Neil Gaiman (neilgaiman) Thu 4 May 00 21:20
How did I become a journalist? I wasn't selling any fiction, and I got up one morning and said to myself "I think I need to figure out how the world of publishing works. As of today, I shall be a journalist." So I was. I started that day and finished about five years later, when I'd met all the people I'd wanted to interview, and had slipped and slithered from the world of magazine journalism through to the world of newspaper journalism. Quit newspaper journalism for good some time in 1987, when I was asked to do a hatchet job on, of all things, Dungeons and Dragons. And, with a couple of minor lapses (an interview with Lou Reed in 1991) I haven't done any since. I think the best and the biggest thing I learned from journalism was economy. And to say what I meant. And not to trust anything written by journalists,of course: Journalism, like the law and sausages, is something you shouldn't watch being made. Jeffk -- thank you. SMOKE AND MIRRORS, the short story collection, is a very good place to start. There will probably be things in there that you don't like, and other things you do. That's the fun of it. Elise -- I like subtle, but I worry about celery and calories. There's an urban legendy thing that you expend more calories in chewing the celery than you gain in the digesting of it. I don't mind subtle when -- as with Gene Wolfe, or Diana Wynne Jones -- any calories you put into reading something will be repaid. But sometimes you can put a lot of calories into the reading of things, and you don't get the calories back. I remember a story by an author who had a whole relationship occur between paragraphs. It took a lot of work and figuring out to realise that these two people had met, made love, and split up between paragraphs -- and figuring it out added nothing to the story. So subtlety has its limitations.
Elise Matthesen (lioness) Fri 5 May 00 00:08
You've said that it is important for writers to trust their obsessions. Any obsessions, current or past, that you'd care to tell us about? (I agree with you, by the way, that obsessions tend to turn out to have been Very Useful Research....)
gone (scraps) Fri 5 May 00 14:40
Hey, Neil, good to see you in phosphors again.
Neil Gaiman (neilgaiman) Fri 5 May 00 20:20
I think the thing about trusting your obsessions is that it's not about (or not exactly about) researching or about planning. It's about suddenly needing desperately to know everything about something in an odd kind of way... I've been reading the 5 volume NEWGATE CALENDAR as bedroom reading for the last 8 months or more, from mythical criminals like Sawney Bean and the highwayman who upturned the chamber pot on Oliver Cromwell's head to sad strange, and somehow ever more trivial and detailed crimes and deaths (last night's told the story of some people who were hanged, and how the crush of the crowd turned it into a disaster, killing hundreds of spectators -- the pieman whose cart overturned and who was crushed to death as he bent to pick up the pies, the woman who was being crushed to death, so who took her babe from her breast and threw it to a man who, himself being crushed threw it to another, and then another, who placed it under the wheels of the gallows cart). And why I'm reading this stuff I have no idea. But it's already come in useful in American Gods for one section (the story of Essie Tregowan) and hanging seems a fine theme for anything with Odin in (he was after all the gallows god and that must not be forgotten). And it'll compost down, and one day I'll do something else with it, or something else will grow out of it. Alan Moore's obsession with Jack the Ripper came first. From Hell came second. Trust your obsessions. ... Hi formerlyknownas-- you too.
Neil Gaiman (neilgaiman) Fri 5 May 00 20:22
In the case of Dream Hunters -- I think the obsession with Japanese Fox stories came first (a book of Japanese Fairy tales I was given as a kid and have never seen again), and then Mononoke heaped coals on it, and the research I had to do for it. Seeing Amano's artwork made me decide to write my own fox tale, which was easy and fun -- but it was easy and fun because it had 30 years of obsession to draw on.
Elise Matthesen (lioness) Fri 5 May 00 23:37
By the way, while you were researching Japanese Fox stories, did you run across any Tanuki stories? I've got the glimmers of a beginning obsession with that one myself, is why I ask.... And I meant to ask how the CBLDF cruise went; could you fill us in a bit on the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, and what's going on now?
