Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Nothing Guaranteed - Or Your Money Back!

I loved the Book Festival, had a wonderful time at the Fringe (was co-opted as stooge by the cast of the marvellous Tartuffe,) and then went to London and had a mad day of Location scouting and some costume and make-up things for my silent movie (shooting in London on the 6th-8th of September; I MAY need passers-by for the stuff we are shooting on Sunday the 6th. If I do, I'll mention it up here on around the 4th).

Am about to go offline for a holiday week (offline, also a week of no cellphone). Planning to walk and to cook and to do a bunch of writing, and to have the first week of just being off alone with Amanda in the about 8 months of our being together.

Be good. Do not riot, or break either the internet or human civilisation while I am gone.


Friday, August 21, 2009

Too tired

This is just a very short , very late-at-night post to say that I attended the Edinburgh International Book Festival, and I enjoyed myself, and I did my solo event and the other one with Ian Rankin, and they were both delightful. The signings were amazingly efficiently run, and the one-item-per-person rule was on the one hand, cruel, and on the other hand meant that on the first day I signed for 500 people in 3 hours.

(This was my favourite Fringe show so far.)

It's strange being somewhere with someone, and stranger being somewhere with someone who is working a lot of the time. I'm way behind on my email, and will go off the radar in a few days to just go off and write and walk and rest and recover.

Sad news: my cat Pod died, in her sleep, of old age yesterday. Lorraine blogs about it here. Pod was a bit mad, but she loved Lorraine (which is good). Right now I find I'm more worried about Hermione, her sister, alone in the library...

Tomorrow it's Amanda's Edinburgh gig. Then on Monday she'll be trailing after me for a couple of days while I go and check out locations and suchlike.

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Monday, August 17, 2009

A quick one

Very quick one just to say I'm in the offices of a film company in London, spending two days interviewing editors, production designers, costume people and the like, for a short (ten minute) silent film I've written and will be directing in two weeks' time.

I can't tell you much more about it yet. It stars, er, a star, and another, different, star. I had the idea for it half way through the HousingWorks benefit Amanda and I did in April [Edit: er, June. April was PEN.], and pulled out my notebook and wrote it down.

It got the green light on Friday, will be part of a series of Silent Films broadcast in the UK in December, and I have probably already said too much.

Wednesday and Thursday I'm doing events in Edinburgh (sold-out talks, with open signings afterwards).

To close a few Tabs, once again the Guardian reports the Hugo Awards as news, making it pretty much the sole major newspaper in the world to do this. Damien Walter writes a lovely piece for the Guardian blog about me and it. (Wired also reported it.)

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Friday, August 14, 2009

Your Instructions, should you choose to accept them...

When Blueberry Girl was published, and, much to our relief, people loved it, many of us had the same idea at the same time... my poem "Instructions", wouldn't that be rather wonderful illustrated by Charles?

I asked Charles what he thought, and he liked the idea, and Elise Howard, our editor, liked the idea too. We'd made, in Blueberry Girl, a picture book aimed not really at kids at all (although lots of kids seem to love it) but at mums and mothers to be, and daughters, and despite Borders initially refusing to stock or sell it, it had still made the NYT list, and, more importantly, it had made people happy. Could we do something like that aimed at everyone? And could we do it in less than the three years it took Charles to do Blueberry Girl?

I wasn't sure. I did know that the problem wasn't mine, though. It was Charles's. And Charles Vess is a remarkable man, and an amazing artist...

Over at Charles tells the story of how he evolved the main character (boy? girl?) and shows the evolution of some pages from pencils to finished art.

There are more pictures up at Irene Gallo's blog,

And here's one posted by me...

The deep well you walk past leads to Winter's realm;

there is another land at the bottom of it.

If you turn around here, you can walk back, safely;

you will lose no face. I will think no less of you.

It won't be out until 2010 -- Charles is still drawing madly, and painting like a wild thing.

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Thursday, August 13, 2009

"We're individuals in the community..."

For those wondering about the Belljar -- my theory that the bees would do whatever it was the bees would was right. As soon as it went onto the green hive, the bees invaded it. They checked out the strips of white wax I'd put in, sniffed dismissively, went "Obviously done by an amateur" and began to remove them. These two photos are from about ten days ago.

