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Adam Israel
Dear @neilhimself – Has American Gods ruined Norse re-imaginings for other writers? 
15th-Apr-2011 07:16 pm

I’d ask Neil Gaiman this himself (and yes, I know I’ve tagged him on Twitter on the off chance he sees this), but he’s a busy guy and the odds of getting a chance to talk to him are, frankly, bewilderingly astronomical. I’ll throw this question out to everyone because I’m genuinely curious to hear more thoughts on this.

At Clarion last year, I wrote a short story inspired by Norse mythology, set in America. It was not comparable to American Gods at all (either in scope, idea or quality), but I still had more than one comment scrawled on my manuscript to the effect that I was going to have to ‘deal with Neil Gaiman’. Now, I know they didn’t mean that I should view him as a foe and take him down in an epic battle of sharpened pen nibs. In essence, what I took from the comments (from both student and instructor) was that American Gods was a hugely successful novel and for the foreseeable future any fantastic story of Norse retelling would be a tough sell.

This raised questions that I haven’t found a satisfactory answer to. First, was it specifically because Norse has been re-popularized with Neil’s opus (just recently acquired by HBO)? Is it that mythological retellings need breathing room after one of them achieves such a high amount of success and visibility? Perhaps mythpunk (post-modern makeovers of classical folklore and faerie tales) is a tougher sell in general?

Frankly, I think the retelling or rewriting of any myth, with a sufficiently unique twist, should be saleable. Ideas are old; it’s how we recycle them that is new. Maybe I’m wrong and the bar is set so high to make it otherwise impossible. I’d love to hear other opinions, though. Thoughts?


[Crossposted from Adam Israel. If you'd like to comment, you can do so either here or there.]

(Deleted comment)
16th-Apr-2011 08:49 am (UTC)
I never thought of writing as being a stewardship before but you know, I like that. It fits. I may quote you on this sometime, if you don't mind.
16th-Apr-2011 03:13 am (UTC)
I wrote and sold a Norsey novel after American Gods, and while the critical reaction ranged from high praise to "YOU SUCK YOU SHOULD DIE DIE DIE DIE ALSO YOU SUCK," I don't recall anyone saying I shouldn't have bothered because Gaiman already covered that ground. And I'm far from the only person to publish a Norse novel after American Gods.

16th-Apr-2011 08:40 am (UTC)
Thanks Greg. Norse Code (which didn't suck at all BTW) was one of my pre-Clarion reads, so I should have thought to ask you about it.

On reflection, I think what bit me (aside from it being a Shitty First Draft) was, in large part, making the association between Odin and the name Wednesday with no context for it meaning Woden's Day.
16th-Apr-2011 08:27 pm (UTC)
Stina, you're brilliant, beautiful, and wise.

Adam, did you ever read Long, Dark Teatime of the Soul by Douglas Adams? He did Norse-gods-living-as-humans-in-modern-times well before Gaiman did. In fact, you could even say that American Gods follows much the same plot that Teatime did. Didn't stop him from writing AG. They're completely different books. The fact that Gaiman wrote AG shouldn't stop you.
16th-Apr-2011 08:33 pm (UTC)
I think that is one of Douglas Adams' books that I haven't read, but I shall remedy that.

I think what I've come to understand is that I should be aware of what's been done, to the best of my ability, and avoid any obvious similarities that aren't core to the mythology.
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