A few weeks ago, author Neil Gaiman (Sandman, American Gods, Coraline, etc.) took to Twitter to call for story prompts. He asked his followers 12 questions over the course of a day, each tied to a month: “Why is January so dangerous?” “If August could speak, what would it say?” “What would you burn in November, if you could?” and so forth. And then he picked one reader response per month and wrote a short story around it. All 12 stories have now been posted online, and Gaiman fans will find them uncharacteristically short, but stylistically familiar, in the vein of his modern, often melancholy fables in Fragile Things or Smoke And Mirrors.
The stories are part of the commercially sponsored “Keep Moving” initiative, which also has Alicia Keys and filmmaker Robert Rodriguez working on their own interactive projects. Gaiman’s project is called “A Calendar Of Tales,” and the end plan is a digital and limited-edition print collection matching Gaiman’s stories to illustrations contributed by readers. Now, the project is inviting people to submit their own artwork for the collection. There’s no mention of compensation for artists, which may raise the same issues about fair value for art that came up in 2012 when Gaiman’s wife, Amanda Palmer, promised beer, hugs, and high fives to approved musicians who wanted to volunteer to join her onstage during a tour. Then again, there’s also currently no mention of the sponsor, BlackBerry (or as the narrator repeatedly pronounces it in the launch video, “BlackBree”) selling the collection or trying to profit from it in any way other than via the non-stop Internet attention that Gaiman commands. For now, at least, Gaiman fans can read his latest work free, tweet their appreciation at him, and get retweeted, in a dizzying cycle of mutual promotion and self-promotion.