Neil Gaiman's AMERICAN GODS Reaches the Starz

Neil Gaiman at the 2007 Scream Awards. Photo:  pinguino k .  CC by 2.0 .

Neil Gaiman at the 2007 Scream Awards. Photo: pinguino k. CC by 2.0.

A collective "HOORAH!" resounded across fantasy genre geekdom this week as Twitter, blogs and Facebook buzzed with the news that another great work of speculative fiction (and a hands-down favorite here at Fiction Unbound), Neil Gaiman's AMERICAN GODS, gets the nod from Starz for a new TV series planned for 2016. Gaiman will have a big say in how the show plays out; he is slated to be one of the executive producers on the show.

Gaiman had this to say: “I am thrilled, ‎scared, delighted, nervous and a ball of glorious anticipation. The team that is going to bring the world of ‘American Gods’ to the screen has been assembled like the master criminals in a caper movie: I’m relieved and confident that my baby is in good hands. Now we finally move to the exciting business that fans have been doing for the last dozen years: casting our Shadow, our Wednesday, our Laura...” (Christine Shaw, Fremantle Media)

HBO had expressed interest in a TV series adaptation as early as 2011, but in 2014 after many attempts with multiple writers, HBO couldn't find the right groove and gave up the project. In an interview with Vulture's Jenna Marotta, HBO's president of programming said, "...we love the book, we love the idea, we love the hope of what it could be, we just couldn't get it right."

The story has massive potential for an epic TV series. Published in 2001, in 2002 it won the prestigious Nebula, Hugo and Bram Stoker awards for Best Novel. The narrative follows Shadow Moon, a thirty-year-old quiet hulk of a man in prison for armed bank robbery. When Shadow's wife, Laura is killed in a car accident, he is released from prison a few days early to attend her funeral. On the plane ride home he meets Mr. Wednesday, a stranger who mysteriously knows deeply personal facts about Shadow's life. When Shadow accepts a job as Wednesday's body guard, they embark on a journey, visiting oddity tourist attractions across America, trying to recruit Wednesday's peculiar comrades to join his cause. Shadow eventually discovers that Mr. Wednesday is more than a con man; he is actually an incarnation of the Nordic god, Odin, who is trying to enlist other immigrant gods from the Old World to join him in a battle to fight the incarnations of new American gods that embrace big business and technology. Shadow becomes embroiled in the conflict and discovers that these immigrant gods have impacted his life and destiny more than he could have imagined.

Viking museum Foteviken. Sculpture of God Wotan (another name for Odin). Photo: Wolfgang Sauber.  CC BY-SA 3.0 . 

Viking museum Foteviken. Sculpture of God Wotan (another name for Odin). Photo: Wolfgang Sauber. CC BY-SA 3.0

Bryan Fuller (HANNIBAL, PUSHING DAISIES, HEROES) and Michael Green (THE RIVER, KINGS, HEROES) accepted the challenge of adapting the story for television. In a joint statement they said,  “Almost 15 years ago, Neil Gaiman filled a toy box with gods and magic, and we are thrilled to finally crack it open and play. We're grateful to have STARZ above us and FremantleMedia at our backs as we appease the gods, American or otherwise." (Christine Shaw, Fremantle Media).

For the Starz series Fuller and Green plan to expand on the original story. Look for characters like Bilquis (a goddess who meets her demise early in the novel) to get her own storyline and history.

To build hype for the series, Starz is inviting fans to help cast the role of Shadow Moon. Tweet @AmericanGodsSTZ, @STARZ_Channel or @FMNATV using the hashtag #CastingShadow to vote.