Wednesday, February 28, 2007

the last last word

I thought that the last letter on libraries, censorship and suchlike was the last I was going to post up here, and that the subject was done. I was wrong. I think this is worth putting up here and although it's long, it's extremely worth reading. All the way through. Promise.

Dear Neil,

I'm sorry to send this undoubtedly self-indulgent
email to you, but I'm going to anyway...I forgive you
in advance if you have had it up the THERE with this
subject and absolve you of even the faintest hint of
obligation to read any further. :0)

That said...

I have some first hand experience in dealing with the
maelstrom that can engulf a library system when it is
targeted by a group of "concerned citizens" trying to
save children from books and the internet and ideas
information in general.

A decade ago, my library system had books on our
shelves with such scandalous titles as It's Perfectly
Normal: Changing Bodies, Growing Up, Sex, and Sexual
Health, Heather Has Two Mommies, and various titles on
witchcraft and other such dangerous ordnances. Several
"concerned citizens" began to check the books out and
not return them - in order to save someone else's
child from being infected by them.

At the same time, we (rather naively) introduced the
internet into our libraries thinking that it might be
A Good Thing. We did this just as we were trying to
pass an operating tax levy. The group turned its
attention from the books to the Internet and our
supposed pandering of porn to kids - though they
did not forget about the books, of course.

And, all hell broke loose. Our local group of
concerned citizens hooked up with the larger Christian
Coalition and made it their life's ambition to defeat
our operating levy - which would have crippled our
library system. They became amazingly organized
seemingly overnight with the help of the Coalition.

I walked out of our main branch one day to find
several van loads of people carrying picket signs and
descending on our building. There were many children
with the group and some of them were given picket
signs and sent out to rally cars driving by to "Honk
if you hate Library Porn" and "Unsafe for Kids". The
other picketing parents sent their kids into our
children's department for us to baby-sit for the next
several hours - while they tried to rally community
support against us. (The irony was not lost on us.)

Caught flat footed, our library system began to
scramble to try to deal with the situation. (The net
was very new to us and many of us were not as well
versed in it as we should have been.) We formed an
internal Internet Safety Task Force (belatedly, yes)
to figure out just what we, as a system, SHOULD be

One man in the group called in the local television
stations and showed up at our main branch and began
to ask children in the library about all the porn
that they were finding on our computers and asking
them to show him how to find it. When staff told him
that he could not ask the kids to do this, he
began to troll for porn himself in front of the
cameras (and kids) - going to a list of website
addresses that, as luck would have it, he had
memorized. The group was asked to leave as they were
creating a disruption.

It played out on the television news over the next
week under the usual lurid teasers with which the
local news has so much fun.

This same man began to show up at our staff building
entrances and hand out copies of porn that he had
downloaded from the net (at his house not at ours) to
staff exhorting them to resign "if they were true
Christians". He created a website and a newsletter
dedicated to the "overthrow of the library

Picketers began showing up at our bookmobile
locations, our other library branches, our Board of
Trustees meetings, etc. We actually had to stage a
public debate that drew several hundreds of people
where we allowed the concerned citizens and forum to
voice their concerns and tried to explain our
position. (We had come up with one by then.)

Our election yard signs began to disappear and be
replaced with "No Library Porn" signs.

We printed lots of informational materials re: our
policies of internet access (we created a children's
website for some of the computes that defaulted to
yahooligans, we filtered a few comps - but left it up
to the patron to decide if he or she wanted to use
that one (yes, even the kids), we came up with what we
think is a fair policy for public computer use (yes,
we did decide not to allow "porn" via library comps -
we basically limited nips and crotches - yes, these
were strange meetings to be in for a bunch of
librarians),we encouraged parents to go to the library
WITH their children instead of just dropping them off,
we held internet safety training sessions for patrons
of all ages, we talked and talked and talked to our
patrons. And, many people "got it".

But, some didn't...several of our staff had the gut
wrenching experience of sitting through religious
services while the pastor or priest condemned the
library and all the library staff for "not protecting
children" and told the congregation to "send them a
message, vote down the library levy."

Others of us found ourselves sitting in dentists'
chairs with our mouths propped open or wearing paper
gowns at doctors' offices and listening to these
professionals asking us why we wouldn't protect
children. This didn't just happen to those of use
holding an MLS who had had a bit of training on how to
handle such things...this happened to all of us from
the youngest pages up to the secretaries in our main
office to our elderly payroll lady.

Every single staff received a letter at our homes
telling us that if we continued to work for such a
godless organization, we would go to hell. Even our
children were questioned at school by their teachers!

It was like the world was burning...

At the same time, we came under intense scrutiny from
the larger library community. We were condemned by
some for "caving" when we gave patrons the option of
using a filtered machine and applauded by some for
finding a workable compromise. Most, I think, tucked
their heads down and were very happy that it wasn't
them...many learned from the things that we had done
wrong - and right. So did we.

And...we got through it...our levy didn't fail (and,
in fact, a few years later, we passed a 42 million
dollar bond issue to build new libraries and improve
the ones that we have). We figured out an internet
policy that works for our system and our rather rural,
small town communities - Amish patrons mingle with
soccer moms and business people, and old school
farmers, while still supporting intellectual freedom.

The Christian Coalition got distracted by something
else and our local concerned citizens group burned
itself out and drifted away.

We won ALA's Library of the Year award the next year
and for the past five years, have placed in the top
five libraries in the country for our size. We did
programs at ALA national and regional conferences so
that other libraries could learn from our experience.

And, we keep ordering replacement copies of It's
Perfectly Normal, and books about Wicca and
graphic novels and whatever else...and, yes, we did
order The Higher Power of Lucky and expect many copies
to arrive at any moment. Hell...we are even getting
the audio.

I wouldn't wish our experience on my worst enemy, does help to put things into perspective.

We are not special. We are just ordinary library
people. We are human - we falter and stand up again.
We learn and do better the next time. There are
thousands of us all over the country - all over the
world. And, we are just doing our job, because
defending intellectual freedom is just as much a part
of our job as reading to third graders and helping
people find American Gods on CD.

We will not trade our ideals for what is easy and
"practical". We will not trade them for a single
word. Our eyes are open and it takes more than an
abused scrotum to make us blink.

I thank you for your indulgence and your patience and
your kind words re: libraries and librarians in the
past. Being a librarian trumps *almost* every other
job in the world - if you ever get tired of writing (I
think that only one that trumps librarian-ing) come on
over - you'd be welcome in the cult...uh...I mean
professon. :0)

Be well!

Lynn Wiandt
Manager, Seville Community Library
Medina County District Library (Ohio)

Here is one of my favorite quotes about librianship.
It is from a novel by Larry Beinhart called "The

"Librarians don't make a lot of money, more than
but not so much, say, as your more successful
panhandlers, so our ideals are important to us and the
love of books and the love of knowledge and the love
of truth and free information and letting people
discover things for themselves and let them, oh, read
romance novels or detective novels, whatever they
want, and giving poor people internet access."

To which there is nothing at all that I can add.


Does the Magnificent Oracular 8-Ball wossname update itself for your new journal entries, or does it only contain the words you put in it at the time of its conception?

Having no idea, I asked the 8 Ball's creator, Dan Guy, who said, Yes. There's not even any caching involved so there's no delay in new posts feeding it.

It picks a random month from the archive (plus the current month), then
a random entry, then a random sentence.

... which, for all his brilliance, goes to show how much he knows. Random indeed. Obviously, it picks the correct and necessary sentence by means as yet not understood by mere mortals...

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Monday, February 26, 2007


I know what you're wondering. You're wondering, "Who is Fangirl magazine's Fangirl of the Year?" aren't you? Well, wonder no more. Simply by clicking on you will learn the truth. (No, it's not me. Oh, you knew that already.) (But I nominated the winner, and so feel vaguely proud...)

There's a new story by Susanna Clarke on BBC7 Radio called "The Dweller in High Places". It can be heard on internet streaming at - or it can be played directly in a RealAudio player from

The BBC usually keeps shows up for a week, so we've only got another six days to listen it...

