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Wait... Neil Gaiman

Hey, everyone. "Moriarty" here with some Rumblings From The Lab.

I don’t know how I missed this.

Someone wrote me a letter about some totally unrelated issue this week, and happened to mention something in passing, something I’d never heard mention of anywhere. I’ve spent the last few days asking around, and now I’m going to just toss this out there to anyone who might know anything, because I’m fascinated.

Is Neil Gaiman really writing a screenplay adaptation of Nicholson Baker’s wicked and brilliant THE FERMATA for Robert Zemeckis to direct at DreamWorks?

THE FERMATA is the story of a young man who discovers that every so often, he has the ability to drop into “The Fold,” as he calls it, a place where the world simply takes a breath, goes on pause. Sort of like in that Nickelodeon film earlier this year, CLOCKSTOPPERS, except there are no wacky spy hijinks or teen romance subplots. The main character in THE FERMATA uses the opportunity not to get rich or to necessarily benefit; instead, he uses it to satisfy the boundaries of the curiousity of his libido.

He uses it for sex.

The book, like Baker’s earlier VOX, is smart and funny and blisteringly filthy. I remember buying the book for my girlfriend at the time, and the two of us would get together to read it and laugh at the outrageousness of it all even as it worked on another level, leaving us... shall we say pleasantly bothered?. Baker’s one of those writers who manages to balance text and subtext with a magician’s ease, and the idea that Gaiman might be working to adapt his work is intriguing. They’re nothing alike as writers, aside from being keenly intelligent, perhaps. Gaiman’s always been fascinated with large tapestries, our shared stories and histories, and storytelling. Actually, I guess you could say Baker’s fascinated by storytelling, too. It’s just that his stories would make Larry Flynt blush at times.

Zemeckis is another fascinating possible match for the material. Inevitably, the book details what happens when you get bored with all the options available to you, and Zemeckis is at the point in his career where there’s not a script he can’t get, not a star he can’t hire, and not a toy he can’t get for his camera package. He can do anything he wants, and that means he’s had to genuinely confront the question: at that point, what do you do?

I’m going to cross my fingers and keep poking into this... oh, god, now that I’m thinking about Baker, that phrase sounded really, really dirty. What I mean is, I’m going to try to nail this down. I mean, I’ll dig in and see what I can uncover.

Oh, hell. I’ll find out if it’s happening.

I certainly hope it is.

"Moriarty" out.

Readers Talkback
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  • Sept. 12, 2002, 1:16 a.m. CST


    by SilentType

    The book used to get you "all bothered"? You're sick Moriarty. We didn't need to hear that.

  • Sept. 12, 2002, 1:17 a.m. CST


    by Theta

    Sorry, I refuse to believe Hollywood would have the balls to try and develop a movie about freeze-framing devoted exclusively to sex. Nobody will touch it. It'd be cool, though.

  • Sept. 12, 2002, 1:35 a.m. CST

    Anything he wants

    by DyslexicHeart

    I'm not so sure Zemeckis can get anything he wants. He can get a lot, especially if Tom Hanks or Steven Spielberg help him but this sounds like a stretch. If Bob can get this made then goshdarnit Joaquin should be able to star in "The Fountain" for Darren.

  • Sept. 12, 2002, 1:57 a.m. CST

    Actually, he is. :o)

    by whyrd

    This is from Neil Gaiman's on blog (available at, and click on the "journal" link) --- Monday, September 02, 2002 So I'm working with Robert Zemeckis on the Fermata script today, in the San Jose hotel that the World SF con was in. Which means that every time Bob Z and I go to eat, people come up to me in the corridors and say "congratulations on writing such a good book" and I say "Thank you so much". I shouldn't have told Bob I won the Hugo last night. I bet I could have convinced him that random people in hotels always congratulate me for writing good books.

  • Sept. 12, 2002, 2:16 a.m. CST

    That was easy...

    by Sphere

    Geez Moriarty, it's no great mystery to uncover what Neil Gaiman's up to if you really want to know. He keeps his blogger updated so often, his fans know when he has a head cold and what he had for breakfast two days ago.

  • Sept. 12, 2002, 2:20 a.m. CST

    Are they gonna keep the coprophilia?

    by Some Dude

    This book is by turns scary and hilarious. Though, given moral climate, are we really going to see all that much when it is transposed to film?

