Saturday, February 28, 2009

Mostly Amused

I have a really high tolerance level for twits. I really do. I know how easy it is to ask a stupid question. But, people...

I'm not actually going to post the letter that just came in that informed me that publishing Blueberry Girl and Crazy Hair was a cheap attempt to cash in on winning the Newbery Medal, because if it was me that had sent it, I don't think I'd want to be held up to ridicule, and I keep promising myself to use this power only for good.

But look, whoever-you-are, is a nearly five year old post. It's the one where I announced Blueberry Girl would be a book, and that Charles Vess had started work on it. November 2004. In I post the cover art for Blueberry Girl. December 2007.

March 2009 was set as a publishing date for it well over a year ago, once the art was in.

Crazy Hair goes back even further. Dave agreed to do it in 2003. It was meant to have been out originally in 2005, but Dave fell behind, due to Mirrormask, and didn't deliver his final double page spread until January 2007. The weirdness of publishing schedules (and partly because The Dangerous Alphabet was in the publishing slot it would have taken) meant that it was scheduled in about Jan 2008 to come out in May 2009.

(Click on the picture to be able to see it at a reasonable size.)

To bring the Blueberry Girls out now means the books were printed overseas a while ago, and bound, and placed in containers on big ships.

You know, I'm normally so sanguine. But... being accused of rushing these two books out to cash in on the Newbery Medal, without access to time travel equipment or anything, just makes me want to bang my forehead gently against a tree for half an hour. Is it too much to ask people to think

Okay. I'm done.

My assistant Lorraine always complains that whenever she goes to gigs that I also go to, I get an Access All Areas laminated badge, and she gets a piece of paper or a sticker or something.  So yesterday, while I was signing books at DreamHaven and getting a haircut (from the awesome Wendy at Hair Police, making me look human since October 2000) , they made her a laminated badge.

Nobody else had a laminated badge. Just her. She can be seen displaying it below. You can see me and the haircut to the right. I do not know who the people with buttons for eyes are. They scare me.

Here they are again, patting my dog for luck this morning, before they left for Chicago (a city John Hodgman claims is mythical). What were they doing at my breakfast table? Why did I have to play the tambourine last night? Why is there a small Football made of meat in my fridge?

It was his first time off-leash since his operation. Happiest dog in the world.

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Friday, February 27, 2009

This is a Prayer For A Blueberry Girl...

A video, put together by Brady Hall, using one of the readings I did during the Graveyard Book reading tour (I'll ask him which one), and the Charles Vess art from the book (out in ten days or less).

Over on, at the Blueberry Girl page, you can read the thing I wrote to explain what this book is.

But because not everyone is going to head over there, it says:


You're probably wondering what kind of book this is.

This is the kind of book that comes about when a friend phones you and says, "I'll be having a baby in a month. Would you write her a poem? A sort of prayer, maybe? We call her the Blueberry. . . ." And you think, Yes, actually. I would.

I wrote the poem. When the baby was born, they stopped calling her the Blueberry and started calling her Natashya, but they pinned up the handwritten Blueberry girl poem beside her bed.

I kept a copy at my house, taped to a filing cabinet. And when friends read it, they said things like "Please, can I have a copy for my friend who is going to be giving birth to a daughter?" and I wound up copying it out for people, over and over.
I wasn't going to let it be published, not ever. It was private, and written for one person, even if I did seem to be spending more and more of my time handwriting or printing out nice copies for mothers-to-be and for babies.

Then artist Charles Vess (whom I had collaborated with on Stardust) read it.
And somehow, it all became simple. I made a few phone calls. We decided to make some donations to some charities. And Charles began to draw, and then to paint, taking the poem as a starting point and then making something universal and beautiful.

On his blog he said, "Taking Neil's lovely poetic meditation on the inherent joys of a mother-daughter relationship and developing a compelling narrative impulse without robbing the poem of its highly symbolic nature was an interesting conceptual journey." Which I think is Charles for "It wasn't easy to make that poem into a picture book.” He did an astonishing job, but I still worried. I stopped worrying the day the assistant editor at HarperChildrens, who was herself pregnant, called me to let me know that she'd got the artwork in, and read it, and then started crying in the office.

It's a book for mothers and for mothers-to-be. It's a book for anyone who has, or is, a daughter. It's a prayer and a poem, and now it's a beautiful book.

I hope you enjoy it. I'm really proud of it. And I hope this means I don't have to copy it out any longer….


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The end of the Audiobook argument

Just a quick one, as a follow-up to and


1) go and read Wil Wheaton's post

2) Listen, actually listen to Wil and "Alex" reading at

3) Now imagine a world in which someone sits with a novel on the screen and carefully codes every character and tone of voice, every emotion. Imagine the time involved, and the effort involved in making something that, no matter how good it ever gets, will not be as good as a person reading it. This isn't teaching a computer to play chess. 

An audio book, read by someone who's good at it, is an audio book, an experience that's different to, sometimes complementary to, the words on the page. A computer reading to you is a computer reading to you. And at the point where they can read books to us as well as we can read them aloud to each other, we will have other things to worry about.

As I said first time out, and this is speaking as someone who loves audiobooks, records his own audiobooks, makes a not-insignificant portion of his income from audiobooks and has even won awards for bloody audiobooks... To repeat myself -- I think any money that could be spent on legal bills trying to stop people listening to books (or to anything still in copyright) using the text-to-speech functions on their computers, iPhones, Kindles, Androids etc, would be infinitely better used to promote audiobooks, to tell people there are fine audiobooks out in the world, that there are great books and great readers, and that the experience of listening to a book is a wonderful one. Promote the Audie awards. Get the word out.

(I tell people that my preferred edition of Anansi Boys is the Lenny Henry audio book, and I mean it. Hmm. Currently for sale at 80% off from Amazon.)

