This is her on my lap last night. (From WhoSay.)
Because she is in the attic I went into the attic last night, and while I was there I looked in some tubs of papers. I found one marked Poems, and found myself flicking through sheafs of discolouring papers with poems or drawings or prose on them, including the first ever description of Mr Croup and Mr Vandemar by Neil Gaiman aged 17 (only I spelled it Kroop then), with a drawing of each of them.
And what amazed me was that there was almost nothing there that was written by me. I'd sound like e.e.cummings one moment and an awkward mash-up of Moorcock and Zelazny the next. You can tell exactly when I've been reading the complete poems of Rudyard Kipling... I could point to every poem, every unfinished fragment of prose in that folder, and tell you who I'd been reading, what I was thinking at the time. Everything read like a bad imitation of somebody else. There wasn't anything in there that indicated that I was going to be a writer, a real writer, with something to say, except for one thing, and it was this:
I was writing. There was lots of writing going on.
And that made up for so much. I never knew how to finish anything longer than a couple of pages, but I was writing.
When SHARED WORLDS asked me (and other writers) to write some writing advice on our hands (it's at http://www.wofford.edu/sharedworlds/handinhand.aspx - go and look), I wrote this:
So there are lots of backed up things to tell you and show you. I will put them up here in the order that they are backed up....
The first thing is, John Hodgman's recording of the audiobook of Robert Sheckley's DIMENSION OF MIRACLES is coming out from Audible on the 26th. It was recorded a while ago, and it's been my favourite audiobook since I first heard it, 14 months ago, but it's been delayed because once Audible heard it they got all excited too, and have been waiting for the right time and the right way to release it in order to make a fuss about it.
It's been one of my favourite books for years, and I remember Douglas Adams telling me how shaken he was to read Dimension of Miracles and watch someone doing something a lot like the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy a decade before he did. Hodgman's narration is very dry and very funny, and the content is brilliant.
The Audible.com reviews editor says,
With audiobook narration, there are certain voices that fit perfectly with a genre. John Hodgman may now be the go-to guy for the droll-everyman-navigating-his-way-through-the-universe story.... Hand-picked by Neil Gaiman (whose charming audio introduction perfectly sets the stage for what’s to come) Hodgman lends the right amount of nerd-cred to this adventure, which was originally published in 1968 and is a clear forerunner to Douglas Adams’ classic The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. I’ve had a chance to hear an advance excerpt of the audio, and I just have to know how Carmody, the unsuspecting winner of a Galactic Lottery, makes his way back to Earth in one piece.
Mostly they want to draw attention to the book, to what John Hodgman is doing and to get the world to listen. I am delighted. It's amazing.
Here's a link to a tumblr post I did where you can listen to a recording of me talking to John Hodgman about the book. (I do not know why you can't put up an audio recording directly on Blogger any more.)
NEXT: Please watch, and share, this very short video. It's the most beautiful of all the BlackBerry Keep Moving videos: it was filmed last week, in Cambridge and London. I look a lot like I'd flown from LA to the UK and had not got enough sleep at any point on my travels, but I also look like I am having an amazing time. And I was.
There will be more on the BlackBerry project later in this blog...
I flew in to South By SouthWest in Austin, Texas. I was in conversation with Chuck Lorre, and it was ridiculously fun. (Here's a write-up.) I liked him a lot: in an alternate world in which I'd decided to make American sitcoms instead of making everything-but-sitcoms, I suspect I would have wound up a lot like Chuck.
The royalties to his book go to help fund a free clinic in Venice, Ca. Here's an Amazon link. His observations, grumbles, screams and howls about LA, entertainment and television should be compulsory reading for people interested in how television is made. This is the book cover (the book is HUGE - an art object, the kind of coffee table book that just needs four legs):
Shayna and Page also had to cope with the arrival of Cat Mihos, who flew in from LA to work on the BlackBerry Keep Moving art with me. If you've been to the http://keepmoving.blackberry.com/desktop/en/us/ambassador/neil-gaiman.html site and looked at the art, you'll have seen, well, a lot of art. A lot of really good art. Over 5,200 pieces of really good art.
I had to pick a shortlist, from which we will pick 20 pieces for each month to go on the upcoming CALENDAR OF TALES website. And because of various website-building schedules, I had to do it NOW. Cat had thought to make my life easier by drawing up her long list, but I had to explain to her that I couldn't do it like that: I wanted to see all of them. Everything that had come in.
So in any downtime, Cat would produce her computer and I would look at images and drag any that I thought did something special or interesting or unique over to another folder. This was done instead of sleeping. This was done instead of eating....
And you know what?
I'd do it again. So many amazing images. So many people creating as a group. It made me so happy.
(This one is my very favourite one that didn't somehow get uploaded successfully, so I am determined to share it with the world. It's by Tim Baker, who has it up at http://timbakerfx.deviantart.com/art/Neil-Gaiman-Story-Illustration-358995452 and is for the July tale.)
The morning I left Austin, Neverwhere suddenly became a trending topic on Twitter. The first part of the BBC Radio 4/ Radio 4 Extra series, starring Benedict Cumberbatch, James MaCavoy, Natalie Dormer and Bernard Cribbins and David Harewood and Anthony Stuart Head and lots of other people had been broadcast on Radio 4 in the UK.
The reviews are amazing.
And not just because Benedict Cumberbatch sings in it.
Episode 1 went out on BBC Radio 4, and was an hour long. Episodes 2-6
You can listen to Neverwhere from ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD using the BBC's iPlayer. (It's region-blocked for TV, not for radio.)
You can't use iPlayer on mobile platforms, but you can use apps like TuneIn Radio to listen, replay or record it.
From March 22nd, you'll be able to download the first part as the BBC Weekly Drama podcast.
The whole thing -- all 6 episodes -- will be available to be listened to until the 29th.
OR you can go here (and you should anyway) to the Neverwhere page, and listen to it there. And look at the amazing amount of stuff they've put up -- interviews, images, the works...
There's more. But it can wait until perhaps tomorrow....
I slept in my own bed in Cambridge MA last night, but I leave in a couple of hours (if the roads are cleared of snow) for Austin TX, for the South by Southwest festival, where I will be In Conversation with Chuck Lorre about What Doesn't Kill Us Makes Us Bitter, and will be one of Marieke Hardy's People of Letters, and I will mostly spend long days recording the audiobook of THE OCEAN AT THE END OF THE LANE and the unrecorded stories of SMOKE AND MIRRORS.
