Thursday, June 30, 2005

ting tht alm wrk

If there is one thng worse than thngs that don't work it's things that almost work.

The internet connection in my hotel room won't let me get or send email. But if I type VERY sslowlyy onto the hotel tv screen it will let me post this. (That was about five minutes' typing, waiting to see if characters make it to the screen or not. The title of the post I simply typed - or as the hotel connection would have it ypd - and I will leave what it was meant to say as an exercise for the reader.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Really Maddy should be blogging this one...

Quick post -- I need to get to bed. Interviews and things ALL day tomorrow.

Maddy, transplanted across the Atlantic, has turned into a nocturnal creature, who glares and sighs her way through mornings, cheers up in the afternoons and comes to life in the evenings. This morning we went to the studio where Lenny Henry is recording the audio book for ANANSI BOYS, and she semi-somnolently met Lenny for the first time since she was a toddler, and barely noticed. This evening we went out to dinner with the amazing Derren Brown, following his west end show, and Maddy, now vivacious and sassy, got to meet Stephen Fry and has not yet stopped delightedly talking about it.

We also saw Theatre of Blood on Saturday Night at the National Theatre(another Improbable production) which she loved and I really liked. In it half a dozen critics are murdered most violently and imaginatively. Afterwards, I started grumbling to her that while Jim Broadbent's performance was hilarious, it wasn't quite what the play called for (he plays a very funnily bad Shakesperian actor, whereas he should be playing a BIG Shakesperian actor)and Maddy looked up and said "Quiet dad. You know what happens to critics..." Of course, that was late at night too.

Saww Dave McKean today and planned some things and plotted others, and I got to ooh and ah over THE ALCHEMY OF MIRRORMASK proofs.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

blogging for joy

It occurs to me that blogging is really good at capturing some emotions, and not quite as good at capturing others. Joy is one of the ones it�s harder to pin down afterwards � it�s like sticking a pin through a captive butterfly and wondering why it isn�t as beautiful as when it was fluttering crookedly in the sunlight. I would like to go on record here as saying that there was a point yesterday afternoon when we had some extra time and our actors still there, so we told them they were now wolves and not the family, and we took the Jam Song and I scribbled down some new wolfish lyrics for the verses listing several things that wolves can do with jam, and then our actors (Paul and Calum and Ian and Heather and Cora) started to sing it, all of them deciding that wolves ought to sound more or less like Tom Waits, that I found myself laughing like mad with the pure unholy joy of knowing that it all worked and that it was, if only for a you-had-to-be-there-moment, one of the funniest things I�d ever seen. Happy.

There�s a lot to write and make and do before it�s a whole play, and most of it will be done by other people. But I can�t wait until it�s done.

And I really have to write something original for the stage.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

A quick happy one

Spent today workshopping the Wolves in the Walls children's opera at the Tramway. In the morning it seemed like we had a few ideas for songs and a handful of finished things and some ideas. As the actors began to sing and Nick Powell started playing it transmuted into something rich and strange, and I realised that it was becoming a show that I'd really like to see. And this is before Julian Crouch starts to build puppets and masks. Tomorrow, we get to work with a tuba player.

Maddy was worried she'd be bored. By the end she turned and told me she was pleased she hadn't brought a book. Yep yep yep!! It's the truth!! ( Oh and by the way... everyone did a fantastic job and the songs were great!!) Hey.. I have just realized I am good at giving compliments. Ha ha :-)


PS: Dear "Neil number one",Those fortunate enough to be named Neil can rest assured that they have an able online spokesman, representative and all-around archetype. What about the rest of us? Who can we trust to shoulder that great responsibility?I checked out "Steve number one", and it's just some camera website. "That's no fun", I thought, "but Steve Jackson is in second place, and he's kind of cool. He's even been persecuted by the Secret Service ( I wonder what it would take to get him up one place."

So I knocked off an incredibly quick webpage launching the Campaign For Better Namesakes ("cfubbun"). Since you're one of the very few people in the world with no interest whatsoever in the campaign, I though you might like to see it. The home page is at

Steve Jessop, Oxford, UK.

Tales of the Neil World

Last at night at dinner, the conversation came around to Google. Neil Murray from the National Theatre of Scotland pointed out to Maddy that she had an unusual name, which would be good for googling. He told her that he wasn't even the first Neil Murray to come up when you Google Neil Murray. He said at least if you google Neil Gaiman, you'll get me.

That was when Julian Crouch pointed out, as a man who reads this blog, that if you simply google Neil, you'll get me.

"You mean," said Neil Murray, doubtfully. "You're Neil Number One."

And I had to admit that I was currently able to claim that rather dubious honour. In the back of my head, I kept seeing this:

Get dressed, Dad. Get off the computer, says Maddy. Right. To work.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

The last of motion capture etc

Hi Neil,Allow me to be one of the many who will doubtless recommend the (*outstanding*) bonus features DVD of "The Two Towers" Extended Edition, in case you haven't seen it. It has a fascinating and astonishing feature on the process of bringing Gollum to life, including the motion/performance capture, as well as a wonderful sequence showing Andy Serkis' performance alongside Gollum. It also highlights some interesting ways in which Gollum's "performance" is actually subtly *more* than Serkis' every expression and motion and tic and hiss - where the animators "refined" what he had already done. (Which is not to take away from his performance in any way whatever.)If you've already seen it, then sorry for the bandwidth! Ian

I hadn't seen it, although I've got the DVD on the shelves. Although the shelves are several thousand miles away. Thanks for the tip.

Hi Neil. I just wanted to respond to this particular statement. I was fortunate enough to have been a part of the crew at Weta to work on Lord of the Rings. My fiancee was one of the animators on Gollum and I can guarantee you that Gollum's facial movement was *not* performance captured. The animators used video reference of Andy's acting, but it was all key framed by hand. I'm not sure where the contrary information is coming from but it seems disrespectful to the team of tallented animators who were able to bring Gollum to life.--Terrance

Thanks for the correction. That was what I got from Jim Rygiel's presentation at Sundance, and all the little dots on Andy's face on the footage Jim showed, which probably just means I wasn't paying close enough attention. I didn't mean to imply that the animators didn't do anything, or didn't do a lot, but to stress that the performance was Andy's.

Neil I really think you should go back and read Jess's question again. She didn't have anything to say about the technical limitations of performance capture, just that performance capture gives the animators less input into the character (using your example, the animators didn't get to do even the slightest expression of Gollum's.) It seems to me like her concern would *grow* the more the technology advances. Personally I don't really share her concern, but I just wanted to point out that you'd misread her question.

You could be right. I thought I was answering the first question of "Was there an artistic reason for this choice or does Zemeckis just want to play more with his new toy?" although I rather took the long way around. I blame jet-lag.

So yes, I think there are valid artistic reasons for not doing it live-action (mostly the freedom of casting, and the huge time lapse between the Grendel and his mother sequence and the Dragon battle -- not insoluble problems: Roger Avary had various options open to him when he was going to do it live action; but they stopped being problems to be solved as soon as it became performance capture). And I think that, yes, Bob Zemeckis definitely wants to explore the technology further.

To repeat, it's very obvious that the world of performance capture is in its early days. (Someone wrote, for example, to ask if the problems with eye expressions in Polar Express are still going to be a problem in Beowulf, and from what Bob's told me and Roger, the answer is no, they have a solution for that one.)

From everything Bob's showed me and Roger of the visual ideas for Beowulf (and Bob Z keeps things close to his chest, so I know we've seen very little of what there is) it looks stunning, and, er, nothing at all like Polar Express (no reason why it should look like it).

And don't expect any more posts on motion capture until, at the earliest, October, when with any luck I'll be on the Beowulf set and will report back.

Tomorrow I'll be watching a much more traditional form of performance, in the form of real actors on a stage workshopping some early ideas for how to get wolves into the walls...

And here's a link to Poppy Z Brite's public service announcement for the 2006 BFS calendar.

& so (sleepy andjetlagged) to bed...

PS: people also kept writing to ask what "off site" meant on the list of places I'd be signing. It means that the bookshop decided they couldn't handle the number of people who'll show up in store, so they are going to find a better location for the event.

And a few people with good memories (all of them having been part of the 400 people at B&N Union Square sent away at the 2002 Coraline signing) wondered why I was signing there again, after what happened with the Coraline signing. And it's because they apologised very nicely and promised to get it right this time. We'll start a little earlier, and I think they're now prepared for it to go a lot later.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

mostly a pondering on motion capture

Maddy and I appear to be in Glasgow. We had dinner with Julian Crouch, and enjoyed the peculiar evening daylight of the longest day.

Am typing on the Panasonic W4 and am not quite used to the keyboard yet. It's a lovely piece of equipment, though, and so light and compact I almost left it on the plane. Today it got a real 8 hours of battery life, although I expect that'll decrease somewhat as time goes on. I forgot a bunch of things I should have put on the computer in the rush to get out of the house, and something seems to have screwed up some of the email settings, but I'm sure I'll get it all sorted out.

