Wednesday, May 18, 2005

cows and crows and doing the SF trifecta

I'm copyediting ANANSI BOYS at present. This mostly consists of either nodding or of scribbling "Stet" in the margins (meaning "leave it as I wrote it"). Mostly the copyeditor has worked hard to make me look good.

Every now and again, I'll use google to check things. For example a paragraph like,
In Mrs Dunwiddy's house there was pine-scented hard toilet paper. Mrs Dunwiddy believed in economy, and pine-scented hard toilet paper was at the bottom of her economy drive. You could still get hard toilet paper, if you looked long enough and were prepared to pay more for it.

And then I'll wonder whether you can still get hard toilet paper, and find myself reading an article in the Daily Telegraph about the eighteen-year long battle the British Civil Service waged in order to be allowed soft toilet paper, and also establish that, yes, you can get hard toilet paper if you try hard enough.

I'm practically well, but now Lorraine-my-assistant seems to have gone down with the plague.

The inability to tell porno films from foreign films may cause interesting apologies from the New York Times, but my favourite correction of recent months is still the Observer's inability to tell the difference between a cow and a crow. (If they'd just left it as "cow" most readers would simply have assumed that there was a missing "r" -- but then someone decided that "heifer" was a better word than "cow", and it all got very silly.)

The Locus Awards nominees are out -- -- I was hugely pleased to see that I've got a short story listed, but don't honestly think it deserves to win, given the competition. (An excellent list of stuff to read on those lists, though.)

Discovered last night that Nokia has piles of interesting software for the 6320 (which is my phone). They have software to turn the face into an analog clock. They have software to turn it into a flashlight (and even, if I understood it correctly, a mirror). All sorts of fun-looking things, which they will happily send to your phone for a small fee as long as you don't happen to have an American phone number... Now wondering whether it's worth bothering to install them when I go to the UK next and stick in the English SIM card.

An email conversation with GMZoe uncovered the fact that I'm a planet in Star Wars, a character in Star Trek and a race of aliens in Babylon 5. It's the first time I've ever truly felt like the answer to a trivia question.

Hi, Neil. A friend of mine is an English Lit professor and she's preparing a lesson on the use of metanarratives. She asked me if I knew of any good examples of metanarrative in comics or graphic novels. I assumed there was a good chance this could be found in some of your work, but I've drawn a blank.Any help? Thanks, Jeremy Bear

Well, there was the story in Batman: Black and White. And I've seen several papers over the years arguing either that the whole of Sandman is a metanarrative, or (more successfully) that The Kindly Ones is a metanarrative.

Several writers commented on the Star Times Stardust review...

Neil! Finally my faith in myself as a writer has been restored.The review of the Stardust play calls the story "slight but charming". When I was at school (the last time I had much feedback on my creative writing) my teacher used to infuriate me by writing "Charming but slight" or "Slight but charming" on every story I wrote.I may say, if "Stardust" is slight, then I'm very happy to be. Though that is not a word I would have associated with it. Charming, yes. Nimble, magical and frightening, too. And lovely, dark and deep.


After reading the Chicago Sun Times review of Stardust I am curious as to what you reaction was to the comment that it is a "slight but charming fairy tale"? I realize that everyone is entitled to their opinion of an author's work but I'm really at a loss as to what she might mean by the term "slight". defines "slight" as "of small importance. Lacking strength, substance, or solidity". None of these definitions seems appropriate for Stardust. It is a fairy tale with very rich, detailed characters who have history and depth to them. The tale is quite strong, is substantial, and is a very solid, well-written tale. To me the reviewer uses her opening paragraph to insult both you and the readers who consider this novel to be one of their favorites. Enough of my ranting, however, I was just curious.

It didn't bother me -- I think it's a Chicago house style thing. I remember when there was a Chicago theatrical adaptation of Signal to Noise, some years ago, being puzzled by the reviewer explaining that the comic-book foolishness of Neil Gaiman had been elevated by the theatrical adapters, but then he pointed to something that had been added by the adapters as the "comic book" silliness he meant, and something original from the graphic novel as the kind of thing that the adapters had brought to it, and I realised the reviewer was faking the whole thing.

(I was, however, amused that the book was "slight" in the first paragraph, but that the play was created by "chipping away the excess" of the book in the fifth paragraph. It's an achievement, being both slight and excessive at the same time, especially in a 55,000 word book.)

But honestly, I'm just pleased that the play is getting good reviews.

Dear Neil, I thought this might be interesting for you and maybe for the readers of your journal. It certainly would be very interesting for me to hear your opinion on this :).
Anyway,you sure know about Robert Sheckley's illness and that though his condition is improving he must stay in hospital for several more weeks. I read through some russian sci-fi sites just an hour ago and discovered that Robert apparently lost his travel insurance card (not sure if it was a card, though), so the sci-fi fans in Russia/Ukraine are raising funds to pay for his medical treatment (and they seem to have some trouble in covering all the medical costs). There's currently a discussion on Boris Sidyuk's blog whether Robert really needs all this help or if it's just a clever trick to rob credulous people of their money (some say that Robert spends most of his money on travelling and doesn't have much to begin with, others say it just can't be that an acclaimed writer from America of all things wouldn't have some financial backup for such emergencies). So what do you think about this - do we have to worry about this kind of problems at all, how come there are still poor american writers in this world and why is it so that nobody outside the russian sci-fi internet community seems to know about Robert's situation? sincerely, Maria (a russian girl currently living in Germany, so please don't pay attention to my grammar :) )

I can assure you that the majority of acclaimed writers from the US mostly don't have medical insurance in place. It's why the SFWA has a medical emergencies fund, why the Writers Guild has so many hardship funds. (I'm fortunate in having my Medical Insurance covered by the Writer's Guild, but that's from my movie work.) Getting sick a long way from home is almost always a dangerous and financially draining proposition.

I don't know if the Russian Sheckley Appeal is on the level, and I've e-mailed Alisa Kwitney to ask. But I know that it's certainly not unlikely that Bob might need financial help to get out of hospital and to get home (as I understand it from Alisa's last email, he may also need a doctor to accompany him home) so if we have to help raise money for his medical expenses, that's infinitely preferable to needing funeral expenses). Does that help?