Let's see: This is a beautiful thing. It's the third of the BlackBerry Keep Moving videos -- it begins with me reading the end of the February tale. It has a special guest star in artist Amadea Bailey (we were in her beautiful studio) and lots of beautiful shots of Santa Monica beach at sunset, and a recording session.
The film I'm excited about is the next one, filmed in London and Cambridge (the UK one) last week. Well, earlier this week. Argh. They just sent it to me, and it's gorgeous.
Go and look at the amazing artwork that's coming in for the Calendar of Tales (and read/listen to them too) at http://blck.by/XXjEYE.
I was a guest at the Cambridge Watersprite International Student Film Festival last weekend -- here's a great write up of what it was like...
Other things I did in London included:
A press conference for Neverwhere. I slept through my alarm and had to race through Soho to get there not-too-late. The concerned lady at the bottom of the stairs who calmed me down and got me a much-needed cup of tea turned out to be the Controller of Radio Four. I met BERNARD CRIBBINS ( he plays Old Bailey).
Here is a photograph of Benedict Cumberbatch. He plays the angel Islington. Many of my friends strongly believe that photographs of Mr Cumberbatch and amusing photographs of kittens were what the internet was created for.
Here is a link to the absolutely wonderful BBC NEVERWHERE website.
I bumped into Stephen Fry in a Soho basement last week -- we were both there to see the Lady Rizo being amazing -- and when he found out I was doing stuff with BlackBerry & had a Z10 he sent me this essay from his blog.
I worked on a secret project with Nick Harkaway and Tom Abba.
I planned lots of things with Headline (for THE OCEAN AT THE END OF THE LANE) and with Bloomsbury (for FORTUNATELY, THE MILK). I signed some advanced reading copies of OCEAN for Headline...
I was interviewed about FORTUNATELY, THE MILK and the forthcoming UNNATURAL CREATURES anthology by Bloomsbury - a benefit book I edited, with the assistance of the remarkable Maria Dahvana Headley, for 826 DC.
Here is the AMERICAN cover of UNNATURAL CREATURES (the UK cover is not up yet):
I met several people who want me to Use whatever influence I have to Do Good, including the fabulous Other Neil and Josie Long from emerging benevolent entity Arts Emergency.
I met Alison, a representative of the UN High Commission on Refugees: the day I met her the millionth refugee from Syria had crossed the border, fleeing the conflict. Alison told me what was happening, about the refugees, mostly mothers and children leaving their lives with only what they could carry, and what the UNHCR is doing; and I agreed, without hesitation, to come on board and help however I can. For now, that consists of telling people what's going on on the Syrian borders, and of pointing people at this website: http://goo.gl/KlLZW.
I saw Lenny Henry and Tanya (Hunter from the TV Neverwhere) Moodie starring in August Wilson's FENCES. It was huge and moving, and Lenny's performance is epic (better, in my opinion, than his award-winning Othello). I assume it's heading for London's West End, because it's the kind of thing that you know is going to wind up there. That level of quality and power. I got to hug Tanya for the first time since 1997.
I had a bunch of other meetings about things that are wonderful, or will be, and that I am not allowed to talk about yet. And then I flew home.
Somewhere in there I failed to get enough sleep.
I do not actually live on planes. I did not dance on any tables either.
In a day and a half over half a million people have watched this talk, at the TED website and on YouTube.
I am so proud of her. Really: I've never been happier than when I watched her get a standing ovation, and watching this video go viral is an absolute joy.
It was hard, sometimes, over the last six weeks, while she worked on her speech. Genuinely rough, sometimes: it was like having a third person in the marriage. There was me, Amanda, and there was Amanda's TED speech, and she was spending a lot more time with her TED speech than she was with me.
Initially I was grumpy and jealous and I felt left out, and then, once I heard her give an early version of the speech, I got caught up in the fun of watching her craft it (and watching her figure out how to get it down to 12 minutes), and toward the end I was loving the process of watching her give her speech to college kids and to our friends and just to me and Anthony, and when I got a cold I even banished her from the house for a few days, because I didn't want her speech being derailed by sickness...
Then we went to TED, and it was all worth it. She went on between Sergei Brin and Larry Lessig and she gave her speech. The people who came up and congratulated her over the next few days were people you've heard of, the ones who make the world different.
And when someone came up to me that afternoon and said "You must be Mr Palmer", I said, Yes, I supposed I must be, and I beamed like a madman.
Watch the speech.
It's called The Art of Asking.
When she was working on it, I thought it was about her Kickstarter, and probably applicable to musicians, but hearing people talk to her about it, and watching it go viral, I realised that it's about so much more than that.
(I'm in the UK right now for a couple of days. I've just been the Keynote Speaker at the Cambridge WATERSPRITE Student Film Festival. Today I'm going to be in London with the BlackBerry film crew looking at paper stock and such things for the Calendar of Tales. Tomorrow morning is the NEVERWHERE Radio 4/Radio 4 Extra Press Conference and I get to meet BERNARD CRIBBINS. Proper Blog entry SOON.)
ROUND TWO BEGINS...
Here's a video that the people at BlackBerry (who are the patrons of this project) made of me ten days ago, on the two days between the tweeting out the questions and the writing of the stories.
If you go to http://keepmoving.blackberry.com/desktop/en/us/ambassador/neil-gaiman.html you will be able to read or download a free PDF of all twelve of the stories I wrote in three days of madness last week: over 9000 words of tales, each one very different, each one inspired by a reply to a question I'd twittered to the world.
The next stage is art. I made stories inspired by replies, now I want the stories to inspire art. Something we can make a calendar out of -- an online one, perhaps a paper one as well... Go to the website to find out how.
I tried to write stories that would make pictures in people's heads. I hope I succeeded.
("Always scribble, scribble, scribble, eh Mr Gaiman?" whispers an imaginary Duke of Gloucester in the back of my head.)
Here, let me give you something fun for today.
This is the cover of the American Edition of FORTUNATELY, THE MILK, which is being illustrated as we speak by Mr Skottie Young, and will be published in September.
