The Dreaming’s First Neil Gaiman Online Chat!

This chat took place on the 30th of October 1998

<Puck> First, I’d like to thank Neil for joining us, and Andy at Avon Books for helping to organize this.

<Puck> First question is from Ehich. Ehich, go ahead.

<Ehich> On the event horizon chat you talked a bit about your interest in finding out the relationship between fairy tales, myths and religion. How do you think that this is related to philosophy? I mean; do you think there is any bridge between Mythos and Logos; litterature and Philosophy? and if so; how do you think this bridge can be explored?

<NGaiman> Ah, right. Let’s start with the small ones… (er, typed with a small amount of irony, that). Honest answer, I don’t know. And as an addendum… I try not to think about it too much. Especially when I’m writing. Mostly what I’m doing is telling stories, which is a strange sort of occupation — it’s part instinct, part craft, part skill and part luck. There are places I sometimes think that it’s wisest not to go… or rather, not to go on purpose. I was fascinated when Zelazny pointed out that the first books of Magic followed the traditional Cambellian Heroes quest pattern, as it was not designed or intended to go that way: it was just where the story went. As a final note on that… I’d hate to pretend to be unconscious of the craft. But when it comes to the relationship between myth and philosophy, hell, I’m still trying to figure out why we need fairy tales.

<Puck> Next up is Jinx, with a question from Nightwalker, who couldn’t make it.

<NGaiman> Jinx?

<Puck> Go ahead Jinx213

<Jinx213> I’ve been sent with a message from Trev (NightWalker) to say thank you for the book and it’s not his fault he’s not here but that was all he wrote

<Puck> Heh, then ask your question, I guess. 🙂

<Jinx213> Well I wanted to know how it was working with my other favorite thing Henson I mean creative-wise

<NGaiman> Well, I wish that Jim Henson were still alive… My first encounter with the Henson family was with Lisa Henson when she was at Warners, back in about 91. And she asked back then what I thought about a Sandman movie, and I said it was a rotten idea, and she killed it there. She is a good, wise woman. Then she moved to Columbia pictures, and these days she runs her own company, Manifest Films. She’s one of the coolest people in Hollywood. In fact she read the Neverwhere novel before anyone else did. Jim Henson Pictures are one of the production entities on NEVERWHERE the movie. It’s them and Denise DiNovi (who made all Tim Burton’s films and just did Practical Magic) and they’ve been a joy to deal with. The script went throught hree drafts, and the third was because they reread the book and called me up and said “Look, we’ve just read the book again and, well, a lot of the things we asked you to change in the script… er, we were wrong. They were better in the book. Can you change them back?” They are fine people to deal with. Fingers crossed we all get to make the film.

<NGaiman> Next?

<Puck> Next is Dylan

<Dylan> Hi Neil, I hope you don’t mind a Sandman question. I was just wondering if the story about how Delight became Delirium will ever be told, since you have mentioned IIRC that you would tell it one day But recently all is quiet on the Sandman front it seems

<NGaiman> Maybe. I’m having … well, not an argument, but a difference of opinion with DC over some stuff

<Dylan> Oh, and thanks for the drawing from Denmark 🙂

<Dylan> Does this have anything to do with the Sandman movie rights?

<NGaiman> mainly to do with the Sandman movie, and the discovery that ANYTHING I do in any Sandman related material is owned by Warners… who have shown a remarkable lack of sympathy toward the material in the latest Jon Peters driven scripts…

<Dylan> We had some Halloween style posts about that on altfan.thingie, yes … *fear*

<NGaiman> and I hate the idea of spending 8 months of my life creating a Delirium story only to have these twits own all rights to it…

<Dylan> It just keeps lurking in the back of my head ever since I read you ran into a room one day stating that you now knew how Delight became Delirium Don’t even know if that story is true

<NGaiman> The latest draft of the script… well, the Sandman’s family were Morpheus (lord of Good Dreams) The Corinthian (Lord of BAD dreams and the one who had the sandman imprisoned under New York with Giant Electromagnets)… Love, Anger Gluttony, pride, Lucifer, and a really unpleasant Death. I don’t think the writer could have read any of the comics.

