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have you seen this smile

it takes too much out of me to pretend

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i'm the sickest girl you'd ever find
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FFN
These are not our faces.

This is not what we look like.


You think Gene Wolfe looks like his photograph in this book? Or Jane Yolen? Or Peter Straub? Or Diana Wynne Jones? Nonsense. They are wearing play-faces to fool you. But the play-faces come off when the writing begins.

Frozen in black and silver for you now, these are masks. We who lie for a living are wearing our liar-faces, false-faces made to deceive the unwary. For if you believe these faces, we look just like everyone else.

Protective colouration, that's all it is. Read the books, though: sometimes you can catch sight of us there. We look like gods and fools and bards and queens, singing whole worlds into existence, conjuring something from nothing, juggling words into all the patterns of night...

Read the books. That's when you see us properly: naked priests and priestesses of forgotten cults, our skins glistening with scented oils, scarlet blood dripping from our hands, bright birds flying up out from our mouths. Perfect, we are, and beautiful in the fire's orange light...

You think we sit with our old faces on, making up stories, writing them down?

There was a story I was told as a child, about a little girl who peeked in through a writer's window one night, and saw him writing. He had taken his false-people-face off to write and had hung it behind the door, for he wrote with his real face on. And she saw him; and he saw her. And, from that day to this, nobody has ever heard of the little girl again.

Since then, writers have looked like other people when they write (though sometimes their lips move, and sometimes they stare into space longer and harder than anything that isn't a cat); but their words describe the real faces; the ones they wear underneath.

This is why people who encounter writers of fantasy are rarely satisfied by the wholly inferior persons that they meet.

"I thought you'd be taller, or older, or younger, or prettier, or wiser," they tell us, in words or wordlessly.


"This is not what I look like," I tell them. "This is not my face."

Adventures in the Dream Trade; Neil Gaiman

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