It is the silliest book I have ever written, and is quite funny also.
First of all, watch this:
...and not just for the beautiful footage of Cabal in it.
(The film was made in mid-December, and it makes me so happy-sad-happy-again to see it, and see my old dog lolloping through the snow with me.)
Over on Twitter today I've been initiating a strange and beautiful art project. It's about half way through the very first stage, which consists of throwing out questions to Twitter, and seeing what I get back.
Questions like "Why is January so Dangerous?"
or "Where would you spend a perfect June?" with the appropriate Hashtag - #JunTale in this case.
The answers have been amazing. Personal, honest, imaginative, glorious, surprising, strange, unexpected, familiar, magical, wise, funny... all of those things. They can be read over on the BlackBerry Hub for the project, and also on Twitter (just click on the relevant hashtag -- here's April's. Here's June's.)
I've been retweeting them like mad, because I loved them and wanted to spread them.
I'm also using the BlackBerry10 #KeepMoving hashtag, and because BlackBerry are the ones who are helping me do all this I'm also trying to remember to use both the #BlackBerry10 hashtag and to put the capital B in the middle of BlackBerry.
Seeing you are probably wondering: they showed me the phone in question, the Z10, for the first time in Autumn in the UK, I got to play with it, and I really liked it: the swiping the screen with your thumb "flow" things felt really natural, and it's the easiest onscreen keyboard to type with I've ever used. (I always hate onscreen keyboards and I do not hate this one. It is intelligent. I've used the first four of the five features NBC talk about here, and like them as much as they do.) (And no, nobody's asked me to say that last paragraph. If I hadn't have liked the phone I would have said no.)
So they said yes to my idea of using online communities to try and make something cool and special that brought a lot of people together, and I said yes to working with their patronage on the project.
The idea is: I'm going to make a Calendar of Tales. (Yes, I remain as obsessed with the months of the year as I have always been.) I would go to Twitter for story prompts. Then, over a handful of days, I'll write a story, one for each month. Once there are 12 stories we'll go back out to the world to get other people make art of various kinds using the stories as inspiration. One giant artistic ball of wax. Or ping pong game. Or cuddlepuddle. Or pick your own metaphor.
No, you do not have to use a BlackBerry for anything in this, although you might want to follow the @Blackberry twitter account as it would be useful for when they need to DM anyone whose tweets I do happen to use as a story prompt. (But if you don't follow them, I'll wave at you to remind you.)
In the end, we're hoping for a paper Calendar that will benefit charity, and an amazing app (or possibly a website) with all the stories, and all the art of various kinds up for everyone.
I'm enjoying this no end: it's wonderful just to throw questions out, and feel recharged and joyous. (Actually, December did not leave me joyous. It left me wanting to hug people, and to remember how much we lose when we lose people, and animals, and ourselves from the past as we always do.)
I think I understand a lot more of how Amanda relates to Twitter, when suddenly she'll start retweeting people and use that to create a community, to link people, to make people feel less alone.
I didn't expect this bit of the project to feel like art, but watching the amount of connection it has made between people, I think perhaps it was. I felt like my heart was being broken and healed, all at the same time.
(I also do not know how recharged or joyous I will feel in a few days from now when I have finished writing 12 shortshort stories, mind you. I may be grumpy and glaring and muttering.)
If you go to http://keepmoving.blackberry.com/desktop/en/us/ambassador/neil-gaiman.html they have all the info you could need up, along with more stuff. (Scroll down the page.)
As I said, you can still suggest things: use the month and the #KeepMoving hashtags.
Tomorrow, I have to choose 12 prompts which now seems to me to be a pretty impossible sort of a task given everything that's come in, but I set the rules so cannot grumble. And then on Wednesday I start to write.
There will be a film crew watching me write. This will be VERY interesting, and it is possible I may ask them to go away, or at least to film me from a great distance.
I always envied Harlan Ellison getting to write stories in bookshop windows. Maybe it will be like that.
This morning I thought, I wonder what the best non-shaving advice I've actually got from another author was...? And then I knew.
It was in 1988, at the World Fantasy Convention in London, in the bar. I was with a bunch of people around a table, and had been interviewing Clive Barker about comics for a book on Clive that would be coming out. After the interview a conversational free-for-all developed -- I remember getting frustrated with Clive's view that comics were lacking something that prose had, because a novel could make him cry while a comic never had. (This was 26 years ago, remember. I have no idea at all if Clive still thinks that way, or if a comic has made him cry in the years between. I hope it has.)
And after the conversation was over, Clive took me aside. He said, "When we were talking, you were getting louder and louder."
I had been. It was a noisy bar. And I'd had important things to say and huge opinions and dammit, I was determined to be heard.
He said, "Neil, don't do that. If you get loud, everyone else gets louder to top you. And then everyone's shouting and nobody's listening. If you want everyone to listen to you, get quieter. People will listen."
It seemed like the strangest advice I'd ever received. But I loved and respected Clive, so the next time I was in a bar argument/conversation, I lowered my voice. And the more I wanted to be heard the quieter I forced myself to get. I lowered my voice...
And people lowered theirs. They leaned in. They listened. I didn't have to raise my voice.
I felt like I'd been given one of the keys to the universe.
And so I pass it on to you.
Clive's been having some health issues recently, and I hope they are soon over and he's back to full strength. He was an inspiration in every way when I was in my early twenties, and I've learned so much from him over the years. Here's a photo of us from 1989 on the Nightbreed set stolen from his Facebook page.
Monday at midday Eastern Time, the first part of the mad make good art project I'm doing with the assistance of Blackberry will begin. It'll be happening (to begin with) on Twitter. I'm @Neilhimself there (some people might not know this). I'll keep you updated with links and such on here, too.
Right. I'm at home. The home in the midwest. Lots of cool things waiting for me here, including a bunch of books, one of which is the new edition of American Gods -- for the first time, the US edition of the Author's Preferred Text is out in paperback. (It's also the first of the New Uniform US Paperback covers to come out and will be released in a few days.) It's in the bottom second from the right...
(Also shown, two foreign editions of Sandman, three books that include short stories by me, a book I love with an afterword by me, and my copy of a great guide to where you start reading an author -- I got it because I backed the Kickstarter, not because there is a chapter on where to start reading me written by the outrageously talented Erin Morgenstern.)