Hullo, Neil. I know you're busy and I need to go scrape about 1/4 of an inch of ice of my car (you really didn't get any sleet up there?) so i'll make this quick. I know you already said that the whole 'Gaiman-is-writing-Silent-Hill-2' thing was just a rumor and you are, in fact, not. Is that still the case? IMDB now has you listed on the Silent Hill 2 page as a writer alongside Christophe Gans. Here's a link. I sincerely hope that this isn't true. And if it is... Well, if anyone can fix the atrocity that was Silent Hill (no joke was intended there) it's you.Logan M. G.

IMDB is a very odd sort of thing, and it doesn't really always bear a lot of resemblance to reality. Like most of the internet, it's useful and often correct, but not actually reliable. Anyway, yes, it's up there that I'm doing it, and no, of course I'm not. The really odd bit is that, despite listing me, they also have an FAQ on that same IMDB page which says that I'm not involved and concludes,
The rumor stems from a mistranslation on a Silent Hill Fan Site, in which Gans actually said Roger Avary would be returning to write the script for Silent Hill 2 when he was finished with "his project with his friend Neil Gaiman". Gans was refering to Beowulf.

(Actually I think Mr Gans was probably referring to Black Hole. But he might have been referring to Beowulf.)

Dear Neil,I was just reading your latest post and I could not help thinking that your "Because even lousy miracles are still miracles" would make a great prompt for a story. In fact I went further and thought that possibly the whole of your marvelous divination machine could be used as a prompt generator for a writing group.Would you mind awfully if it was used that way ?Thanks for all the words. Nathalie

As long as the powers of the oracular wossname are being used only for good, I'm quite happy with it being used in any way you wish. And I checked with the Oracle itself, and it said "Which probably isn't there any more anyway" which I think speaks for itself.

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Snow shovelling...

Neil, As a fellow Midwesterner, I also watched and waited for the: "Storm of the year" to strike us this weekend. My concerns however were laid to rest after reading your journal, and the prediction you made that it would in fact, not happen.When my wife reminded me that I needed to refill the gas can for the snow-blower, I assured her that it would not be needed as "Neil says it won't happen." My wife not having any faith at all in the Power of Gaiman, rolled her eyes but said nothing else about it.I'm sure you can imagine my surprise when mother nature dumped a foot of snow on us just as the weather man had said.This morning, As I pulled on my heavy coat, and prepared to walk to the filling station to fill my can, my wife patted me on the back and said: "You need to tell Neil that he is full of shit." and so here I am doing just that. Eric

Mea culpa. I went and checked with the Oracular Divination Machine, and it said "Because even lousy miracles are still miracles". I think we all need to ponder that.

Back in England I used to puzzle over my (American) wife's tendency to believe in weather forecasts, and to act on whatever information she was given, because the weather in the British Isles does whatever it's going to do with no regard to or respect for weather forecasters, and mostly what they tell you you can also learn by looking out of the window. I don't think I'll ever get used to the American system of more or less functional weather forecasting (much of which seems to consist of seeing what the weather was doing yesterday to the West of you).

If it's any consolation, I also had to do a fair amount of snow-shovelling yesterday, most of it while being harassed by Fred the cat, who seemed to think it was my fault too.

Hello Neil,

Here a question from the Netherlands (i say this now because it is very important for my question). I noticed you have posted dates and locations for an European tour, and I was wondering, and many people with me i think, why you don't come to (continental) europe more often. Is it because your comics/books are selling less? or because of some 'logistical' problems involved with the multitude of translations of your work?
Well, i would understand if you won't visit the Netherlands...But maybe you'll come over to france/belgium/germany more often? cause maybe i have the chance to pop over the border then (which i sadly don't have when you are in Hamburg.. i already checked). (oh and by the way: you should visit Holland with, or without a tour as excuse... a great little country i dare say)
sincerely, Jaap

It's time. I've done, what, four or five big European tours and events since I've been doing this blog. And they take time -- in 2003 and 2004 I spent probably a total of three months signing and talking and doing events in continental Europe and Scandinavia -- and they also take an astonishing amount of organisation, mostly because if I'm going to cross the Atlantic it makes sense to do more than one country, and often it depends, as you've guessed, on what works for the publication schedules of the publishers in each country that wants me. Getting everyone to publish Coraline at roughly the same time in 2003 was hard...

Truth to tell, the Netherlands isn't very high on the "I have to get there and sign again" list only because I've done several events and signings in the Netherlands in the last ten years, whereas there are lots of countries that have asked me to visit that I've never been to at all. (Turkey, for example, and all the Eastern European countries except Croatia, where I signed in 2003. And I've never signed in Iceland. And then there's China and Hong Kong...)

We'll see what happens later in the year when the Stardust film comes out (August in the US, October in the rest of the world) -- I may find myself visiting a number of different countries for that. But they may well be interview visits and not signings. We'll see...


Finally, over at Joyce Hatto's husband has confessed, and offered the most humane version of the story possible. I'm not sure that I believe it, but, as I said yesterday when I listed it as a possibility, it makes the best story. This'll be a movie within the next few years, I have no doubt, and Jim Broadbent will probably be playing Mr Barrington-Coupe...

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Sunday, February 25, 2007

Smelling For Good

Just a little note to thank everyone who's bought any of the American Gods or Anansi Boys related scents from Black Phoenix Alchemy labs -- Beth is sending off a cheque for over $6,000 to the CBLDF.

Terry Pratchett and I have just agreed to allow BPAL to do a set of Good Omens scents, the money to be divided between freedom of speech and orang utans. Terry also thinks the Agnes Nutter scent should have gunpowder in it...

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Saturday, February 24, 2007

A Special Obligation...

The storm of the year dumped some snow on us, and made driving a little treacherous. We missed the ice and sleet here, though, and didn't get any hail. Still, there's a foot of snow outside my window that wasn't there before, and it now looks rather beautiful, and we're due for more today.

I tend not to run this blog as a debate, because if I do I win, because I get the last word. Still, I tend to feel that articulate opposing points of view need to be represented. Either way, this is the final post for now on librarians and what they do or don't do...

"surely saying "It won the Newbery Medal. We order the books that do that. It's been the most respected guide to quality children's literature since 1922," would fend off most threats to a school librarian's job... wouldn't it?"

I'm sorry, but are you being deliberately disingenuous? Do you understand that the competition for librarian positions (which are notoriously low-paying, and therefore done for the love of the work) is incredibly tight? Losing your job as a librarian doesn't mean you go work in the library next-town-over; it often means you have to move to another state to take a lower-paying job.

Do you seriously believe that waving the Newberry Award around is going to dissuade the uptight right-wing parent who will make waves at every PTA meeting and harass their school superintendent and congressman until something is done?

Librarians are working-class people who have to do, frankly, an incredible amount of work -- much more than the public ever sees -- for a pitiable amount of money. Maybe it's hard for you to remember, Neil, but sometimes people who don't have a lot of money make sacrifices to keep their jobs. Is it awful that they don't feel like standing up for this book or that book would achieve anything other than the loss of their jobs? Of course. But it's not a hypothetical. It's real life.

It's easy for you to take a stand. You're influential, you're well-off, you know there's another job available whenever you want. Sometimes people have to be practical. It sucks, but it's true.

- Jamie

Well, twenty years ago, when I was younger, quite poor, had two small children and a mortgage, I quit the best job I'd had to that point -- writing for a national UK paper -- because I didn't want to write a front page article that editorial had concocted that was obviously untrue. Which was the end of my career as a journalist, really, and which I mention not to claim any kind of moral high ground, or because I was perfectly willing to take a stand when I wasn't influential or rich, but because it wasn't considered, by me or by anyone I knew, anything particularly special. Just as it wasn't considered special when friends of mine who wrote or drew comics stopped working for a title or a publisher because of something they believed, often with severe financial consequences. In truth, most of the people I've run into over the years, people for the most part neither famous nor rich nor influential, were perfectly capable of taking a stand for the things they believed in, and they did and they do.

