inkwell.vue.292 : Neil Gaiman, "Fragile Things"
permalink #51 of 61: Elise Matthesen (lioness) Mon 19 Feb 07 21:28
    
Two cards again: the King of Pentacles, and the Ace of Cups.

The King of Pentacles - "Though he and the King of Swords resemble
each other enough to suggest they began as the same face, this King has
real individuality. [...]  He belongs totally to the world he rules.
The spirals are not alive; they are fossils, and some are broken.  The
King is master of the Earth, a body that is mostly stone and dead
matter.  Ninety-five percent of all species who have ever lived are
extinct.  The King of Pentacles embraces them all."

There's the Sacred King again. Though it also reminds me of the
journey through time in Books of Magic.

"Divinatory meaning: [...] Someone successful, who loves life, and
will protect what he or she has."

This brought to mind the fathers in Fragile Things:  the narrator in
"Locks,"  and Augustus TwoFeathers McCoy.  My friend Hillel read
"Locks" aloud earlier this evening (the Shahan Bromberg family showed
me their signed and framed copy of "Instructions" when I arrived today,
a  gift from Chaya to Hillel, and they made a bee-line for Fragile
Things when I displayed my copy); it was lovely seeing another father
read the poem and hearing in his voice the places he found himself in
it.   

Is there time-travel involved in being a father? Do you ever find
yourself inhabiting the viewpoints of several ages at once?  What age
are you in your own head, mostly?

Ace of Cups - "[...] Water is deep and dark, like the unconscious. It
flows, it is formless, taking on the shape of whatever is holding it. 
The imagination too is a shape changer, inspired by the sensual world. 
[...]  The element of Water does not make strict separations. [...] 
Divinatory meanings:  Love, great happiness, powerful emotions."

Someone once told me that happy characters were boring, and that the
reason there were so many unhappy characters was that happy characters
didn't want to actually go out and change anything, so they had no
story arc. (Maybe a story point, or something.)

Do you ever find yourself pouring powerful emotions into the same
shape of character, when you're working, or do you just naturally write
different shapes each time?

If the element of Water is emotion, and if it does not make strict
separations, then what else has blurred boundaries?  Autobiography and
fiction?  (*Did* you play the double bass?)  The mythic world and the
mundane?
  
inkwell.vue.292 : Neil Gaiman, "Fragile Things"
permalink #52 of 61: Neil Gaiman (neilgaiman) Tue 20 Feb 07 07:22
    
Indeed, I did play the double bass, until I was about 14. There are
probably a bunch of stories you could use to build an unreliable
autobiography, one that would be emotionally accurate, if sometimes
factually dodgy (Of course it happened -- it just didn't happen exactly
like that...)

There's time travel in being a father. There's probably time travel
involved with being around kids. Violent Cases began as a moment with
my son, Mike, aged 3, and flashing back on when I was 3 or 4...

I miss telling stories to my kids.

Happy characters aren't boring. (Death is a perfectly happy character,
for example. So was Simon Templar.) But they're harder to write
because a lot of the time they're too smart to have something be their
story, so they have to get involved in other people's stories. 

I don't like to repeat myself unless I think I got it wrong the first
time and that this is my chance to get it right.
  
inkwell.vue.292 : Neil Gaiman, "Fragile Things"
permalink #53 of 61: Elise Matthesen (lioness) Tue 20 Feb 07 11:21
    
Four cards appeared this time: the King of Pentacles again, and three
new ones. 

In addition to what's quoted earlier, Rachel said, "Traditionally, the
King of Pentacles is a master of wealth, a man of property and power.
This King seems to look deeper, with his wonderful hooded eyes."

These days you get serious money for your work. You said in an
interview a few years back that the problems of success were definitely
preferable to the problems of failure. (Let's skip for the moment the
questions raised by my elision of money and success there.) Does your
situation now give you more access to better tools to do your work? How
about time -- how much time does it cost to look after
property-money-business-connections? A great many people imagine that
being a financially successful writer means you get to sit on a plush
upholstered cloud with next year's computer and have people bring you
ambrosia whenever you're feeling a little peckish, and otherwise they
tiptoe around you in velvet slippers so as not to disturb you -- but
that sure doesn't seem to match what really happens.


The Hanged Man - Shade, the Changing Man (Neptune) "The most important
symbol in the traditional card is the face. The Hanged Man does not
suffer. We see him radiant and joyous, for the tree is the Tree of
Life, and he has bound himself to spiritual truth. [...] For Shade, the
tree is the Madness, which for him is both a place and a tangible
force. Shade gains power from it, but he cannot separate himself from
it. Like the Hanged Man, he can only surrender."

