So that, as they say, was a thing.
The Neil and Amanda guest-edited New Statesman came out a couple of days ago. It's what we wanted it to be – an issue about saying the unsayable, filled with writers saying stuff. We are in it too. Everything is perfect...
Except the cover isn't the Art Spiegelman cover it was meant to be, the one that went up online at the New Statesman site and then vanished again. It's an Allan Amato photo of Neil and Amanda instead. A beautiful photo, with text over it. But it's not the cover we told people we were putting out, the cover that people have been asking us about.
This is what it looks like with the flap covering the left of it:
We owe you an explanation for why this is, especially as it gets into strangely self-reflexive territory: an issue about saying the unsayable that loses its cover for reasons of, among other things, freedom of speech, human error, and whether or not you can say the unsayable. Or show the unshowable.
Of all the things we were excited to attack with this "Saying the Unsayable" issue, the cover was at the top of the list, because it posed such a great braintwister: how do you draw what can't be said? Neil and I spent a few weeks chatting through all the various options - one of the nice things about being a musician and graphic novelist who have both been collaborating with artists for years is that we had a list of art-geniuses a mile long. Art Spiegelman won, in the end, because he was perfect for the theme. I remember seeing, in a newstand the week after Sept. 11, 2001, the cover of the New Yorker - thinking, at first, that it was a solid black image. And then, as the issue caught the light and revealed two magically disappearing towers, painted in ghostly gloss with a single antenna thrusting through The New Yoker masthead, I knew I was looking at the work of artistic emotional genius.
Art's been a fighter for visual free speech for ages: his seminal graphic novel "Maus", a profound commentary on family and nazism, has recently been banned from sale in Russia because it featured a swastika on the cover (though one could argue it was hardly "nazi memorablia - not to mention Art has already won the argument in Germany that Maus was culturally significant enough material to allow it onto shelves). Art's also let us crash at his apartment. So we were gleeful when Art agreed to do the cover, even though he had his grumpy doubts about the British press (we'll get to that in a second), and I traipsed over to Soho to have a long chat with him about what we might do for an image.
For three hours, over two walks and three locations (one cafe, Art's studio, and we stopped by to visit the artist JR: you'll note that that gave accidental birth to the use of JR and Art's Ellis Island graffitti/drawing collaboration in the issue), we discussed the potential for the cover, and I told Art about the fantastic writers we had on board, writing about the unsayable. I wound up getting a three hour crash-course in banned comic history, including the life and times of Fredric Wertham, Comics-burning, and the Comics Code.
In his studio, Art showed me some of his recent covers and comics following the Charlie Hebdo massacre. We batted some ideas around. An image of Me and Neil? Only if it was a really strong idea, I said. I didn't want this being about our egos - and we had balked at the idea of just using a nice photo of us on the cover. There's certainly nothing Unsayable about that.
Art showed me a comic he'd drawn about what you can and cannot say as a cartoonist, which I found smart and hilarious, and hardly controversial: Notes from a First Amendment Fundamentalist. It pictured Art, shown as the mouse-headed narrator, explaining what images were for, and why editors were scared of them, preferring to show smiley faces with “Have a Nice Day” on them instead. The comic had run in The Nation in the US, in many European countries and on the cover of a german paper, the Frankfurter Allgemeine. It hadn't been run in the UK, Art said, so we could have it as an exclusive. Brilliant, I said. Art told me the New Statesman had already passed on running it, back when Charlie Hedbo happened, not - they'd told him - on the grounds that it was controversial, but on the grounds that they'd felt they had enough Charlie Hebdo coverage. Art had been in China when the massacre happened and didn't get cracking on this drawing until a few weeks after the main news explosion. The London Review of Books had passed on it because “they disagreed with what Art said in it”.
It was something he felt really strongly about, and he was disappointed that it hadn't been seen in the UK. Would we run the comic as part of the issue? Neil and I both loved it -- it was a comic about saying the unsayable. We let the New Statesman know, Art sent over the image of the comic, and we got to work on what we thought was the hard part, the cover itself.
(Click on it to read it at full size.)
The phone buzzed and Art and Amanda were together in New York. We talked ideas for covers.
