Following on from yesterday, here’s an equally disastrous look at a writer’s encounter with Hollywood. While fictional, the main thread is a disguised version of Gaiman’s experience with the Sandman film. (This was the experience that included someone trying to insert a fight scene between Morpheus and a giant mechanical spider into the script.)

In this, the protagonist has written a novel about the children of Charles Manson inheriting their father’s charisma. He’s invited to Hollywood to write the script, but before that the producers ask him to tweak the synopsis. Over the course of the story the synopsis is changed and changed until none of it resembles the novel, and the frustration with producers who don’t understand the story or want to make their mark on it is well done. But there’s a whole lot more going on here.

In some ways this might be a quintessential Gaiman story. There’s the sense that the world is quietly magical if you only stop and listen. There are many recurring motifs cleverly paid off by the end, all feeding into the ending. To name a few, the protagonist meets an old caretaker who’s been around since the start of Hollywood, tending ornamental carp that are just as old. From this encounter, he becomes entranced with a silent film star who’s been utterly forgotten nowadays. And as he’s staying in the hotel that John Belushi died in, everyone wants to tell him which celebrities were secretly in Belushi’s room when it happened. (Everyone, naturally, names different celebrities.)

Here’s a taste of the tone, from the cabbie who picks him up at the airport:

“You get rain in England, I hear.” It wasn’t a question.

“A little.”

“More than a little. Rains every day in England.” He laughed. “And thick fog. Real thick, thick fog.”

“Not really, no.”

“Whaddya mean, no?” he asked, puzzled, defensive. “I’ve seen movies.”

We sat in silence.

The Goldfish Pool and Other Stories by Neil Gaiman

Availability: print only

Word count: 12,000

First published: David Copperfield’s Beyond Imagination, edited by David Copperfield & Janet Berliner, 1996, HarperPrism

Where to find it: Smoke and Mirrors: Short Fictions and Illusions, collection, 2005, Avon Books / Harper Collins

The Urban Fantasy Anthology, edited by Peter S. Beagle & Joe R. Lansdale, 2011, Tachyon Publications

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