Neil,I see you're going to be at the MOA on Oct. 10th. Any chance we'll also get a DreamHaven signing? That would be great.Thanks.Garrick Dietze

(MOA is the Mall of America, by the way.) I think the annual DreamHaven signing will probably be at the end of November, although I'll make sure DreamHaven has signed stuff for everyone. (Actually I did this last week and forgot to mention it -- for details, which is DreamHaven's stuff by me website.) As soon as the Mall of America signing is done, I'll be on my way to the UK to be around if they need me for Beowulf dialogue issues *and to watch it being filmed).

I'm curious as to why Beowulf is being made as a performance-capture piece. Was there an artistic reason for this choice or does Zemeckis just want to play more with his new toy?

I ask this because I'm not fond of the idea of performance-capture - I think it wastes a lot of the possibilities of animation and gives animators less chance to create their own characters. However, I admit that I did not see Polar Express, and that there may be advantages that I just haven't realized yet to using performance-capture in certain films. Is there a reason that this technique was chosen for Beowulf instead of traditional computer animation or live-action? (And don't worry - this certainly won't keep me from seeing the film!)

I also just wanted to let you know how much I admire you. You're an incredible author, and (from reading your blog regularly) I know that you're also an incredible person. It's comforting to know that I can respect you as much as your writing. Thanks for everything!

- Jess

Hi Jess. I think the thing you're failing to take into account here is the speed of technological progress they're making on this stuff. At least from my conversations with Bob, he feels that Polar Express was the v. 1.0 of what he's trying to do, and that Monster House (which he's producing but not directing) will be version 1.5, and Beowulf will be, at the least, version 2.0 (It's going to be released in October 2007, remember). So while all your criticisms have weight, at least from Bob Zemeckis's point of view they're like someone complaining that early talkies sound unrealistic and lose the dreamlike resonance of the silents, or that colour movies with their big, immovable cameras and static shots are incapable of capturing the painting in shadows-and-light-and-silver capacity of black and white films.

Neither argument was entirely wrong, but it missed what the new technologies would be able to do instead, which leads me to suspect that arguing from a perspective of technical limitations seems a bit problematic. I think it's a very good bet, based on everything I've seen so far, to assume that the problems of Final Fantasy or Polar Express aren't going to be the problems of Beowulf. Which is not to say that Beowulf won't have and create its own new set of problems.

Personally, I miss some of the things Roger and I had in the script when it was live action, but also cannot wait to see some of the things that we came up with once, er, liberated from the flesh, for the motion capture incarnation.

The part of the technology that fascinates me most is simply that as a filmmaker you are no longer tied to the physical shape and size and age of an actor to have that actor perform for you. I don't think I'm giving too much away when I say that the actor playing Beowulf doesn't look like a heroic 20 year old, any more than he looks like a muscular, scarred, but still preserved 70 year old. On the other hand, he's an amazing actor. I love that he still gets to play the character at both sides of his life, and that he actually gets to perform it, not just "do the voice". (As a note on performance capture, I was fascinated at the animation panel at Sundance to see not only that Andy Serkis' Gollum was performance capture, but how much of it was performance capture -- that every expression and motion and tic and hiss was Serkis's, not the animators.)

It may well be that performance capture is going to be viewed, a hundred years from now, as a blind alley that a few people went down for a time, and as relevant and as interesting to what's going on as Smell-o-vision or Sensurround. But I don't think it will be, just as I don't think it'll be The one and only Future of Filmmaking. I think it's a really interesting area and only if a few obsessed filmmakers (like, in this case, Bob Zemeckis) go off and explore it, they can come back with interesting discoveries.

So that's what I think. We'll both find out what worked and what didn't in October 2007...

Monday, June 20, 2005

The tour that is to come...

Admiral Jack Womack, author and Harper Collins publicist, has just sent me a very rough schedule for the ANANSI BOYS tour I'll be doing in September\October in the US (and occasionally Canada). I'm posting it here as an early warning for anyone who may want to come and get stuff signed and say hello.

And before people pick up their keyboards, yes, I know it's unfair on the South. I don't choose where to go on this one -- Harper Collins does and they pick the bookstores based on who asks first, how many books they sell, how enthusiastic they are, and how prepared they are to cope with Lots of People.

Obviously some times are still to come, along with other details. But I wanted everyone else to have the details as I got them.


Mon. September 19 NYC, Interview of Susannah Clarke, Symphony Space

Tuesday Sept. 20: NYC, B & N Union Square

Wednesday Sept. 21. Charlotte NC, Joseph-Beth

Thursday Sept 22: Chicago (suburbs, Naperville IL), Anderson�s

Friday Sept. 23: Boston, Harvard Book Store

Sat. Sept. 24: Washington DC, National Book Festival, DC

Sun. Sept 25: Washington DC, Borders Bailey�s Crossroads

Mon. Sept 26: Austin, Bookpeople

Tues. Sept 27: Denver, Tattered Cover

Wed. Sept 28: San Francisco, Kepler�s

Thurs Sept 29: San Francisco, Book Passage; conversation w/Michael Chabon (Off-site)

Fri Sept 30: San Francisco, Cody�s (Off-site)

Sat. Oct. 1: 12 noon: San Diego, Mysterious Galaxy

and then I hop into a small aircraft and fly to Pasadena in time for

7 PM, LA, Vroman�s

Sun. Oct 2: LA, West Hollywood Book Festival

Mon Oct 3: Portland, Powell�s (Off-site)

Tues Oct 4: Seattle, University Bookstore, Kane Hall, U. of Washington

Wed Oct 5: Victoria, Bolen Books

Thurs Oct 6: Vancouver (Special event held in conjunction with the Vancouver International Writers Festival)

Fri Oct 7: Toronto, info TK

Mon. Oct. 10: Minneapolis, Musicland, Mall of America


The details of the NovemberUK signing tour will come when I get it.


And if you were wondering what we did for Father's Day, we watched the Criterion DVD of Cocteau's Beauty and the Beast, which neither of the girls had ever seen. What made me happiest were the gasps at the moments of low-tech magic...

And then I went back down to the bottom of the garden, and back to work.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Reposted from Where's Neil

So some information coming in on the various public events and signings in July:



Press Conference (for press only)
Date: Monday 4 July
Time: 10 a.m.
Venue: British Council
Please confirm your attendance with Lay Hong on 64707167

Talk, Screening of 15 minutes of an extended trailer and a complete scene from MirrorMask and Book Signing
Date: Monday 4 July
Time: 4.30 p.m and 7.30 p.m
Venue: Orchard Cineleisure(7th level)
Tickets: $8 per session available from 17 June from Comics Mart Pte Ltd (at any one of their outlets):
- 10 Jalan Serene, #02-05 Serene Centre, Tel: 6466 4213
- 8 Grange Road, #03-02 Cathay Cineleisure Orchard, Tel: 6836 9096
- 252 North Bridge Road,#03-11 Raffles City Shopping Centre, Tel:6883 2724


Admission to all the events below is free, but you have to register with the British Council at for the library@orchard event, as space will be limited.

Book Signing
Date: Tuesday 5 July
Time: 4.00 p.m. to 6.30 p.m.
Venue: Kinokuniya Book Store at Ngee Ann City

Chaired by Mr Peter Schoppert, Chairman, Singapore Writers Festival supported by the National Library Board
Date: Tuesday 5 July 2005
Time: 7.15 p.m.
Venue: library@orchard

Talk and Book Signing
Date: Wednesday 6 July 2005
Time: 6 p.m. to 8.00 p.m.
Venue: Borders

NB: As we are expecting a big crowd at all these sessions, we will need to restrict everyone to 3 books for Neil's autograph.



JULY 9, Saturday:- Doors to "The Gathering" at the Rockwell Tent will open at 3:00pm
JULY 10, Sunday:- A Reading and Book Signing at Fully Booked Promenade Greenhills (opening July 8, 2005) will start at 2:00pm
JULY 11, Monday:- A Press Conference (by invitation) and the British Council Writers Forum at the Music Musuem will be from 1:30-3:00pm
- A Reading and Book Signing at Fully Booked Gateway Mall will start at 4:30pm- Winners Dinner (Raffle and Art Competition winners) at 7:00pm
And please let people know there is a Gaiman Hotline set up:

756-5001 751-0381

For questions and details.

Also see:

And Australia:

Melbourne -- July 15-17, Continuum 3 (

Monday 18 July � Melbourne Time tbc
Event with The Australian Centre for Youth Literature.

Tuesday 19 July--Canberra
12.30pm, Toyota ANU Literary event
Venue: ANU, Manning Clark Lecture
Union Court
Will include a signing

Signing, Gaslight Books, Fyshwick
Unit 10 83 Wollongong Street, Fyshwick, ACT 2609

Wednesday 20 July � Sydney

Galaxy Bookshop

143 York Street Sydney NSW, 2000 Australia
Telephone: (02) 9267 7222 Facsimile: (02) 9261 3691

Talk, Q&A and signing
Shop RP2.02 The Galeries Victoria,500 George Street,Sydney, NSW 2000 Australia Call 9262-7996 to reserve a spot.

