The upcoming release of Good Omens will be a bittersweet one, given that co-creator Terry Pratchett is no longer with us. No expense was spared to make his narrative contributions come to life, especially under the watch of co-creator Neil Gaiman.
io9 reports that Gaiman was keen on filming a small, yet expensive scene during the TV series’ production. The scene featured one of Pratchett’s characters, Agnes Nutter, played by Josie Lawrence, getting burned at the stake in front of a village crowd for practicing witchcraft.
Image via io9
Agnes’s character is more important to the backstory and world-building of Crowley and Aziraphale’s journey to stop the apocalypse than the story itself. However, when production raised concerns about the scene’s cost and proposed a budget-friendly solution, Gaiman couldn’t bring himself to exclude Pratchett’s creation. (It would also be a little awkward to remove the Agnes Nutter character from a book called Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch.)
It was a huge, complicated and incredibly expensive shoot, with bonfires built and primed to explode as well as huge crowds in costumes. It had to feel just like an English village in the 1640s, and of course everyone asked if there was a cheap way of doing it. One suggestion was that we could tell the story using old-fashioned woodcuts and have the narrator take us through what happened, but I just thought, ‘No’. Because I had brought aspects of the story like Crowley and the baby swap along to the mix, and Terry created Agnes Nutter.
So, if I had cut out Agnes then I wouldn’t be doing right by the person who gave me this job. Terry would’ve rolled over in his grave.
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It’s touching to see Gaiman’s consideration and loyalty to his beloved co-writer. A deal originally dictated that an adaptation would only be possible if both creators were attached to the project, until Gaiman received a posthumous from Pratchett himself, requesting that he adapt it.
Another sad passing in the world of literature. Gene Wolfe, a massively influential figure who was praised by famed authors such as George R.R. Martin, Ursula K. Le Guin and Neil Gaiman, has passed away. According to The GuardianGene Wolfe died at the age of eighty-seven, leaving behind a famous body of work. His magnum opus is The Book of the New Sun , which ranked only third in a fantasy magazine of the best fantasy novels, behind only The Lord of the Ringsand The Hobbit.Taking placing in an apocalyptic earth where mankind has regressed to a medieval era, the novels blended science fiction and fantasy to become something wholly unique.
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Wolfe’s passing was mourned by his longtime publisher, Tor, and numerous other authors in the industry. Tor said he was a ‘beloved icon’ and will be ‘dearly missed’ while leaving behind a body of work that will live on forever in SF fame. Neil Gaiman praised Wolfe’s work, saying he was possibly the finest American writer who ever lived. George R.R. Martin considers him the best the science fiction genre has produced, while Le Guin said he was ‘our Melville’. For his efforts, Gene Wolfe received the title of grand master of science fiction in 2012. Wolfe himself had earlier noted his early work out of college was terrible and he was living from paycheck to paycheck before he became famous.
Gene Wolfe leaves behind a legacy of his great work, as well as being hugely influential on the writer’s community around him, inspiring others to create worlds. We salute you, Wolfe, and will remember your work forever.
The television adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s Good Omens is gearing up for the end times in this new short trailer.
Starring Michael Sheen and David Tennant, it tells the story of an angel and a demon who attempt to stop the apocalypse after the birth of the son of Satan. The series will consist of six episodes and all will be released on May 31st on Amazon Prime.
Everyone needs to stop pirating books. That’s means me – especially me – and you, and the person next to you, and the people who don’t read this article.
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Creativity is meant to be experienced, but we live in a capitalist society, in which people need to make money, and sadly, by artists’ work being distributed for free, they lose out. And you know what happens if they lose money? All those books and other creative works we love will no longer we accessible.
Thankfully people are fighting back.
This isn’t the say that musicians and filmmakers aren’t fighting back, but on the literary side, we have Philip Pullman.
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Philip Pullman, author of the famed His Dark Materialstrilogy, and president of the Society of Authors, sent a letter to Greg Clark, the UK’s Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy specifically about ebook piracy, and he’s not alone.
That means THIRTY-FOUR authors wrote to the UK’s Secretary of State to talk about ebook piracy – specifically its growing relevancy and how it hurts the writing industry.
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That’s right Robin, Holy Cow.
What did they have to say? Well, it might scare you.
“We are concerned that websites offering illegal downloads of books are becoming increasingly prevalent,” the letter reads, “We do not want to give any of these sites publicity by naming them here, but they can easily be found”.
The letter goes on to cite its sources, kids, noting that that the growth of online book piracy could “make it even harder for authors to make a living from their work”. If that wasn’t scary enough, The Guardian wrote nine months ago how, “[b]ased on a standard thirty-five-hour week, the average full-time writer earns only £5.73 [$7.49] per hour, £2 [$2.61] less than the UK minimum wage for those over twenty-five.”
This is in thanks to ebooks. If publishers can’t get back their money by publishing books, then why give the authors the money they deserve? Why give them any money at all?
“This will harm writers and readers alike – if authors can no longer afford to write, the supply of new writing will inevitably dry up.”
This isn’t hyperbole, this is straight honest truth. It’s hard to listen to, we might not want to hear it, but we have to. There’s a reason all these authors, all thirty-four of them, wrote to the UK’s secretary of state, “calling on [him] to take action against the blight of online book piracy” because if creative people don’t get paid for their work, then they have to spend less time being creative. That means we get even less books, writings, and other creative works.
Gregg Clark hasn’t given a response, yet, but we sure hopes that after his words comes quick, decisive action because, even though we might not like it, creativity and business go hand in hand in our society. Ironically, piracy is so easy because creative works are all around us, but if piracy were to continue then there WILL NOT be anywhere near as many creative works around us.
