Neil Gaiman's Journal

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Art and Climate
I really ought to blog about making Good Omens (we're in week 4 of shooting) and making Anansi Boys (starts shooting next week), and about the astonishing Ocean at the End of the Lane play at the Duke of York's Theatre in London (and now that I've said this, I know I will) but yesterday I spoke (via Zoom, because of Covid Protocols) at COP26, the Conference of the Parties on Climate Action, and I thought I ought to just put what I said up here. So it doesn't get lost. Art is how we communicate. Art began when we left marks to say we were here. The oldest art we have is the 200,000 year old handprints of Neanderthal or Denisovan children, on the Tibetan Plateau, making marks with their hands because it was fun, because they could, and because it told the world they had been there.The human family tree has been around for millions of years, Homo Sapiens for a much shorter time. We are not a successful branch of the tree, because, unless we use our mighty brains to think our way out of this one, we don't have a very long time left. We need to use everything at our disposal to change the world, and show that we can compete with the ones who were here before us. And by compete I mean, not make the world uninhabitable by humans. The world will be fine, in the long run. There have been extinction events before us, and there will be extinction events after we’ve gone. When I was young I wrote a short comics story about the use of the planet Earth as a decorative ornament. It was about our tendency to destroy ourselves. Back then, I worried about nuclear war: one huge event that would end everything. Now I'm worried that we are messing things up a little at a time, until everything tips. We who explore futures need to build fictional futures that inspire and make us carry on. When I was a kid, it was going to the stars that was the dream. Now it has to be fixing the mess that we've left behind, and not just walking away, leaving the Earth a midden. We need to change the world back again. And that will take science, but it will also take art. To convince to inspire and to build a future.We need to reach people's hearts, not just their minds. Reach the part of their hearts that believes it's good to plant trees for our grandchildren to sit beneath. Reach hearts to make people want to change, and to react to people and organisations despoiling the planet and the climate in the same way you would react to someone trying to burn down your house, while you are living in it.So that 200,000 years from now, children can leave handprints in clay, to show us that they were here, and because making handprints and footprints is fun.

The Other Half of the Secret
I mentioned that making Good Omens two is half of what I've been working on, and will be working on for next eighteen months, and I said I'd tell you soon enough what the other secret project I've been working on is.It's this.And I cannot tell you how happy I am to be making it, and making it in the way that we're making it.Anansi Boys started in about 1996. I was working on the original Neverwhere TV series for Lenny Henry's film company, Crucial Films.I loved a lot of what we were doing in Neverwhere. 25 years ago, it felt like we were doing something ahead of its time. Lenny and I went for a walk. Lenny grumbled about horror films. “You'll never get people who look like me starring in horror films,” he said. “We're the hero's friend who dies third.”And I thought and blinked. He was right. “I'll write you a horror movie you could star in,” I told him.I plotted one. I tried writing the first half-dozen pages of the movie, but it didn't seem to be right as a movie. And I was beginning to suspect that the story I was imagining, about two brothers whose father had been a God, wasn't really horror, either.I borrowed Mr Nancy from the story I had not yet told and I put him, or a version of him, into AMERICAN GODS. In 2002 I was having lunch with my editor, and I told her the story of Anansi Boys, and said it was probably a novella. She waved her fork at me. “That is a novel,” she said, very certain. I was impressed enough with her certainty that I wrote the novel.The creation and publishing of the novel is documented here on this very blog. Here's a useful bit, explaining its relationship to American Gods, and also explaining what Anansi Boys is:https://journal.neilgaiman.com/2005/05/anansi-boys-question-of-day.asp(For those of you who don't want to click, I talked about describing it thus:My new novel is a scary, funny sort of story, which isn't exactly a thriller, and isn't really horror, and doesn't quite qualify as a ghost story (although it has at least one ghost in it), or a romantic comedy (although there are several romances in there, and it's certainly a comedy, except for the scary bits). If you have to classify it, it's probably a magical-horror-thriller-ghost-romantic-comedy-family-epic, although that leaves out the detective bits and much of the food. Which, oddly enough, is still a pretty good description.)The book came out and was my first New York Times Number One Bestseller. https://journal.neilgaiman.com/2005/09/theres-first-time-for-everything.html (This is the Ukranian cover.)A top Hollywood director wanted to buy the rights to Anansi Boys, but when he told me that he planned to make all the characters white, I declined to sell it. It was going to be done properly or not at all.And then, about ten years ago, two things happened at the same time. Hilary Bevan Jones, a producer who had made a short film I had directed (called Statuesque) mentioned she'd love to make Anansi Boys as a TV series, and a man named Richard Fee, who worked for a company called RED, spotted me eating noodles in a London noodle bar, waited outside so he didn't seem like a stalker, and told me how much he loved Anansi Boys and that he'd love to make it into television.I loved the TV that RED had made, loved Hilary and her team at Endor, and, unable to decide between them, suggested that they might be willing to work together. They both thought this was a good idea. Work started. Somewhere around 2016 I agreed to work on it to help it get made, but we all knew that we would have to be patient as I was writing and making Good Omens. And when Good Omens was in post production we began to move forward.  Amazon had loved making Good Omens, and were blown away by the viewing figures and reaction to it, and wanted to make more things with me, so Endor and Red now had a place to make it for. We put together a fabulous team of writers -- Kara Smith and Racheal Ofori and Arvind Ethan David, not to mention Sir Lenny Henry, who came on board both as a writer and as an Executive Producer to make sure that the soul stayed in it. (I'm writing the first and the last episode). Douglas Mackinnon agreed to co-showrun it with me, because I knew I never wanted to be the sole showrunner of anything again and after the Good Omens experience I would trust Douglas with my life and (which actually may be more important) with my stories. We planned to shoot it all around the world...Paul Frift had been the producer of Good Omens during the South African leg of the shoot, and was indomitable, so we were very happy when he agreed to come on board as our producer.And then in 2020 Covid happened. The Prime Directive of making Big Budget International television suddenly became “Don't Travel and Especially Don't Travel All Around The World. We Mean It.”Douglas came up with a Plan to bring Anansi Boys to the screen that was audacious, creative and brilliant. All we needed to make it work was the Biggest Studio in Europe and access to an awful lot of cutting edge technology. The biggest Studio in Europe happens to be in Leith, outside Edinburgh. Before Covid, the plan had been first to make Anansi Boys, then immediately to make Good Omens 2. (Good Omens 2 was going to be shot in Bathgate, outside Glasgow.) That was the plan we were working on through most of 2020. Then, in September 2020, Douglas and I got a call from Amazon. “We've got good news and complicated news for you,” they said. “The good news is we are greenlighting both Good Omens and Anansi Boys. The complicated news is... well, how do you feel about making them both at the same time?”So...Anansi Boys is coming.Hang on. I want to do that again in a bigger font.Anansi Boys is coming.I'd loved the pilot episode of Star Trek Picard, and talked to Michael Chabon about the director, Hanelle M. Culpepper, and he gave her a rave recommendation as someone who could tell a story and stay in control of the technology. We reached out to her, sent her the scripts and the novel, and she loved the project. Hanelle is going to be our lead director, and will direct two episodes.Hanelle, Sir Lenny Henry, Hilary Bevan Jones and Richard Fee are executive producers, as are Douglas and I.  Hanelle,  Jermain Julien and Azhur Saleem are our three directors.We will start to announce the cast soon (it's thrilling).  (The crew are, to me, just as thrilling.)(But I'll give you one clue: one of our cast members was on a public event with me at some point in the last five years. The first thing she said when we met backstage was that her favourite book was the audiobook of Anansi Boys, read by Lenny Henry. And when I told her that there was a part in the book I'd originally written with her in mind, she was overjoyed. So when it became a reality, she was the first person I asked, and the first to agree.)(The Anansi Boys image above is by Michael Ralph, our amazing production designer.)

