Neil’s blog is nine

Neil Gaiman’s blog celebrated its ninth anniversary yesterday, I notice – that’s quite a long time in blogging terms and in terms of author’s sites is even more impressive. Many authors and artists and bands these days have their own sites and blogs (some designed and maintained by my good mate Ariel, in fact) but Neil’s been doing it longer than most (actually I am trying to think which published author has been blogging publicly the longest now – anyone know?). To celebrate the anniversary he and his web elves are going to make one of his books free to read online for a month – and they are asking fans to pick it out. Neil being Neil he has thought about it and offers up some advice for picking one from the four on offer (the brilliant American Gods, the very funny Anansi Boys, the recent Fragile Things and the far-too-good to be just for kids Coraline):

What I want you to do is think — not about which of the books below is your favourite, but if you were giving one away to a friend who had never read anything of mine, what would it be? Where would you want them to start?

One of the things I like about writers blogging – and Neil’s web journal in particular – is the way it allows them to interact with readers and I like the fact this interaction is being celebrated by asking those readers to pick a book of his that might get others to look at his work. Its an interesting move because it will generate a lot of online discussion and linkage for his site and interest in his books, it might introduce new readers to his material in a painlessly free manner and, as Cory Doctorow, Charlie Stross and others have proven, putting up free digital version of your work (they have done it under the Creative Commons license), far from harming traditional sales seems to work to boost reader awareness and interest in your work and so help sales.

I’m not sure which of the four on offer I’d choose myself – I think American Gods is a splendid story with some great use of myth, a book which could work for readers who don’t normally go for science fiction and fantasy novels in the same way his Sandman series worked for people who normally didn’t buy comics (and my signed copy of American Gods is one of the prizes gems of my collection). But it is very long and that might make it hard to read on a screen. Anansi Boys is very funny and a bit shorter while Coraline is deliciously creepy in places and there is the movie version coming up and – oh smeg, I can’t decide! But it is still a good idea.

And on a personal note I’m still indebted to Neil as one of the writers who spoke up for me on their blogs back when I was going through the whole Waterstone’s firing thing a few years back; he said something like if he had his own bookstore he’d like me working in it, which is one of the nicest compliments a bookseller can get and that I was ‘opinionated but in the good way’ which seems like a reasonable description. Anyway, happy ninth anniversary to Neil and his web elves.

Happy 50th birthday, Lego!!

Yep, today is apparently the fiftieth anniversary of the granting of the patent for one of the best toys ever invented in the entire history of the world, Lego. How great is Lego? And how unfair is it that once we grow up we’re not supposed to play with it as it is an immature thing to do, leading to us buying sets for kids in the family then ‘helping’ them build stuff with it… From the simple bricks first patented back then to the dizzy heights of Lego Star Wars, how bloody cool is Lego? Do I care how immature that makes me sound? Nope. Lego’s great and we all know it.(link via Boing Boing)


Not being overly taken with monarchy I wasn’t paying much attention to the coverage of the Queen and Prince Philip’s diamond wedding anniversary this week, until this evening when I saw a segment of a report from Malta where the pair have gone (as they did after their wedding in 1947) on ITN this evening. There’s Romilly Weeks and her amazing cheekbones reporting from Malta; she says something I’m not really listening to as I’m deciding what to make for dinner, something like how this is an unusually public display for a normally private couple and how romantic it was. Unaware that behind her Prince Philip has walked past, stopped right behind her listening, big grin on his face, she finishes, turns and sees him laughing and he says “is it really?”, laughs and walks off. I’m not normally a fan of Phil the Greek but that was funny.

Welcome to the Space Age

As Russians mark the 50th anniversary of planet Earth’s first satellite, Sputnik, taking flight IEEE Spectrum has an interview with the legendary grand old man of science fiction, Arthur C Clarke (link via Boing Boing). Clarke, of course, before becoming the hugely influential SF writer he would later become (we’re talking about a man who talked to presidents and kings as well as scientists and writers – also one of the few who was so respected he was friends with both astronauts and cosmonauts during the Cold War) wrote a speculative paper in the 1940s in which he imagined using geostationary space stations to act as relays for beaming radio signals across the entire globe, pretty much what we now have with a legion of satellites linking us up in ways we don’t even think about anymore – we use phones and watch TV largely without considering the world-changing technology which brings it to us so damned easily. All starting with a little silver ball called Sputnik going beepbeepbeepbeep around the world.