It's cold here. But I'm wearing long underwear and will dress warmly and am about to take Lola for a walk down to the lamppost in the woods. Will post a photo if I get a good one.
Yes, the house feels empty and strange. But Lola is a sweet and loving dog. And I am writing things.
(The little flashlight around her neck is not really so that she can see better in the dark. It's so I can see her in the night.)
When I am in Cambridge MA, my local bookshop tends to be Porter Square Books. It's definitely Amanda's favourite local bookshop, because when she is done with Yoga she goes in there and orders their fresh rolls* and is made happy. Sometimes she buys books too. Sometimes I wander in and out unspotted, and sometimes they notice me and I sign whatever they have of mine on the shelves that day.
So when Harper Collins asked how I felt about pre-signing some copies of The Ocean at the End of the Lane for a local store to sell, I said sure. I like keeping a good local bookshop in business and guaranteeing that there will always be fresh rolls for Amanda when she gets out of yoga.
I'll pre-sign the books at the end of March or beginning of April. I'll actually pre-sign stacks of sheets of paper to be bound in when the books are printed, as the books won't yet actually be printed when I have to sign them.
Right now, they are available from:
(There will undoubtedly be more places offering pre-signed copies. I'll list more of them as they turn up. Some of them will undoubtedly offer international shipping, which Porter Square Books does not. And the bookshops I sign at on tour will have spare signed copies left over. And I have no doubt that Hachette-Headline are plotting their own ways to make signed books happen.)
The picture of the book above is from this Harper Collins post, which also contains many links to desktop wallpaper you can download. It looks like this.
- iPad (Download)
- 2560x1440 (Download)
- 1920x1080 (Download)
- 1024x768 (Download)
- 800x600 (Download)
- 640x480 (Download)
*Fresh rolls, also known as summer rolls, salad rolls, fresh spring rolls, soft rolls, crystal rolls. These.
I also meant to get more sleep, jog, write and be a bit of a tourist. Almost none of these things happened.
Lots of other things happened, though.
I flew to Hobart, Tasmania. I have been saying for years that Hobart is one of the planet's secretly cool places, and people used to mock me for saying this. (Australian people would mock me. Other people would just stare at me blankly.) Over the last few years, however, the world has caught up a little with my opinions, and the MONA museum and the MONAFOMA (aka MOFO) Festival has a lot to do with it.
I rehearsed. I read a fairy story in the Theatre Royal Hobart. (I did other things there too: I sang "Psycho", and I did a reading of one of Amanda's songs, "The Bed Song", because she wasn't there.) Here's a video. Jherek Bischoff, Amanda's bass player and string arranger, made all the music happen. The Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra provided the lovely string quartet.
I'm a patron of Tasmania's Bookend Trust, and Polly has inherited her father's conservation mantle, if not his Rhino suit, and is a patron of Save the Rhino. We got up early the next morning, and were taken off on a journey by Niall Doran of the Bookend Trust. We saw the devastation of the bushfires on the Tasman peninsula, learned the natural history behind the bushfires (basically, Eucalypts like fires - they clear the brush and help the seeds to germinate), saw an echidna by the side of the road, went on a wonderful boat ride (thanks to http://www.tasmancruises.com.au/) and saw awe-inspiring cliffs, seals and penguins (and a dead weedy seadragon), not to mention a place where the sea tips on its side...
...or it feels like it has. (Photo by Polly Adams.)
And then we were shows some of the fire devastation in Dunalley, and presented books to the primary school.
The primary school at Dunalley is not there any more. It burned down in the bushfires. They are putting up temporary buildings to house a temporary school while they build a new one. (We were joined by lots of nice people, including Robert Pennicott and Andrew Hughes, Tasmanians of the Year in 2012 and 2013.)
My publishers, Bloomsbury and Hachette, gave the school lots of my books, and lots of other books that they could use to auction or sell or include in the library. Here I am with Chair of the School Association Elizabeth Knox, Principal Matt Kenny, and various students and community members.
(Photos taken from https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=oa.10151236486214607&type=1 )
The school wrote about it at their blog entry at http://newdunalleyschool.wordpress.com/2013/01/21/a-visit-from-neil-gaiman/. It's a really inspiring blog, as they chart their recovery from the fires and chart the plans for the new school...
Time was tight, so we flew by seaplane to Hobart so I could do an interview with ABC's Helen Shield (you can read about it and listen to it here: http://blogs.abc.net.au/tasmania/2013/01/neil-gaiman.html). (And Helen's interview with Polly is at http://blogs.abc.net.au/tasmania/2013/01/douglas-adams-little-rocket.html).
A mad dash to a quick rehearsal/soundcheck with Jherek and a string quartet, along with our special guests David Byrne and St Vincent, and an even madder dash back to the ABC studios to do another interview, this time with Triple J's The Doctor (You can read about it/listen to it at http://www.abc.net.au/triplej/thedoctor/blog/s3673304.htm). Then back to the Mona Festival. I got there at 7 minutes to 6. We were due on at 6, so I found a dressing room, changed clothes and went on stage to read "Click-Clack the Rattlebag", sing Psycho, and, my favourite moment of all, read my "Australia Day" poem with Brian Ritchie playing didgeridoo, and David Byrne making animal sounds on the guitar.
I listened to Kate Miller-Heidke singing wonderfully immediately after us (her cover of David Byrne's Psycho Killer was unbelievable. It was a bit like this:)
And then came the best bit of the whole night as Jherek and I had a close encounter with a guide dog puppy named Quinnell.
I nearly forgot to mention, a couple of days earlier Amanda had asked me on Twitter to recreate her famous Map of Tasmania photo from the last time she was there. So, with the aid of a Map of Tasmania apron and photographer Dianna Graf, I did. And then Polly did too.
And then Polly and I were getting up at 6 am again and we headed to Melbourne, where we stayed with my friends Peter and Clare. They have the best house in the world.
I spent a day or so mostly being interviewed -- the photo is from the interview at http://www.theage.com.au/entertainment/books/melbourne-in-authors-good-books-as-he-plans-next-fun-escapade-20130123-2d7e6.html.
