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?