inkwell.vue.292 : Neil Gaiman, "Fragile Things"
permalink #26 of 61: Gail Williams (gail) Mon 12 Feb 07 10:44
    
(Lioness, this is such a trip! And another fascinating question...)
  
inkwell.vue.292 : Neil Gaiman, "Fragile Things"
permalink #27 of 61: Cynthia Dyer-Bennet (cdb) Mon 12 Feb 07 11:26
    

(and one more interruption -- up there <lioness> posted a link to a comment
from Neil made in Inkwell several years ago. That link works fine for people
who are logged in to The WELL, but won't work if you're reading it from
offsite. Here's a link that will work for everybody:

<http://www.well.com/conf/inkwell.vue/topics/73/Neil-Gaiman-SANDMAN-THE-DREAM-H
U-page07.html#post174>
  
inkwell.vue.292 : Neil Gaiman, "Fragile Things"
permalink #28 of 61: Elise Matthesen (lioness) Mon 12 Feb 07 11:27
    
Oh, good! Thank you, CDB!
  
inkwell.vue.292 : Neil Gaiman, "Fragile Things"
permalink #29 of 61: Cynthia Dyer-Bennet (cdb) Mon 12 Feb 07 11:31
    
And another interruption, then I promise I'll shut up:

If you're reading from offsite and have comments or questions you'd
like to contribute to this conversation, send them to
<inkwell@well.com> and our hosts can add it to this thread. 
  
inkwell.vue.292 : Neil Gaiman, "Fragile Things"
permalink #30 of 61: Elise Matthesen (lioness) Mon 12 Feb 07 11:38
    
CDB, your interruptions are public services, and most useful.

Gail, a trip by Tarot can be the trippiest of trips. To quote from one
of Neil's wonders in Fragile Things:

"Trust ghosts. Trust those that you have
   helped to help you in their turn.
 Trust dreams.
 Trust your heart, and trust your story."

I figure Tarot is in there too. Since the Tarot is also a labyrinth --
not a maze, and the distinction is essential -- I have perfect trust
that the path will take us through to the center and then back out
again. Thing is, in a labyrinth of the sort where a person can see the
rest of the path laid out on the floor of the echoing hall, half of the
fun is looking from halfway across the room at something one had just
been close to and thought one knew already.

Now if I were drawing Tarot cards and then asking the Magic 8-Ball
with Neil in his Swami hat, over at his blog, that'd be really really
trippy....

Neil, the Swami hat is great. And the Oracle itself? Magnifique.
Excellent way to celebrate your blog's birthday.
  
inkwell.vue.292 : Neil Gaiman, "Fragile Things"
permalink #31 of 61: Keeper of Rat Gravy (notshakespeare) Mon 12 Feb 07 11:44
    
Cynthia - actually <lioness> had it right, the link is accessible from
the outside.  I logged out to test it.
  
inkwell.vue.292 : Neil Gaiman, "Fragile Things"
permalink #32 of 61: Daniel (dfowlkes) Mon 12 Feb 07 12:00
    <scribbled by dfowlkes Tue 3 Jul 12 10:14>
  
inkwell.vue.292 : Neil Gaiman, "Fragile Things"
permalink #33 of 61: Neil Gaiman (neilgaiman) Tue 13 Feb 07 07:53
    
"You said earlier in the interview, "I keep trying, and I can't think
of anything I wouldn't do in the ending of a book for a child that I
also wouldn't do in a book for an adult. It all seems to come down to
respect."  Is respect partly about facing conflict or pain honestly?
What would disrespect look like? 
...

Has it been that way for you sometimes?

And what of the differences between thinking and feeling, and the uses
of each in the work you do?"
....................................

Hmm. I think I currently have my face pressed up against this one
rather hard, as I'm writing the first chapter of The Graveyard Book,
and three people have been murdered as the book begins, and there is a
good probability that the last memeber of the family will be killed as
well, and it's a book for kids, and I know that I'm going to get flack
for it being too violent or too scary or too painful or something. And
all I can say is that this is the story and trying to change it or
soften it would make it a different story, and it wouldn't be mine. I
know already that the end is going to have some really dark and painful
places in it, and again... you don't change it. You respect your
readers. Some stories have happy endings and there's nothing wrong with
that if they're earned (a cheap tragedy is as tinny and shoddy as a
cheap triumph -- worse, perhaps).