Here's a widget that plays the first chapter of The Graveyard Book.

And here's the first chapter of Stardust.

The opening few minutes of Coraline (beginning with Stephin Merritt's You Are Not My Mother And I Want To Go Home song). Lenny Henry's wonderful opening for Anansi Boys.

(Changing the subject completely, a reminder -- we're heading towards the last day for Clarion applications, Clarion and Clarion West, and here's a fine collection of links to the various SF writers workshops and boot camps.) (And one day earlier comes the deadline for Hugo nominations,)

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Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Snowphotos of Kilamanjaro

The snow started to fall. Lorraine (my assistant) wanted a photo of herself in the snow, so I took some. She took some of me. (Cabal is wearing his gentle leader as he's still not really meant to go for wild runs. I am not wearing a coat as it's sort of warm and I am going back inside in a moment to write.)

And then the snow continued to fall, in a strange sort of whiteout. And I took some more photos of Lorraine, and in return, she took a few of me. (I am now wearing a coat. Strangely, it's still not cold, so I am not in gloves or scarf or balaclava or hat.)

 Cabal loves the snow. He cannot work out why I'm not madly romping with him. And it's sort of infectious.
I said on Twitter that this next one looks like the cover of a paperback thriller. People have already begun designing them. I love the web.

And as soon as this last one was taken, Maddy let me know that her friend's mum's van was already stuck at the bottom of our drive, so I grabbed a snow shovel and a broom, and set off to dig her out, accompanied by six gloriously giggly 14 and 15 year olds, all of whom managed to fall in the snow at least once.


Wednesday, February 25, 2009

From Before He Was A Wizard...

Found it, in a box in the attic, filled with mid-80s softcore porn mags containing interviews, book or film reviews, or articles, all by me. (When asked why, back then, I would explain that I sold my first article to a "respectable magazine" who paid 80 pounds for it and never printed it, and my second, because the first wouldn't take it, to UK Penthouse, who paid 300 pounds and printed it in the next issue, and really, it was decided for me then.)

I don't like the title, and I do know how to spell Judge Dredd and Roscoe Moscow, but here's a nice pen-portrait of Alan Moore written at the end of 1985, published in the March 1986 issue of Knave, some months before the first issue of Watchmen was published. (I'd read the first three issues by then, in lovely Dave Gibbons photocopies.)

Again, click on the pictures for an oversized, readable version.

Also found in one copy of Knave, and scanned in, a long-lost Alan Moore short story called SAWDUST MEMORIES. But I don't think Alan would want it posted, so I won't.

And now it's found, I'll sign the Knave with the Alan interview in it, and donate it to the CBLDF, and someone else can explain to their loved ones that they bought it for the articles. (A moment of ruefully remembering the teenage heartbreak when I discovered that someone had thrown away the men's magazine -- SWANK -- with the Vaughn Bode/Berni Wrightson Purple Pictorial mermaid two-pager in it that I'd found in a Streatham grotty used bookshop when I was fourteen.)

(Edit to add, here's a lovely recent interview with Alan from Wired.)

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Dragged screaming from the vaults...

From September 1986 TIME OUT. I was a very proud 25-year-old journalist, because this was the first big article on comics to be published in the UK, in a "real" magazine. It's hard to communicate, in this golden age of geeks, how hard this was to make happen, or how important it was for a number of things, including morale. (They prepared a Dave Gibbons Watchmen cover, and, at the last moment, didn't use it and went with Michael Clark instead.)There are goofs in there (it wasn't Walter Hill, it was Joel Silver, and once again, Spiderman not Spider-Man; and I'm not convinced that the summaries of the recommended comics on the last page are all my writing -- they may have been trimmed or rewritten) but I was happy, and thought it deserved to be dragged from the vaults.

Click on each page to make it readable.

(The follow up to it was a huge article on comics commissioned by the Sunday Times Magazine, for which I interviewed everyone, got original Brian Bolland art, and which was rejected by the editor when I sent it in because, he explained "it lacked balance". I asked what kind of balance he needed. There was a pause. "Well, these comics..." he said. And then blurted out, "You seem to think they're a good thing.")

Right. Now we're looking for the Alan Moore interview from Knave. It's somewhere in the attic.

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Death, Tentacles and Pip.

Bet you thought I was dead. Well, unless you were looking at the Twitter feed down the side of the blog, and even then I might have been Dead but Still Twittering. It could happen and probably does.

But I am not dead. I am not even sick.  I am home, got home yesterday afternoon, six weeks of mad peregrinations are over, and, because I was asleep by nine last night, I am wide awake at six am, so I grabbed my computer, and am now blogging in bed in the dark.

(Cabal the Dog was very pleased to see me. He's 90% better after his operation -- he still has about ten days until he's allowed to go up and down stairs [so I am still sleeping on makeshift downstairs bed]  but he is allowed to run, and he has -- for the first time ever -- an appetite, like a normal dog, and has thus put on several pounds. He looks more like a white German Shepherd Dog and less like a big white greyhound.

And I was pleased to see him. Here is a smily picture of us saying hello...

So when last heard of, I was blogging in a little hotel in the Highlands&Islands, off on a mysterious errand. (The best bit was throwing chips to the seagulls in a little Scottish harbour.)

Then I drove to Inverness and I flew from there to London, where I saw Holly, sat in the hotel library and wrote, saw friends, had some meetings about films and TV and books, ate more fish and chips, drank tea, and finally, given the choice between seeing Dave McKean for the first time since Hallowe'en and going to the UK Watchmen premiere, I had a lovely dinner with Dave, and caught up with friends who'd been to the premiere afterwards. Their feedback left me a bit more interested in seeing it, though.

(Also, my friend Duncan Jones showed me his upcoming film Moon, and I will blog about it soon. It is a solid science fiction film like they don't make any more.)

