Wednesday, February 29, 2012

It's Extra Magic Bonus Happy Leap Year Day!

Please celebrate Leap Year Day in the traditional manner by taking a writer out for dinner.
It’s been four years since many authors had a good dinner. We are waiting. Many of us have our forks or chopsticks at the ready - some of us have had them ready for days. We will repay you by drifting off while the food is being served and then suddenly scribbling something down on a scrap of paper and asking whether or not you think “passionate” could validly be said to rhyme with “cash in it”, then absent-mindedly drinking too much and trying to recite the whole of Clive James’s “The Book of My Enemy Has Been Remaindered” from memory. 
Feed us.

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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Who is Jonathan Carroll and why should you care?

I'm writing. The pages are starting to stack up. My morale is improving the more I feel like a writer. (See all earlier comments to this effect in the previous 2 million words on this journal.) The HBO pilot script is starting to feel like a real thing.

On the downside, I miss my dogs, my family, and, off in Australia where she is about to start making her next album, my wife. But the work is good.

And it is not snowy outside. This is the morning view from my bedroom window:


The news just came in on the nominations for Audies, the Audiobook awards. Three of them are for things I was involved in. (Here's a PDF of all the nominees.)

The Witches of Lublin was nominated. I acted in that. (Congratulations to Ellen Kushner and Sue Zizza and Simon Jones and all involved)

American Gods (10th Anniversary Full Cast Audio) was nominated. I narrated the Coming To America bits in that, and I wrote the book. (Congratulations to the wonderful cast - and to Nicole Quinn, the contest winner, who won a part in it.) (Which reminds me - someone asked me for the list of who played what in the Audio. I'll put it up here.)

And a book from the Audible Neil Gaiman Presents line is nominated: Jonathan Carroll's novel THE LAND OF LAUGHS.

I have loved LAND OF LAUGHS ever since I first read it, in 1983 or 1984. Was once asked to pitch it as a movie by the producer who controls it, and I did, and was sad it wasn't picked up. It's a magical, spooky novel for anyone who has ever wanted to go too deeply into a book they loved. It was one of my first choices for Neil Gaiman Presents. So huge congratulations to Jonathan and to narrator Edoardo Ballerini. And more congratulations to the ACX team at Audible.

If you've been following the Neil Gaiman Presents line at all, if you liked Land of Laughs, or if you want to try out an audiobook, the new Jonathan Carroll, WHITE APPLES, has just been released.

And if you haven't discovered Jonathan Carroll, and you are wondering who this writer is, and why you should be interested, this is what I wrote some years ago, for Jonathan's own website:


"All poets and story tellers alive today make a single brotherhood; they are engaged in a single work, picturing our human life. Whoever pictures life as he sees it, reassembles in his own way the details of existence which affect him deeply, and so creates a spiritual world of his own."
                                                                            -Haniel Long, Notes Toward a New Mythology.

There are millions of competent writers out there. There are hundreds of thousands of good writers in the world, and there are a handful of great writers. And this is me, late at night, trying to figure out the difference for myself. That indefinable you-either-got-it-or-you-ain't spark that makes someone a great writer.

And then I realise that I'm asking myself the wrong question, because it's not good writers or great writers. What I'm really wondering is what makes some writers special. Like when I was a kid on the London Underground, I'd stare at the people around me. And every now and again I'd notice someone who had been drawn - a William Morris beauty, a Berni Wrightson grotesque - or someone who had been written - there are lots of Dickens characters in London, even today. It wasn't those writers or artists who accurately recorded life: the special ones were the ones who drew it or wrote it so personally that, in some sense it seemed as if they were creating life, or creating the world and bringing it back to you. And once you'd seen it through their eyes you could never un-see it, not ever again.

There are a few writers who are special. They make the world in their books; or rather, they open a window or a door or a magic casement, and they show you the world in which they live.

Ramsey Campbell, for example, writes short stories that, read in quantity, will re-form your world into a grey and ominous place in which strange shapes flicker at the corner of your eyes, and a patch of smoke or a blown plastic shopping bag takes on some kind of ghastly significance. Read enough R.A. Lafferty and you will find yourself living in a quirky tall-tale of a world in which the people have all stepped out of some cosmic joke, if it is not a dream.

Jonathan Carroll's a changer. He's one of the special ones, one of the few. He paints the world he sees. He opens a window you did not know was there and invites you to look through it. He gives you his eyes to see with, and he gives you the world all fresh and honest and new.

In a bookstore universe of bland and homogenised writers and fictions, the world that words from Carroll's fountain pen is as cool, as fine and as magical as a new lover, or cool water in the desert. Things matter. You can fall in love with his women, or his men, worry when they hurt, hate them when they betray or fall short, rejoice when they steal a moment of magic and of life from the face of death and eventual nothingness.

I had dinner with Jonathan Carroll, with Dave McKean and with some friends, about eight years ago: what I still remember is not the meal nor even the conversation (although I do recall Jonathan telling us some incidents of his life that I would later encounter in Kissing the Beehive): what I recall was the process of becoming a Jonathan Carroll character among Jonathan Carroll characters. We were witty and wise and lucent; intelligent and beautiful men and women; artists and creators and magicians, we were.