Art is a cartoonist: he writes beautifully and well, but his medium is pictoral, or that combination of words and pictures that become more than either alone.
“I don't think you need me,” he said. “They could do it with just a photo of you guys on the cover.”
“We need you,” we told him.
We wanted an image as powerful as some of his iconic New Yorker covers. Art retired from New Yorker covers, mostly because he didn't like having to negotiate or deal with magazine people, but he was willing to do it for us.
“The problem is,” he warned us, “that you can write about the unsayable, and nobody will mind. But if you draw the undrawable, you're in trouble.”
We tell him we are game for trouble.
Ideas are discussed: Me and Amanda as Paper Dolls surrounded by the costumes we could wear, all of them evoking things different groups would find offensive. Amanda and me about to be burned at the stake, with other burnable things. The see-no-evil monkeys.
We settled on me and Amanda drowning in our own word balloons, and got Art photoreference of us.
He called the next week. The word bubbles cover wasn't working. But he had an idea: a man drowning in shit, unable to talk about what he was drowning in.
The man would be calling out baby names for shit, loudly...
Art sent us a rough of the image.
It was great, except, it wasn't right. I showed it to Amanda.
It was a powerful image. And some days it feels like we are drowning in shit.
I talked to Art after the Pen Gala, and explained my problem.
“It doesn't say Saying the Unsayable to me,” I told him. “It says, We Are Drowning in Shit. It's the cover to the Drowning in Shit issue.”
Art had already had another idea. He showed it to me. I took a photo of it and sent it to Amanda. She said “YES!” and we had our cover.
A week later, Art sent us this:
And it was perfect. Amanda was concerned people would look at it and see only a disempowered woman, not an angry woman. The New Statesmen people liked it (some of them loved it) but they were also concerned it might be misinterpreted.
We wrote a piece that was meant to go into the New Statesman talking about it:
We actually can discuss the unsayable. We are doing it here, in this issue. In that sense, “unsayable” is almost an oxymoron.
We can talk about something without actually showing it. We can discuss “drawing Mohammed”, we can write entire books if we wish about the traditions involved in representing Mohammed, the problems inherent in it, the issues of power, offense and violence involved, and nobody will try to kill us for writing it.
Once you draw the picture, it’s a different story: when you “draw the undrawable”. The moment that you draw a picture that shows something transgressive, even if you are simply commenting on it, you have drawn it. (In 2010 Seattle cartoonist Molly Norris attempted to satirise and comment on the issues involved in representing the prophet in a humourous way, by drawing a cotton reel, a cup, a domino, a purse, a cherry and a pasta box, each claiming to be an image of Mohammed. She was placed on an Al-Quaida deathlist, and has been in hiding for four years.)
Images that shock or repulse us have power, in a way that words will not.
Amanda walked with artist Art Spiegelman through downtown New York for an afternoon, getting schooled in the long history of banned drawings, comics and the wake of the Charlie Hebdo assassinations. She and Art got Neil on the phone and for an hour discussed "see no evil” monkeys, people and stereotypes being burned at the stake, and how to represent offensive images without actually offending people. We wound up with the idea of Neil and Amanda trapped and drowning in their own speech bubbles. But Art wasn't happy with it.
The first cover design he actually showed us was a glorious depiction of a man drowning in a sea of shit, unable to say the word. It almost worked, but not quite. (We worried that people would think, not unreasonably, that this was the “we are all drowning in a sea of shit” issue.)
When he sent over the sketch of an angry woman bound, “see no evil” blindfolded, but still trying to swear through the happy-face on her ball gag, we knew we had our cover.
And we stopped worrying about the cover.
Putting together the contents of the issue was a blast, and a tsumani of emails flooded between me, neil, the new statesman folks, and the various writers we were hoping would write for the issues. Some people got their pieces in within days of being asked, some people wrote thousand-word pieces only to spill tea on their computers at the last minute, missing the deadline. Some interview questions went unanswered, some people called in sick.
