Saturday, June 30, 2012

Edinburgh in August #1

On August the 13th, Chris Riddell (who's the Edinburgh Book Festival's illustrator in residence) will discuss Coraline turning ten years old with me. We may talk about other things too.

It's in the festival's Main Theatre. Rigth now there are a still some tickets, and the ordering lines seem to have gone away. Check in at


This photo has nothing to do with that. It's from Amanda's Brooklyn Art event last night:

(From - I love the combination of the green balloon in the real world, and the devil horns and the wings in the shadow world....


Monday, June 25, 2012

Running Saws

I went to England, where I attended Amanda's art event, and saw her band's first real public amplified gig. (I sang Leon Payne's "Psycho" between two duelling musical saw players.) We went from there to Utrecht to celebrate the wedding of Amanda's sister Alyson, and to spend time with my milliner daughter, Holly, who has just completed her Higher National Diploma in Millinery, and is no longer a 'prentice Milliner.

(Photo by Elliott Franks. The whole photoset is here. L to R,  we are looking at shadowy Chad Raines, Adrien Stout of the Tiger Lilies, me, and Michael McQuilken. And some flowers.)

On the plane to the UK I finished writing the new novel. I'm not sure right now if it's going to be called Lettie Hempstock's Ocean or not. I think it's a good book - or at least, I think it's a real book, and I'm proud of it, and whether it's good or not will be up to other people to judge. Despite the protagonist being about 7 years old for most of the novel, it's a book for adults. Or at least, I think it is.

Now I'm doing things to it, including worrying that there's a better title and rereading it and making it better and clearer and scarier wherever I can. But it's a new book for adults, one I didn't even know I would write until February, and it makes me happy that it exists.

Waiting for me when I got home were some fold and gathers (or F&Gs) of Chu's Day - unbound copies that will go to booksellers and librarians and such people who will decide what they are ordering and how many copies of a book that has not been printed.

Chu's Day is the first book I've ever written for really little kids. Ones who cannot read. Ones who can only just walk. Those ones. I hope that they like it, or at least, that they love Adam Rex's amazing illustrations.


This is advance warning that on Friday the 29th, at 8:30 am UK time, Tickets for the Edinburgh Book Festival go onsale.

I'm only doing one event there this year, on Monday the 13th of August, at 8 pm. Chris Riddell is the artist in residence and he and I will talk together about Coraline's Tenth Anniversary. (Here's the UK's 10th Anniversary edition.)

Details at

I'll also be playing the Voice of the Book at the Edinburgh Playhouse on July 21st, in the final show of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Live tour, currently going on. (The whole tour is at and some dates have started to sell out. But not Edinburgh, not yet.)

(There may be one more Edinburgh thing. I'll post details here as soon as I know.)

I'm strangely jet-lagged right now... I was writing this and suddenly the world went all flat and odd, which means, I suspect, that I should stop writing now and either go for a run or go for a nap.

I wish I could do both at the same time. But then I'd wake up and be somewhere I had no memory of running to, and no idea of how to get back...

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Thursday, June 07, 2012

The Man Who Forgot Ray Bradbury

This (assuming I made it all work) is from the Evening With Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer CD. It's a live audio recording from last November of me reading a short story called "The Man Who Forgot Ray Bradbury".

If it didn't work, just click on The Man Who Forgot Ray Bradbury and go to Soundcloud.

The story is going to be published in the upcoming tribute to Ray Bradbury, Shadow Show. And it's up here today by kind permission of Sam Weller, co-editor of Shadow Show.

And here, because it's the last thing (second to last, really. He sent me a video, but that's private) I got from him, is a photo of Ray, on his birthday last year, as our editor and friend, Jennifer Brehl, read him the story. He liked it.

Also, if you get a chance, go and read and (in which Mark Evanier talks about the Ray Bradbury he knew, and corrects me on his age in the anecdote).

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Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Ray Bradbury: In Memoriam and In Green Town Illinois

I finished the piece I would have put up on the blog about Ray Bradbury just as a couple of emails from the Guardian came in asking if I would send them something please, honest really please. So I sent it to them, unread and raw, and an hour later it went up on their website.