Neil Gaiman (neilgaiman) Sat 6 May 00 21:09
Elise -- I have to admit that I really didn't research Japanese fox stories even a little bit. I just remembered the flavour of the stories I'd liked as a kid and tried to write something that tasted like that. (Just found a nice Tanuki website though: http://www.canismajor.demon.co.uk/tanukigarden/tanuki.htm you might like). In New York currently and today I went to the japanese bookstore and bought a few books on the Japanese Internment camps in WW2. I think there will be American Gods short story set there: according to Richard Dorson, there was a revival in traditional japanese folk beliefs in the camps, and even some strange sightings of badgers and white foxes and ghosts. But the revival of folk beliefs did not survive the camps. (Richard Dorson's presence seems to be all the way through this book, and I didn't even notice him until I mentioned a line in one of his books I'd liked very much (BLOODSTOPPERS AND BEARWALKERS) to Mike Ford, who said something about Dorson -- and I returned home to discover that all the folklore books on the USEFUL pile were by Dorson. You'd have thought I've've noticed, but I hadn't. The CBLDF cruise was enormously enjoyable. My parasailing accident seems now to have become the stuff of legend, I am told. The CBLDF (Comic Book Legal Defense Fund) whose website is at CBLDF.org is the organisation which defends the first amendment for comics publishers, retailers, writers and artists (and thus, readers). They've fought some fine battles, such as helping Paul Mavrides beat the California Tax authorities when they tried to reclassify comics from literature to sign painting, and they've saved a number of retailers from going to prison. (And there was the case last year of a West Virginia man accused of selling an pbscene comic -- Elfquest -- to his own son: the guy spent the night in jail, and if the case had come to court, he would have lost his job as a youth counsellor, even if found not guilty... The CBLDF had the case stricken from the record.) They've also lost a few battles -- such as the time a 22 year old artist named Mike Diana was prosecuted by the state of Florida for publishing an obscene 'zine. (His conviction carried with it -- along with the 3 days Mike had spent in jail, the 3 year suspended sentence, 3000 hours of community service, not being allowed within ten feet of anyone under the age of 18, journalism ethics courses at his own expense and psychiatric treatment -- at his own expense -- the condition that he was not allowed to draw anything else that the court might find obscene: the local police were ordered to make 24 hour random spotchecks on his house to ensure that he was not drawing. Hurrah for Florida.) Things have been quiet for a few years but recently -- it's an election year -- there have been a number of strange things the CBLDF has been called in to help with. Many of them in Texas (which does not fill me with confidence about the Governor thereof). And every courtcase costs around $30,000 for starters, even with a lot of pro bono work.... I think that you can subscribe to BUSTED the CBLDF journal online. You may even be able to take out an annual membership. End of public service announcement. n
Elise Matthesen (lioness) Sat 6 May 00 22:44
Dorson, eh? Must ask Mike to go book-hunting with me. (BLOODSTOPPERS AND BEARWALKERS is Yooper folklore, then? Cool!) Which reminds me: seeing as how you're Not From Around Here, and all that, what *do* you think of American folklore, and particularly Midwestern American folklore? And have the folklore beasties and haints of your childhood land followed you over here? (*Can* one get a green card for a Jack-in-the-Green, or whatever?) (And by the way, Rachel Pollack is in town, and says to say hi. She'll be at the Powderhorn May Day Festival tomorrow, to watch the boats row the Sun back across the lake, and the raising of the Tree of Life. I love community ritual....) Thanks for CBLDF info, too.
laurel (lakrahn) Sun 7 May 00 08:05
CBLDF website is at http://www.cbldf.org/ and yeah, you can sign up as a member there or just for the newsletter. And, of course, there's all sorts of useful information there. (This URL brought to you by a web geek and the letters Y and L).