Really bloody excellent omens...
Many, many years ago (it was Hallowe'en 1989, for the curious, the year before Good Omens was published) Terry Pratchett and I were sharing a room at the World Fantasy Convention in Seattle, to keep the costs down, because we were both young authors, and taking ourselves to America and conventions were expensive. It was a wonderful convention. I remember a huge Seattle second-hand bookstore in which I found a dozen or so green-bound Storisende Edition James Branch Cabell books, each signed so neatly by the author that the bookshop people assured me that the signatures were printed, and really ten dollars a book was the correct price. I could afford books. Good Omens had just been sold to UK publishers and then to US publishers for more money than Terry or I had ever received for anything. (Terry had been incredibly worried about this, certain that receiving a healthy advance would mean the end of his career. When his career didn't end, Terry suggested to his agent that perhaps he ought to be getting that kind of advance for every book from now on, and his life changed, and he stopped having to share a hotel room to save money. But I digress.) Advance reading copies of Good Omens had not yet gone out, but a few editors had read it (ones who had bid for it but failed to buy it) and they all seemed very excited about it, and thrilled for us.On the Saturday evening Terry left the bar quite early and headed off to bed. I stayed up talking to people and having a marvelous time, hung in there until the small hours of the morning when they closed the hotel bar and all the people went away, and then headed up to the hotel room room. I opened the door as quietly as I could and tiptoed in the dark across the room to where my bed was located.I'd just reached the bed when, from the far side of the room, a voice said, “What time of the night do you call this then? Your mother and I have been worried sick about you.”Terry was wide awake. Jet lag had taken its toll.And I was wide awake too. So we lay in our respective beds and having nothing else to do, we plotted the sequel to Good Omens. It was a good one, too. We fully intended to write it, whenever we next had three or four months free. Only I went to live in America and Terry stayed in the UK, and after Good Omens was published Sandman became SANDMAN and Discworld became DISCWORLD™ and there wasn't ever a good time.But we never forgot it.It's been thirty-one years since Good Omens was published, which means it's thirty-two years since Terry Pratchett and I lay in our respective beds in a Seattle hotel room at a World Fantasy Convention, and plotted the sequel. (I got to use bits of the sequel in the TV series version of Good Omens -- that's where our angels came from.)Terry and I, in Cardiff in 2010, on the night we decided that Good Omens should become a television series.Terry was clear on what he wanted from Good Omens on the telly. He wanted the story told, and if that worked, he wanted the rest of the story told.So in September 2017 I sat down in St James' Park, beside the director, Douglas Mackinnon, on a chair with my name on it, as Showrunner of Good Omens. The chair slowly and elegantly lowered itself to the ground underneath me and fell apart, and I thought, that's not really a good omen. Fortunately, under Douglas's leadership, that chair was the only thing that collapsed. The crumbled chair.So, once Good Omens the TV series had been released by Amazon and the BBC, to global acclaim, many awards and joy,  Rob Wilkins (Terry's representative on Earth) and I had the conversation with the BBC and Amazon about doing some more. And they got very excited. We talked to Michael Sheen and David Tennant about doing some more. They also got very excited. We told them a little about the plot. They got even more excited.Rob Wilkins and David Tennant on the second day of shooting.Me and Michael and Ash aged nearly 2.What it was mostly like shooting Good Omens: peering into screens while something happened round the corner.I'd been a fan of John Finnemore's for years, and had had the joy of working with him on a radio show called With Great Pleasure, where I picked passages I loved, had amazing readers read them aloud and talked about them.(Here's a clip from that show of me talking about working with Terry Pratchett, and reading a poem by Terry: https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/p06x3syv. Here's the whole show from YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j7OsS_JWbzQ with John Finnemore's bits too.)L to R: With Great Pleasure. John Finnemore, me all beardy, Nina Sosanya (Sister Mary in Good Omens) Peter Capaldi (he played Islington in the original BBC series of Neverwhere).I asked John if he'd be willing to work with me on writing the next round of Good Omens, and was overjoyed when he said yes. We have some surprise guest collaborators too. And Douglas Mackinnon is returning to oversee the whole thing with me.So that's the plan. We've been keeping it secret for a long time (mostly because otherwise my mail and Twitter feeds would have turned into gushing torrents of What Can You Tell Us About It? long ago) but we are now at the point where sets are being built in Scotland (which is where we're shooting, and more about filming things in Scotland soon), and we can't really keep it secret any longer.There are so many questions people have asked about what happened next (and also, what happened before) to our favourite Angel and Demon. Here are, perhaps, some of the answers you've been hoping for. As Good Omens continues, we will be back in Soho, and all through time and space, solving a mystery which starts with one of the angels wandering through a Soho street market with no memory of who they might be, on their way to Aziraphale's bookshop. (Although our story actually begins about five minutes before anyone had got around to saying “Let there be Light”.)

