Neil Gaiman’s American Gods will soon be on TV
The 2001 book has endured many failed adaptation attempts. Now, an eight-part Strarz production, with Gaiman as the executive producer, hopes to leave an impactUpdated: Apr 10, 2017 15:02 IST
All over the world, in one way or another, it’s believed that each of us possesses a certain ‘energy’. Each action, each thought causes a certain interaction with the energy around us, whether in nature or out there in the world, and actively affects it.
Now imagine a world where the old gods, whoever they are for you, are still alive. And you are responsible for their continuing existence. American Gods by Neil Gaiman rests on the premise of gods and other mythological deities existing only because we believe in them; a take on tulpa or thought form from Tibetan Buddhism, which roughly means an ‘emanation or manifestation’. Immigrants to the United States of America brought with them their old gods and spirits. Now, in the modern age of science, technology and rapid change, America’s given birth to new gods (media, the Internet, the stock market), and the old order is weakening, diminishing.
The book, published in 2001, has endured many failed adaptation attempts. But now, we have a very promising eight-part Starz production with Hannibal’s Bryan Fuller and Heroes’ Michael Green at the helm, and Neil Gaiman himself as the executive producer. If, like me, you worship at Mr. Gaiman’s altar, you’ll have already seen all the trailers and the posters, obsessively refreshing pages on the Interweb for more. But if it’s grabbed your fancy as a novice and you’re one of those blessed folks who are all right with watching the screen version first (or not reading the book at all), here’s all you need to know.
Keep the change(s)
Shadow Moon, our protagonist, is an ex-convict (The 100’s Ricky Whittle). He has what you might call a hectic prison release day. His wife’s died in a car accident, he meets the mysterious, one-eyed Mr Wednesday (Deadwood’s Ian McShane), and accepts a job to be his bodyguard. Naturally he’s unaware that his boss is Odin All-Father, only one of the most powerful deities of all time, and that Odin is desperate to reclaim his lost power and glory.
Enter an epic road trip spanning America and its frontier towns in particular so that Mr Wednesday can recruit American manifestations of the old gods (Anansi, Thoth, Ibis, Czernobog, Goddess Easter...) in his war against the new upstarts. And what’s a road trip without crazy gods, kidnapping, murder, physical fights, blood and oaths?
With the recent news that Neil Gaiman is working on what is effectively American Gods 2, it’s possible that if this adaptation’s well-received, the new book will follow its predecessor onto the screen much faster. In fact, not only has Gaiman allowed them to write new material for the current series (there’s apparently one episode that has entirely new content), but he’s also spoken about asking them to add a line here, drop a fact there, make small changes. He’s already working on the sequel and the television show format demands the laying down of certain groundwork and “smoking guns” well in advance.
The most interesting change is probably the character of Technical Boy, who is American Gods’ manifestation of computers and the Internet. In the book, he’s fat, whiny, has a bad case of teenage acne, dresses like someone from The Matrix because he thinks it’s cool and is more feared than respected for his power, even amongst his own brethren. Since 2001, the Internet’s become a more widespread phenomenon, luring and ensnaring pretty much everyone. Think of all the energy in numerous forms that we expend and sacrifice at the altar of technology. Think of how much stronger all that adulation has made Technical Boy.
To accurately depict our current relationship with it all, we can look forward to a new and updated character, complete with stretch limo, bright clothes, superficiality that represents the shallow nature of many of our modern connections, and a suave and confident attitude that is much more dangerous than the angry, basement-occupying god from the book. He is the leader of the new gods, and believes strongly in the redundancy of the old gods. He’s hell-bent on destroying them for good; at a loss to understand how they could still be around.
Which side will you be on, come April 30?
From HT Brunch, April 9, 2017
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First Published: Apr 08, 2017 21:48 IST