Books, Short Stories, and Films

American Gods

Was on google looking for info. on Wisakedjak and found this great site: http://www.frowl.org/gods/. It's got a great (cross-referenced) section on all the gods mentioned in AG and some stuff on House on the Rock, too. She's done a huge job, and the last time I was there the hit count was truly pitiful. Could you announce it on the blog or something? I'm sure there are others out there who might need clarification on a certain god, and this helps.

Easily done. What an excellent site. I'll put this up in the FAQ section as well....

Who was the forgotten God?

Okay, so who is the God who everyone forgets after meeting him (or at least, who Shadow forgets)?

For the god whose name everyone forgets in American Gods, is there actually a name? If we search long and hard and scour books and web sites and whatnot, is it possible for us to come up with the right answer? Or will we just be searching in vain?

who's the forgotten God?

I really was planning to answer it, but then we got....

Okay, so this isn't so much a question as a request for you to not answer a question that other people are probably going to ask.

Please don't reveal the identity of the god/folkloric entity that people always forget, without gigantic neon flashing spoiler signs.

I think I'm really close to identifying him; so I'm living with the daily terror, as I read the journal, of the cat being let out of the bag...

You're a nice author, so I'm sure you understand. Maybe a spoiler section could be set up separately if you do intend to answer this kind of thing? Thank-you!

Which I think, as heartfelt pleas go, is pretty heartfelt. And effective.

Does mead taste bad?

Don't mistake the opinions of characters in a book for either the opinions of the author or for any kind of objective truth. I've had really nice mead, rich and honeyish, normally handed to me in small glasses by people who had brewed it themselves, and I've had a thin and noxious substance that tastes like sweet, alcoholic pickle-juice passed to me (usually by commercial mead-vendors) representing itself as mead. It made for a much more enjoyable scene to write if Shadow had a glass of the second kind.

Flub: Loki's smoking habits?

When Shadow realizes that his former cellmate is Loki, Loki lights his cigar with a Bic lighter. Then, when they go to receive Wednesday's body, Loki burns a match. Is there an explanation for that?

Oddly enough there was, yes, but it got edited out in the grand shortening... Originally that passage said:

They walked down the dark motel corridor. "I bought some candles for this, but there were plenty of old ones around too," said Loki. "Old stumps and stubs and candle-ends in the rooms, and in a box in a closet. I don't think I missed any. And I got a box of matches. You start lighting candles with a lighter, the end gets too hot."

They reached room five.

"You want to come in?" asked Loki.

Shadow didn't want to enter that room. "Okay," he said. They went in.

Loki took a box of matches from his pocket, and thumbed-nailed a match into flame. The momentary flare hurt Shadow's eyes. A candle-wick flickered and caught. And another. Loki lit a new match, and continued to light candles: they were on the window-sills and on the headboard of the bed and on the sink in the corner of the room. They showed him the room by candle-light."

But now it just says:

They walked down the dark motel corridor until they reached Room Five.

Loki took a box of matches from his pocket, and thumbed-nailed a match into flame. The momentary flare hurt Shadow's eyes. A candle-wick flickered and caught. And another. Loki lit a new match, and continued to light the candle-stubs: they were on the window-sills and on the headboard of the bed and on the sink in the corner of the room."

Flub: Is there a reappearing cigarette?

Is it only in my copy that the cigarette in the motel room mysteriously reappears? On page 50, Shadow throws it out the window, but on page 52 Wednesday sees the butt in the ashtray...

It really bothered me... couldn't see the point, but I didn't think such a well written book would have such a glaring error either...

