Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Early FRAGILE THINGS reviews...

Most people, when incommunicado in remote locations, are probably tromping up and down rocky hills and suchlike. I did a fair bit of that, but mostly I found myself sitting at a kitchen table trying to make the UK and US editions of FRAGILE THINGS as close to each other as I could.

The problem is, copy-editing is not what you'd call an exact science. And apart from house style issues -- in the US, Harper Collins likes using "serial commas", like the one after fish in "He ate beans, fish, and small green bricks" (Hodder-Headline would have that sentence read "He ate beans, fish and small green bricks" without the extra comma), or the use of "toward, afterward, upward" in the US and "towards, upwards, afterwards" in the UK -- I realised that the different ways that different copy-editors would like sentences to read is a strange and frustrating sort of thing, especially if you're determined that the same sentences are going to be in both editions. (And then there was Gordon Van Gelder of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, who is taking one of the short stories for his magazine, and wanted another whole set of different changes.)

Anyway. I'm happy to report that apart from the fact that there are few stories in the US edition of FRAGILE THINGS that won't be in the UK edition of FRAGILE THINGS, because they were already in the US edition of SMOKE AND MIRRORS, and the serial commas and things like that, they should be more or less the same book. It won't matter to anyone except me, but it matters to me...

The early "trade reviews" of Fragile Things have started coming in today -- "starred" reviews in Booklist and Kirkus, and they seem positive. The Booklist one reads,

*STAR*Gaiman, Neil. Fragile Things. Oct. 2006. 320p. Avon, $26.95
(0-06-051522-8). SF/Fantasy.
Like the first and second, Gaiman’s third
collection of unillustrated short pieces (he has comics collections in his
portfolio, too) showcases a particular facet of his talent. Smoke and Mirrors
(1998) effervesced with his jovial parody of fairy tales, Raymond Carver,
monster movies, Beowulf, and even Bay Watch. Adventures in the Dream Trade
(2002) collects various kinds of memoirs on being a professional fantasist.

Parody––in the alternate-world Sherlock Holmes pastiche, “A Study in Emerald,”
and an imaginary last book of the Bible––and memoir (two reprints from
Adventures and at least one story, “Closing Time,” that Gaiman admits is full of
real persons and events) also figure in this book, but most of the contents,
including the memory pieces, exude the romanticism, often erotic, that makes his
first two novels, Neverwhere (1997) and Stardust (1998), for all their darkness
and grit, so powerfully attractive. Many are love stories, ranging in tone from
the lowering super-noir of “Keepsakes and Treasures,” in which a
multibillionaire, abetted by the genius-sociopath narrator, finds and loses his
particular beau idéal; to the sf-tinged horror of “How to Talk to Girls at
Parties,” in which two randy teens crash the wrong bash; to the
love-conquers-all rapture of the poem “The Day the Saucers Came”; to the
movingly sad triumph over time in the flat-out sf entry, “Goliath.” Less loverly
but lovelier are such archromantic tidbits as 15 tiny stories for cards from “a
vampire tarot,” the council of the personified months in “October in the Chair,”
the bittersweet shape-shifting of the commedia dell’arte–derived “Harlequin
Valentine,” and all the other poems. One delight after another, 31 in all, with
a thirty-second tucked into the author’s introduction. ––Ray Olson

While the anonymous Kirkus one says,

FRAGILE THINGS: Short Fictions and Wonders
Author: Gaiman, Neil

Review Date: JULY 11, 2006
Pages: 320
Price (hardback): $26.95
Publication Date: 10/1/2006
ISBN: 0-06-051522-8
ISBN (hardback): 0-06-051522-8
Category: FICTION
Classification: FEATURE

"Neo-Goth-Pulp-Noir has pretty much been trademarked by Gaiman (Anansi Boys, 2005, etc.), and these 31 jagged slices of life and the afterlife dependably
deliver the damaged goods: zombies, dream-haunted kiddies, femmes fatale and

Reprising his role from American Gods (2001) as ex-con, taciturn
hunk, superhero and reincarnation of the Norse god Baldur, Shadow shakes things
up in "The Monarch of the Glen," battling a primeval beastie and romancing a
woodland nymph in the unlikely setting of a tycoon's get-together on the
Scottish heath. "Good Boys Deserve Favours" highlights a lonely lad's moony
passion for his double bass. "Strange Little Girls," penned to accompany a Tori
Amos CD, catalogues the Eternal Feminine from showgirls to Holocaust victims to
la belle dame sans merci. "October in the Chair" whimsically features the months
as characters. "A Study in Emerald" offers smart, nifty homage to Conan Doyle.
In "Harlequin Valentine," Missy the waitress chows down lovingly on the heart of
the motley-clad acrobat of the commedia dell'arte, but even that grisly feast is
rendered with swooning lyricism. Gaiman again proves himself a perverse
romantic, heir not only to Poe and Baudelaire but to the breathless
Pre-Raphaelites. (The poetry he includes here, for example, is generally less
creepy than drippy.) He wears his pop cred in boldface, and street-smart hipness
saturates these eerie epiphanies. But the collection also boasts lush prose, a
lack of irony and a winning faith in the enchantment of stories.Expect the
unexpected. Then savor the luscious chills.”

It's nice to learn that I'm a perverse romantic. Spread out all over the kitchen table in a drafty kitchen I was mostly worried that the collection of stories was all rather depressing.
Also nice to learn that I'm a neo-goth-pulp-noir author. Next time anyone asks me what kind of an author I am, I can finally tell them. I wonder if there are any other neo-goth-pulp-noir authors out there. We could form a society or something.

I think it's about 370 pages, not 320. Interesting that Booklist has it as SF/Fantasy. while Kirkus has just listed it as Fiction...

My guess is that the general content of the Fragile Things reviews will echo the ones Smoke and Mirrors got, eight years ago: there will be a general agreement that there are some good stories in the book and some not-so-good, but no agreement at all on which are which; and some people will be happy the poems are in there and some people won't (but as I point out in the introduction, the poems, like the introduction, come free with the book)(and what I don't say is that the overall vote from readers of this blog, when I asked you lot, was to keep them in).


Spent most of the day at Pinewood, watching Stardust stuff being filmed, and signing books for the crew.

Charles Vess arrives here in Pinewood tomorrow. I'm really looking forward to showing him around.

And I've learned that I'll be appearing on a STARDUST panel at the San Diego Comic-con, on Friday the 21st of July, in the early afternoon, presenting some footage and answering questions. Time pressure means I won't be at the con proper -- I'll just be swooping in, doing the panel and swooping out again. Not even sure if Paramount will have organised a signing or anything. The panel will definitely have me, writer Jane Goldman and producer Lorenzo Di Bonaventura on it, will very probably have Charles Vess on it, and may possibly have some of the actors depending on whether we need them to act on that Friday or not.


Almost a year ago I was having a wonderful time in the Philippines. Several good things came out of this, including a contest for fiction and comics...

The finalists -- eight short stories and eight comics -- are up at for you to read. I wasn't a judge, and I'm glad I wasn't, as choosing between them would have been difficult. There's some really good stuff there. The results will be announced on the 15th of July.