Some incoming material led to new inspirations, which was where we really felt the beautiful synchonicity of concocting a magazine in realtime, on a deadline. JR's haunting Ellis Island graffiti images seemed to hunger for context about today's heated immigration issues; we pondered who could write about that, and the new statesman suggested we bring in Khaled Hosseini (whose work I'd read, but it would have never occured to me). We ran into Laurie Penny in a cambridge coffee shop and she offered to work with a writer of a piece we liked but felt wasn't there yet. We emailed with our friend Stoya to see what her take was on the unsayable issues in her workplace, porn. I happened to be talking with two different friends on the phone when it occured to me that they should write about what were were chatting about: both of those moments found their way into the "Vox Populi" sections. It was a lot of fun. The New Statesman folks were incredible - they caught the balls as fast as we were batting them and worked tirelessly on laying out the perfect issues. Everybody was really excited.
Two nights before the launch of the issue - the night before the final pieces of the magazine were to go to the printer so the magazine could hit the stands on time - we got a distressed email from Art. He was going to have to pull his cover, because he'd gotten an email from the magazine saying they they wouldn't run his comic.
Because of timing, or because of the content? Timing, probably. My brain did a few frantic calculations. Had we sent it over? Had we missed it in the master list? Oh shit. Maybe. I admitted to Art that we hadn't been the most organized editors - but we'd call the magazine right away. The worst thing that would happen was that it would miss the print deadline, but it would make it into the online version, which was, hopefully, going to see even more traffic than the printed issue, anyway. Art sighed and said he'd be happy enough with that, but he needed a promise from The New Statesman. It was 7 pm, We phoned the New Statesman. It was too late for the comic to get into print, they said. Could we run it online? They froze. Apparently, there had been a New Statesman-wide meeting and consensus that the magazine wouldn't print any images of the prophet mohammed. But Art's comic didn't depict the prophet, it depicted Art tearing off his mouse mask and revealing a smily-faced, turban-wearing.... Neil and I sighed. We hung up the phone. We looked at each other, glumly. This sucked.
"Okay. What if...." I said, "you write about the evolution of the cover for the online version of the magazine, and in there, just put a thumbnail of the comic which linkes to the full-size version of the comic which is already up online? You could interview Art about censorship. That way the comic gets the attention it needs, the new statesman doesn't have to actually run it, Art will get his way, and we won't have to lose our beautiful cover. Because honestly, the heavy irony of the fact that we're sitting around here discussing losing the cover of our 'Saying the Unsayable' issue because we can't run a smiley face with a turban on it..."
"We can try."
We called The New Statesman. They said they could live with that.
We called Art. He said he'd go for that.
We breathed a massive sigh of relief. Neil called Art and did an interview with him about pictures and art and censorship and why artists need to be able to do art to communicate, for the blog. Neil couldn't work out why the Skype calls kept failing. (I was in bed on the internet, downloading things.)
But after three calls, he came to bed. We were saved.
The next morning, at 10 am, I had voicemails and texts to call the New Statesman. I gulped. We called. The peace treaty had broken down overnight. Art's agent had put The New Statesman's promise to run the thumbnail, with the link, in a blog written by Neil, into a contract and sent it over. They wouldn't sign it, as they explained, if they failed to do as Art requested, he could have the whole issue pulped. They said they'd rather pull the cover. It was 11 am, and Neil and I were on a train to go and visit his family in the countryside, with phone service coming and going. We spent the train ride on the phone convinced that we could re-assemble the agreement we'd managed to put together the night before. The absolute deadline for printing the cover was 12pm.
We couldn't do it.
By 11:45pm, it became clear that Art's cover was going to be pulled. We started disucssing, reluctantly, what could possibly replace it. The New Statesman mocked up a simple cover using the press photo by Allan Amato that was taken four years ago, with the words "Saying the Unsayable" printed across our faces. We sat in a cafe in the English Countryside that happened to have wireless and downloaded it.
"This is fucked. This is an issue about censorship, and it looks like the cover of GQ." I said.
"We could just go all black...." said Neil. (Of course).
We sent some half-hearted remarks to The New Statesman to improve the size and placement of the text, but we didn't have any further time to discuss it. The cover went to press.
It was a complete cock-up. Art's ironic prediction of a photograph of me and Amanda on the cover proved correct.
