Friday, February 19, 2010

"Of course, in Alabama the Tuscaloosa, but that is entirely irrelephant..."

I went to Alabama, to Tuscaloosa.

Before I left, I was interviewed by Tuscaloosa newspapers. "What do you expect of Alabama?" they asked "What do you know of Alabama?" I was a bit puzzled by that. It's the kind of question you usually get asked by small, nervous countries who don't get many visitors. ("Have you heard anything about Ruritania?" they ask, and you tell them that you've heard that the strudel in Strelsau is excellent and you're glad that Jews can now own land there again, and everyone's happy.) It's not something I'd expected to be asked coming to a state. But then, I'd visited (if not actually signed books in) 47 states and I'd not yet been to Alabama, so they sort of had a point. I told them no, I had no expectations.

The strange thing is that, as an author, there are places publishers never send you, and the American South (if you don't count Atlanta) is one of those places. When I'd ask, I'd be told it was because people didn't really buy books there, or there wasn't a demand, or something.

And all I know is, the first batch of tickets for my reading in Alabama were gone in 120 seconds. (Literally. We thought the website had crashed.) The few leftovers, released later in the week, went at the same speed. A 1078 seat theatre sold out in minutes, and they could have filled it twice or three times over. People had driven 4 hours to get there and more. Everybody there seemed hungry for words and stories and literature.

I had a wonderful time. As far as I could tell, everyone there also had a wonderful time. (See local paper reports: Writer’s quirky style wins over packed crowd and Author reads at Bama Theatre.) Lots of lovely messages from people who were there. I'll grab one, to give you the flavour:

Dear Mr. Gaiman,

I was at your reading last evening (in Alabama).

It was my first author reading... And it was also the first for my dad, my friend and her godmother (Yikes! We Alabamians really ARE deprived!).
So you were right: None of us have ever had a story read to us in twenty years (How about our whole LIVES?)

But your reading blew us away. I don't think we have NEVER laughed so much. And we teared up in all those sad, wistful places (or maybe that was just me). You were amazing. And keeping a theater of 1,000 Alabamians attentive for two hours with just a podium and words... That was another mind blowing thing. Oh, and should I mention that I'll never be able to read a novel and be satisfied now?!

I wish I could relive last evening again. So I just wanted to say (aside from "I love you!!") THANK YOU SO MUCH!!!!!!!! I wish there was a way to bold these words and make them bigger. It was an evening I shall never forget. Thank you!!


They made a glorious limited tee-shirt, and a broadside illustration to celebrate. Hank Lazer and his team were wonderful.

This morning I talked to some grad students, was given a gift of some great-smelling locally made soap which later would really confuse the explosives-testing people at the airport, was taken to Dreamland Barbecue for lunch (as I had been instructed to do by dozens of people on Twitter and here) and flew home feeling really happy.

And I'm going on about this at greater length than I normally would because I don't get it. On the one hand you have a terrific university and a population that really seems to read and is hungry to interact with authors and to come to events like this. On the other hand, you have authors, who really like to go places where people like us. So why has it taken me 22 years of signing my way across America to get to Alabama? And why don't publishers send authors there?

It makes me suspect some kind of self-fulfilling deeply wrong idea here. Bookshops and such that wouldn't ask for signings because they know they'll be turned down? Publishers in New York who'd never send authors to places like that because they know nobody would go, and nobody asks?


This came in nine months ago:

I just got home from the Coraline musical- it was delightful, enchanting, and fantastic! It was even better than what I'd imagined and I dream lots. My fiancee and I talked about the show all the way home from New York (we live in Philadelphia) and we both are wondering if there will be a CD made of the wonderful music? We loved the alternative instrumentation and all the singing was pure perfection tonight. I don't know if we'll be able to swing a second pair of tickets for the show, but we'd love to hear those songs again! Please use your powers for good once again and make this happen!

kerplink, kerplunk, kerploonk,
Elizabeth Hahn

I couldn't answer. I didn't know. Since then, people have written to me over and over asking, a bit wistfully, if there would ever be a Coraline Musical Original Cast Album.

