One of the keys to understanding the loyalty of Neil Gaiman’s readers is his willingness to engage them on a personal level. With his daily Twitter comments and frequent blog postings, Gaiman’s fans are privy to his weekly activities on a level that most writers wouldn’t dare encourage. But above and beyond the Tweeting, and blogging, his live readings and audio recordings constitute a tangible connection with his audience that Gaiman has nurtured over the years. These efforts bring an added level of drama and nuance to his own work, and have the effect of personalizing the writing for his fans.
While not all writers are suited to reading their own work, Gaiman is a natural. He reads with a gentle authority that allows the listener to sink into the story. Never forced or overly dramatic, his tone has a rhythm and flow that pull you in, just as reading a good book will do.
It was this aspect of Gaiman’s career that I had in mind when I decided to do an audio treatment of If You Read This Book The World Will End. As I developed this notion I thought I should approach it as a sort of radio play, not unlike Orson Welles's infamous War of the Worlds broadcast. Welles brilliantly did a radio play about a radio play, and it was something I wanted to emulate for this piece.
The script for this book is purely speculative, and are not the words contained in Mr. Gaiman’s "cursed book"—how could they be, the world would end after all. What you will hear is an approximation of what I imagined the book contains, and are not the words or voice of Mr. Gaiman. As you will hear, even an approximation of this hellish text is a precarious endeavor. With the help of audio wizard Mike Degen and the impressive dramatic reading of Mr. Nick Abadzis we hope that you will enjoy this bit of audio speculation. And while it would be sheer madness for you to listen to this (do you really want the world to end?), I imagine curiosity will win over common sense in the end. You have been warned.
If You Read This Book The World Will End—the audio book
(just click on the image to listen)
If You Read This Book The World Will End—the audio book CD's
The Hypothetical Library's new logo for audio books
Nick Abadzis is a cartoonist, and author of the award winning graphic novel Laika. He was featured in The Hypothetical Library two weeks ago for his series The Korolev Trilogy. As it turns out he is also something of a thespian with two years of theater arts under his belt, and it shows. What you just heard was essentially done in two takes. If you've ever witnessed the recording session of someone reading, you will know how improbable that is. He also co-wrote the script with me. You can check out Nick's non-recording efforts at his website. It is with a great degree of sadness that I report that Mr. Abadzis and his family, after completing this project, has mysteriously vanished. The last thing he was heard to utter was, "I should've bloody moved to France..."
Mike Degen is the audio wizard who twisted and distorted the voice and effects for this recording. He is a composer, producer, and musician who also does commercial recordings for film, television, and video games. You can hear samples of his work here, and here. He can be contacted here. Mike has not returned my messages since he completed the final version of this recording, although I received a strange and desperate call late one night from a woman (his wife?) telling me to "leave us alone, haven't you done enough to this family already?"
Neil Gaiman has recorded several audio books and pieces over the years, many of which you can find on his website. Although they are too numerous to list, here are some highlights. Warning: Contains Language is a great collection of readings by Mr.Gaiman, with some amazing music and audio effects. Also of note is Two Plays For Voices: Snow Glass Apples & Murder Mysteries. This recording has outstanding cast members, and is evocative of the great days of radio dramas. I have a distinct memory of laying in bed late one night listening to Murder Mysteries on an NPR station...KCRW? I may have heard it over the Internet, but I choose to remember hearing it on the radio. The Graveyard Book, is a well loved classic (after only 2 years), and the audio book is wonderful. Some of the covers you've seen on this blog were designed while I listened to it. One last mention is Mr. Gaiman's return to his journalistic roots, an NPR piece he did about audio books, which features David Sedaris—Neil Gaiman Asks—Heard Any Good Books Lately?.
Mr Gaiman, unlike the other participants, seems unaffected by the release of this hypothetical book and it's incarnations. One more entry to go, however.
Monday May 24th: If You Read This Book The World Will End—digital book cover