Good question. You might want to go back and read the scene again; during the course of it, she smokes two cigarettes. The first she puts in the ashtray. The second burns down and Shadow dropped it out of the window. I guess because he figured he was going to have to sleep there and the smell of a burning filter-tip can be pretty appalling. (That's just a guess. I have no real idea why he dropped it out of the window. But he did.)

hey neil. antoher question from me - a foreigner - reading american gods. shadow asks the raven : has timmy fallen down another well? surely this is a proverb or a maxim of some kind, or a reference to a folk tale i'm not familiar with. could you explain it? 'cause web-search mostly turns up some stuff concerning simpsons and lassie scripts. thanks. jack

It's a reference to Lassie, an intelligent dog, who always knew when his young master, Timmy, had fallen down a well or been captured by outlaws, and would run home and somehow tell people this. Flipper the dolphin and Skippy the bush kangaroo were also terrific at this, and I shouldn't really joke about it, because I was once found and got by a feral white cat I barely knew who somehow persuaded me to follow her, mostly by taking a few steps at a time and looking exasperated and worried, and eventually led to the place where one of her kittens was strangling on netting.

Hi Neil!

I've really enjoyed reading your work. I picked up 'American Gods' the other day and I demolished it in one sitting, which is really unusual for me since I'm prone to what I think of as 'literary polygamy'--I usually read at least 5 or 6 books at a time and juggle them back and forth so they last longer. But I just couldn't put it down!

I have only one complaint. In the book, Wututu and Agasu are sold in Barbados. Now, this excited me to no end, since I'm Barbadian. However, the town is called 'Bridgetown' and not 'Bridgeport' as was written. It's a small mistake and it certainly does not detract from the overall quality of your novel.

You've also said that you don't visit a lot of places since you've never been asked. And while I understand that you really meant publisher requests (and also that you must get thousands of 'Come see me!!' requests), I'd still like to extend a little 'Bajan' invitation in your direction. It's a beautiful island, especially if you're looking for a winter escape.

Any way, keep up the excellent writing!


Embarrasingly, that was caught ages ago, by one of the translators. I meant to fix it, but it slipped through the net. Sigh.

Question: I teach theatre to 1st through 12th graders, and one of the stories we look at is from the Anansi the Spider cannon. (This would be for the 1st through 3rd graders. Although the way our current school systems are set up...) A fellow teacher and I have been wondering if the Anansi story you told in American Gods is an original Gaiman, or a version of an earlier African fable. Thank you.
Shalene Shimer

It's a retelling of an old African story. I took a few liberties, and rewrote the poem, but it's the genuine article.

Hi Neil,

I noticed in American Gods, you had a number of 'anglicisms' pointed out to you by Americans. I am curious to know what kinds of phrases qualify as obvious 'anglicisms'? Why did Americans find them offensive or inappropriate?

I also would like to say that I don't think an American could have written this book. Most Americans would be too close to their own culture to recognise what was unique about it and mythologise it in such a way (perhaps if they'd lived abroad for a long time or were anthropologists, they would recognise these things). It's a great book, however, and I'm glad that you wrote it.


Let's see -- in chapter one I had car parks instead of parking lots and driving licenses instead of drivers licences, and we can go on from there. It's two different languages, and sometimes I'd speak in the wrong one without noticing.

A week since I read American Gods (in translation to Hebrew), and I'm
still under its strong impression. There was just one small thing, which bothered me: in your book the Golem had the word Haim (life) written on him, while it really was Emet (truth) the word that gave it life (so in order to kill it you need to erase the first letter, Aleph, so you'd get Met [dead]). Oh, one more thing - all through the book, sometimes I had a feeling I'm watching a David Lynch movie. Did his movies have any influence on the book? Anyway, I thought it could be nice seeing how he would direct American Gods the movie.
Yrs Truly

Ah, that was caught early, and fixed in the paperback. I'll have to make sure that we send out corrected versions to future foreign publishers.

And while I don't think David Lynch's movies influenced the book per se, I created Lakeside, or at least expanded upon it, for an audio project David Lynch and I were going to do together, back in around 1997. So I suspect that crept in around the edges.

question: How much, in your opinion, has the publicity and promotions surrounding AG helped it win all of those awards? Would your book, with the same exact text as now, still have won the Hugo if it hadn't been promoted the way it was and if you hadn't already gained some name recognition?

