I took a long time coming round to read Neil Gaiman. A combination of being told an unflattering anecdote about him and seeing him on a 2000AD documentary explaining how he cried when Alan Moore told him how he would have completed his cancelled series The Ballad of Halo Jones put me off.
(Plus reading a puke-inspiring interview with Gaiman and his wife, singer-songwriter Amanda Palmer, and there’s a kind of Breaking Bad/Game of Thrones effect where you reject it because you’re sick of being told how it’s, like, the best thing ever created.)
That said, with the hype around American Gods, which sounded genuinely interesting, I downloaded a copy of the book and was blown away. It was awesome! (Read it! It’s, like, the best thing!) I then read The Ocean at the End of the Lane, also great, and the two American Gods novellas – Monarch of the Glen and Black Dog – and regretted not doing so sooner.
While not new to writing fantasy, Paradise, CA (excerpt below) from my new short story collection Fresh Blood Orange was my first go at urban fantasy, in the form of a sort-of ghost story, where Mateo Baez escapes from the afterlife back to the streets of Los Angeles – condemned to Catholic hell for being gay and for committing suicide. (More on this issue in a further post.)
Buy Fresh Blood Orange here.
Photo: By pinguino k from North Hollywood, USA (Neil Gaiman) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
…Mateo tuned out again and turned his attention back to the street and the sultry night. Nervous energy kept him focused and he stood there unmoving for some time. They were out there somewhere, hunting him. Always getting closer.
“Who are you?”
The voice startled him and he grabbed the railing tight as if to stop himself from falling. It was the woman from inside. She was young but had bad teeth and gaunt cheeks and was pale for a white girl who lived under the fireball sun of the Golden State.
“What are you doing out here?”
“I’m so sorry, miss, I was just… You can see me?”
“Of course I can.” A trickle of blood was drying on her face having run down from a gash on her head. The window behind her was closed as Mateo had left it. “Buster will kill you if he finds you out here. He hates Mexicans.”
“I’m Puerto Rican.”
“Like I said, he hates Mexicans. You got a smoke?”
“Sorry, I gave it up.”
“Shit, I’m out.” She patted at the pockets of her denim shorts just in case. “You okay, guy? Looks like you’ve hurt yourself.” She pointed at the cuffs of Mateo’s shirt – both were stained red.
“It’s nothing, I’m fine. How are you doing? How do you… feel?” Mateo’s eyes were drawn to a shard of white dinner plate protruding from her dry, dye-job blonde hair.
“I’m okay, I guess. Took a knock on the head, think I maybe passed out for a bit there but I’m okay. Buster’s beaten me up worse than that before. Coupla times, not that it’s your business.”
“Sorry to pry. You got something in your hair,” said Mateo. As soon as her fingers brushed the jagged edge of the plate her eyes widened, confused and dumbly horrified. Mateo regretted being flippant…