FROM A READER ON THE WEB (tnf) Sun 7 May 00 09:42
From: "Michael Lane" <email@example.com> To: <firstname.lastname@example.org> Subject: Neil Gaimen Date: Sun, 7 May 2000 16:52:36 +1000 My name is Amanda and I am currently completing a Masters in Australia focusing on comics. As an artist I am looking at the viability of combining comics and interactive media on the web. (if this all sounds rather officious please excuse me - I just finished the offical proposal for the higher degrees comittee). A few questions....:) How do you feel about comics being put on the web? Do you think it might be a viable industry? This aside how do you feel about theJuse of computers in the creation of the comic book images, text, etc? And finally where do you see the comic industry heading? There are heaps more questions but that kind of gets the biggies! PS. I don't supose you have ever thought about being a Masters supervisor / consultant? I am desperately looking for someone who could answer questions and give general guidance. (nothing like starting at the top!) If you are not interested is there anyone that you could recommend? Groovy_cat_au@yahoo.com or email@example.com
Linda Castellani (castle) Sun 7 May 00 10:58
Please do tell us about the parasailing incident! And my mind is still boggling at the thought of California Tax authorities even thinking of reclassifying comics from literature to sign painting. The only explanation I can see for that is heavy-duty psychedelics in the drinking water in Sacramento. I wonder, too, what's in the drinking water in Florida - it's got to be whatever is the opposite of psychedelics.
Neil Gaiman (neilgaiman) Sun 7 May 00 22:26
argh. Just got back to the hotel room from a wedding in Philadelphia... this is by way of an apology -- answers and comments will be forthcoming tomorrow. Probably typed on the plane home...)
Martha Soukup (soukup) Sun 7 May 00 23:51
Will remember: the way to get Neil to visit is to have a wedding. Check. By the way, tomorrow I expect to finally catch up on my reading, now the film festival is safely over.
Richard Evans (rje) Mon 8 May 00 01:27
Two interelated questions for Mr Gaiman: What do you fins more difficult: coming up with new ideas or finding the right form for the umpteen squillion ideas that will not die? And how do you manage the business aspects of being a multi-genre artist type, especially given that you not only work in mutliple genres but in mutliple commerfcial arenas. Profit mostive aside, comics and films are still driven by different drivers, which is probably why so may adaptations are abominations, but that is another question entireley. OK- I give in- why do you think so many comic adaptations result in terminally bad films? And I was going to open up with the obligatory fan speil but decided you can take the fact i like your work as as a given by my mere virtual presence but then, on reflection, thought that some things are better explicit, expecially things like compliments, so I just thought I'd make a formal statement to the effect that I really like your work. And in publicity photos you always remind me of a cross between Withnail and Dr Who. This is not a bad thing, BTW.
Sam Sanford (joram) Mon 8 May 00 11:51
<scribbled by joram Mon 8 May 00 15:13>
The Ugliest Troll (joram) Mon 8 May 00 15:14
Hello... I just wondered if Neil plans to stay at the WELL after the interview is over, I beleive that he would make a remarkable member of the community.
-N. (streak) Mon 8 May 00 19:32
I'd just like to direct the young lady from #60, and anyone else who's interested in webcomics, to my web-published comic book at http://www.rogue-star.com Okay, plug over, back to the guy whose comics people actually _want_ to read...
Gail Williams (gail) Mon 8 May 00 19:37
wow, noah, what an ambitiouos and beautiful site you are creating there.