It was a couple of days before I noticed that I had become a mundane grey person once more.

Writing fiction is not a profession that leaves one well-disposed toward reading fiction. One starts out loving books and stories, and then one becomes jaded and increasingly hard to please. I read less and less fiction these days, finding the buzz and the joy I used to get from fiction in ever stranger works of non-fiction, or poetry. But a new book by Jonathan Carroll is still, as they used to say on the back of the book jackets, a cause for celebration.

His most successful books and tales defy genre categorisation. They've more life, more balls, are more true than pretty much anything else you'll encounter out there. They call some fantasies 'Magical Realism' to try and lend them respectability, like a whore who wishes to be known as a lady of the evening. Jonathan Carroll's work, however, has every right to parade under the banner of magical realism, if you have to call it something.

I call them Jonathan Carroll stories, and leave it at that. He is one of the handful, and one of the brotherhood. If you don't believe me, pick up Outside the Dog Museum, or A Child Across the Sky, or Sleeping in Flame or The Panic Hand, or any of his other works (you'll find a list of them within, I have no doubt) and find out for yourself.

He'll lend you his eyes; and you will never see the world in quite the same way ever again.


.... And now for something ever-so-slightly different. A wonderful Josh Ritter song, and a video made using 12,000 pieces of coloured construction paper.

Josh Ritter - Love Is Making Its Way Back Home from Josh Ritter on Vimeo.

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Monday, February 20, 2012

One morning with Nebula Nominations

I started feeling last night that real work was happening. I could see it starting to mount. My morale is starting to improve, as it always does when writing happens, and I remember that I actually can do it after all.

Currently I'm mostly writing the HBO American Gods first episode. I'm really enjoying it, partly because a lot of what I've written isn't in the book. It's implied in the book, or talked about generally, or referred to obliquely, but it's scenes I hadn't written. So I feel that I'm doing new work, even if it's not new. If you see what I mean.

And, strangely, it seems to be feeding in to the next American Gods book, which is what I'm sort of working on right now. (Actually, I'm writing a short story that comes after Monarch of the Glen and before The Next Book. But it feels organically needed.) 

Other than that... I'm looking after myself. The main new thing I've been doing is actually jogging for 37 minutes a day. (It was 37 minutes the first day, and so I've kept it the same every other day to see how much further or faster I get, because my little iPod Nano keeps track of this stuff.)

I will do a proper catch-up blog post later in the week, I suspect. There's stuff I should write about that's been interesting or fun.

In the meantime, I was sent this press release last night. It had me doing a happy dance around the room, for my little bit of it. (Apart from anything else, it was wonderful seeing the other nominees in my category. Woody Allen! Duncan Jones!)

And, because they asked if I'd spread it around, I have cut and pasted the whole of the nomination list. (Congratulations to all the Nominees!)

 Nebula Awards Nominees Announced

Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America is proud to announce the nominees for the 2011 Nebula Awards (presented 2012), the nominees for the Ray Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation, and the nominees for the Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy Book.

Among Others, Jo Walton (Tor)
Embassytown, China MiƩville (Macmillan UK; Del Rey; Subterranean Press)
Firebird, Jack McDevitt (Ace Books)
God's War, Kameron Hurley (Night Shade Books)
Mechanique: A Tale of the Circus Tresaulti, Genevieve Valentine (Prime Books)
The Kingdom of Gods, N.K. Jemisin (Orbit US; Orbit UK)

"Kiss Me Twice," Mary Robinette Kowal (Asimov's Science Fiction, June 2011)
"Silently and Very Fast," Catherynne M. Valente (WFSA Press; Clarkesworld Magazine, October 2011)
"The Ice Owl," Carolyn Ives Gilman (The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction,November/December 2011)
"The Man Who Bridged the Mist," Kij Johnson (Asimov's Science Fiction, October/November 2011)
"The Man Who Ended History: A Documentary," Ken Liu (Panverse Three, Panverse Publishing)
"With Unclean Hands," Adam-Troy Castro (Analog Science Fiction and Fact, November 2011)

"Fields of Gold," Rachel Swirsky (Eclipse 4, Night Shade Books)
"Ray of Light," Brad R. Torgersen (Analog Science Fiction and Fact, December 2011)
"Sauerkraut Station," Ferrett Steinmetz (Giganotosaurus, November 2011)
"Six Months, Three Days," Charlie Jane Anders (, June 2011)
"The Migratory Pattern of Dancers," Katherine Sparrow (Giganotosaurus, July 2011)
"The Old Equations," Jake Kerr (Lightspeed Magazine, July 2011)
"What We Found," Geoff Ryman (The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, September/October 2011)

