Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Leaving Downunder

Dinner last night with Margo Lanagan arranged by Allen and Unwin, where she reassured me about Clarion and told me about her new novel (I am excited) and we talked about words and about Australia and about a story I mean to write this year. Then back to the hotel and had a three hour phone call to Bloomsbury in London, calling in the copy-edits on The Graveyard Book. My copy editor was very patient with me, despite the oddness of The Graveyard Book meaning that sometimes things would be a bit counter-intuitive: I had to explain to her how a ten year old (dead) boy could have a twenty year old (dead) grandmother. But most of her queries were wise and smart and (this is important) will make me look good.

A flood of letters from Australians who inform me that I was having my leg pulled over the hamburger thing -- and if you read what I posted and imagine the chef as a dry-humoured assie bloke, that's just how it reads. For example:

> (Unconvinced Five Star Hotel Night Chef.) "If you say so, sir. It's just people here complain if their hamburgers aren't made of ham.

Major possibilities:

a) chef was sadistic or insane

b) chef had quirky sense of humour

c) balance of your mind disturbed by excessive book signing

d) you were unwitting participant in 'candid camera' equivalent

e) you had accidentally wandered into a neighbouring universe

f) other
In Australia, hamburger means ground up cow. Always.

Saw your talk at the State Library in Melbourne btw - very enjoyable, and The Graveyard Book sounds like it's going to be a good one.



I'd go for f). Honestly, she sounded very young, very defensive and, I'm afraid, a bit upset, like someone who had actually been told off a few weeks ago by a hotel guest for the lack of ham in his hamburger and had been determined not to make that mistake again, and now here was a smartarse pom late at night telling her she'd been right all along. And I felt a bit sorry for her.

(This was at the Four Seasons Sydney in George Street -- a nice enough hotel, although the rooms are tiny, but also the first Four Seasons I've stayed in that felt more or less like a Mariott - as if they'd bought someone else's hotel and put a Four Seasons logo on, but not really changed anything else.)

I'm off to the US today, via Narita airport. A few people kindly wrote and offered to show me around during my 9 hour layover, and I was going to take at least one person up on it, but I now strongly suspect that instead of doing anything at all I'll get a local hotel room and try and sleep -- horizontally, rather than sitting down -- between two ten hour flights.

Let me point you at this Boing Boing Entry and this Locus Article, in which Cory Doctorow talks about dandelion and mammalian reproductive strategies and how these things relate to selling things or giving them away on the web -- some of this came out of a wonderful conversation last Christmas between Cory and Rob Brydon and me, which Cory and I carried on the next time we saw each other, at Eastercon. (The ideas are all Cory's. All I did was say, "What exactly do you mean by that?" and "But for Heaven's sake, Cory, what about...?" a lot.)


Hi Neil,

Quick question about The Graveyard Book - do you have plans to release signed copies in cardboard dumps as you did with American Gods and Anansi Boys?

I offered, but that's no longer possible for some logistical reason I never quite understood.


I'd just like to thank you for your appearance at Books Kinokuniya in Sydney on the 6th. It was a great night, and truly inspiring to see that despite the 500-odd people eagerly queued, you still had time for each one of us.

Thank you also for posing for a photo with a sign expressly prohibiting personal photos (which can be quite shamelessly found at my blog; It made my night.

Now that's all taken care of I'd like to ask if your short story 'Orange' is in print anywhere, as I've only seen it as a video of a live reading (or memorably first hand, when you were in Sydney in 2006).
Kind Regards,


Why thank you. "Orange" is in The Starry Rift. You can learn more about it at


Michael Zulli sent me -- beautiful pictures of fairy tale abandoned Russian wooden houses.


Despite following instructions on stripping this computer with Windows Vista down to its work and memory undies, it's still like working with a computer in 1986, in terms of slowness and pauses and delay. helpfully sent me Windows XP to do a downgrade on it, which I'll do when I get home... I still love the computer, though: it weighs about half of a Mac airbook, and has a DVD drive to boot. But I can't simply type and keep typing - it suddenly stops to inspect itself for fleas or something and loses anything I typed while it was thinking, or squashes words together, or I find myself randomly typing somewhere else in the paragraph... argh.


And before I forget, a big, big thank you to everyone at Allen and Unwin, especially Sarah Tran, to all the booksellers (Ellison Hawker, Dymocks in Melbourne and Sydney, and Kinokuniya (who gave me the new edition of A Humument as a thank you for signing there, which made me unspeakably happy), and to the staff and organisers of the CBCA, the Melbourne State Library folk, to various old friends who waved or helped (you know who you are) and all the people who showed up at the signings and made it so pleasant...

And yes, in 1998, I brought the "stick" home with me.

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