Category Archives: Neil Gaiman

The- Most-Famous-Author-Noone-Has-Ever-Heard-Of

Late last year, we found out that one of our favourite authors, and possibly The-
Most-Famous-Author-Noone-Has-Ever-Heard-Of, Neil Gaiman, was coming to little old Wellington to do some readings. Not knowing what a reading even consists of, but knowing from his blog that they are very popular and almost always sell out, I snapped up some tickets.

On Saturday, we finally went to the reading, part of the International Arts Festival, at Wellington’s Town Hall. We were surprised by the diversity of the audience – I was expecting goths, emo-kids and lots of young women who own cats. Not sure why he appeals to cat-women, but they seem to like him (as do white Alsation fans and beekeepers). But there were people from all walks of life, young, old and many like us – slightly geeky but not obviously so (I hope)!

For future reference, Writer Readings consist of some important person from the arts festival/world interviewing said-Writer, then Writer reading a passage from their body of work (often something requested at their fiancee’s concert by a random fan the night before). So they might read something old, something new, something borrowed- wait no, that’s a different kind of event. In this case, Gaiman did read something old, followed by two new pieces. One for the first time, the other something about to be published. Both were good short stories, very typical of his Edwardian-tribute-style shorts. The audience was pleased.

So, it turns out that an author reading also seems to be a place where aspiring authors gather to interrogate their hero about how to write. Neil Gaiman’s answer, although seemingly obvious, was something many of them needed to hear: You just write.
The best, least pretentious, question from the audience though, came from a young lad who asked what Gaiman’s favourite mythological creature was. The Basilisk, it turns out.

Finally Gaiman, wrapped up with one of my favourite passages from American Gods, and a firm-fan-favourite (buy it here, printed on a tshirt). It does need an intro, but I’ll forfeit the intro, and suggest instead, you read the entire book.

The other readings were (from memory – the last two aren’t published so I can’t check titles):
1. Locks (from collection ‘Fragile Things’)
2. My Last Landlady (for a collection of ‘dark’ English seaside stories – recent)
3. Saint Oran & Saint Columba (not sure of actual title – it’s brand spanking new)

And here is, from American Gods, the ‘I Believe’ passage:

I can believe things that are true and I can believe things that aren’t true and I can believe things where nobody knows if they’re true or not. I can believe in Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny and Marilyn Monroe and the Beatles and Elvis and Mister Ed. Listen–I believe that people are perfectible, that knowledge is infinite, that the world is run by secret banking cartels and is visited by aliens on a regular basis, nice ones who look like wrinkledy lemurs and bad ones who mutilate cattle and want our water and our women. I believe that the future sucks and I believe that the future rocks and I believe that one day White Buffalo Woman is going to come back and kick everyone’s ass. I believe that all men are just overgrown boys with deep problems communicating and that the decline of good sex in America is coincident with the decline in drive-in movie theaters from state to state. I believe that all politicians are unprincipled crooks and I still believe that they are better than the alternative. I believe that California is going to sink into the sea when the big one comes, while Florida is going to dissolve into madness and alligators and toxic waste. I believe that antibacterial soap is destroying our resistance to dirt and disease so that one day we’ll all be wiped out by the common cold like the Martians in War of The Worlds. I believe that the greatest poets of the last century were Edith Sitwell and Don Marquis, that jade is dried dragon sperm, and that thousands of years ago in a former life I was a one-armed Siberian shaman. I believe that mankind’s destiny lies in the stars. I believe that candy really did taste better when I was a kid, that it’s aerodynamically impossible for a bumblebee to fly, that light is a wave and a particle, that there’s a cat in a box somewhere who’s alive and dead at the same time (although if they don’t ever open the box to feed it it’ll eventually just be two different kinds of dead), and that there are stars in the universe billions of years older than the universe itself. I believe in a personal god who cares about me and worries and oversees everything I do. I believe in an impersonal god who set the universe in motion and went off to hang with her girlfriends and doesn’t even know that I’m alive. I believe in an empty and godless universe of causal chaos, background noise, and sheer blind luck. I believe that anyone who says that sex is overrated just hasn’t done it properly. I believe that anyone who claims to know what’s going on will lie about the little things too. I believe in absolute honesty and sensible social lies too. I believe in a woman’s right to choose, a baby’s right to live, that while all human life is sacred there’s nothing wrong with the death penalty if you can trust the legal system implicitly, and that no one but a moron would ever trust the legal system. I believe that life is a game, that life is a cruel joke, and that life is what happens when you’re alive and that you might as well lie back and enjoy it.