Well, now there is. A limited edition CD with a 24 page booklet, all 27 song lyrics and so forth.

You can also go to iTunes (no idea whether the iTunes link is limited to the US version or if you can get it internationally). Also, if you get to see The Magnetic Fields on tour, with the new CD Realism, the merchandise table, in all probability manned by writer Emma Straub, will be selling the CD. Here's their tour schedule.


Dear Neil,

From following your blog over the years, I know that you have bees, fruit trees and a fairly extensive garden and seem to be evolving into something of a gentleman farmer. Was this a conscious decision? Also, where do you get most of your food and do you know how it was raised?

My wife has always been interested in the subject of where our food comes from and has gotten me into it (we live in a small town in Eastern Pennsylvania and, so far as I know, are the only family in town with a greenhouse and backyard poultry).

Thanks for your time.

Joseph Crockett

When I was a kid we moved into a house that had fruit trees, and an already existing vegetable garden (with an old man named Mr Weller, who had been the house's gardener in bygone years, came in and tended the garden every week), and there were gooseberry and currant bushes. I liked living in a world in which, in the summer and the autumn, I could graze. I still do.

And American Supermarket vegetables and fruit don't tend to taste like very much. They're grown for looks and for hardiness in transportation, I tend to think, not for taste.

So when we moved here I started planting fruit trees and bushes, and our garden, which started out about 17 years ago as a few herbs and too many zucchini/courgette/baby squash plants, has grown and grown. I had a period in the 90s where I grew exotic pumpkins a lot, but after a year marked by battles with a family of woodchucks who decided that their favourite food was exotic pumpkin sprouts, I retired, and we just grow a few now for Halloween and a few more for pies.

If I were home all the time I would happily get backyard chickens, but I feel like dreadful things would happen to them while I was on the road, so I don't.

Mostly, I try to buy from local farmers. (I was sad when our local organic farmer, near enough to walk to, went out of business: they sold milk from grass-fed Jersey cows that tasted like milk did when I was a boy.)


Now that practically all of the Sandman and Death stories have been collected in hardcover editions, as well as most of your other major works, is there any plan to collect Books of Magic in a deluxe hardcover edition? I still consider it to be one of your key books, including appearances by Dream and Death, and a particularly great appearance by John Constantine. If not, any particular reason why (original pages lost, etc)?

Last time I'll ask, promise!
Best Regards,
Michael K.

No-one at DC has ever mentioned it to me. I don't think they think there's a demand. There MIGHT be a demand for Books of Magic and Black Orchid and a few other uncollected things but the cost of doing the Absolute Editions is so high they have to be certain people would buy them, and I don't think they are.

Having said that, let me ask them. You never know.


Over at the Guardian, a bunch of writers (except for Phillip Pullman, who is wise) avoid actually working by giving advice to others. I stole a few from things I've said in this blog over the years for mine. But loved all of them, disagreed with a few, and wished someone had handed me something like this when I was seventeen.


And lastly, congratulations to DC Comics' new Co-Publishers, Jim Lee and Dan Didio and their team. As DC's President, Diane Nelson says, what I found most exciting about our dinner together a couple of weeks ago was her description of what she envisions for DC Comics: that they will take risks, and make mistakes and be brave. (I liked this interview with her at The Beat.)

And a welcome back to the writing fold to retiring DC Publisher, Paul Levitz. Paul and I have been friends for over two decades now. He cares deeply about comics, and if it weren't for him, and things he did in the 90s, I am not convinced that there would be a comics industry these days. That is not hyperbole. In 20 years we've agreed on things, disagreed on things, always respected each other's points of view. He's been talking to me wistfully about the day that he could stop being a corporate entity and get back to writing comics for, oh, about a decade now. I'm glad he's realising his dream.

I wish them all the very best of luck.

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