Truth to tell, on reading this email, my respect for the very few librarians who declined to have The Higher Power of Lucky in their libraries because they felt it was somehow inappropriate went up, not down. I'd rather spend time with them, with people who have an unpopular view that they believe in and who are willing to stand up for it, than with some hypothetical beleaguered souls who are too scared of being fired for offending someone to order books they truly felt they should have in their libraries, and are now too scared of being fired or the spectres of hypothetical congressmen to say anything about it.

Do I believe that "waving the Newberry Award around is going to dissuade the uptight right-wing parent who will make waves at every PTA meeting and harass their school superintendent and congressman until something is done?" Not at all. But I believe that winning the Newbery, the most respected children's literary award in America, probably in the world, puts the onus on the dissenting parent to prove his or her case, and that it would be a foolhardy school board who would try and fire a librarian for having ordered it. And I also believe that the ALA Code of Ethics is something that the majority of librarians actually mean and subscribe to.

It says, in the preamble, that In a political system grounded in an informed citizenry, we are members of a profession explicitly committed to intellectual freedom and the freedom of access to information. We have a special obligation to ensure the free flow of information and ideas to present and future generations.

When I say that my love for librarians is unconditional, it's because of statements like that. I'm not saying that librarians can't or shouldn't make decisions about what books they have or don't have on their shelves, or that the surrounding community, what it is and what it reads, shouldn't play a part in those decisions. Obviously they make those decisions all the time, and they should. Space is limited, and choices need to be made. But not out of fear.


I've been following the Joyce Hatto case with a certain fascination, and mention it here only because everyone I've said "Joyce Hatto case" to in the last few days has given me a blank look. So, for those of you who missed it...

Joyce Hatto was an English classical pianist who retired from public life in 1976, fighting cancer. She lived for another thirty years, and in the last decade of her life she would release over a hundred recordings on her husband's small CD label which made her a cult figure, and an inspirational one: she covered the work of an amazing range of composers with sensitivity and brilliance and remarkable technique. When she died she was praised by obituarists as "a national treasure".

And then she was busted by iTunes.

Several days ago, another Gramophone critic was contacted by a reader who had put a Hatto Liszt CD – the 12 Transcendental Studies – into his computer to listen to, and something awfully strange happened. His computer's player identified the disc as, yes, the Liszts, but not a Hatto recording. Instead, his display suggested that the disc was one on BIS Records, by the pianist Lászlo Simon. Mystified, our critic checked his Hatto disc against the actual Simon recording, and to his amazement they sounded exactly the same.

In then went a recording of Hatto playing two Rachmaninov Piano Concertos and, sure enough, his computer's CD player listed it as another – by Yefim Bronfman, conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen, on Sony. Again, the critic compared, and again he could hear no difference.

Gramophone then sent the Hatto and the Simon Liszt recordings to an audio expert, Pristine Audio’s Andrew Rose, who scientifically checked the soundwaves of each recording. They matched.

and the ripples of the story kept widening. Over at her Wikipedia page they've identified over twenty of her recordings, with more coming in. is keeping track of the story, article by article. Hatto's husband asserts in this interview that his wife's recordings are genuine, but doesn't produce any hard evidence that she recorded them, or produce anything other than a feeling of unease. And I wonder most about the motive, which is why it's a story. Was Hatto complicit in the fraud? (Probably.) Were they doing it to create a reputation for her? (Probably.) Was her husband trying to spare her feelings about how good she actually was by releasing other people's recordings as hers, while she thought they were hers? (Probably not, but it's a nice story.) Would she have been busted in the pre-computer days (eventually, but I suspect it would have taken much longer, and it would have been a matter of debate rather than an easy open-and-shut case -- look at this visual representation of the work.)

And I am only certain that, as with anything with people in it, we'll never know the complete truth...

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Friday, February 23, 2007

Several dates. Also some places.

I'm starting to put together my movements on the German, Polish and French micro-tour in March. This is assembled from a few different emails, and obviously needs more data, but I thought it might be a good thing for Europeans if I got the word out early:

March 16th, 7:30 pm
Toyota Autohaus Yvel, Raderberggürtel 4
Literature Festival "Lit.COLOGNE"

Sunday 18th. 16.00 -19.00 booksigning at EMPiK Rynek Główny

Monday 19th. 17.00-19.00 booksigning at EMPIK Nowy Swiat

March 21st, 8:15 pm
Thalia Bookstore, Europapassage, Ballindamm 40

March 22nd -

1:00pm - Book Fair
9:00 pm SPIZZ - Jazz & Music Club, Markt 9

Friday, March 23rd from 17h00 to 20h00
Saturday, March 24th from 17h00 to 20h00.

Signing at Salon du Livre, Porte de Versailles, 75015 Paris; Au Diable Vauvert stand #H148

When I'm sure that this is all there is, and I've got all the relevant phone numbers and so on, I'll put it up on Where's Neil (the amazing new, improved and plugged into Google Calendar version of Where's Neil).


Incidentally, Hera-from-Iceland is going to be playing at the SXSW Festival ( And then she's coming out here to play a gig with Lorraine at Charlie's in Stillwater, MN, on Sunday March 11th.( for details). I'm hoping I'm in town and able to make it to see them.

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Thursday, February 22, 2007

Will no-one help the widow's raccoon?

Let's see. Recently I've written an introduction to a book on The Twilight Zone, and am currently doing my editorial pass on the galleys of INTERWORLD, a young adult book that Michael Reaves and I wrote some years ago that we're currently bringing out of mothballs, dusting off and sending to meet the nice people.

I also got swept up in a small adventure that turned me into a giddy twelve-year-old comics fan, and about which I shall say nothing more until the time is right. And possibly not even then. It was all Jonathan Ross's fault, anyway.

And now the weather forecasters are predicting the mother of all winter storms for us in the midwest this weekend. Ten inches of snow. Freezing rain. An ice storm. Everyone is making contingency plans and buying several months' suppies of toilet paper, and I'm being English and am convinced it won't happen. Interesting weather almost never does, not when they say it will.

This just came in from Charles Vess, who wonders if any of you have any of the STARDUST art he's looking for...

From Charles Vess:

From June until September of this year I'll be mounting an exhibition
of my Stardust art at the the William King Regional Art Museum in their
premium exhibition space.

A LOT of people will be seeing the exhibition and I want to put my best
'face' forward. So I'm looking for various pieces of Stardust original
art that I've sold over the years and would like to borrow that art back
for this show. The names of the donors will be included in various
publications concerning the exhibit as well as being on the identifying
labels themselves.

In particular I'm looking for these full page illustrations:

(All page numbers refer to the trade paperback edition)

1. (page 46) The couple on the hill (with the Village of Wall in the background)
beside a tree looking up at the falling star.

2. (page 52) Tristran in his bowler hat entering the deep woods surrounded by
various fairy types.

3.Cover art to mini #2 with all of the Lords of Stormhold floating in
the air around the dark rocks of Stormhold.

4.(Pg #96 -97) The two pages of multiple panels with Tristran's first candle walk
between worlds.

5.(Pg #104)Tristran and Yvaine walking in the wood. She has a crutch.
6.Tris and Yvaine riding the unicorn through woods with gnarly
creatures in the fore ground.

7..(Pg #161) Small figures of Tris and Yvaine looking up as galleon passes
through golden clouds above them.

8. ( Pg #188)Tris passed out on ground w/ Yvaine sitting beside him. A dark
haired woman (his mother) stands above him. Red goblin creatures frolic
in the fore ground tree limbs.

9.( Pg #193)Tris in a sitting room w/ Victoria Foster surrounded by nick nacks
and green men. A cat sits on the rug beside him.

10.( Pg #205) Yvaine gives Tris the medallion. Dark haired Mom looks on. The air
around them is filled with all manner of people and beasties.

11. ( Pg #209) Looking down at the fair w/ the Village of Wall off to the left.
Very small figures of Tris and Yvaine walk off thru the field. In the
far distance the mountains of Stromhold rise w/ Flying Galleon beside them.

12. (Pg #213) Last piece in the book. Colored pencil on black paper. Yvaine
stands amidst dark stones and raises her arms towards her 'sisters' that
dance through the night time sky above her.

Here's my e-mail if you have any information on the location of these




The previous post drew a lot of responses -- most of them agreeing with me. A few articulately disagreeing, and I thought I'd post a couple of them....