Thursday 21st July - Brisbane

Talk, Q&A and signing
Pulp Fiction (07) 3221 0666
Venue: To come


I keep hearing from Australia that there are some bookshops who've been told, or are telling people, I'm not signing graphic novels but only signing prose. Not sure where this is coming from, but it wasn't checked with me and won't be the case. And not all Australia details are in yet -- not sure why not, but I'll post them as we get closer.

Father's Day thoughts

Time is tight before I leave for Round The World tomorrow night (first stop Scotland to work on the Wolves In The Walls children's opera with the Scottish National Theatre) -- I was just given, unasked-for, a very sweet official note from my daughters informing me that I had their permission to work on Father's Day -- but also letting me know that they want their Father's Day time this evening. We thought about going to the drive-in (there are some great drive-ins around here -- this is my favourite ) but there's nothing on that Maddy would want to see. ("Nope nope nope, that's the truth," said Maddy, looking over my shoulder.)

Right. They've just told me that I now have to say something about both of them in my journal for Father's Day. So I shall. Maddy's ability to sing the "lonely I am so lonely" song over and over and over in a quavery and unsettling chipmonk voice this morning would by now be starting to drive Holly slowly mad, were it not for Holly's placid and sensible nature, aided by her incredibly thick dreadlocks which help to mute the sound. ("Dad! What a horrible thing to say!" says one daughter. "Lonely, I am soooo looonely. Iiii have nobodyyyyyy. Foooooor my oooooooooooown," says the other daughter, sounding like she has swallowed several singing chipmonks. I shall not identify which daughter said which thing, leaving it as a task for the reader to puzzle it out.)

("When we said you had to write something lovely about us, that wasn't quite what we meant," they just pointed out together, reading this over my shoulder as I type.)

(And they've gone off together to make me a cup of tea, so while they aren't looking over my shoulder I shall take this opportunity to say that I consider myself the most fortunate of men to have such astonishing children. And that Holly's dreads really look cool, and Maddy is hilarious. God, I love being a father.)

Ah well -- we'll figure something out for us to do tonight that will be fun for everyone.

And in the meantime...

Hi Neil, I know this is a bit odd, but I'm a less-than-fabulously-wealthy college student who wants to give my dad something awesomely cool for Father's Day and wondered if you could post this in your blog. Your work is something we've bonded over forever and it would mean a lot to him. And a Happy Father's Day to you, as well!

Happy Father's Day, Dad!!! I love you with all my heart--Love, Katie

Of course!

Hi, Neil. I just have a quick question with nowhere else, at least visible, to turn. How does an unagented writer go about obtaining permission from a recording artist (or their management) to use excerpts of song lyrics in short works of fiction that they intend to (attempt) to publish?Much thanks in advance.

You don't go to the songwriter (unless the songwriter controls their own publishing). You go to the music publisher. You can normally find the music publishing information on a CD -- if you can't then you could search for the publisher through ASCAP -- -- or BMI -- Then you write to the publisher explaining what it is you want to do and asking how much it'll be.

In my experience it's usually about $150 per quote. (On the other hand, the people who control the song "Under The Boardwalk" said this week that seven words would cost $800 and it wasn't negotiable, and I thought for a moment, and changed

"Under the boardwalk..." he sang. "We'll be making love."


He sang. In his song he told them all exactly what he planned to do under the boardwalk, and it mostly involved making love.

which I liked better, and didn't cost anything.)

If musician-songwriters control their own publishing, it gets much easier (the cost of getting the Greg Brown song quote for American Gods was: I took Greg out for a nice sushi meal, which actually I regarded as a bonus).

As regards the framing, lots of people wrote in with similar suggestions. This was by far the most complete and informative...

Its regarding that sketch you mentioned planning to reframe. I used to work in a frame shop, so what you probably want is what's called a "glass float" the piece is lightly attached, usually with clear photo corners or a touch of transparent glue (the former is better since it doesn't damage the art) to a piece of glass, which is used in place of a normal backing in the frame. Then either adhesive plastic strips, called spacers, or sometimes a mat specially made to be seen from both sides, is put in to keep some space between the paper and the second sheet of glass, which is placed in the frame normally. The only tricky part then becomes how you want to hang it. Since framed stuff typically hangs on a wall, one side is always obscured. Some people hang them on windows, but the backside of most frames doesn't look so nice (some places can get special frames designed to be seen from either side, though). I've heard of people who actually suspend such things from the ceiling, but then you either have to hang it high so as not to hit your head, and thus make it hard to see properly, or make sure its hung somewhere that walking underneath it won't happen. Of course, if you wanted to get really elaborate, you could hang it sort of near a wall, with a mirror on the wall behind it to show the backside. But that's probably more than you're into doing in this case.

Most pro frame shops can do it, though the specific methods vary, and if you're out to keep the thing in as pristine condition as possible, acid-free materials and UV filtering glass are a must. Of course, professional framing costs a bit more than buying a frame at Wal-mart and doing it yourself, but with something that really matters to you, its generally a good idea anyway.

The other option would be to frame it more traditionally, but get a good quality copy made of the backside, and do a multi-opening mat. Practically speaking, that might be easier.

Odds are if you don't already know about this, any number of others have written to you as well about it, but I thought I'd write just in case. Anyway, thanks for keeping me entertained, both with the blog, and with the many stories. Being poorish, I'll likely have to wait for Anansi Boys to come out in paperback, but I am looking forward to it.


While Argosy publisher James Owen wrote in to point to as a ready-made solution.

Also I got a message from Sorcha in Ireland, pointing me to Nicola Gordon Bowe (who wrote a couple of books on Harry Clarke which I already own and love) as someone who might be able to identify what drawings the studies were for, which is a brilliant suggestion. And will, like most other things in my life, now have to wait for several months.

Hey, Neil. Let's say I have a horde of people angered by the idea of a limited release of Mirrormask. Is there anyone we can petition against this? (we'll storm buildings if we have to!) Thanks. ~Nikki

I don't think a petition would do much good. What will help is a) lots of people looking at the trailer (here's the direct link to the Quicktime MirrorMask trailer: b) people going to see MirrorMask in its limited markets when it comes out, taking their friends, all that. If the theatres are full, if the take-per-screen is high, if people are going to see it, then it may well go on wider release because people will see that there's money to be made.

(That was how it was for the Princess Mononoke release, anyway, and the impression I get is that this is similar. And while Princess Mononoke has done very well over the years on DVD, I don't think the people did come out for it in the cinemas in the US, in the numbers they had hoped for -- but it helped build things for bigger releases of Spirited Away and Howl's Moving Castle.)

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Harry Clarke and a small gift from the Universe...

A couple of years ago I bought a Harry Clarke pencil sketch, a very loose one, of a boy on a broomstick. I love Harry Clarke's art, and loved the finished drawing (it's from a book called The Year in the Spring) and even if the sketch didn't look like much, it made me happy.

And then today I had a bright idea. I'd have the Clarke sketch put into a new frame, along with a small image of the finished piece of art, so people would at least know what the sketch was a study for. So I took carefully lifted up the rusting nails on the old frame the Clarke drawing was in, took off the back and lifted out the sketch...

...and realised that there were little drawings all over the back of the piece of paper.

In addition, the drawing seemed to have been done on a much larger piece of paper folded in half. And when I opened it I discovered two more full-sized pencil studies on the other side of the paper -- one of a cottage, the other of a dancing woman, with a bearded man, and a clown playing the concertina.

On a day of mostly staring gloomily at a blank screen, it was a nice odd gift from the universe. Now I just have to figure out how to frame it (and to identify the finished drawings the two on the back are studies for.)

Hi I just want to no if Mirrormask is going to be a nationwide release on September 30, 2005 or a limted release. Becauses when I go to yahoo movies it seys its going to limted release? So is this right what there saying or you guys don't no if its getting a wide release? Pleases make make it a wide release. It looks like a cool flim.

As far as I know it's still only going to be a limited release, initially into 13 major markets.

Mr. Neil, I have an odd sort of question for you. In the horror and suspense anthology 999, you contributed a story called Keepsakes and Treasures: A Love Story. Then, there is your what-happened-to-Shadow-after story, The Monarch of the Glen, in Legends II. Both stories contain a seemingly rich and powerful character named Mr. Alice. Is there any correlation between the two, or am I just reading into things too deeply?

Not at all. It's the same Mr Alice in each case (and the unnamed narrator of "Keepsakes and Treasures" is Mr Alice's aide in "Monarch of the Glen").


And here, from the Guardian, is the ultimate human interest story: Human Cannonball Fired for Being Afraid of Flying.

Friday, June 17, 2005

mid interview

I'm being interviewed this morning, but I have a couple of minutes until the next call comes in, and am still fascinated and delighted with the following article. Go and read it. I'll still be here when you get back.

Did you read it? Now, think about this. Someone got paid for writing that. If anyone out there reading this ever wondered if you could make it as a staff journalist in today's cutthroat newspaper world, I think the answer is, yes. You can.

You could, for example, use this kind of journalistic approach to writing about politics...