Let's see. The Newbery Award for The Graveyard Book continues to do good things. Bookshops are getting their copies with the gold medal on the cover, it's selling like (I'd say hot cakes, but I've honestly never seen people going "are these cakes hot? Then I will buy all of them!" in real life) and it's being reviewed in places that hadn't reviewed it before it was an award-winner:

Gaiman's ghost story is not just about the thrills and chills, although there are plenty. The book is in fact literary and layered. Gaiman gives reassurance that even sinister circumstance cannot squelch our human capacity to grow and change for the better. So as in all worthy coming-of-age stories, the ending turns out to be a new beginning.
The Chicago Tribune,
...combines realistic dialogue and fantasy possibilities to tell a story that's not about sensationalized violence but about life's potential for happiness. Take time for this one, as it's quite remarkable; many adult readers, no children attached, have found it quite a compelling read.
The New York Times made it an Editor's Choice, but not The Boston Globe, in the first example of Thumper's "if you can't say something nice about someone don't say anything" motto book-reviewing I can remember. The entire review is:
I found the book ghastly, literally and metaphorically, and since Gaiman is a writer whose inventive genius I respect, I'll pass on without further comment.
...which just left me wondering how something can be metaphorically ghastly. ("It was ghastly -- and I mean that metaphorically!") and concluding that Liz Rosenberg is probably trying to use metaphorically as the opposite of literally, whereas what she actually meant was that it was ghastly in several senses of the word (ie. filled with dead things and ghosts and she didn't like it one little bit). Ah well. I hope she likes the next thing, whatever that is.

Which reminds me, the Who Killed Amanda Palmer book is, I am told, being printed and should be on its way into the world soon. (Preorder info here.)

Here's a short story from it. The stories are all short and all very different, and an Amanda dies in all of them. This one was a fairy-tale. It starts at about 2:19.

(You can see the photo Amanda is holding up here. And if you want to know what the event looked like from the front, photos, and more photos. Also, a review of her Sugar Club gig. I am tousle-haired. Who knew?)

Right. Now on to CORALINE...

It was predicted that it would be the #3 film this weekend. But by the end of the weekend, we were actually #2. Champagne would have been drunk if we weren't losing most of our 3D screens to the Jonas Bros on Friday.

Okay. Coraline tab-closing time:

Here's a great article on Coraline computer modellers, whose modelly creations were then made using 3D printers, saving about four man-years in face sculpting. (Is it still CGI when you press a button and it becomes real?). An interview with me and Henry Selick.

A review I enjoyed. The reviews from Christianity Today, Catholic News Service, and the Episcopal Life are all sane and positive, although we are all waiting for the Capalert review. (Then again, they thought The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was well dodgy.)

Irene Gallo has started collecting links to Coraline design and animation work on her blog ( And Chris Turnham's design work at is wonderful. Stef Choi just put some art up at, I'd love to see an ART OF CORALINE book. Steve Jones was limited in his Coraline Film Companion to the art and information that Laika would give him. Now that no-one's actually in the mad final stages of making a film, it would be marvellous to gather together the entire concept art process.)

There were many glorious things on the kitchen table waiting for me. I'll try and take a photo. My copy of The Lifted Brow was waiting for me. So was my copy of the DVD of American Scary. (The first ten minutes is up at

I've talked about Julie Schwartz here a few times. Read this. It's wonderful, in all senses of the word.

March 1-7th is Will Eisner Week. As we learn at

Will Eisner Week is intended as an ongoing celebration that will promote graphic novel literacy, free speech awareness, and the legacy of Eisner himself to a broad audience. This first annual celebration is themed "The Spirit of A Legend," examining Will Eisner's seminal Spirit comic, as well as the spirit inherent in his work that has inspired generations of comic readers and artists. This theme will be explored at events in Minneapolis at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, in Savannah at the Savannah College of Art and Design, and in New York City.
In addition to events, a variety of academic papers and group activity assignments are available on

And last of all...

On Saturday March 7th, at Books of Wonder in Manhattan, Charles Vess and I are doing a signing. The event starts at 1:00pm. I'll read Blueberry Girl (it isn't very long. Maybe I'll read it twice, or verrrry sloooowly) and Charles will have art on display and prints for sale, and we'll do a Blueberry Girl Q&A, and it should be fun. I was worried that there wouldn't be enough space, but Peter at Books of Wonder reassured me that they've moved into a new shop since last I was there, and hosted J.K. Rowling, so they will have no problem coping with numbers of people who will turn up. So, hurrah, turn up. They'll be donating a percentage of the profits to RAINN, because I originally wrote Blueberry Girl for Tori and her as-yet-unborn-daughter, and that seemed like the right thing to do.

(Click on the poster to make it bigger.) (An early Blueberry Girl review, from a young girl and her mum.)

(Worth mentioning that Please note that you are welcome to bring one book from home to be signed for each book you purchase on the day of the event is a mistake. It may be true for Charles, but it's not true for me. Current plans are that I'll sign three things per person, and if the numbers of people get too big, that may have to go down.)

And this has been a long enough blog that I shall stop here and resume later.

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Thursday, February 19, 2009

A quick last few days roundup

A quick one, on the run, from the Scottish Northwest (where I am for another 24 hours). 

The Amanda Palmer & Me show at Chapters was really fun. Apologies to anyone who couldn't see or hear, or who turned up, looked at the crowds and went away again. I don't think anyone was expecting 500+ people to turn up in Dublin, not even me. I gritted my teeth and made an "only one thing per person" rule, which made the whole event only 5 hours long, if you count the time we spent faffing about with a printer before starting late. (Memo to self. If you are going to be reading something odd and unpublished, print it out ahead of time.) Amanda sang three songs, I read three or four short deadamandapalmery stories, and we signed for a lot of nice people. (Also, an extra-special thank you to the Chapters staff, who went above and beyond.) (Cheryl Morgan reviews it here.)