Excellent Portents
 I'm still in New Zealand, and life is weird but good. Amanda and I are raising our small boy, and I love being swept along in his enthusiasms. Zombies was mostly replaced by Star Wars while I was away. Since I've been back, Star Wars has mostly been replaced by Tintin and Dinosaurs and Sea Monsters, and Tintin and Dinosaurs and Sea Monsters appear to be slowly transmuting into Greek Mythology and Asterix and Obelix. This morning he ate breakfast in character as Obelix, complaining about the lack of Roast Boar, and then lecturing me on all the Greek Heroes who battled monsters (his list consisted of Theseus, Perseus and Herakles. He got very excited when I told him about Odysseus.)Hair prior to recent haircut. I look like a bush.Hair after haircut. I look less like a bush. Ash and I are poring over The Seven Crystal Balls. Photo by AmandaI've done one public event since I've been here -- the Auckland Writers Festival. Here's the video of the first event, in which Lucy Lawless interviewed me and Amanda.I did another talk -- just me -- and a six hour long signing the following day. It was wonderful to meet the people, but I'm definitely out of practice at doing marathon signings. I kept thinking about the nine months I spent on Skye, during which time I probably interacted with a dozen people who were there, and that includes trips to the little shop in Uig and socially distanced walks with archaeologists on the hills. New Zealand has definitely done right by its people, and that just makes the losses around the world even harder.Amanda's already vaccinated. I'm due to get vaccinated in a couple of weeks.The Netflix Sandman is taking up a lot of my time right now.  (Today I received a first cut of episode 9, and a finished-except for music and VFX cut of episode 4 to watch.)Here's the Sandman First Look Behind the Scenes release from Netflix. (I saw an earlier version of this in which I could be seen marvelling at a copy of The Sun newspaper with the headline TUG OF LOVE BABY EATEN BY COWS, because the determination of the team to make it Sandman is astonishing -- to the point where I sent an email to Allan Heinberg, showrunning, last week, while I was watching the Dailies, and I told him of an error I'd spotted. He pointed out right back that the error was in the panel in Sandman 10 they'd used as their reference. I told them not to fix it. That kind of fidelity can only be applauded.)And in the meantime, all of the writing time, and a lot of the meeting time (because the people I am meeting are in countries on the other side of the world it's either early in my morning or very late at night), has been taken up by two other projects I haven't talked about yet, although they've been 90% of what I've been doing for the last 18 months. But let's leave them for the next blog entry. It'll give me an incentive to write one.

