neil gaiman at microsoft


One of the many perks of working at Microsoft is the top-name speakers they bring in. This week it's author Neil Gaiman--whose work, I'm embarassed to admit, I've never read. I've purchased a paperback copy of Stardust for him to sign, and I think I'll give it to my son as a birthday present this weekend (I'm pretty sure he won't be reading the blog before then, so it's safe to say so). We can read it together, something we haven't been doing enough lately.

Gaiman is doing a public talk and signing at a Seattle bookstore tonight, but it's lovely having a smaller, more intimate version (there are about 125 people attending) here in my building.

Starts by saying it's appropriate that he's talking here, since he rencently spoke at Google--their motto, he says, is "do no evil," while ours seems to be "we don't really have a problem with that." (laughter in the room)

Says his new book, Anansi Boys, is funny and happy, in contrast to its predecessor, American Gods. Describes the new book a bit, and then does a brief reading from the book. (Great delivery. He's fun to listen to.) It's a screwball romantic comedy ghost thriller epic novel (with probably a few more genres thrown in).

He says here in the 21st century, there really aren't meaningful genres anymore. They're basically ways to avoid a part of the bookstore you're not interested in. This book will go either in SciFi or Literature--he doesn't care, since it went straight in on the bestseller list at #1.

How did that happen? What does that say about the wired/wireless world we're living in?

Advertising in the publishing world doesn't come anywhere near advertising in the brand product world. He feels he "solved" this problem for himself back in 2001.

He was an early adopter--CompuServe, GEnie, the WELL. Then when he finished American Gods, he discovered blogging. He told his editor he wanted to write about what happens between when you type "the end" and when the book hits the bestseller list. Nobody ever hears that story--what happens with getting rights to song lyrics, for example?

He had a great time writing the stories on the blog--and when the book came out, he had 20K readers of his blog! So he carried on. It was like the online community sites he'd used before in many ways.

Currently the blog has 1.2 million individual visitors (he doesn't say in what time period--is that monthly? weekly?). That meant there were many people looking forward to the release of Anansi Boys, who went out and bought it as soon as it was released. ("And suddenly, Dan Brown was ground beneath my heel," he says, to widespread laughter.)

But, he points out, it was a side effect of the blog, not the purpose of it. (This is really important...)

The downside of the blog is the impact on signing tours--instead of 150 people, he gets 750--and a very sore signing hand. As a result, alas, the paradigm of the book tour breaks. This is a quandary that he's trying to resolve.

Backs up and speaks to those who are here because someone else told them to be here, and provides some background about what he's written. He started with a (graphic novel?) called Sandman, going all the way through the movie he just wrote called Mirrormask, modeled somewhat on Labyrinth. Made it for less than $4 million.

Just started filming a new (and much higher budget) Beowulf movie in a "Polar Express" animation style; if PE was 1.0, this film will be 3.0. Made for adults--plenty of blood and killing and mead. ("Lots of mead.") This is the biggest, best dragon battle ever made, he promises.

Goes to Q&A.

Someone asks if Miracle Man will ever be finished--and he says, yes, that could happen. (Apparently this is an old comic character he worked on years ago.) He says that it's simply too long a story, complicated by a trip to bankruptcy court, which must be resolved before more can be done.

The next question is about his writing in Babylon 5, and since I don't know any of the names being thrown about I can't really capture the sense of the q or the a.

Talks about the difference between graphic and textual novels. Graphic novels allow the writer more control over pace and perception of appearance. Text allows you to be more nuanced, make the readers work harder (if they're willing to play). Contrasts both to movies and their ability to twist what happens in real life.

(As he's been answering questions, I've been looking through the back of the book I bought, and it looks like I might want to acquire Coraline for my son, as well...)

Discusses computers vs paper for writing. He loves writing first drafts on paper, as well as the discontinuity of separate first and second drafts (he likes the distinct quality of separate paper drafts, but eventually moves the mss to the computer). Movie scripts, however, he does completely on the computer.

[After he finished, I bought a hardcover copy of Coraline as the birthday present, so that each child will have a signed book... They both look like great stories, and I'm looking forward to quality reading-aloud time with the boys this weeked.]


Lucky you! Neil Gaiman is great!
Sandman is a graphic novel. Or rather, there are many Sandman graphic novels. You might want to check them out, they're a bit of art. Thanks for posting the link to his blog. :)

Neil is the nicest author I've ever stalked -er- met, and I love his work.

Your kids are probably a little young for much of his stuff yet, but when they hit fourteen I'd definitely give them a copy of his Sandman trade paperback "Dream Country" to see if they dig it; it's the shortest of the Sandman collections, three distinct stories. I picked it up when I was... fourteen or fifteen, I think, and I've since devoured all of his other work.

I first met Neil was I was sixteen. Last week I took my wife and three kids to their first Neil reading. It was amazing.

Wow--Neil Gaiman! I am envious. Coraline is an amazing book, though a bit too scary for my little ones (right now, anyway). Thanks for sharing your notes with those of us who couldn't be there.

good omens is the book that i started with from him. it is hilarious and insightful.

Liz, get "Wolves in the walls" for your youngest :) The day I swapped my dad for two goldfish is a great fathers' day present and, of course Harlequin Valentine is one of the more interesting valentine's day gifts ;). Gaiman is a little bit magic...

Gaiman's blog is syndicated to LiveJournal. His blog is part "the life of an author" and part Q & A Session with fans.

It's a very interesting vehicle for self-promotion as well as encouraging feedback and discussion between author and audience.


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This page contains a single entry by Liz Lawley published on October 4, 2005 2:54 PM.

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