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Neil Gaiman report
Bar Harbor
The first time I saw Neil Gaiman do a signing was on the book tour for Neverwhere. It was in a small mall bookstore, with no chairs. Maybe 50 people, tops. That was a long time ago. He sold out a 300-seat venue here, and could clearly have sold a lot more if the venue had been any bigger.

He read approximately the second half of Chapter 2 of Anansi Boys, from the conversation where Fat Charlie finds out what his father was, up through the story of Anansi and his Dead Grandmother. Then followed some Q&A, which I will reproduce as well as I can from memory. All quotes should be presumed to be approximate (including their ordering).

Q: There's a rumor that you're directing a Death movie.
A: The deal with New Line is almost done. Hollywood is a weird place. Nothing ever happens there -- except when it does. I got into the habit of assuming things wouldn't happen, so I scheduled no time for MirrorMask. They ended up filming while I was secluded in the states, writing. I just got to download the dailies every day. Which turned out to be useful when I *did* get out there, because I knew the dailies better than Dave did. "You know, you haven't got that shot." "Yes I do!" "No you don't, it wasn't in the dailies." And that's coming out this Friday.
Beowulf, which I wrote with Roger Avary years ago, is going to start filming on Monday. For years, Roger was trying to get the deal sorted out, and was almost set to make it, when Bob Zemeckis said he wanted to direct it as a motion-capture film. Roger said, "No, this is my movie." "How about if we give you a wheelbarrow full of money." "Nope, this is my project, it came from my heart, I'm going to direct it." "What if we gave you two wheelbarrows full of money?" "No, absolutely not." "OK, OK, *three* wheelbarrows full of money." So, Roger and I flew out to Santa Barabara and re-worked the script a bit to take advantage of the motion-capture medium, which meant rather fewer shots of two people sitting and talking, and a much longer dragon fight at the end. It's starring (various people listed, concluding with) Crispin Glover as Grendel, and, in a bit of type-casting, Angelina Jolie as Grendel's Mother.

Q: I've written a graphic novel. How do I find an artist?
A: You go places where artists hang out, and you make noises like a writer. In fact, stand up again. All you aspiring artists out there, here's a writer who's looking for a collaborator. There, that should get you started.

Q: If there was an eighth Endless, what would they be named?
A: Derek. (Nattering about the creation of the Endless and how he thinks that they were a complete set.) Of course, I have figured out a lot more about who their parents are than I've ever let on. Next question.

Q: There's a rumor going around that you're going to be doing The Eternals for Marvel.
A: Yes. I liked the 1970's Kirby stories that it's based on. I like the idea of incredibly old characters who have been mistaken for gods. Plus, I can do that sort of thing standing on my head. And I have an idea for the structure of a six-issue series that I don't think anyone's done before.
Q: Who's the artist?
A: I'm not allowed to say.

Q: As a writer myself, I wonder how you deal with people who are offended by being written into your stories.
A: I certainly have had this problem, having written a lot of incredibly unreliable autobiographical material. Sometimes you just have to tell people, "No, that was the made-up version, not reality." We're writers, we steal from everywhere, including reality. Rosie's mother, in Anansi Boys, keeps no food in her house - her refrigerator contains nothing but bottled water and rye crackers. That's my Great Aunt (I forget the name). She keeps nothing in her fridge but bottled water and newspapers. I left out the newspapers in the book, because fiction is constrained to be plausible, which real life, of course, isn't. You can hope that they never read it -- but that never works. Even if the person you're stealing is someone you haven't seen since 11th grade, you'll get a call out of the blue from them, saying they picked up this book in an airport, and "That's me, isn't it?" You develop whatever coping mechanisms you can. Lie; lying's good. "No, that wasn't you at all."

Q: Any chance of a Good Omens sequel?
A: Terry and I occasionally talk about it. We first started discussing it at (I forget name of con) in 1989. To give you an idea how long ago that was, we were sharing a room to save money. These days, I gather Terry just buys the hotel. I'd been down in the bar, and came back to the room at about 2 AM, doing the sort of things you do when you're trying not to wake a roommate, tiptoe-ing in. Then I hear (strident voice) "What sort of time is this to be coming home, your mother and I were worried sick about you, and just where have you been!" Seeing as how he was awake, I got into bed, and we ended up talking about a potential Good Omens sequel, with a working title of 668: The Neighbor of the Beast. We still occassionally chat about it. It would be another Crowley-Aziraphale novel, but with them coming to America, and working together against some common threat. I liked how, in Good Omens, they were sort of The US and Russia, and that relationship has changed a lot in the real world. If a plot ever actually distilled out of that, then I suppose Terry and I would take out our respective diaries, and the project would probably stall there. "Hm, looks like I've got four unscheduled weeks coming up in March 2007." "Nope, I'll be doing a signing tour in Poland then, no good for me." And so on.

Q: What book would you recommend people not miss?
A: Huh. I'll answer an easier one, and tell you what I'm reading right now, because the other one always makes me go blank. "The Alan Coren Omnibus". He was a writer from Punch while I was growing up. I'm rather startled, at this late date, to see how much I (and Terry Pratchett) have been stealing from him. He turns out to have been a huge influence on both of us. People used to say "You're doing Douglas Adams", but really, Terry and I and Douglas were all doing Alan Coren. Plus, it's got lots of short bits, which is very handy for reading whilst on tour.

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and, in a bit of type-casting, Angelina Jolie as Grendel's Mother.

Me-YOW! :}

I do wonder what the script does that made them even consider this casting.

I was most impressed by Neil's responses to the guy looking for an artist and the girl asking about writing a story that might hurt someone. The fans around me hit their foreheads when they heard these questions, as they clearly considered them a waste of time. But after making a joke, Neil answered the questions with honesty and respect. I really respect that. :)

There's always someone newer than yourself; More still, there's always someone who hasn't asked and been answered, and who hasn't even been around when the same question was answered before.

So, yeah, I join your respect of Neil, in that he never gets to that point of saying, "look, you noob, read a transcript some time."

But then again, how could he?

Mostly, I respect Neil Gaiman because he's, you know, just this guy. His stock in trade is his sense of wonder, and he's crucially aware of that, and he does everything he can to maintain it-- like, for example, being as normal a person as his situation will allow, and working hard to enjoy human contact, even with people who refuse to think of him as "merely human"...

I still remember the time Neil, Peter David, and Harlan Ellison did a joint appearance at MIT. Harlan was his usual acerbic self. A bit later, some fan asked a question of Neil, which Neil answered politely, then turned over his shoulder and remarked to Harlan, "See, you *can* be polite; it works." Much laughter all around.

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