And now I'm in Scotland (just for the day) and when last heard from Ms Palmer was changing planes in Kuala Lumpur on her way to Australia. It's a strange and refreshing thing to have a friend who travels as much and as oddly as I do.

Best news yesterday was an email from my editor letting me know that The Graveyard Book is at # 1 on the NYT childrens hardback list and that Coraline is #1 in paperback. I've never done that before.

At the Coraline premiere I sat next to Bruno Coulais, the composer. There's a lovely interview with him at
and another of the Coraline artists is putting design stuff online: Katy Wu.

Things that make me smile:  is this a Disney thing or can they just not count and/or add at ABC? (I'll leave it to you to find the error):
1. NEW! Friday the 13th (Warner Bros.) - $45.2M; 3105 theaters; $14,560 PTA

2. He's Just Not That Into You (Warner Bros.) - $23.3M; 3175 theaters; $7,359 PTA; -29%; $58.8M cume

3. Taken (Fox) - $22.2M; 3109 theaters; $7,141 PTA; -6%; $80.8 cume

4. NEW! Confessions of a Shopaholic (Disney) - $17.3M; 2507 theaters; $6,902 PTA

5. Coraline (Focus) - $19.1M; 2320 theaters; $8,236 PTA; -9%; $39.3M cume

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Monday, February 16, 2009

um, er... where am I again?

Right. Last night, CORALINE in 3D was shown at the Dublin Film Festival. (No, it won't be released here, or in the UK until May 8th.*) I introduced it and did a Q&A afterwards. I think the audience loved it, and I keep seeing things I missed on previous showings. (I was looking out for some of these things, too.) Lots of interviews during the day: I love Irish interviewers -- you find yourself having a conversation with them, rather than feeling like they're running through a checklist of questions.

Today was lunch with Neil Jordan, mostly talking about The Graveyard Book, and his next film, Ondine, which sounds beautiful. Tonight I went to Amanda Palmer's gig at the Sugar Club. I was fighting that Day Three Jet Lag thing, which meant that as soon as I sat down somewhere warm and dark, reality got a little mutable. Red Bull helped a bit, and so did the fact it was the single best of Amanda's concerts I've seen -- a small, perfect venue. And she is fearless, in front of an audience: they loved her and she gave them reason to. Wonderful stuff. I dozed off for a few seconds during 'Half Jack', but that was all.

And then I waved everyone goodbye and went back to my hotel because I was not certain that I would remain upright for much longer. And then I wrote this, because I wasn't sure I'd remember much about tonight by tomorrow.

*lots more emails from Australians wondering about the release. It's here. Why the title of the film has changed I do not know. Seems silly to me.

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Saturday, February 14, 2009

Happy Jack Benny's Birthday

Originally, I was meant to get in to Dublin tomorrow, Sunday, and immediately start doing interviews. Somewhere mid-week I realised that simply wasn't going to work -- I'd burned the candle at both ends and incinerated the middle during the two weeks of Coraline-and-Newbery-Madness in the US, and flying to Dublin, getting off the plane and doing six print, one TV interview and then going to Dundrum to introduce the film and do a Q&A interview afterwards seemed like a recipe for disaster, or at least, for sleeping through my own film.

So everything moved a day earlier, and that was a good thing. The flight was easy and pleasant (I sat next to one of the Original Fathers of the Internet, and he wanted to know about writing and I wanted to know about The Internet, so we chatted cheerfully over the meal service, which almost never happens). On landing I was whisked magically from the jetway to a little VIP place where I was given a cup of tea and put in a car with a lady from Universal, and I dreamed that all international airport exits could be as smooth and as graceful and as queue-free.

My loverly Android G1 doesn't work here -- it was, as you may remember, a gift from Google, and is, until one day it won't be, free, but its very freeness meant that it won't connect to any foreign phone service, as someone would have to be billed for the connection. At the point it informed me that it was now just a thing with photos and music on, I discovered how much I miss it (memo to self, tapping on the screen of the Nokia N73 does nothing at all). My elderly and eccentric Nokia N73, which turns itself off from time to time a bit randomly, sometimes mid phone-call, is now my phone while I am in Ireland. And I discovered the problems I was having with its predictive text function could mostly be traced to fact that it had decided in the last month or so that it would rather predict words in Dutch.

Anyway. Happy Valentine's Day from someone in a suspiciously empty and unValentiny sort of Dublin hotel room.


The Graveyard Book won a Cybil Award -- which is the children's book award from the blogging community. I was thrilled. All of the Cybil nominees and winners looked good this year, and I'm proud to be among them, and congratulations to everyone involved.

Monica Edinger reviews The Graveyard Book at The New York Times. Her review finishes,
I read the last of “The Graveyard Book” to my class on a gloomy day. For close to an hour there were the sounds of only rain and story. In this novel of wonder, Neil Gaiman follows in the footsteps of long-ago storytellers, weaving a tale of unforgettable enchantment.
Which made me really happy. The sounds of rain and story. Yes, that's what it's all for.


(About a month ago I'd told my Editor at HarperChildrens that I would send cupcakes for everyone at HarperChildrens if The Graveyard Book ever went back to Number One on the Childrens' list at the NYT. So last week, I sent an enormous number of cupcakes over to HarperChildren's  [although ten percent of the cupcakes were paid for by my agent]. I've told them if we ever get to be Number One five weeks in a row, more cupcakes.)

