Writing "Good Omens"
December 21, 2014 11:54 PM   Subscribe

Neil Gaiman talks about writing "Good Omens" - "Terry Pratchett and I met in February 1985, in a Chinese restaurant. I was a young journalist. He was a former journalist and Electricity Board PR, and a writer who had just published his second Discworld novel. I was the first journalist who had ever interviewed him."
posted by marienbad (51 comments total) 48 users marked this as a favorite
 
That was lovely! Is there any way for an American to acquire this radio drama?
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:53 AM on December 22, 2014


You can download radio programs outside the UK via iplayer.
posted by gnuhavenpier at 1:07 AM on December 22, 2014


The book has got an interesting pricing profile on Amazon UK. Normally old paperbacks, which were popular in their day, can be had for a penny. Not this one - and I think that tallies with Gaiman's description of it as a book which gets avidly lent around, sneakily not returned, and eventually missed terribly by the lender.
posted by rongorongo at 1:14 AM on December 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


Pope Guilty and other Americans & non-UKers, check this page for updates, should go up online within a day or so of broadcast:

Since it is radio, it is NOT blocked outside the UK
BUT there will be a time limit. Usually 7 days before its taken down.
posted by Bwithh at 1:26 AM on December 22, 2014 [6 favorites]


Such a great book. I really hope someone does it justice on screen someday.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 1:38 AM on December 22, 2014


rongorongo - That seems pretty much spot on. I've had two dog-eared copies which vanished into lendspace.
(I've since had Gaiman sign a 1st edition HB i found in a charity shop. That one doesn't leave my house.
posted by gnuhavenpier at 2:22 AM on December 22, 2014


I think we've got about three copies of 'Good Omens' in our house, all of which are as Neil described, slightly swollen and with pages attempting to escape. Whenever I can't decide what to read, 'Good Omens' it is. I honestly can't read it enough, although I try to give it at least a year between reads.

Favourite line forever: "They'd come here to spoon and, on one memorable occasion, fork."

I'm counting down the hours to this radio play. Og bless us, every one!
posted by h00py at 3:17 AM on December 22, 2014 [4 favorites]


my copy is swollen from the bath, with pages escaping, and was totally pilfered from a friend of a friend.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 5:12 AM on December 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


My copy is in pristine condition because it's a hardcover English first edition signed by Terry Pratchett. *smug*
posted by cthuljew at 5:21 AM on December 22, 2014 [3 favorites]


I love this book, and avoid losing my multiple copies to lending by giving it as a gift at every opportunity. I can't wait to listen to the radio programme, which I spelled the British way in its honour.
posted by Gelatin at 5:27 AM on December 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


I want Terry Pratchett's career: selling 5 copies each of 5 million books.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 5:36 AM on December 22, 2014 [4 favorites]


According to Neil Gaiman, it can be streamed over the internet here, anywhere in the world.
posted by zabuni at 5:45 AM on December 22, 2014 [4 favorites]


Dear World

Merry Christmas!

Love,
The BBC
posted by Devonian at 5:51 AM on December 22, 2014 [6 favorites]


(And the final, double-length episode of Cabin Pressure's on this week too...)
posted by Devonian at 5:56 AM on December 22, 2014 [4 favorites]


Hmmm, I wonder where my copy went? Eh, prolly lent it out. Time to think about getting a new one. Meanwhile, I'll borrow one from my library. Happiest, kids.
posted by evilDoug at 6:00 AM on December 22, 2014


I want Terry Pratchett's career: selling 5 copies each of 5 million books.

That seems like... a lot of work?
posted by kmz at 6:15 AM on December 22, 2014


I want Terry Pratchett's career: selling 5 copies each of 5 million books.

I don't get this joke, because Pratchett's books sell lots and lots of copies each.
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:26 AM on December 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


Here are the .01 ones.
posted by Slinga at 7:37 AM on December 22, 2014


Well, he's written approx. 5 millionty books and people buy them more than once so he's able to buy many, many hats, which I personally would prefer to have as a career, particularly as I don't own any hats at all at the moment.
posted by h00py at 7:37 AM on December 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


He mentions that part of the inspiration came from the Just William stories.

For reasons unknown, these have never really made it to America. A serious injustice. They are of their time, but (to my mind, at least) howlingly funny, in a Peck's Bad Boy or Penrod sort of way. There are various dramatized versions, the latest in 2010 and well worth watching.
posted by BWA at 7:42 AM on December 22, 2014 [4 favorites]


I want Terry Pratchett's career: selling 5 copies each of 5 million books.