2. Europe's a bunch of different countries, but the US is all states. What's with that?


5. The president before Clinton was George Bush. And now the current president is George Bush. Weird coincidence. I wonder if they could be related?

and even

7. There was a war in Iraq? Huh?


And someone wrote in this morning asking if this was really me: and no, its not.


Hi! I've always joked that if ever you visit the Philippines, I would drop everything and stalk you. Apparently, I'm not the only one with that idea because my creative writing professor warned us not to bother her on july 9,10 and 11 because she'll be stalking you too. You have and extremely LARGE following here and everyone is excited to finally meet you. I just thought I'd warn you in case you see a lot of us lurking around...ayn:)

I have this vision of me walking down the street in the Philippines with a few hundred people following me as inconspicuously as possible, all pretending they don't know each other...

Thursday, June 16, 2005


There. I've just finished what I hope is going to be our last pass on the Beowulf script -- a bit late, thanks to hellish computer crash Monday. (My apologies to anyone who's been waiting for an e-mail or phone call from me and wondered where I've got to. I've been in the dark ages, battling a dragon.) Now I'm sending it back to Roger Avary to cast his eyes over, and after that we'll wait to see what Bob Zemeckis thinks.

So all I need to do before I leave the country on Monday is do an outline for a TV episode that should have finished yesterday; finish the proposal for a series of short films; finish proofreading the US galleys of Anansi Boys; and sign as many as I can of the 5,000 sheets of paper that arrived this morning -- although these don't all have to be done until the beginning of August, so can really wait until I get back from my adventures. (There will be a signed copy of Anansi Boys in each US dumpbin of the books.) Meanwhile, most of Friday's apparently been given over entirely to newspaper and magazine interviews, for MirrorMask, and for the Singapore/Philippines/Australia trip.

It's going to be an interesting next four days.


I find it interesting that very few of the journalists seem to understand what "Performance Capture" is. Richard Jinman in the Guardian is convinced that it's really "stop motion animation" (the technique that Henry Selick used in The Nightmare Before Christmas), while at they're a little more upfront about their ignorance, explaining

Robert Zemeckis has lined up the cast for his next performance-capture film BEOWULF with Anthony Hopkins, Robin Wright Penn, Ray Winstone and Brendan Gleeson all signing on for the pic. Like THE POLAR EXPRESS, which Zemeckis also directed, this film would have the actors performing their roles over a blue screen to be digitally captured and rendered by computers into an animated image. Or something like that.

which is, at least, less wrong than The Guardian. This was the best article I could find about it.

I know that the technology has come on a long way from Polar Express, and that there are some things that this technique gives you that shooting on film wouldn't. For example, over at the Beat Heidi puts up pictures of two gentlemen in their forties or fifties, who will get to play the seventeen-year old versions of their characters and the seventy year old versions as well.

You mentioned having a Costume Designer for BEOWULF, does she need an assistant? I have a Master's in Costume History and done work for Disney as well as all sorts of historical/craftycreative type things. Would you mind letting me know where I could send a resume?I sincerely admire your work and would love nothing better that to work on something like this!

I don't know if she'll need an assistant. But you'd send anything like that to:

Mead Hall Productions
9336 W. Washington Blvd.
Bungalow "S"
Culver City, CA 90232


And finally...

Hi Neil, Just wondering whether you've seen today's (Thursday 16th June) comic strip at, which lists some of your lesser-known works... All the best, Owen.

Mr Kovalic is an evil man and I owe him a postcard.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Quick ones...

Let's see...

Did you really draw the Spider on the Anansi Boys Booklet? There are pictures on eBay. Also did you know a spider has EIGHT legs? Lucy.

Yes, and yes. But that one only has seven. (It's the one I talked about drawing here:

Hi Neil,I'm looking forward to seeing you here in the Philippines. The only thing that's marring it is the fact that Fully Booked is requiring readers to buy two of your works from them in order to get "tickets" which will allow us to get your signature. Is this really standard procedure? It just smacks of greediness for me, and I hate to use that word if I'm not sure that's the motivation (I'll apologize if I'm mistaken). A lot of your readers have your complete sets of your work already, and it makes no sense to get duplicate copies. I know that you're a very gracious person and would not want to turn anyone down, but there should be a better way of managing your signings than that.Here's hoping there's a perfectly acceptable answer to my question :) Thanks! Ter�

That's already been changed - check out for the current rules.

But no, I don't think the previous rules were greediness on anyone's part, just the booksellers being concerned that it costs a lot to fly me half-way across the world, and wanting to be sure that they weren't out of pocket (I'm not getting paid to come, but airtickets and hotel rooms aren't free). I'm certainly more comfortable with the current plan.

Hello Mr. Neil: I just saw the trailer of "MirrorMask"; it's amazing.However, I thought that Sony Pictures would release "MirrorMask"; according to new trailer, Samuel Goldwyn Films will release this movie, not Sony. Why?Anyway, I can't wait to see this movie. Have a good day~~~~art

As I understand it Sony are releasing MirrorMask through Samuel Goldwyn Films (which is an independent film distributor, but which has a deal at Sony), as opposed to releasing it through Sony Classics or Screen Gems or Tristar or several other ways they could put it out, based mostly on the enthusiasm for it at Goldwyn. (I might have completely got the wrong end of the stick on this though. I understand many things, but the ins and outs of film distribution is something I need to learn.)

Which reminds me, Heidi at The Beat got to see MirrorMask yesterday -- for her initial reaction.


Lots of people writing to ask me about articles like this, on Beowulf casting. I don't have any direct news yet -- I know the kinds of names being talked about there are some of the names I've heard discussed (and that there are some others equally as exciting) but don't know if it's more than talk at this point. (Except for one of them, who I met the last time I was out to work on the script. But which one, I'm not saying.)

On the other hand, if you go to Roger Avary's journal you can find out who the costume designer and art director are.


Lots of wonderful things happening over at Mocca -- is a masquerade fundraiser for the upcoming Charles Vess and Mike Kaluta and Jill Thompson exhibition. Mike Kaluta will be there doing cool things. There will be live music. People will wear masks. Probably there will be a daring jewel robbery half-way through and people will remove their masks to reveal themselves to be crimerobots. If you're in New York, you should be there.


(And finally, lots of people in Singapore have written to point out that while it is indeed hotter than hell outside there, inside the air conditioning will be on and that I might well want to wear a sweater. Or even a leather jacket.)

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

MirrorMask exclusive

(I've edited this to update it now the link is current, and to add a few more MirrorMask links.)

There's a MirrorMask exclusive at Yahoo -- a new trailer. It's now up at in Windows Media and in Quicktime. (I believe it's up for a limited time.)

Spread the word. Spread the link. (If lots of people watch the trailer then Sony Pictures will know that lots of people want to see it.)

According to their MirrorMask page at it's going into US release on September 30th 2005, which sounds about right.

(Here's a direct link to the Yahoo trailer in Windows Media format.)

And, for those who were wondering, the actual MirrorMask site is

And the old trailer (which has actual movie music on it, which neither the first one or the new one do) is currently up at: in Windows Media and Real format.

Singapore Slings

The local storm season continues, with huge and violent thunderstorms sweeping across the midwest and missing my house entirely. I love thunder and lightning, so this is rather a disappointment.

Right now the local radar weather map is covered with pin-sized thunderstorms -- I didn't realise quite how small these were until I looked up and realised that from where I'm sitting and typing this (the kitchen table) I can see it pouring with heavy rain through the windows facing west, while being perfectly clear and dry out of the windows to the south.

Anyway, I just got off the phone with Lena St George from the British Council in Singapore.

She's not quite sure what to expect during the Singapore signings -- she's realised that lots of people want to come out to see me, and it's going to be rather more people than normally come out to get stuff signed and listen to visiting authors burble, and she wants me to point people at

for details of where I'll be when. On Monday the 4th of July, as you can see, they'll be showing a MirrorMask trailer and a scene along with the talk/signing, and we may also show something else as well (because it's costing them to rent the cinema, which they're passing on in ticket form). Lena's e-mail is up at the website and she's encouraging people who are going to turn up to any of the events to let her know, so she has an idea of the numbers she can expect at each of the events.

(If you're not sure which to go to, I'd suggest the Borders Books signing on the 6th, and try to be there when it starts, about 6:00pm. Most of the events can't go late as they have things after them, but that one can go until everyone's done.)


Lisa Gallagher, the publisher at Morrow, read yesterday's blog entries and dropped me a line to say of the proofs of ANANSI BOYS: Not sure why Elton at Chapter 11 assumes he isn't getting one, as they haven't all been distributed to booksellers yet, but he is misinformed if he's telling people we only made them for media. The reps have been able to request copies for their accounts, and we are sending to booksellers direct.

So US booksellers who want an advance galley of ANANSI BOYS should talk to their Harper Collins reps.