  • Sept. 12, 2002, 2:28 a.m. CST

    zemeck and gaiman

    by joeypogi

    zemeck and gaiman, kewl

  • Sept. 12, 2002, 3:17 a.m. CST

    Bare-Arsed Emperor

    by Slutfreak

    Surely it's not just me out here who thinks Neil Gaiman is a totally over-rated writer? In a previous review of his work I described his talents as 'nebulous' and I think I was being polite. Now I hear he's won a Hugo Award! Either the panel of judges were all taking bribes or critical standards have fallen seriously in the past few years. Gaiman is the master of cliche and cheap stylistic gimmicks. The Sandman was pseudo-literate bedtime stories for miserable goth girls. So why should anyone get excited about anything he's writing for anyone? One glance at his website tells you that he's more obsessed with the cult of Neil than he is with the quality of the actual work he produces. Of course, now he's a 'brand' his publishers will milk that particular tit dry until no-one is buying and he has to crawl back into the comics ghetto to pay his mortgage. When he's writing screenplays for Indecent Behaviour 5 he will have found his true level.

  • Sept. 12, 2002, 3:55 a.m. CST

    IMDB reveals that RON JEREMY is slated to star!

    by Eugene O

    Pshaw! Not really.

  • Sept. 12, 2002, 5:45 a.m. CST

    this will NEVER make it to the screen

    by Lazarus Long

    I read this book 8 years ago (or whenever it came out), and at no point thought about a film version. It's one of those books that is impossible to adapt not only because of the subject matter, but because most of the writing takes place inside the main character's head. And if you loaded the film with narration, it would suck. I'd rather see Errol Morris do The Mezzanine. The sexual material in this book is stuff that is so far beyond what you're likely to see in Auto-Focus...NO ACTOR would take a chance starring in this. Career suicide. Of course we're talking Zemeckis here, who would water it down until it meant nothing. Hey, look what he did to the novel of Forest Gump.

  • Sept. 12, 2002, 7 a.m. CST


    by WinSToN SMITHs

    I just want to see a Sandman movie. As long as it wouldn't resemble the crap that was the Crow. Sound track was nice though.

  • In other words: It would be cool if it got made, especially with Zemeckis as the director, but don't bet on it.

  • Sept. 12, 2002, 8:04 a.m. CST

    Cool. I look forward to seeing the entire movie in it's trai

    by Cash Bailey

    Fuck Zemeckis and his utterly retarded method of giving away every plot point and twist of a movie in the trailer.

  • Sept. 12, 2002, 8:42 a.m. CST


    by David Aaronson

    Sorry I was under the impression that Zemeckis had moved his production Company ImageMovers from Dreamworks over to the Warner Lot (he allegedly didnt see eye to eye with Katzenberg)if im correct then this story must be bogus!

  • Sept. 12, 2002, 8:59 a.m. CST

    So, what it all boils down to...

    by rev_skarekroe a story about a serial rapist. Hope Gaiman knows what he's doing. sk

  • Sept. 12, 2002, 9:30 a.m. CST


    by don_gately

    Robert Zemekis is not going to keep the scene where the main character ejaculates on a woman's eyes while in the Fold.

  • Sept. 12, 2002, 10:26 a.m. CST

    Don't remember "rape" in Fermata

    by BlankGeneration

    Mori didn't present the plot in it's entire scope. Fermamta's main character didn't use his power for sexual intercourse against anyone's will. The BlankGeneration absorbed this book when it came out because Baker's work on "Vox" was brilliant and funny and very sexy. The time-stopper in "Fermata" did NOT have sex with unknowing women. He'd undress and pose them, put sex tapes in their car's cassette players and other silly shit like that. He did have a girlfriend that knew of his powers and their sex was consensual. Keep in mind, the BlankGeneration's memory cells have taken a few body blows from tequila and Ecstacy fueled raves that featured consensual sex and consensual passing out, but I don't recall any rapes in Fermata. Thanks for listening.