Mr. Gaiman-

If I may, a few comments about today’s posting about the appearance of the word “Scrotum” in the children’s book.

1. A few librarians in this NY Times article were quoted out of context from e-mails taken from LM_NET, a listserv for school librarians. In fact, LM_NET postings are subject to copyright and librarians were not contacted by the Times in response to their quotes.
2. All librarians are not tight-bunned, tight-assed “Shh-ing” maniacs. (I know, I am one—a librarian, that is, not tight-assed.)
3. Given the current climate of education in the US, you can’t blame a public (or private) school librarian for being incredibly sensitive to this issue. Unfortunately, we live in a period where it’s easier to throw away books and tell kids to “just google it” rather than keeping librarians on-staff. Each of us fights for our credibility and necessity every day. One conflict with a prominent community-member over (an admittedly) ridiculous matter such as this can end a career, as it’s easier to drop a staff member’s salary than fight a legal battle over censorship. While there are those of us who are willing to throw our chins out and fight, there are many battle-scarred vets of the library wars who have been cowed by the system and will quietly drop it rather than fight anymore. The public school librarian is fighting to keep of the endangered species list.

While I’ve been an ardent fan of yours, I could not let today’s journal slide without some commentary.


Harry F. Coffill
Library Media Specialist
East Grand Rapids Middle School

I'm afraid that just because something is "copyright" it doesn't mean it can't be quoted. It can. It's called Fair Use. And I don't see why the Times would have to contact the people about their quotes -- if it's written down, that's all you'd have to show the fact-checker, if there is such a thing... Once you've said it, it's out there. (This blog is copyright me. Doesn't mean it doesn't get quoted, or that I'm consulted about it when it is. Here's an example of one time it happened. If you're going to say something in a semi-public forum, you're quotable, or misquotable, and that's just how it is.)

Hey Neil,

Speaking as a librarian, I happily bask in your general approbation.

Speaking as a librarian, I detest the idea of censorship, and the thought of choosing not to purchase a Newberry-winning book simply because of a single word.

Speaking as a librarian, I must also point out that the issue is, unfortunately, perhaps a bit more complicated than that, and that referring to those librarians who choose not to buy the book as "rogues" who've gone over to the dark side is likely to be an unfair oversimplification, at least in some cases.

Are there prudish librarians who have knee-jerk reactions to "bad language" and "inappropriate content?" Of course. We're only human, and therefore only flawed.

However, in many cases...using, as an example, the librarian cited as saying that SADLY, they will not be purchasing the is likely NOT the librarian's own personal choice or even preference to exclude this book from their collection, but is the decision of the library director, library board, or school itself, based upon community outcry and patron pressure. In many cases of books being challenged, the challenge never goes as far as a banning. However, there are still cases in which otherwise excellent books are banned due to some small piece of "questionable" content. Don't forget, one of the most challenged and banned authors of all time is Judy Blume, the author of well-beloved, classic, but very frank (and therefore "dangerous"), children's and young adult books.

Librarians, as much as anyone and everyone else in this country, are subject to mob rule at times, and are always always subject to the workings of bureaucracy and politics. It's sad, but it's true.

...which I understand, but both of which emails leave me thinking that surely saying "It won the Newbery Medal. We order the books that do that. It's been the most respected guide to quality children's literature since 1922," would fend off most threats to a school librarian's job... wouldn't it?

Ah well. My next children's book, the one I'm currently writing, is very unlikely to have any rude words in it at all, but people I've read the first few pages to tend to look at me with a concerned sort of look and say "Is this really a children's book? I mean it's scary and then that stuff..." and I say yes, and I'm sorry but that's how the book goes and there's nothing I can do about it. Of course there is -- I could cut it out and write a book that wasn't as good. And I can hope that anyone who gets past the first couple of pages will find it very hard to put down. I can hope. But I'd understand any school librarian who was worried.

And I also got this from the "Higher Power of Lucky" post, which made me smile...

Hey there, Neil.
I illustrated "The Higher Power of Lucky" (although it didn't occur to me to provide a picture for the minor scrotum incident). Thanks for weighing in on the whole kerfuffle. Coincidentally, I read "Endless Nights" yesterday, absolutely loved it, and made some sketches this morning which I posted on my blog:
I'm also a Writers House client, so maybe I'll see you at some swanky cocktail reception sometime (if they even have such things).All the best,matt phelan

Well worth checking out Matt's cool artblog, if just for the masonic raccoon... And alas, while I have been a client of Writer's House for almost 20 years, I've never been to a swanky cocktail reception there yet (although they once threw a lovely bash with nibbly bits at the Franfurt bookfair for all my foreign publishers).


I get a lot of appeals for good causes in and I long ago sighed and decided that I can't post all of them. But this one has camels in it...

Not a question, so much as a request. There is an amazing thing going on in Kenya involving librarians, generosity, and of course, camels. The link is if you could post it for the fabulous readers of this blog. If you have already mentioned it, I apologize. It's been awhile since I've visited, although now I seem to have spent about 3 hours reading past posts. Damn.

Beth (librarian in training, who, for the record, is perfectly happy about the word scrotum in any book)

consider it posted. And I'll see if I can't put together a bunch of books for the camel library...

And finally, another article from Nerve's comics issue. This one's about the Gordon Lee case and the CBLDF. I've written about it here before -- I've been writing about it for years. But if you've missed it, or you thought it was over...

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Tuesday, February 20, 2007

An Absence of Scrota -- your guide to quality literature...

In the latter half of March I am going to be in Germany, France and Poland, doing readings and signings and things. Details to come very soon.


So normally my love for librarians is unconditional, but recently I find myself inserting a sort of a "but..." in there. In this case it's "But I wish some of them didn't have such a problem with dog's scrotums... or do I mean scrota?"

Then again, I'm English, a country in which "the dog's bollocks" is an expression of approbation and unconditional approval.

There's a book with a dog getting bitten on the scrotum by a rattlesnake in it. It's called The Higher Power of Lucky and is by Susan Patron. It just won the Newbery Award.

According to the New York Times,

“I think it’s a good case of an author not realizing her audience,” said Frederick Muller, a librarian at Halsted Middle School in Newton, N.J. “If I were a third- or fourth-grade teacher, I wouldn’t want to have to explain that.”

Authors of children’s books sometimes sneak in a single touchy word or paragraph, leaving librarians to choose whether to ban an entire book over one offending phrase.

In the case of “Lucky,” some of them take no chances. Wendy Stoll, a librarian at Smyrna Elementary in Louisville, Ky., wrote on the LM_Net mailing list that she would not stock the book. Andrea Koch, the librarian at French Road Elementary School in Brighton, N.Y., said she anticipated angry calls from parents if she ordered it. “I don’t think our teachers, or myself, want to do that vocabulary lesson,” she said in an interview. One librarian who responded to Ms. Nilsson’s posting on LM_Net said only: “Sad to say, I didn’t order it for either of my schools, based on ‘the word.’

and it concludes...

Ms. Nilsson, reached at Sunnyside Elementary School in Durango, Colo., said she had heard from dozens of librarians who agreed with her stance. “I don’t want to start an issue about censorship,” she said. “But you won’t find men’s genitalia in quality literature.”

leaving me wondering what tmen's genitalia have to do with a dog's bollocks, and whether the lady in question has actually read the book she's trying to stamp out.

I've decided that librarians who would decline to have a Newbery book in their libraries because they don't like the word scrotum are probably not real librarians (whom I still love unconditionally). I think they're rogue librarians who have gone over to the dark side.

Still, I'm glad that there's finally a solid rule of thumb guide to what's quality literature and what isn't.

Helpfully, over at you will find a list of books for the young, probably already in the libraries, with scrota (or even scrotums) in them. This is probably provided for rogue librarians who now need to hunt these books down and remove them, scrotums and all.


Hey, is that Jane Goldman as in the-woman-Jonathan-Ross-is-lucky-enough-to-be-married-to Jane Goldman?Fancy that. Many new connections are thus revealed...

Same Jane. It's a small world.

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Monday, February 19, 2007

Sacheverell. Saccheveral. Sachevarall. Sod it.