Neil Gaiman (neilgaiman) Mon 8 May 00 20:13
Elisa says.... >>Which reminds me: seeing as how you're Not From Around Here, and all that, what *do* you think of American folklore, and particularly Midwestern American folklore?<< I like it, especially things like WISCONSIN DEATH TRIP. Mostly I like the inchoate quality it has. The only stuff I dislike is things like Paul Bunyan -- invented by an Ad agency in the 1920s, with not a trace of real logger camp legendry about it. What Dorson calls 'fakelore'. I like the folklore, and the tall tales... >>And have the folklore beasties and haints of your childhood land followed you over here? (*Can* one get a green card for a Jack-in-the-Green, or whatever?)<< Ah. (Rubs nose thoughtfully.) Funny you should ask me that. That's what American Gods is about. >>(And by the way, Rachel Pollack is in town, and says to say hi. She'll be at the Powderhorn May Day Festival tomorrow, to watch the boats row the Sun back across the lake, and the raising of the Tree of Life. I love community ritual....)<< I wish I could have been there. But I was in Philadelphia. And Amanda says.... >>How do you feel about comics being put on the web?<< I think that there are some places like Scott McCloud's site at Scottmccloud.com, where comics are being reinvented for the web and he does things he couldn't do on paper (well, not without 16 foot long sheets of paper). On the other hand, mostly websites with comics on are just places where you wait for pages to load... and wait.... and wait.... >> Do you think it might be a viable industry? This aside how do you feel about theJuse of computers in the creation of the comic book images, text, etc?<< I think it might become a viable industry if micropayments ever become the norm, and one could get paid a real royalty without the thing having to see paper. I think the use of computers has become the norm in creating comics --certainly in colouring, lettering, word processing and so on. So far writers are still writing comics, and even computer created art needs someone to do the drawing. Scott McCloud has just written a book called REINVENTING COMICS, which will be out soon, which is a sort of a hymn to the web and the computer. As far as I'm concerned a computer is a tool. A few years ago I bought a fountain pen and some bound blank paper notebooks and started writing in them. I found I think about sentences differently, writing in longhand, and I enjoy that. >>And finally where do you see the comic industry heading?<< Depends whether people continue making comics people want to read. As long as they do, it'll be fine; even so it still hasn't recovered from the attempt to turn comics into investment items of the early 1990s. >>PS. I don't supose you have ever thought about being a Masters supervisor / consultant? I am desperately looking for someone who could answer questions and give general guidance. (nothing like starting at the top!) If you are not interested is there anyone that you could recommend?<< Scott McCloud. He's unquestionably the expert in the area you seem to be looking at, and he's thought about it more than any of us. I'm not sure I agree with everything he says in REINVENTING COMICS (he doesn't really mention the value of stories per se, and as far as I'm concerned the story is far superior to the distribution medium), but when it comes out I think it will prove to be more of a manifesto than UNDERSTANDING COMICS ever was. If memory serves he's firstname.lastname@example.org -- a trip to Scottmccloud.com will tell you if he is or not. My #2 suggestion would be Eddie Campbell, one of the greatest living comics creators, currently to be found in Brisbane, so you can probably buy him a drink. And Linda says... >>Please do tell us about the parasailing incident!<< I went up. The boat's engine died. I landed in the sea. I thought" I'm going to die!" I trod water, I shouted help, I resigned myself to a lonely death in the sea far from my loved ones... I noticed that I was bobbing like a cork, what with wearing a life jacket, and that I was just fine, and relaxed until, what seemed like several weeks later, people swam out from the shore and pulled me in. >>And my mind is still boggling at the thought of California Tax authorities even thinking of reclassifying comics from literature to sign painting. The only explanation I can see for that is heavy-duty psychedelics in the drinking water in Sacramento.<< Nope. Smart decision. An author doesn't have to charge sales tax on a manuscript. A sign artist has to charge sales tax on his sign. If they'd been successful every comics artist and cartoonist in California would have had to have charged sales tax on their art when they handed it over to a publisher -- even though the art was not owned by the publisher. They would have got Charles Schulz and a host of others. Their test case was Paul mavrides, who drew FABULOUS FURRY FREAK BROS with Gilbert Shelton, and who, they assumed, would simply pay up. he didn't -- it was a five year battle, but he fought, and the CBLDF fought. And right prevailed -- which is always nice to see.