Here you can see them chomping through and removing another piece of white wax. I imagine that they found a use for it somewhere in the bowels of the hive.

These are from today (hot, muggy, humid, grey day). The bees have pretty much finished removing all the wax that I put in and are now building their own (yellow, not white) wax installations down the side of the belljar.

And you can see some wax foundations on the side of the belljar being put in by bees who know what they are doing. That's the nice thing about bees. After this many million years, they really do know what they're doing.

Here's my favourite bee song. It's by Mirah and the Spectratones, and it's called Community.
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Underneath the Bats and the Stars

I know.

I've got so many tabs open I need to put up here and close, and so much going on, and I haven't even caught up telling you what I did at Worldcon on Monday, or how I then flew to Toronto and caught up with Tori Amos and saw her in concert for the first time since Budapest, or about her daughter Tash's epic Mustachio competition for the crew...

But instead of doing any of that I took Cabal and his best friend Freck (a dog who appears to be staying over) out to the bottom of the garden, and lay on my back and stared up at the cloudless sky. Just about the moment I thought, "You know, I don't have to see any meteors -- just peacefully getting a chance to stare at the stars is good enough," zoom and zoom, two beautiful, low meteors shot through the sky, trailing glittering tails behind them, and I went "oooh" as if it was a special, perfect, fireworks display put on just for me.

And the bats were out too: ragged patches of silent blackness against the deep night-purple star-bespattered sky.

Amanda's pointed out that I have a tendency always to be doing the next thing, or, while I'm doing something to be thinking about the next dozen things I need to be doing, and that I should enjoy and be in the moment more, and she's right. So I lay there and looked at the stars and the bats and I counted the falling stars.

I counted 28 altogether. About ten of them had tails. Some were just streaks of light, others zooming pinpoints. A couple of them were full-on magical golden-yellow special effects.

I thought I lay there for 20 minutes. It was, I realised when I came in, well over an hour.

And there are things I have to read tonight, and things I still have to watch: but I watched 28 stars fall, and I didn't mind that I couldn't think of anything to wish for, and the air was cool and the bats were silent and I could have stared up at the sky forever.

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Monday, August 10, 2009

Thank you kindly, Charlie Brown.

I'm really starting to like Google Voice. The 3 cents a minute calls to Russia from Canada through my cellphone are rather wonderful for a start. It has its little foibles, though: it sends a voice-to-text text message to your phone if someone leaves you a message. That's good. If an American leaves a message it's going to be pretty accurate. If an English person leaves a message, it might as well be random words. That's not good.

Did two panels today -- a conversation with Gary Wolfe, where we talked about reading fiction and criticism and reviewing and Gene Wolfe and such, and a conversation with Cheryl Morgan where we talked about dogs and bees and pumpkins and Doctor Who and things like that.

I presented two awards -- Best Graphic Fiction and Best Artist, and I won what feels like the heaviest Hugo there ever was for The Graveyard Book. I thought the Best Novel award would and should go to Neal Stephenson's Anathem (and still think that it might have done if that book had actually been included in the Hugo Voters Reading Packet that John Scalzi organised, where every Hugo voter was able to read all the Hugo nominated stories etc, thus, at least in theory, giving a much more educated voting base, who would vote on the basis of things they had read, rather than on name recognition or without having read things that were published in out-of-the-way places). I didn't have a speech prepared, but thanked everyone except one person.

You get about a week between being notified that you are nominated for a Hugo Award and the nominations being announced. This is to allow you to say "No, thank you" if you wish, and to decline the nomination. (I did this a few years ago with Anansi Boys.) The late Charles N. Brown called me during that week having found out by his own methods, or possibly just guessing, and told me not to decline the nomination. He was astonishingly firm and bossy about it, and while I had been wavering, after that call I emailed the administrator of the awards to let them know that I accepted. I should have thanked Charlie, and I didn't. So I am, here.

The Hugo results are here. Here are the pdfs on the nominations and voting results.

I was, with Chip Kidd, Irene Gallo and Geri Sullivan, a judge in the Hugo Logo contest. We got over 400 submissions, many of them amazingly good. Here's the winner.

