2013 Literary Pin-up Calendar: Neil Gaiman

October 15, 2012  •  Leave a Comment

Media is the message.
We are the Media.
And she is us.

Be afraid.

A year ago, my literary pin-up calendar was published by Pat Rothfuss’s wonderful charity Worldbuilders.
I sent a print from that 2012 Calendar to Neil Gaiman with a note that read something like:

“Dear Neil,
Please consider this year’s calendar a proof of concept. But instead of dead authors who cannot defend themselves, I’d like to make the 2013 calendar all about living authors*. I thought it would be especially apt and lovely if Amanda Palmer wanted to be Miss Neil Gaiman. Please let me know your thoughts.”

He did: And when she returned from Down Under, she did.
And there was much rejoicing.

But having a model before having a concept is unusual.
Who, among Neil’s roster of splendid characters, would we cast Amanda as?
Amanda as Yvaine? As Coraline? As Door? As Delirium? As Death warmed over?
No.

There were these photos to be taken into account: No matter how much fun it would be to have her play any, or indeed all those characters, Media was simply too powerful not to get her way.
Media is the message. And of all the curious forms of media communication, the Gregorian Calendar is one** of the strangest (Why not 13 months of 28 days? Why an ever shifting number of days?? With leap years!?!). Our calendar is the QWERTY keyboard of time. Sure, it works. But there ought to be a better smarter way.

As anyone who understands the history of the Hays Code or has wrestled with the arbitrary restrictions of iambic pentameter knows – restrictions of form can lead to happy accidents.
In the case of 2013, the month of June starts very late in the week, and the money quote from Media is an exchange she has with Shadow.
And since Neil is no stranger to sequential art… why alter the text when one could simply do it in comic form? And how would we arrange to get the reference shots we needed in a timely fashion?
Happily I was invited to Readercon in Boston this year, and so was my friend, photographer extraordinaire Kyle Cassidy. Both of us were on hand to participate in a remarkable storytelling experiment with Michael Swanwick and Elizabeth Bear.
I named it ‘Dismembrance’ and somehow that’s how it stayed:

Kyle and Amanda go way back, even before he worked on the felicitous Who Killed Amanda Palmer book, and their collaboration continues apace (See: Yesterday’s Doctoral Dissertation). When we talked strategy I learned that he had already scheduled a photoshoot with Amanda in September. So if I could just get him a rough, he could shoot reference for me remotely.
Voila. Kyle and Amanda were good as gold and the reference photos came magically through the aether. Illustration reference is a different beast than “normal” photography in that I used no fewer than 5 of his 26 photos to inform the finished painting.
Some weeks later, the whole thing was done. I hope you like it.

Neil and Amanda and Kyle have kindly offered their time not just in the service of a nutty arty idea, but of a great charity. The calendar is currently available at Worldbuilders’s online store for preorder; all the profits go to Heifer International.

“Heifer International’s mission is to work with communities to end hunger and poverty and care for the Earth through the gift of animals. By giving families a hand-up, not just a handout, they empower them to turn hunger and poverty into hope and prosperity, but their approach is more than that. By bringing communities together and linking them with markets in their area, Heifer helps bring sustainable agriculture and commerce to areas with a long history of poverty.”

* Sadly, Ray Bradbury did not live to see the finished calendar, but we are so honored that he agreed to be part of this project.

**Tom Lehrer famously noted forms still stranger: “postcards, neckties, samplers, stained-glass windows, tattoos, anything!”



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