(I twittered my sadness at losing my long-time publisher at William Morrow, Lisa Gallagher. I don't think I mentioned it here. I worked with her for nine years -- she was originally in marketing, and then became my publisher, and when Anansi Boys went to Number 1 on the NYT list, we sat and drank champagne in a busy square together. She was always supportive and I will miss working with her very much, not just because she was the only person who would begin a phone call with a breezy "Hello darling, it's Lisa." I hope she gets a job as good as she is.)


Let's see.

Anyone who's seen CORALINE and wonders about the design work behind it should go and look at,
(For this one, click on Newer Things on the righ tand then Coraline.)

They're all awesome artists, but Dan Krall's work actually made me wish that he'd actually illustrated an edition of Coraline. Anyway, go and look at their art: you'll see illustrations for scenes that didn't make it into the finished movie. Like the Dan Krall drawing above.

I really hope there will be an actual Art of Coraline book, to collect all of this stuff, along with the other things you can look at on the videos at At the time of Steve Jones's Coraline: A Visual Companion book (you can browse it here) Laika and Focus weren't able to provide anything much in the way of art as, they explained, very sensibly, they were madly trying to finish a movie (they even cancelled the book at one point, pointing out that they didn't have anyone available to go through the art, as everyone was working on the film, and it took Henry Selick's intervention to get them to provide stills and bring it back from the dead). 

(Most of the above links taken from

Incidentally, if you are confused about which edition of Coraline to get, the ever-terrific School Library Journal has a round up of stuff about me here, and a round-up of all things Coraline here.

You want to know how to make 200,000 puppet-faces? You need a 3D printer.

Just wanna make a quick comment on Marcel's question, I watched Coraline yesterday here in Brazil and I watched it in 3D. Gotta say the dubbing is awesome. They're all great in what they do, really.

And it's, y'know, puppets.

Crafters have, I am informed, taken Coraline to their vast, capacious and Forcible-like bosum: is a facehugger octopus pattern, while takabelle made Coraline Gloves:

(Did I mention that I ran into Althea Crome in the airport on the way home from Portland last week? Or that just as were about to get off the plane she gave Maddy and me a tiny pair of gloves -- not from the film -- that I treasure, and have to figure out where to keep so they can be safely displayed?)


(Can you tell I'm closing Tabs here?)

Small disturbing book ban -- -- as a court upholds a ban on a book for small children about Cuba depicting smiling children as "inaccurate". 

Red Nose Day may reach America. Or the internet. I always get those two confused:

A list of ten childrens' films that are inappropriate for children has five of my -- and my kids -- favourite films on it. (If they'd just included Jan Svenkmayer's Alice...)

... Candy hearts with your own Valentine's wishes on them. Or birthday wishes.

And my own Valentine's Day wossname for the world -- you can hear Claudia Gonson singing "Bloody Sunrise", arranged and instrumentated by Michael Hearst, over at -- the link doesn't work, but if you click the play triangle, it'll play.

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Friday, February 13, 2009

3D or Not 3D?

In Atlanta airport en route to Dublin. Thought I would answer a few questions, then looked at watch and realised I only have time to answer one. So...

Hi Neil, how are you? Hope you are well.

I don't know if this is a FAQ, but I really want to know your opinion on this.

Coraline starts showing on Brazilian movie theaters today and I have a kind of a dilemma: there is no technology to put subtitles on 3D films right now. I realy don't like dubbed films, because I think I lose all the acting nuances in their voices and so on. But in this case, I would very much like to see the movie in 3D...

So, if you were in the same situation, what would you do???

Thank you very much for all the stories,


Easy. See it in 3D.

You can always go back and watch it in 2D. The DVD will come out later this year and be around for ever. You'll get to appreciate the US cast's voice acting then. This may be your only chance to see CORALINE in 3D.

(Same goes for the US. If you're putting off seeing it in 3D, don't: we lose the screens to the Jonas Bros 3D movie in a week or so.)

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zoom. zzzzoom.

In Minneapolis Airport. En route to Atlanta airport where I change planes for Dublin.

My dog has now learned the signs of me leaving -- a bag coming down from upstairs, the kitchen table with travel-stuff piled on it (coat, pens, ink, passport) -- and he doesn't like them. Walks around trying offset the inevitable, ears back, worried...

On the good side, he has a week to go before he is allowed off-leash, and can go up and down stairs, and run, and do all the stuff that he is convinced he ought to be able to do right now anyway. So when I come home he will be a much happier dog.


For the record on the last post, I have a terrific agent, who looks out for me and whose job it is to make sure that a) I make money by writing and b) that I don't somehow wind up having sold the same rights to two different groups of people. So her concern that text to speech violates audio book rights is natural and sensible.

And when I got this,

I'm glad to know that you support the Kindle text to speech capability. As a C-4 quadriplegic due to a spinal cord injury a few years ago recent improvements in technology allow me the independence to write this e-mail with assistance only from my computer, software and a microphone. However the technology is still young, clunky and not without drawbacks. (It will probably take longer to "write" this short e-mail than it did to listen to my friend read me the first chapter of Coraline!) (Don't ask how long it took me to write the word Coraline either-twice even!) Because there isn't big money for marketing products for para and quads we have to rely on technology progressing just for the sake of technology progressing. I think it would be silly and sad to slow improvments just because of money issues. Thanks for supporting technology and hope to see you at comic-con. -Brook McCall

her reply was,

Well. Okay. Yes. (sound of agent with no argument)

Because she is a wise woman.

oops. gotta board. Happy Friday the 13th. Watch out for lovcratian beasties coming up the argh...

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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Quick argument summary

Just found myself having a long argument/discussion with my agent over the Amazon Kindle text-to-speech capability. I'm going to summarise it here.

Her point of view: The Kindle reading you the book-you-just-bought infringes the copyright (or at least, the rights) to the audiobook. We've sold audiobook rights and print book rights as separate things. We must stop this.