Art's real frustration is that the British press can write about freedom of speech while at the same time having blanket policies which mean that an image like this one becomes unshowable. (In context: the Art Spiegelman self-image Maus character has removed his mouse face to reveal a smiley face with a turban, telling you to have a nice day. You can interpret this in a number of ways. The New Statesman took it as showing an image of the Prophet, something that they had agreed amongst themselves they would never do. I take it as Art's logical conclusion to a comic on Pictures and the power of pictures, even the simplest, in a post Charlie-Hebdo massacre environment.)
I suspect that if the New Statesman had had longer to talk amongst themselves and to think about the Art's comic it would have made it in, but I could be wrong.
The night before the New Statesman went to press, when the agreement was that I would blog about it on the New Statesman site, I interviewed Art for the blog. He said a number of cogent things about image and cartoons, about why the UK press wouldn't show images, like his comic, which had been on the front covers of newspapers in Germany and prominently published elsewhere in Europe. On why, in a secular society, it is vital not to bait, but to debate – and that people who use pictures to communicate needed to be able to use their pictures, as those of us who use words use their words. That there cannot be a Kalashnikov veto on what is published.
(The blog didn't run, and as Art says, he gave the interview being still kindly disposed to the New Statesman, and he doesn't feel that way any longer, so I'm not going to quote from it.)
Art feels angry: angry for the wasted work, and because he wants people in the UK to see his comic.
The New Statesman editors felt aggrieved, trapped between the rock of having to show an image that might, conceivably, have been interpreted as showing Mohammed in order not to lose their cover, and the hard place of their discomfort with the Wylie Agency.
Amanda and I are sad and disappointed. I'm mostly disappointed because I thought that the proposed solution (of blogging about it on the NS site, with a thumbnail of the comic that you could click on to take you to a larger image, so the comic could be seen, and in the blog Art and I could talk about the issues involved) was something that worked. I'm still sad that the New Statesman backed away from it, when it was put in writing.
It's obvious, going back in the email chains, to see the breakdowns in communication between Art and the New Statesman and vice versa, while Amanda and I were riding the magazine guest-editor whirlwind (writers dropping out and coming back in, pieces coming to us or going directly to the NS, people we waited on for articles or think pieces or interviews until the last moment, while still trying to keep our lives and our real, paying work going). It was our cock-up as much as anyone's: we knew he wanted the comic in and had sent it over, and didn't actually think of it again until the end.
Neil and Amanda:
So that's what happened, and why Art's cover isn't there on the cover of the New Statesman.
Running a magazine is insanely hard work, and having to deal with the crisis at the last minute was no fun for the New Statesman team, who have been supportive of us all the way, and who wound up, at the end, face to face with, and having to deal with, what is and isn't unsayable. (And from their perspective, as they expressed it to us, it was also a freedom of speech issue: they didn't want to run the comic, and couldn't be pushed into it.)
This is how we get into this mess in the first place. "We would, but...." "We should, but...." "We believe in freedom of the press, but...." It's death by a thousand buts. We wanted to say the unsayable, and draw the undrawable. We ended up feeling like we'd tried, and, due to human error on our parts and on the magazine's, failed.
We're really, really proud of this issue, and we're honored that the New Statesman gave us a chance to gather all these artists and writers together. We have the former Archbishop of Canterbury writing about why religion needs blasphemy and Stoya on porn, and Michael Sheen and Hayley Campbell and Kazuo Ishiguro and Roz Kaveney and Nick Cave and...
We just wish we were as proud of the cover as we were of the content.
Have a nice day.
Neil and Amanda
0 Comments on Drawing the Undrawable: An Explanation from Neil and Amanda.
as of 5/31/2015 3:44:00 PM
posted by Neil Gaiman
An old year ends, and takes with it people and sorrows and joys and memories, and a new one is on it way.
A New Year's Gift, for anyone who missed it:
The BBC Radio 4 GOOD OMENS Website, with all six episodes of the Radio Series available to listened to over the next 2-3 weeks. http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b04knt4h
And a reminder, over at http://acalendaroftales.com/
you can read and listen to all the stories I wrote for the A Calendar of Tales
. January's Tale takes place in the moments between the first and the last chime of twelve midnight, when the Old Year is over and the New Year not yet begun.