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Saturday, August 08, 2009


I'm awake and happy. The convention was much more interesting than my exhausted post of last night might have implied.

Yesterday began with the Locus Foundation Board Meeting, the Foundation founded by Charles N Brown before his death. These are the people whose responsibility it is to overlook Locus Magazine and make sure it continues into the distant future. I am on this foundation.

There may also be a shadowy Second Locus Foundation, whose job it is to ensure that the future of Science Fiction and Fantasy procedes as Charles had planned it. Or that might be an Isaac Asimov book, now I come to think of it.

I was on a new media panel with Melissa Auf der Maur (smart & beautiful multimedia rock musician), Ellen Kushner, Cory Doctorow (both extensively described previously on this blog, both as to what they do and personal beauty), Tobias Buckell (brilliant author) and Steve Boyett (author and DJ) (both strangely beautiful in their own way)

We looked like this.

and the panel is described at

There was a press conference. (Here's a description.)

I lunched with George R R Martin and Paris, and George gave me a Hugo Loser badge, for I have lost at least two Hugos now.

I signed (that one you know about) for 200 people for 2 hours, while being filmed. I ate sushi with the convention teens and answered their questions, then introduced a screening of Coraline, signed more books for charity and then was interviewed by people who want to make a documentary about AE Van Vogt.


If you see this at Worldcon can you mention that people should pick up the Worldcon newsletter -- Voyageur -- from pickup points around the Palais or in the con suite. We *did* publish info on how people could get signing tickets (twice) and there is lots of other important info in there too. All con members should be reading it. It's also available online at Thanks ever so -- Alison Scott


I'll be in Hamburg, Germany on the 18th of September, for the Harbour front Festival. Tickets and information on my reading/talk are at and are, I am told, nearly gone. The significantly more beautiful than anyone mentioned so far in this post Amanda Palmer will be playing in Hamburg around then too -- whether the day before or the day after I am not quite certain.

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Friday, August 07, 2009

Worldcon Signing info

Too tired to think or blog. Long long day.

Photos of last night's TOR party and my Clarion class from last year are up at Kyle's website at

Hi Neil,

I was so happy to hear you were going to be in Montreal this summer and planned to go to your signing today but alas, no where was it mentioned that you needed to get tickets for the signing at 9am this morning. I know this is not your fault as you likely aren't in charge of such things but it was very discouraging to get in line for your signing only to learn that I couldn't get in. I was wondering if it would be possible to get in a super quick meet & greet after one of your panels on saturday or sunday...I'm sure you are mobbed by people and that's why you have the signings but I would really just like to get an autograph and / or quick picture if possible.
I hope you are enjoying our wonderful city! Keep writing those wonderful books! Cheers!

Sorry. I didn't know either, or I would have mentioned it. It'll be the same deal for the signing on Monday I believe.

As a general rule, descending on me at the end of a panel with things to be signed is not a good idea. Sidling over to me politely with something you want signed it you spot me at an appropriate moment has a much better chance of getting a signature. There are probably no circumstances in which putting a book, comic or poster you want signed in front of me in a Men's Toilet will be an appropriate action or get you a signature.


Thursday, August 06, 2009

I see you quiver with Antici

Worldcon is underway. (Here is an interview with me about it.) Today I went with Dave McKean to the Drawn and Quarterly shop where we saw my friend the lovely Peggy Burns. In this photo I am showing Dave one of the Bigfoot books, which I am very fond of.

Neil showing me great Big Foot book at the amazing Drawn + Qu... on Twitpic

Then was interviewed, had lunch with Patrick and Teresa Nielsen Hayden. Then I was interviewed by Jessica Langer and an audience. Met a bunch of people -- John Scalzi was the one I've been waiting the longest to meet in the flesh, and he was every bit as nice and smart as I'd expected. Then a panel on the life and work of John M Ford, after which I slipped off with Jon Singer and Beth Meacham. (Edit to add, there's a lovely photo and description of the panel here.)

I talked with Beth about the R. A. Lafferty Treasury that we want to do, where we'll assemble a big Best of Lafferty collection, with individual stories introduced by different authors, just as the Avram Davidson one was.

