Friday, January 16, 2009

journeys end

Woke up after three hours sleep in a bed, convinced that I was still on the road, with Jonathan Coulton's song "The Future Soon" going around in my head. But I'm awake, and the day has started...

At one point yesterday evening I found myself talking on the hands-free-bluetoothy-practise-your-shouting-while-driving-phone to a friend who called to tell me he wanted to make me a bit-part murderous monstrous creature in his next movie. I have never killed anyone in a film before and realised at the moment I was asked that this is definitely one of those things I need to do before I die, so I said yes. (If anything ever comes of it I will report back here.) He was thrilled and I was thrilled. "This is the best possible conversation anyone could have," he said. "The only way it could be better is if we invented a new ice-cream flavour that everyone's been waiting for without realising it," I said, and waited for inspiration as to the nature of a new ice-cream flavour that would be nice and necessary to strike, but it didn't.

The first part of the drive contained some beautiful/scary moments: blowing snow turned roads into slow white rivers that would occasionally erupt into something like steam or smoke-whirls on Neptune, that blinded then glittered like mica or diamonds when it hit the sunlight. Sometimes the road writhed with white snow-snakes. I kept driving -- pulled the camera out once, when it got less scary somewhere in Northern Iowa (with windchill minus35) and took

Slept in car in a rest area in Metropolis Il., phoned in to a radio broadcast  (and now podcast) about, chiefly, the book Steve Jones did about the making of Coraline (the book, the film, the upcoming musical) while parked on the side of Lookout Mountain, which felt a bit American Gods. (The hour-long show is up at

The best bit of the drive was that the dog (who is convalescing from hind knee surgery) was forced to just lie down and not do anything else for two days, which is very good for his leg.

Got to my destination about half-past midnight, covered in dog hair and smeared with cream-cheese from an early-morning attempt to give the dog his medicine that, in retrospect may have failed less because of the cream cheese and more because my hands were so numb with cold. Got on line. Learned that this blog was voted Best Literature Weblog in the 2008 Weblog Awards, and was pleased.   Even if it means I may now have to have a pie-eating competition with Jessa Crispin. (And I will now retire this blog from eligibility in future years.) (I just challenged her to sushi eating at Katsu next time I am in Chicago. She accepted. This could get really nasty.) Congratulations to all the winners, and to all the nominees.

Back at home, Maddy told me school was cancelled yesterday because with wind chill it was -50, and you cannot have kids waiting outside in those temperatures. My beekeeping partner has gone mad and started doing science experiments on YouTube.  Megan-from-Clarion-who-lives-in-San-Francisco who was in Minneapolis (and gave me a scarf she had made me, which became invaluable on the travels) told me she had  thought I was making up the so-cold-it'll-kill-you bits of American Gods, and had now learned that, no, I really wasn't...

Which reminds me:

Hello Neil!

Are you going to teach at Clarion again, anytime soon?

I am willing to bet that being accepted to Clarion is a one-time thing. Also, as much as I admire other artists in the field I would love to have you as a mentor. So if you are planning to attend Clarion as a mentor again, say next year, or the year after, I am willing to wait to submit until then.

Thank you so much!

-Ash M.B.

I don't know. Probably, but when in the decade ahead of us I cannot say, and whether it'll be Clarion or Clarion West next I do not know, and the instructors for Clarion are always world class (this years' includes Bob Crais, Kim Stanley Robinson, Liz Hand, Holly Black...) and you will learn different things from each of them. I enjoyed my week at Clarion a lot, and I think most of the students liked having me there, and I know I learned a great deal...

But I can promise you that waiting for me would be the wrong thing to do. If you want to do the astonishing writers' boot camp that is Clarion, start applying: head over to there are less than 20 places and hundreds of applicants. The application period is open until March 1st. It Will, as they used to say on the covers of self-help paperbacks, Change Your Life, but that's because it's Clarion and you're going through it with another seventeen people over six weeks, and not because of a specific instructor. 

(And if any of you, in these parlous economic times, wish to support the arts, you might want to think about making a donation to the Clarion Foundation, which is what pays the scholarships that help some of the students to get there, and to eat while they're there, and keeps the program running...)


Much to my delight and bafflement, The Graveyard Book is now in its fifteenth straight week on the New York Times Bestseller list. And the noise around the Coraline movie means that Coraline the book is now selling enough copies that it may go back onto the list as well. This is really fun. 

Someone sent me a link to Charlaine Harris's blog entry for Jan 11th, and all I could do was think, yup, I know how that one goes

Sometimes I think that ideas float through the atmosphere like huge squishy pumpkins, waiting for heads to drop on. I remember back in 1989 Terry Pratchett and I plotting a novel once about a serial killer who kills serial killers, and we had most of the pieces in place, and then both of us realised we'd have to actually write it, which seemed like less fun than making it up, and so we left it.  I would have put him in the Serial Killer's convention in Sandman, but he just didn't fit. And I was pleased when I saw the Dexter books that that pumpkin had finally landed on the head of somebody else, who wanted to write them.  Sometimes you're just lucky that the pumpkin lands on you first.

But the truth is, it's not the idea, it's never the idea, it's always what you do with it. I remember Jonathan Carroll telling me to "Write it new", when we talked about how I had thrown out a whole Sandman storyline on reading Bones of the Moon. And I'm pleased I went back and wrote A Game of You.  Charlaine's Cemetery Girl, if she writes it and I hope she does, would be different in every way from The Graveyard Book, because that's how it works.

(A google shows me holding mine at - isn't it a wonderful object?)

Hmm. That Google also threw up something else: many years ago, I decided not to look at my Wikipedia entry, because that way is madness, and given that, as the person involved I'm not actually allowed to change things, much as I would perhaps like to, I decided that it is best left unlooked-at. But every now and then a google search for something else gives me the first sentence of my Wikipedia entry and I read that my family came to England from the Netherlands in 1916, and it irritates. I really doubt that there was much cross-channel emigration in the middle of World War 1 for a start. (My paternal great-grandfather came to the UK before 1914; and he would have come from Antwerp, which isn't in the Netherlands now, and wasn't then. And I wonder why the paternal line is so privileged...)

And the strange thing is, that if I grumble about it here, then that gives someone editing the Wikipedia entry something to link to, and thus it will be fixed. Until someone finds a link to something that got it from Wikipedia in the first place, and changes it back.


The first bloggy people-who-were-there reviews of the Coraline film are starting to sneak out into the world...

And my linking to the Ain't it Cool ticket giveaway got a few people in to the Chicago screening, so if you act fast it might get you into a screening in Austin TX -


Just looked in mirror, and was suprised to find that after only two days of driving, unshaven, and with  barely any sleep, I look sort of like a homeless person. This is just wrong.  Luckily, I have a limping dog who thinks I am cool. SoI shall shave, and then drive off to stock up a larder with food, and find a car wash (for my car is thickly encrusted with salt), and call in the lettering corrections on Batman, and get on with my day.

Edit to add -- the day is ending and this still hasn't gone up on the LJ feed. If you're on LiveJournal and curious if I've written anything or not, you may want to check the actual blog at

Labels: , , ,