May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you're wonderful, and don't forget to make some art -- write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can. And I hope, somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself.
...I hope you will have a wonderful year, that you'll dream dangerously and outrageously, that you'll make something that didn't exist before you made it, that you will be loved and that you will be liked, and that you will have people to love and to like in return. And, most importantly (because I think there should be more kindness and more wisdom in the world right now), that you will, when you need to be, be wise, and that you will always be kind.
And for this year, my wish for each of us is small and very simple.
And it's this.
I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes.
Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You're doing things you've never done before, and more importantly, you're Doing Something.
So that's my wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself. Make New Mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody's ever made before. Don't freeze, don't stop, don't worry that it isn't good enough, or it isn't perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life.
Whatever it is you're scared of doing, Do it.
Make your mistakes, next year and forever.
And here, from 2012 the last wish I posted, terrified but trying to be brave, from backstage at a concert:
It's a New Year and with it comes a fresh opportunity to shape our world.
So this is my wish, a wish for me as much as it is a wish for you: in the world to come, let us be brave – let us walk into the dark without fear, and step into the unknown with smiles on our faces, even if we're faking them.
And whatever happens to us, whatever we make, whatever we learn, let us take joy in it. We can find joy in the world if it's joy we're looking for, we can take joy in the act of creation.
So that is my wish for you, and for me. Bravery and joy.
I meant, and mean them all. I wasn't going to write a new one this year. But...
Be kind to yourself in the year ahead.
Remember to forgive yourself, and to forgive others. It's too easy to be outraged these days, so much harder to change things, to reach out, to understand.
Try to make your time matter: minutes and hours and days and weeks can blow away like dead leaves, with nothing to show but time you spent not quite ever doing things, or time you spent waiting to begin.
Meet new people and talk to them. Make new things and show them to people who might enjoy them.
Hug too much. Smile too much. And, when you can, love.
posted by Neil Gaiman
I'm back on social media from today. And my last class at Bard until Autumn is tomorrow night. I owe the world a big post on life and the things that go with it.
But first, this one is important:
There are many peculiar places in the world, places that can hold your mind and your soul tightly and will not let them go. Some of those places are exotic and unusual, some are mundane. The strangest of all of them, at least for me, is the Isle of Skye, off the west coast of Scotland. I know I am not alone in this. There are people who discover Skye and will not leave, and even for those of us who do leave, the misty island haunts us and holds us in its own way. It is where I am happiest and where I am most alone.
Otta F. Swire wrote books about the Hebrides and about Skye in particular, and she filled her books with strange and arcane knowledge. (Did you know May the 3rdwas the day that the Devil was cast out of Heaven, and thus the day on which it is unpardonable to commit a crime? I learned that in her book on the myths of the Hebrides.) And in one of her books, she mentioned the cave in the black Cuillins, where you could go, if you were brave, and get gold, with no cost, but each visit you paid to the cave would make you more evil, would eat your soul.
And that cave, and its promise, began to haunt me.
I took several true stories (or stories that are said to be true, which is almost the same thing), and set them in a world that was almost, but not quite, ours, and told a story of revenge and of travel, of desire for gold and of secrets. Two men, one very small, are travelling west to find a cave said to be filled with gold.
I wrote most of the tale on the Isle of Skye. When it was done it was published in an anthology called STORIES, and it won the Shirley Jackson Award for best Novelette, and the Locus Award for Best Novelette, and I was very proud of it, my story.
Before it was published, I was set to appear on the stage of the Sydney Opera House, and was asked if I could do something with Australian string quartet FourPlay (they are the rock band of string quartets, an amazing, versatile bunch with a cult following): perhaps something with art that could be projected onto the stage. I listened to FourPlay's music, and, possibly once I heard their take on the Doctor Who theme and the Simpsons Theme, and a cover of Cry Me A River I liked nearly as much as Julie London's (and I like that so very much), I knew wanted to work with them.
I thought about “The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains”: it would take about seventy minutes to read. I wondered what it would would happen if a string quartet created a moody and glorious soundtrack, as I told the story, as if it were a movie? And what if Scottish artist Eddie Campbell, the man who drew Alan Moore's FROM HELL, writer and artist of ALEC, my favourite comic, created illustrations for this most Scottish of my stories and projected them above me while I read?