Then Opening Ceremonies, where I gave an off-the-cuff speech I had written 6 weeks ago, which very nearly came true (especially the hedgehogs), and I watched Charles Stross in conversation with Paul Krugman, which was fascinating from beginning to end.

Then I popped in to the TOR party, where Kyle Cassidy took photos of me and the Clarion alumni from last year who are here (in the party bathroom, with a fisheye lens camera), and gave me a book of astonishingly beautiful photos he had made for me in an edition of one. It took me by surprise and left me unspeakably happy. What a good friend.

This is a Kyle photo of me in beekeeper mode:

Neil is actually a very, very nice man, the bees wouldn't sti... on Twitpic

This is a Kyle photo of me in the green room today with Anne Murphy my minder at the con. She is amazing, and without her I would not be wherever I am meant to be whenever I am there; and she never gets flustered and she never gets bothered, and she's a joy to have around. I firmly believe that in real life she designs giant fighting robots, of the kind where you sit in their head and then they fly off to save Tokyo, even though she says that isn't quite what she does at all. Because if you did design giant fighting robots, you'd want to keep it a secret.

neil freaking gaiman at worldcon on Twitpic

(They are twitpic photos, so if you click on them they will get bigger and clearer.)


Mr. Gaiman,
I work at an independent bookstore in New Orleans and we wanted to try to get you to come in. We all wanted to enter The Graveyard Book Hallowe'en party contest, but since you announced it, all of the staff have been trying to find specific rules and guidelines on how to enter, but can't find anything more on your site, or anything at all on Harper's sites. If you have any further information or could let us know how to get a hold of it, it'd be much appreciated...
Thanks for your time!
-Melanie Britt

HarperChildrens sent out an excellent ecard, but for some reason haven't put it up on their website, so I'll get it put up on this one. (Update: Here it is. -wg)

I'll quote from the rules (at some length I'm afraid. Skip this if you aren't a bookseller, or if you don't want to talk your local bookseller into having a party):
To enter the Contest, you must be an independent bookseller; you must host an in-store Halloween Party, with The Graveyard Book as the theme, between September 30, 2009 and November 1, 2009; and you must submit event photographs or a video, along with a brief paragraph describing the Party, to by November 6, 2009 (9:00 p.m. PST). Contact your HarperCollins Sales Representative to discuss using cooperative advertising funds for the Party.
Entries with photographs must include at least three (3) but no more than five (5) photographs. Photographs must be provided in .jpg format and as attachments to the entry email. Video entries may not exceed 120 seconds in length; must be provided in .mov or .flv format; and may not exceed a file size of 75 MB. Only one (1) entry per qualified bookseller is permitted.
All entries must be accompanied by a brief paragraph (100 words max) highlighting the details of the Party: Name of store, location of store, number of attendees, overview of Party, special promotions or features. Paragraph may be included within the body of the entry email or attached as a separate Word document.
One (1) Grand Prize winner will be offered an opportunity to host an exclusive Appearance by author Neil Gaiman at the bookstore. The Appearance will most likely consist of a reading, book signing, question-and-answer session, etc. Specific details of the Appearance are to be determined, based upon the location, space limitations, and other requirements of the winning bookstore. The date, time, and duration of the Appearance depends upon the Author’s schedule. The Sponsor and Author currently project that he will be available in December 2009. If the Grand Prize winner cannot host the Appearance during that month, or if the Author cancels a scheduled Appearance, then the Sponsor and Author will endeavor to select and offer the Grand Prize winner a mutually acceptable alternate date for the Appearance.
Five (5) First Prize winners will each receive five (5) signed copies of The Graveyard Book in hardcover and a customized video greeting from the Author. The specific details (content, length, delivery date, etc.) of the customized video greetings are to be determined by the Sponsor and Author.
Five (5) Second Prize winners will each receive one (1) signed copy of The Graveyard Book in hardcover and a tagged video greeting from the Author. The specific details (content, length, delivery date, etc.) of the tagged video greetings are to be determined by the Sponsor and Author.
All prizes will be awarded, provided there are at least eleven (11) qualified entrants.
The Contest winners will be selected by the Sponsor and Author in their sole discretion based upon the following criteria:
(i) Overall creativity of the Party, as demonstrated by the invitations, signage, decorations, activities, entertainment, and refreshments.
(ii) Customer attendance and response (i.e., enthusiasm, costumes, participation).
(iii) Ability to capture and represent the spirit of The Graveyard Book.