  • Sept. 12, 2002, 10:32 a.m. CST

    Could work but it won't be Baker...

    by AllPurpose0thing

    The only problem with translating a work like "The Fermata" or any one Baker's works to the screen is that everything lies in the details. The success of Baker's writing is his ability to find the universal truths of the small details around us. Anyone who has read "Room Temperature" or "The Mezannine" can attest to this Mind you.."The Fermata" is more plot oriented than his other works, but the translation to screen will kill the very sense of Baker in the work. Sort of like translating Pynchon to the screen. "The Crying of Lot 49" is a great book, but its beauty lies in its language, not its plot. Now, if one argues whether it is translatable at all, sure it is. Stuart Gordon was able to successfully translate Dahl's "My Uncle Oswald" for the stage in his Organic Theatre. That was another seemingly untranslatable "smutty" novel. On the other hand, Gary Marshall killed Anne Rice's "Exit to Eden" on the screen. It just takes the right match of writer/director to the material. Gaiman/Zemeckis could work. "Contact" shouldn't have worked but it did. Same goes for "Cast Away." Zemeckis is good with troubled translations. I'm hoping this one works...

  • Sept. 12, 2002, noon CST

    Fermata Me!

    by aunthannah

    This book gave me such wonderful dreams I needed to buy a second copy, but I can't imagine how they'll accomplish the subway and garden scenes without an NC17 rating. Off to fold.

  • Sept. 12, 2002, 12:26 p.m. CST

    It IS being written by Neil Gaiman

    by Cerebud

    If you go to and click on "The Pulse", there's an interview with Neil where he states that it's very nearly complete. There's a lot more cool stuff about what Neil's up to as well. American Gods won the Hugo.

  • Sept. 12, 2002, 12:48 p.m. CST

    I think Gaiman should adapt The Sandman: Doll's House with H

    by Chaffro

    "Have you seen my little brother, brother?"

  • Sept. 12, 2002, 1:35 p.m. CST

    Gaiman: Excellent writer. Baker: Excellent writer.

    by Radagast T Brown

    Gaiman writing a Baker book into a script for Zemeckis? I dunno. "The Fermata" left me with a lot of mixed emotions about whether to like or loathe the time-stopping masturbator, and it has no clear dramatic arc that would translate well to movies, aside from Arno Strine gets a girlfriend. (I imagine the Fold passages would have some real eye-popping cinematic potential, though.) It will have be heavily Hollywoodized to make it to the screen. As for Gaiman, I've loved his work since Sandman, but all his dramatic climaxes turn out to be anticlimaxes. ... Wait, in the context of Fermata, did that sound dirty?

  • Sept. 12, 2002, 2:04 p.m. CST

    Coraline, the other Gaiman subject./Zemeckis' 3 other projec

    by Donald McKinney

    Neil Gaiman and Henry Selick are developing the former's children's story 'Coraline' for Warner Bros? Filming is to being soon in London soon, with Michelle Pfeiffer starring in it. Also, whatever happen to the 3 other Zemeckis films that were being developed?? 'Macabre' (the remake of the William Castle horror), 'The Polar Express', (a childrens fantasy with Tom Hanks in it). And the World War 1 epic, entitled 'The Great War' with Mel Gibson in it for DreamWorks??

  • Sept. 12, 2002, 3:43 p.m. CST

    I haven't read the book, but...

    by Dead Megatron

    I don't know, to fantasize about women who can't move and don't know you're watching seems way too adolescent for me> i like women who respond to stimuli, who move and shake and feel pleasure. Of course, to see naked girls anytime I want is not a bad idea at all, but I'd rather do that with some sorte of x-ray vision (undressing could be done with telekinesis or the likes). Anyways, I checked the book out in the Net and, as I understand, there

  • Sept. 12, 2002, 5:23 p.m. CST

    "Magnolia" ripped off "The Last Kiss"

    by sjtphoto

    I just saw "The Last Kiss," an Italian film from 2000 that was just released here. I kept asking myself why the movie seemed so familar - the melodic music from scene to scene that kept building, the multiple storylines of flawed people looking for answers and screwing up along the way, the strong willed man with serious woman problems whose father is on his deathbed... Paul Thomas Anderson ripped off this movie to make "Magnolia." "The Last Kiss" is a much better, more fully realized film.

  • Sept. 12, 2002, 6:41 p.m. CST

    Enough about Magnolia...

    by ReverseOsmosis

    Leave the fuc*ing movie alone. And for some reference- Magnolia- 1999. The Last Kiss- 2000. Hmmm. fut the shuck up and accept the undeniable fact that Magnolia was undeniably the work of a genius. Its been three years. let it go.

  • Sept. 12, 2002, 6:49 p.m. CST


    by Ethril

    What exactly is wrong with rape fantasies??