I'd a talk at the Atheneum Theatre, under the auspices of the Wheeler Centre. I signed lots of books for people, and then stumbled off for a late drink and dinner with lots of Melbournian friends, including Sxip Shirey, Meow Meow, and someone named Knibbs who can, like me, raise both eyebrows individually or set them scurrying across her forehead like startled caterpillars. ("Did you teach yourself in front of a mirror when you were a kid too?" "Yup.")
Four hours of sleep and I said goodbye to Peter and to Clare, and to Polly too (I'd pretty much adopted her by the time I left, so it was a sad goodbye made happier in the knowledge that I'd introduced her to lots of people who would be fun for her to know in Australia) and flew to Sydney, to the offices of Hachette, where I was interviewed, looked after by publicist Anna Hayward, had my photo taken by Tamara Dean (look at her beautiful photo art here and here) and then I had lunch with my Bloomsbury publishers and answered questions for them on video, and I ran to the Sydney Recital Hall where I met FourPlay String Quartet for a rehearsal.
I really love the guys from FourPlay -- it's such a delight doing stuff with them. We ran through the Fireball XL5 theme. We took the first fifteen minutes of FORTUNATELY, THE MILK and they created music and sound effects on the fly. They made glorious bush sounds for the Australia Day poem. Working with them now is so comfortable and easy.
I read the first fifteen minutes of FORTUNATELY, THE MILK... (it is so silly. I love it so much).
And then I gave an acknowledgment of country, and read the Australia Day poem, and we were done. No signing -- it was a long event, there were about 1100 people there, and I was knackered, but I scribbled on things for the people at the stage door on the way out.
Production entity Jordan Verzar and Festival boss Ben Strout, Jemma Birrell (artistic director of the festival) and festival PR Ainslee Lenehan and I, along with my old Whitgift school friend James Croll, stumbled off for an exhausted drink and conversation after the show, winding up in the bar of the hotel I was staying in, the somewhat O.T.T. but beautiful "QT", where the people were so nice and helpful. And then I was sleepily packing and it was daylight again, and I went to see the people at Animal Logic, who had given up some of their Australia Day to show me the beautiful film work they had done...
I proofread the UK edition of OCEAN AT THE END OF THE LANE on the plane back to the US, and read Mayhew's London Labour and the London Poor. I breakfasted with my son and daughter in law and daughter in San Francisco airport. I got home to Amanda...
I slept. I slept for three whole hours, and then the furnace in the basement belched out soot and smoke, the smoke alarms went off, the fire brigade arrived, and my hopes of catching up on my sleep were dashed. (Nothing was damaged. Nothing burned. And the Cambridge MA fire department are fast.)
The first of my episodes of SELECTED SHORTS went up on the radio. I got to select and introduce stories I loved -- in this case Ray Bradbury's chilling "The Veldt" read by Stephen Colbert, and James Thurber's "The Catbird Seat" hilariously read by Leonard Nimoy.
You can listen to it HERE.
(I'll be hosting for the next few weeks. Why don't you subscribe to the podcast? Information and links at http://www.selectedshorts.org/podcast/. There are some great stories on the way.)
Then an interview with me went out on Morning Edition. You read about it and listen to it here: http://www.npr.org/2013/01/28/170085113/watch-this-neil-gaimans-imaginative-favorites It's about things I love, or things that influenced me.
No, I won't tell you what they are. Go and listen to it. It's fun.
(There were things on my list that we didn't have time to talk about: Doctor Who's Curse of the Fatal Death and the Magnetic Fields' Andrew In Drag video, for example...)
And I should stop writing this blog and go and write about weird stuff happening underneath London instead.
But if you've made it this far, the next week should be interesting. I'll be doing a really exciting (and quite goofy) Art Project, and you'll learn a bit about it in this film. (Along with seeing Cabal, alive and well and happy, three weeks ago.)
I was on the stage of the Carnegie Hall last night. It wasn't my show -- it was more fun that that. It was John and Hank Green's show, An Evening of Awesome, and I felt like I was going to their party (and boy, can they throw a party). I had quite possibly the best time that any author except John Green has ever had standing on the stage of the Carnegie Hall, and I hugged Kimya Dawson and hugged Hannah Hart, and the Mountain Goats played and...
...ah, just watch the video if you want to know what it was all about. It starts 35 minutes in. (And my first bit starts about 1:43).
I gave copies of Chu's Day to some of the people on the stage who had very small children.
Chu's Day went straight onto the New York Times list at #2 today, which is good.
But... there was a problem. I had noticed on the Amazon page that people were reporting that they were getting copies with water-rippled interior pages. And some of them were sending them back and getting more water-warped copies to replace them with. This was odd. I asked on Twitter and discovered that, yes, this had happened to people who got their copies of Chu's Day in places other than Amazon. I let Harper Children's know, and they did some SherlockHolmesing around. My editor Rosemary told me what they discovered. She explained,
...we believe that when the copies left the bindery in China, they were fine, but they arrived in the U.S. during Hurricane Sandy. The cartons of books were stuck on the ship, as the ship was unable to come into port, and so the tremendous humidity in the air caused a ripple effect on the pages of some of the books. The ship was unable to dock until November 9. There is no actual water damage on the books, or water-to-paper contact, but we have seen some ripples in a few copies that would be caused by humid air. The copies that shipped to us by air from the bindery were all fine, so the problem must have occurred on the ship.
HarperChildren have already gone back to press on the book twice, with the first reprinting due in to the US this week, and they are shipping out pristine copies of Chu's Day to their accounts to replace any Sandy-damaged copies. As Rosemary continued,
[the new printing] will ship directly from the bindery to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and others. We are not wasting time by shipping to our warehouse and then to our accounts...
So if you got a hurricane-marked copy, you should be able to replace it very easily very soon. And we are very sorry.
Two Australian things: There are still tickets left for Sydney on the 25th. The first half of the evening will be all about Ocean at the End of the Lane. The second half will be stories and Q&A, and FourPlay and possibly even some songs. Tickets at this link.
