Temple University Reading:

With many thanks to Dan for the write-up!

Neil appeared at Temple University at the invitation of Samuel R. “Chip” Delany’s graduate writing course. Initially, a small hall was booked for the event and reservations were required. After fielding an unexpected number of calls asking about the event, it was moved to Mitten Hall, which seats 550. The room was mostly filled by the time Chip Delany took the stage.

He introduced the lecture series and then the first reader, one of his grad students…Then Chip returned to the podium and gave Neil a glowing introduction, which Neil returned in kind when he took the stage. Neil’s daughter Holly was in the front row. He announced that she had already read the story he was going to read us so he’d start with a poem in case she fell asleep.

That poem was The Day the Saucers Came, about the simultaneous end of the world as predicted by every culture, belief system, mythology, and fringe group and capped by a bit of a punchline. It was well received; at times the audience’s laughter threatened to drown it out.

Neil explained that in deference to Chip Delany’s early career both his pieces would be science fiction. Next his read the story, How to Talk to Girls at Parties, which he had previously read at the CBGB’s benefit. It also went over well. (I thought it really captured the tone and feel of a memory of adolescence: uncertain and vital.)

Then Neil took questions from the audience. I asked him for more information about he and Roger Avary adapting Charles Burns’ Black Hole, which I’d heard was their next project together. He smiled and sputtered, then marveled at the efficiency of “the rumour line”. His answer, which was phrased as a hypothetical and which can be seen here, was that he and Avary had a meeting with Paramount the next Monday to pitch their adaptation.

The other questions were variations on ones I’d heard him answer before, though an answer about how comfortable he was with making use of the myths of other cultures lead to a hilarious — and, for me, new — telling of the plight of his “Ramayana” script that included an impression of Christ tearing himself from the cross, taking up an uzi, and saying, “Right, men,we’re taking Rome!”

To conclude the event, Neil agreed to sign one thing for everyone. He spent a decent amount of time chatting with each person, perhaps because anything under a thousand people seems to be a small audience as audiences go for him these days. I told him that I thought the idea of he and Avary adapting Black Hole was thrilling and he agreed, saying that he was excited by the idea and thought they could do something really cool and do it justice.

My wife took a number of pictures during the even which may be found here.
–Dan Guy

Additional coverage of the event can be found on [info]notshakespeare‘s blog.


Mirrormask DVD Reviews:

From the March 2006 Official U.S. Playstation Magazine:

Graphic novel icons Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean were given $4 million to make a movie, and let’s just say that visually speaking, these guys know how to stretch a dollar until it screams. MirrorMask is 200-proof freaky-ass eye candy, the sort of film you wish they would make a videogame from, so you could spend time wandering through every nook and cranny of the world. If these guys had $100 million, your head might explode.

Score: 4/5


From the January 8th Home Media Retailing:

The pedigrees of MiirorMask’s writer and director are impeccable for comic-book and modern fantasy fans. Writer Neil Gaiman conquered comic books with his unparalleled “Sandman” series, and his dark urban fantasy novel Neverwhere was made into a BBC mini-series. Hand in hand with Gaiman’s work, though, has been Dave McKean, who has provided unearthly, half-photo/half-dream art for many of Gaiman’s comic books and books.

Working off a Gaiman script, rookie director McKean takes the reins and tries his hand at arranging the action of MirrorMask. His unique vision of dreams and strange Dark Crystal-like creatures are wonderful to look at, but the human characters are a bit shallow. It has the makings of a superb comic-book fairy tale, but not the most engaging feature film.

The story follows young Helena, a 15-year-old artist chomping at the bit to escape her life as a circus performer with her mom and dad circus owners. When her mother suddenly falls ill and is sent to the hospital, a sorrowful Helena drifts into a dream-like state and goes on an adventure that soon becomes a crucible of her adolescent maturity. Will she turn bad, abandon her family and get into trouble in the real world, or will her fantasy self be able to hold back the darkness by finding the legendary MirrorMask, which will let her turn her creative energies to good?

Because the film emulates the lazy and sometimes nonsensical movement and visions of a dream, it can get slow in parts, but the ride is so unique it’s hard to turn people away from this.

Selling Points: Comic-book, arthouse and fantasy fans will love it. Girls may find Helena’s fantasy journey especially delightful, but there are some creepy villains and scenes in it, so the very little should probably steer clear.
–Brendan Howard


American Gods Review – St. John’s Newfoundland Telegram

From the January 15th Telegram:

There’s no such thing, apparently, as a retirement home for old gods.

Once people stop believeing in them, they have to fend for themselves, ekeing out a meagre existence on the fringes of society, dreaming dreams of the heady days of power when they ruled the heavens.

Now, for those of you who haven’t just screamed “blasphemy” and fired up the old “let’s burn a columnist in effigy” machine, note that I’m talking small-g gods, not anything to do with Judeo-Christian worship or Islam or anything like that.

Let’s back up, before we dive into Neil Gaimen’s excellent American Gods.

Throughout the history of the human species, people have believed in gods. Anytime they saw nature flexing her muscles, a new divine being leapt into existence.

A storm blows a tree over – must be a wind god; lightning sparks a grass fire – a thunder god at work; and so on and so forth.

From the early tribal gods and godlets of the cave dwellers to the somewhat more sophisticated pantheons of the ancient Greeks and Romans, Egypt’s animal-headed legions, the Aesir of Valhalla of Norse mythology – pick a country, pick an ethnic group and they all have trunkfuls of gods, goddesses, sprites, spirits, demons, gjinn, efreets, oni and pixies.