Bit too hypothetical to answer. I think they probably helped, at least insofar as awards get voted on by people, and they don't vote for you if they haven't read your book, and a lot of people obviously read it and enjoyed it, and voted for it. (I doubt it made any difference to the Bram Stoker Award.) But then, books which aren't published as bestsellers frequently win Hugos, and, looking at the information over at http://dpsinfo.com/awardweb/hugos/index.html where you can look at the nominees and the winners of the Hugos going back to caveman days it's pretty obvious that the voters vote for who they want to win, and the bestsellerness or otherwise mostly doesn't have lot to do with the result.

(One thing that fascinates me, looking at the old Hugo information, is the number of Fantasy novels and stories that have won Hugos in the past -- Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land, Zelazny's This Immortal and Lord of Light, for example or Avram Davidson's "Or All the Seas With Oysters" and Bob Bloch's "That Hellbound Train". Makes me feel part of a tradition, rather than an interloper.)


What is Cordelia?

Coraline is the scary book for strange little girls (of all ages and genders) which comes out late summer next year in the US and the UK (from HarperCollins in the US and Bloomsbury in the UK). Cordelia, on the other hand, is a fiction of Amazon.co.uk's imagination (it actually carries the ISBN for the US HarperCollins edition of Coraline.)

How do I pronounce Coraline?

Is it "cora-LINE" or "cora-LEEN", or perhaps some other pronunciation which I have failed to consider?

Cora-LINE. I pronounce it so that it rhymes with horror-wine.

Is it a kid book or an adult book?

Hmm. Good question. I'm not sure what they call things like the Harry Potter series, or the Phillip Pullman books, or Clive Barker's Thief of Always, or the Lemony Snicket books, but if it has to be put into a box that's the sort of stuff you'd find in the box it goes into: books with young protagonists, with stories that children enjoy and that adults enjoy and they seem to be enjoying different things.

It's not a long book -- I just got the UK edition, in proof, and it's 168 pages long, thirteen chapters.

As a general sort of rule, kids seem to read it as an adventure. Adults get nightmares.

Does that help?

Good Omens

Will you confirm a rumor about the Good Omens movie?

I just read at www.darkhorizons.com this sentence: "Good Omens: Johnny Depp is rumoured to be joining Robin Williams on the Gaiman/Pratchett adaptation"

Please tell me this is bullshit. I don't mind Johnny Depp in the movie, since he's worked many times with Terry Gilliam before. But Robin Williams??? That can't be right. I mean, there hasn't been any casting announcements yet...please set my mind at ease!

Hmm. Well, Robin's worked with Terry Gilliam before as well, of course, most famously in The Fisher King. But I have no idea about Good Omens casting (except for Shadwell. Terry told me who he wanted to play Shadwell. I immediately forgot the man's name, although I can assure you that it wasn't Robin Williams). I'll happily post stuff as it becomes official and I hear about it, but for now there's nothing official to tell.

www.smart.co.uk/dreams is the semi-official sort of Terry Gilliam website and is a good place to haunt for Good Omens information.



Where can I get Neverwhere on video?

Neverwhere can be found on DVD from Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, and various sellers online.

Where can I get the soundtrack?

Well, the audio book version of Neverwhere has several selections of the Eno soundtrack on it. I believe bits of it made it onto Eno's last album as well. The Neverwhere audio book gets a qualified recommendation from me. Gary's reading is great and the production is terrific, and the abridgment ranges from sensitive and intelligent (at the beginning) to crudely rewriting the plot (last third of the book -- which is maybe the last 25 minutes of the tape...)

How can I convert the official PAL video to NTSC?

Well, I bought an Aiwa HV-MX1 off a dealer on the web new about four years ago for about $250, which plays and converts PAL to NTSC and vice versa, and love being able to play things that will simply never be shown or commercially available in NTSC. (And a thirty second hunt on google has multiformat VCRs available for under $200 these days). But as long as it's for your own use, I can't see why any conversion place should refuse to convert it. You've bought one copy after all -- you have the right to see it. But I'll pass this one over to the crowd -- if anyone can recommend a cheap place in the continental US that will convert a tape for private use from PAL to NTSC, let me know and I'll put it up here -- or if too many come in we can put up a thread over at the message board.