Characters who tie themselves to the truth get into interesting
predicaments if it's a truth that's not visible to other people. And
their sacrifices (literally self-sacrifices, in the case of the Hanged
Man) look crazy to other characters. One of the first sacrifices
required of some of your characters at the entrance to truth, or magic,
or story, is part of their dignity, their attempts at appearing
sophisticated - Richard Mayhew in Neverwhere, Tim Hunter in Books of
Magic, and so on. Is part of the entry fee being willing to look stupid
or be embarrassed?


The Devil - Lucifer, from "Sandman" - "People who know the traditional
Tarot Devil will recognize the horned face, and even the chains in
this picture. The beach chair, however, might strike them as odd."

Some of the fun in your stories is things combining in unlikely ways
and then going on to be very much themselves in unlikely places. Maybe
it's their matter-of-factness: of course that item was in a thrift
shop; of course one tries to fend off improbable carnivores with one's
umbrella; of course one behaves such-and-such a way, even if all Hell
is breaking loose and/or the world is ending. (Just because it's the
apocalypse doesn't mean one should forget one's manners.) The joyful
absurd combinations go back a long way with you, especially when they
are joyful absurd combinations that also say something serious. Isn't
this also part of what the early feedback on "Forbidden Brides of the
Faceless Slaves in the Secret House of the Night of Dread Desire" was
missing the point of entirely? Why is laughing about something seen as
an unacceptable form of analysis? It's like some people don't think
silliness is one door to the sacred or the magic or the truth or
whatever you want to call.


Six of Swords - "We see the Swords poised, a little like a fence,
before complicated images, the productions of the mind. On the left we
see wheels and ratchets, like some eighteenth-century brass clockwork
machine."

"Harlequin Valentine" in Fragile Things has a connection to something
rather like a clockwork machine; what is it, and when did you first see
it? Do works by this artist live with you now? 

What was it like going to House on the Rock when you were working on
American Gods? Did you get to spend much time with the carousel? Have
you been back since?
  
inkwell.vue.292 : Neil Gaiman, "Fragile Things"
permalink #54 of 61: Not actually tofu... more like tofu-to-be (madman) Wed 21 Feb 07 14:03
    
Hi Neil, it's good to see you back here again.
I haven't managed to read Fragile Things yet, but I do have a question about
something else entirely.
How intently do you follow your worlds once other people start playing in
them? Have you read each issue of The Dreaming, of Lucifer, of various
spinoffs like Marvin Pumpkinhead, Agent of Dream or The Girl Who Would Be
Death?

Every now and then, they tackle interesting questions about the rules of the
world (an example: in The Girl Who Would Be Death, Eblis takes a shotgun to
a monster and wonders if he can kill it, since wouldn't that also be
destroying it? And that's supposed to be something he can't do...). Do you
ever look at this and think 'ah, they got that wrong.'? Are the rules and
laws of story and world fixed enough in your head that you can look at the
later players in those sandboxes and see them break what you think would
have been the rule?

As a related question, what do you think when someone outright contradicts
or retcons something? (For those reading who may not know the term, "retcon"
is "retroactive continuity"- a common authorial tool in long running comics
where they decide to retroactively change the history of a character or the
like.) (An example here: in Season of Mists, the Silver City is defined as
not heaven, not hell, and not being part of the order of created things; in
Lucifer, which seems meant to be from the same storyworld, the Silver City
is revealed to have been built well after Creation was kicked off.) Do you
feel like, well, it's their story, they can do what they like? Or do you 
regret the changes made to "your" world?
  
inkwell.vue.292 : Neil Gaiman, "Fragile Things"
permalink #55 of 61: Cynthia Dyer-Bennet (cdb) Thu 22 Feb 07 09:06
    

I don't mean to interrupt, and I hope Neil will have the time to answer
these last few questions. I simply wanted to say "Thanks for joining us!"
to both Neil and Elise, and to say how amazing this conversation has been
for the past two weeks.

This topic will remain open for further conversation indefinitely, and 
you're welcome to stick around and keep talking as long as you like. If
other responsibilities are calling, we'll reluctantly bid adieu for now,
and will welcome Neil back again when his next book comes out.
  
inkwell.vue.292 : Neil Gaiman, "Fragile Things"
permalink #56 of 61: Neil Gaiman (neilgaiman) Thu 22 Feb 07 15:24
    
"These days you get serious money for your work. You said in an
interview a few years back that the problems of success were
definitely preferable to the problems of failure. (Let's skip for the
moment the questions raised by my elision of money and success there.)
Does your situation now give you more access to better tools to do your
work? How about time -- how much time does it cost to look after
property-money-business-connections? A great many people imagine that
being a financially successful writer means you get to sit on a plush
upholstered cloud with next year's computer and have people bring you
ambrosia whenever you're feeling a little peckish, and otherwise they
tiptoe around you in velvet slippers so as not to disturb you -- but
that sure doesn't seem to match what really happens."