Neil Gaiman (neilgaiman) Mon 8 May 00 21:07
& thelovelymarthaSoukup says... >>Will remember: the way to get Neil to visit is to have a wedding. Check. By the way, tomorrow I expect to finally catch up on my reading, now the film festival is safely over.<< ... Hi Martha -- actually this wedding was special. I turned down trips to Naples, and to a literary festival in Brittany in order to go. The last thing I went to in New York was the memorial service for my friend's last boyfriend: it seemed right to go to her wedding, two years on. ... & Richard Evans says, >>Two interelated questions for Mr Gaiman: What do you fins more difficult: coming up with new ideas or finding the right form for the umpteen squillion ideas that will not die?<< Ideas are easy. Writing is hard. Figuring out the form for ideas is sometimes straightforward, sometimes deeply problematic. >>And how do you manage the business aspects of being a multi-genre artist type, especially given that you not only work in mutliple genres but in mutliple commerfcial arenas. Profit mostive aside, comics and films are still driven by different drivers, which is probably why so may adaptations are abominations, but that is another question entireley. OK- I give in- why do you think so many comic adaptations result in terminally bad films?<< I'm not very good at the business stuff, chiefly because I'm not very interested in it. So I have agents and lawyers and a nice lady in LA who runs my corporate existence and occasionally sends me forms to fill in, and I have a wife who talks to accountants and banks and tax people. I think that mostly good things make bad films. Mediocre things often make really good films. When people make successful films out of comics (eg Men in Black) most people don't even know it was a comic to begin with. But then, good novels mostly make bad films. I can think of a few decent Stephen King novellas that made good movies, but very few of his novels, for example. Watchmen would never make a good movie because, as Terry Gilliam once told me, once you'd taken out enough to make it a two hour movie, you'd taken out all the things that made it Watchmen... >>And in publicity photos you always remind me of a cross between Withnail and Dr Who.<< Tom Baker, I suppose, and not Jon Pertwee or William Hartnell... and Joram asks, >>I just wondered if Neil plans to stay at the WELL after the interview is over, I beleive that he would make a remarkable member of the community.<< Dunno. I haven't yet had a chance to explore the Well, yet. My spare time has gone on answering this topic... We'll see.
Brian Slesinsky (bslesins) Mon 8 May 00 21:12
I did not know that about Paul Bunyan so I did a web search. Appropriately enough, there's nothing definitive. Some sites say the story was invented by W.B. Laughead in ads for Red River Lumber, while a couple others refer to earlier stories by James MacGillivray in the Detroit News Tribune.
Martha Soukup (soukup) Mon 8 May 00 21:59
Neil, I saw the Wisconsin Death Trip movie last week at the film festival. It's tremendously beautiful, worthy of the source material. But perhaps, with your sources, you've already seen it? If you have a chance to see it on a big screen (they struck a film print for the film festivals, though it was made for, I think, Cinemax), it's worth it. Gorgeous b&w photography.
Elise Matthesen (lioness) Mon 8 May 00 23:40
Neil, I think I told you that my neighbor when I was a little kid was the first person into Ed Gein's place, didn't I? He only talked about it once, and I don't think he knew I was still awake and sitting under the table on the patio where he and my dad were drinking beer. Whenever another book about Ed Gein would come out, I would pick it up and check whether they had spelled Shadow's name right. That was my litmus test for whether the book was full of crap or not. (Shadow's name was Lloyd Schoephoester, and he was a hero to me.) Am happily looking forward to American Gods. Mike, by the way, has been reading this over my shoulder tonight, and when we got to the bit about the parasailing mishap, when you were bobbing about in the ocean in that last sentence, he said it was a good thing they came out to rescue you, before you had to decide which part of yourself to eat first. (He's an odd man, Dr. Mike is.) Regarding ideas being easy and writing being hard, are there any ideas that you know you *won't* do, but you're still fond of?
Laurel Krahn (lakrahn) Tue 9 May 00 12:18
Now I'm just curious which part Neil would . . . ohnevermind. I'll behave.
Neil Gaiman (neilgaiman) Tue 9 May 00 20:27
Brian -- and it's quite possible there WERE Paul Bunyan stories told. Dorson records one about how Bunyan cheated his crew out of a year's salary which has the feel of real folklore about it and implies that if there were Paul Bunyan stories told they were closer to the stories told about lumber camp bosses -- like the guy who promised to pay the men's wages to their wives, and then went to the wives and offered them each $100 to sleep with them -- the money he owed the husbands... Martha -- no, I haven't. I'd love to see it though. Elise, no, I don't think you ever did tell me that. Oddly, the name of the protagonist of American Gods is Shadow. So... I've handed in CORALINE to Harper-Collins-Avon. Now we have to find an illustrator and figure out how to market something that's a really really scary book which some adults seem to worry is too scary for kids, but which no kids have complained about so far. (Diana Wynne Jones, on the other hand, thought it was splendidly scary, but too slow and not scary enough in the first few chapters.) Part Two of American Gods seems to be underway.
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