It starts,

Yesterday afternoon I was in a studio recording an audiobook version of short story I had written for Ray Bradbury's 90th birthday. It's a monologue called The Man Who Forgot Ray Bradbury, and was a way of talking about the impact that Ray Bradbury had on me as a boy, and as an adult, and, as far as I could, about what he had done to the world. And I wrote it last year as a love letter and as a thank you and as a birthday present for an author who made me dream, taught me about words and what they could accomplish, and who never let me down as a reader or as a person as I grew up.

Last week, at dinner, a friend told me that when he was a boy of 11 or 12 he met Ray Bradbury. When Bradbury found out that he wanted to be a writer, he invited him to his office and spent half a day telling him the important stuff: if you want to be a writer, you have to write. Every day. Whether you feel like it or not. That you can't write one book and stop. That it's work, but the best kind of work. My friend grew up to be a writer, the kind who writes and supports himself through writing.

Ray Bradbury was the kind of person who would give half a day to a kid who wanted to be a writer when he grew up.

You can read the rest of it at

Apologies for the roughness. It's been a rough day. I cried once when I called Harlan Ellison to make sure he knew, a second time when  my editor Jennifer Brehl, who was also Ray's editor and friend, said "You know, he really loved you." And each time the tears took me by surprise.


Ray Bradbury

I heard about Ray's death this morning, and it's knocked me for a loop, and for second loop because so many people are asking me to write something about Ray and what he meant, for them, right now. And it's too soon, but they need it.

I'm writing something now. But I wanted to put this up. I wrote it a couple of years ago as an introduction to the PS edition of The Machineries of Joy and it was reprinted in the Times. If you want to quote me, you can take anything you like from this, and add that he was kind, and gentle, and always filled with enthusiasm, and that the landscape of the world we live in would have been diminished if we had not had him in our world.

And that I am so glad that I knew him.


Ray Bradbury: The Machineries of Joy

I can imagine all kinds of worlds and places, but I cannot imagine a world without Bradbury. Not Ray Bradbury the man (I have met him. Each time I have spent any time with him I have been left the happier for it) but Bradbury the builder of dreams. That Bradbury. The man who took an idea of the American Midwest and made it magical and tangible, who took his own childhood and all the people and things in it and used it to shape the world. The man who gave us a future to fear, one without stories, without books. The man who invented Hallowe’en, in its modern incarnation.

There are authors I remember for their stories, other authors I remember for their people.  Bradbury is the only author I remember who sticks in my heart for his times of year and for his places. He called a book of short stories The October Country.  It’s the perfect Bradbury title. It gives us a time (and not just any time, but the month that contains Hallowe’en, when leaves change colour from green to flame and gold and brown, when the twigs tap on windows and things lurk in the cellars) and it makes it a country. You can go there. It’s waiting.

Places: the green meadows of Green Town Il. in Dandelion Wine; the red sandy expanses broken by crumbling canals that could only be Bradbury’s Mars; the misty Venice Beach of Death is a Lonely Business.  All of them, and so many more, locations that linger.

It is hard for me to talk about the stories without thinking of Ray Bradbury the person: I remember his 70th birthday, twenty years ago, in the Natural History Museum.  A decade later I had the honour to present him with the Science Fiction Writers of America Grand Master Award and I have never seen a room of people cheer and clap with more joy than they did that night. More important than either of those things though, for me, was that I got to say thank you, in person, to someone whose fiction helped make me who I am.

The  first Ray Bradbury story that I read was  called “Homecoming”, and it changed me. I was seven years old. The story was in a collection of SF I had borrowed from a friend’s father.  “Homecoming” is about a normal human boy, Timothy, who lives surrounded by all the creatures of the night.  I identified more with Timothy, the boy being brought up by a loving family of vampires and monsters than I had ever identified with any fictional character before. Like him, I wanted to be brave, to not be scared of the things in the darkness. Like him, I wanted to belong.

I read The Silver Locusts next, a collection of stories now more often known by its alternative title,  The Martian Chronicles.  The book was sitting on a book case at home. I do not know to whom it had originally belonged.  I thought the book  was like nothing else I had encountered(although I was young enough and literal enough that I kept waiting for the locusts to turn up). I fell in love with “Usher II”, the story that sent me to Poe, as Martian settlers, representing the repressive anti-fiction movement on Earth that Bradbury had created in his novel Fahrenheit 451, arrive at a scary house on Mars and are murdered by robots controlled by an aficionado of horror and the fantastic. The murders were in the style of Poe stories,  “The Pit and the Pendulum”, “The Murders In the Rue Morgue”, and culminated in “The Cask of Amontillado”. It was after reading this story that I resolved that I would one day read Poe, become a writer, find a Scary House, and own a robotic Orang-Utan that would do my bidding. I have been fortunate in achieving at least three of these goals.