<Dylan> Maybe he just looked at the pictures 🙂

<NGaiman> But yes, I know the Delirium story, and would love to get Jill Thompson to draw it. So we’ll see if anything can be worked out. You’re welcome for the drawing from Denmark by the way.

<Puck> Go ahead Kranguejo.

<kranguejo> hello neil, i was just wondering if you feel at all “intimidated” when writing new versions of old myths and tales?

<NGaiman> Not really. I feel like they’re handed to us by the people who went before us, and it’s our job to burnish them, shine them up a bit, play with them, and hand them over to the people who come after us. I have occasional arguments with folklorists, who maintain that no-one ever created any story, they all just evolved. Which I think is arrant nonsense. And it doesn’t really matter what you do to the great stories — as I said in Sandman 13… they return eventually to their original forms. Or they evolve into forms which allow them to survive.

<Puck> Go ahead ScarletGH. (I’ve noted scarlet is about 30 seconds lagged – the question may take some time)

<ScarletGh> Mr. Gaiman, do you have any comic projects upcoming in the near future? I caught the Cherry story in Cherry Delux #1 (roommate found it in New York), so what’s next?

<NGaiman> Well, the Cherry story was written about 5 years ago — it was a favour at the time for Kate Worley, when she lived locally. The next comic is a 6 page Death thing (it’s not exactly a story) that jeff Jones drew. And there are a couple of odd projects like a Batman graphic novel with Simon Bisley that it turns out I was contracted to do in 1990 called The Night Circus, which, if Simon still wants to draw it, I’ve said I’ll finish writing (it was started back then, and then Simon signed an exclusive deal with tundra, and the whole thing was forgotten). But right now most of the upcoming projects are things that aren’t comics.

<ScarletGh> thanks

<Puck> Go ahead bafog

<bafog> neil, do you have a favourite alcholic beverage. we need to know for our Halloween party (currently in progress)

<NGaiman> Gosh. happy Hallowe’en. Is that you Michelle?

<bafog> Also (since there are three of us here) can we ask whether you planb to do anything with Brian Froud, ever?

<bafog> No, but Michelle says hi. 🙂

<bafog> There are four of us here

<NGaiman> It depends on my mood. (The alcohol question.) I like a good chablis, and most good red wines; in my journalist days I used to drink enormous quantities of scotch adulterated with ginger ale, cos I found it was something that didn’t make me drunk (I have no idea why not)…. and ont he last tour I started drinking — I forget the name, Cosmpolitans or Metropolitans: a sort of martini with cranberry juice and that weird blue stuff in it, because they were a wonderful grey colour and looked like drinks from an SF film.

<Puck> (I can attest to that – odd, but pleasant flavour)

<NGaiman> I was at a con earlier this year with Brian (and Wendy and Toby Froud)… and we got on very well, and love each other’s work. And on the last day of the con we were sat together signing stuff and someone came over and asked if we’d work together… we’d both been too shy to bring it up, and we both looked very grateful and said “Like a shot!” so I hope so. Er the blue stuff is blue curacao.

<Puck> Go ahead salas2

<salas2> Hello Neil. I think you once mentioned that neverwhere was a small hit here in Germany/Austria. Is this true, and will you eventually come to visit us? How about a trip to Vienna, with a signing session at the British Bookshop?

<NGaiman> Hi Salas. The BBC told me that the Hoffman and Campe edition of Neverwhere was a bestseller…. I was invited to Erlangen this year to receive the MAX & MORTIZ award as best writer of comics, but I was already committed to be in Finland. Or Denmark. Or Providence RI. Or wherever I had to be that weekend. I’m sure that I’ll do a German signing at some point. And I’d love to visit Vienna — it’s been ages since I’ve seen Jonathan Carroll, and he lives there. Be a good excuse to say hi.

