Friday, October 20, 2006

green sky and stories

Just finished watching the video of Neverwhere (still brilliant after all these years) and then watched the interview with Neil Gaiman. One of the things he said was that he was taking a journalist on a tour of one of the sets and the journalist was very weirded out by the whole thing and said it was like an acid trip he had had once, whereupon Neil Gaiman pointed out that it was like that in his head all the time. I have always thought that the inside of Mr Gaiman's head must be a very strange place to live; whilst I like to visit Gaiman-world on a regular basis, I'm not sure I'd like to live there permanently. (Though if it was a choice between the inside of Mr Gaiman's head and the inside of Mr Vandermeer's head, I'd choose Mr Gaiman every time. Ambergris is not nice.) Don't get me wrong, I love Neil Gaiman's writing, I think it's genius-level.

The second thing that struck me was that Neil Gaiman said that as a child, people repeatedly told him to stop making things up. Apart from the fact that it is deeply deeply wrong to tell any child not to make things up (a friend of mine stopped writing stories because a teacher told her that you couldn't ascribe emotions to the sky; and I was quite traumatised by being told that the sky is never green, when I had noticed it being green), it is certainly even more deeply wrong to tell people like Neil Gaiman not to make things up. The world would be a much poorer and duller place if it was not enriched by his stories. I would have gone on believing that Snow White was nice if it wasn't for Snow, Glass, Apples. And his view of how deities work (as in American Gods) is very inspiring and interesting for many polytheists. (Ditto some of Mr Pratchett's theories.) What if Neil Gaiman had thought, 'oh yeah, they're right, I'll stop making things up', and just became an accountant? It would have been a tragedy, for both him and the world. His head would have exploded with all that pent-up creativity. He made light of the whole thing, but it could have been a disaster.
Alice and the caterpillar
The sky is green at sunset, as there is a spectrum from red to violet as the sun descends over the horizon... into the underworld. I have also seen the sky a deep olive green immediately before a massive freak hailstorm with hailstones the size of eyeballs. And you can have skies with emotion - if it was good enough for Balzac, Flaubert et al, it was good enough for my friend. But even if the sky was never green and never looked emotional, that shouldn't stop people writing about it. There's an excellent story by AS Byatt where the sky turns green, and the eldest princess is sent off to find out why, and she gets distracted in her quest, because, well, she knows she is the eldest and therefore doomed to fail (because it's always the youngest sibling that finally completes the quest), so she wanders off to live with a nice wise woman, and decides that she actually quite likes the new colour of the sky, so everyone will just have to learn to live with it.

So please don't ever stop making things up, Mr Gaiman, or anyone else with a rich and strange imagination. Pass the cheese and bring on the nightmares...

1 comment:

Joe said...

I thought the TV version of Neverwhere was awful; the cheap video look destroyed the use of real locations like disused Underground tunnels and made them look like sets. The very first time I met Neil was the day after the first episode aired and he asked what I thought; I decided to be honest and told him I loved the book and disliked the BBC effort. He nodded and said he was disappointed too at the look and the changes made by the producers who arrogantly told him this was the BBC and the writer was nothing, it was the producer and director who called the shots. Bet they'd slit their own throats to work with him now...

On the writing front though, I had a very stupid English teacher (referred to as the C&A model because she looked like a mannequin from C&A's window all the year round) who once told me I had no imagination. A few days later my friend and I slapped down a couple of hundred pages of a pastiche we had made of various shows and films using school characters instead and told her we'd also recorded it doing all the voices and mixing the music and effects ourselves. That shut her up. Okay, some people may not be that great a writer but no-one, least of all teachers (who are supposed to encourage) should tell them to stop; if they enjoy doing what they do then keep doing it, write for yourself and if others enjoy it, that's a bonus (and Neil has said similar things at events; Stardust for instance, he wrote because he wanted to read it).