I was scared, going out onto the stage of the Sydney Opera House, but the experience was amazing: the story was received with a standing ovation, and we followed it with an interview (artist Eddie Campbell was the interviewer) and a poem, also with FourPlay.
Six months later, we performed it again, with more paintings by Eddie, in Hobart, Tasmania, in front of 3,000 people, in a huge shed at a Festival, and again, they loved it; again, a standing ovation.
Now, we had a problem. The only people who had ever seen the show were in Australia. It seemed unfair, somehow. We needed an excuse to travel, to bring the FourPlay string quartet across the world (pop culture literate and brilliant musicians, they are: I fell in love with their work before I ever knew them).
Mysterious promoter Jordan Verzar, who had put me and FourPlay together in the first place, saw his chance and struck, rather like and amiable Australian cobra, and before we knew it, everything was happening.
So we are doing the smallest tour in the world for this.
If you want to see me performing THE TRUTH IS A CAVE IN THE BLACK MOUNTAINS, with the amazing FourPlay string quartet, and see Eddie Campbell's art projected, the words and the music and the images combining in your head to make a movie that only you will ever experience in that way, a night with special guests, I wouldn't be surprised, and also surprises (including things nobody has every heard read), then the only places you can see it are San Francisco, at the Warfield, New York's Carnegie Hall on June 27th, then in London at The Barbican (two nights) and it ends in Edinburgh, in Usher Hall on July 6th. And then we'll be done.
If you've read down this far and you're interested in seeing a unique and amazing evening, and you are anywhere in the US, the Carnegie Hall is the one to come to (unless you want to fly to the UK). New York is nice in June.
The Carnegie Hall night will have special guests. It will be the only place I'm also going to read the whole of the new HANSEL AND GRETEL before it's published
. There will be a LOT of signed books there, even if we can't work out a signing (we're trying to but logistics are hard). And it's going to be a night to remember...
The two Barbican concerts
on July 4th and 5th are almost sold out (they have just released some seats, so there are a few seats left).
Usher Hall in Edinburgh
was only just added, and tickets only just went on sale. There are lots of seats there, and very much hope the Scots are kind to my Scottish tale.
Do come. I know it may seem odd, an author and a string quartet. But trust me, you do not want to miss it.
I wanted to put in a huge plug here for the anti-bullying website, Bystander Revolution. They've done some amazing interviews with people, and have advice. Here are their films talking to me
On Saturday, if you are in the UK, you can get a free copy of STARDUST with your Guardian newspaper, if you buy it from Sainsbury's. This is a good thing if you like Stardust and read the Guardian. More info at this link, along with a way to win one of the limited edition beautiful special copies of OCEAN AT THE END OF THE LANE. http://www.theguardian.com/books/competition/2014/apr/26/neil-gaiman-competition
posted by Neil Gaiman
It's been a strange week, filled with odd things happening. Oddest of all, I've bought a house (it is not as this quote might lead you believe, in Sacramento California
: that quote was taken from a longer interview with me about my fondness for backing things on Kickstarter: https://www.kickstarter.com/blog/meet-a-backer-neil-gaiman
The new house is something that's been in the works for a few months now: I saw somewhere in the Autumn, fell in love with it, convinced Amanda that I was in love, and we finally closed on it yesterday afternoon.
It's a lot like my old Addams Family house in the woods, only it's not an Addams Family house, more of little cluster of stone cottages in the woods. (The woman I bought it from had lived here fifty years exactly; the man whose family she and her husband had bought it from in January 1964 drew newspaper comics back in the Golden Age.)
The new house is a couple of hours from New York, and in order to close on it and take possession I unexpectedly (don't ask) found myself driving from Florida to New York State this weekend, via North Carolina (to see Maddy at college), vaguely worried that the snowstorms that have been circumscribing my movements for the last 2 months would have one final go at mucking up my travel plans. A storm was forecast, but it never happened.
I listened to the Best of Nick Lowe, David Bowie's The Next Day
, and Simon Vance's Audiobook of Mervyn Peake's Titus Groan
as I drove.
