Showing posts tagged with “Neil Gaiman”
There are a hundred things she has tried to chase away the things she won’t remember and that she can’t even let herself think about because that’s when the birds scream and the worms crawl and somewhere in her mind it’s always raining a slow and endless drizzle.
You will hear that she has left the country, that there was a gift she wanted you to have, but it is lost before it reaches you. Late one night the telephone will sing, and a voice that might be hers will say something that you cannot interpret before the connection crackles and is broken.
Several years later, from a taxi, you will see someone in a doorway who looks like her, but she will be gone by the time you persuade the driver to stop. You will never see her again.
Whenever it rains you think of her.”
—Neil Gaiman (Strange Little Girls)
“It wasn’t the loving each other or the knowing they could never be together.
It wasn’t the wind in the eaves of the empty house, or the bone-dry rattle of the pills in the brown-glass bottle.
It wasn’t the bitter taste, with only a stale box of red wine to wash it away.
It wasn’t waking, with her dead and you all too alive.
It was the way your fingers shook. It was a stammer, and the thickness of your tongue as you tried to speak. It was the sound of the sirens, coming closer.
It was knowing that you would never get another chance.”
—The 6th Portrait of Despair (Neil Gaiman)
A tweetathon to save the short story
by Neil Gaiman
I love short stories. I grew up on them, and the stories that had an effect on me are now encoded into my DNA. Shirley Jackson’s ”One Ordinary Day With Peanuts” and “The Lottery”. Saki’s ”Sredni Vashtar”. WW Jacobs’s “The Monkey’s Paw”. Kipling’s ”The Gardener”. There are heaps of them, and it’s love all the way.
For a working writer, this is a silly sort of love. You should write novels. Short stories sell for the price of a good dinner, if you’re lucky (and the magazines and anthologies that used to buy them are themselves fading away or gone completely). When they get reprinted they won’t cover the taxi fare to get to the dinner. I’m lucky, and have collected my short stories into books that sell well for short-story collections, but still only a fraction of the number that my novels sell.
But short stories are the best place for young writers to learn their craft: to try out different voices and techniques, to experiment, to learn. And they’re a wonderful place for old writers, when you have an idea that wouldn’t make it to novel length, one simple, elegant thing that needs to be said. People like reading short stories. And they like listening to short stories.
For years, Radio 4 has supported the short story. Ten-minute stories, professionally read, give writers young and old a chance to make a professional sale. Full disclosure: I wrote a short story, “Jerusalem”, for them a few years ago, and grew up listening to short stories on Radio 4 and dreaming that one day I’d have a story on there.
Now the station’s support for the short story is waning. TheTweetathon we’re doing to bring attention to this (each Wednesday for the next five weeks, in association with the Society of Authors, a writer will tweet the first line of a story and tweeters will add the next four sentences to create a short story in 670 characters) may or may not produce great stories: hive minds are excellent news-gatherers and commentators but tend not to produce great art.
All I’m hoping is that it reminds people how much pleasure readers, and listeners, get from short stories, and how much we learn from writing them. If we produce another “The Monkey’s Paw” that’ll be a bonus
-Lyta Hall from The Sandman: The Kindly Ones (Volume 9)
“Being a writer is a very peculiar sort of job: it’s always you versus a blank sheet of paper (or a blank screen) and quite often the blank piece of paper wins.”
Review (repost): Good Omens
Authors: Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett
Genre: Fantasy, comedy/satire
My Rating: ★★★★★
Nowadays, when I plunge into the info superhighway or when I just lurk around a local bookstore, it’s almost impossible not to find something that relates to the end of the world. Internet memes discussing the Last Generation, tomes about 2012 rapture and Nostradamus’ prophecies…there are even a bunch of flicks about the coming Armageddon. Bogus or not, it’s clear that people are drawn to this topic; most of them—it’s ridiculous but it’s true—are now panic-stricken and are readying for the last days.
In my case, it’s different. When I hear someone pronounce the word “apocalypse”, my face will curl up in a toothy grin because a certain creation of two literary rock stars will automatically pop in my head. It’s called Good Omens: A Narrative of Certain Events occurring in the last eleven years of human history, in strict accordance as shall be shewn with: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter Compiled and edited, with Footnotes of an Educational Nature and Precepts for the Wise. Or simply, Good Omens. :p
What’s so funny about the end of the world, you ask? Terry Pratchett (Father of the Discworld series) and Neil Gaiman (Creator of The Sandman graphic novels) illustrate all answers to that in this droll masterpiece and cult classic. It details the Armageddon…or perhaps how Heaven and Hell comprehend the ineffable plan of God about the day of reckoning, and how a Satanic nun messes the whole thing up by a switch-at-birth mistake that involves the Antichrist. An unlikely partnership between representatives of heaven and hell was formed after agreeing that they don’t like the world to vanish so soon, as they became so fond of human lifestyle after many years of staying on Earth. They decide to look after a kid who they thought of as the Antichrist and make sure the kid will receive balanced influences. But it turns out that the real Antichrist ends up in the care of the wrong family—away from heavenly or demonic influences—and grows up to be a normal child, resulting in a series of events that will undoubtedly make the reader laugh out loud.