World-building is hard. Designing an entirely different world may look easy on screen, but any up and coming writer who has actually sat down to design a fantasy world has found it much harder than it seems. Of course, the mere fact that they are dozens of fictional worlds out there showcases that it can be done… it just requires a lot of time and work. To get your creative juices flowing, here are 7 books with worlds you just get lost in. Maybe you can get inspired to design some of your own!
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7. London Below – ‘Neverwhere’ by Neil Gaiman
Anyone’s who ever read Neil Gaiman’s many and varied works knows he’s a master of imagination, characterization, and storytelling. But the most intriguing and developed world comes from Neverwhere: the world called London Below. Sitting beneath London in this novel is a fictional underground that bridges the line between the reality of London and the other side of its own surreal culture. Subway stations become full kingdoms, and the tunnels are full of all manner of strangeness. Things you take for granted in the real world (like minding the gap stepping off the platform) become infused with terror, as monsters dwell in the dark space in the gap and can snatch you off your feet. Neil Gaiman creates a fictional universe that places London in an alternate reality full of intrigue, monsters, and strange concepts, making for a grand location that we wished to see more of.
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6. Miraji – ‘Rebel of the Sands’ by Alwyn Hamilton
A fusion between the Wild West and classic Arabian fantasy tropes, Miraji is the titular world of Rebel of the Sands, a desert nation constantly at war. Magic is held in check through the backwater towns that populate the desert sands, as they spew black dust that keeps the power of the god-like First Beings from being gifted to normal folk. Scheming sultans, colorful Djinn, and a religious war are many of the elements in this fully-realized world, a harsh but imaginative one.
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5. Bas-lung – ‘Perdido Street Station’ by China Meiville
Weird doesn’t even begin to describe this novel, but it’s a strong place to start. Author China Meiville decided to chuck seemingly everything and the kitchen sink into his world, a city called Bas-Lung, in his famous novel Perdido Street Station. Bas-Lung is self-described as a fantasy version of Victorian England, dirty and full of crude, steampunk-esque technology. Magic, robots, insect people, bird people, monsters, giant killer moths, and so much more inhabit Bas-Lung; it almost reaches the point of being overstuffed. (Almost.) But China Meiville’s skillful writing keeps everything in balance and, despite the madness of the concept, grounds it enough in reality that Bas-Lung becomes a developed world rather than just a crazed place of ideas. Of course, it nearly reaches that point as well.
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4. Urth – ‘The Book of the New Sun’ by Gene Wolfe
Urth of The Book of the New Sun is actually our world (say ‘urth’ out loud), but so far into the future that it has become a nearly unrecognizable, alien world. The sun is dying, and the remaining population has exhausted all its resources, meaning the planet is on the verge of a slow death. There is some advanced technology, but the story reads more as a sword-and-sorcery tale, humanity having regressed to a more primitive state of mind. Although strangely written, akin to a waking dream, the world this novel creates is at once beautiful, haunting, and certainly uniquely crafted.
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3. Kekon – ‘Jade City’ by Fonda Lee
Kekon of Jade Cityis a sprawling island metropolis much like our own, possessing modern conveniences such as televisions, phones, cars, the works. But it diverges in one very important point: the existence of jade. Jade is a substance that is found off of Kekon’s waters and, properly harvested, can be used to grant supernatural abilities to its wielders. Kekon is ruled by four rival crime families, all with jade at their disposal, and, as the novel unfolds, the families descend into war. Kekon is inspired by Asian mythology, complete with jade-given powers that you might see in kung-fu action films. The island itself becomes a memorable character all on its own, with jungle hills beyond the bustling, rain-soaked cityscapes and fisheries lining the slimy docks at the island’s coasts. It’s a unique location and certainly one you could see yourself wandering about under stormy skies, listening to the sea and seeking your next piece of jade.
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2. The Known World – ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ by George R.R. Martin
One of the most developed worlds in recent memory, the Known World of A Song of Ice and Firefeels like a living, breathing culture. Martin’s ability to make it feel incredibly real, even when introducing elements such as the dragons, the white walkers, and blood magic, is a huge part of the series’ massive success. From the mega continent of Westeros with its freezing Northlands, swamp-like Riverlands, and the sheer beauty of places such as King’s Landing, to the most barren regions of Essos, every part of the world feels carefully constructed; no amount of detail is spared. Although more grounded in reality than most fantasy, Martin’s world still feels incredibly imaginative and lived-in. Just watch your back: everyone plays the Game of Thrones for keeps…
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1. Middle-Earth – ‘The Lord of the Rings’ by J.R.R. Tolkien
The first is often the best for a reason. Middle-Earth is the standard by which all other fantasy works are judged, a truth so obvious it hardly requires explanation. (But don’t worry; we’ll explain.) Tolkien’s world is so vibrant, so detailed, and so full of life you’ll swear it was real even just by the words he chooses to describe each part of it. Tolkien’s craft is so meticulous fandom is still finding new details about his world today from the expansive timeline, to the lore behind the smallest of locations, to the origins of the various races, to the rich history of various character’s own family trees.
(Not to mention the beautiful natural world Tolkien creates, from the towering peaks of the Misty Mountain inhabited by swarming hordes of orcs, to the great grasslands of Rohan where the horse-riders race across the hills, and the humble countryside of the Shrine home to the isolated, yet happy hobbits. Except I have no choice but to mention it.)
It’s a world that set the standard and in some ways, can never be topped.
What are some of your favorite fantasy worlds that you draw inspiration from? Tell us in the comments!