<Puck> Go ahead Rocky.

<Rocky-NYC> Neil, a light one about the price of fame. How are you dealing with the notoriety of becoming essentially the rock star of the comic world? Did you realize how *good* The Sandman was while you were inside the creative process? And now with the success of Neverwhere you have begun to move out into other media, does it still surprise you how successful you have become? One more thing, I enjoyed your script for B5, having you write one at Dixon Place. We miss you!

<Puck> Heh. Let’s try to keep it to one question each, please.

<NGaiman> Ho Rocky. Are you the one that gave me that CD?

<Rocky-NYC> yes! did you like?

<NGaiman> I thought so. Thanks. let’s see… mostly I’m not very good at the fame thing. I cope okay when I’m prepared for it, but when I’m not it can be rather a shock. Some weeks ago I went on tour for a few days with Tori. Charles Vess came down to see the gig and spend the afternoon, and after the gig I went out to walk him back to his car… and several hundred people started screaming “NEIL! NEIL!” at me. It was bizarre. I hope I can do another Dixon place reading when I’m on the road

<Rocky-NYC> great! please do. and happy birthday early!

<NGaiman> in January/ Feb for the Avon edition of STARDUST. And I don’t think I’m successful yet: there are lots of things I still have to do to my satisfaction. And thanks for the Birthday wishes.

<Puck> (LennyB & Rise don’t appear to be here) Go ahead CarlosG

<CarlosG> I’m from Argentina, so it’s maybe no wonder I love Jorge Luis Borges’ tales… if Destiny’s garden purposefully resembles “the garden of forking paths” and his book “the book of sand”, I’d be real happy! what do you think of Borges, and what influence (if any) has had his tales on yours?

<NGaiman> Oddly enough, an hour ago I was on the phone to an Argentinian journalist explaining the influence of Borges on Destiny’s garden.

<CarlosG> well I assure you it wasn’t me, Neil! Hehe

<NGaiman> I think Borges was one of the finest storytellers of the twentieth century; best short story writer since, mm, Kipling probably. (I go to Argentina next week.)

<Puck> Go ahead Steve.

<LurkSteve> Neil, do you have any plans to work with artist Alex Ross?

<NGaiman> Not really, Steve. I love Alec’s work – he grounds everything in such a sense of reality. (As an aside here I saw an interview with Alex where he talked about the enormous influence on him that Dave McKean’s work on BLACK ORCHID was. And when I told Dave this he replied, grimly “There you go. The one I got wrong. Why couldn’t he have been influenced by one of the ones I got right?”)

*** Puck sets mode: +v Luna_

* Puck ducks.

<Luna_> lol…. okay… Hi Neil. 😉 I’m perfectly harmless, I promise! What do you read and/or watch that makes you laugh? What sets off your sense of humor? Also, would you please someday dedicate a book or story to the alt.fan.thingie?

<Luna_> <—not going to faint this time 🙂

<NGaiman> What makes me laugh? (Deep breath) On TV I love Father Ted, Eddie Izzard, the late lamented Larry Sanders Show, and watching jery Springer with the sound turned down and closed captions on… In terms of what I read — let’s see, PG Wodehouse still makes me laugh; Stephen Fry turns a lovely phrase; there’s a poet named Wendy Cope whose two books MAKING COCOA FOR KINGLY AMIS and SERIOUS CONCERNS are very funny and very sad; and I think Cold Comfort Farm is probably the funny book I’d want to take to a desert island. Yes, I’ll certainly dedicate something to altfanthingie. I’m glad you’re all still there. My main mole went to hong Kong so I hear little about the goings on there any more, and keep expecting to hear that it’s closed down and you’ve all moved on to basket-weaving or collecting old cigarette cards or cereal boxes or something.

