Tuesday, April 21, 2009

How to Order WHO KILLED AMANDA PALMER and why outer space tastes of raspberries

Click on this now:

Bohemian Rhapsody played on old computer beeps. Found on, with thanks to Mistress Mousey for the tip-off. Have you clicked on it yet? You know you want to.

I said that everything turned into the Best of Queen...


Andrew Sullivan comments on Bush policy with an apt matching quote from the Sandman book Season of Mists at

I'll let you go and read it for yourself.

Over the years I've got very used to being asked in interviews about Why Sandman Wasn't Political. Normally journalists would point out how very filled with politics all the other British writers of the school of eighty-something were, and that Sandman wasn't. And why is that? And I would hesitantly suggest that I thought that Sandman might have been a bit more political than they thought, and they would say no, it definitely wasn't; where was Margaret Thatcher, after all, and why hadn't I shown her eating babies with her vampire teeth?

So ever since the 2003 invasion of Iraq, when journalists started talking about Sandman #50, I've felt, well, not vindicated, because I never thought I had anything to vindicate, but sort of like, yes, the personal really is political. I thought it was.

(Also, if memory serves, the line from the victim in Season of Mists, after the line that Andrew quotes is, "But that makes it so much worse...")


Right. So last August I went out to Boston for a few days to meet musical phenomenon Amanda Palmer. I'd loved her Dresden Dolls work, had been introduced to her in email by Jason Webley, had met her for an hour in March 2008 at the New York Comic Con just before my CBLDF event, where I introduced her to Bill Hader and Stan Lee, because they were int he green room too.

She had sent me her then-forthcoming CD WHO KILLED AMANDA PALMER, which I'd loved, and I'd agreed to write the back cover "liner notes". And then Amanda sent me an email telling me that she had been taking photographs of herself dead for about 14 years, that the original idea had been to use some of those photos for the CD sleeve, but that would not happen, and she was making it into a book, and asking if I'd be interested in writing some words to go along with them.

She sent me many of the photos. I was intrigued. Nobody had ever asked me to do anything like that before, and the photos were small frozen stories, so I said yes. I went out to Boston in August and spent a few long-but-good days with Amanda and with photographer Kyle Cassidy, who is astonishing, with Amanda's then-boyfriend Michael and with Beth Hommel, her assistant. It was like a combination of mad improv theatre and instant film-making as we created scenarios and Kyle shot them. Mostly I was somewhere off to the side, scribbling in a notebook while everything happened around me, but occasionally I was dragooned into helping, or even being part of a shot. (There was one night where I staggered back and forth down an alley at 2.00am, with a dead Amanda over my shoulder, while nearby my friend Kira made imaginary cell-phone calls, and I waited for a squad car to pull up and find out what was going on. No squad cars turned up. People in Boston are very blase about dead people in alleys. The photo made it into the book, I think.)

I loved trying to turn the photos into stories. Some big stories, some very small stories, even a new-old fairy tale, each story odd, each story fun to write, and each story, invariably, fatal.

The most fun I think were the ones where the photo created more questions than it answered (a dead woman on some waste ground, her head crushed by a manual typewriter, apparently dropped from a very high place just left me going WHY? and produced one of my favourite stories as I got to explain...)

I've said it before on this blog: Writing is (like death) a lonely business, and it was enormously fun for me writing surrounded by creative people busy creating. I wrote several of the stories sitting in a corner of a room while Amanda practiced for her upcoming tour, tuning in and out of reality while songs were being played. It was fun.

There are about a dozen stories altogether, and a few shorter things by me in there. And there are lyrics by Amanda. And photographs. So many photographs.

The book was designed by designers in association with Beth Hommell, Amanda's assistant (I've been assured by the designers that my previous statements here about how good or timely a job they did were erroneous, and that I was misinformed, which I'm happy to correct here.)

The book is being printed right now, in Hong Kong. This is a good thing. There will be 10,000 copies. People have asked if any of the stories will be reprinted in any short story collections in days to come -- possibly, but some of my favourites are dependent on the juxtapostion of the image and the words, and my short story collections tend to be almost a decade apart.

I should probably warn people about the nudity. There are lots of photos where Amanda is fully dressed, but she doesn't seem to have anything resembling a nudity taboo, and is fearless when it comes to getting the photo she wanted, so is fully or partly naked in some of the strangest places (my favourite nude Amanda shot, taken way before I got there, was her naked and apparently dead on a golf course, early one morning, as the golfers, unconcerned, played on and around her). It's definitely art, not porn, but there, such warnings are useful.

And there are many photographers in the book, but Kyle Cassidy is The Man.

So the book can now be ordered. It actually went live for orders a couple of days ago, and promptly was crashed by the number of people trying to order immediately. Seeing that this blog has the power to crush websites (what they've taken to calling a #NeilWebFail on Twitter) I wasn't going to link to it until the site was robust enough, but they've now beefed it up and added phone lines, so if you want to order a copy, you can.

It's a big, full colour, coffee table Who Killed Amanda Palmer Book. Copies arrive from the Hong Kong printer in July and will go straight out to people who have preordered them.

A few bookshops around the world that are friends of mine or friends of Amanda have enquired about selling the books. My understanding is that Amanda is waiting until the preorders are done, and everyone who has had a chance to preorder has ordered, before seeing a) if any are left and b) if any are left, how many of them will go to places like Chapters in Dublin or DreamHaven or Newbury Comics, or further afield than that.

I still wish I'd been able to come up with a story for the one of her dead among the wallabies, mind.

It was a fun project. I made some fine friends out of it, with Amanda foremost among them as we discovered that we agreed about pretty much everything to do with making art and the way you treat your fans and readers, and such (although not, oddly enough, about getting naked and pretending to be dead on golf courses, which is definitely Her Thing). I already knew she made good music, and I learned that she's really nice, and fearless, and very, very funny, and the sort of person who, at the end of an exhausting seven month world tour, would spend a month working for free with the kids at her old High School to help them put on a show.

And after all that preamble: you should pre-order the book from

Picture of Kyle eating Amanda's brains while I, er, hold a pen not very menacingly, above borrowed from Kyle's excellent Livejournal, where I also discovered there's a win a copy of the Who Killed Amanda Palmer book or something cooler competition on the go, and a photo of Chip Delany Where He Works.


I learned the other day that the galactic centre tastes like raspberries and smells of rum.

Oh, right, I thought, Space: the Final Cocktail.


And almost forgot to say there's a good article in Wired about my final Batman, but it's a bit too spoiler-filled for me to comfortably link to on the day Detective 853 comes out. Read that first.

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