Will there be a sequel?

Sooner or later I'll write another Neverwhere novel. It'll probably be called The Seven Sisters.

Do you have plans for a sequel to Neverwhere? Say yes please! And do not hire a ghostwriter! And that it will be just as good, if not better than Neverwhere! And that it'll be released soon, as in yesterday!

1) Yes. 2) Okay, I won't hire a ghostwriter. 3) I'll do my best. 4) Ah... can't promise that one. I'll have to write it first, and I don't think it's the next book I'll write. So I think you've lost out on getting it yesterday.

How did you name the characters?

Well, let's see. Richard was named after Henry Mayhew, who wrote London Labour and the London Poor. Door and all her family have very literal names that mean things you go through (Portico, Arch, Ingress and so on). The Marquis De Carabas took his name from the fairy tale Puss In Boots. Most of the characters from London Below are named after places in London (the Old Bailey is the London criminal court, Hammersmith is a district, The Angel Islington takes his name from the Angel tube station in London's Islington).

Anaesthesia was named because it ought to be a girl's name; no idea where Jessica or Mr Stockton got their names from. Lamia's name describes her function, as does Hunter's.

And Mr Croup and Mr Vandemar are called Mr Croup and Mr Vandemar because that's what they call each other, and no-one would dare call them anything else.


Which came first: the comic or the book?

The Illustrated novel, with Charles Vess, came first. When it was done, I sent the manuscript to Jennifer Hershey, my editor (then at Avon, now at HarperCollins), with a "this is what I've been doing recently" note, and her reply was "can we publish it"? Its first published form was as four parts from DC, then as the collected hardback from DC, then as an unillustrated hardback from Avon, then as an oversized illustrated paperback from DC, then an unillustrated Paperback from Avon, and then an unillustrated trade paperback from Harper Perennial, and a smaller-sized paperback illustrated edition from DC.

how do you pronounce the star's name in Stardust?

I pronounce it Ev-aine, EV to rhyme with rev, VAINE to rhyme with, um, vain. But, it being a real name, I may very well be pronouncing it wrong. (Twice now I've learned that I'd pronounced a character's name wrong.)

Other Books

Am I missing the introduction to Sandman: Book of Dreams?

I missed Book of Dreams when it first came out, so I was able to pick up the new paperback version recently. I'm wondering if my copy somehow forgot to include the Clive Barker introduction, or if all of the new printing list him on the table of contents but exclude his words.

The introduction was by the late, irreplaceable, Professor Frank McConnell. Clive did the frontispiece, a very wonderful drawing of Death.

What are the Midnight Rose books?

In search of original English books by you in our online bookstore (in Switzerland) I came across one book I have never heard of. It's called "Temps 1" and it says you wrote it together with Alex Stewart (1991). I could neither find it at barnesandnoble.com nor amazon.com nor mentioned on your site. Since our online bookstore only has very basic information (ISBN, price, title, authors, page number), I couldn't find out what it is about or what kind of book it is. Could you tell me more about it? Thank you very much. Marianne Wolff

Temps was one of several books produced for Penguin in the UK by the Midnight Rose collective, which consisted of me, Alex Stewart, Roz Kaveney and Mary Gentle. (It had a sequel, Eurotemps. The premise came from me burbling in a bar late one night at the Milford SF writers conference, muttering that if there really were superheroes in the UK they'd all wind up as civil servants working for some useless government department that would send you the wrong one. Alex was in the bar at the time and pointed out that was a good idea for an anthology. Alex and I edited the book, although Alex did most of the work (and all of the work on Eurotemps). I wrote some of the linking material between the short stories.

The other Midnight Rose Anthologies were the Roz Kaveney edited The Weerde (which I had always assumed was going to be called The Wered) and its sequel (I cowrote a framing story for the first book with Roz called "The Lady And/Or the Tiger" -- if memory serves I wrote a rough draft which she did a second draft on and I then polished), about a race of ancient shapeshifting dinosaurs among us; and the Mary Gentle edited Villains -- the cockeyed sword and sorcery one, about the Villains of fantasy (Graham Higgins's Jabberwocky story, from the Jabberwock's point of view, still sticks in my memory.)