The first Bradbury books I bought with my own money were from a travelling bookshop, which would set up once a term in a room in my school. I was about eleven. The books were Dandelion Wine and the The Golden Apples of the Sun.

So much about Ray’s writing was important to me, so much of it helped form me. I read all I could. Finding a Bradbury book was an occasion of excitement, never of disappointment. But I never thought of emulating it. I never consciously wanted to copy him. Although I discovered, re-reading Bradbury as an adult, that I had, almost beat for beat, copied one of Ray’s stories as a very young man, that it had crept deeply enough into my mind in childhood that, writing what I thought was my own story, I wrote it again. (Which story of mine this was, and which story of Ray’s had burned its way so efficiently into my back-brain, I will leave as an exercise for bibliographers.)

Ray Bradbury was not ahead of his time. He was perfectly of his time, and more than that: he created his time and left his mark on the time that followed. He was one of two men to come from Waukegan, a small town in Illinois about 30 miles from Chicago, who made art that allowed America to define itself from the 1940s until the 1960s. (The other son of Waukegan, of course, being comedian Jack Benny.) And for over sixty years Bradbury has made art, and he still makes art, and sets cats among pigeons, and he gets people talking.

Bradbury’s best short story collections have themes and they have patterns. They are arguments and they are conversations. The Machineries of Joy is a reminder of a Bradbury who, while too many fine writers were still writing for the pulps, had liberated himself, and was writing for the slicks. He had been one of the first writers to have made the transition from the world of people who read that sort of thing to the world at large. The tales in The Machineries of Joy are, with a few exceptions, stories in which genre elements are muted or absent. A collection of stories,  some fantasies, some not. (Many of the ones that are not, still feel like fantasies, while several of the more fantastic tales feel extraordinarily real.) Priests debate and argue about space travel, and an old woman seals her house from Death, and we ask (as Bradbury made us ask and ask and ask again) Who are the Martians? and we wonder, was the man on the bridge in Dublin really a beggar...?

Ray Bradbury at his best really was as good as we thought he was. He colonised Hallowe’en, just as the Silver Locusts colonised the red deserts and glass towers of Mars. He built it, as he built so much, and made it his. So when the wind blows the fallen autumn leaves across the road in a riot of flame and gold, or when I see a green field in summer carpeted by yellow dandelions, or when, in winter, I close myself off from the cold and write in a room with a TV screen as big as a wall, I think of Bradbury...

With joy. Always with joy.

Neil Gaiman


Sunday, June 03, 2012

Graduation, and further commencement fall-out...

Today, Maddy, my youngest daughter, graduated from High School. I was asked if I'd like to deliver the address, but declined. I wanted to be a dad, and sit in the audience with my family and beam proudly, and wander around taking photographs afterwards of Maddy and all her friends. And that's what I did. It was great.

When I started this blog, she was six. 

I love you Maddy Gaiman, and am so proud of you.

Soon there will be nothing keeping me in the midwest except inertia, and this is where my stuff is. And my bees. I'm hoping to spend more time on the West Coast with my two older children, and much much much more time on the East Coast with my wife, when she finishes her 2013 world tour, at any rate.

In the meantime, I'm reposting this cartoon.  You'll need to click on it to read it at its home page, as the way Blogger software is set up these days does not agree with it, and I can't get it readable here. It's from  It's by Gavin Aung Than, and I hope I get to thank him personally for doing it the next time I'm in Melbourne. He's taken a bit from the middle of my UArts commencement speech and made it into a comic.

The speech has been, I was bewildered to learn, viewed over 335,000 times on Vimeo, and is now captioned in English, Czech, Estonian, Finnish, French, German, Italian, Korean, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish at . It's still in its original vanilla form at And it's even crept onto YouTube -- which may be useful for people in countries that have blocked Vimeo.

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