More importantly, on the 21st, it's the Mona Bushfire Fundraiser Concert. The Tasmanian fires have been terrible things, and I've already been working with my publishers to get books to students at this school:
Probably you want to see me and Jherek Bischoff with special guest David Byrne doing some weird and wonderful stuff on stage. (We have over an hour to fill. We have plans. They will be weird. They will be wonderful.) But we are only a very small part of the entertainment:
MONA is pleased to announce a Mona Bushfire Fundraiser Concert to raise funds for the Australian Red Cross Tasmanian Bushfires 2013 Appeal. http://www.mona.net.au/
Buy tickets: https://www.mona.net.au/shop/bushfirefundraiser.aspx
The Hoodoo Gurus
Evan Dando & Spencer P Jones
Neil Gaiman and Jherek Bischoff (special guest David Byrne)
WHEN & WHERE:
Monday January 21, 2013
Princes Wharf 1 (PW1), Hobart
Doors open 5.30pm for 6pm, until late
On sale now: https://www.mona.net.au/shop/bushfirefundraiser.aspx
All profits from the concert go to the Australian Red Cross Tasmanian Bushfires 2013 Appeal. Production costs kept low by the generous donation of time and services by dozens of companies and individuals.
Mona and MONA FOMA staff are hosting the event. Suppliers will provide equipment and services, including artist accommodation; volunteers will staff the concert, and artists are performing for free. Mona has waived ticket booking fees and is giving all food and bar profits from the evening to the Red Cross.
So. 30th of April 2007 I stopped and rescued a dog by the side of the road.
At the time I wrote...
On the way home from the recording, driving through the rain, just as I pulled off the freeway to head home, I saw a large, pale dog on the side of the sliproad. I went in a couple of seconds from a first glance thought of "Oh, he's just wandering around and knows exactly what he's doing," to, on a second glance, "He's absolutely terrified and if he isn't actually lost he's really scared of all the cars and in danger of bolting onto the freeway," .
I pulled over, crossed the road and hurried across to where he was. He backed away, skittish and nervous, then came over to me, shaking. No collar or information, just a choke chain. And big. And very wet and very muddy. With cars going past, I decided the wisest thing to do was to put him into my car while I figured out what to do. The car was the Mini. I opened the door and he clambered in. The dog took up most of the Mini that I wasn't in and a fair amount of the Mini that I was in. Big dog, small car.
I phoned my assistant Lorraine, and asked her to let the local Humane Society (really nice people with a no kill policy) know we'd be coming in soon with a dog, then I drove home, narrowly avoiding death on the way (it's amazing how much you can't see when a huge dog fills the car and your field of vision). I ran around the garden with Dog until he'd tired me out. (I really hope he'd just got lost, and his family are looking for him; it would be hard to imagine someone abandoning a dog that cool.) Then I put him into the back of a car much bigger than the Mini and took him to the Humane Society, where they fawned all over him. ("I think he's a husky-wolf cross," said the Humane lady who took him, and she could be right.)
I think he's probably a survivor too.
I seem to have acquired a dog.
I got a call today to say that the owner of the dog I found on Monday had called the Humane Society and collected him. I was happy Dog was back with his family, but found myself rather sadder than I would have expected -- I realised I'd half hoped that maybe no-one would claim him.
The call went on to say that the dog's owner, a local farmer, who kept him chained up in the yard, and couldn't walk well so couldn't walk him, thought the dog was a nuisance, always getting out and heading onto the freeway and sooner or later he'd cause an accident, and, when the Humane Society lady mentioned that the person who found him rather liked him, he told her that if I came over and picked him up I could have him.
So I did.
He'd been named Buck, in the farmyard, on the chain, but he didn't respond to it, and hadn't actually been called Buck by anyone, as far as I could tell. I called him Cabal, after King Arthur's white dog who could see the wind, and he seemed to like having a name he could respond to.
I'd never had a dog. I don't think he'd ever had a person. And we bonded. Over the next six years, we both changed and we both grew.
My house in the midwest is on about 17 acres of woodland. I rediscovered all of those acres, and local meadows as well. I had a friend at a time when I needed one badly: I was really lonely at the time. I'd separated from my children's mother, Mary, four years earlier, and she'd moved out, and the house was feeling very empty. I didn't really have anyone in my life, anyone who felt like mine.
I got unquestioning love from Cabal. Not in a subservient sort of way. When we went walking, he seemed fairly certain that he was in charge -- after all, he was faster, could smell things, and had a much better idea of how things worked in the woods.
He wasn't afraid of anything, except thunderstorms. And elevators.
I took so many photos of him in the woods that someone made him his own Tumblr feed.
He was less happy in the house. Sometimes his back legs would splay out from under him. He was wary of shiny surfaces, as if he'd had troubles over the years walking on ice in his farmyard.
We were a sort of an Odd Couple, both of us fascinated and delighted by the other one. Both of us protective. He'd stand between me and strangers; he'd move just out of my eyeline, and plant himself there; he was determined to keep me safe from cats, even though I had several cats, and had to divide the house into Cat and Dog territory (and I am not certain he ever realised that that was mostly for his safety, and not theirs).
People said we looked like each other. Some people even tried to prove this.
Amanda says he taught me how to love. She's probably right.
He had trouble with his back legs -- he'd run too fast, too far, too hard, and break the leg and keep going, or rip the tendon. There were operations, one on each, a year apart.
He always slept in my bedroom at night. And then he had increasing trouble getting up and downstairs, and I moved my bedroom downstairs, so he didn't have to worry about stairs. We put a ramp in outside the house so he could get in and out without worrying about stairs.
He was having more trouble walking outside: his front legs went where he wanted them to go, his back legs wandered and lurched. He was three when I got him. Now he was nine, and had a degenerative condition (degenerative canine myelopathy -- like MS for dogs). But he was always cheerful, friendly, and still capable of out-running a human in the woods if something interesting went past.
It made him sad and lonely when I travelled, so I got Lola to keep him company. It worked. Now, when I'd return, he'd be much more cheerful. Lola adored him, and put up with me because Cabal seemed convinced I was pack leader.
He was nine years old. An old, big dog. But still mine, with a determined, unquestioning love and loyalty I'd never known.
When I rented the place in Cambridge I'd planned to bring him out immediately, then I actually saw the house, saw the shiny slippery wooden floors and all the stairs and realised that wouldn't work. The dogs were going to come out here to be with me in about 8 weeks, when it would be warm enough for me to move my workspace out into the conservatory, and in the meantime I was going home whenever I could to spend time with him and Lola (and, over Christmas, my daughters). I was with him there a week ago. I go back in two weeks for a couple of weeks, and was already planning stuff to do with the dogs while I was there.