  • Sept. 12, 2002, 6:52 p.m. CST

    That too

    by Ethril

    And I agree about Magnolia.. Because some people didn't have the attention span for it, 3 years of idiotic bitterness isn't really called for. And yes, it came out BEFORE the Last Kiss, and was written almost 3 years before the Last Kiss. Now back to rape fantasies...

  • Sept. 12, 2002, 7:10 p.m. CST

    Comics ghetto?

    by dfoggsgrrl

    Slutfreak, You sure have some interesting word choices. I'm curious. Are you a writer? Perhaps a frustrated unpublished writer? I'm just getting this vibe that's got me wondering. I do see that you review, but I'm not convinced that a reviewer and a writer are the same thing. I have only reviewed about two hundred scripts, 30 or so poems, many short stories and flash fiction, so I might not be qualified to speak on the subject of reviewing. If I'm right and you are a writer would you be so kind as to tell me what you've written and where I can find it? My curiosity knows no bounds. Not a single one. You post is so subtle I might be misreading and not really getting your feelings for Gaiman or his work. So do you like him or not? Geo The grrl who is suffering from CBS

  • Sept. 12, 2002, 7:18 p.m. CST

    An NC-17 or R rated ROBERT ZEMECKIS film? No way in hell!

    by Modern_Achilles

    This guy is far from being a hack, but he's a PG-13 director. Even Spielberg is raunchy and daring compared to him. I think that they'll tone the screenplay down to an "American Pie" level of sexual inuendo and sillyness, probably rated no higher than PG-16.

  • Sept. 13, 2002, 2:29 a.m. CST

    Gaiman, Hugo?

    by ArgoForg

    Is American Gods anticlimactic? Yeah, a bit. Is it not Hugo fare? I'll be honest. I haven't read many Hugo Award winning books (I prefer authors, not awards), but it stands up pretty favorably to the two I have read, Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game and Speaker for the Dead. I'll give Gaiman props; he more than holds my interest when I'm reading, and that's not the easiest thing to do. And to whomever remarked it, Sandman... bedtime stories for Goth girls? Pleeease. Is it the be-all end-all of comicdom (ne literature)? Nah. The art was almost always iffy, and even the Kindly Ones storyline was anticlimactic. But does it deserve its accolades for being what it set out to be: good, hard writing that didn't pull its four letter words and sexual references, and blazed a trail for comic writers to be storytellers rather than having six thought balloons for every punch their characters landed.

  • Sept. 13, 2002, 11:35 a.m. CST

    I Know Art When I Feel It

    by FrankCobretti

    LOTR. Sum of All Fears. Bloodwork. One of these is art, one is excellent craft, and one is bad. Let's begin by dismissing the bad one out of hand, and get right to SoaF. It has tight plotting, interesting characters, and a good balance between suspence, humour, and pathos. I walked out thinking, "Where did the time go?" LOTR, now, that's a different story altogether. I could spend forever trying to write about why it made me feel the way it did, but I won't bother. What matters is, while watching it I felt an exuberance, a joy, that I feel when I'm in the presence of art. The paintings of Emil Nolde do that for me. So does _Crime & Punishment_. Which brings me to Gaiman. While he is still developing as a "strict" prose writer, his Sandman is a masterpiece. It gives me that exuberance, that sense of wonder, that sense of art. I'm not a comics fan, never read 'em as a kid, but casuallly picked up a copy of the first of the Sandman graphic novels in a bookstore some years back and couldn't put it down. Gaiman has vision, and he has vocabulary, and while I can't guarantee that I'll enjoy everything he'll do, I love that I live in a time when I can watch him develop as an artist.

  • Sept. 13, 2002, 11:39 a.m. CST

    This sounds more like a Fincher / Palahniuk project than Zemecki

    by empyreal0

    I know, Zemeckis could tie this in with Back to the Future, where Doc invents a time-stopping device, but Marty uses it for ill purpose, and there's some grand moral meaning behind it all, yeah.

  • Sept. 13, 2002, 12:38 p.m. CST

    The idea of The Fermata becoming a Zemeckis movie is absurd.

    by FatPaul

    For The Fermata to be translated accurately to the screen, it would have to include hardcore sex. Yes, many novels that included explicit sex scenes were translated into relatively harmless films, but The Fermata is composed almost entirely of explicit sexual situations. All of the humor and most of the story is wrapped up in the details of pornography and voyeurism. Zemeckis is a tool of the kind of people who try to have this kind of shit banned. This story is some kind of bad joke.