<Puck> Go ahead MillX

<MillX> Concerning your works; is there any you wish you could go back and add something to, or redo completely? I guess what I’m trying to say is, do you ever suddenly get an idea and are like “Oh, man, I wish I’d have put that in (insert work here)!”?

<NGaiman> Usually, by the time that you’ve got sufficient distance from something to kow why it didn’t work, you’re someone else from the person who wrote it. There’s little enough that I’ve written that I’m satisfied with. Sometimes it’s like wrestling, and you aren’t always on top. (Currently CORALINE, the book I’m writing, is on top.) the only thing I’ve gone back to was a story i did for Oscar Zarate’s book IT’S DARK IN LONDON, which i did as a ten page comic… and wasn’t satisfied with. And recently, when I was asked for a short story, I went back and rewrote it as prose, expanding it and filling it in. The narrator is the nastiest character I’ve ever written. I showed the story to my editor at Avon and we’ve discussed one day my doing a whole novel about him. maybe. We’ll see.

<Puck> Go ahead Ivar_

<Ivar_> Hi, at first I’d like to say that there are “Sandpeople” here in Estonia too! Specially at 4:03 am… 🙂 My question may be boring to most of the people here, but as the historical name of Southern Estonia is Livonia, I just can’t not ask about the character in “Season Of Mists” – Breschau of Livonia. Who, why and from? 🙂

<NGaiman> Good lord. Are you mad? But I’m thrilled to know there are readers in Estonia…

<Ivar_> I hope not… 🙂

<NGaiman> Let’s see. Breschau isn’t a historical figure (I thought it would be unfair to have someone who was completely forgotten by history, who you could find in a history book) but Livonia is of course a real place. More real now than it was before the break up of the Soviet Union, I suppose….

<Ivar_> Yes, at least Estonia is… 🙂

<NGaiman> I’ve been fond of it ever since I learned that it was famous for its werewolf cults, where hundreds of unwilling villagers would be bespelled off for a couple of years to live as werewolves in the desert. The idea for the Breschau character probably came from a seed planted in Jurgen,

<NGaiman> James Branch Cabell’s novel, where he meets his father, Coth, who is being tortured in Hell, although not entirely to his satisfaction. The starting point for Season of Mists was I think a quote from Teilhard de Chardin, to the effect that he believed in Hell, because it was church Dogma that there was a hell, but he did not have to believe that there was anyone IN hell.

<Puck> Go ahead MikeyTree.

<MikeyTree> Are there any current authors whose work you particularly like or admire? Songwriters often listen to a song they particularly like and think “boy, I wish I had written that song”. How about you? What has really inspired you?

<NGaiman> mikeytree next… let’s see… (starting to run out of steam here, a little. Deep breath, and…) lots of authors, living and dead, do that ‘gosh I wish I could do that’ thing to me. Chesterton. Carroll. (Jonathan and Lewis.) I love Clive Barker’s short fiction, where he crafts these Firbankian sentences. joe Orton. In comics, Alan Moore’s work still has the capacity to thrill me, so does Dave Sim’s. e.e. cummings…. Hugh Sykes Davies. Rudyard Kipling. Cabell again, when he was on form. Hope Mirrlees (but only in LUD IN THE MIST)…. Gene Wolfe. Geoff Ryman (you must all go and buy 253, his new novel, for it is a wonderful thing.) Susanna Clarke. Um… we could be here all night. There you go.

<Irina> Hello, Neil! Thanks for coming! I was wondering, was there a lot of pressure involved in writing Terry Pratchett’s character of Death when you wrote GOOD OMENS together, since the character is so popular? Or any other pressures, for that matter?

<Puck> We’re running out of time, and I’m sure Neil’s fingers are getting tired, so we’ll have to cut this short. We’ll continue the queue posted, and then end it.