Of thinking and feeling, in fiction I'd take feeling any time, but it
only carries you so far, and then you're wandering around for a couple
of days saying to complete strangers 'If you were going to rob a
casino, how would YOU do it?"

R.U. -- it was a fun interview! And I long ago decided that that part
of my family history was not one for the internet.

Elise -- have you ever read the first part of the original Books of
Magic, I did -- "The Invisible Labyrinth"? Still one of my favourite
metaphors, both for magic and for storytelling.

Dan Guy -- and I am so grateful. I am amazed at the way we can find
patterns in things, and also in the way that patterns turn up,
unlooked-for -- a few times while testing it I've clicked on the Oracle
and got something so appropriate that my jaw dropped and I thought "Oh
Dan and the Elf have been messing with this to make such and such a
quote come up first," and then, a click or two later, it's obvious
that, no, it's still a random little beastie.
  
inkwell.vue.292 : Neil Gaiman, "Fragile Things"
permalink #34 of 61: Daniel (dfowlkes) Tue 13 Feb 07 10:00
    <scribbled by dfowlkes Tue 3 Jul 12 10:14>
  
inkwell.vue.292 : Neil Gaiman, "Fragile Things"
permalink #35 of 61: Neil Gaiman (neilgaiman) Tue 13 Feb 07 11:08
    
The Libretto was just too small, in the end. I gave it to Holly (who
never uses it. I should ask for it back) and got myself a panasonic
CF-W4 from dynamism.com, from whom I had bought the libretto, and found
it was Just Right -- big enough to type comfortably on, with a disk
drive, while still not weighing anything (my most important requirement
for a computer).
  
inkwell.vue.292 : Neil Gaiman, "Fragile Things"
permalink #36 of 61: Elise Matthesen (lioness) Tue 13 Feb 07 20:12
    

(This one's a big card, so there's a world of questions with it.)

The World - Swamp Thing (Saturn)  "In the World, we see how all the
Fool's different experiences, from The Magician to Judgement, belong
together, like individual flowers on a single tree. [...]"

(I like referring to The Fool sometimes as The Holy Fool, because it's
a signal that this is no pejorative term; it's a role, an office if
you will. It's a job that wants doing.)

Moving from seeing the individual flowers to seeing the whole tree is
a nice image for finally seeing the connections, and understanding the
journey as a whole.  (Like the labyrinth can be?  I'll go to Dreamhaven
and grab a copy of the collected Books of Magic miniseries tomorrow if
they've got one. I did start reading someone else's copy a while back,
but a conversation about characters interposed itself, and, well, then
it was all the history of comics and old movie plots and musical
theatre and the Lab Safety catalog, and I got distracted. But I'll get
back to it now, and go onward; I thank you for reminding me.) Anyhow,
yeah: seeing the whole tree, discovering that all the pieces are of one
thing, finding out that the journey makes a circle. You do a bunch of
that, though I won't list specific stories here. (People can read the
collection and make their own list, sort of like spotting birds.) Or
maybe it's Story that does a bunch of that, and you follow, taking
notes as fast as you can?

Then there are pieces that aren't exactly journeys, but where the
effect is a certain kind of cumulative.  (Is there a term of art for
describing a sort of narrative-by-mosaic?) "Fifteen Painted Cards from
a Vampire Tarot" does that.  "Strange Little Girls" does something
else, but it's also a mosaic.

You said you originally intended the book to be a collection of short
stories told by various "dodgy and unreliable narrators."  And then,
you say, real life came along and spoiled it. Was finding out the form
they needed to be told in more difficult for certain ones?


"The Fool had to give up his innocence and perfection to go through
the different stages of the Major Arcana. [...]"

Or through the different stages of the fairy tale.  "Locks" talks
about those stages by name. What were you like when you were Baby Bear?
 

I love what you say in the introduction to "Locks" about fairy tales
being transmissible. You said, though, that you find reading aloud "a
poor replacement for telling her stories out of my own head." Say more,
please?



 "Divinatory meanings -- [...] Reversed -- [...] isolation from
others."

