Linda Castellani (castle) Thu 27 Apr 00 20:28
Neil Gaiman is the author of the award-winning graphic novel series, "Sandman." His first novel, "Neverwhere," originally a Gaiman-penned BBC television series, is currently being turned into a film for Jim Henson films. He has written children's books and short stories. He has spoken and written on the ins and outs of authoring movies, comics, television scripts, radio plays, journalism, poetry, short fiction and novels, the vagaries of economics and fashion in literature and gardening (including the role of Tulip-mania in history, and what it has to do with retailing and collecting), and the importance of trusting one's obsessions. Neil's latest book, "Stardust," explores a mythical land of faeries, enchanted flea markets, talking trees and a young man's quest to retrieve a fallen star for his lady love. Leading the conversation is Elise Matthesen. Elise is an essayist, journalist, poet, fiction writer; a fantasy, science fiction and comics reader; a life-long Midwesterner (third generation, even) and current resident of Minneapolis, Minnesota; living with disabilities; an aspiring player of the djembe and the electric bass; and a speaker, facilitator, and activist on issues of body acceptance, sexuality and self-esteem. Please welcome Neil and Elise to Inkwell.vue!
Elise Matthesen (lioness) Thu 27 Apr 00 23:42
Hey there, Neil, welcome to Inkwell.vue! It's good to have a chance to talk with you here about writing, and life, and whatever else we wander into. I really appreciate that you could make time for this, especially since you're usually hard at work on one thing or another. Before I ask anything, I just wanted to say that a line in your bio in SANDMAN: THE DREAM HUNTERS has been putting me into giggles all day: "He has exactly three children, approximately seven cats, and a house that wants to be Gormenghast when it grows up."
Neil Gaiman (neilgaiman) Fri 28 Apr 00 00:38
Hullo Elise, and thanks for the welcome. Oddly enough, I just got sent the four part video of the BBC's adaptation of Gormenghast. (They want a quote or a blurb or something.) At the time I wrote that bio line the remodelling of the Addams-family house was in full flood, and it seemed like it was going to go on for ever. (As I said to my wife today, in respect of builders, "Well, I may be taking longer to finish the novel than I said, but at least I'm not charging them twice as much.") (No one should ever have to be exact when it comes to counting cats.)
Cynthia Dyer-Bennet (cdb) Fri 28 Apr 00 07:31
> (As I said to my wife today, in respect of builders, "Well, I > may be taking longer to finish the novel than I said, but at least I'm > not charging them twice as much.") ha! Would that you could, Neil. You'd still be worth it. Welcome to Inkwell!
Elise Matthesen (lioness) Fri 28 Apr 00 08:28
Let's talk about recent work first. Your novel STARDUST won the Mythopoeic Award as best fantasy novel of 1999, and is available in several formats, with and without illustration. Your graphic novel SANDMAN:THE DREAM HUNTERS continued to explore the world(s) of the Dream King, and introduced many of us in the U.S. to the stunning work of Japanese artist Yoshitaka Amano. Any time I try to describe your work to someone who is yet to have the joy of reading it, I wind up waving my arms and emitting incoherent phrases about the shifting and permeable boundaries between dream and reality, and about maps of Faerie and maps of the human (or, I guess, vulpine) heart. Could you say a little about each of those books for us, please?
Neil Gaiman (neilgaiman) Fri 28 Apr 00 20:52
Are japanese foxes vulpine? I suppose they must be, although they possess few of the attributes that I think of in the package that comes with "vulpine" -- crafty, chicken-stealing, fox-hunt-avoiding, elegant gentleman in his fine red coat kind of thoughts. I think the thing that drew me to japanese foxes was the idea that they exist with their feet in a few different camps -- as you read the fables you discover they have a ghost paw, and a person paw as well as a fox paw or two. So. Say a little about Stardust and about Dream Hunters. Gosh. I suppose they are both maps of the heart, as you say; and if you're looking at the illustrated edition of Stardust (technically "Neil Gaiman and Charles Vess' Stardust" is the title of that one) they are oddly complementary works. Stardust was written in many ways as a reaction to having written 7 years of SANDMAN, in which NOBODY gets a happy ending, and in which none of the rules of fantasy fiction apply. I wanted to tell something that was, purely and simply a fairy story, in the english/irish fairy tradition that includes Hope Mirrlees, Lord Dunsany, Sylvia Townsend Warner. One that, if it worked properly, didn't make you go "Wow" but made you go something closer to "Oh yes, I knew that story along, I just hadn't ever heard it before. Now that I have heard it I've known it for ever." And then Sandman: Dream Hunters was written as a reaction to Stardust -- I liked the idea of writing a fairy story which existed in Sandman terms, so a happy ending is out of the question from the get-go and the pleasure is in other things. I can't tell you a lot about Dream Hunters. I wrote a lot of it on the signing tour last year for Stardust in hardback, and most of that signing tour has scabbed over in my memory into one very long signing broken by occasional rides on planes and in cars. I've suggested to Avon/ Harper Collins that when they publish American Gods they send me on a train-trip signing tour across America, instead of a car & plane one. mainly because I love the idea of a signing tour with built in working and recovery time. n typing this in a motel in Ironwood Michigan, in the upper penisula, where I have come ot research a little stuff for American Gods, by the way.