And the first printed commentary I've seen on ANANSI BOYS came from Locus, where editor Charles N. Brown mentions it in his editorial, saying,

I devoured Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman as soon as I got a copy. It may be in the same fantasy universe as American Gods, but it's something completely different, a Wodehousian comedy of manners that's almost letter-perfect. I had to read it in one sitting -- another Hugo-worthy book. It may have trouble because comedies don't fare as well as "serious" books, but underneath, like Connie Willis's so-called comedies, it's got a serious philosophical core. Gaiman is one of our treasures.


(There are lots of bird-weirdnesses in Anansi Boys, including a flamingo-flock in someone's bedroom -- and just so you know, the plural of flamingo is flamingos in the UK edition and flamingoes in the US -- so it was nice to see from this article that the London bird population is starting to soften the reading public up to the idea that birds can be dangerous.)


And the Panasonic W4 just arrived from Dynamism, slightly less than 24 hours after I ordered it. Initial impressions are that it's a) lighter than I expected, especially given what it contains, b) more compact than I expected, c) silverier than I expected. I think it's going to be perfect for six months of hauling across the world in carry-on. It's been a while since I used a Japanese keyboard, and I mostly have to remember that the ' key is now above the 7. In December I'll decide whether to keep it as my main notebook, or just to use it for travelling.

And by that point we'll know what's happening in Apple world. (Luckily I have someone in the family to keep me informed.)

Monday, June 13, 2005

No longer A Day

I just want to say the the people at Final Draft are pretty damn amazing! The sun has come out. The little flowers are singing and the birds are blossoming in the meadows. Thanks to the Final Draft people on the phone I have my script back. Calloo callay. I'm happy. Roger Avary is happy. Bob Zemeckis is happy.

Now I shall go back to work fixing things.

Morals and mustardseed

Someone wrote to point out I'd mistyped pronunciation in the title of the previous post. Which I already knew, but I'd left as it was because I vaguely remembered that changing anything in a post's title screws up the LiveJournal Feed. But then I decided I was probably imagining it, and when someone else wrote in to point out that I'd mistyped it, I said "sod it" and fixed it...

...and, people are already writing in to tell me, screwed up the LiveJournal feed.

I'm sure there's a moral there somewhere.

A Day

Hello Neil,
I've got more of a complaint that question. But oh well.
My problem is that Harpercollins is being really stingy with the Anansi Boys proofs. I'm the manager of a smal independent bookstore in the suburbs of Atlanta and I have been checking with all my contacts at Harper & they're all telling me the same thing. Most Booksellers will not be able to get an ARC/proof of Anansi Boys. Only reviewers & press can get them. I think this is somewhat of a punishment to those of us on the frontlines selling your book. One of the best perks of being a bookseller is getting to read your favorite author's books occassionally before most people outside of the business. And then getting to Handsell it when it comes out.
That's all, I just hand to get that off my chest.
Thank You,

I sympathise. HarperCollins is only doing 450 advance proofs of ANANSI BOYS, and they're individually numbered. I think this has less to do with wanting to punish booksellers than it does with the tendency of many of the people getting proofs to make an additional perk for themselves by eBaying advance proofs unread, creating an instant secondary market in proofs. So for that reason and possibly other reasons (ie, I don't know) Harpers decided to limit and number their advance proofs this time. I'm not saying it's a good or a bad thing, for it wasn't my call; just that it's how they've chosen to do it for this book. And it's frustrating for me as well -- normally at this point I'd be handing out proofs to everyone I know. Instead, I only got one of the Harper proofs, which I'm holding on to.

(Headline in the UK have done more proofs than Harpers, and are actively getting them out to booksellers -- and, unsurprisingly, already two are up, unread, on eBay.)

Right. I am Having a Day, which started last night when Final Draft and/or this damned computer ate two day's work on the Beowulf Script (which was only saved from being a full scale disaster by the fact that I'd sung the new song that I wrote for one scene into my phone, so I could remember the tune, and now I have the words). So I shall now go back down to the bottom of the garden and do a lot of writing I've already done again.

Just ordered a new computer for the Philippines/Singapore/Australia and then the Anansi Boys tour -- I wanted large enough to type on comfortably, with a DVD drive, that was light enough to carry around. Went back and forwards on various options (mostly to iBook or not to iBook) with weight the biggest factor (as I'll be hauling it from continent to continent) and finally plumped for a Panasonic W4 ( I'll report back on how it goes.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

pronunciation and how to get your questions answered (or not)

Tom Abba has read ANANSI BOYS and talks about it at

Which reminds me, several questions in recently asking the same question. For example,

...I'm always paranoid about pronouncing things correctly and my husband and I are in a bit of a disagreement - though not a major one - about how "Anansi" should be pronounced. Its a silly word to not quite get, really, but if you could clear it up, it would be really great. Thank you so much!~Christie

It's pronounced "A-Nancy." (Or sometimes, "Uhn-unsi".) I googled "Pronounce Anansi" to see what it gave me, and I found myself back at this journal, at (A list of alternate names for Anansi can be found at

Some people get Anansi the Spider confused with the Anasazi Indians. (Which is pronounced Ana-sahzi. Go to and click on the loudspeaker symbol to hear it pronounced.) But they are nothing at all alike.

Remind me again...What is it I have to do to get my question answered in your journal....I wonder...

Well, I suppose more than anything it comes down to luck. But having said that, there are types of letters that get answered more than others. Fan letters, which is to say, nice letters telling me how much something I wrote meant to the person writing it, tend not to get put up on the journal, although they're very much appreciated. Questions that wouldn't mean anything to anyone except the person writing it and me tend not to get put up (by which I mean, I have to assume that someone else out there reading the journal would find the question and the answer interesting in order to post it). Shorter questions tend to get picked over longer ones: I don't like editing letters for length, so I'm more likely to simply go for a shorter version of something. Questions that would take an essay and some thought may not get answered, only because I'll put it off and almost never get to it.

Once those things are covered, overall, it's luck. Questions (or sometimes helpful answers) come in. I read them over. I put red flags next to ones that I really ought to answer (maybe half or a third of what comes in). Then the next time I feel like doing the blog, I grab a few of those red flagged questions and answer them, and it's whim and it's luck and it's whatever I happen to put in at the time. Lots of really good questions never get answered.

It's currently running about 10,000 questions a year. I could probably answer them all, if I did nothing else, but I'd not get anything at all else done if I did, and I suspect it would be incredibly boring for all of you. As I said, I don't even answer all the ones I want to answer.

Given that, I'm not sure there's any sure fire way of getting a question in. Patience, adopting a zen-like attitude, and assuming that even if I didn't reply I saw it is probably the best way.

I keep meaning, as an experiment and to give people an idea of what the FAQ line is like, to, one day, post and possibly even answer an entire day's worth of messages. Sooner or later.


Ace correspondent Kelly Sue DeConnick wrote to tell me that

Laurenn McCubbin and I are training together for the Pacific Grove Olympic-length Triathlon. On September 10th, 2005 we'll swim a mile, bike 25 miles and run 6 miles -- IN A ROW. We're participating in support of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and we've committed to raising over THREE THOUSAND DOLLARS each to improve the lives of blood cancer patients and their families and to accelerate the search for a cure. As of right now, we're just about half way to our goal.

Laurenn and I train well together -- I'm a strong swimmer, but I look like Benny Hill on my bike. She's terrified to put her face in the water, but she's like Lance Armstrong's pissed off little punk rock sister on two wheels. It works. We both post training updates to our websites. Laurenn's at and I'm at

I just posted pictures of my bruises from yesterday's wipeout. It's very sexy indeed.

Kelly Sue DeConnick's donation site:

Laurenn McCubbin's donation site:

If anyone cares about celebrity endorsements, we're supported by Reno 911's Dave Holmes (the triathlon was his idea, actually, and he'll be there with us at the event), Mike Doughty, Maggie Estep, Warren Ellis and Kieron Dwyer, among others. Oh, duh -- and you!


Finally, congratulations to Brian Aldiss and Jonathan Ross, who were both just awarded OBEs (or possibly OsBE), for services to literature and broadcasting respectively. (An OBE, for those of you in places that aren't British, is the Order of the British Empire, which seems rather sweet, considering there isn't a British Empire any longer. It's like being made a lord of the manor of a village that was long ago taken by the sea.)

Saturday, June 11, 2005

storm warnings

A small, waking up thought: as an artist (of any kind) you make things for an audience, normally because you like them. You hope they'll work. (An analogy I used in the Locus interview, talking about short stories, was making clay pots at school. Sometimes you get a pot. Sometimes you get something only a grandmother could love.) And you hope, mostly, that people will like or enjoy or appreciate them. (Or sometimes, just that the story will prickle people or make them think.)

American Gods, for example, I discovered after it came out, slightly to my surprise, people tend to really like or really hate. A lot more people really liked it than really hated it (or it wouldn't have won the shed-load of awards that it did), but it was still rather an odd experience, compared to, say Neverwhere, which people either enjoyed or were indifferent to.

Now I've got Anansi Boys coming up, and I have no idea how people will react, so every reaction is interesting. This one just came in (it was a suprise to see it compared to Good Omens).