Voluntary isolation, for a writer, can be a useful tool. It's one you
use, yes?  There are several places you go to get work done; could you
please describe a certain very small place with trees by it, and
another place or two of your choosing?

There. A world of questions. Makes me think of Fiddler's Green.
  
inkwell.vue.292 : Neil Gaiman, "Fragile Things"
permalink #37 of 61: Elise Matthesen (lioness) Tue 13 Feb 07 21:04
    
By the way, your Oracle is getting a fair amount of play over on the
BPAL forums. Two snippets, quoted with permission:

........................................
My question was:
"What shall I have for lunch?"
The answer:
"But it's the lime that makes it magic."

Tequila shots it is!

- SultryWolf
........................................

Inspired by SultryWolf, I also asked what 
I should have for lunch.

The answer was "First, a few people have 
written to correct me about yesterday's 
post, to wit: Yup."

So I read yesterday's post looking for the 
answer. "My daughter Holly is producing 
The Vagina Monologues at Bryn Mawr this year." 
Ummm . . . okay. I was thinking maybe a salad, 
but lunch might be more interesting than it 
usually is.

- evilmistressoftoast 
........................................
  
inkwell.vue.292 : Neil Gaiman, "Fragile Things"
permalink #38 of 61: Neil Gaiman (neilgaiman) Wed 14 Feb 07 08:07
    
The trouble with isolation for me is that it's best if the places are
relatively new -- after a few years of going somewhere to write it
starts feeling like home, and then it's not the same. The smallest
place I go and write is the gazebo at the bottom of the garden (not
much use when the temperature gets below zero though) surrounded by
trees, which I'd abandoned for five years, then rediscovered. The
biggest place I go to write is Tori's house in Ireland, a wonderful,
crumbling Georgian manor house with a view of the grey water and of
soft green hills, and I always go in the winter, when I go, and all my
memories are of trying to keep warm. But yes, I like going away to
write. I like waking up with nothing in my head. I like (when I'm
working on a book, especially when I'm starting it) not to talk to
anyone. To enter a world in which the book is more real than the world.

I don't know if there's a word for those mosaic things of tiny
stories. I think the first I ever encountered was Harlan Ellison's From
A-Z In the Chocolate Alphabet. I loved how the total effect was bigger
than any of the stories.

Finding the form is always hard, except when it's easy. Which sounds
flip, but when it's easy it's like being given the recipe, and all you
do is follow it (A story about a tanning cream that transformed a girl
into an orange space blob... and I could write it as a series of
answers to questions that you don't get to see... started and finished
in a couple of hours, once I knew that.) When you aren't sure what
you're making and you just have some ingredients, it's harder -- you're
more like one of those episodes of Iron Chef where something goes so
wrong they wind up using it as the basis for another dish entirely.


There's a sort of trust you get telling kids stories, a real magic.
When I was really small that was the best thing about adults.They would
tell you stories. Every now and again I got to stay with my
grandmother -- I couldn't have been more than three -- and I remember
sleeping in her room, and getting her to tell me stories until I slept.
It was an adult currency better than sweets. And that answers two of
your questions...

Those are wonderful divinations. I see that there's a page for
recording great divinations up at
http://www.neilgaiman.info/index.php?title=Oracular_Instrument_of_Divination
(a very cool website. I was astonished both by how much I'd forgotten
and how much I remembered). (I read it going, Er, the line about being
media correspondent for Razzle was a joke of Stefan's. And why would
something I was offered and said no to be classed as an "Abandoned
project"? Wow, a Neil Locator -
http://www.neilgaiman.info/index.php?title=Neil_Locator - what a great
idea...)
  
inkwell.vue.292 : Neil Gaiman, "Fragile Things"
permalink #39 of 61: Keeper of Rat Gravy (notshakespeare) Wed 14 Feb 07 08:33
    
Neil, way back in the GEnie days, I remember you mentioning an issue
of "Cherry Poptart."  But I don't remember if someone just suggested
you write one, if you said you would be writing one, or if it was just
an offhand joke.
  
inkwell.vue.292 : Neil Gaiman, "Fragile Things"
permalink #40 of 61: Neil Gaiman (neilgaiman) Wed 14 Feb 07 09:15
    