Neil Gaiman (neilgaiman) Fri 28 Apr 00 20:59
Looking over the last answer it occurs to me I said nothing about Charles Vess or Yoshitaka Amano as collaborators. I think the most important thing that each of them gave me was an audience of one: I wrote Stardust for Charles -- I'd ring him up at the end of every chapter and read him what I'd done in longhand, unedited and so on. He'd laugh in the right places and that was what got me to the end. With Amano he speaks no english and I speak no japanese -- so it would be translated for him. And then he'd start sketching and deedling, and those sketches and drawings would come in and they'd serve in a similar way to Charles Vess's wonderful chuckle, propelling me on.
Elise Matthesen (lioness) Fri 28 Apr 00 21:39
>One that, if it worked properly, didn't make you >go "Wow" but made you go something closer to >"Oh yes, I knew that story along, I just hadn't >ever heard it before. Now that I have heard it >I've known it for ever." Exactly so. It worked, all right. Sometimes I wonder if a certain ... oh, appreciation of formality, and an ability to savor the inevitabilities of certain trajectories and their results, I guess, is what marks those who love and write fairy tales. It's so very like a dance. Given the collaborations, it's a partnered dance in more than one sense, maybe. Stardust reminds me of certain very old pipe tunes, or airs for the Celtic harp, too. Although, if it is an ancient tune we always knew but haven't heard 'til just now, it's also being played with a rather modern gleeful irony at times -- I'm thinking particularly of bits like what the star says upon landing. And the double dactyls. 'Course, the old tales weren't exactly short on irony either, were they?
Elise Matthesen (lioness) Fri 28 Apr 00 22:02
And apropos, I guess, of inevitabilities, Mr. Ford was talking today about some tales from Islamic lands, in which phrases like "they lived happily ever after" are not used. Instead, he said, we are told that "they lived happily until Allah came for them." STARDUST and SANDMAN: DREAM HUNTERS as "oddly complementary works"? That makes sense. Did you startle any of your readers with the shifting vectors from book to book? (Heck, did you startle yourself? And startlement can be most useful, too, of course.) (Oh. Mr. Ford also suggested that I inquire after your garden. So... any odd pumpkins planned for this year?)
Martha Soukup (soukup) Fri 28 Apr 00 23:59
Elise Matthesen (lioness) Sat 29 Apr 00 00:19
Indeed so. Wherever "here" is, anyhow.
Ron Hogan (grifter) Sat 29 Apr 00 00:39
He once wrote a lovely poem in appreciation of Martha's genius.
Elise Matthesen (lioness) Sat 29 Apr 00 05:47
Oh? Do tell.
-N. (streak) Sat 29 Apr 00 12:24
Mr. Gaiman, it's a pleasure to have you on the WELL. If you feel the urge, drop by the comics conference and say hello. You've got a lot of fans here, but I promise no one in a black miniskirt and torn fishnets will attempt to have sex with you. As a comics writer myself, I'm curious about what working with an artist is like for you. I can relate to your comments above about Mr. Amano, as my current collaborator also doesn't really speak English. In general, though, what makes a collaboration good for you? Who's the artist you've most enjoyed working with, and why?
Neil Gaiman (neilgaiman) Sat 29 Apr 00 22:27
Elise -- oh good, somebody noticed the double dactyls in Stardust. I wondered if anyone would. I remember someone -- Teresa N-H or Martha Soukup (Hi Martha!) -- explaining double dactyls to me in my Genie topic once. That's my only try at writing them. In the various translated editions of Stardust, that's always the first thing that I look at. "STARDUST and SANDMAN: DREAM HUNTERS as "oddly complementary works"? That makes sense. Did you startle any of your readers with the shifting vectors from book to book? (Heck, did you startle yourself? And startlement can be most useful, too, of course.)" I used to think I had my readers trained, that whatever I do next is probably not what I did last. And if they don't like of it, to hang in there and they'll probably like the next thing. But these days I have lots of people picking up one book or other expecting whatever the last one was, and being a bit puzzled. There are readers who don't like Stardust because it's not Neverwhere and readers who don't like Neverwhere because it's not Sandman, and so on. God knows what they'll think of American Gods, or of Coraline. Any pumpkins planned for this year? Tell Mike that I bought some seeds from a 740lb pumpkin from e-bay (approx $6 inc postage) and plan to try and grow a pumpkin big enough to put Maddy in this year. Also hoping to grow some Godiva pumpkins -- not chocolate flavoured, but naked seeds, really good for roasting seeds. Discovered some very old whole fish in the freezer and planning to plant one at the base of each pumpkin mound. Elise -- the Martha Soukup poem is the introduction to martha's Arbritrary Placement of Walls collection. I'd post it here, but every now and again I run into people who bought the collection for the poem, and THEN discovered how good martha's stories are. Streak -- I suppose the thing that makes a good collaboration is when the person you're collaborating with pulls things out of you you didn't know were in you. And also when you know you can trust them completely -- like two aerialist acrobats. Probably Dave McKean, because I trust him, and he always surprises me.