My point of view: When you buy a book, you're also buying the right to read it aloud, have it read to you by anyone, read it to your children on long car trips, record yourself reading it and send that to your girlfriend etc. This is the same kind of thing, only without the ability to do the voices properly, and no-one's going to confuse it with an audiobook. And that any authors' societies or publishers who are thinking of spending money on fighting a fundamentally pointless legal case would be much better off taking that money and advertising and promoting what audio books are and what's good about them with it.


Which I am putting up here to save everyone time asking me what I think. 

Just went down to the Beehives. Kelli-hive is doing brilliantly, Kitty-hive is still alive but I don't know if she'll survive the winter. 

I got a pair of Coraline Dunks in the post this morning. Batman 686 is out now, and if you want a copy you may want to buy it fast, and Andy Kubert is drawing like a madman right now to try and get Detective Comics 853 out, while keeping the levels of quality as high. And no, I'm not telling you what happens next.

Right. Workbacktonow=me.

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Tuesday, February 10, 2009

by way of preamble...

A couple of days ago the front page at CBC (Canadian Broadcasting) website announced that it had interviews and reviews about Tim Burton's Coraline. Which I saw moments before I saw a piece on the Chicago Tribune print edition front page announcing its reviews of Tim Burton's Coraline. And my hackles started rising.

The hackles were, I should point out, not on my behalf, but for Henry Selick, who directed The Nightmare Before Christmas: he worked on the story with the screenwriter, Caroline Thompson (another person whose contribution tends to be forgotten), and the songwriter, Danny Elfman, to turn Tim's character sketches and poem into a film script, then he spent years in a warehouse in San Francisco overseeing people moving dolls around a frame at a time, with Tim off making fine movies; and, then, a couple of weeks before the film came out, the title was changed to Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas. Which tends to mean that people assume that Tim made the film and if they even notice Henry was involved as director, they assume it was in some strange kind of junior role. (Nope, he was the director. He grew Tim's poem and character sketches into a movie. Tim produced it.)  

It was irritating when people started asking me why the advertising said "From the director of The Nightmare Before Christmas", and wasn't it some kind of a sneaky attempt to make people think that it was by Tim Burton?, and I would sigh, and say no, it was a sneaky attempt to make people think it was directed by the person who directed The Nightmare Before Christmas. (And given that people were saying this about trailers that made a point of saying Henry's name, I had little patience with it.)

So I was already not impressed with the CBC website or the Chicago Tribune, and then someone sent me a link to an online newspaper in which the reviewer's first paragraph explained Tim Burton's career and then went on to explain, in an extremely dim sort of way, why Coraline was a Tim Burton film, and I twittered about it. And then watched the delighted twitterverse pile onto the poor gentleman in the comments page with surprise, realising that this power must only be used for good. 

(There are a lot more people reading this blog than are following me on Twitter at But still, deploying 22,000 people at once is an amazing thing.) (Not as good as Stephen Fry, of course. For he is the awesome god-emperor of Twitter. Also he sent me a direct message to say how much he liked Coraline.)

Some people thought I was grumpy about me not getting credit for Coraline. I'm not grumpy -- and believe me, I am getting more credit than authors of original books ever usually get. I was grumpy on Henry's behalf.

Which is mostly a preamble to give context to Randy Milholland's lovely cartoon at

Lots of emails saying things like

Hi Neil,

Just wanted to know if you'd seen this:

Does it still freak you out to be such a public... object sometimes? I imagine it must be like those Serious Shakespearean Actors in Holywood with Star Wars, Star Trek or X-Men action figures made out of their image... Or is it just flattering?! :)


If Bill Hader ever does his impression of me on SNL, as opposed to doing it at NY Comic Con, I will worry about having become a public object. Something like Randy's cartoon, or getting a namecheck in Dog Eat Doug is more like being waved at by those in our clan.

Dear Neil,

My name is Gabriel Miranda.I love your work, and am really excited for Whatever Happened To The Caped Crusader? which I'll be picking up Wednesday.I saw Coraline opening day and loved it, even though there were slight differences with the film and your novel.I'm 18 and an aspiring writer myself.You are one of my biggest influences and I hope one day I can achieve your level of success.I was wondering if you could send me a prop from Coraline.I know that probably sounds really bad, but I would just like to have a piece of that film for the rest of my life.If you could send me something or have Laika send me something it would be greatly appreciated and I would be very humbled.Thank you for your time Neil and I wish you the best of luck.Please get back to me soon.

Best wishes,
Gabriel Miranda

I'm sorry guys. I can't get you props from the film, or Coraline boxes, or, well, anything. I only have a Coraline puppet, and she is mine. Right now there's an eBay auction going on to benefit the Starlight Foundation -- you can see everything up at and go to the auction at EBay's Starlight Foundation store.

I just came across this amazing video of Amanda Palmer covering Radiohead's 'Creep' in the back of a London cab. With a broken ankle. And thought you and your fans might enjoy it.

That's delightful, and when I get some time I will waste some of it on the rest of the Black Cab videos they have up. Which reminded me of

Dear Neil,

My friends and I want to come up to Dublin for either the screening of 'Coraline' or your book signing next week. Can you please help make our decision easier?! Will you be doing a signing after the film screening?


Rebecca and Co.

No signing after the Dublin Film Festival CORALINE screening, although I will be doing a Q&A. As much signing as possible at the Chapters signing-and-singing on the 17th. (I will be signing. Not singing.)


I'm enjoying twitter, probably too much, but it doesn't do nuance very well. I wanted to let people know that they have another 2 weeks to watch Coraline in 3D before the Jonas Bros 3D movie comes out and takes over the screens (you do know that? If you want to see it in 3D or see again, you need to do it fast), and people thought I was plugging the Jonas Bros. I tried to let people know that copies of Batman 686 may go fast, and they should get stores to set it aside if they wanted it, and people thought I was pushing it (no, just trying to make sure I didn't get people asking why I didn't let them know it was coming out and might sell fast). (It's out today.[Edit to add, I mean tomorrow. I thought today was Wednesday.] It may go fast. You have been warned.)