They have some fun and some fine short stories in them, were only published in the UK, and are out of print these days, but not too hard to find cheaply if you set your mind to it. (And are books that some enterprising small press ought to bring back into print in a nice edition, if you ask me.)

Will you be re-releasing Angels & Visitations?

Well, much of Angels and Visitations, and a great deal more, is in Smoke and Mirrors.

Angels and Visitations was published in 1993, by DreamHaven Books, to mark 10 years as a professional author. It was a small press book. After 5 printings and 25,000 copies, I felt like it was done, as a small press book, so we put it out of print.

However, I wasn't expecting what happened next, which was the ridiculous prices that people rapidly began charging (and paying) for it. Copies of Angels and Visitations often now go for around $100, which I think is silly.

So I talked to Greg Ketter, the publisher of DreamHaven, and we're probably going to do a 6th printing next year, in time for the World Fantasy Convention in Minneapolis, so that anyone who wants to own one can have one without paying ridiculous amounts of money. And then that will probably be it. We also have another book in mind, called B-Sides and Rarities, which would contain an awful lot of stuff only the kind of people who would like to spend a day browsing the odd and forgotten bits of my hard drive would like to own.

Warning Contains Language  and Live At The Aladdin

Where can I get W:CL?

Warning: Contains Language, a 2 CD audio of me reading (1995, with music by Dave McKean and a song by the Flash Girls) is published by DreamHaven and available from DreamHaven Books. It was meant to have been solicited through Diamond some months ago, but wasn't. I'm not quite sure why. Still, it is definitely available (a) from Comic stores via Diamond and (b) directly from DreamHaven. Look at their Neil Gaiman page at http://www.dreamhavenbooks.com/gaiman.html. It's $30 from them -- do not be gulled into paying three times as much through e-bay or other auctions.

There's a new series of audio CDs coming out from DreamHaven, the first two of which I recorded in May 2001, so when the first of those comes out expect a certain amount of news and information.

What was the poem on Live At The Aladdin?

I got the tape "Live at the Aladdin", and in it you do the poem about an author who everyone talks about. Now, what exactly is her name, and how do you spell it?

Her name is Martha Soukup. The book that poem introduced is called The Arbitrary Placement of Walls. It's still in print.

Short Stories

Can you tell me about your Matrix story?

A bird whishpered to me that you were involved in a series of comics based on "The Matrix", some time ago.

Trust not the "whishpering" of birds -- what a great word, like a sort of wishful whisper. There are a number of online comics and two online prose stories done before The Matrix was released, and several done since. Mine was a prose story entitled, "Goliath". It is re-printed in Fragile Things and was later turned into a comic that can be found in the graphic novel compilation of Matrix comics.

Can you tell me about Ramayana?

I think I have asked/queried this a few times, but it has been missed or ignored. Neil, I wanted a further insight into what you have done with the Ramayana you were turning into a draft. I had some ideas, obviously, and wondered if you needed any help in the above. I have done a story based around the Mahabharata. I would love to chat to you regarding this but it seems you don't really want to correspond on this topic? If you could email me it would be appreciated.

Generally speaking, if I don't answer something like that it's because there's not a lot to say beyond what's in the blogger. In the case of the Ramayana, I'm still working on it for Dreamworks to their direction. It's gone through four very different drafts so far, and what happens beyond this is up to Dreamworks. Good luck with your Mahabharata.

Can you tell me about Crazy Hair?

Lots of questions along the lines of "I heard you read your poem Crazy Hair at .... When will it be available as a book? Will you e-mail it to me? Is it going up on the web anywhere?"

So, given the number of people who have asked for it, yes, I do want to do it as a book. I've talked to one artist about doing it, and hope it'll happen with her.