Driving meant that I missed a small storm which started on Twitter.
Back in January I got a request from the co-chair of the upcoming Worldcon in London (I don't know him, but he'd been given my email by a friend) asking me to forward an invitation to Jonathan Ross to host the Hugo Awards.
Jonathan is a UK TV and radio presenter, and, these days, a writer of comics. He's also one of the most highly regarded UK awards hosts. He's also become a friend of mine, has been for over 25 years. You can see us here together in the Search for Steve Ditko
documentary. (Here's the last few minutes of the documentary. Keep watching, and you'll see me with a smile big enough to break my face.) He was also the person who talked me onto Twitter in the first place.
I forwarded the invitation, along with a note telling him that hosting the Hugo awards is a really enjoyable thing to do, and got a note back from the chair saying that Jonathan had said yes, and could I put something up welcoming him when they announced it.
Jonathan said yes because he's a huge SF and Comics fan -- in many ways, one of the most fannish people I know: he also writes SF comics. There's also a family connection: his wife, Jane Goldman, won a Hugo award (for best Screenplay).
It was announced that he would be hosting the Hugos. There was a storm on Twitter. I missed it, but people sent me the link, and it's summarised here: http://www.bleedingcool.com/2014/03/01/when-jonathan-ross-was-presenting-the-hugo-awards-until-he-wasnt
I was really glad I was a) on a Twitter sabbatical and b) driving while all this was going on.
The weirdest bit was, I understood some of the worry; I'd had it myself, 25 years ago, when Jonathan and I had first met, and he asked me and Dave McKean to be on his chat show to talk about VIOLENT CASES. I said "No, you make fun of people. This is comics. It matters to me. I don't want you making fun of it."
To convince me that he a) didn't make fun of people on his show and b) that he would never ever under any circumstances mock the comics and comics creators he loved, Jonathan asked Dave McKean and me to come to the recording of the show: he was interviewing writer/artist Charles Burns that night. The interview was respectful and incredibly nice.
We never did that interview, although he's interviewed me a few times since over the years, in various different contexts. (When The Wolves in the Walls
came out, Jonathan interviewed me and Dave McKean in front of a crowd of adults and kids. His interview was perfectly appropriate for the audience...) He's embarrassed me gloriously presenting the Eisner Awards.
I wasn't surprised that some people were upset by the choice of Jonathan as a host: as the convention says in their apology for their handling of this, and their apology to Jonathan and his family, at https://www.facebook.com/londonin2014/posts/804454159569536
, they should have consulted better within their ranks, talked to their committees and so on, and made sure that that everyone was agreed that they wanted Jonathan as their host before they wrote to me and asked me to invite him.
If they'd known ahead of time that some people were going to have a problem with him as a choice of presenter (and I strongly suspect they did, given that one of their number had apparently resigned), they should have warned him and given him the option to withdraw, and at least prepared him. As it was, he and his family didn't know what hit them.
Twitterstorms are no fun when people are making up things about you or insulting you for things you didn't do or think or say. When scores of people from a group that you consider yourself a part of are shouting at you, it's incredibly upsetting, no matter who you are.
I was seriously disappointed in the people, some of whom I know and respect, who stirred other people up to send invective, obscenities and hatred Jonathan's way over Twitter (and the moment you put someone's @name into a tweet, you are sending it to that person), much of it the kind of stuff that they seemed to be worried that he might possibly say at the Hugos, unaware of the ironies involved.
I sympathise with anyone who felt that Jonathan wasn't going to make an appropriate Hugos host, and with anyone who spoke about it to the convention committee, but do not believe a campaign aimed at vilifying Jonathan personally was wise or kind. And for those who thought that making this happen was a way to avoid SF and the Hugos appearing in the tabloids, I'd point to the Streisand effect, with a shake of the head.
I have won Hugo Awards, and I am incredibly proud of all of them; I've hosted the Hugo Awards ceremony, and I was honoured to have been permitted to be part of that tradition; I know that SF is a family, and like all families, has disagreements, fallings out. I've been going to Worldcons since 1987. And I know that these things heal in time.