I think the genius of Good Omens is that at its heart, it is more than just a four-hundred-page of bon mots and silliness; its satiric foundation lies not too deep beneath the thick layer of English humor. The authors are able to convey their message through adroit storytelling, never letting the reader feel a minute of boredom while tackling issues concerning religion, the environment (Global Warming in particular), government, war, and poverty, most of which are told via the anthropomorphic characters of War, Famine, Pollution (Pestilence retired in 1936 when penicillin was invented), and Death, also known as the Four Horsemen—or motorcyclists in this case—of Apocalypse. Human behavior and the workings of mortal minds are as well discussed very efficiently especially in conversations of the two main protagonists.
The main characters: Aziraphale (an angel and part-time rare book-dealer) and Crowley (a demon, or an angel who did not so much fall as sauntered vaguely downwards) become the best of friends after six thousand years of thwarting each other’s deeds on Earth.
Usually it is through Crowley’s introspection that the readers realize “the good are half-bad and the bad are half-good”, and the fact that most of the time humans don’t need any diabolical urgings to conceive bad things and put them into practice. He easily became my favorite character because of his attitude. He is often seen as a cool, gadget-loving, sunglasses-toting guy who drives a shiny black Bentley and kills time by doing minor mischief. The poor demon, however, has his bottled up fear and anger towards Hell and he often shows this to his houseplants by talking and imposing to them the fear of God—or more precisely, the fear of Crowley. Hell exercises tyranny over him and he vents his frustration by exercising the same kind of tyranny over his plants. For some reason, his character seems to tug at my heartstrings in an odd sort of way. Behind his grinning façade is someone who suffers—“He’d been an angel once. He hadn’t meant to Fall. He’d just hung around with the wrong people.”
Aziraphale is also not hard to love: he is the tartan-loving, sushi-craving bookworm with a penchant for using endearments for everyone. Aziraphale once believed that anyone from his lot will only do good things, and anyone from Crowley’s side would only commit bad acts. But in the end, he learned that’s not always the case—and he himself is a proof of it. Together, Aziraphale and Crowley make an unconventional, hilarious partnership that can rival Watson-Holmes (no goggles needed to see the bromancy friendship!).
The plot charges along at a gallop, and there is no single page that will fail to make you smile or giggle. Mini-storylines pop out every once in a while, and though they may not show any relevance to the main plot, you’ll discover at the end that everything is linked together. One remarkable thing I noticed about these subplots is the characters. No matter how short their exposure may be, there will always be something that will stick in your mind and heart: a peek at their touching ordinary lives laid in stark contrast with the complicated happenings leading to the Armageddon. The authors successfully showcased their morbid humor here.
This book, for me, is a personal touchstone: a masterpiece that will bring entertainment like no other and at the same time relay thought-provoking messages that the present society needs to understand. It’s been twenty years since its first publication, but its contents show how timeless this story is. There’s a scene in the story where War, Pollution, and Famine vanish into thin air, and when someone asks where they went, Death replies: “Where they belong. Where they have always been. In the minds of man.” Everything boils down to this: humans are lousy stewards of the earth, and if it is going to be destroyed, then we for sure acted as a catalyst for it.
Five stars for a rippingly humorous and surprisingly riveting read.
“What we missed, what we wanted to read, were stories that made us care, stories that forced us to turn the page. And yes, we wanted good writing (why be satisfied with less?). But we wanted more than that. We wanted to read stories that used lightning flash of magic as a way of showing us something we have already seen a thousand times as if we have never seen it before. Truly, we wanted it all.”
—Neil Gaiman (Just Four Words, introduction to Stories: All New Tales)
"I’m not blessed or merciful. I’m just me. I’ve got a job to do and I do it. Listen: even as we’re talking, I’m there for old and young, innocent and guilty, those who die together and those who die alone. I’m in cars and boats and planes, in hospitals and forests and abattoirs. For some folks death is a release and for others death is an abomination, a terrible thing. But in the end, I’m there for all of them."
-Death (The Sandman #20: Dream Country by Neil Gaiman)
Neil Gaiman and Audrey Niffenegger at the Edinburgh International Book Festival.