Dear Neil,
If somebody does answer your question regarding nftcd will you post it on your journal please? It's messing with my mind and freaking me out a bit. The only thing that I can say, is that it reminds me of the once official donnie darko film site (which is sadly now defunct as I have just discovered) which explained the film by working through riddles in flash. Anybody who has visited it remembers it as peculiar. But certainly not as peculiar as this
Many thanks,

Yes, Anastasia. But are you sure you want to know...?

It is the mystery that lingers, and not the explanation,
as I had Cain say, quoting Sacheverell Sitwell. I've probably misspelled Sacheverell, but frankly I think it's the kind of name that, if you make a good stab it it, you should be awarded points for effort, and it's not like all the Sacheverells in the world are immediately going to write in and complain...

Anyway, for Anastasia and for everyone else who wondered... I've often said that you lot know everything, and several people immediately wrote to me to say things like,

In answer to your question:

Which is a good explanation, but somehow less satisfying than my idea that by clicking on these things we were powering a hellish device made of owls and body parts in an alternate London....

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Small ponder on mysteries...

What is ? Why did Hayley Campbell send it to me? I keep playing with it, and I am no nearer to answers, if such things can exist in this context, than I was when I started playing (if, indeed, it was playing, and not powering some diabolical and infernal device...)

Someone kindly sent me a graphical representation of what happened when you lot ganged up on and googlebombed Penn Jillette last month...


There's lots of Stardust news over at FOEM -- -- and you can write in and ask flame-haired scribe (and producer of The Big Fat Quiz of the Year) Jane Goldman your Stardust Movie questions.

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Sunday, February 18, 2007

Year of the Pig

Happy Year of the Pig, to all of us.

Pigs, I learned as a boy, reading books, especially young pigs, are loveable, brave, noble and intelligent animals who have adventures.

I hope this year you get to be brave and noble and intelligent. But mostly I hope you get to have adventures.

(As G. K. Chesterton once said, An inconvenience is an adventure wrongly considered. An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered... )

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Friday, February 16, 2007

Cale. Mckean. Cat. Bag.

Dave McKean has just done the cover for the new John Cale boxed set. I feel vaguely paternal about this, because many years ago I got a phone call from John Cale, rather out of the blue, asking if I could suggest an artist for his autobiography, and after he listed all the things he wanted the artist to do, I said "You need Dave McKean" and gave him Dave's phone number. (I told him that if Dave couldn't do it, I'd figure out four or five different artists to do what he wanted done.) But Dave did it, and then John did the narration for Dave's film Neon, and now Dave's done the cover for the Cale boxed set -- a cover that contains references visually to John's entire magnificent career. (I am big John Cale fan, I should add, and Fragments of a Rainy Season would be one of my Desert Island CDs.)

In addition to painting the cover, Dave's also recorded a sort of artist's commentary on the painting and on John. If you head over to and you click on the painting (or just nip over to you will learn much about art, and Mr Cale, and Dave, and be amused besides because he's very funny. (And it's worth it, frankly, just to hear Dave McKean saying "Shiny, shiny, shiny boots of leather...")

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Thursday, February 15, 2007

Worth waiting for...

In 1985 or 1986, watching my son Mike wheel his tricycle around the graveyard next door to our house that we used because we didn't have a garden, I thought of an idea for a story about a small boy who wandered into a graveyard and was raised by dead people. Then, deciding I wasn't a good enough writer, I didn't write it.

Over the years I'd pick up a scrap of paper and try to write a scene from near the beginning, conclude I wasn't good enough yet, and put it aside.

Recently I came to the conclusion that I wasn't getting any better. So I wrote a short story called "The Witch's Headstone", which will probably be chapter 4 or 5 of the book.

And today I finished writing Chapter One of The Graveyard Book, and it's a real book. I know it's a real book because there are all sorts of things I don't quite know yet, and I can't wait to find them out.


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Wednesday, February 14, 2007


You know, the readers of this blog, between you all, know everything. Last year I posted about Joe Hill saying
One of my favourite short stories from last year was called "Best New Horror" by an author I'd not previously heard of named Joe Hill, in PS publishing"s Postscripts #3. His website's , and I just noticed that he has a collection out, 20th Century Ghosts. I don't have much time for reading currently, but I'm going to order a copy.
and the next morning I got an email from someone named Jeff saying,
Thanks for your post on Joe Hill yesterday. It happened to be the other half of a coincidence that gave me a fun few minutes of detective work on the web. Perhaps you knew this already and were being coy, but it turns out Hill is actually Joe Hill King and his parents are backwoods Maine hermits who have dabbled in the writing game themselves from time to time.

See, I came home late with a copy of the new Entertainment Weekly and, working from the back, read Stephen King's latest essay wherein he gave a shout-out to a friend of his kids' named Shane Leonard. Good for him. Then I came upstairs to peruse a few blogs, clicked on the Hill link you provided and somewhere on there spotted a nod to Hill's web master -- a guy named Shane Leonard...

Like I say, between you, you people know everything, or you figure it out. It was something that, now I knew it, I decided not to remember or to mention here -- mostly because I could see why Joe was doing it under his own steam, and I thought that was a good thing. I was pleased I'd liked the story first, before realising that the author was the nice young man I'd met at the Season of Mists signing in Boston, fourteen years earlier.

Anyway, I loved Twentieth Century Ghosts, and was then very surprised by Heart-Shaped Box, which I had expected to be quiet and literary, like the short stories, and was instead a terrific roller coaster, almost impossible to stop reading. I loved it, took pleasure in blurbing it, and was extremely pleased to see this New York Times review by Janet Maslin who seems to have enjoyed it just as much as I did.

I see from his website -- -- that he's now, as of yesterday -- on an author signing tour. Go and see him if he's coming near you. Tell him I said Hi.

(So far this year, my favourite book is Diana Wynne Jones's The Pinhoe Egg. It's the nearest thing to a sequel to Charmed Lives she's written -- a Chrestomanci novel with Cat in it, and a lot more besides. The sort of book that makes you sad on page 400 because you only have a hundred pages to go and then it'll be done.)

Dear Neil;

Furtherto your comments on "The Land of Green Ginger", I remember seeing it televised in the late '50s. I searched the IMDB and it was Episode 6 of Season 1 of "Shirley Temple's Storybook" shown 18 April 1958. Each episode of the series dramatized a (usually) well known fairy/Arabian Nights/fantasy story. I really can't actually remember the episodes but I do remember the longing for the next episode in the series.


Paul Burrows

Oddly enough, some years ago I bought the video from someone on eBay. It was an odd sort of thing, not really funny, not quite sure what it was, and I wondered if it was the experience of working on it that sent Langley back to the material for what became the 1965 edition of the book, which is much sharper and more knowing and odd. It is out there, and probably pretty soon it'll probably show up on YouTube.


This came in from a very happy Elizabeth, the manager at DreamHaven...

42 orders so far. Your fans rock! You can tell them I said so. Also that we will fill orders as fast as possible, but there may be some delay, because the manager is now teary-eyed and it slows down her typing.


I'm as grateful as she is.

...and right now I find myself playing, over and over, "When My Ship Comes In" a piece of music I found on the Fabulist, by the North Atlantic Explorers.

And over at, is the North Atlantic Explorers cover of Lloyd Cole's "I Will Not Leave You Alone", which is a perfect Valentine's Day sort of a song, if you wanted one. (My very favourite Valentine song is probably Thea Gilmore's "Holding Your Hand" but I couldn't find it up online, so I am not linking to it.)

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Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Psst. Dreamhaven. Pass it on...

I've been a fan of DreamHaven Books in Minneapolis for over fifteen years, probably since Terry Pratchett and I did our first signing there for Good Omens (had I signed there before? I think so, but I can't remember. I first met owner Greg Ketter in 1987, on a train from Brighton to London, though). I like Greg Ketter and the staff, I love getting my books there (they have things I never see anywhere else that I WANT. I'm sure that lots of bookshops sell the annotated archy and mehitabel, but if I walk into DreamHaven something like that is the first thing I see. Happiness).