Reunited (and it feels so good)
 It took a lot of work, but I'm happy to say that, after 9 months of missing each other, Ash and I are reunited. Lots of happy tears. I'm humbled and grateful to be here.  Photo by Amanda Palmer

A New Year's Thoughts, and the old ones gathered.
It's 2021 in some places already, creeping around the planet. Pretty soon it will have reached Hawaii, and it'll be 2021 everywhere, and 2020 will be done.Well, that was a year. Kind of a year, anyway.When my Cousin Helen and her two sisters reached a displaced persons camp at the end of WW2, having survived the Holocaust by luck and bravery and the skin of their teeth, they had no documents, and the people who gave them their papers suggested to them that they put down their ages as five years younger than they were, because the Nazis had stolen five years from them, and this was their only chance to take it back. They didn't count the war years as part of their life.I could almost do that with 2020. Just not count it as one of the years of my life. But I'd hate to throw the magic out with the bathwater: there were good things, some of them amazing, in with the awful.The hardest moments, in retrospect, were the deaths, of friends or of family, because they simply happened. I'd hear about them, by text or by phone, and then they'd be in the past. Funerals I would have flown a long way to be at didn't happen and nobody went anywhere: the goodbyes and the mutual support,  the hugs and the tears and the trading stories about the deceased, none of that occurred.The hardest moments personally were walking further into the darkness than I'd ever walked before, and knowing that I was alone, and that I had no option but to get through it all, a day at a time, or an hour at a time, or a minute at a time.The best moments were moments of friendship, most of them from very far away, and a slow appreciation of land and sky and space and time. In February 2020 I'd been regretting that I knew where I would be and what I would be doing every day for the next three years. Now I'd been forced to embrace chaos and unpredictability, while at the same time, learning to appreciate the slow day to day transition that happens when you stay in the same place as the seasons change. I was seeing a different sunset every night.  I hadn't managed to be in the same place, or even the same country, for nine months since... well, probably when I was writing American Gods in 2000. And now I was, most definitely, in one place.I had conversations with people I treasure. Some of them were over Zoom and were recorded. Here are the two conversations that I felt I learned the most from, and I put them up here because they may also teach you something or give you comfort. The first is a conversation with Nuclear Physicist and author Carlo Rovelli, moderated by Erica Wagner, about art and science, literature and life and death:The second was organised by the University of Kent. It's called Contemporary Portraiture and the Medieval Imagination: An Artist in Conversation with Her Sitters, and it's about art, I think, but it's a conversation between former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams and artist Lorna May Wadsworth and me, moderated by Dr Emily Guerry, that goes to so many places. I think it's a conversation about portraits, but it feels like it addresses so much along the way. Each of the conversations is about an hour long, and, as I say, I learned so much from both of them.At the end of April, on Skye, I had ordered a telescope, and then discovered that "astronomical twilight" -- when it's dark enough to see stars -- wasn't due until the end of July. The sun didn't set until ten or ten thirty.  And even once the sun had set, it didn't get dark. It would be late August before I saw a sky filled with stars.My daughter Maddy came to stay with me for November, and was amused by my reaction to the things that now fascinated me: stones, especially ones that people had moved hundred or thousands of years ago, skies and clouds, and, finally in the long, cold Skye Winter nights, I had the stars I had missed in the summer. There's no streetlights where I live, no lights for many miles. It can get as dark in the winter as it was light all night in the summer. But then you look up...(All these photos were taken on a Pixel 5 phone in Astrophotography mode. It knew what it was doing.)I wouldn't want to give back the stars, or the sunsets, or the stones, in order not to count 2020 as a real year. I wouldn't give back the deaths, either: each life was precious, and every friend or family member lost diminishes us all. But each of the deaths made me realise how much I cared for someone, how interconnected our lives are. Each of the deaths made me grieve, and I knew that I was joined in my grieving by so many other humans, people I knew and people I didn't, who had lost someone they cared about. I'd swap out the walk into the dark, but then, there's nobody in 2020 who hasn't been hurt by something in it. Our stories may be unique to us, but none of us is unique in our misery or our pain. If there was a lesson that I took from 2020, it's that this whole thing -- civilisation, people, the world -- is even more fragile than I had dreamed. And that each of us is going to get through it by being part of something bigger than we are. We're part of humanity. We've been around for a few million years -- our particular species has been here for at least two hundred thousand years. We're really smart, and capable of getting ourselves out of trouble. And we're really thoughtless and able to get ourselves into trouble that we may not be able to get ourselves out of. We can tease out patterns from huge complicated pictures, and we can imagine patterns where there is only randomness and accident.And here, let's gather together all the New Year's Messages I've ever written on this site:This is from 2014:Fifteen Years ago, I wrote: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.And almost a decade ago I said,...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.Half a decade ago, I wrote: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....From 2018: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.Last year, sick and alone on a New Year's Eve in Melbourne, I wrote:I hope in the year to come you won't burn. And I hope you won't freeze. I hope you and your family will be safe, and walk freely in the world and that the place you live, if you have one, will  be there when you get back. I hope that, for all of us, in the year ahead, kindness will prevail and that gentleness and humanity and forgiveness will be there for us if and when we need them.And may your New Year be happy, and may you be happy in it.I hope you make something in the year to come you've always dreamed of making, and didn't know if you could or not. But I bet you can. And I'm sure you will....For this year... I hope we all get to walk freely in the world once more. To see our loved ones, and hold them once again.I hope the year ahead is kind to us, and that we will be kind to each other, even if the year isn't. Small acts of generosity, of speech, of reaching out, can mean more to those receiving them than the people doing them can ever know. Do what you can. Receive the kindnesses of others with grace.Hold on. Hang on, by the skin of your teeth if you have to. Make art -- or whatever you make -- if you can make it. But if all you can manage is to get out of bed in the morning, then do that and be proud of what you've managed, not frustrated by what you haven't.Remember, you aren't alone, no matter how much it feels like it some times.And never forget that, sometimes, it's only when it gets really dark that we can see the stars.  