Hi Neil. I was one of the lucky 450 to get my hands on an advanced reader version of Anansi Boys this week (I am a children's bookseller at an independent bookstore, Harry W. Schwartz's, in Milwaukee). I read it as quickly as someone can who is very excited yet doesn't want the book to end. I wanted to let you know that it's fantastic. You're right of course; it is very different from American Gods and much closer in tone to Good Omens. I was particularly gleeful over the footnote, the chapter titles, and the Buddha-like lime. Now I'll be able to wait until September when it's released, and I'll enthusiastically recommend it to anyone. I had hoped that you'd come to Milwaukee through Schwartz's for a booksigning, as I believe you had a few years ago (before my time at the store). Good luck on the upcoming leg of your tour, and you might be glad to know I added "The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish" onto the Father's Day table in the kid's section several weeks ago. I think as a present, it's in the "really good" category. Thanks again for the stories! ---Colleen

You're welcome.

Holly just finished it as well, and she liked the lime too.

Meanwhile, over at eBay, I notice that a few people are starting to eBay the pamphlets (which I don't mind at all) and the UK proofs (which I would mind less if the one for sale wasn't proudly listed as "unread").

The US proofs are numbered -- I wonder if any of them will show up on eBay.


Speaking as a foreign national, in this post 911 world I find it hard enough to get into the US with a valid green card, and am always rather nervous about accidentally bringing fruit or suchlike contraband into the country. They don't like it if you bring fruit, and on several occasions at Minneapolis airport I've been taken aside and quizzed about whether I have any fruit on my person, or a cheese sandwich.

They seem to be loosening up on other things though:

Massachusetts lawmakers on Thursday called for a closer look at border security after customs officials allowed a man carrying a sword, a hatchet, brass knuckles and a chain saw stained with what appeared to be blood to cross the U.S.-Canadian border. Two days after being allowed into the United States in late April, Gregory Despres, 22, was arrested in Massachusetts in connection with the beheading of his elderly neighbor and the stabbing death of his wife in the New Brunswick town of Minto.

(It seems that the US customs/immigration people are saying that because he was a naturalised American, they had to wave him through. I bet they could have stopped him if only he'd had an apple.)


Hello Neil,I'm 24 and I just finished the first draft of my first novel. Now I'm faced with the rather daunting task of going through and editing the whole thing, sorting out all the loose threads, figuring out what to cut, what to shorten, and what to add.My suspicion is that there is just no way to make this process any easier, and that I'll probably spend every night for the next three or four months sitting in front of my computer reading and re-reading the same passages to figure out exactly what I was trying to get at when I wrote them last June. I searched your archives but couldn't find any reference to my particular dilemma so here goes. This is my question:Are there any tricks you've found for keeping huge sections of manuscript in your head so that you don't have to go back and re-read the whole novel to sort out some small feeling that what you're reading doesn't quite fit with something you wrote earlier? Is this just one of those things that comes with time and experience?-benjamin

Actually, I'm a lot worse at keeping huge chunks in my head than I was -- I used to have to keep the whole of Sandman in my head, while I was writing it. But for novels, what I try and do in the stage you're in is print it out, then take a couple of days (I tend to go off to my writing cabin) and just read it, as if I've never read it before, at a sort of comfortable pace, with a pen and a packet of post-it-notes and read and make notes and use my post-its. I wouldn't try and do it on the computer at this stage. Just read it. That's when you'll notice that the pie shop on page twelve is a tie shop for the rest of the book, or that Mr Finnegan becomes Mr Ferguson for a couple of sentences, or that the complete world destruction machine is described on page 50 as being a blank piece of metal with not even an on and off switch to mar its glistening lines, so what the heck is it that your heroine clicks to turn it off in the final chapter....

Hi Neil!I have a question for you, since you do lots of signings. My friend has just self-published her first book (, and is having her first booksigning in her home town. We were talking about it, and she wants to hand out some bookmarks that she designed (she's also an artist!). She's not sure how many people to expect, since the buzz on the book is mostly word of mouth at this point.We were debating this: she wants to have enough bookmarks to cover any demand. I think she should take a very limited amount so she doesn't have a huge overstock on hand. I'm also thinking that if the book takes off, then she'll have created a sort of "limited edition" item.What, if any, thoughts might you have on the subject. I realize you've done tons and tons of signings, so you were the first person I thought of when the topic came up! Thanks bunches!--Sarah

What a nice idea! Where signings are concerned, hope for the best (as Mel Brooks once sang) expect the worst. The worst is you staring out at an empty shop. (Possibly the worst is the bookshop making the staff pretend to be customers, something I've heard about but haven't -- to my knowledge -- experienced.)

There were maybe twelve people at the first ever Sandman signing, for me and Mike Dringenberg, signing copies of Sandman #1 at Jim Hanley's Universe on Staten Island in 1988. (Someone sent me some photos of that signing fairly recently, which rather brought it all back.)

Friday, June 10, 2005

The sigh of midnight trains in empty stations

For anyone who has ever thought "I want to be a writer, but novels are, well, long, and even short stories are sort of intimidating, with all those words in them," finally, the perfect job opportunity. Haven't you ever wondered who writes the fortunes in the fortune cookies...?

And for anyone who's ever thought "No, I don't want to write fortune cookies, I want to write novels. For the novel is the best form of expression there is for a naturally shy person and at least if I'm a novelist nobody's ever going to make me dress up as pirate and travel by rickshaw from bookshop to bookshop signing stock," there's this article in the Guardian, on the writing, selling and marketing of a novel, to make you cringe with contact embarrassment:,6000,1503261,00.html

Also over at Bookslut, there's a terrific interview with Jon Scieszka about his Guys Read project. He makes some excellent points about the way that boys are given books, or not given books to read, and are trained away from books they might enjoy into a world of no books at all...

And I liked this article most because it kept making me think of the imaginary cover of the comic, undoubtedly drawn by Carmine Infantino and inked by Murphy Anderson, as Batman and Robin, hanging their heads, are expelled from a supergroup, walking away while Superman points and says "You're being expelled..." and Green Lantern (or possibly either Spider-Man or Ronald MacDonald) finishes "For violence, sexism and stealing from local branches.",3604,1502264,00.html


In Smoke and Mirrors I mention a statue by Lisa Snellings I own, of an angel in a cage, begging for coins (or perhaps, trying to sell one of the feathers from her wings) while her jester captor sleeps. Lisa's just put up a photo of the statue at
Click on the photo to see a larger version.


And in a cheap commercial move, I thought I'd mention that THE DAY I SWAPPED MY DAD FOR TWO GOLDFISH is either a really good, or a really bad Father's Day present. Why don't you give it to a father and find out?


Hi Neil! Just a heads up for your Filipino fans. Fullybooked has released the time and schedule of your tour:

JULY 9, Saturday:
- Doors to "The Gathering" at the Rockwell Tent will open at 3:00pm

JULY 10, Sunday:
- A Reading and Book Signing at Fully Booked Promenade Greenhills (opening July 8, 2005) will start at 2:00pm

JULY 11, Monday:
- A Press Conference (by invitation) and the British Council Writers' Forum at the Music Musuem will be from 1:30-3:00pm
- A Reading and Book Signing at Fully Booked Gateway Mall will start at 4:30pm
- Winners Dinner (Raffle and Art Competition winners) at 7:00pm

Can't wait!

Sounds fun. I should have a complete schedule for Singapore and Australia very soon (there's a tentative one up at Where's Neil).

Hi Neil,

I wonder if you have any inkling yet of how many gifts you're going to receive here in Manila. Almost everyone I know who is in some creative field has been talking (either to myself or on their blogs) about how they're going to be giving you their albums, artwork, DVDs of short films, etc. I know some people who are likely going to give you their entire comics output.

Anyway, this whole thing is just to suggest you bring extra luggage for all that stuff. :)

Also, you may want to reconsider wearing the black leather jacket all the time. This being a tropical country with warm temperatures (though you'll be here during the rainy season). I recently went to Singapore (my first time there), and while less humid the sun is harsher; I assume because it's closer to the equator.

On my mailing list we are talking about what work of yours we would like signed most. Also what question we could ask that hasn't been asked before, seeing as you're probably the most interviewed comics personality.

Looking forward to your visit,


No... leather jacket? But... but.... but....

Hi Neil, This just in, Beryl Articulatus appears to have been sainted by clockmakers! And i thought you and Mr. Pratchett made her up. See here: three-quarters the way down under Reliquary Clocks. Seems they omitted the part about the miraculous beard though. It appears you're doing God's work. -Mike

Of course it's all true. You think we make this stuff up? At least the House of Clocks has a website, and you know you can trust them. Implicitly. To the end of the world. (I'd not visited the House of Clocks for a while, and it's nice to see that it's continuing to grow and evolve more and more interesting bits.)

I have no idea why I decided this post really needed the quote I put at the top. I mean, usually they have some significance, but that line was playing (the Bryan Ferry version) when I went to type the title, and it's such a nice set of words, I put it down there.

And finally, in a link I received from Jonathan Carroll himself, a house of books.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

The wandering me

Much of the day got eaten by stuff to do with travel and the upcoming Singapore-Philippines-Australia trip.

