An Interview with Neil Gaiman and Tad Williams
|conducted by Sandy Auden|
Gaiman's contribution is set in his American Gods world and catches up with quiet hero Shadow on his travels after the tumultuous events in the States. The story itself, called "Monarch of the Glen," has supernatural overtones as Shadow is hired as a security guard for a strange party in the far north of Scotland, but the spooky story happenings seemed to spill over into real-life from the very beginning.
"I kept finding myself thinking about Cape Wrath," said Gaiman. The Cape is the northern-most tip of Scotland, and a desolate and dangerous location. "Then I started buying archaeological books about the Vikings in northern Scotland. I actually thought I'd write a Neverwhere story, but I soon realised that I was about to write a story about Shadow."
The new Shadow story muscling-in was only the first of the unusual events. "I think that Cape Wrath has one of the best names in the world," Gaiman said. "So I decided my new story would be called 'Cape Wrath,' and have archaeologists in it. Then I discovered that Paul Finch had just written a novella called Cape Wrath, set in that part of the world, with archaeologists in it. So I had to let the title go, and the archaeologists, and just concentrate on Shadow instead."
"Then I wrote a scene in Monarch that was set in a bothy (a small hut) for walkers near Cape Wrath: Shadow met a young lady there and learned a lot about the Norwegian Huldra-women. The day after writing that, a newspaper arrived from the UK with a sad story in it about 'An artist who was found barely alive in an isolated walkers' bothy at Kearvaig, near Cape Wrath.' In many ways it felt as if the story was building itself."
"The Otherland books kept predicting the future," said Williams. "It seemed like every other day someone would send me a bit off the net or out of the newspaper that they said, 'Sounds just like an Otherland netfeed.' And they did. Some of them almost literally the same as the ideas I had come up with that I thought were science-fictional.
"One of them in particular has stuck with me, a big article in the newspaper that came out just as the last Otherland volume was going to print: 'Super-rich interested in life extension and eventual immortality,' an article about how all these new-rich guys were putting their money into really weird technologies, including the idea of the 'personality upload.' Which, of course, sounded pretty darn familiar..."
In "Happiest Dead Boy," Williams pops back to see how Orlando is doing, as head ranger of Otherland. There's some weird things going on with the virtual characters getting mysteriously pregnant, and Orlando's parents build him a surprise for his birthday. "I used a bit of the experience of being around my own parents, and those of friends, for Orlando's folks," said Williams. "I grew up in a suburb full of intelligent, well-meaning parents (some useless bastards, too, of course, but not many) and that's what I tried to bring to Conrad and Vivian. That 'bad things happening to good people' vibe. Beyond that, I just did my best to make them real people. One of the most important thing about epics, in my opinion, is strong supporting characters -- characters who seem real, even if they aren't centre stage most of the time."
Some of the other supporting cast have a huge boozy birthday celebration in Rivendell in the story, and the party's aftermath is vividly described by Williams. "I was in a rock and roll band for much of my youth," said Williams. "I had an approach to recreational substances through my early twenties that could be called, well, recreational. I have been extremely abstemious most of my adult life but I certainly haven't forgotten the joys of wretched excess."
(This interview first appeared on Sci Fi Channel Europe.)
Sandy Auden is currently working as an enthusiastic reviewer for SFX magazine; a tireless news hound for Starburst magazine; a diligent interviewer/reviewer for The Third Alternative and Interzone magazines and a combination of all the above for The Alien Online. She spends her spare time lying down with a cold flannel on her forehead. Visit her site at The Auden Interviews.
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