Coraline – Hilleke’s humble opinion

Loved the book, liked the film.Mike and I were lucky enough to get tickets to a special preview screening of Coraline in 3D last Wednesday followed by a Q&A with director/script writer Henry Selick and author Neil Gaiman.

I put them in that order because I believe Coraline is really Henry Selick’s film. He has missed out on credit for some of his best creations (Nightmare before Christmas being the most notable one) and Neil Gaiman has made a conscious effort in all publicity relating to Coraline (the film) to fully credit Henry Selick for it’s creation, (to the point where a poorly researched review received the full might of the twitter-verse‘s mockery – and has since disappeared from the world wide web). And rightly so. The film took roughly 4 years to get to the screen and was painstakingly created by hand… every little detail.
Henry Selick explained that while they did use some CG to paint out wires etc. the vast majority of the film was made by hand (Official Coraline website really is worth seeing). I mention this because I have huge admiration for anyone with the patience required to work in stop-motion. I for one do not. But it is an art and Henry Selick is a genius at it. When watching the film it is impossible to see any seams, thumbprints or jerkiness. And all this in 3D. Coraline truly is a beautiful film.
But I haven’t yet mentioned the story. I’m going to cheat and paste an image from the website for the summary. They write it better than I can.
And now comes the crunch point. Did the film live up to the book? I loved the book. Yes, it is written for children and reads very much like a children’s novel. Much more so than the Harry Potter’s and Golden Compasses’ of children’s literature. It is a very simple and fairly short story. A there and back again adventure, if you will. And yes, it is quite scary. But Coraline has quite a bit of spunk (to use a word that suits her – not one I’d normally use) and you have faith in her even when she has no faith in herself.
So she gets bored of her parents, runs into the ‘other parents’ who on the surface seem much more fun and interesting, AND more importantly, attentive. But she remains suspicious and returns to her own world – remember this is in the book. In the film she succumbs to their charms more easily, a change possibly devised to keep the pace up, as it sadly lagging in the first 30 minutes. After the initial set up both book and film continue along the same lines, except for the addition in the film of the character, Wybie, a boy-next-door who accompanies/stalks Coraline and gives her someone to talk to. Wybie works great in the film, and this shows Henry Selicks genius in adapting the novel for the screen. Looking back, I don’t know how it would’ve worked without Wybie (short for Wybourne, or as Coraline calls him ‘Why-were-you-born’).
And the film does work. And I liked it. I really really wanted to like it, and I did. The 3D worked well and wasn’t over-used or gimmicky, the stop-motion animation was absolutely stunning and the details amazing, the story also worked well – the pace picked up after the first 30 minutes and continued along nicely, although I still think they could have tightened it just a fraction.
The pacing was clearly also an issue for Henry Selick. When asked what part of the novel he couldn’t include and regretted most, he mentioned a scene where Coraline recalls an incident with her father and a wasps nest. They had stumbled upon a wasps nest and the angered wasps were about to start chasing after Coraline and her father. Realising they couldn’t both get away unstung, her father told Coraline to run, remaining in the thick of the wasps to get stung himself so that she could get away. This touching little story really helps you to understand Coraline’s loyalty to her own parents, even though they are boring and busy, deep down she knows they love her in a way that the ‘other parents’ never will. It’s a key bit of motivation and story-telling which the film lacks.
And after this was pointed out to me, I realised that despite how beautiful the film was, I’ll always prefer the book.
My many rating systems:
If I rated films with little *’s: **** out of 5
Will I watch it again/buy it? Absolutely, and can’t wait til my niece is old enough to see it (She’s only 1 now, so it’s a wee wait!)
Watch this if you like: Good solid scary/fantasy kids films, like Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (the child catcher) and creepy Gene Wilder in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.
Just a little add-on: (found this on Neil Gaiman’s blog, quoting a Time Out New York review, quoting Neil Gaiman’s Coraline. Seems quite necessary to add it.)