But I've taken off the Hugo nominee pin that I've worn proudly on my lapel since my Doctor Who episode, The Doctor's Wife
, won the Hugo in September 2012
, and, for now, I've put it away.
posted by Neil Gaiman
It's a very strange process, moving into a new house. In my case, the worst of the moving in has been done. Now all that remains is details, hundreds upon hundreds of details. Details and details and details and, occasionally, small disasters. Yesterday, the heating stopped working. The heating stopped working because there was two inches of water in the cellar, because a water treatment pump could not keep up with the combination of rain and snowmelt that was already filling all the drains, and so backed up. I have good friends and they made everything okay, with pumps and knowledge of fixing things.
(I do not really have a lot of fixing things knowledge. And while you may want to read a book by me, you do not want me to put up your shelves. Trust me on this.)
I went into New York overnight, finished writing a very much overdue introduction in my hotel room, emailed it off moments before I fell asleep, had a Really Cool Secret Meeting this morning, and am typing this on the train back, the Hudson river grey and, on the far bank, distant leafless hills and cliffs. I want Spring to begin.
I'm currently pondering whether or not to write a short story for a company. They've asked me to write one. I can write whatever I like, as long as I put their product in it and do not show their product killing people horribly, or even nicely. It would be a fun, interesting project that would pay well. To make things more interesting, I've already mentioned their product in a novel, I like their product, and I can see where the story would go.
But I'm not sure. I'm going back and forth on it.
I loved doing last year's project for BlackBerry, mostly because it felt like they were a patron of the arts. They gave me a very open brief ("What would you like to do on social media?") and let me go off and do it. They gave me a BlackBerry, and I promised I'd use it for a year. They made short films which I loved, about writing and inspiration and creation.
(And I just noticed that the BlackBerry Keep Moving videos have become unlisted on YouTube, so here they all are, for in case anyone needs them. The fourth is my favourite.)
(As a note here: when the year was up, I wanted to stay with BlackBerry as a phone platform. I really liked it, and kept finding myself frustrated when I'd use iPhones or Android phones, but I was grumpy about the lack of apps. They gave me a Z30. It's a wonderful phone (here's the USA Today write up
.) But y'know, like they said in the USA Today review, no Yelp and no Netflix.
But then, a couple of weeks after I got the Z30, they released the latest operating system, 10.2.1, which also now natively runs Android apps. I archives on my old Android phone any Android apps I wanted on the Z30, bluetoothed them over to the BlackBerry, installed them, and now use Yelp and Netflix and Audible and such with abandon.)
But the BlackBerry project, while it was done for and with the assistance of BlackBerry, never meant I had to put a BlackBerry into a story. Which made me happy. Now I'm trying to figure out why that would have felt like crossing a line in the way that the Nokia phone (which, if I were writing it today, would be an iPhone) in the first chapter of American Gods does not. And what that line is. And why it troubles me.
Getting ready for the Art Speigelman conversation at Bard on Friday
. We plan to talk a whole lot.
The Symphony Space "Selected Shorts" night on May 7th has now sold out. The only other event I'll be doing in New York this year is the Big One -- the Carnegie Hall event on June 27th.
(You do not want to miss this: it's the same thing that sold out Sydney Opera House, with FourPlay String Quartet and me).
Which reminds me. One final TRUTH IS A CAVE.. night has been added to the world. Edinburgh, Sunday July 6th. As they say on their website:
Created for Sydney's renowned Graphic festival, this haunting tale of adventure, revenge and treasure, told as a hybrid between a storyteller, an artists and an Australian string quartet is playing five performances only - Carnegie Hall in New York, the Warfield in San Francisco, two sold-out shows at London's Barbican, all leading up to this very special night at Usher Hall.
Here's the Usher Hall tickets link.
Ayelet Waldman asked me if I could mention that she has a new book out, and I will, and not just because I have not yet written my speech for her daughter Rosie's Bat-Mitzvah: It is called Love and Treasure
. That's the Amazon link, and here's the Indiebound
oops. This sat on my computer for 36 hours. In the meantime, Spring has definitely sprung. Deer are frisking through the woods and platoons of wild turkeys are self-importantly strutwaddling up and down the drive. I hope Spring heard me grumbling, and decided it was time to turn up.