Off and on for a couple of weeks now, I’ve been looking for a particular Neil Gaiman quote, in light of the Penman Shipwreck and our general discussions of handwriting. It was the quote which, many years ago (in 1999) first reminded me of the importance of handwriting and set me on the long path back to being able to handwrite fiction comfortably. It was what triggered everything I’ve thought about writing and technology after that, to be honest.
I hunted and hunted through his journal and couldn’t find it, using every possible combination of search terms I could think of. It was browsing through and passively looking for the quote which led to those other Neil Gaiman comments I’ve posted.
Anyway, I found it just now. The reason I couldn’t find it in his journal was that it wasn’t there. I thought it was. I had actually read it in a Locus interview, in ’99, which is also available online. Harrumph.
Anyway, here you are, the definitive argument — one of them — for remembering your handwriting. (The first part, posted for context. The relevant bit is emboldened, for attention-grabbing.
‘Stardust has one brief moment of almost Tarantino-esque violence, a couple of gentle sex scenes, and the word ‘fuck’ printed very, very small once. But apart from that, it could have been written in 1920. The magic of writing, those things we do to convince ourselves we’re doing it the right way. Up until 1986, I wrote everything on a typewriter. From 1986, when I bought my first computer, I did everything on that, except maybe one short story handwritten. Then it came to Stardust and I thought, ‘OK, I want to write this in 1920.’ I went out and bought a fountain pen – curiously enough, the fountain pen I’m signing the book with, which has a lovely sort of arc of closure to it, a feeling of completeness. And I bought some big, leatherbound blank volumes, and I sat and wrote Stardust.
”I think it really changed the way I wrote it. You think about the sentence more before you write it. On a computer, it’s almost like throwing down a blob of clay and then molding it a bit. But I can’t do that with a fountain pen, so I think about it a little more. And I wanted a first and second draft, which is again something that seems to be fading. A couple of years ago, when I was editing The Sandman: Book of Dreams, I noticed that what 10 years earlier would have been 3,000-word short stories were coming in at over 6,000 words. And it was as if people writing them on computers let them bloat. If you have a choice between two things, you do both of them. With Stardust, I wanted to go back to the thing I was taught when I started writing short stories: Write them as if you’re paying them by the word. It’s 60,000 words, which is what books used to be. Obviously, the book has certain drawbacks and disadvantages. You can’t use it as a doorstop. You probably couldn’t seriously injure a burglar with it, and a stack of falling Stardust will not kill anybody.
It is excerpted from this interview, which is enjoyable, aside from being done in the peculiar Locus way of removing the questions and leaving the answers strung together.