Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Night Before Hallowe'en...

An urgent message from Dave McKean, who is making a low-budget film called LUNA right now:

I urgently need 2 white paper origami crabs to appear in a scene in Luna, like this one:
if anyone is willing to make them and send them to the UK straight away, I can pay a small fee to cover time (or a signed drawing or book?), give them a name check in the final credits, and give them a fedex account number for shipping.

Go to the FAQ page if you're an Origami whizz (and I know there are Origami whizzes out there, as I get given amazing things at signings) and drop me a line, and I'll put you straight in touch with Dave. Who will probably soon be drowning in Origami crabs.

Went in to Hair Police today and saw Wendy who turned the strange messy mop that my hair had turned into into a rather nice haircut. From there to Dreamhaven where I signed lots of stuff for Elizabeth and the site, including a half a ton of Absolute Sandman Volume 2s. As I drove home Roger Avary called to let me know that he's reopening his website after a couple of years without one --

Then to Maddy's Parent Teacher conference. She's doing wonderfully at school, and got an impressive report card -- which, for the first time ever, she really had to work for, as she came to the UK for the Stardust premiere and having lost a week of schoolwork. (She's coming to LA with me for the Beowulf premiere, but is only missing one school day to do it.)

And then home. Opened the copy of Bust I'd picked up at DreamHaven (officially I get it for my assistant Lorraine, but I always read it first -- sort of like when I'd pick up a copy of Bunty for my sisters as a boy), and found myself staring at an unexpected advert for the Good Omens and Stardust scents from BPAL. Which reminded me that I had meant to congratulate the amazing Beth, who is the mind (and the nose) behind BPAL -- and a woman who has raised an enormous amount of money for the CBLDF this year -- on her wedding.

(And if you haven't looked at the CBLDF site recently -- -- Gordon Lee goes to trial on Monday. Finally. After three years, two completely different sets of "facts", and $80,000 in legal bills so far for something that should never have been a police matter in the first place... for the story so far.)

Lots and lots and lots and lots of emails from people telling me that Marmite can be found all over America, normally beside the baking supplies (probably because of the word Yeast). I don't think I'm going to need Marmite again for another couple of years now, but than you all for the info.

(first time question!)

I've just heard from a friend who was quite annoyed. He met this famous UK author while the author was doing research on his latest book - and the author used my friend's anecdote as quite a major plot device in the book. However, my friend wasn't asked for permission or acknowledged in any way.

Has this ever happened to you (in the opposite direction of course)? I'd think there'd be lots of stories you've been told bubbling in your mind, and sometimes you wouldn't even realize that a story has been told to you by someone else. Would you contact someone if you were using a story of theirs?

I try reasonably hard to credit people who helped (see the very long list of names at the back of American Gods) but find it hard to find fault with the author in question. Authors are packrats. If you tell us an anecdote -- unless you preface it with "I am about to tell you an amusing and/or interesting anecdote. Should you at some future time use it in a book you will need to contact me to obtain my permission, or at least credit me by name. I shall now tell you the anecdote and then give you my contact details in a form in which you won't lose them," -- then it's fair game. I think our attitude -- I don't speak for all of us, but enough -- is that if your friend thought his anecdote would have made a good book, he should have written it himself.

I don't know the names of the people who took me down the sewers or into the disused tube tunnels when I was doing Neverwhere, but their anecdotes certainly made it into the book. I didn't give the name of the financially dodgy agent whose interesting approach to paying over royalties inspired the character and behaviour of Graham Coats in Anansi Boys either (probably a wise move, that). And, as you say, very often you know someone told you that Mad King Ludwig of Bavaria obtained a doctor's note to get out of being married, but who it was or when has melted down in the compost heap in the back of your mind to the brown sludge of memory. It's like remembering jokes, and who told them to you. The shape is now there in your mind, and you know the punch line is "Two coffees and a choc ice," but how it entered your head is a mystery.

(And it's worth pointing out your friend might be wrong. I get letters sometimes from people saying "You got this from me." And the people who send the letters believe it, but it's not the case. I find myself replying "Actually, I wrote this four years before you wrote your story," or "I understand you think I got this from something you said. Actually the entire story was in this newspaper on this date, and that was where I got it from.")

Having said all that, I'm also really sympathetic to your friend. Many years ago I was on a panel where I said "I'm going to write a book called X," and no-one laughed longer or louder than the bloke next to me on the panel who, eleven months later, brought out a book with the title I'd mentioned. I was in a conversation with another author who mentioned being stuck on a plot thing, and I said "Oh, that's an easy one," and made a suggestion, and suggested a title for the book for good measure, and he said "I owe you lunch for that one," but I scanned the acknowledgements in vain looking for a thank you when the book came out, and didn't get a lunch out of it either. And conversely I have fuzzy warm feelings for all those people who wrote books and actually did say thank you, and used their acknowledgments to acknowledge.


After a long day, i got "your" love letter that the new york times sent out. It was rather funny and made me laugh a lot.(was even funnier trying to explain to my roomate that it wasnt a real love letter)Did you have anything to do with the writting of those love letter? Or did the new york times write them without the help of the varies authors? Do you know if every one got the same letter? Just curious, thanks.

Yes, everyone got the same letter (it's the UK Times, by the way, not the New York one). And yes, I wrote it. (Really, it's a short story.) The day before me people got one from Margaret Atwood. Today, I think it's Leonard Cohen. I think you can still sign up for the last three...


Finally -- this gave me a warm and happy smile....

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