And a final note --
Just a tip for readers: Searching "Coraline" and your zip code on Google only gives theaters showing the 2D version. You have to specifically search for "Coraline 3D" and the zip code to find it. I went many miles away to see what I thought was the only version available to me in my city before I figured this out. I hope to see it in 3D tonight.

And sure enough, he's right.

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Monday, February 09, 2009


Yesterday was another day mostly spent resting, and feeling a bit like a phone or iPod that's been a bit too drained, and now has to be charged for a while before it actually starts charging. Lots of email, some interviews (I am running the risk of getting interviewed out. I think that I'll stop doing interviews after Dublin, for a while. Or a long time), a phone call about WorldCon programming, stuff like that. No real work. Too much by-our-lady Twittering.

Today I've done three interviews (2 Brazil, 1 France) and am starting to feel human again.

The Graveyard Book has just been nominated for two Audie Awards (the ones they give for Audio Books), one for best Children's Book Age 8-12, one for Best Thriller/Suspense.  Which is nice, and made me think of this interesting (well, to me anyway) article on where you should shelve your copies of The Graveyard Book at

Public libraries across the country are reporting that all of their copies are checked out, and, at some, requests for holds are numbering in the hundreds.

Although there’s a consensus among kids, librarians can’t seem to agree on one essential issue: Where does the book belong—in the children’s area or in the teen section?

The New York Public Library, Chicago Public Library, and Boston Public Library keep the book in their juvenile areas. But the Seattle Public Library, Phoenix Public Library, Houston Public Library, and Los Angeles Public Library catalog the novel in their YA sections.

[...]Despite the fact that major reviewers—including SLJ—recommend the book for kids in grades five to eight, libraries adhere to their own particular policies when it comes to handling children’s books that address delicate issues, such as death, or are potentially scary, says Cass Mabbott, manager of the Children’s Center at the Seattle Public Library.
For the record, I don't mind where it's shelved, as long as no readers, of whatever age. who want to read the book are prevented from getting to it or finding it, and, like the commenters at SLJ and like Roger at the Horn Book, I really don't think this is another Scrotumgate. In the UK it's on adult shelves and child shelves in different editions in libraries and shops. It just got an adult and a child Audie nomination. It's fine.


Coraline did significantly better than expected. As E! Explains,

• Yes, Coraline opened at No. 3, but to its proud parents at Focus Features, it'll always be the top-debuting, wide-releasing, stop-motion film, if you go by per-screen average and not overall gross, in movie history. So there.
• For the stop-motion faithful, it will be noted Chicken Run made more in its debut weekend than Coraline, but boasted a slightly lower per-screen average, and it will be further noted Tim Burton's Corpse Bride boasted a far bigger per-screen average, but didn't go wide until its second weekend.

Not eligible for the iW BOT due to its wide release, but perhaps the specialty division story of the weekend, was Focus Features’ “Coraline.” On 2,298 screens, the stop-motion 3D “Coraline” grossed a fantastic $16,334,613, essentially doubling industry expectations and outgrossing fellow family-film opener “Pink Panther 2.” The film, which was very well received by critics, had the third highest opening for a stop-motion feature (behind “The Corpse Bride” and “Chicken Run,” though “Coraline"s smaller screen count actually gave it a higher PTA than both those films), and is Focus Features’ second highest wide opening after “Burn After Reading.”

Nearly 60% of “Coraline”‘s box office came from RealD’s 3D screens. “We’re proud of the great opening weekend that Focus had with Coraline,” said Michael Lewis, chairman and CEO of RealD.  “With 3D screens outperforming 2D screens about 3:1, it’s clear once again that audiences appreciate seeing fantastic worlds brought to life in ways only possible in RealD 3D.”

The tracking numbers had led people to think it would be in 5th or 6th place with about half of what it made. So it has done marvellously well, and I was filled with an unholy joy when it beat Pink Panther 2, a film that has no need to exist, and I do not mind it being beaten by HJNTIY because I am very fond of the people at Flower Films.

(The Other Mr Toast. Just to make people smile. Except Koumpounophobes.)

A few people have written in to ask about the changes between the book and the film. I'm not going to go too deeply in for risk of spoilers, will just say that Henry changed something that happens at the end, and some people mind, and some don't.

For those of you who've seen it, two different takes on the novel-to-film changes, one from Joshua Starr at, the other from Gary Westfahl at Do not click on the links if you haven't seen the film or read the book or if you wish to avoid spoilers. (Interestingly, I was fascinated by the mini-review at the bottom of this review, by a 7 year old, where he got the point, even if the speech Gary missed was not there.)

For those who want to know how much input I had into the end of the film, the answer is, some, but not a lot. The end of the film was sort of fluid -- it changed a great deal between the first version I read, the versions on storyboards, and the final film. They started filming the beginning without having locked down the end. (They weren't even sure of the Other Mother's final form.)

How do I feel about it?

Pretty good. I think what Henry and his team did was brilliant, and they took something that wasn't a film, and they made it into a film that worked, and is already being talked about as an Oscar contender. (Here's Henry talking about it at the Onion AV Club:,23298/2/). I didn't make this film, they did, and I'm proud of them.

For my part, I still like to find people who I trust, whose work interests and excites me, and let them get on with it. Henry turned Coraline into a film by changing some things. Most of the things he changed I love, although I am glad I did them my way in the novel. For those of you who like something that sticks, with utter fidelity, to the plot of the book, I should point you at the upcoming Stephin Merritt musical version of Coraline, with book by David Greenspan.