A few years ago I gave them, which I had, as a storefront, mostly because I got tired of replying to people who wanted to know where they could buy something -- anything -- by me "DreamHaven Books." I sign stuff for them when I pass by.

Some people think I have a stake in the shop or something, and I don't, other than a desire to still have it around as somewhere to do my shopping or to do signings or to phone and ask weird book-related questions. I've seen too many good bookshops go down in the last decade.

Greg's published a few of my books and audio books. They've even functioned as a maildrop for me over the years. Good people, good bookshop (and comics shop, and toys, oddments and even, in the backroom, eye-watering reading matter for adults only shop). (I don't know of any other shop that has "Vintage Sleaze" as a category for used books.)

I got an alarming email from Greg this morning...

We had a break-in on Saturday night. They got a bit of cash but wreaked
terrible havoc on the store and my office. Damages will be costly but
insurance should cover a lot of it. But after the lull in current
business, this really will hurt. I don't like charity but if you could
encourage people to maybe buy an extra book off us soon, it may help.
Three bookstores have closed in the Twin Cities in the past two months and
I don't want to make it four.

You can find them online at Their current catalogues are up there, for new and for used stuff. There's cool new stuff. There's stuff on sale.

If you want stuff by me -- or by people like Charles Vess or Dave McKean, who've worked with me, go and explore their site. Lots of signed stuff, and things you really can't find elsewhere. (They have three audio CDs, for example -- one's a double CD -- with many stories and such not recorded anywhere else.)

And if you're in the Minneapolis area, pop in. It's a big purple building. You can't miss it.

Go buy books from them. And tell other people. This is me being selfish. I want to buy books at DreamHaven for a long time to come. Good things die when people forget.


Monday, February 12, 2007

Extremely Short Legal Entry

This Minnesotan law reads as if it was written by two different people. And that it should be sung by a Gilbert-and-Sullivanesque politician, with a chorus of lady lawmakers in the background.

Also, it made me miss Mike Ford, who would have done it better.


And the ORACULAR INSTRUMENT OF DIVINATION now has its own webpage, which should be more long-lasting and useful than the one in the blog a couple of entries ago:

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Saturday, February 10, 2007

Something good...

I've mentioned on this blog how much I enjoyed, both as a boy and as an adult reading it aloud, Noel Langley's wry and delightful Arabian Nights fantasia The Land of Green Ginger, a book that Langley (best known, I think, for his work on the script of the film The Wizard of Oz) wrote and rewrote three times over a thirty year period. (My favourite is the second version from 1966, which has twelve and a half chapters.)

This morning's post brought me a book and a letter, from Paul Durrant, an English publisher, explaining that my mentioning The Land of Green Ginger on my blog had caused him to find and reread it, and that he had gone on a quest for more Noel Langley books, the rarest of which was Desbarollda the Waltzing Mouse, with illustrations by Edward Ardizzone. Which, when he found it, he liked so much, he got the rights to republish it, and did (

The book was Desbarollda. I read the first paragraph and was hooked. A sixty-three page eighteenth century novel in the grand manner about a waltzing mouse. Of course.

I found five pages up at Amazon, and am reposting the first two pages of the first chapter here. Click on them to see them large enough to read. If you're going to like it, you'll know pretty quickly:

I'm already putting a list together of people I need to get copies for (let's see.... Susanna Clarke, Ellen Kushner...)

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Friday, February 09, 2007

Now We Are Six

I think this was originally the Webelf's idea. She then enlisted Dan Guy into her web of madness. I agreed that if you were going to have a blog birthday toy that nothing could possibly be more appropriate, and then I played my part in its creation by a) suggesting that a Swami costume was much more appropriate than a wizard's hat and b) declining to take a day off work to rent a Swami costume and have my photo taken in it and c) finally saying "What, like you don't do wonders in Photoshop for a living? Fake it."


First of all, THIS IS NOT A TOY. THIS IS A SERIOUS INSTRUMENT OF DIVINATION. It should only be used by those prepared to approach it with the proper sense of reverence and mystical awe, those among you who are emotionally and spiritually prepared to have the curtain drawn, and to come face to face with YOUR OWN FUTURE.

To begin with, the quaestor must put himself, herself, itself or themselves in the right frame of mind. A fast is recommended, but not compulsory. Cleanse yourself of all impure thoughts. Tidy your room or perhaps polish the silverware.

Then imagine your question. Frame it in your mind in general terms. Do not seek material gain (the Serious Instrument of Divination will frustrate all efforts to unlock the secrets of lottery numbers or the outcome of sporting events or higher level physics -- not because it does not know -- FOOLISH MORTALS, IT KNOWS ALL -- but because THE WORLD IS NOT YET READY). Seek spiritual enhancement. Seek divine enlightenment.

Then shake the mystical ball of truth. Don't just click on it. Shake it. Honest. Only when it is shaken do the gates of the future swing open and allow information through.

And then, mystically and magically, the information you need will be plucked from the 950,000 words of this blog, and will be placed before you.

The words that you are given are guaranteed to be perfectly applicable to your situation, and will teach you how to react and what to do next. However, if they aren't, or if you don't like them, then shake again and new words will appear, perhaps more applicable, perhaps less so. Only you will know for certain -- only you, and the Oracle.



Have you read these instructions carefully?

Do you need to read them again?

[For serious Seekers after Truth it is recommended that you print out this post and meditate upon it for several months before you first attempt to draw back the veil. Many true and dedicated Pilgrims on the Road of Oracular Enlightenment have had the contents of this post tattooed upside down upon their stomachs, so that they can read and study and contemplate it when in, for example, the bathtub, the shower or in certain Yogic positions.]

Are you ready?


(Please note that the mystical power of the Oracular Instrument of Divination is such that it can only be guaranteed to work here at and not at feeds, syndications or other such places. Far from being a drawback, this is in fact a TESTAMENT TO ITS EFFICACY! If you are reading this on a feed and you need to consult the oracle, do so at

NOTE -- the Magical Journal 8 ball now has a permanent home at, at and will always work there. Here (shrugs) it may or it may not.


Thursday, February 08, 2007

Not quite blog birthday...

My daughter Holly is producing The Vagina Monologues at Bryn Mawr this year. Which I would normally not have posted here, but I just discovered from a correspondent that -- in Atlantic Beach Florida -- the play in question has has just been renamed The Hoohaa Monologues, to avoid offending passers-by with small daughters who ask embarrassing questions... which seems, somehow to miss the point on a scale that's positively awesome.

Congratulations to Xeric Award winner Joshua Kemble. Many years ago Dave Sim, eyeing Kevin Eastman's publishing house Tundra and Peter Laird's nascent Xeric Foundation said, "There's a right way and wrong way to lose a million dollars". Tundra is long, long long forgotten, but since September 1992, the Xeric Foundation has given out almost 2 million dollars in grants to self-publishing comics creators.

I'm on deadline right now, doing a final spit-and-polish on Interworld (very odd, reading and fixing seven year old manuscript), so I shall not tarry here. I'll just point out that tomorrow, the Ninth of February, is this blog's birthday.

And that Danguy and the Webelf have made it the best birthday toy ever. But that will have to wait until tomorrow...

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Wednesday, February 07, 2007

From the distant past

Before this blog ever existed, I inhabited other places you could only get to by modem. First Compuserve, then Genie, and then the Well, and answered questions and so on in each place, and hung around. I've no idea if there are any archives anywhere of the Compuserve stuff or the Genie topics, but The Well is still there, I'm glad to say, and every few years I go back and am interviewed and hang around the inkwell.vue area for a few weeks. It's a wonderful place, and accessible to anyone from the web:

So, in context of the current Fragile Things interview, which has only just begun, I found myself reading a post from the 20th of June 2000, written while I was writing American Gods. Which I am reposting a bit of here because a) there's lots more cool stuff like this on the various Well topics I did (here's the first, the second, the third, -- and b) if ever a story was meant to be on this blog, it's this one.

...last week Maddy woke me up early in the morning.

"Daddy," she said, "There's a bat on the kitchen window."

"Grumphle," I said and went back to sleep.