I got the phone call last night from Hans, who looks after the grounds and the house, from the vet's. Cabal had had a normal, fun day, and then suddenly got really ill. He was vomiting and having trouble breathing. I'd missed the last plane and was going to fly home this morning to be with him while he was ill. Another phone call: he and Mary my housekeeper were with Cabal, and they were both in tears. They put me onto the vet, who was going to try to get Cabal to the animal hospital. He couldn't breathe. The vet thought there was a blood-clot in his lung. Another call: he wasn't going to make it to the hospital. His heart had stopped. The vet had just brought him back to life, but he was barely able to breathe and she was worried about him going into seizures and dying in pain...
And I wasn't there. If I'd been there, he would have been okay with whatever was happening. If I'd been there it would have been safe for him to go. I talked to him on the phone, intending to say something calming so he could hear my voice, and instead just cried and told him I was sorry that I wasn't there.
I spoke to the vet one last time, and told her to let him go,
I cried. Amanda came and held me, and I cried some more. Holly called and I told her what had happened, and she cried too. It was so sudden and unexpected and I wasn't there with him when he went. And I'd lost my friend.
I thought I was all cried out, and then I heard that Lola had taken his collar from the counter top and slept with it all night, and I cried again.
So many kind emails, messages of all kinds. I'm grateful to all of them. To all of you.
I'm so glad I knew him. I'm so glad we found each other. I don't imagine I'll ever have another bond like that in my life. I wish dogs lived longer.
Kipling said it best:
THERE is sorrow enough in the natural way
From men and women to fill our day;
And when we are certain of sorrow in store,
Why do we always arrange for more?
Brothers and sisters, I bid you beware
Of giving your heart to a dog to tear.
He was the best dog in the universe and I'm going to miss him so much.
They really liked it. Now I had to choose an illustrator.
He took my doodles as a framework, and then added his own layers, jokes, bits and such...
So pretty soon my scratchy doodles, like the one above of the elephant blowing dust off the book, or the one of Chu and his father in the diner, became things of beauty and wonder like this:
Most important of all, obviously, Adam gave Chu aviator goggles.
It's been out for a couple of days. People on Twitter are reading it to their children, which makes me happy.
You can get it Amazon, Barnes and Noble, from Independent bookstores via Indiebound, or pre-order a signed copy from Books of Wonder at http://www.booksofwonder.com/prodinfo.asp?number=105164.
Right now the reviews are coming in. They are mostly really nice. Even the one for the three-minute long Audio Book.
I got a press release from Harpers this morning, and I'll cut and paste a bit from it into here....
— Publishers Weekly (starred review)
And the other reason I am posting a bit from the press release is that Adam and I are doing a release event at Books of Wonder on Saturday February the 23rd. We'll sign all the copies of Chu's Day anyone wants, and other books as well. Books of Wonder is one of my favourite Children's bookshops in the world. They've been going through some rough times recently.
The last release event I did there, on the 7th of March 2009, had a certain amount of tragedy in it -- in the taxi on the way to the signing I learned my father had died unexpectedly of a sudden heart attack, and it was the 8 hour signing event that helped me keep it together and not fall apart. (Here's a Youtube video of me talking about and reading Blueberry Girl on that day, and not falling apart.)
It's at 18 West 18th Street, New York, NY 10011 on Saturday, the 23rd of February, at Noon.
The Ocean at the End of the Lane is a fable that reshapes modern fantasy: moving, terrifying and elegiac—as pure as a dream, as delicate as a butterfly’s wing, as dangerous as a knife in the dark. It began for our narrator forty years ago when the family's lodger stole their car and committed suicide in it, stirring up ancient powers best left undisturbed. Dark creatures from beyond the world are on the loose, and it will take everything our narrator has just to stay alive: there is primal horror here, and menace unleashed—within his family and from the forces that have gathered to destroy it. His only defense is three women, on a farm at the end of the lane. The youngest of them claims that her duck pond is an ocean. The oldest can remember the Big Bang.
Neil Gaiman Addresses the University of the Arts Class of 2012 from The University of the Arts (Phl) on Vimeo.
Chip is probably the finest book designer in the world. And in this book he breaks all the rules of design and makes something amazing in its own right.
Amazon run the biography of from Chu's Day on the Make Good Art Amazon page, which will undoubtedly confuse some people.
Morrow have also released The Ocean at the End of the Lane desktop wallpaper in, so far, six version, so you will not forget that it is coming out:
- iPad (Download)
- 2560x1440 (Download)
- 1920x1080 (Download)
- 1024x768 (Download)
- 800x600 (Download)
- 640x480 (Download)
- A 3-D image of The Ocean at the End of the Lane (Download)
- A 3-D image of Make Good Art (Download)
(for a collection of the previous New Year's Wishes: http://journal.neilgaiman.com/2011/12/my-new-year-wish.html)
I'm back in New York, got in late last night, in time to rehearse my song (the Fireball XL5 song) for tonight's New Year's Eve gig. Waiting for me in New York was a remarkable coat, made by Kambriel. I wore it out into the world last night: it's wonderful, but it makes me feel fictional when I wear it.
Had a late night dinner in the hotel with Amanda, and did something we do not do often, viz., communicate only in writing. Passing notes back and forth across the table. It's a nice break from routine, and sometimes we doodle or cartoon as well.
Then sleep. I woke up in a good mood. "I love you more than anything," I said.
"No you don't," she said, not even bothering to properly wake up. "You don't love me more than breathing. If the choice was breathing or me, you'd pick breathing."
"Not necessarily. Is the choice breathing or death, or breathing or some other option, like photosynthesis?"
"Death," she said, without opening her eyes. "You'd love photosynthesis. You'd be green like the Hulk and you'd stand in the sun with your arms and fingers spread and a big smile on your face. Now shush, I'm asleep."
And she went back to sleep while I lay next to her pondering the pros and cons of photosynthesis.
This is from the Summer, I think. A double or triple exposure of the kind I love (made in the camera, no photoshop). Dogs.
I've been all over the place. I went back to the midwest and spent two days with my dogs, and I helped wrap the beehives for winter.
