Thursday, January 24, 2008

Only the End of the World Again

Neil Gaiman wrote a short story once upon a time entitled "Only the End of the World Again." [Neil is on my mind a lot these days, since I've been working for months--in 'spare time' stolen mostly from what would otherwise be family time, and often on mornings before I turn to whatever novel I'm writing--on a book that was originally titled The Neil Gaiman Companion. The title of the book, which I've written with my friends Hank Wagner and Steve Bissette, is apparently changing, but I'm waiting for final confirmation of the new title.]

In any case, this post has nothing to do with Neil, really, except that rereading a lot of his work in the past nine months has given me a new appreciation for exactly how remarkable his achievements truly are. I particularly love his short stories and the magnum opus that is The Sandman. I read Sandman in single issues when it was first published, and if you did the same I urge you to start again, reading the series in its current graphic novel format. The whole truly is far greater than the sum of its parts. It's a work unequaled in comics, either before or since.

But I digress. For some reason this post, which is not about Neil Gaiman, continues to insist upon making itself about Neil Gaiman.

So I'll get to the point, and the reference to "Only the End of the World Again." The title is almost a sigh, a sort of surrender to the constant state of impending doom that humanity has existed in since the beginning of time, really. I think, also, of one of my favorite lines from Buffy the Vampire Slayer: "If the apocalypse comes, beep me." [Back when people carried such things as beepers. Weird to think how fast they came and went.]

So, the end of the world. I'm not talking about Global Climate Change, though its threat is imminent. Rather, I'm talking about the general state of human society. Sometimes it depresses the hell out of me to think about the way so many seem to have surrendered to the opinion that the human race is atrophying from lack of conscience, that entropy has truly taken hold, and the world is winding down.

Yet, as disheartening and disconcerting as all of that's nothing new.

Chinua Achebe wrote the great THINGS FALL APART in 1958.

But let's go a little further back than that, to a wonderful quote I found tonight while researching a future project. In the sixth century, the poet Theognis wrote:
"Hope is the only good god remaining among mankind;the others have left and gone to Olympus. Trust, a mighty god has gone, Restraint has gone from men,and the Graces, my friend, have abandoned the earth. Men’s judicial oaths are no longer to be trusted, nor does anyone revere the immortal gods; the race of pious men has perished and men no longer recognize the rules of conduct or acts of piety."

Damn, does that sound on target or what? Trust and restraint are gone. Judicial oaths are no longer to be trusted! For all of the articles and books and pundits pointing out the degradation of literacy and education (which troubles me deeply) and the paucity of moral virtue in society, is it only ironic or actually deeply twisted that I take immense comfort and reassurance from the words of Theognis?

Even then, the only thing that Greek poet felt humanity had left to cling to was hope for the future.

Which, fittingly, brings me back around to Mr. Gaiman. In the first volume of Sandman, Morpheus faces off against the demon Choronzon in a contest of concepts. Smugly, Choronzon believes that when he says "I am entropy," the Dream King will have nothing to parry his attack. But that's when Morpheus (and Gaiman, and humanity) pulls out his trump card. "What will you be?" the demon asks. And the Sandman says, "I am hope."

I'm terrified on a daily basis by the apathy of people who could make a difference, if only they cared to. I do believe that human society is degrading, and as a result, entropy is taking hold both of world culture and of the planet, and that we are all Nero, fiddling while Rome burns.

And yet, like Gaiman and Morpheus, and Chinua Achebe and Theognis, I have hope.

After all, it's only the end of the world again.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

2008 and Beyond

Somehow, Neil Gaiman manages to write on his blog almost every day. How in hell he does this is absolutely beyond me. Between writing and my family, I haven't made time to blog since AUGUST of last year. *hangs head in shame* Once again, the writing fiend vows to do better.

How sad is it that it takes a note from my friend Jim Cobb saying "hey, dumbass, what are you working on for '08" for me to actually return to the blog?

All right. I'm back. Keep bugging me, Jim, and hopefully I'll get into the swing of things.

Anyway, 2007 was an incredibly busy year, and 2008 will, I hope, show the fruits of those labors. The year starts off with several reprints. In January, Bantam will publish a mass market edition of THE BORDERKIND, the Second Book of the Veil. In February, they'll bring out mass market editions of THE BOYS ARE BACK IN TOWN and WILDWOOD ROAD, both never before available in that format.

But those three are all reprints, you say, what about new stuff?

In March, the Third Book of the Veil, THE LOST ONES, arrives in trade paperback, completing the trilogy. In May, Tim Lebbon and I have our first collaborative effort, MIND THE GAP: A NOVEL OF THE HIDDEN CITIES. Then, later in the year, I'm returning to young adult fiction for the first time in a while. Delacorte will publish POISON INK in July, and MTV Books will publish SOULLESS in October, just in time for Halloween.

Also in the fall, Roc will be publishing a brand new trade paperback edition bringing back into print THE FERRYMAN, with a brand new introduction by Charles de Lint.

Early 2008 will also see the publication of a new comic book series with my friend Tom Sniegoski called THE SISTERHOOD. It's a three issue miniseries from Archaia Studios Press, and the film version is in development now, with Sniegoski and me producing.

Once the WGA strike is over, Mike Mignola and I will be completing work on our screenplay for BALTIMORE, OR, THE STEADFAST TIN SOLDIER AND THE VAMPIRE for New Regency Pictures.

In limited editions, 2008 will see a number of them, though several I can't talk about just yet. They include my first short story collection and the Earthling Modern Classics edition of STRANGEWOOD, with an introduction by Graham Joyce and a Foreword by Bentley Little. James A. Moore and I have made a new deal for the two novella sequels to BLOODSTAINED OZ, though when we'll get started on those is still up in the air.

All of those things are already complete, of course. As to what the future holds beyond those things...I'm working with Tim Lebbon on THE MAP OF MOMENTS, the second HIDDEN CITIES novel. There are already plans in place for other things to keep my busy all through 2008, and into 2009, including a second collaboration with Mike Mignola, and some things that might surprise longtime readers.

WATCHING: PRIME SUSPECT (series one), LIFE ON MARS (series two), and not much else at the moment. It's January, in the middle of a strike, what do you expect? :)

READING: A CONFEDERACY OF DUNCES by John Kennedy Toole (thanks Poppy).

RECOMMENDING: Poppy Z. Brite's LIQUOR and its sequels. Fantastic books. If you'd suggested to me that a book about two guys opening a restaurant would have me flipping pages in suspense, I'd have certainly arched an eyebrow. What a testament to Poppy's talent.

LISTENING: Sara Bareilles was the standout from '07 for me, along with the Bonnie Prince Billy disc a friend gave me.

Go. Read. Ask questions.

Welcome to 2008.