Two New Books and a tawny owl in a pear tree
 It's a beautiful day in mid-Autumn on Skye and I'm not sure where the year went. This house came with an enormous walled meadow, which my neighbours use to keep their sheep in, and an ancient orchard. About seven years ago the orchard was flooded, and we lost all the redcurrants and gooseberries and rhubarb and such, but most of the trees survived, and there are apples and plums and pears still growing on them.I'm very aware that on Skye, beautiful weather can be replaced by weeks of rain and gale-force winds, so I went down to the orchard and clambered up a ladder, and picked all the pears I could reach, disturbing a tawny owl, who flapped off somewhere it wouldn't bothered by people randomly climbing its trees.And now I'm sitting and writing this outside. It's too chilly really to write outside, but it's possible, and it won't be possible soon, and that means a lot.There are two new books out -- one came out last week, one comes out this week.PIRATE STEW was published first, illustrated by the genius Chris Riddell. Here's me reading the opening and talking about how the book came into existence...It's only published in the UK and UK-related territories (like Australia and New Zealand) right now. (It comes out in the US in December. This is, oddly enough, because of Covid.)This is Amanda with Pirate Ash (she read Pirate Stew to his school for today's Dress Like a Pirate Day). After many months of trying to be able to return, it's looking like I'm going to be able to get back to New Zealand to be with them. If it happens, it's still many weeks away. Fingers and everything crossed.And the other book (to published on Tuesday) is:This. And thisThe UK edition is the blue one, the US is the grey one. Both are beautiful books, and otherwise the same.The nights are getting longer, here on Skye, and the sun sets noticeably earlier, week to week. I've been here since April, and things are finally looking hopeful for getting back to my family (Amanda and Ash are still in New Zealand. I wasn't able to get back to them, as only New Zealanders are allowed in. That's loosening up, and the New Zealand Immigration authorities are starting to permit families to reunite.)It was a friend's birthday the other day, and I asked what they wanted, and was told, a voice message about "Something that makes you feel better when you're down".And after I sent it I thought, well, there are a lot of us who need cheering up right now, so, with their permission, I'm putting it up here too. This may work, although I'm still blogging with Blogger, which these days is a lot like blogging with a charred stick and a hank of bearskin, for all the functionality it gives one, so it may not.(Lots of behind the scenes jiggery-pokery happens that only sort-of works. Eventually I give up and go over to Soundcloud files, and attempt to embed them.)(These are audio files.  Play them both, one after the other, and perhaps they'll cheer you up too...)   This was the first that I recorded... Neil Gaiman · WhatsApp Audio 2020 - 10 - 18 At 11.17.49 PM And when I'd recorded that, I went outside and recorded this: Neil Gaiman · Untitled 9

Susan Ellison - RIP and love
I met Harlan Ellison the day before his wife, Susan, met him, in 1985, in Glasgow. I interviewed him.  I didn't get to meet Susan until 1989, when I went to see Harlan in LA. She and I became friends incredibly fast. She was the most direct person I knew. Our first actual conversation, while Harlan was answering a phone, began with her saying, "So. I know you're a writer. I don't know anything else about you. Gay or straight? Married or unmarried? Children or no children? Who are you?" and so I told her everything I could think of, and I kept answering her questions for the next 31 years.We were the same age. We did the thing of being two English People In America together. She would Big Sister me whenever I would go over there, and was one of the few people I'd allow to boss me around for my own good, mostly because I had no other choice.And now Susan's dead. I'm not processing that properly. I'm writing this blog to try and get my head around it, because I don't believe it. I just opened my email, and read her email from a week ago.  It's variations on a theme: how are you? How can I help? Anything you need, I will help.In 2016 I went to see Harlan and Susan. He was at his lowest ebb after the stroke. I gave him a photo of my new son Ash, and he just stared at it for half an hour. Patton Oswalt came by to see how Harlan was doing. Harlan began an anecdote about the Marx Brothers but got confused and couldn't finish it.  I'd never seen him like that.This is the photo of me and Susan taken immediately after that. She is indomitably holding it together, and I'm so sad.We last spoke a month ago. She was worried about me, and I told her I would make it through it all just fine and promised her that when the world was less crazy, and travel was a thing again, I'd come to Sherman Oaks and we'd finally have the dinner we had promised each other that we would have ever since Harlan died, and we'd talk about Harlan and life and we'd set the world to rights.I'm still in shock. This is the announcement from the Harlan Ellison Books website, with the story Harlan wrote for her. It's a beautiful story. Go and read it.https://www.harlanellisonbooks.com/susan-ellison-1960-2020/I didn't reply to her very last email, which wasn't the  "The message is ANYTHING YOU NEED I WILL HELP. " one.  I replied to that.  But her last email of all.It said,Fair sized earthquake (I thought) this morning.  4.2., but everyone breezed about it.  I'm in the middle of Coy Drive shouting ARMAGEDDON.  30 seconds later...perhaps not.  It was an 8 toy event.  This is how I measure, the relationship of the shaking to how many toys fall over.  Everyone else on the block slept through it.  Yours in cowardly fear.--Susan  Which made me smile when I got it, and makes me smile now, because Susan was braver than lions.  She made it through so much....(Cat Mihos took the photo above, and also told me that Susan was gone. Cat runs my film and TV world, the Blank Corporation, but for the last four or five years she also had an extra job, which was to go and see Susan, and take her out for food if she'd go, because I wasn't there. It was an actual job only because it was something she would have done anyway, and that way I hoped they were letting me pay for the lunches. Thank you, Cat.)

