She began to whisper something in my ear. It’s the strangest thing about poetry — you can tell it’s poetry, even if you don’t speak the language. You can hear Homer’s Greek without understanding a word, and you still know it’s poetry. I’ve heard Polish poetry, and Inuit poetry, and I knew what it was without knowing. Her whisper was like that. I didn’t know the language, but her words washed through me, perfect, and in my mind’s eye I saw towers of glass and diamond; and people with eyes of the palest green; and, unstoppable, beneath every syllable, I could feel the relentless advance of the ocean.
Neil Gaiman, “How to Talk to Girls at Parties”
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When news came out that a movie at the Cannes film festival was based off of one of best-selling author Neil Gaiman’s short stories, I shouldn’t have been surprised. Gaiman likes to play in multiple sandboxes after all. In addition to writing novels, children’s books, and comic books, he has had many of his works adapted to theater, TV, and, of course, to film.
This most recent foray into film is How to Talk to Girls at Parties, directed by John Cameron Mitchell who is perhaps best known for writing, starring in, and directing Hedwig and the Angry Inch. How to Talk to Girls at Parties is based off of Gaiman’s Hugo Award-nominated short story of the same name. The story deals with aliens, young love, and coming of age in the heyday of the Clash, David Bowie, and the Sex Pistols. The film expands on this to show how, as per the official summary, “an alien touring the galaxy breaks away from her group and meets two young inhabitants of the most dangerous place in the universe: the London suburb of Croydon.”
Despite this seemingly bizarre framework, several big name actors appear in the film. Elle Fanning plays Zan, the alien leading lady, and Nicole Kidman plays Boadicea, the very campy alien queen. (Fanning and Kidman seem to be a winning partnership; in addition to appearing in How to Talk to Girls at Parties, they both had large roles in another Cannes film, The Beguiled, which was selected to compete for the Palme d’Or.)
Unfortunately it is rather murky when How to Talk to Girls at Parties will be released for wider audiences; IMDb currently lists the date simply as 2017. In the meantime, we do have the chance to sate some of our curiosity. Gaiman has made the full text of the original short story freely available on his website. There is also an audio version available for those who prefer to listen to their fiction.
In fact, if you need some light reading material for the weekend, Gaiman has an entire collection of free short stories, interviews, and essays that you can explore. I’m personally a fan of his David Bowie fanfiction, mostly because the idea of Gaiman writing it is hysterical.
If you have strong opinions on Gaiman’s work – has anyone watched American Gods? – or have passionate opinions about aliens and punk rock, let me know. I’d love to hear what you think.
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Only one answer, and it is this: the heart,” said the Queen. “The heart is greater than the universe, for it can find pity in it for everything in the universe, and the universe itself can feel no pity. The heart is greater than a King, because a heart can know a King for what he is, and still love him. And once you give your heart, you cannot take it back.
Neil Gaiman, “The Return of the Thin White Duke”