Nerdist: How do you think the show and the book reflect America as it is now versus when you wrote it?
Neil Gaiman: There are things that changed and a lot that hasn’t. Technical Boy of the book is fat, has acne, and is a basement dweller. He comes from a time when the proudest coolest, nerdiest thing a human being could do was get a pizza delivered without having to talk to an actual human being.
That was then. Now, everybody has a digital device on which summoning a pizza is the most minor thing you can do in terms of magic. Something that was out at the edges of things, something that was geek subculture has Zuckerberg-ed, has
Could that have something to do with the idea of Gillian Anderson’s Old Media becoming Kahyun Kim’s New Media?
NG: One of the things I got right in the book was the idea that, on the one hand the new gods are much more powerful than the old gods, but they’re also scared because they know they don’t last for very long. The Train Gods came, and the Train Gods are gone. The Telegraph Gods came, and the Telegraph Gods are gone. The Telephone Gods came, and now nobody uses a land line. And when I wrote the book, television was still a thing. You would sit down in front of a television, which was a big, very heavy box that took up valuable real estate in wherever you were, and you would look to find what was on. That was the world in 1998, 1999. I remember when I was completely brain dead after days of writing, I would sit down–I was writing it in Tori Amos’ Florida house–and I would turn on her TV and watch The Food Channel, badly translated episodes of the original Japanese
The much better version.
NG: Much better version. And I would just sit there watching
She was old media, and her day is done. Whether or not old media really is [gone] will be something the show is going to have to find out for itself. With the Technical Boy, we actually established he was once the Telegraph Boy, and the Telephone Boy, and the Television Boy. The Technical Boy of now, there’s another Technical Boy coming, and they murder him. They replace each other, and it’s not necessarily a nice process, being replaced.
When you see what’s been going on in America the last couple years, how does it shape the way you look at your own story about immigrants?
NG: A certain amount of bafflement. I feel like somebody who wrote a very simple story about going round the world and the Earth from space. And then we decide to make a little documentary to go along with it, about going round the world and the Earth from space, and we put it on. But between us making it and us putting it on, the Flat Earthers are elected. And suddenly people are going,
A world where being called a social justice warrior is an insult apparently.
NG: I think being a warrior is a good thing. I think justice is a fine thing. So this is our show. I didn’t expect it to be contentious in season one. It’s not like we’re trying to be fucking timely. You’re making a drama about immigration in a country built economically on the backs of people who were unwelcome, fleeing starvation, fleeing pogroms, fleeing bad things. The Irish and the Jews were not terribly welcome. Meanwhile, it’s also built economically, the foundations of states’ wealth, on the fact that they could use people as everything from farm equipment to sex toys. They’re human beings they are bringing in, who do not what to be there, who were coming in against their will. So this is the country we’re in right now.
So if I’m talking about
If you could ensure that an America audience received a specific message in season two, what would you hope it would be?
NG: Honestly, what I want is for people to enjoy the story, for people to watch and care about these characters and what happens to them. No, it’s not a message thing. The only thing that maybe even faintly message-y is when I said, “By the way, just a rule, Salim and the Jinn, you cannot kill either of them, and you cannot make one of them permanently miserable. They are our gay characters, and I am damned if we’re killing our gays. So look the fuck after them.”
What are you most excited to see on screen from the book?
NG: The House on the Rock is great, except they spoiled that for me because I had to go there and see it being shot. When you’re walking around the House on the Rock with the cast of
There are moments I’m really looking forward to. I’m looking forward to Huginn or Muninn (Odin’s two ravens) telling Shadow to fuck off when Shadow asks them to say, “Nevermore.” I’m also looking forward to season three. I’m really looking forward to getting to Lakeside, because that fascinates me. How we do that? In season one we had to learn how to make
Normally adaptations are about what’s getting cut, but the show is adding to your story. Is there anything that’s been added that makes you wish you had put it in the book?
NG: If I’d known how funny and sexy Mad Sweeney was gonna be, he would’ve lived longer in the book, because Pablo (Schreiber) as Sweeney just came on and said those lines, and it’s like, “You are amazing. Oh, my God.”
And it was frustrating when writing the book that I couldn’t follow Laura around. I wanted to spend more time with her. The nature of the book was such that mostly we only see her through Shadow’s eyes. It’s only later on in the book that we get to be with her on her own. I love Emily’s performance. She is an amazing Laura Moon, and it makes me wish that I’d written
It’s like a table. You can put things on it, and you put all sorts of things on it, and it will support. The joy was almost figuring out that metaphor, and then using it as a way of seeing America, and it was a way of describing America. What I love is that almost 20 years after writing the book, it’s still a very, very solid table, and it still holds what you want to put on it.