Remembering Earl Cameron (1917-2020)
I'm taking a Social Media Holiday right now. It seems to be helping. But I couldn't let this pass...In 1996 we filmed the original Neverwhere television series (which I wrote for Lenny Henry's company Crucial Films who made it for the BBC). One of the most inspiring moments for me was when Earl Cameron came in and auditioned to play the Abbot of the Black Friars. He was a legend back then, 25 years ago. Watching him audition at an age when most people were already long into retirement was an honour and a treat. He got the part, not because he was a legend, not because he was an icon, but because he was so good, and his interpretation of the character became, for me, definitive. It was the one I put into the novel.Earl had been a trailblazer as a performer on film and on television in the 1950s and 1960s. He had come to the UK from Bermuda during the Second World War, as a sailor, and had stayed, and become an actor. He was one of the first UK actors to "break the colour bar", one of the first black actors in Doctor Who, a mainstay of cinema and television, always acting with grace and moral authority. Now we were fortunate enough to have him and his compassion and his gentle humour, acting away in monkish robes in muddy cellars, chilly vaults, and deserted churches, all over London.In 2017, BBC Radio 4 (in the shape of Dirk Maggs and Heather Larmour) did a glorious audio adaptation of Anansi Boys, and it did my heart so much good to see Earl Cameron over 20 years on, and to catch up and to reminisce about the Neverwhere cold and the mud. He played a dragon in Anansi Boys. He was 100 years old then. (That's us, in the studio hallway, in the photo above. It was taken by Dirk.)He died, yesterday, aged 102, nearly 103. The world is a lesser place without him in it. 

Sandman Audio Day
Today is the day that the first adaptation of Sandman is released. It's the first three graphic novels, PRELUDES AND NOCTURNES, THE DOLL'S HOUSE and DREAM COUNTRY, released, as  full-cast audio drama, on Audible. The adaptation was written and directed by audio genius Dirk Maggs, and only it's taken 28 years to happen -- since Dirk first pitched Sandman to BBC Radio 4 in 1992. (They said no.)For years, blind and partially sighted people, or people who for whatever reason couldn't read comics but wanted to still get access to the stories, have asked me if there would ever be an audiobook of the Sandman books. It took a long time, but this is the closest we could come to giving the world the original graphic novels, bumps and all. You don't have the art, alas, but I hope that the performances and the music give you something that translates it to another place.It should be out now on all the English-language versions of Audible. There should be versions in other languages coming relatively soon.(It will be out in a few months on CD -- https://www.brilliancepublishing.com/title/50614/alt  -- and I like that they begin their entry: This content is not for kids. It is for mature audiences only. Just like the original graphic novels, this audio adaptation contains explicit language and graphic violence, as well as strong sexual content and themes. Discretion is advised.) Sandman was always "For Mature Readers" and this is no different.Here's an interview with me (and an extract from "The Sound of Her Wings") at the EW site: https://ew.com/books/neil-gaiman-sandman-audible-adaptation-netflix-show/So many talented actors and voices are involved. I'm the narrator -- often reading descriptions of places or characters I wrote in the original scripts long ago for artists to draw, which Dirk has cunningly snuck into the script.There are hundreds of characters in these eleven hours, brought to you by 68 actors (well, 67 actors and me):

Sandman Audio Adaptation
In 9 days, on the 15th of July, Audible will release the first of the SANDMAN audio adaptations. These are, well, full cast audiobooks of the first three SANDMAN graphic novels: Dirk Maggs gave me the role of the narrator, and I gave him the original scripts, so often what I'm saying as narrator is what I asked the artists to draw, over thirty years ago.These are very straightforward adaptations. For the upcoming Netflix TV series, we're starting from now, and doing it as if it was being written, for the first time, in 2020. The audio adaptations are much closer to the original graphic novels, each episode being a comic in the original. Eleven hours of drama. The cast is amazing. The production and the music are glorious. I'm not sure about the narrator, but everything else is sparkling and exciting. I hope you all enjoy it...For people who need it in a more tangible form, it will also be for sale as CDs.Click on this, and you will hear James McAvoy as Morpheus...