Now I'm back in Cambridge MA, missing the dogs, but starting to feel more at home in this rambling high house. The at-homeness has more to do with furniture than anything else, I think. For example, a desk-chair was just delivered. There's nothing like a comfy chair for making you want to sit and write, if you are me.
I've handed in the latest draft of the HBO AMERICAN GODS pilot, and a short film I've written for another project, and I'm writing a bunch of different things right now.
I'm also proof-reading and copy-editing a bunch of books. Today I got to read through the UK edition of Fortunately, The Milk*, profusely illustrated by Chris Riddell. I laughed a lot at Chris's rough sketches. Can't wait to see it finished. (Skottie Young's illustrating the US edition. I've only seen two pages of his work. It's just as funny in a different, more manic, way. I love them both and am so glad that each publisher went its own way on this.) Fortunately The Milk will be published in September in the US and October in the UK. I just wrote a description of it for the US edition. I explained:
This is quite possibly the most exciting adventure ever to be written about milk since Tolstoy's epic novel War and Milk. Also it has aliens, pirates, dinosaurs and wumpires in it (but not the handsome, misunderstood kind), not to mention a Volcano God.
It contains passages like this:
“You are charged with breaking into people’s planets and redecorating them,” said a noble and imposing-looking Tyrannosaurus Rex. “And then with running away and doing it again somewhere else, over and over. You have committed crimes against the inhabitants of eighteen planets, and crimes against good taste.”
“What we did to Rigel Four was art!” argued a globby alien.
“Art? There are people on Rigel Four,” said an Ankylosaurus, “who have to look up, every night, at a moon with three huge plaster ducks flying across it.”
I love that Fortunately the Milk is two different books -- one in the US, one in the UK: it allows them to be published a month apart, which is much easier on the author.
In the old days of publishing, books in the US were published up to a year before or after the same books in the UK, but that started changing about ten years ago, and the internet changed it, as it has changed so much. People who like authors will buy their books when the books come out, and if the book is published in the US, people in the UK will simply go to Amazon (or some such website) and buy it, and if the book is published later in the US then American readers will head off to Amazon.co.uk (or similar).
When my new adult novel, THE OCEAN AT THE END OF THE LANE** is published, this summer, it will be coming out on June the 18th in the UK and the US too. This presents interesting challenges, mostly involving bi-location, and makes me miss Concorde, just a little.
No, I do not miss the sonic booms or the environmental damage, and, having been on one of the Concordes once, I do not miss the plane itself, which was small and dilapidated and chilly and old. But I miss the way one could fly to New York from London and feel like one had made a local hop and land three hours before one took off, and I miss the moment of looking out of Concorde's window and seeing the curvature of the Earth and feeling like all human problems were very small and far away.
(It was about 15 years ago. I had to get to Amsterdam to do a signing in high summer, and the UK trip I was meant to be doing was suddenly cancelled, leaving me without a flight. When the person on Northwest airlines' phone said, "Honestly, I can't believe how many miles it will take to get you there during the blackout week. You could take Concorde for that," and I said, "Hang on, I can use airmiles to fly Concorde?" and she said, "Well, yes.")
Which is a bit of a wander off the subject, which is that it now looks like I'll do a few days in the UK before publication, then fly back to the US on publication day, and then sign like a fiend across America, then go back to the UK and sign some more and then probably come back and do a handful of Canadian signings, and then collapse.
I'm currently living in a house Amanda and I have rented in Cambridge MA. She wanted to be out here to be able to be here for her friend Anthony, who is going through some particularly gruelling cancer treatments. It's a large, strange house, all oak-panelling and odd-shaped rooms we didn't notice the first time we walked through it. I'm loving it, despite living out of boxes.
Amanda thinks, correctly, that it's too big, but is humouring me. (She's using the Cloud Club as an office home-base.)
The thing I'm missing most being out here is the dogs: Cabal is not doing well physically currently. He has Degenerative Canine Myelopathy and his back legs are liable to slip out from under him and he can no longer do stairs. When I got out here I realised that he wouldn't be able to manage this place and regretfully abandoned my plan to bring the dogs with me. He's got his world that he loves out there, and so I am going to go back to the Midwest and be with him whenever I can. (Lola, on the other hand, could come out here like a shot, but she's his company.)
Thanksgiving was spent at Amanda's mother and stepfather's, but over the Thanksgiving period all of my kids came in from all over the US.
I'm starting to get writing rhythms back, which is good.
I missed the shooting of my next Doctor Who episode, although I've seen a rough assembly already. Warwick Davies is really good in it, and I asked the impossible of Matt Smith and he pulled it off with aplomb. (Watching the rushes of Matt getting gloriously, apologetically, sweary at fluffed takes of some of the dialogue stuff I'd asked him to do made me grin like a mad thing.)
Right now, also due to being in the wrong country -- like this minute -- I'm missing this, which arrived a few hours ago:
That's left to right, Benedict Cumberbatch, David Harewood, Natalie Dormer, Dirk Maggs, James McAvoy, David Schofield and Anthony Head, all gathered today to record the BBC Radio 4/Radio 4 Extra production of NEVERWHERE.
(It'll start on Radio 4 and then go over to Radio 4 extra.) The adaptation is by Dirk Maggs, who did the last three Hitchhiker's Guide Radio adaptations. He's co-directing it with producer Heather Larmour, who is the one who went off and made this happen after a small enthusiastic chat in a London coffee shop much earlier this year -- the kind of conversation that you have that normally just leaves you feeling happy, but doesn't actually turn into anything real. This time it did.
The cast includes...
James McAvoy Richard
...and lots more (including an author, who recorded his bits last month). It will go out in six episodes.
Am I excited? I am. Very much so.
(Also, CHRISTOPHER LEE IS GOING TO BE SAYING LINES I WROTE. This makes me happier than I have any right to be.)
It will be broadcast somewhere in the first 4 months of 2013. And you will be able to listen to it wherever you are in the world, using the BBC's iPlayer.
I'm currently listening to Tor Dot Com's AMERICAN GODS MIX TAPE while I work on the HBO American Gods pilot episode. http://www.tor.com/blogs/2012/11/the-complete-american-gods-mix-tape
Right. Back to work...