OK, here’s the question to get us rolling with Gaiman’s tale: what happens when people stop believing?

If the various gods of the differing ethnic groups were essentially b
elieved into existence by their followers, what happens when their followers switched to a new god, like God, for example?

Every country has experienced this: from the banished Roman deities forced out by the Roman empire’s move to Christianity; the fading of Odin and Thor as the Norse countries wended their way towards baptism.

In American Gods, Neil Gaiman uses a simple idea as the basis for his tale: if people once really believed in these gods, then they really existed.

That being the case, when their believers switched teams, instead of disappearing in a puff of logic, the old gods lived on, scraping out the ensuing millenia performing odd jobs and menial labours and sucking up the belief that is their sustenence wherever they could.

If belief was enough to create these gods in the first place, what do the beliefs of the modern era create?

In the days where people use the Internet as an integral part of their lives and won’t let a day go by without devoting at least an hour or two to watching the goggle box, might not their belief in these things spark the genesis of a new generation of gods?

With this in mind, we turn to Gaiman’s book.

Shadow is a guy who did some dumb stuff and ended up in jail but, overall, he’s a pretty good fellow – if a little bit odd.

He’s released early due to the death of his wife in a car crash. At an utter loose end, he’s offered a job by the mysterious Mr. Wednesday, a simple bodyguard-cum-gopher position that will earn him some green and keep his mind off his newfound widowerhood.

Soon Shadow realizes his boss is anything but ordinary.

In fact, Mr. Wednesday is Odin, the old chief god of the Norse.

And Odin is not a happy camper.

Fed up with centuries of feeding off the scraps of human belief, Odin has come to realize that even that hand-to-mouth existence is under threat from the new Gen-X gods: Internet, Media et al.

So, Odin, with Shadow’s help, tries to round up all of the other old gods to fight the newcomers.

It’s an intriguing romp through a modern America where, under the surface, old gods serve us our Big Macs.

But there’s much more to this than that. America is not a good country for gods, at least not for Indo-European gods.

As settlers from Europe travelled to America, they brought their old gods with them, as Gaiman shows us in a series of short, flashback vignettes.

Every immigrant that arrived forged a beachhead of belief that attracted some of the old gods to emigrate from the old country, too.

But America already had its own panoply of gods and spirits, leading to cramped quarters, to say the least.

Flipping back to Shadow, we find ourselves confronted with a slightly surreal tale where gods are seeping out of the woodwork, shaking into battle lines for a royal rumble that may or may not leave humankind unscathed.

Is this ragnarok, the Norse armageddon? Is this an apocalypes now? Or is there something else going on, some deeper, subtle sub-plot in which Shadow and the old gods are merely bit players jumping to the tune of a hidden controller?

And what will the indigenous spirts of North America have to say about it all?

I’ll let you figure it out.

Gaiman delivers a startling book, that deftly skates the line between chaos and sanity, reality and surreality.

It’s a tale about belief and its power, about ancestry and family, promises and betrayal.

And it’s a great read, if for no other reason than it explores the rather cool – if obtuse – thought of if an old god falls in the forest, does anybody notice?
— Mark Vaughan-Jackson


Clippings:

Anansi Boys was included on Locus magazine’s Recommended Reading 2005. It was also included in the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) 2006 Best Books for Young Adults, and the Alex Awards for the ten best adult books that appeal to teenagers.

The short story Sunbird, from Noisy Outlaws, and Jospeh McCabe’s non-fiction book of interviews, Hanging Out with the Dream King were also included on the Locus list. In addition, the February issue of Locus has interviews with Neil and Terry Pratchett; the website, as noted elsewhere, links to an interview from 1991 interview with the pair.


The podcast (mp3 audio) of the Tattered Cover stop on the Anansi Boys tour is now available online on the Authors On Tour website.


Wired’s Evelyn Nussenbaum has posted a feature on Phil Knight and the Laika animation studio, which is responsible for producing the film adaption of Coraline


Eden forwarded a link to a news release from the Open Rights Group, a digital rights and freedoms awareness group based out of the UK, which has Neil as its patron. Cory Doctrow has posted more about the organization at BoingBoing, and it does have a Wikipedia reference.


From the January 26th Philadelphia City Paper:

Not one book. Not even a page. “I’ve never lulled my son to sleep with a bedtime story,” the man thought as he sat alone beside the boy’s casket, clutching a copy of Neil Gaiman’s Coraline. Overcome with grief and determined to make up for lost time, he opened the children’s book a waking dream of alternate worlds, bricked-up doorways and endless corridors and read its 176 pages aloud to no one.

Gaiman’s fans share these sort of personal stories, some dark, others punctuated with hope, on a daily basis. A few e-mail him (he tries to read and respond to everyone); some 20,000 more attended his readings and book signings across the United States and United Kingdom last year. It’s easy to see why Gaiman is a life-affirming god among men, like the living deity in his last novel, New York Times best seller Anasi Boys. His Sandman graphic novel series raised the bar for illustrated fantasy-and-horror storytelling in the ’90s by questioning death, religion and dreams in every issue.

“My readers seem to combine fanaticism with niceness and sensibleness, so it stays pleasant for me,” says Gaiman. “Although when I visited Manila last year and was led into a tent to discover 3,000 enthusiastic Filipinos screaming as if at a rock concert, it was a little disconcerting.”
–Andrew Parks