Short Story
"Her Husband's Hands," Adam-Troy Castro (Lightspeed Magazine, October 2011)
"Mama, We are Zhenya, Your Son," Tom Crosshill (Lightspeed Magazine, April 2011)
"Movement," Nancy Fulda (Asimov's Science Fiction, March 2011)
"Shipbirth," Aliette de Bodard (Asimov's Science Fiction, February 2011)  
"The Axiom of Choice," David W. Goldman (New Haven Review, Winter 2011)    
"The Cartographer Wasps and the Anarchist Bees," E. Lily Yu (Clarkesworld Magazine, April 2011)
"The Paper Menagerie," Ken Liu (The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, March/April 2011)

Ray Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation
Attack the Block, Joe Cornish (writer/director) (Optimum Releasing; Screen Gems)
Captain America: The First Avenger, Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely (writers), Joe Johnston (director) (Paramount)
Doctor Who: “The Doctor's Wife,” Neil Gaiman (writer), Richard Clark (director) (BBC Wales)
Hugo, John Logan (writer), Martin Scorsese (director) (Paramount)
Midnight in Paris, Woody Allen (writer/director) (Sony)
Source Code, Ben Ripley (writer), Duncan Jones (director) (Summit)
The Adjustment Bureau, George Nolfi (writer/director) (Universal)

Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy Book
Akata Witch, Nnedi Okorafor (Viking Juvenile)
Chime, Franny Billingsley (Dial Books; Bloomsbury)
Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Laini Taylor (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers; Hodder &Stoughton)
Everybody Sees the Ants, A.S. King (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers)
The Boy at the End of the World, Greg van Eekhout (Bloomsbury Children’s Books)
The Freedom Maze, Delia Sherman (Big Mouth House)
The Girl of Fire and Thorns, Rae Carson (Greenwillow Books)
Ultraviolet, R.J. Anderson (Orchard Books; Carolrhoda Books)

The winners will be announced at SFWA's 47th Annual Nebula Awards Weekend, to be held Thursday through Sunday, May 17 to May 20, 2012 at the Hyatt Regency Crystal City in Arlington, Virginia, near Reagan National Airport. As announced earlier this year, Connie Willis will be the recipient of the 2011 Damon Knight Grand Master Award for her lifetime contributions and achievements in the field. Walter Jon Williams will preside as toastmaster, with Astronaut Michael Fincke as keynote speaker.


Hi Neil,

I'm assuming you're at least marginally familiar with altered books.

Someone linked to this in an art therapy forum I'm on, and I saw it and immediately thought of you. Specifically I was reminded of Mirrormask. I think it's a brilliant use of out of date reference books.


I did.

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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Small useful post with additional poem

Small useful post:

Right now B&N’s NOOK and Amazon’s KINDLE are both discounting Neverwhere. It’s at $2.99 — these discounts do not last for very long (normally 24-48 hours) so if you want an e-copy, grab it quickly.
It only applies to the US site.
When this happened with American Gods, iBook also dropped the price. I haven’t checked…
(Edit to add, I checked. They did too.


And from


Small Valentine's Day Poem

Roses are red,
Violets are purple,
Which is a very hard word to rhyme
And makes me happy that on February the 14th we don't traditionally have to give each other oranges.


I'd write for longer, as I have tales to tell, or even to cut and paste, but guilt will eat me if I do not drive to a coffee shop and either type or scrawl.

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Tuesday, February 07, 2012

America Will Eat you

Hullo everybody

I'm off in hiding, writing. It's good. I did a road trip to get here - I stopped in New Orleans and got an extreme haircut and a hot towel shave.  Last time I went off into hiding to write a novel I let my hair and beard grow, and I didn't want to repeat myself. I look... odd, I think. But I feel like I'm in disguise, which is an excellent feeling for an author to have.

I got to my hideout, which is the house where I started writing American Gods a dozen years ago, then drove three and half hours to see my cousin Helen and her husband Sidney. (Helen's mother and my great-grandfather were brother and sister.) They are 94 and 90 respectively. (Helen told Sidney she was four years younger than she was, claiming back her years during World War II, where she survived the Warsaw Ghetto and worse, and only told him how old she really was forty years later, when her older sister, Wanda, died. If you have three hours, watch this YouTube video, done for the Shoah project.) Then I drove home, to the place I'm staying.

I spent yesterday not doing much of anything - recovering from the drive, getting settled in. Today, however, I'm writing.

Do not expect much in the way of blogging while I'm writing.

Here are two fun things...

The first is an awards acceptance speech I filmed for SFX. They gave me an award for Screenwriting Excellence for my Doctor Who episode The Doctor's Wife. I tried to give the kind of measured and well-thought-out speech that an occasion like this demanded.

The second is that if you go to this Audible link  you can listen to the newest in my Neil Gaiman Presents audio series at,  The Adventures of Doctor Eszterhazy. Seventeen hours of glorious, funny, profound and delightful stories about Dr Englebert Eszterhazy, who Sherlocks his way through some remarkable stories in an Eastern European Balkan Empire.  

And this is something Amanda just sent me... it's the video done for her cover of Nirvana's "Polly", done for a  Nevermind tribute album. Scary, grueling, ultimately triumphant, based on a true story.

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