The story behind the story ...

          Some time in the summer of 1994 Neil Gaiman sent me an email inviting me to write a story for the Sandman anthology he was co-editing.   Or, more precisely, he sent me an email wondering why he hadn't already received a story from me.
          Well, because you never asked me to write one, I replied, somewhat bemused.
          I didn't? he said.   Damn.   Bugger.   Would you like to write a story for the Sandman anthology?
          I'd be delighted, I said.

          Of course it wasn't nearly that simple.   I had to get one of the other editors to mail me the guidelines, and it took him two months to do so, compounded by the fact that I'd moved in the interim and was having my mail forwarded.   And then I had to actually come up with a story.   "Do me something cool and special and something only you can do and make it a cool and wonderful story," Neil said.
          Right.   No pressure there.
          For some reason, my brain kept trying to incorporate neurological disorders into the story.   I thought about writing something around Dream and narcolepsy, or Shivering Jemmy and autism.   I had all the Sandman collections that had been published in paperback; I reread them all and then borrowed the Brief Lives issues from a sweetheart.
          It didn't take long then for Delirium to become my favorite of Neil's characters.   I was enchanted by her silliness, moved by her sadness, and disturbed by her unexplained past.   What terrible thing could have caused the incarnation of Delight to become the personification of Delirium?
          Some of the things she said made me shiver with recognition.   I had an idea.
          Life got a little crazy.   I had to move out of my new apartment on short notice, under threats of physical violence from my roommate.   And right on the heels of this I discovered that the sweetheart I so adored had lied horribly to me and others, and our relationship went up in a mushroom cloud.
          When I began, ever so slightly, to pull myself together again, the first thing I began to do was write the Sandman story.   I finished it and turned it in to Neil; he asked for revisions; I rewrote it and gave it back.   This time Neil accepted it for the book.

          Of course, it wasn't nearly that simple.   In the interim, some of the other authors had begun to receive contracts from DC Comics, and were very disturbed.   The terms under which we'd been asked to write the stories bore no resemblance to the terms in the contracts that were actually sent.   Neil tried to negotiate DC back to where they were supposed to be.   The authors waited.
          Almost a full year later he gave up, having made very little headway.   There had been some talk of moving the anthology to another publisher, removing all the DC-copyrighted names, and selling it as "Neil Gaiman's Dream World" or somesuch.   But too many authors had already signed the nasty DC contracts to make this feasible.   Several of the remaining authors withdrew their stories from the book (and later rewrote the Sandman characters out of them, and sold them to other markets).   I was despondent, however, because I felt in my story the Delirium character was too integral to cut.   I waited to withdraw the story until I'd read the contract for myself, though.   (Michael Berry is another author in a similar boat.   You can read his Merv Pumpkinhead story on his web page.   Somewhere in Lucien's Library there is a very different Sandman anthology than the one which eventually saw print.)
          I moved across the country and for a while was distracted with the logistics of that.   Eventually it dawned on me that even so, I should have gotten the contracts long since.   I inquired of Neil, and of the other editor, and discovered that despite Neil's acceptance, my story had never actually been forwarded to DC, and so was not currently included in the anthology.
          Which is probably for the best, as it removed all temptation for me to sell out.   Under the circumstances, though, my story is not likely to ever be professionally published.   So there is no reason for me not to print it here.   Well, I suppose there is the small possibility of a lawsuit from DC, but I won't tell them if you won't.   It will make me feel better, less as though all my effort were wasted, if I know some people will have the opportunity to read it.

          Despite the crazy heartbreak I was in at the time (or maybe a little because of it) I enjoyed writing Delirium.   I hope you enjoy reading her.   People familiar with Sandman and particularly with the Brief Lives arc will recognize many of the things that Delirium says, but non-Sandman readers have generally had no trouble following the story.   Readers of L. Frank Baum and e.e. cummings will recognize bits as well.   There's even an obscure Tori Amos reference that I don't expect anyone but me will ever notice.   (If you think you know what it is, send me email and I'll tell you if you're right.   There are several references to Tori song lyrics, but this is more obscure than that.)
          One other tidbit:   The original title for this story was "The Color of Her Countries" — a phrase taken from an e.e. cummings poem.   The consensus of my writer's workshop, though, was that the phrase had been forever ruined by association with the Piers Anthony novel The Color of Her Panties.   So I reluctantly substituted another line from the same poem and it became "The Voice of Her Eyes."

          Naturally, the character of Delirium and the names of the other Endless (Destiny, Dream, Death, Destruction, Desire, and Despair) are all © DC Comics.   The story itself and all other characters are © Karawynn Long (1994).   Delirium illustration at top © Karawynn Long (1996).
          If you'd like to put a link to this story on another web page, please link to this introduction (http://www.sff.net/people/karawynn/delirium.htp) rather than to the actual story document.   If you wish to copy or display the illustration at the top of the page, send me email.   And finally, if you like the story and would like to read other things I've written, you can visit my writing site.

"It was then that Delirium noticed that she had absentmindedly transformed herself into a hundred and eleven perfect, tiny, multicolored fish.   Each fish sang a different song.   And as she put herself back together again, unable for the moment to remember whether the silver flecks went in the blue eye or the green one, she decided that a dog would be a nice thing to have.   And then it occurred to her that there had been a dog around at some point, hadn't there? A nice doggie.   And she went off to look for it, trailing occasional fish ..."

— Neil Gaiman, The Kindly Ones

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163070 people have said hello and goodbye since July 15, 1996.

[Delirium petting a dog: 'Hullo, doggy.  You're a very Nice doggy, aren't you? Yes, you Are.  The cherry stones say I'm going to be a Kangaroo when I grow up.  What's Your name then?']