An Acceptance, in rough times
Last night, starting at at 1:00 in the morning, my time, was the Nebula Awards ceremony, held by the SFWA, the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. The first award they gave out was the Ray Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation, and it meant the world that it went to episode 3 of Good Omens, "Hard Times".Exactly one year ago, Good Omens was released to the world, on Amazon's Prime Video service. Thirty years ago this month, Good Omens was published as a novel. It seems amazing that it still has so much life, and still feels so relevant to people's own lives. Especially now.Here's the complete list of all the nominees and of the awards given out at the Nebulas last night. Congratulations to everyone nominated!The entire proceedings existed in virtual space, via the magic of Zoom and other technological things.This is what it looked like on my screen, just before we went live...Here is the speech I gave. I wore a hat, because, even though Terry Pratchett loved pointing out that he was a hat person and I wasn't, not really, I thought it would have amused him.I didn't intend to write the television adaptation of Good Omens. I did it because as he knew his own immeasurable light was dimming, Terry Pratchett wrote to me, telling me I had to do it. That no-one else had the passion for the “old girl” that the two of us had. And I was the one of us who had to make it happen, so he could see it before the lights went out.I'm used to dealing with the problems of fictional people.  Now I found myself dealing with much harder problems, of real people and immutable budgets.  But I was even more determined to make something Terry would have been proud of. And I was part of an amazing team – Douglas Mackinnon, our director, Rob Wilkins, Chris Sussman and Simon Winstone and the folk from BBC Studios, the Amazon Studios team, and above us all the cast and the crew, who united and went over and above what anyone asked of them to tell, together, a kind of love story about protecting the world, about an angel who isn't as angelic as he ought to be, and a demon who likes people. And for them, I want to thank Michael Sheen and David Tennant.Terry and I had written a book about averting the end of the world, about the power of not going to war, about an armageddon that didn't have to happen.When I was a boy, I was told that there was a curse, “May you live in interesting times”. And that made me sad, because I wanted to live in interesting times. I thought I did.And now, we are all of us living in Interesting Times. The Horsepeople are riding out, as they have ridden so many times before, and the world still needs saving – from plague, from racism, from foolishness and selfishness and pain. It says in Good Omens that we have to save ourselves, because nobody else is going to sort it out for us. And we do. It feels almost indecent to be accepting an award while so many people are hurting, but thank you, from me and from Douglas, who took the words and made them so brilliantly come to life. This is for Terry Pratchett.You can watch the whole ceremony at: https://www.facebook.com/SFWA.org/videos/996082517476423/or at this YouTube link:  (The Good Omens bit starts around 22:30)

An extremely apologetic post
So. I did something stupid. I'm really sorry. The last blog I wrote, about how I had been here for almost three weeks, turned into news - and not in a good way. Man Flies 12000 Miles to Defy Lockdown sort of news. And I've managed to mess things up in Skye, which is the place I love most in the world.So, to answer the questions I'm being asked most often right now:What were you thinking? Why come back to the UK?Because like so many other people, my homelife and work had been turned upside-down by the COVID-19 lockdowns. I was panicked, more than a little overwhelmed and stuck in New Zealand. I went to the UK government website (https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice), trying to figure out what to do, and read:I've been living in the UK since 2017, and all of my upcoming work is here - so 'you are strongly advised to return now' looked like the most important message. I waited until New Zealand was done with its strict lockdown, and took the first flight out. (And yes, the flights and airports were socially distanced, and, for the most part, deserted.)Why go to Skye? Why not go somewhere else?When I landed the whole of the UK was under lockdown rules.  I drove directly to my home in the UK, which is on Skye. I came straight here, and I've been in isolation here ever since.What were you THINKING?I wasn't, not clearly. I just wanted to go home.Would you leave New Zealand again, knowing what you know now?I got to chat to some local police officers yesterday, who said all things considered I should have stayed where I was safe in New Zealand, and I agreed that yes, all things considered, I should. Mostly they wanted to be sure I was all right, and had been isolating, and that I would keep isolating here until the lockdown ends, and to make sure I knew the rules. Like all the locals who have reached out to me, they've been astonishingly kind.Since I got here Skye has had its own tragic COVID outbreak – ten deaths in a local care home. It's not set up to handle things like this, and all the local resources are needed to look after the local community. So, yes. I made a mistake. Don't do what I did. Don't come to the Highlands and Islands unless you have to.I want to apologize to everyone on the island for creating such a fuss. I also want to thank and apologise to the local police, who had better things to do than check up on me. I'm sure I've done sillier things in my life, but this is the most foolish thing I've done in quite a while.