I think I'd be bored if it did.

But yes, there are a lot of distractions. I found myself, at the end
of last year, idly musing on the idea of retirement. "I could retire,"
I thought. "Then I'd have lots of time to write..."

It was a very odd thought which left me mentally rearranging my
priorities.


" One of the first sacrifices
required of some of your characters at the entrance to truth, or
magic,or story, is part of their dignity, their attempts at appearing
sophisticated - Richard Mayhew in Neverwhere, Tim Hunter in Books of
Magic, and so on. Is part of the entry fee being willing to look
stupid or be embarrassed?"

I suspect that if you're English -- possibly if you're human --
embarrassment is a very potent threat or weapon. I've run into people
who said they couldn't read ANANSI BOYS because Fat Charlie embarrassed
them...  I'm easily embarrassed, and usually undignified, at least on
the inside.



"Some of the fun in your stories is things combining in unlikely ways
and then going on to be very much themselves in unlikely places. Maybe
it's their matter-of-factness: of course that item was in a thrift
shop; of course one tries to fend off improbable carnivores with one's
umbrella; of course one behaves such-and-such a way, even if all Hell
is breaking loose and/or the world is ending. (Just because it's the
apocalypse doesn't mean one should forget one's manners.) The joyful
absurd combinations go back a long way with you, especially when they
are joyful absurd combinations that also say something serious. Isn't
this also part of what the early feedback on "Forbidden Brides of the
Faceless Slaves in the Secret House of the Night of Dread Desire" was
missing the point of entirely? Why is laughing about something seen as
an unacceptable form of analysis? It's like some people don't think
silliness is one door to the sacred or the magic or the truth or
whatever you want to call."

I don't know what to say to this except thank you. It's also how I
cook.



""Harlequin Valentine" in Fragile Things has a connection to something
rather like a clockwork machine; what is it, and when did you first
see
it? Do works by this artist live with you now?"


You're thinking of the thing in my nook (or possibly cranny) ont he
stairs...? The art of the inestimable Lisa Snellings. It makes me happy
-- I first saw it in New Orleans over a decade ago, and felt like
someone else saw the universe like I did. Then I got to know Lisa and
discovered that, no, she sees things even weirder than I do. But we're
both in the same country... If I could afford it I would fill the house
with her art and sculpture...

"What was it like going to House on the Rock when you were working on
American Gods? Did you get to spend much time with the carousel? Have
you been back since?"

It was fine and fun. But then Entertainment Weekly made me get my
photo taken in front of the carousel, and the shoot lasted for hours,
and the music was being played at maximum volume....  (It's set loud in
there to stop people lingering too long, I think...) And I've not been
back.

...

Madman, I've read some, but not every issue. Sometimes I like them,
sometimes I shrug. 

Mostly it doesn't bother me;if I do another story it all goes back
like it want it to. I'm sure I took characters and ideas in ways the
original creators wouldn't have planned or wanted. It goes with the
territory.
  
inkwell.vue.292 : Neil Gaiman, "Fragile Things"
permalink #57 of 61: Gail Williams (gail) Thu 22 Feb 07 16:40
    
What a sad tale of Carousel Overdose.

Thanks for all the great comments, fun to read.
  
inkwell.vue.292 : Neil Gaiman, "Fragile Things"
permalink #58 of 61: Dodge (clotilde) Sun 25 Mar 07 10:32
    
I haven't been able to read all the way through here. I don't get to
go onto the Well as much as I used to though I'm working on that.

Finished Fragile things.  And, like most of Neil's works, had to start
re-reading immediately.  The Fairy Reel was kind of sad.  The Saucers
was hilarious. The stories all were wonderful.  Now I have to debate
whether or not I take my first edition hard copy to the SciFi book club
and let them borrow it. I agonize. But I may anyway.  After all,
what's the purpose of a book but to read and get your friends to read
so you can talk about it. 
  
inkwell.vue.292 : Neil Gaiman, "Fragile Things"
permalink #59 of 61: Keeper of Rat Gravy (notshakespeare) Tue 27 Mar 07 11:39
    
After going to multiple signings last year, it was odd to read The
Saucers after hearing it twice.  I really hear Neil's voice in my head
as I read.
  
inkwell.vue.292 : Neil Gaiman, "Fragile Things"
permalink #60 of 61: Cynthia Dyer-Bennet (cdb) Tue 27 Mar 07 13:15
    

Wish I could have heard that, (notshakespeare). I, too, loved "The Day the
Saucers Came." I've read it to several friends who've all then wanted to
grab the book out of my hands.
  
inkwell.vue.292 : Neil Gaiman, "Fragile Things"
permalink #61 of 61: Daniel (dfowlkes) Wed 28 Mar 07 02:58
    <scribbled by dfowlkes Tue 3 Jul 12 10:14>
  



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