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I make things up and write them down. Which takes us from comics (like SANDMAN) to novels (like ANANSI BOYS and AMERICAN GODS) to short stories (some are collected in SMOKE AND MIRRORS) and to occasionally movies (like Dave McKean's MIRRORMASK or the NEVERWHERE TV series, or my own short film A SHORT FILM ABOUT JOHN BOLTON).
In my spare time I read and sleep and eat and try to keep the blog at www.neilgaiman.com more or less up to date.
In my mind, "The Sandman" is the greatest comic book to come along in the past 15 years or so. Neil Gaiman is such a great writer and brings so much into the mix that is Sandman. Of course, it's easy to do this when Sandman is the King Of Dreams, but the way Neil did it was truly magical. "Fables and Reflections" is perhaps my favorite of the Sandman collections because they are all self-contained stories that are all interesing in their own right. All the Sandman issues are great, but you cannot read only one chapter of "Brief Lives" or "Doll's House" to get the whole meaning. Because this collection is so varied, it would be a good place for new readers tom start. The Sandman storylines often jump around in time anyway, after all Dream has been around since the beginning of time and that is a lot of ground to cover! I should start off perhaps by explaining who the Sandman is. The Sandman goes by many names, but his given name is Dream and he is the king of dreams. He is one of the Endless, who are all older than Gods. The rest of the Endless are Destiny, Death, Desire, Despair, Destruction, and Delirium. Each of their names gives you a glimpse of what they are and what they do. Death, Delirium, Despair, and Desire pop up in this volume, as do other familiar charactewrs like Matthew the Raven. What distinguishes "Fables & Reflections" from other Sandman collections is that not only does it not follow a choesive story, but Dream is not directly involved in all the tales told here. Some of the tales are stories being told that involve the Dream King.Read more ›
HB: "How did you come to name this collection FABLES AND REFLECTIONS?"
NG: "Actually, I didn't. What I wanted to call it is ACCOUNTS AND REFLECTIONS, but nobody at DC would let me. My thinking was that the book contained a set of stories about different elements intersecting titled CONVERGENCE, and a set of historical tales titled DISTANT MIRRORS, and 'accounts' would represent both things being totalled up, or coming together; and ancient tales being recounted. But DC felt all that title would do is make readers think of chartered accountancy."
- interview with Neil Gaiman in THE SANDMAN COMPANION, by Hy Bender
All stories herein were written by Neil Gaiman (Wolfe only wrote the introduction which was added for their publication in book form). Each involves characters telling stories, from a phobic modern playwright to Orpheus himself. Often the entire story is part of a character's reminiscences, such as Lady Joanna's journals. Each (apart from possibly "Fear of Falling") also involves the spirit of a very distinct *place* (Fiddler's Green even makes an appearance).
As for the artists - SANDMAN's typical practice was to team up artists with Gaiman for short storylines like these to get used to working together before tackling major story arcs. McManus worked on most issues of A GAME OF YOU (which was published between the CONVERGENCE and DISTANT MIRRORS storylines). Later, Thompson and Locke drew BRIEF LIVES, while Talbot and Buckingham worked on WORLDS' END.
"Fear of Falling" (illustrator: Kent Williams) Rather than appearing in SANDMAN proper, this story appeared in VERTIGO PREVIEW #1, which launched DC's VERTIGO imprint in 1993.Read more ›
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I've read 6 Sandman books now, in order, Fables and Reflections being the most recent. It could be my favorite, but they're all so perfect in different ways. I made my mom read "Ramadan", and now she's hooked. I just love that story. I can't stop thinking about it...it's just incredible. Gorgeous.
My suggestion: If you're new to Sandman, and aren't exactly sure whether you'll like it, read Fables and Reflections. (Only skip "Song of Orpheus" and "A Parliament of Rooks", which would be a bit confusing without the other issues.) However, if you're new to Sandman and trust Neil Gaiman with all your heart, start with Preludes and Nocturnes and know that it gets better. I really think they're best read in order.
"Ramadan" is just pure genius. The collection would be worth its price if only that one story were in it. "Fear of Falling" is another highlight, although no one ever mentions it. Very simple and short, but great. "The Hunt" is cool...well, all of them are! If you already know Sandman, obviously you'll want to buy this volume. If you're new, then don't hesitate.
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I've been reading the Sandman series in order, and have been enjoying each volume. It's hard not to rank them, but this collection of short stories probably ranks near the middle (vol. 1, 4, & 5 are my favorites, but essentially they're all worth your time and money). The stories vary in look and feel somewhat, but are all linked together by regular appearances from Dream, and cameos from his always intriguing family. The over all scope of these stories is great, covering vast areas of time and distance. While a few of the stories suffer somewhat from the regular use of a "telling" rather than "showing" style, there aren't any duds here. Two in particular, "Song of Orpheus", and "Parliament of Rooks" are a pure joy to read throughout, and worth the price of admission on their own. Even though Gaiman works with quite a few artists here (different artist/artists for each tale), the quality is consistent, always moving the story along successfully. The efforts of P. Craig Russell, Bryan Talbot, and Shawn MacManus are especially worth mentioning. Gaiman's Sandman series is easily one of the most consistently exceptional of all time, and volume 6, Fables and Reflections, follows right along with that high level of quality. While I'd recommend starting with volume 1 and making your way through to the end, due to the timeless quality of the stories, any one of the volumes that I've read so far (the first 6) could also be read on it's own, primarily due to the skill and power of Gaiman's writing, and his lack of dependence on continuity. If you're new to Sandman, this is not your typical comic book. This is great fiction, period. If you're dismissive of comics as juvenile or inferior, toss aside any preconceptions and invest in a volume of Sandman. You won't regret it, or forget it.
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