Elise Matthesen (lioness) Sat 29 Apr 00 23:18
Dare we ask about American Gods? Or Coraline? Or must we compose ourselves, fold hands in lap, and happily wait? (And thank you for the pointer to Martha's collection. I shall seek it out.)
Ron Hogan (grifter) Sun 30 Apr 00 02:05
(One of my best accomplishments in my two years at Amazon.com was making sure that Martha's book got the to-the-skies praise it deserved.)
Sharon Lynne Fisher (slf) Sun 30 Apr 00 09:27
How did you come to know Tori Amos, and what is it that appeals to each of you about the other's work?
The music's played by the (madman) Sun 30 Apr 00 11:14
If I could ask one question to Neil Gaiman, it would be this- in the collection Preludes and Nocturnes, there's this one, random _clock_ that shows up in two panels and seems to have nothing to do with anything. It is an ornate, maybe 2 foot tall clock, reading 10 minutes after midnight, and it appears once in Hell in front of Lucifer, and once on a table in the diner, while Dee is waiting for Morpheus. I've checked fan sites and annotations of The Sandman, no one seems to have any idea. What's up with the clock?
cranky (gorey) Sun 30 Apr 00 11:27
I'm dying to ask about the Gormenghast series, but I expect we'll have to wait. Can you tell us anything about the Good Omens and Death: The High Cost of Living movies?
Martha Soukup (soukup) Sun 30 Apr 00 12:32
I don't know why people are being confused, reading one Neil Gaiman work after another, because they all seem very Neil to me. They're different, yes. Some are darker, some are sweeter, some are sillier (none of them doesn't have wit), some quieter, but it's hard to imagine most of them being written by anyone else.
Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? (jax) Sun 30 Apr 00 14:07
To my tase, there are three comic book series to come from the last fifteen which possess literary significance: Watchmen, Nexus and Sandman. It's a pleasure to be able to congratulate the author of one of these fine series on his accomplishment. Especially commendable was the skill with which the female psyche was portrayed.
Neil Gaiman (neilgaiman) Sun 30 Apr 00 16:20
Elise -- American Gods is the new novel. American Gods was the working title until I figured out what it was called, but, like Neverwhere and a couple of other things, it became the real title by default. It's not finished yet and I am late with it. Coraline is a book for little girls (well, little girls of all ages and genders) which i started about 9 years ago and finished a couple of days ago. The jury is out currently about what age group it is intended for -- people with kids read it and say "it's a wonderful book, but of course it's really for adults" while people without tend to say "I wish I'd read it when I was a little kid". I had really REALLY wanted to have it illustrated by Edward Gorey... Ron, well, Martha's book deserved all praise it got. Are you still at Amazon? Sharon -- the short short version is that she was a fan who, in the summer of 1991, sent me a tape. The tape turned out to be most of Little Earthquakes, and I phoned her up and we've been fast friends ever since. She is one of my littlest daughter's 3 Fairy Godmothers. I know that what i like about her work is the honesty combined with melody. you'd have to ask her what she likes about mine. madman -- sorry. I can't help you. Mike Dringenberg put them in all on his own. Gorey -- I think that Gormenghast will be on BBC America soonish. Martha -- well, that's what *I* think. But I do think there's a basic instinct on the part of some readers that they want the very same thing they had last time, whatever that was; books as dependable and familiar and predictable as Big Macs. I can't imagine writing one of them. For me the fun is in being able to pick and to choose... Currently I'm perplexed as I have a wonderful idea for a story with, for the first time since Signal to Noise, NO fantasy content whatsoever. And if I can figure out whether it's an idea for a comic, a novel, or a film, I'll know who I'm going to confuse in a few year's time. Jax -- thank you.
Sharon Lynne Fisher (slf) Sun 30 Apr 00 17:34
You mean she wrote the song about 'me and Neil will be hanging out with the dream king/Neil says hi by the way' before she sent you the tape? Interesting...
The music's played by the (madman) Sun 30 Apr 00 19:13
Some time ago, I wrote a song that incorporated pieces of The Sandman- specifically, the two pieces of verse from The Kindly Ones that ended with "You can be me when I'm gone." I put it to music and added three additional verses. I imagine that quite a bit of fan fiction and the like gets created around your work. Do you read it? In a case like this, would you want to listen to it? It's no Tori, but it doesn't suck... If, someday, my band was to actually finish up an album, would being able to use this song on it be a goal we could pursue? Or can you tell me now that t it wouldn't be permitted? Sorta a lot of questions, but it's a tight ball of questions. Thanks for listening.
Neil Gaiman (neilgaiman) Sun 30 Apr 00 20:13
Sharon, yes, that's right. Madman... hmmm... I suspect the problematic bit is that the copyright in those 8 lines almost definitely belongs to DC comics.
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