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.