In Coraline’s epigraph, Gaiman quotes G.K. Chesterton on why we believe in fairy tales: “Not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us dragons can be beaten.”

Dave McKean interview

Favourite author of mine, Neil Gaiman, recently posted a link on his blog to favourite artist of mine, Dave McKean. Check out this self-portrait:

Is it a photo? Is it painted? Is it real? Where did those fish come from??? Who knows…
Of course, I know him best from Sandman covers and will always love these the most.

But all his work is splendidly fantastical and oh so scary & compelling!
The interview itself does appear to be quite long, but it’s worth scrolling through just for the amazing samples of artwork. I just love his stuff!
As well as talking about his new film, Luna, and lots of his other work, including his last film, Mirrormask… very pretty… check it out 🙂

Love it!

Neil Gaiman on The Colbert Report

Talking about The Graveyard Book, Tom Bombadil and illustrators…
* Contains semi-kinda spoilers *

Authors in a comic’s world

Something Positive is my latest daily comic find. Neil Gaiman linked to this one on his twitter…

Harry swoons over CORALINE!!!

Harry swoons over CORALINE!!!

One of the many reasons I love this site, is that they love the films I love. The other, is that they’re not into bullshit film gossip.

Colbert Report with Neil Gaiman bit

Obviously, I’m a bit of a Neil Gaiman fan (we both are), and having recently discovered twitter, I’ve been pointed in the direction of this clip from The Colbert Report. Very funny, and I’m tempted to spoil the best bit (which isn’t related to Gaiman or The Graveyard Book at all) but I won’t… Endish birn de spurn de mufandu … or something like that 😉


Wired review of Coraline here. I think they like it!

I can’t help but get more excited about this film, the more I see of it. But the endless plot recaps are getting a bit tiring…
And this review has been pointed out by Neil Gaiman himself on his blog, wishing they’d used the article title, ‘Too Scary for Young Kids’, as the tagline on posters!
“The more I watched this film, the more I gasped at its darkness and obvious
scariness for young children.”


Films I’m gonna go see in 2009 (wanna come?)

In no particular order:

Milk – Sean Penn stars as San Francisco political-type guy fighting for gay rights in Gus van Sant’s latest effort (still have to watch his last two, but Elephant was brilliant). Sean Penn looks brilliant, James Franco looks hot, oh, and the film is meant to be pretty good too. (Only criticism I’ve heard is that there are not enough sex scenes, which is an odd thing to focus on in a political/assassination film 
even if the lead character is gay!)

Watchmen – best graphic novel of all time, director of 300, 3D, CG, blah blah blah… all the hype is getting a bit tiring, but the new website has gotten me excited again.  And it all looks pretty darn cool. True to the comic yet very filmic. Which is what Alan Moore does so well in his comics, and comics do so well in general (as proved by the box office gross). I think it’s fair to say that Watchmen is this years ‘The Dark Knight’ in Casa Luchador (that’s fighter in Spanish I’ve been told).

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button – The first time I heard about this adaptation I was super excited… and I’ve been trying to maintain that excitement, but sadly it has waned a bit to ‘quite excited’. I am still looking forward to it though – just not super-hyped up about it. F Scott Fitzgerald’s short story sounds fascinating and it’ll be interesting to see how they’ve adapted it. And if they managed to pull off the special/make-up effects.