I'm requesting a little...clarification, I guess, on the Graveyard Book Halloween party contest. We have a few local businesses who heard that we're planning on doing it and who would like to be involved (because it sounds fun). Would it be disqualifying if we allowed that? Are there any actual rules beyond "have a party; document it; send in the stuff; wait and see"?


I asked Elyse Marshall from HarperChildrens, who said,

Without knowing exactly how the local businesses would be involved (I'm guessing some kind of sponsorship or donations, i.e. bakery provides cupcakes, party store provides balloons) I think this sounds okay. However, the party must be held in-store. We included this in the rules to level the playing field a bit, so that those stores which might not be able to afford an off-site venue can still have a fair shot of winning.

If anyone has any questions they can email us directly at


Dear Neil,

I would really like your bell jar of bees to work, and so I'm worried that you might have made a small blunder by gluing the strips flat to the glass. Turlough's strips appear to be perpendicular to the glass.

I took the liberty of asking Turlough on the bee blog:

Here's the response:
"Yes, the strips should be perpendicular to the jar. They aer "glued" in place by gently heating the wax strips to make them tacky.

I'm not sure what will happen with flat strips."

Which is not to say that your flat strips won't work too. If they don't work, give perpendicular strips a shot.

Best of luck to you--and congratulations for a well-deserved Hugo nomination. I love your writing and your imagination; the world would be less enjoyable without both.

Christian Moody
Cincinnati, OH

Actually, the day after I put them in, curious as to bee behaviour, I twisted about half of them so they were perpendicular to the glass, and left half of them flat against it. So we'll find out.


I have five bottles of Jones Soda with my face on them, one from each appearance on the Fast Forward TV show from 1993 to 2006. (I look really rough in 1999. Which is Green Apple flavour. In case you were wondering.)

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Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Two Blue Ribbons.

I'm in Montreal for Worldcon. The convention starts tomorrow, and all sorts of excitement is undoubtedly happening, but I am in my room writing a blog entry and when I have done that I will go to sleep. This is because I am old and boring.

Twenty two years ago, at my first Worldcon, I was not old and boring. As I remember I hardly slept at all, because I was 26 and fairly certain that Something Interesting Might Happen at any moment and I did not want to Miss a Second Of It, and actually, something interesting happened most of the time, and I didn't miss any of It, until Sunday evening when I missed the Hugo Ceremonies because I had fallen asleep, and was woken by the after-Hugo Fireworks, which I dreamed were the bombs falling in the trenches of World War I. And even then, I could not believe the idea that there were people who pootered off to their rooms and slept, just because it was, you know, night. Didn't they know it was Worldcon?

And now I'm one of the ones who go and sleep. I hope there are a new crop of sleepless 26 year olds downstairs, and they can make sure that they don't miss It, if It happens. (The ConReporter, at, a sort of aggregator of the people who are here and blogging, might have been a useful tool for that.)

So. Award news. And listen, this one is big.

We (and by we, I mean the Birdchick and Lorraine and Woodsman Hans and the Birdchick's long-suffering husband Bill and me of course and any of our passing guests who have been persuaded to put on a white bee suit and come and hold the smoker, but most of all the amazing 60,000 bees in the Yellow Hive and the just as amazing 60,000 bees in the Green Hive) took two Blue Ribbons in the county fair, for Extracted Honey and for Comb Honey (a Ross Round). We are, of course, over the moon.

The extracted honey is from the yellow hive, and it tastes of mint and wildflowers. It's a very light yellow (as is all our honey this time of year). The comb honey is from the green hive. I have no idea what it tastes like, but it looks beautiful.

(I moved the bell-jar from the red hive, where they ignored it, to the green hive, where they immediately headed in, began investigating, and appear to have already started doing comb-in-the-jar things. Will report further when I get home.)

