom and Literature coming together occasionally - although from a quick browse of the comments it seems that most of the aforementioned geeks have missed the 'Supporting a Charitable Organisation that defends Author's Rights' part and skipped straight to the 'Heartless corporate bastards tattooing their copyrighted images on the soul of popular culture'. I for one hope that, like you mentioned before in the blog, it is the USS Fucko Bazoo - there's something whimsical and charming about the name that seems to expiate its more egregious origins as an expletive.Sincerely, Guy Edwards

Well, I looked the Slashdot thread over and, like you, felt that many of the posters had an almost world-class ability to miss the point.

Auctioning off character names for charity's something that's been going on as long as I've been an author -- is a pretty standard sort of news story about it from 2000. Some authors are happy to play, some aren't.

In this case it seemed like a good way to raise some money for a good cause -- and it was successful enough that Michael Chabon and I are going to try something similar with more authors for the First Amendment Project (, which needs money, following an expensive legal case (which they won).

Hi Neil, Long-time reader, first-time correspondent. This has nothing to do with your work, but as a wise soul familiar with UK cuisine, I thought you might have an answer: Could you tell me just what HP Sauce (sometimes called "brown sauce") is? I have a recipe that calls for it's use, but as an ignorant American, I can't seem to find any or learn what exactly it is. I've found many mentions and photographs of it on the internet, but nobody seems willing to describe it. Is it like steak sauce? Worcestershire sauce? Do you have any personal experience with it? Would you recommend it? Thanks for your time, Steve

It's like a savoury steak sauce, brown with a ketchupy consistency. I remember discovering as a small boy from one of those "1000 things a Boy Should Know" books that you can also clean coins with it, and promptly cleaning all the coins I could find with HP Sauce. For months afterwards it seemed like all the copper coins in the house were very shiny but smelled faintly of fruity vinegar.

Neil, Is there something up with the Sandman books? I recently started reading your work, but I have to accumulate books slowly, since I'm a poor college student. I usually order from Amazon, but they're out of the second book as well as several others. I've checked other places, but no one seems to have it. Will they be coming back?Thanks! Emily

I don't ever remember Amazon at any time in the last nine years having all ten of the Sandman books in print and available at the same time. Sometimes they've gone out of print briefly at DC (who are always reprinting them and always surprised when the books sell out before they expected them to) and sometimes it's just a screw-up at Amazon's end. Try ordering from your local book or comics shop, or (I say this a lot, don't I?) going to DreamHaven's online shop: they try to keep everything in stock -- and they've got all the Sandman books in, in hardback as well as in paperback, along with cool things like Dream Hunters signed by me and Yoshitake Amano, with a sketch by Amano. (The shop's main website is which I mention because they sell an awful lot more than just stuff by me, and people might enjoy poking around it.)

Incidentally, on I ran into this online comic about selling books -- It's an excellent comic (and book people may enjoy some of the other retail hell comics he has up -- check in at and go forward).

And to close a few more windows: I love this. A review of a book called Leah's Way by Richard Botelho -- not because it's a bad review, but because of the correspondence that follows it. It's a lesson to publishers and to any authors who've ever wanted to do respond to a bad review that perhaps it's best simply to let these things lie. (I love the suggestion that it would be more "professional" for Steph to take the review down.)

No, I don't -- at present anyway -- know anything about the stage play of Stardust they're doing in Chicago, although I wish them luck, and hope it's good.

And people who didn't get tickets for my talk in Chicago in a few weeks should know that according to While tickets for the event have already sold out, a limited number of tickets may become available after 10 a.m. Monday, April 18. The key words there are probably may and limited, but those who were disappointed already can have another go.

I go home today. Then I get two days at home before plunging off into the Beowulf rewrites with Roger Avary. And yes, I'd rather stay at home, and really don't want ot have to go anywhere. (Roger was meant to be coming to my part of the world, but events at his end have made that plan impractical.)


One final PS --when I was in Tasmania a few years ago, I was told about a Tasmanian spider whose bite could induce necrosis (where the flesh dies and rots) anything up to a decade after the actual bite. Having prodded around on places like I can't find any evidence that this is true. Anyone got any useful links to confirm or debunk it?


Hello,I just finished reading American Gods and while I'll save space by saying I really enjoyed it, I do have one complaint that's nagging at me:You used the term Yoopie to describe someone from Upper Penninsula Michigan. The correct term is Yooper. Having lived and visited there most of my life, it's just something that made me cringe at each occurance of the word while reading the book.And hey, maybe you knew this to begin with and just decided to use Yoopie to make it more fictional.. but it just bugged me so much I had to mention it.Either way, please excuse my complaining and thank you for the great story!Joe

I used yoopie because I'd heard people use it, people who obviously didn't know that the correct term was youper. (I suppose this is one of those treckie/trecker things, isn't it?) Having said that, the people I heard use it were in Northern Wisconsin, and not in the Upper Peninsula itself.

Mr. Gaiman,

Hi, I'm a University student taking a (very very cool) class in Pulp Fictions and Graphic Novels, and our end assignment is to take a graphic novel and break down what the author is saying, and how they're saying it. Our Prof. encouraged us to track down living authors if at all possible, because, well, who knows better than they do what they were trying to say? That, and I suspect, knowing one of his students got a response from one of his idols anyway. I've chosen your "Murder Mysteries" as my subject, so: What Were You Saying? Anything? Nothing? "Angels and Hebrew myths are kinda cool"? Can I really draw a parallel between God and Dr. Manhattan in "Watchmen" the way I want to?

Thanks much,

Surely your professor ought to be more interested in what you think than about what I have to say. I could be wrong, or I could lie. It's like the twelve year olds who send me e-mails that say WHAT IS THE THEME OF CORALINE PLEAEE EMAIL ME BACK I HAVE TO KNOW, where writing desperate letters to the author is no subsitute for having an opinion, an argument, or an idea. So read Murder Mysteries and say whatever you have to say.

Read: and for more on academia and responding to reviews. And flying rocks. it was the first place I ever wrote:

By the way, lots of messages keep coming in which fall under the general heading of, "I have to write something about you or something you've written. Please will you do my homework for me/ answer the following fifteen questions for my paper on you and Restoration Theatre/ explain why you did or wrote A with especial reference to B and I get extra points if you mention either Virginia Woolf or the invention of the printing press."

And the answer to all of them is honestly, I think you can all write your essays without me. Pretend I'm a dead author. I won't mind. I promise I'll never come to your place of education and say, in the hearing of your teachers, "You do not understand me or my work! Your essay on the solar myth and rebirth in Sandman and American Gods with especial reference to the pagan themes and the use of Pan in the works of Kenneth Grahame was utterly and completely wrong. Hah!" Honest I won't.

And I think I'll put that up above the FAQ submission box on the next version of the site.