Tag Archives: Neil Gaiman

“Amanda Palmer and The Littlest Dalek”

This is a cute video of Amanda Palmer, shot by Neil Gaiman.

It also defines a children’s book that demands to be made.

It begins with a similar opening to “Edward Scissorhands.” The Scientist is creating a brand-new, very special kind of Dalek with a brand-new, very special kind of encasement that is completely, totally, and utterly unbelievably impregnable. But the encasement isn’t ready yet — it’ll just take another few days for him to finish the extra-scary paint job — so as a temporary measure, the Scientist’s nana (who makes tea cozies as a hobby) knits the Dalek an encasement out of wool to keep it warm.

But the Scientist dies before he can finish. He’s killed, probably. It has something to do with the new Doctor, who doesn’t wear fezzes and doesn’t seem quite so friendly as the most recent batch. I’m just saying that of all the people standing at the train platform, this new Doctor isn’t the one you’d approach and ask “Is this the 8:15 to Attleboro, or is it the 8:08 to Franklin/Forge Park?”

So this new Dalek has to make his way in the world on his own. He is encased in warm snuggly wool instead of impregnable metal. Which has two effects:

First, unlike the other Daleks, he’s very very VERY very very aware of how vulnerable he is. So he tends to avoid conflict if he can. He’s a talker. His first instinct is to try to understand the nature of the conflict, and see if there’s an alternative solution in which the needs and concerns of each individual can all somehow be addressed or at least acknowledged.

As such, rather than screeching “EX-TER-MI-NATE!” he rolls up to people, stops, waits for a natural opening in the conversation, and then introduces himself as “Alfie.”

(He has calculated that this is the least-threatening-sounding name, what with its lack of hard consonants.)

Secondly. Because he’s made of warm, fuzzy wool, children like to come up to him in the park and hug him. Kitties like to climb to the top and sleep on him. The parents of the children and the owners of the kitties look to see where their little ones have gone off to, and see them enjoying a peaceful and contented interlude with this Dalek. And then, if they have picnic hampers, they ask the Dalek if he would like to join them for lunch.

So he comes to enjoy company, and the taste of potato salad. He realizes that he would get no potato salad and no company if he were encased in completely, totally, and utterly unbelievably impregnable metal instead of wool.

It’s still a real drag when he gets caught in the rain. He also has to remember a lot of names and phone numbers. This is not a problem shared by the other Daleks, who kill people before they can collect any contact info, and would never be invited to call this weekend and make dinner plans, anyway. But overall, he reckons that he made out okay.

Oh, and: stairs are not a problem. He just tumbles down them WHEEEEEEE and rights himself when he gets to the bottom. And! The homeowner is pleased that all of the dust and cobwebs along the banisters have been so nicely dusted clean in the process. He or she offers the Alfie The Wooly Dalek a bowl of ice cream as a thank-you.

Bonus: this story presents a natural opportunity for a “Shawn The Sheep” crossover.

I’ve seen exactly three episodes of “Doctor Who” but I’m pretty sure this can all be canon and it’ll be fine.

Upon reflection, I suppose we can’t establish this as a “Doctor Who” tale unless we somehow acknowledge the presence of death-dealing cyborg pepperpots prosecuting an unknowable but surely wide-angled agenda just outside the boundaries of the story. No need to overthink this problem: I reckon all we really need to do is find a spot in the story for a shot of baffled policemen examining a skeleton that’s been charred into a twisted vulgarity of its living form.

(…In the background of one scene, I stress: this is a children’s story, after all. Can we do this one page of the book as a pop-up? I think that would be a lot of fun and the kids would get a big kick out of it. Pull the tab and one of the policemen bends forward and vomits into his helmet, that sort of thing.)

The Abominable Bogus CV

Cover of "The Abominable Charles Christopher": Charles and a white wolf floating down a calm river on a log.

A real treasure arrived in Friday’s mail. Observe, Volume 1 of the collected edition Karl Kerschl’s magnificent webcomic, “The Abominable Charles Christopher.

It’s probably a good idea, as a general rule, to try to avoid declaring superlative absolutes, such as “this is the greatest webcomic.” But can I get away with saying “When I think ‘greatest webcomic’ this is the strip that pops into my head before I remind myself about the problem with superlative absolutes?” All right, then. There are three things I want from any ongoing webcomic series: terrific art, terrific storytelling, and a regular, reliable publication schedule. Normally I’m happy to get two out of three. “Abominable Charles Christopher” nails the trifecta.

Karl was lovely enough to include a sketch in my copy:

Title page of book, dedicated to me and with a nice marker sketch of a lion in it

That’s the level of the artwork in this strip, week in and week out. I’ve never bought a print of any of his strips. Why? Because for God’s sake…which one would I choose?

I’ve been a fan of “Abominable” for a year or two. When I stood in my kitchen and unwrapped the book, it was the very first time I’d seen Karl’s strip in printed form, as opposed to on a laptop or iPad screen. I must say, this book shows off the limitations of electronic publishing. Karl’s artwork leaps up to an even higher level. It’s obvious that Karl has in no way “dumbed down” his art to the limitations of a 128 pixel-per-inch laptop screen or a 1000-pixel-wide image area. Seeing these strips in print reminds me of just how much I’ve been missing.

And mind you: I was already blown away by the art. “Abominable” in print is joy, doubled. I’m glad to have this book and I’m eager to recommend that you snag a copy for yourself.

I’m also grateful for the chance to update the “Kind Of Truthful But Not Really” version of my cv.