Odd. It looks like it's supposed to be a joke. Seems to be structured like one. Yet it's entirely lacking in humor, leaving the reader puzzled, confused and a little weary.
Have you considered a career writing for SNL?
posted by thatwhichfalls at 7:43 AM on December 22, 2014 [4 favorites]


I want Terry Pratchett's career: selling 5 copies each of 5 million books.

I don't get this joke, because Pratchett's books sell lots and lots of copies each.


At first I thought it said "5 million copies each of 5 million books" and thought it was funny. Then reread it correctly and wasn't sure anymore.
posted by cthuljew at 7:51 AM on December 22, 2014


Each of his books sell to five million people, who each buy it five times?
posted by Grangousier at 7:54 AM on December 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


Pope Guilty: back around '95 Neil recounted that Good Omens happened because he and Terry were doing the 1989 Worldcon in LA, and were both sufficiently hard up for cash that they shared a hotel room. And kept each other awake cracking jokes. Another year or so and it would never have happened—Terry broke big in the UK around 1990 and by '95 Neil was already beginning his ascent towards God of Rock Stardom status. (Authors at that level don't have to share hotel rooms to save pennies, and even if they did, they'd be too exhausted from shaking hands all day to keep each other awake making up terrible puns.)

"Good Omens" was originally going to be titled "William the Antichrist", but the estate of Richmal Crompton objected. (Spoilsports.) Oh, and there was going to be a sequel, titled "668: The Neighbour of the Beast", except that never happened because discworld/sandman. Oh, and some of the four bikers of the apocalypse were sharply-observed tuckerizations of other regulars at the Milford SF writers' workshop in the late 80s. ("War" was Mary Gentle, who around then was just completing her MA in War Studies at Imperial College ...)

((Source: I know this shit because I was at the '85 or '86 Eastercon in Leeds. Back then I was an un-housetrained typewriter nerd clutching a carrier bag with a manuscript in it, optimistically stalking editors because nobody had taken me aside and told me not to. But while I was there I also met this tall goth in black drainpipe jeans and mirrorshades, who did this comic strip for 2000AD. And there was this other guy with a bushy beard and a battered hat who was always leaning on the bar and kept trying to cadge pints of Tetleys off anyone who stood around long enough to be mugged—"I'm a fantasy writer, you know: my new novel just came out from Gollancz, it's called 'The Light Fantastic'". Oh, and I just missed Neil's years doing Milford: I was part of the next cohort. Small world.))
posted by cstross at 7:55 AM on December 22, 2014 [59 favorites]


It's the "5 copies of 5 million books" bit I don't get, because it doesn't really match reality at all.
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:01 AM on December 22, 2014


I really hope someone does it justice on screen someday.

Ideally not until bandersnatch cummerbund is too old to be cast in any of the parts.
posted by poffin boffin at 8:38 AM on December 22, 2014 [9 favorites]


Yeah, he was the voice of the Angel Islington in last year's Neverwhere radio adaptation and I swear to god have we please please please reached Peak Benny Crumbles in every-fucking-thing yet?
posted by Kitteh at 8:49 AM on December 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


Actually I must revise that, I think he'd make a pretty good Famine.
posted by poffin boffin at 8:54 AM on December 22, 2014 [3 favorites]


Yeah, wasn't Pratchett the #1 author in the UK until Harry Potter?
posted by smackfu at 8:59 AM on December 22, 2014


I keep a copy in the pocket of my car's driver side door in case I need to pass some time. And since I am currently waiting in the car for my wife, I am going to turn off this phone and open that book!
posted by wenestvedt at 9:34 AM on December 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


I got to the end of this article and I imagined owning a copy of Good Omens that had been signed by both Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman and I literally don't know how to describe the feeling that swept over my body.
posted by bq at 9:56 AM on December 22, 2014 [3 favorites]




Learning that there was almost a movie version of this, with Robin Williams and Johnny Depp directed by Terry Gilliam... wow. Gilliam can't really catch a break, can he? Turned down because Depp wasn't bankable enough (pre-Pirates)... that's just cruel.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 11:10 AM on December 22, 2014 [5 favorites]


Wolfdog: I'm still laughing, thank you.
posted by seyirci at 11:42 AM on December 22, 2014


Pope Guilty: "It's the "5 copies of 5 million books" bit I don't get, because it doesn't really match reality at all."