You mean http://www.lastgasp.com/d/8604/? I was meant to write it with
Kate Worley, but it didn't work, mostly because I wrote my bit and she
didn't feel she could add anything, so I simply gave the story to
Larry Welz who drew in all the bits I'd been too embarrassed to write.
  
inkwell.vue.292 : Neil Gaiman, "Fragile Things"
permalink #41 of 61: Keeper of Rat Gravy (notshakespeare) Wed 14 Feb 07 09:36
    
That must have been it!
  
inkwell.vue.292 : Neil Gaiman, "Fragile Things"
permalink #42 of 61: Daniel (dfowlkes) Wed 14 Feb 07 18:52
    <scribbled by dfowlkes Tue 3 Jul 12 10:14>
  
inkwell.vue.292 : Neil Gaiman, "Fragile Things"
permalink #43 of 61: Neil Gaiman (neilgaiman) Wed 14 Feb 07 19:48
    
You know, if he were sensible he'd ask me to go through the archives
and see what I can find -- as far as I remember, the only Men's mags I
wrote a lot for were Knave and Penthouse, and there were a few
interviews and maybe a humour piece or two in Club International and a
couple of pieces on books in Fiesta. (I say "As far as I remember" as
there were things I didn't remember in his list...as in "I wrote about
Anne Rice?" and then vaguely remembering an interview that was meant to
happen for 20/20 that she then didn't come to the UK for, and having
to busk an article for poor Maria Lexton.)
  
inkwell.vue.292 : Neil Gaiman, "Fragile Things"
permalink #44 of 61: Elise Matthesen (lioness) Wed 14 Feb 07 21:48
    
The glamour of a journalist's life. And the aftereffects, such as
nobody understanding that paragraphs are SUPPOSED to have blank lines
between them. *grin*

All right, two cards again, because the second one jumped out when I
set the first one down:

The Empress - Titania, Queen of the Faeries, from the Books of Magic -

[I should say here that I did buy the Books of Magic collected
miniseries; I have read the first of four, and think Titania is still
in my future... but not too far ahead.]  "She is the spiritual power
that gives life to the land and its creatures.  Titania, queen of the
land of Faerie, expresses this idea of complete identity with her
world.  The traditional version of this card shows the Empress sitting
in a garden, wearing a crown of stars. [...]  Unlike the High
Priestess, she holds nothing back. But her face remains clouded, for we
can experience her gifts, we can taste her and live from her, but we
can never really know her.
Around her head we see a kind of cracked halo...."

The cracked halo reminds me of Delirium, whom I dearly love.  Do you?
What was it like to have her romping through your head? (Or any of her
siblings, come to that.)

The queen with complete identity with her world... hm. If the Sacred
King's job is to die for the land, is the Sacred Queen's job to live
for it? 

The whole monarchy thing is confusing -- and perversely attractive to
a number of folks who didn't grow up in one. Is that one of the things
that flavours fantasy writing, at least of
fantasies-with-Queens-and-suchlike, differently when British folks
write and when, say, Americans write?


The Five of Wands - "The hand returns, but now the fingers have all
become torches, with their flames moving through darkness. [...] 
Actually, if we look closely, we can see that the
Wands/torches/paintbrushes look like tubes slipped over the fingers, a
little like fingerpuppets. [...]" 

Tell about doing the Mr. Punch book, and about Punch himself, and
Judy. Not finger puppets, are they? But still.  

That book got something across about seaside resorts in England, back
in the day, and their amusements, that won't go into words, though it
will go into shivers.  (What is it with places that sometimes are full
of merrymakers and then are empty, anyway?)
  
inkwell.vue.292 : Neil Gaiman, "Fragile Things"
permalink #45 of 61: Elise Matthesen (lioness) Thu 15 Feb 07 18:37
    
(...and now I have read the Books of Magic miniseries, and am thinking
about the Empress and her land in a new way. And the river of blood,
too. Which didn't feel like a metathingie to Tim.)

