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Neil Gaiman turns tweets into ‘Calendar of Tales’

Gillian Daniels poses with author Neil Gaiman prior to his reading at the Multicultural Arts Center.
Gillian Daniels poses with author Neil Gaiman prior to his reading at the Multicultural Arts Center.Charlie Mahoney for The Boston Globe/Boston Globe

Singer Amanda Palmer was deservedly dubbed the queen of Kickstarter after crowd-funding her latest CD using $1.2 million donated by over 24,000 fans. Now her husband is getting in on the act.

English author Neil Gaiman this week released a collection of short stories and illustrations that was crowd-sourced using not money but the inspiration and wisdom of his 1.8 million Twitter followers.

Confused? We were, too, so we called Gaiman, who's living with his wife in John Kenneth Galbraith's old place in Cambridge.

The author best known for his comic book series, "The Sandman," and the novels "Stardust" and "Coraline," told us he was approached by Blackberry about partnering on a social-media project. His idea was to tweet questions to his fans, select 12 responses, and then write 12 stories — each based on a month of the year. The finished product, called "A Calendar of Tales," is available online at http://acalendaroftales.com/.

"Truthfully, I was worried because I wasn't sure it would work. What if you go out with a question and you don't get anything back?," he said. "You never know with Twitter. You can throw something out and the Twitter winds lift it up and it becomes huge, but the next thing nobody notices. You never know."

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This was noticed. Gaiman's questions elicited tens of thousands of responses. Somewhat arbitrarily, he chose 12 and wrote the stories in three days. The shortest of them is 700 words, the longest is 2,000. He previewed the stories (and artwork) at a reading the other night at the Multicultural Arts Center in Cambridge.

"I do not love all of them equally. My favorite is 'July,' which is small and heartbreaking and poetic," said Gaiman. "But the thing you love best isn't always the thing everyone loves best."

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Like Palmer, Gaiman is a relentless tweeter, using it not only to promote but also to discover. (While writing his latest book, he asked followers if anyone knew what a certain English candy cost in 1968. Someone did.) Will he do something like "A Calendar of Tales" again?

"Twitter is something I do for fun. I can use it or not use it," said Gaiman. "One of the reasons I have 1.9 million followers is because I don't run it as a commercial thing. I'm just making art."