Where I am, what I'm doing, how I'm doing and how I got here
Hullo from Scotland, where I am in rural lockdown on my own.  I'm half a world away from Amanda and Ash, and missing both of them a lot. We check in on screens and phones twice a day, when I get up and before I sleep (which is when they go to sleep and when they get up) but it's not the same.I was in New Zealand with them until two weeks ago, when New Zealand went from the Level 4 lockdown it had been on for the previous 5 weeks down to Level 3. I flew, masked and gloved, from empty Auckland airport to LAX, an empty international terminal with only one check in counter open -- the one for the BA flight from LAX to London. Both flights were surreal, especially the flight to London. Empty airports, mostly empty planes. It reminded me of flying a week after 9/11: everything's changed.I landed in London about ten in the morning, got a masked car service to a friend's house. He had a spare car (bought many years ago as a birthday present for his daughter, but she had never learned to drive), with some groceries for me in a box in the back, waiting in the drive, with the key in the lock. I drove north, on empty motorways and then on empty roads, and got in about midnight, and I've been here ever since.The journey was, as I said,  surreal. It was also emotionally hard. Amanda and I had found ourselves in a rough place immediately before I left (my fault, I'm afraid, I'd hurt her feelings very badly, and... actually beyond that it's none of anyone else's business). We agreed that we needed to give each other some space, which had been in very short supply in lockdown in New Zealand. So it was a sad sort of flight, even without the world in lockdown, and a sad sort of drive.(You can read all about how we got to New Zealand and why we were there at all at  http://journal.neilgaiman.com/2020/03/on-beach.html. And, for the curious, the song that's currently stuck in my head is mostly Al Stewart's “Warren Gamaliel Harding”.) I needed to be somewhere I could talk to people in the UK while they and I were awake, not just before breakfast and after dinner. And I needed to be somewhere I could continue to isolate easily, which definitely isn't our house in Woodstock, currently at capacity with five families who have fled Manhattan and Brooklyn and Boston. Once the world opens up and travel gets easier Amanda and Ash and I are looking forward to being together again in Woodstock. (Yes, I've seen the newsfeed headlines saying I've moved to the UK, and even that we're divorcing. No, I haven't moved the UK, and yes, Amanda and I are still very much together, even with half a world between us.) Thank you to everyone who's been kind and nice and helpful, while Amanda and my problems got rather more public than either of us is comfortable with. We love each other, and we love Ash, and we will sort ourselves out, in private, which is much the best place for things like this.It's rough for almost everyone right now – some people are crammed together and wish they weren't, some are alone and crave companionship, pretty much all of us are hurting in one way or another. So be kind. Be kind to each other, be kind to Amanda (who is getting a huge amount of undeserved internet flack for this, some of it really cruel),  and if you ever meet him (he will tell you very seriously everything he thinks about zombies, or his latest zombie-supplanting discovery, Richard Scarry's detectives), be kind to Ash.NeilPS: Amanda and I wrote a letter together, for the curious and for the bits of the world that is wondering what's going on, and whether they should worry about it. Feel free to send anyone who wants to know how we are and what's happening to read it.Dear Everybody.This has been a hard few weeks for us.  We are not getting divorced. It’s not that exciting.We love each other very deeply. As sometimes happens during the course of a long marriage, we have hurt each other. We have lived our lives individually, and then as a couple, very publicly (and right now, too publicly).  We have been trying to figure out how best to love each other for twelve years.  It is fair to say that this relationship has been the hardest, but also the most rewarding, collaboration of our lives. Living in lockdown is hard. Working on a marriage, as everyone married knows, is also hard. And we are very aware there are thousands, probably millions of people who have been dealing with their own versions of problems like ours over the last few months – and many face situations that are far worse.We will sort out our marriage in private, which is where things like this are best sorted. We're working together to try and do this better. We care about  each other so much, and we have a small boy we love and delight in, and those are reasons enough to work together to fix things. So that's what's going on. It's not as much fun or as interesting as the newsfeed headlines made it seem.For anyone who felt the urge to choose sides on this, trust us, there really aren't any sides to be  taken: we are on our side, and we're on Ash's side, and we hope you are too.None of us know what the future is going to look and feel like, right now, and that's scary. We need to be able to have each other’s backs.  So please, if you can, have our backs, and we will do our best to have yours. And to the vast majority of people out there who have been kind and sane and supportive to both of us, and to each other,  thank you, we love you and appreciate it, and you, so very much.Peace, and definitely love,Neil and Amanda

A Quick Useful Blog about the Sandman Audio Project
Today, the news releases went out and now the world knows that James McAvoy is starring as Morpheus in the Audible.com adaptation of the first three volumes of Sandman, Preludes & Nocturnes, The Doll's House and Dream Country. And the rest of the cast is just as impressive. Look:That's 68 remarkable actors, playing a lot more than 68 parts. And I'm narrating it...It will be released on the 15th of July 2020.The US preorder page (with a lot more information on it)  is at https://www.audible.com/pd/The-Sandman-Audiobook/B086WP794ZThe UK page is at https://www.audible.co.uk/pd/The-Sandman-Audiobook/B086WQCVVGThe Canadian page is at https://www.audible.ca/pd/The-Sandman-Audiobook/B086WP9GS1I've listened to the final mixes of about ten out of the twenty parts so far, and they are glorious and magical things. Dirk Maggs and I first approached the BBC about doing an audio adaptation of Sandman in 1992. They said no. I'm so glad they did, because if they had said yes we wouldn't have this...


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