Next to that news, everything pales, but the word that I was nominated for two World Fantasy Awards was pretty thrilling. (I hope Margo Lanagan gets best novel for Tender Morsels, by the way. Even if it does make the Guardian tut a bit.) Congratulations to all the nominees -- especially to Elise Matthesen.

World Fantasy Con is Hallowe'en Weekend (in San Jose website is I won't be there as I'm going to be in Singapore for the literary festival. But I will miss it.

and get a motley, and interesting, bunch of answers.

Puzzled that what I thought was a fairly innocuous and uncontroversial thing to point out (that the current Vampire fiction thing has crested, and that it might be a good idea if it died back for a while) seems to have somehow become news of a sort, making the Guardian Blog and then getting repeated and linked to a lot, becoming Neil Hates Vampires in the process.

Oh well.

Spent a glorious day with Dave McKean meeting the people behind the scenes at the Cirque Du Soleil, who are based out here. I love creative, smart people who follow their dreams, and they are that. (Dave has photos up at

I signed up for a Google Voice invite last week, and it came through a couple of days ago. I signed up for a number with lots of memorable sixes in it, and have been playing with it ever since. It's marvellous so far. Will report back in a few weeks whether I still think it's marvellous.

On the Tor website, Teresa Nielsen Hayden is going to be rereading Sandman and writing about it. She introduces the project at You should be able to follow it at and the metacommentary has begun as well.

There is a giveaway on the Mythic Delirium website, where you can get the 20th Anniversary Edition (with my trout heart poem in it). Learn what it is here.

Okay. It is time for a few mailbag questions...

Dear Neil -- Forgive me if you've addressed this already, I searched and didn't see an answer. Do you know if the Stephin Merrit's music from the Coraline musical will be recorded and made available sometime? I'd love to hear it!

Definitely. I'm not sure when, but I know they recorded it, on the stage of the Lortel theatre (as that was where the pianos were).

A recent NY Times Magazine article discussed the influence of the work of Jack Vance, and it included you as a contributor to a collection of stories based on his work "Dying Earth." I've been reading speculative fiction for decades and have made three separate attempts to read some of his writing without getting very far. Can you offer some insight into your thoughts about Vance's work--what facets of storytellign does he excel at? And where do you feel someone who wants to appreciate him should start?

I think the New York Times was astonishingly perceptive in its description of Jack Vance's writing, and why people like it (and why writers like it). Where to start? The Dying Earth stories hooked me. There's a short story called 'The Moon Moth' that's pretty much perfect. The three books that make up Lyonesse are big and delightful and have a lot for a reader to sink his or her teeth into.


I'm a huge fan, and have been for a while. Keep up the good work!

I do have a question, though, that I haven't found anywhere (yet...), and was wondering if you could enlighten me.

How do you know when your story is ready to be told?

I am currently in the editing process before publishing, and as the due date draws near, I find myself in somewhat of a panic, asking myself: What if there's eventually more to tell that I can't quite think of just yet? What if, somewhere down the line, something X in this novel doesn't make sense with something Y in a future novel? What if this novel really isn't ready? Do I write another one? Is there time for another one? What would Neil Gaiman do?

I thought you would be the best person to ask. If I'm overreacting and over-thinking for no apparent reason, too, let me know.

Thank you for your time.


I tend to know that a story is done when I find I'm more interested in the next thing.

But it will never be perfect. And...

Hang on. I've answered this before, haven't I? (Does a few second hunt, and finds longish replies at and Yup. Read those over.

Dear Neil-

As a librarian I want to say thank you so much for your continuing support of libraries. You helped bring a lot of awareness to the lead testing issue earlier this year, as well as different censorship issues in libraries.

I'm writing to ask if you can help bring awareness to the fact that a month ago the Governor of Michigan signed an executive order abolishing the Department of Histories Arts and Libraries. This includes the Library of Michigan who provides electronic databases as well as the Michigan Electronic Library, without which many small local libraries around the state will barely be able to function.

this link has information about a protest of the decision being held at the capitol as well as links to the executive order that abolished the department.

Thank you for helping if you can

Consider it posted. And now I sleep.

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