Coraline – yes, it’s another Neil Gaiman adaptation (this won’t make sense, but keep in mind that I wrote these little blurbs backwards/upside down/down to up/whatever makes sense).
 Completely unrelated aside: I love Neil Gaiman’s work. I still remember (speaks in whistful dreamy faraway voice) the first time I saw one of his novels in a bookstore, shortly after Mike introduced me to The Sandman graphic novels (also because of Dave McKean’s amazing cover artwork). I was still trying to impress Mike and pretending I was interested in comics (*see note below about Preacher) and he had a book voucher to spend. I think it was Stardust that we first bought, quickly followed by Anansi Boys and American Gods. I think we may now have almost the complete collection.
Coraline is going to be the world’s first 3D stop-motion feature film, directed and adapted by Henry Selick (Nightmare Before Christmas). It’s gonna be great!
W. – if you can’t laugh about him then we’d all end up standing round inflatable statues throwing shoes at him… Even though Oliver Stone’s biopic has had mixed reviews, I’m still curious enough to want to see it when it’s out (on DVD maybe?).
Vicky Christina Barcelona – the title intrigues me, and anything set in Spain has to be worth a quick look, right? I’m not the biggest Woody Allen fan, and have only seen one or two of his films, but this one looks interesting enough.
The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus – aka Heath Ledger’s last film. But maybe also, hopefully, a success for Terry Gilliam, who is now busy resurrecting his Don Quixote project. The amazing cast that came together to help him save Dr Parnassus speaks volumes for it’s potential. Plus Gilliam really deserves a break!  I’ve got my fingers crossed for him.
Amelia – The story of Amelia Earhart, my childhood hero, starring Hilary Swank in the lead. Haven’t heard much about this film to be honest, but the tidbits look promising. (and whoever gets me one of those leather aviator helmets with matching goggles will be my best friend forever!)

The Lovely Bones – seems to have been in production for sooooooo long, and has hit quite a few snags along the way, so I’d just be amazed to actually see it out. Plus, you’ve gotta support home-grown (Hollywood backed) films, dontcha?
Tintin – more from PJ’s Miramar stable. Loved this comic as a kid (and it was the only comic I read until Mike made me read Preacher*), and I’ll probably make the niece and nephews sit through this one many a time if it’s any good. Plus I’m intrigued to see what the 3D mo-cap CG effects will look like. And it’s looking like a great ensemble cast.
New York, I Love You – The ‘sequel’ to Paris, Je T’aime (my favourite compilation-of-short films-with-multiple-directors,-casts-and-crews-but-all-linked-by-being-set-in-the-same-city). “NY, I love you” (which I still think should have been called ‘I heart NY‘ is set to be along the same lines but, you guessed it, set in New York, from some new and some old contributors. Should be some little gems in there amongst the weirdness (think: Elijah Wood as vampire).

Up – yay!!!! New Pixar film. yay!!!
Where the Wild Things Are – Spike Jonze’s adaptation of the classic children’s book looks stunning! Plagued with all sorts of rumours and re-shoots, it’s finally being released this year and I can’t wait. (And whoever gets me a ‘Wild Things’ skateboard will be my best friend forever).
Neverwhere?rumours online suggest it’s being made and may be coming out this year, but they are old rumours and there’s no word about it anywhere reliable. If and when it does get re-made as a film I can’t wait to see it! Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere was a 6-part BBC series, which Gaiman adapted as a novel as the TV series was being made. The novel is much more entertaining and has aged far better, and I think, could be easily adapted to a film. Seeing as almost all Gaiman’s books and comics are in some stage of adaptation this one can’t be too far away.
* Note to anyone wanting to get their girlfriend to read comics: Preacher, though brilliant, is probably not the best one to start her on. Try Sandman or Fables first, and avoid anything with possessed preachers, Irish vampires and characters called ‘Saint of Killers’. Best save this one til she’s warmed up the medium a bit!