Soon, she woke me up again. "I did a drawing of the bat on the kitchen
window," she said, and showed me her drawing. For a five year old
she's a very good artist. It was a schematic of the kitchen windows,
showing a bat on one of the windows.

"Very nice dear," I said. Then I went back to sleep.

When I went downstairs...

We have, instead of dangling fly papers, transparent strips of gluey
clear plastic, about six inches long and an inch high, stuck to the
windows on the ground floor. When they accumulate enough flies, you
peel them off the window and throw them away.

There was a bat stuck to one. He was facing out into the room. "I
think he's dead," said my assistant Lorraine.

I peeled the plastic off the window. The bat hissed at me.

"Nope," I said. "He's fine. Just stuck."

The question then became, how does one get a bat (skin and fur) off a
fly-strip. Luckily, I bethought me of the Bram Stoker award. After the
door had fallen off (see earler in this topic) I had bought some citrus
solvent to take the old glue to reglue the door on.

So I dripped citrus solvent onto the grumpy bat, edging him off the
plastic with a twig, until a lemon-scented sticky bat crawled onto a
newspaper. Which I put on the top of a high woodpile, and watched the
bat crawl into the logs. With any luck he was as right as rain the
following night...

Of course, if it was now, I'd scan in Maddy's bat drawing to go with it. (I wonder if it's anywhere findable.)

PS. A small, half-puzzled plug for the first corporate publisher blog I've seen that truly doesn't suck: Technically I suppose they're actually one of my publishers, but that's not why I'm plugging them. I think it's because it's now something I can point publishers at when I say "you could always do a blog..."

PPS: From Dan Guy and the Webelf, the silliest of fun website toys:
The new toy! Shows the top twenty terms from each month, growing and shrinking dynamically over time.
Give those two time and they really will make the Blog Post Magic Eightball.

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Tuesday, February 06, 2007

" that creeps off in the night and devours small animals..."

Susan Henderson's Hair-based interview is up. Copyright issues meant that the most embarrassing photos of all (from a 1996 Wired photoshoot) couldn't be posted, but there are twelve photos nobody's seen before up there, and some commentary. (And if Geoff Notkin finds a replacement punk period photo we'll swap out the one from The Kindly Ones that's up there now and it'll be a lucky thirteen.)

(or try feed:// if that's too slow)

(By the way, our Googlebomb appears to have now worked -- this website's Penn Jillette rating is now up at #10 -- Hah!)

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random ponders

Every now and again I find myself thinking the wrong thing. I mean, I was reading an article in Slate on whether or not Vietnam veterans were spat upon when they returned, as claimed in the urban legend, and I found myself thinking, inappropriately, "That's odd."

Odd, because when I crossed the Atlantic, about twenty years ago, I noticed that "to spit" was, in common American usage, no longer an irregular verb; that the past tense, at least in conversation, of "to spit" was, not "spat", but "spit". As in "I will never forget the day that this drunk guy spit at my best friend". It didn't seem to have much to do with education or region, either.

But in the Slate article all the "spits" and "spats" were in the right place and tense.

(A Google for "were spit on" gave me 10,500 articles, while for Googling "were spat on" gave me only 950 [and a "did I mean were spent on?"]. All the first pages were talking about Vietnam vets. )


I remember about eight years ago the then Warner Brothers co-studio head Billy Gerber told me that he got weekly calls from people who wanted to make, direct or star in a Sandman film. "On Wednesday," he said, "Michael Jackson called about it." Given the comments some months ago from Alan Horn and Jeff Robinoff, who now run Warner Brothers, I don't believe the calls from people who want to make Sandman have decreased in the last eight years -- quite the reverse. Which I mention because I got a small deluge of letters from people asking me what I thought about Joel Shumacher saying in an interview that he'd love to direct a Sandman film and wondering if that meant that it was now about to happen, and of course it doesn't and it isn't. It simply puts Mr Schumacher in a very long line of people who want to make Sandman, some way ahead of Michael Jackson.


And on the subject of unlikely things, if someone had told me a book of mine would turn up on the Good Housekeeping list of "Ten Wonderful Romance Novels" I would have accused them of drunken tomfoolery and pulling an old man's leg. And yet, behold:,,284607_707518,00.html

You want to read the first dozen or so pages of Eddie Campbell's new graphic novel? You know you do...

My friend Dianna Graf from Tasmania just sent me link to
which is this journal placed in an, um, workfriendly context.


Someone named Lynn wrote to tell me you could no longer right click and cut and paste on my journal from IE7. I checked and she's right: while you can do it fine with Firefox, neither IE7 nor Opera will let you cut and paste from anywhere in the website right now, on a PC. (Macs are fine.) This is mysterious. I'll put the webelf on to it and we'll get it fixed.

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Monday, February 05, 2007


Just had a rough couple of days -- some kind of virulent food poisoning, which was no fun. (I'm lucky in having the kind of doctor who makes house calls -- not the official kind, more the turning up during his lunch break to find out how I'm doing kind.) I'm over the worst of it but just getting better.

It went down to minus 21 F last night (minus 29 C)and I discovered that a slightly improvised area in the corner of the office, where a bunch of wires and cables -- mostly TV from the satellite, the DSL line, and something that I think is probably a Russian spy cable -- come in, were now, inside the office, in a warm room, covered in thick ice. I figured that was why the house network had gone down (as it had), but today I unplugged everything, then plugged everything back in (right up there with Turn It Off And Wait For A Bit in the handy list of things you can do to fix it yourself) and suddenly it worked like a charm. When things warm up I'll get the ice-wire area properly fixed and insulated. (Right now it's warmed up to minus 19 F outside.) (I chipped some of the ice off, then took a photograph. Ick, and brrr.)

Susan Henderson did an interesting interview with me, mostly about hair, decorated with many embarrassing photos from the photo albums over the years, all of me with unlikely hair. We're hoping to get one final photo before it goes live, of me as a teenage punk. (She announces it -- and has a couple of hitherto unseen and quite unlikely photos up -- at

I found this Nerve essay fascinating and wryly amusing in equal measure:

The Religious Right is correct on exactly two scores: virginity can be a big
deal, properly exploited; and what you read, listen to or watch can make a huge
difference in how you live your life. Conservatives are smart to get sexy movies
banned from Wal-Mart. I can believe kids shoot each other because of video
games. Wilco made me throw my live-in boyfriend out of the house when I was
twenty-two. And Sandman made me torture men for sport when I was fifteen.

Talking about unintentional consequences, I recently spent an interested couple of hours browsing through my complementary copy of The Neil Gaiman Reader, edited by Darrell Schweitzer. Essays on things I've written, by a dozen different very smart people. I think it's probably a very good book of essays, but I am undoubtedly the last person on earth who can usefully comment on it, being, as I am, the least competent critic alive of the author in question. There were a few moments when I felt like the author being described had done something monstrously clever , but they always immediately balanced by moments where I sighed and thought "You may think I'm being very clever there, but I only wrote it like that because that was how it happened, and I wasn't being clever at all...".

The only thing I found frustrating, which I hope will be fixed in the next edition , were the little errors of fact, mistakes of date (Smoke and Mirrors was published in 1998, not 2001 as one essay claims-- it's correctly cited several times elsewhere in the book) or of artist (Dave McKean didn't draw The Doll's House, nor did Clive Barker produce it), and little typos that render it less reliable than it might otherwise be as work of academic reference.

Several people wrote to let me know that the Penn Jillette Googlebomb had worked as we were in the Google top ten, and several other people wrote to let me know that Google had changed their algorithm to stop Googlebombs... and given that the Google ranking of "Penn Jillette" here went up to #8 and then, within hours, vanished completely (and is apparently now down in the 300s -- although it's still riding really high on Yahoo) suggests that anti-Googlebomb activity might be the case. (I could always call My Son At Google, but he'd just take enormous pleasure in telling me that he's signed a confidentiality agreement and cannot possibly comment...) Be interesting to see if it climbs back up again now...

(My enormous thanks to everyone who posted the link. You are all troupers, and I am very grateful.)