(Hmm. Sometimes they don't.)
  
inkwell.vue.292 : Neil Gaiman, "Fragile Things"
permalink #46 of 61: Daniel (dfowlkes) Fri 16 Feb 07 02:13
    <scribbled by dfowlkes Tue 3 Jul 12 10:14>
  
inkwell.vue.292 : Neil Gaiman, "Fragile Things"
permalink #47 of 61: Elise Matthesen (lioness) Sat 17 Feb 07 19:49
    
(I have heard a rumor that Neil is in writing mode, in which case we
shall wait and see what's what. Am half-tempted to pull a card... oh,
why not?  Sure, we could ask the Oracle, but that seems a bit much. 
OK, card:  Page of Wands.  "Divinatory meanings:  Strength, eagerness,
especially for new projects, great activity."  Hmm. That bodes well. We
shall see.)
  
inkwell.vue.292 : Neil Gaiman, "Fragile Things"
permalink #48 of 61: Elise Matthesen (lioness) Sun 18 Feb 07 18:53
    
I have a message from the Neil, who says hello, and that ice weasels
(or something -- that part of the message was accidentally lost by the
carrier pigeon, or whatever it was; seemed a bit large for a pigeon,
and they're not supposed to be black with glowing red eyes, are they?
but anyway back to the ice weasels) have eaten his on-the-road
connectivity devices, or at least nibbled on them heavily, so he's
having trouble getting through. He sends apologies and greetings, and
says we'll just tack the missing days onto the end of the interview, if
that's all right with folks here.
  
inkwell.vue.292 : Neil Gaiman, "Fragile Things"
permalink #49 of 61: Neil Gaiman (neilgaiman) Sun 18 Feb 07 23:24
    
And now home, and I spent 40 minutes writing a really nice long reply
to make up for having been so dilatory, and the house Internet went
down as I pressed post. Heigh ho. I'm going to bed now and will try and
remember what I said about Summer Queens, May Queens, Hands of Glory
and the like tomorrow...
  
inkwell.vue.292 : Neil Gaiman, "Fragile Things"
permalink #50 of 61: Neil Gaiman (neilgaiman) Mon 19 Feb 07 09:15
    
"The cracked halo reminds me of Delirium, whom I dearly love.  Do you?
What was it like to have her romping through your head? "

She was the best of them. She did her own dialogue. I just had to feed
her a straight line and watch what she said coming out of my fingers.
The othrs were work.

"The queen with complete identity with her world... hm. If the Sacred
King's job is to die for the land, is the Sacred Queen's job to live
for it?"

Yes. And to embody it. (In my head there's a distinction between
Summer Queens, who last for ever, and May Queens, who are sort of like
mayflies, and are only there at the end of Spring, and are beautiful
and then are gone. Black Orchid was a May Queen.)

"The whole monarchy thing is confusing -- and perversely attractive to
a number of folks who didn't grow up in one. Is that one of the things
that flavours fantasy writing, at least of
fantasies-with-Queens-and-suchlike, differently when British folks
write and when, say, Americans write?"

It's possible to say that the Brits are rather more cynical about
monarchies than Americans are. (I actually like the current English
system. That's because I like having a head of state who is purely
decorative, and nothing to do with government or policy. I like the
concept of Her Majesty's Opposition, that one can disagree with
governmental policy without being disloyal to the crown -- in fact
being more loyal to the crown.)

My favourite American monarch is still Emperor Norton.

And while one can grumble about the fantasy tradition of Kings, it
goes back to Tolkien, probably.


"The Five of Wands - "The hand returns, but now the fingers have all
become torches, with their flames moving through darkness. [...] 
Actually, if we look closely, we can see that the
Wands/torches/paintbrushes look like tubes slipped over the fingers, a
little like fingerpuppets. [...]" 

Tell about doing the Mr. Punch book, and about Punch himself, and
Judy. Not finger puppets, are they? But still.  

That book got something across about seaside resorts in England, back
in the day, and their amusements, that won't go into words, though it
will go into shivers.  (What is it with places that sometimes are full
of merrymakers and then are empty, anyway?)"


You know, your description of the hand sounds much more like a hand of
glory than it does anything puppetty -- a dead hand taken from a
criminal, with candles on the fingers, used to send the inhabitants of
a house to sleep.

I think it's hard to live in the UK without having been to at least
one seaside resort out of season. That's when they seem honest, and
also depressing beyond belief. Mostly closed, empty, forgotten, limping
along, grey and wet and chill and the only inhabitants are mournful
ghosts of past summers hanging at the edge of perception like something
from a Ramsey Campbell short story...
  

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