Neil Gaiman’s kept habitually (albeit not always happily) busy during the times of quarantine, lockdown, and world-shaking American political chaos—even if he wished real life were a little better written. Appearing on comics and Gaiman superfan Seth Meyers’ Late Night on Tuesday, the American Gods, Sandman, Good Omens, Coraline, Lucifer, 1602, your most evocatively weird nightmares author explained that a previous appearance’s aphorism that “Writers need to find their way to boredom to inspire creativity,” only applies if you’re not actively terrified at the same time. Calling living under stifling COVID precautions like “being locked in the cellar with a bomb—and several poisonous snakes,” Gaiman said that he’d been talking more about being stuck on the tube when the world isn’t embroiled in self-devouring madness so that your creative mind can wander, happily untroubled that it might be killed at any moment.
Gaiman, asked about what it’s like for an author of the fantastical and fictional to live for a year in a world “that seems so beyond what anyone could have imagined,” Gaiman scoffed that he’d have never published anything as “unconvincing” as the current one. “It’s my job to be convincing,” clarified Gaiman, while bemoaning the fact that reality can do any crazy thing it wants without concern that all the ludicrous, violent, seditious, tragic things it tosses out will have to make sense in the end. (Gaiman rolls his eyes at the thought that he’d ever pen “that Trump character.”)
In a bit of a genteel British humblebrag, Gaiman answered Meyers praise for the 20-years-early timeliness of American Gods’ apocalyptic vision of a too-rapidly and chaotically evolving America by saying, “I would have been perfectly happy for it to feel less of the moment.” But when you’re right about a comparatively young, all-consuming culture devouring, digesting, and excreting human beliefs at a rate seemingly destined to bring about the end of all things, you’re right, as viewers of the Gaiman-based Starz TV adaptation can attest. Pulling a bit of a Grant Morrison in the real world himself, Gaiman told Meyers how the cast and crew of American Gods are now pretty blasé (and vice-versa) about seeing their all-knowing creator “mooch around at craft services” on the set. The same can’t be said, however, about Gaiman’s visits to the actually, finally active set of Netflix’s long-gestating, COVID-delayed Sandman series, where running into the show’s Dream, Death, Destiny, and other mysterious figures starting with “D” still elicits an appropriately gooseflesh-raising “very peculiar experience indeed.”
Noting—again bit of a humblebrag—that it took this long (Gaiman’s seminal adult comics creation being first published in 1989) for television to catch up, Gaiman explained that he’d been shooting down Warner Brothers’ attempt to turn Gaiman’s sprawling, epic tale into a single movie for 30 years. The author told Meyers that, finally, “the changing nature of television and film” and how people experience them is finally sophisticated and “novelistic” enough to take on what he assured was “85 hours of Sandman pre-written and existing.” “It’s a feature, and not a bug,” said Gaiman of the evolving media’s ability and willingness to fully embrace the expansive, gloriously mad Sandman in its entirety.