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Neil Gaiman Wishes American Gods Wasn’t Quite So Relevant Right Now
by Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy

Bestselling fantasy author Neil Gaiman, who moved to America from the UK in 1992, is concerned about the rise of anti-immigration rhetoric.

“Just the simple act of entering America right now is a slightly strange one if you have, as I do, not an American passport,” Gaiman says in Episode 253 of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast.

In Gaiman’s best-known novel, American Gods, the old gods of mythology, such as target=“_blank”>Odin and Anansi, are waging war against America’s new gods, personifications of forces such as television and the internet. Gaiman says the notion of America as a ‘nation of immigrants’ is central to the story.

“It’s a book by an immigrant about what it means to come to this country,” he says.

That gives the story new and unexpected urgency in the age of Trump. A TV adaptation of American Gods, which premieres on Starz on April 30th, is already being hailed as the most politically relevant show of the season, a fact that Gaiman finds somewhat distressing.

“I kind of wish the country had not moved to a point where people are saying we’re the most important show,” he says. “I would trade some of the politics and importance for a slightly more comfortable world to live in.”

That said, he hopes that American Gods, with its nuanced portrayals of the lives of immigrants, will help tamp down some of the anti-immigrant fervor.

“Fiction is an empathy machine, when done right,” he says. “It’s allowing people to look out through other eyes.”

Listen to our complete interview with Neil Gaiman in Episode 253 of Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy (above). And check out some highlights from the discussion below.

Neil Gaiman on Vulcan:

“A few years ago, when I was in Birmingham, Alabama, I was being shown around by friends, and I was taken to the huge statue of Vulcan outside of Birmingham. … I discovered that, in Birmingham, the steel mills that had once been the foundation of the prosperity of the city, used to have several deaths a year, of people falling into huge vats of molten metal, and never really did anything to fix this, because it was cheaper for them to have people fall into vats of molten metal and send a $50,000 payment to the family than it was to close down the factory for the three days it would take to put in safety railings. So that fascinated me, the idea that you had a god here in America who was actually being sacrificed to.”

Neil Gaiman on the Technical Boy:

“The character I was writing in 1998, 1999, 2000, for a book published in 2001, was sort of the archetypal, quintissential geek. He was a fat kid in a limo smoking hand-rolled toadskin cigarettes. So we’ve updated him. Now in this wonderful world where anyone who loves technology, we’ve come out of our mother’s basements, and we are on our phones all the time. Technology is no longer something you have to go and seek out. … I don’t know if American Gods was particularly prescient, but it is true that all of the things that I described in the book are still around, only more so. So the Technical Boy is still the Technical Boy, only more so.”

Neil Gaiman on China:

“In 2007, a bunch of American writers — and in this context I classified as an American writer — came out to Chengdu for a science fiction convention, which was the first officially-sanctioned science fiction convention that China had ever had. … At one point I started talking to one of the party officials … and he said, ‘We went out and talked to Google, and we talked to the people at Apple, and we talked to the people at Microsoft. … And one of the things that we discovered talking to them is that all of these people who were inventing the future, they’d all read science fiction & fantasy as children. So we decided that maybe it wasn’t a bad thing.’”

Neil Gaiman on virtual reality:

“Some of the guys from Oculus met me after a gig I did in Seattle a few weeks ago and showed off some of the things that [virtual reality] could do. … There was a thing they did where you could extrude foam in virtual reality, and then you were sculpting the foam, coloring it in, giving it texture, giving it shape. And it wasn’t the normal way that you think of creating art in a virtual world, of filling in the polygons, this was much more akin to actual sculpting, but sculpting in a zero-g world with magical stuff that became whatever you needed it to be.”