You have one of these, don’t you? It’s that second, slightly more-impressive cv that you’d never hand to a potential employer, and for an excellent reason: every item on it is technically true but wouldn’t survive a series of careful followup questions.

For instance, my legit cv lists “Wrote an ebook about artificial habitats that was licensed by NASA as student educational material.” True. That happened. If the interviewer asks for details, I would happily and confidently tell them about the 60-page book I wrote about building aquariums and about the relationship between goldfish, gravel, water, air, and vegetation. I got an inquiry from NASA after I published it. After I signed and returned a bunch of forms, they gave it out (for a time) as part of a kit for schoolkids which explained the problems of building colonies in space.

The Kind Of True But Not Really version of my cv, by comparison, includes “Ren and Stimpy” among my writing credits. “Ren and Stimpy”? Really? Yyyyyesss, that’s….tttttrrrrue, I suppose. But its truthiness falls apart with the right two followup questions:

“You wrote for the ‘Ren and Stimpy’ cartoon?”

“No…but I have a writing credit in the Marvel Comics licensed comic.”

“Oh. So you wrote a story for the comic?”

“Er…no. Here’s what happened: I once went out to dinner with a couple of comics writers and I made some sort of joke and one of the guys asked if he could use it. I said sure, and then I forgot about it. Months later, people started emailing me about how they bought this month’s issue of ‘Ren And Stimpy Comics And Stories’ and one of the stories says ‘Thanks to Andy Ihnatko for letting us steal one of his jokes’ on the title page.”

With that in mind, I point you to the back cover of the “Abominable” anthology. Karl knew that I’m a big fan of the strip and he asked me for a cover blurb.

I was only too happy to provide one:

Back-cover blurbs for the "Abominable" book. My blurb is under Neil Gaiman's.

And so, the freshly-updated Kind Of Truthful But Not Really version of my CV now contains the following item:

“Collaborated, with Jeff Lemire and Neil Gaiman, on written material for a comic book.”

Before there’s any misunderstandings, dear reader, I quickly and emphatically reiterate that the Kind Of Truthful But Not Really cv is only a whimsical mental list and that I would never, ever, ever use it in a live-fire exercise, so to speak.

Still! Although the statement “I collaborated with Jeff Lemire and Neil Gaiman on a book” has only the wispiest, slightest, most insignificant and monomolecular thread of truth to it, there are thousands of practitioners of homeopathic medicine who will be incredibly impressed. Or at least that’s how their belief system compels them to react. They only have two options: either tell people that I collaborated with Jeff Lemire and Neil Gaiman, or admit that the whole idea that the efficacy of something is magnified a thousandfold by diluting it down to near-undetectability is, in fact, all a giant scam. I like my chances.

And if either Mr. Lemire or Mr. Gaiman is reading this, I just want to take the opportunity to say that it was a pleasure working…er…adjacent to you.

Help me to (maybe) get cast in a Neil Gaiman audiobook!

I gave it a lot of soul-searching thought and after praying on the matter with my pastor and devoting 27 hours to playing “Portal 2″…

(If I’m to be honest, playing “Portal 2” actually had very little to do with the Soul-Searching Thought.)

(It’s the same thing about the deal with my pastor, who’d only turned up at my house because he’d forgotten to pre-order the game and he heard I had it)

…I decided that yes, in fact, I would like to be given a small speaking role in a new tenth-anniversary audiobook edition of Neil Gaiman’s “American Gods,” which is to be performed by a full cast.

And as luck would have it, there was actually a way that I could make that happen: by visiting the HarperCollins site, recording a short audition piece, and then browbeating you, o members of my blog, print, podcast, and Twitter audiences, into voting for me. Here…Neil himself explains the scheme on video:

So, you see, it’s much like “American Idol,” only without any chance whatsoever of hearing J. Lo tearfully tell a 19-year-old karaoke singer that his rendition of “She’s Like The Wind” moved her to reconnect with an estranged cousin. Surely you can support my endeavor on that basis alone.

I’ve already posted my audition file. Go ahead and give it a listen. Everybody has to record the same piece.

After the voting closes on May 2, the audiobook’s producers will listen to the audition files of the top twenty vote getters and choose a winner. As of the 20th (the last time the vote totals were updated) the top 20 auditioners have 300 to 500 votes. I reckon I’ll need a lot more than that by the time this is done.

The good news is that you can cast a vote every day.

The bad news is that you must be a registered user of the HarperCollins site in order to vote. I’m sorry that you’ll have to spend twenty or thirty seconds filling out a short online form but if it’s any consolation, you’re only the first of millions of people whom I’m willing to exploit and then abandon in my remorseless drive towards audiobook superstardom.

(Well, again with the truth: no, of course there will be no superstardom. Still, it sounds like it could be fun, doesn’t it? I sat down and recorded the piece on that basis alone.)

Still not moved?

Okay, well, how about this, then: if I’m in the Top Twenty by the time the dust settles, I will record an hourlong audiobook and release it as a free download under Creative Commons. No kidding. I’ve already selected the text: a spiffy artist memoir in the public domain that I’ve re-read about three times since I discovered it on Google Books.

Excellent. Good. Thanks ever so. Once again, you’ll find my audition right here.

What’s that? Oh! Yes, that’s a brilliant idea: you certainly should submit your own entry. Head to this page for all of the necessary information. I assume your goal is to divert votes from the other 1000-2000 people who’ve uploaded auditions, thus in effect increasing my likelihood of a Top 20 slot? Oh, you’re just the best.