No, at least for now I won't e-mail it to you or post it on the web. You'll just have to be patient, I'm afraid. Sorry...

Do you revise your short stories when they are reprinted?

I just got a copy of 20/20 with 'Being an experiment' and noticed it was shorter than the A&V version (most noticeably, no aphids). Was this editing on their part, or expanding on yours? (And how often do you revise your short stories after they have already been published?)

Gosh. I didn't think there were any copies of 20/20 magazine left on the face of the planet.

Magazines and newspapers cut you to fit, on the whole. If they have room for 700 words and you gave them 760, 60 words will go. If they have room for 2000 words and you give them 5000, 3000 words will be cut. (My 1986 story LOOKING FOR THE GIRL was originally written for UK Penthouse's 25th anniversary issue. When it was printed it was cut by around 2000 words. The version in Angels and Visitations and Smoke and Mirrors was reconstructed from the original uncut Penthouse galleys, which I'd hung onto.)

I've restored things that had been cut for publication (like 'Being an Experiment'). The only story I can think of that I've rewritten after publication was "How Do You Think It Feels?", which was rewritten between its publication in Gargoyles and its appearance in the UK (and the e-book version) of Smoke and Mirrors -- mostly just the difference between a first and second draft.

Dear Neil,

I've written before to ask this question, but since I haven't been visiting your blog regularly, I don't know if you've answered it. So forgive me if you already have and I foolishly missed it. A few months back I went to a reading you did in San Jose (San Jose State in October last year to be exact). You read the funniest story I've heard in the longest time, and I think it inspired me because I've been writing nothing but funny stories for my creative writing classes at UC Santa Cruz since then. My eyes were literally watering after you read it I laughed so hard. Unfortunately, I can't remember the title. I believe you said it will eventually be published in some sort of anthology of gothic stories or something. All I remember about it was it's an example of when you shouldn't listen to editors, it was a parody of gothic writing, the word "superfluous" (don't ask me why I remember the word superfluous, it's just one of those words), a main character that is a young ink-covered writer who is forced to kill his brother, and zombies or something in a basement. Oh, and there was a talking raven. I don't know. I just loved it, have to have it, can't live without it. Can I get the title of that work? My funny bone and I would be eternally grateful to you,
Christine B.

I think this has hit FAQ level. It will appear in a Candlewick Press anthology called GOTHIC! TEN ORIGINAL TALES. You can see the details on it here: http://www.candlewick.com/cwp/cat.asp?browse=Title&mode=book&isbn=0763622435&pix=n

It'll be out in September 2004 in hardback, and will also have a story in it by Caitlin Keirnan. I'll try and update with info here as it comes... 

Dear Neil,
this is a question I've been wanting to ask for a long time. Have you read Ray Bradbury's "Fever Dream" (from "The Day it Rained Forever")? Did you read it before writing "Foreign Parts" (from "Smoke & Mirrors")? They are very much alike. Is the similarity a coincidence, unintentional, or is it a kind of hommage? I thought "Foregin Parts" was a nice sort of "next step" on "Fever Dream", but I don't know if you meant it that way?
Kind regards, Mia

Oddly enough, I was wondering this myself, yesterday. I mean, I know I must have read the Bradbury story several times as a boy, because I read all the Bradbury stories I could find as a boy, but I don't think I was thinking of "Fever Dream" consciously when I wrote "Foreign Parts" -- the world was scared and confused by AIDS, and I was too nervous about writing a story about a Venereal Disease to realise that it was a story-shape Bradbury had told first. I reread the Bradbury story in my 30s with a sinking feeling, probably the same kind of sinking feeling Brian Aldiss had when he realised that his story "The Saliva Tree" was really Lovecraft's "Colour Out of Space".

It's one of the scariest things, for a writer, about writing short fiction -- the worry that a story shape isn't yours, but is something you read a long time ago, and forgot. More recently I ran my short story "Other People" by several people who knew their genre material before I gave it to an editor, because it came so easily I was convinced it was probably a Fredric Brown story I'd half-remembered, and am still, to this day, not entirely certain it's mine.