Then again, in their version, Coraline will be played by Tony-nominated Jayne Houdyshell, who does not look 9, and David Greenspan will play the Other Mother (but not the Mother)and honestly, it sounds strange and marvellous and I cannot wait. (I've heard songs, but they have Stephin doing all the voices and accompanying himself on, I think, a toy piano.)

And I am fine with that. The book is the book. I like watching people play, and make good art.

And finally,  go and read this link: 
There's rough times in Australia right now, and this will tell you about it, and what you can do.

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Now We Are... Eight?

So I'm standing in the kitchen in a vague sort of way, and it occurs to me that I made a cup of tea some time ago. Not proper tea, more a sort of camomile bedtime thing. I distinctly remember making it. I wander around vaguely inspecting all the places that a cup of tea might profitably wait for me, beginning with By The Kettle, and On The Kitchen Table, then getting a little more desperate, I checked The Islandy Thing In The Middle Of The Kitchen You Can Put Things On, and even, without any hope of actually finding it in there, The Fridge.

It was at this point I started wondering if I had actually made said cup of tea or merely imagined it, and what the likelihood was of it having been stolen by gnomes if I had really made it.

I then remembered that today was the blog's eighth birthday.  (Here's the first real post. It's number two because number one was a test post.)  I thought, I'd better go and post something about that, and wandered back to the sofa I've been mostly inhabiting for two days, and there, beside where I had been sitting, ignored and undrunk, where it had probably sitting for at least an hour, was a cup of very cold camomile tea.

And I thought, eight years ago, when I began carefully charting the progress of American Gods, nervously dipping my toes into the waters of blogging, would I have imagined a future in which, instead of recording the vicissitudes of bringing a book into the world, I would be writing about not-even-interestingly missing cups of cold camomile tea?

And I thought, yup. Sounds about right. Happy Eighth birthday, blog. 

(I expected in honour of the birthday month, the Oracle is now a turbanned me, and indeed, it is:

This post was brought to you by a cup of cold camomile tea.

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Saturday, February 07, 2009

From the man on the sofa

Two small things:

Firstly, I've meant to post for a while that if you are in the US (or have figured out a way to give a computer the impression you're in the US) you can watch the whole of The Prisoner, the Patrick McGoohan series that was such a part of my mental landscape growing up, legitimately online at I think it's great that they've put it up. As a teenager, before videos, I collected all three of the Prisoner novels, just to try and get back to the Village, and was unsatisfied by all of them. Finally got to watch them again on Channel 4 in the mid 80s, and they were just as good, and as odd, as I had remembered.

And secondly, Miss Maddy is interviewed by The Fabulous Lorraine, over at Lorraine's blog. Well, it made me smile.

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The story so far....

I seem to be spending the day recovering -- napping and sleeping and waking and not doing much of anything, really. It's wonderful. Perhaps tomorrow I will have a functioning head again. Not today.

So, for those of you following the story, Coraline came out yesterday. (Here's the Metacritic what the reviewers are saying list. It's at 80%. This is incredibly good.) The box office estimates and tracking had us coming in in 5th or 6th place for the weekend. It's now looking like we'll be in a healthy  third place, and that a lot more people than anyone expected are going to see it.

Which is good for Coraline, and good for Laika, and good for the Portland animation world, and good for Henry, and I'd be lying if I said it wasn't good for me.

Now, none of this would have happened if Henry Selick and his amazing team of fabricators and animators hadn't worked miracles. A lot of this is to do with the amazing reviews the film has been getting over the last few days.  A lot of it has to do with Focus Films' serious advertising on TV for the film. But in addition that, I like to think that a lot of it has to do with the work that Weiden+Kennedy have been doing over the last few months. Things like the Koumpounophobia Trailer, or the spooky trailer, or the boxes for bloggers, or the keys, all come from them, and if adults were being encouraged to go, or reassured that it wasn't just a kids' movie, it came primarily from them.

This is the Weiden Kennedy blog entry on what they did, that takes yo backstage and thanks everyone involved And I want to thank them, too.

(Incidentally, before we leave the subject of film critics, for the record, it's even more fun getting thumbs up from Messrs Hill and Wheaton than you might imagine. And you probably imagine it's an awful lot of fun.)

Not a question: when they´re taking your pictures, stop talking!!! They took funny pictures of you during Coraline´s premiere! Tell miss Maddy she look terrific in green!

The trouble is, most of the time the cameras are flashing. It's not one guy taking a picture of you: it's dozens of people all with cameras. And sometimes you know your picture is being taken, and you shut up and smile (or don't smile) but often you don't know, and sometimes you're in the middle of talking to someone when the flashes go off, and mostly then, if you're me, you just keep talking. 

Sorry about that. Let me make it up to you: Here's an article from Toronto, mostly about me and Toronto, that I'm only posting because I like the photo. Mostly, I don't like photos of me. But I like this one. And look, I'm not talking.

And Maddy's green dress was truly adorable. As, of course, is she.

Hi Neil,

just wanted to know if you had the chance to see the German Edition of your fracking amazing Graveyard Book ?
I saw it a few days ago in a local Book Store - the book is inside a Metal Box - very neat ! :)



That's beautiful. I'd heard they were doing the books inside metal boxes, but hadn't seen them yet.


The Coraline Haiku competition for tickets to last Thursday night's premiere.

And this came in from my friend John Lorentz, and is a terrific round-up of the news from Portland, including the premiere, and some TV:


From the Oregonian's web site:

KGW (the NBC station):

KOIN (the CBS station)

KATU (the ABC station):

KPTV (the Fox station):

It's been strange to randomly hear your voice from various local TV
and radio newscasts during the last day.  And several of the news
people picked up your Twitterings and passed them on in the articles.

Hope you and Maddy had a good time last night.


And we did, and we were, and now we are glad to be home.

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