The bad news is that the Hawaii signing isn't going to happen on this trip. Harper Collins didn't have any bookshops they felt comfortable with putting a signing for me in there, and while we then spoke to DC Comics about a potential comic-shop location to host a signing, that coincided with discovering that, while Sydney to LA via Hawaii has been the easy sane and normal route I've taken every time I've gone to Australia so far, this time, for reasons that only travel agents understand, it was enormously problematical, and at the point where the travel agent triumphantly announced that I could definitely get from Sydney to Honolulu as long as I didn't mind going via San Francisco, I gave up.

It now looks like I've got a 30 hour layover in Tokyo instead, around the 23rd of July. Not that I'm planning to sign anything there, but it'll be nice finally to get to Japan.

temporary photographs

I don't know how long these links will work, so...

If you go to

And then you click on the link to the Audies, you'll see a bunch of fun photos, including me and Terry doing the Good Omens pics (and some of me and Terry and Jennifer Brehl, who is our editor at Morrow), and many more photos of the pre-show stuff. (I was MCing, in my new tuxedo.)

For the next 3 weeks only, there are pictures of the Griffin Theater's STARDUST production at (which look wonderfully Charles Vess) and many reviews over at


And when I was at school, we read about King Canute. I see from the Guardian his name is now spelled Cnut (,3604,1497065,00.html) making him sort of the FCUK of Early British Kings....

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

"My heart was under lock and key, But somehow it got unhitched"

If you've ever thought to yourself "I would love to help the CBLDF by volunteering, or just go and say hello and tell them they're doing good work or something but I live in New York City -- why oh why are the Gods so cruel as to make me want to trek all the way to Northhampton Ma. in order to meet Charles Brownstein and see the CBLDF offices in all their glory?" then you will be enormously relieved to know that the Gods have listened to you, and have magically moved the offices of the Comic Book Legal Defence Fund to New York, just so that you can get involved.

The fund's new offices will be just around the corner from the New York Public Library, at 271 Madison Avenue. is the news story.


I've ordered a replacement black and white Samantha for Maddy from

In addition:

Hi Neil, In regards to Maddy's love of Bewitched: I'm afraid I don't know of any Samantha maquettes for sale. However, I live in Salem, MA, where they are currently constructing a 9-foot statue of Elizabeth Montgomery in full Bewitched garb in the center of the downtown area. Next time you're in New England, you might consider taking her to see it. In fact, they'll probably start selling all kinds of Bewitched memorabilia to go with it. I'll let you know. I also feel it necessary to mention that I was terribly depressed about this, seeing as how Salem's tourist trade is quite tacky enough without oblique witchcraft references in the form of cutesy TV shows; however, if the statue can become a part of the Maddy Gaiman Show, then perhaps it will be worth it. P.S. Can't wait to get Anansi Boys signed in Boston!

I'll bear that in mind. She seemed very excited when I mentioned to her that I had a copy of the Al Hine Bewitched novel downstairs (it's where I learned, as a boy, that Samantha's maiden name was Dobson, and that she used magical powers to check out Darrin in the shower when she got interested in him) that I'll go and find for her. I haven't yet told her that the theme tune had lyrics (sung here by Peggy Lee).


Several hundred more messages from people about tea, which makes it the single most contentious subject since I told someone here that I really didn't want to know about real person slash fiction, especially not the kind with me in it.

Many people wanted me to mention this:

Hi Neil, You may already have seen it, but Douglas Adams wrote about the perfect cup of tea. It's available via the h2g2 site at "Americans are all mystified about why the English make such a big thing out of tea because most Americans have never had a good cup of tea." Actually, I think this applies to Indian food as well.Regards,Gavin.

Scaryduck ( wrote to plug a site:

Neil--- Tea! You really ought to visit this website (if you haven't already, and I'm certain that at least one of your readers has prodded you in the right direction):
Then, buy the book. It comes with the Scaryduck seal of approval, but spends rather too much time on biscuits rather than on the important art of tea-brewing. After that, I'd encourage you to buy the film rights for this important body of work before it's too late and Hollywood wrecks the entire tea-drinking experience for everybody. Regards, Alistair / Scaryduck

and when someone writes and says his Dad makes interesting teapots I sort of click on the link with an eyebrow raised and then it turns out that they really are some of the most interesting teapots I've ever seen,


Hello Neil It occurred to me after reading your latest journal post on tea, that you'd probably be needing a teapot (well actually I assumed you already had one, but probably not like these)My dad makes interesting teapots and I thought some of them might appeal to you... have a look at: click on the Current Range page for....well for the Current Range. All the bestJago

and the current range link is at


I'm a big fan of yours, Neil, and have been for a long, long while, but something lately has been bothering me. You keep mentioning blurbs. And how you don't want to give them, etc. Which is fine. I realize you are, indeed, a busy man who hasn't quite mastered the art of bilocation when in fact tri- or tetralocation would probably be extraordinarily handy.But still, "Gaiman is a treasure trove of story, and we'd be lucky to have him in any medium." -Stephen King
That's the one that sticks out in my head, because it was in big ole' type on the back of *Neverwhere,* which was the first novel of yours I skeptically picked up after I'd avoided *Sandman* for years (as it wasn't My Sort Of Thing). King was, then, my favorite writer.Tori Amos and Norman Mailer (the former not much a surprise, of course, but the latter) are two other names I remember from that first novel, by a guy by the name of Gaiman (I was always pronouncing as "Guy-m'n," so I had to keep explaining to people I hadn't actually said I was reading a book by Neil Diamond). I can't read it as arrogance or forgetting-you-were-once-in-the-other-guys'-position, because I know you aren't and I know you remember (because you're not that like that arrogant Hitchens idiot from several posts ago), and I enjoy your works far more than Atwood's (of course, that's like saying I prefer, say, the Magnetic Fields over the Indigo Girls. I do, of course, but it's a designation that makes no sense). And I remember reading how happy you were to have received a rather glowing blurb from Harlan Ellison (whose opinion would never matter to me in the first place, anyway, but did to you).
I have no point, really. I like your books, and I already like -Anansi Boys- enough that I'll buy it no matter what anyone says about it. It just niggled at me, and I thought I'd say something.Keep up the good work, because I'll keep reading it.-Will

Well, it's not that I don't give blurbs any longer -- Barry Yorgrau's NASTYBOOK and Susanna Clarke's JONATHAN STRANGE AND MR NORRELL are probably the most recent ones, along with M. John Harrison's LIGHT and Bill Gibson's PATTERN RECOGNITION. Several blurbs over the last couple of years, from authors as diverse as Greg McDonald, Nick Sagan, Robin McKinley and Peter Straub were actually taken from entries in this blog (not that I mind that). And it's not that I don't write introductions from which blurb lines can be extracted just as the Stephen King quote about me was. I do (I just wrote one for Al Davidson's new Spiral Dreams book, and I have three mutually contradictory drafts of an intro to M. John Harrison's Viriconium sitting in notebooks needing to be typed).

But it's also something that I approach with a little trepidation. Books accompanied by imploring letters arrive daily. They may well be books I'd love to read, but the stack of books and manuscripts wanting blurbs gets bigger daily (until my assistant decides they've been sitting there long enough and they need to go and visit the basement), and I still haven't finished Flashman's March [edit make that Flashman on the March], the last book I bought for pleasure. It gets to the point where people approaching me with books they wish blurbed gives me a terrified, guilty feeling -- which was why I mentioned that it was very nice to be given books by people who just wanted me to have them.

And to add weirdness to it all, of course now that ANANSI BOYS is coming out, the publishers would like blurbs for it. Preferably from people who are known for being funny. If Wodehouse were still alive we'd be camping out on his door...

Monday, June 06, 2005

the last tea post

More people than I could count using the fingers of a small scout troop wrote in to say "Right. How do you make tea then?"

This is the biggest, most important thing to know: For a black tea, you pour boiling water on tea leaves.

That's ninety percent of the art of making a decent cup of tea. Hottish, not boiling, water tends to make a weird tea that's bitter and weak at the same time, and is no fun to drink. (Boiling water. It's why God invented the kettle.)

It's the final ten percent of the cup of tea that you'll get people calling each other heretics for adding the milk (not cream) first, or whether to use teabags or loose tea and whether burning in effigy or a nice box of chocolates was the correct reward for whoever decided adding bergamot oil to tea was a good thing*, or all the other tea things that people like to argue about.

And to all that, I'd just say De Gustibus.

(And having said that, when I first moved to the US I discovered that the local water supply, when boiled and added to tea, had some kind of weird chalky scum on the top, and I installed a reverse-osmosis water purifier by the kettle, so that it didn't.)

The very best cups of tea I ever had were in Australia and in Patagonia (actually, in a Welsh tea-room in Patagonia in a town called Gaiman). They were good enough to be memorable, and they were both loose-leafed tea in teapots.

