Dear @neilhimself – Has American Gods ruined Norse re-imaginings for other writers?

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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?

 

Posted on 15 Apr 2011