  • Sept. 13, 2002, 4:27 p.m. CST

    Porno Clockstoppers...

    by Christopher3

    Is what this is. But I'd probably do something similar with that power.

  • Sept. 13, 2002, 7:06 p.m. CST


    by JonQuixote

    "then you probably don't understand the pace and musical rhythms of the written word or the dynamics of visual art- because when you have both at once they interfere with each other". You said this. 1)There are obvious strengths held by prose that are not shared by the comic medium. D'uh. Thanks for the enlightenment. But what you're ignoring is that comics have strengths that the written word OR visual art alone do not. The collaboration of visual art and language does produce unique strengths; 2)If you're implying that the 'pace and musical rhythms of the written word' are the ultimate draw to prose fiction, then you're obviously an idiot for ignoring Gaiman. Gaiman is a writer steeped heavily in the Romantic tradition (as well as Victorian children's literature), and, particularly when it comes to the sci-fi/fantasy genre, writes with a careful attention to 'pace and musical rhythms' that is almost unheard of today. Whatever you think about his stories, pacing, and overall quality of his novels (and short stories), that criticism is completely off-target. So much so that it makes me think that, if you even have read any of his work, you have not done so with any care or attention or thought, and all that you have to offer by way of criticism is your pseudo-intellectual bullshit and your bias.

  • Sept. 14, 2002, 10:46 a.m. CST


    by JonQuixote

    You didn't cite specific cited generalizations. The few times you did use a specific (you didn't like the ending of Neverwhere), I left you alone. You're pseudo-intellectual because you're like the ponytailed guy in GOOD WILL HUNTING - dropping names and spewing "facts", but devoid of any insight or depth. All you really have is bigotry - read the last line of your last post and try to deny it. I questioned your reading of Gaiman because you seem to trumpet the 'musical rhythms' of the written word, but if Gaiman has ONE strength it is exactly that. If you actually read his work, you'd probably know that. Maybe you can answer me this: why would someone with an automatic bias against comics and who disliked NEVERWHERE and so ready to deride Gaiman's abilities, study the rest of his novels to the degree where he feels qualified to pass judgement on them? Face it, Zooie, all you have to offer are generalizations and stereotypes: Comics suck, their readers are socially inept, Gaiman fancies himself a Lovecraftian talent, etc. Comics are a weaker medium? No, they're just different: visual storytelling has disadvantages and advantages that are exclusive to the form, and comics can do certain things far better than straight prose is able to. But you don't care about that - all you care about are your stereotypes and convincing those around you that you're really, really bright. Well, I hope you're convincing yourself, because nobody here is falling for it.

  • Sept. 14, 2002, 10:09 p.m. CST

    The Fermata as romantic comedy

    by aleph1

    I recently read an article about Neil Gaiman in the Globe and Mail. It was an in-depth article that contained a few comments from Gaiman about the Fermata project. He claimed that the script was an interpretive one and was written as a romantic comedy. If you ask me Zemeckis + romantic comedy = CRAP! Come on, why does Hollywood have to dumb down fantastic works of contemporary literature.

  • Sept. 16, 2002, 9:53 a.m. CST


    by discordia6

    In an interview at the following site, Neil Gaiman talks briefly about finishing the screenplay for Fermata for Robert Zemeckis

  • Sept. 16, 2002, 1:21 p.m. CST

    gaiman and pseudo-intellectual

    by discordia6

    This is in response to Zooromancer's rant. I agree that Neverwhere was not that great. Good Omens was better. I have not read American Gods yet, but will. To the point, I write in response to your criticism of comics. First, while they do not get as much publicity, there are many comics out there that have no spandex-covered heroes in sight. Second, even the better written super-hero comics are better than anything your going to get out of a Grisham or Clancy or any of a number of other popular authors. Third, you really should read at least one volume of the Sandman. His work on the Sandman is still by far the best work has done in any medium. I suggest "Dream Country" Finally fourth, I read nothing that I would consider to be either intellectual or pseudo-intellectual in either of your postings, so whoever said that was way off the mark.

  • Sept. 17, 2002, 3:41 a.m. CST

    Who Cares!

    by Simi Valley Tom

    This sounds thoroughly disgusting. Whatever happened to the great classic cinema style of directors like Howard Hawks, John Ford, Frank Capra, Preston Sturges, and Alfred Hitchcock? They didn't have to be so graphic as today's "auteurs," and their movies are great!