(I got the lady who made me the tea in Australia to teach me how to do it, I was so impressed. She showed me how to warm the teapot with warm water before the tea went in, to make sure the water was at a rolling boil, how after a few minutes she turned the pot around 3 times clockwise and 3 times counterclockwise, which, she told me, was like stirring but didn't risk bruising the tea and making it bitter, and she was definitely a milk-first into the cup sort of person. It was, apart from turning the pot instead of stirring, just like the BBC scientific guide to a perfect cup:
which is from this news article -- And you can read George Orwell's original article on A Nice Cup of Tea at

But I'm easily pleased. I tend to think of tea as being like sushi -- there's great sushi, there's perfectly good sushi, and then there's rubbery, chewy, evil fishy strips on cold rice-puddingish lumps, that humans should not have to eat. In the same way, there's great tea, and there's good tea which comes in a variety of different kinds (including serious strong-enough-stand-a-teaspoon-straight-up-in builder's tea, made using teabags and best served in a stained mug with a chipped handle), and then there's what you get in a cup after trying to make a cup of tea using some rapidly cooling hot water delivered to you with a paper-wrapped tea-bag and a small tub of non-dairy creamer that really human being shouldn't have to drink...

If you're in the US and want to get some decent British or Irish loose tea or teabags without either going to the UK or paying a fortune, there are some places online. I've been using for tea for years now.

(I should add that, bizarrely, the hotwaterandateabag thing has started to spread to the UK, where you would think they'd know better.)


Hey Neil-I am curious how the book expo went. I hope that my fellow New Yorkers showed you a nice time. Lisi

The best thing about Book Expo was giving out and signing the little chapbooks of the first 2/3 of a chapter of Anansi Boys. It made people happy. The text in the chapbooks is actually closer to the finished text in the novel than the version that's currently up online...

(that's at, at least for now)

...and the responses so far to the book from people who've read it seem almost disconcertingly enthusiastic. You sort of hold your breath when a book goes out in public for the first time, and I was doubly holding my breath because Anansi Boys is so far from American Gods in tone and texture (of the things I've written, it's nearer to Neverwhere or Good Omens, but it isn't actually like either of them; of the things I haven't written it would probably be comfortable on the same shelf as Topper and Leave it to Psmith).

I remember saying that the fun would be figuring out a voice to tell the Anansi Boys story in, and when I did it sounded a lot like this blog. (I just looked. It was And I think that's probably true. It's friendly, informal, and funny, when it isn't scary or weird.

So, yes. I was happy. Also people gave me books, and didn't seem to want blurbs, just for me to have the books, which I liked. Early yesterday morning, in an airport, I found myself reading The Holy Tango of Literature, which poses the question: what sort of poems and plays would have been written if authors had to write something that was an anagram of their names. It's really sharp, and it had me laughing aloud in an airport and getting odd looks. (Unless anyone wants to use the preceding sentence as a blurb, in which case it was all extremely depressing.)


Finally, a small request.

My daughter Maddy's become a huge fan of early Bewitched (because the TIVO decided that it ought to record the black and white first season for us, and she got hooked) and I got her the new Bewitched black-and-white-and-grey maquette (see it here) as a surprise present for being a straight-A student and an utter pleasure to have around. Alas, when it arrived today one hand was broken off (and three fingers had been broken off the broken hand, which weren't even in the packing), and when we called to find out about getting it replaced, we were told that they couldn't replace it as it had been a very limited run and they were now sold out.

So if there are any shops or entities out there with an unbroken black and white Samantha Stephens maquette for sale, can you let me know through the FAQ line? You'll make a small girl extremely happy (actually, she's pretty happy anyway, as it's the arm you can't really see. But still).


*It was Charles, Earl Grey, William IV's prime minister, who was given the recipe by a mandarin, which is not a citrus fruit but a Chinese official. Oddly enough, the bergamot is not a Chinese official but a citrus fruit, a cross between a lemon and a sour orange, and the oil that they add to Earl Grey, which turns a normal cup of tea into an odd-smelling concoction, is extracted from its peel.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Optimism. Faith. English Breakfast.

I think one of the key things to remember about human beings is their optimism and their faith. For example, in America, you have a country filled from sea to shining sea with people in the food service industries all of them convinced that a person can somehow make a drinkable cup of tea using only a) a teabag and b) a cup and c) a container holding water that was once reasonably hot. They bring me these three ingredients proudly, convinced that somehow I'll be able to combine them in a way that will produce a drinkable cup of tea.

And in a credit to my own optimism and faith, I keep trying. Haven't succeeded yet, of course. But still. It makes you proud to be human.

Which probably bubbled into my mind because Terry Pratchett and I were talking about Crowley and Aziraphale over dinner the other night and wondering what they'd been up to ("...on the South Downs? You really think so?"). It was very pleasant, honestly, like catching up with news of old friends.

Friday, June 03, 2005

A note from the braindead...

Bit braindead, so this is just to say

a) congratulations to Penn and Emily Jillette on the birth of their daughter, Moxie Crimefighter Jillette. Really this was just an excuse to type "Moxie Crimefighter Jillette". I hope more children get called "Moxie Crimefighter", so Miss Jillette will just be "Moxie Crimefighter #1" and there will be a whole legion of them...

b) Lots and lots of people wrote to ask what I thought of the article in the Times about comics at,,14931-1636789,00.html, and I honestly don't think much of it, or about it. It's not actually a news story, just a silly opinion piece from someone with an opinion without much to back it up (I'm not sure how comics fans manage to be both phallocentric and boob-obsessed, I would have thought it was one or the other, but there you go). The jokes aren't funny. The bit I thought oddest was...

�Women just don�t go into comic-book stores,� explains Trina Robbins, the author of The Great Women Cartoonists, speaking recently to the New York City Comic Book Museum. �A woman gets as far as the door, and after the cardboard life-size cut-out of a babe with giant breasts in a little thong bikini and spike-heel boots, the next thing that hits her is the smell. It smells like unwashed teenage boys, and it has this real porn-store atmosphere.�

...because over the years I've been in comics shops with Trina Robbins. I've chatted to her in Forbidden Planet, for example, and in Comix Experience, and I think in Golden Apple, and there were lots of women around each time, and she never complained about the smell once. She didn't even do that thing people do when they suspect possibly the cat has sprayed, where they sort of try and pretend that they aren't sniffing something unpleasant. So I doubt she intended her description (if she said this) to apply to all comic shops...

(You can read what I think about certain stores in the introduction to the Friends of Lulu "How to Get Girls Into Your Store" book, which you can read for free in PDF over at But the whole point of the Friends of Lulu handbook is that women DO go into comic shops these days. The boys clubs are in the extreme minority.)

There's not much point in arguing with the article, any more than there's much point in arguing with someone who's convinced that the Martians are stealing his toilet paper. But lots of people are enjoying pointing out that the article's sort of dim, including Tom Abba and the Metaquoters.

Hello Neil,

I find myself in a quandary of sorts and wonder if you have any advice or insights you may be able to offer a young-ish, aspiring writer of fiction for the screen. For at least two years now, my working practice has proceeded more or less as follows:

1. Get an idea.
2. Scrutinise the idea with unhealthy intensity for any traces of plagiarism, clich�, deus ex machina, etc.
3. Sit down to write the first draft
4. Write less than a page, delete the whole thing, convince myself the idea is worthless, and abandon it altogether.
5. Repeat.

Something about seeing the ideas in my head committed to paper makes me balk, no matter how I try to force myself to just finish something - anything. Does this sound familiar to you at all, perhaps from your earliest days as an artist? I wonder if it all boils down to something as obvious as the fear of being misunderstood. If so, what can I do to enable myself to Just Get On With It?

Thanks for anything you might be able to throw my way.

- David

Well, you have a couple of options. One of which -- the easiest -- is simply not to worry about writing and use the time to do something else instead: golf, for example, or macrame, or the breeding of prize gerbils. The other option is to write. What you're doing currently is Not Writing. If you do want to write, then what you have to do is Not Do That Stuff You're Talking About in 1-5 above, and write instead.

You might want to try handwriting, or even, if you can find a typewriter anywhere, typing. It's harder to delete stuff if you're making marks on paper as you go. And make a rule that you can't go back and change things or fix things until you've finished whatever you're on. You could try giving yourself a wordcount, too -- a thousand or so words a day is probably good to start off with. Finish it, even if it's crap (especially if it's crap). Then go onto the next.

Ted Hughes once said words to the effect that the progress of any writer is marked by those moments when he manages to outwit his own inner police system. Bear that in mind. And good luck.


Sixteen years ago the photo on the back of Good Omens was taken. Today the photo that'll be on the upcoming new edition of Good Omens was taken. I put on the dark glasses, for old time's sake, and I was in a black tuxedo and Terry was in white one, so people will think that he's the Good One. The pictures weren't in a graveyard, but we got sort of tired of graveyard photos on the Good Omens tour, long long ago, so we didn't mind at all.

And I ran into Miriam Berkley today, who is a wonderful photographer of authors, who told me that on her page, in addition to some marvellous thumbnails of people like Kathy Acker and Susanna Clarke, she has a shot of me she took in 1988. So on the far right on the top row at is me, aged 27, and in profile. She's a marvellous photographer.