<NGaiman> Well, he wasn’t that popular when we wrote Good Omens,a lthough he was my favourite of terry’s characters, which was why I chose him as the Death. (I’m allowed to tell people I wrote most of the four horsemen stuff — and all the Other Four Horsemen stuff — and Terry’s allowed to tell people that the Death of Agnes Nutter is all his. beyond that people can guess, but may well be wrong.) There weren’t many pressures — we weren’t even sure that anyone would want to publish it when it was done. It was really written, mostly, to amuse each other.

<Irina> Good way to write, I’d imagine…

<NGaiman> There are, by the way, good things happening on the Good Omens movie. Or it looks like there are. The Samuelsons, who did Wilde and carrington and Tom and Viv are making it and, if their last e-mail is to be believed, things are taking shape in very good ways. And I’ll say more the moment they tell terry and me that the contracts are signed, sealed and whatevered.

<tyg> Hi Neil. How’s the translation on Princess Monokike (sp?) coming, as well as the collaboration with Harlan. Also, what are you and the kids doing for Halloween? I’m also told I should say “Happy birthday from everyone”

<Puck> After tyg will be LoveDream and then sybil, and then we’ll be done.

<NGaiman> Hi Tom. I finished the mononoke script back in June or early july, and since then they’ve been dubbing it. They’ve done Claire Danes, Billy Crudup, Minnie Driver and Gillian Anderson so far. They send me tapes. It sounds fantastic. Every now and again I find myself missing whatever line I wrote, as it will have been replaced by something that matches the mouth movements more exactly (sigh)

<tyg> Oh, and while I have visibility, thanks to Puck for setting up and running this.

<Puck> Uh oh… lovedream and sybil aren’t here any more! So on we go to Anubis Go ahead Anubis.

<NGaiman> but overall I’m really happy with it. (talking about the kids, Maddy just stuck her head in, smelling of toothpaste, to tell me it’s nearly time for me to read her THE LION THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE) hang on anubis –

<Anubis> Hi Neil! Can you tell us about Coraline?

<NGaiman> The Harlan collaboration goes well, I think. It’s like a game on ping pong, and I’m currently waiting for him to ping. As it were. Mike is having a Hallowe’en party and bonfire; maddy is going to be ‘A witch princess’ so she can wear a princess constume but still have witch make-up. there… Hi Anubis…

<Anubis> Happy birthday Neil!

<Puck> We’ll try to squeak in lucy_anne’s question next.

<NGaiman> Coraline is a book I started writing about 7 years ago, when holly was 6 or 7 (she’s now 13)…

<Anubis> Can you tell us about CORALINE?

<NGaiman> about a little girl who goes through a door that ought to be bricked up, but isn’t, only to find herself in a flat that looks just like the one she left, and waiting for her is her Other Mother… who looks like her normal mother, but has big black buttons for eyes. It’s scary and strange. I was writing it in my own time… and then, almost without me noticing, I ran out of ‘own time’. All the time was somebody else’s, or all the writing time anyway. And one day I noticed that Maddy was four, and I thought if I don’t write this story, by the time I get back to it, SHE’LL be too old for it. So I sent the mss. to Avon, who gave it to their children’s editor. And they said “this is marvellous. What happens next?” and I said… “Well, if you give me a contract, we will both find out.” So they did, enthusiastically. It’s a very strange book to write, and not just because I put it down for 6 years. i expect it will be out later this year. In my head it’s illustrated by Edward Gorey. Okay — Maddy just turned up to tell me she’s “totally ready for bed” and it’s time for The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe.

<Puck> I’d like to thank everyone for coming out and especially thank Neil for sharing this time with us. Most of these go an hour, but we’ve gone 30 minutes over that. We’ll let him go read to Maddy (I love The Lion The Witch and The Wardrobe, btw). Good night Neil, and thanks!

<NGaiman> Sorry to anyone who didn’t get a question. I’ll be doing ANOTHER of these things on Sunday for THE DOMINION

<NGaiman> so maybe you can get in there. And goodnight to everyone.

<Puck> The Dominion’s web page is www.scifi.com – I’ll try to see you all there! Good night Neil!

End.