I just learned that the audiobook of me reading FRAGILE THINGS was just nominated for an Audie Award ( which is extremely nice -- although I thought the audiobook of Stardust I recorded was better. Fat lot I know. (The unabridged audiobook I did of Neverwhere should come out in the autumn. Now, that one was work.)

I really like the House of Lords when they say things like this:

And I keep meaning to mention that if you order a copy the new special edition Last Unicorn DVD from the Conlan Press site, half the money goes to Peter Beagle, and your copy will be signed, as opposed to ordering it from anywhere else in which case it won't be signed by anyone, and Peter won't see a penny.

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Saturday, February 03, 2007


A couple of tiny bits of Stardust news.

I was thrilled to hear that Paramount moved the date of release to August 10 2007. Which means we're no longer up against the Simpsons Movie etc.

And Ben Barnes, who plays young Dunstan Thorne (and is thus, apart from Ian McKellen, the first speaking part in the film) was just cast as Prince Caspian. And may be sued by the National Theatre for jumping ship on The History Boys according to the Times.

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Friday, February 02, 2007

clouds of witness and word

The Webelf wanted clouds made from the years of content on this journal. Dan Guy leapt to her assistance -- Robin to her Batman, Kato to her Green Hornet, Etta Candy to her Wonder Woman. Now you can see the results of his cloud-making work over at:

And you will learn odd things about the blog. (I know I did.)

(The full version, including an extra 200,000 words of Questions and comments not by me is at , but seems less informative the the other two.)

Thanks Elf. Thanks Dan Guy.

And they also tell the story of

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Thursday, February 01, 2007

"...when you live in a godless universe of pain. If the universe was ordered, Neil Armstrong should be the first Neil on Google."

The quote is from Penn's radio show. You can also get it free from iTunes (here's the URL).

Over at Time Magazine they have a round up of the top ten comics/graphic novels of the year. All good choices, although I was surprised by the appearance on the list of some fine reprints (Kings in Disguise, for example.). Still, it was nice for me to see Absolute Sandman on there, mostly because when I wrote it, in 1987-1989, it would have been unthinkable for Time Magazine, or any real-world magazine, to have devoted any space at all to graphic novels or comics on a Best of the Year list.

Locus's Recommended list for 2006 is up at


It'll get to me, don't worry. It just tends not to be a very fast thing.

And no, I'm not going to be spending so much time in Hollywood, that's just where Cat and her office is. The joy of the modern world is that things can move around it very easily, and we decided that it's far better if letters and suchlike go to someone who can look at them that day and figure out what's meant to happen next, rather than be put in a box with my name on it under the counter at DreamHaven and wait for the next time I decide I need a haircut and go down to Hair Police and stop in at DreamHaven to sign stuff for them on the way home.


Lots of artists and possibly someone who isn't an artist drew Spider-Man covers for a good cause. Details and you can pick out the blogging not-an-artist at:


In honor of National Gorilla Suit Day, I did an artist trading card and thought you might enjoy it, a bit.Here's the url: I will now slowly back towards the exit and fade away...--Madeline

Oh Mark Evanier and Don Martin, what have you wrought?

Dear Mr Gaiman, I've just finished watching the recording of the Cody's Books readings and Q&A session. I'd never heard you read your work before. It's distressing to find out that not only are you a fantastic author but you are also an evocative oral story teller. Surely you're not allowed to be both? On to my question. (I searched and couldn't find anything specifically on this topic but my apologies if I missed it.) As a writer, do you get a similar feeling of closure/reward/enjoyment when you've created the final climax of a story that you hope your readers will experience when reading it or do you always have one eye on the technicalities of writing? Thank you.Regards, Clare Milner

You're too kind.

And the only answer I can give is neither. Because you're not experiencing it at the same speed. There's a relief at getting to the end, but it's also the relief of getting to the end of something you've been working on for, often, several years. Which doesn't mean you're not affected on an emotional level by scenes or by what happens to characters, or that you don't feel what's happening while you write it. But a reader will read something in a few hours that might have taken you a couple of years or more to write. And that big moment of closure may have been followed by another six months of writing.

Neil,In a post a little while ago you mentioned the reading list John Crowley compiled - which looks absolutely fascinating. You said a couple of the books on the list were your favourites in the world. So that would seem to me a good place to start! Which were they though? Sorry if the answer should be apparent from elsewhere on the site but I couldn't find it...Best wishes
Dominic Hartley

They are Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds by Charles Mackay, a book I adore; and The Songlines by the brilliant Bruce Chatwin (do not write to me and point out that Songlines is factually dodgy sometimes. It's still an amazing book and Chatwin wrote astoundingly well).


Do you realise this blog will be six years old on February the Ninth? I've had some ideas of things that we could put up that would be fun and special to celebrate the birthday, but they may not be ready in time...


g'day mr. gaiman. or night. or whatever it is, where you're at.i've been going through your blog for a couple of days now... (...) here are a couple of questions that i sincerely want to know the answers to.with all the fame and joy you've attained from writing, aren't you afraid to lose it all in an instant? i don't want to be morbid and all, but with all the hard work you've put in to your works, are you afraid to die?sorry... i wanted to ask j.r.r. tolkien the same thing but he isn't around... you see, i'm scared of dying and i'm poor... what is it like for you who has all the things you've achieved in life?

I remember being scared of dying when I was on the plane from London to New York in mid 1988 with the first half of Dave McKean's Black Orchid art travelling in the plane cabin with me -- these were the painted originals, and there were no copies as Dave, barely out of art school, couldn't have afforded to get them all shot at that point. I was writing Sandman issue two or three back then.

And I knew that if the plane went down Dave would never have redrawn the Black Orchid pages, and it would never come out, and that even if the first couple of Sandmans came out no-one would have known where it was going or what it was going to be. I crossed the Atlantic sweating, mentally keeping that plane in the air all the way.

Nineteen years later, I'm remarkably sanguine about life and death. I'm really lucky, in that I've achieved an awful lot of the things I wanted to do, and some people noticed. If I died soon (something, I should add here, that I have no intention of doing; I like life and all the things that come with it), I'd leave a body of varied and interesting work and three amazing kids behind, and that's more than I ever set out to do or hoped for.

Does that help?

I'd like to ask a small favour of those of you who have read down this far. Would anyone reading this, anyone with a blog or a website that is, mind linking to the last post -- -- with the link text Penn Jillette? Given Penn's recent rant about the power and ubiquity of this blog on his radio show, I'd like to mess with his head just a little and see if we can actually google-bomb it so that that entry shows in the top few entries if you google Penn's name.

And sshhh, don't anyone tell him. I want it to be a surprise.

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"...and in the time it took to say that Neil Gaiman wrote another two movies..."

Listen to my friend Penn Jillette, on his astounding radio show ( having much too much fun at, er, my expense while doing a whole show about National Gorilla Suit day. I laughed until I couldn't breathe, but I freely acknowledge that it may be slightly less funny if you're not me.

But it's still damn funny. You can download it at...

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A Quick One

Right -- the Black Phoenix Alchemy page of scents for the CBLDF is now up at

And I'm investigating whether we can do Stardust ones right now (as the Stardust scents that Beth sent were Maddy's favourites).


And -- we'll put this up on the FAQ page and so on -- there is now a real address to send stuff that you want to get to my attention, which should work much better than DreamHaven Books (where stuff would sit in a box until the next time I came by). It is,

4470 Sunset Blvd. # 339
Los Angeles, CA 90027

And it's being run by the Mystery Aide. Who is actually (drum-roll) Cat Mihos (, who is going to try and make sure that less of my life falls through the cracks, that I have more time and so on. (Currently lots of the mail coming in through the FAQ line is people who want to interview me, or for me to answer a few questions for their book, dissertation or website, to the point that if I said yes to them all or even to half, I would never get any time to do or write anything else. So those kind of requests, along with anything else, can now be sent to Cat who can at least coordinate them.)

And Cat is also, should any of you need to reach her directly. She'll be running the LA end of things, and dealing with some of the stuff I simply haven't had the time to get to. (The Fabulous Lorraine is still my PA.)

If you want to send me a book to get signed along with return postage and packaging, though, or buy a signed book, or anything like that, you should still talk to DreamHaven, via their online shop of stuff by me at website.

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