I believe that, although Pratchett has always sold very well in the UK, he's not really done that great on US sales? I have seen various dark mutterings on publishing people's blogs about how he's been mishandled in the US.
posted by Chrysostom at 12:32 PM on December 22, 2014


I have seen various dark mutterings on publishing people's blogs about how he's been mishandled in the US.

He was badly mishandled for a long time. It got better around the turn of the century, but by that point they were trying to sell a series whose first couple dozen books had already been published... Somewhere down the Trousers of Time is a universe where the U.S. publishers did things properly from the start and he routinely topped the NY Times list.
posted by Shmuel510 at 1:12 PM on December 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


In 1998 I went into a Buck a Book in New Haven and found four 1st Edition hard copies of Good Omens (black cover). I already owned a trade paperback for a few years but here were four 1st Edition hard copies, there was no choice at all: I bought all four.

Yes, they were a buck a book.

I know I have one still in my bookcase, next to the trade paperback. I think I gave the other three as presents.
posted by linux at 1:56 PM on December 22, 2014


I'm pretty sure someone said this on Mefi before, but my ideal casting would be Stephan Fry and Hugh Laurie as Azirophale and Crowley.
posted by tau_ceti at 3:06 PM on December 22, 2014 [4 favorites]


I just turned my radio on to go to bed, and instead of Today in Parliament got the very pleasant surprise of hearing episode 2 of this.
posted by ambrosen at 4:01 PM on December 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


um technically fry and laurie are the ideal casting for *anything*, so.
posted by uosuaq at 4:52 PM on December 22, 2014 [7 favorites]


I've read many of the others that are out there, and I remain convinced that this is the best book ever. I too have bought many copies to lend, only to have them become gifts when they don't return (I never care, just so long as whomever I gave it to passes it on to someone else who hasn't read it.).

My friend -the angel, and I have read this so many times, we can speak in character for Crowley and Aziraphale, and do so just to irritate people around us who aren't in on the joke. Dining out is always a joy, because arguments over who-ate-what-when-and-what-was-on-fire-at-the-time become exercises in improvisation, where each of us try to better the other's last statement.

It helps that we've been having these conversations for more than twenty years, so while we've grown up and moved on with our lives, when we do meet up, we can continue the Argument as though we never left.

More importantly, it was my first introduction to Pratchett, who, I firmly believe, has an ethos running through all his books that could be extracted, combined and turned into one of the greater moral guides humanity has ever produced.

To say I'm a fan is an understatement, and it all started with this one perfect little book.
posted by quin at 5:30 PM on December 22, 2014 [5 favorites]


More importantly, it was my first introduction to Pratchett, who, I firmly believe, has an ethos running through all his books that could be extracted, combined and turned into one of the greater moral guides humanity has ever produced.

Oh god I can see it now.

"Oi, you can't be 'ere, that's reserved for First Church of Pratchett International"
"I'm from the New Reformed Orthodox International Pratchett Church"
"Lawks."
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:03 PM on December 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


"Splitters!"
posted by wenestvedt at 8:39 PM on December 22, 2014 [4 favorites]


Somewhere down the Trousers of Time is a universe where the U.S. publishers did things properly from the start and he routinely topped the NY Times list.

It makes me all grawar! that stupit U.S. publishers denied me Pratchett books for so many long years!
posted by BlueHorse at 9:21 PM on December 22, 2014


First two episodes were great! Looking forward to the rest now.
posted by pharm at 3:20 AM on December 23, 2014


I have seen various dark mutterings on publishing people's blogs about how he's been mishandled in the US.

I remember one big complaint was that they didn't use the Josh Kirby fantasy-style cover art. Instead they used some fairly bland common "clip-art & bright colors" style for the 4-5 books that were being newly released in the US.
posted by smackfu at 7:48 AM on December 23, 2014


So I found how to stream the episodes on iPlayer, but is it possible to download them podcast style? Because I think this something I want to have forever, not just something to listen to for the next 4 weeks.
posted by hydropsyche at 8:18 AM on December 23, 2014


I just listened to the first episode. I'm not overly impressed with it. It's not terrible but it only took around two minutes for a joke to be gutted and left for dead.

The joke about Earth being proved to be a Libra really needs the preceding paragraph about the archbishops calculation showing that the Earth was created on a Sunday the 21st October.

I hate myself for dissecting the fun out of this thing.
posted by gnuhavenpier at 10:10 AM on December 23, 2014


So I found how to stream the episodes on iPlayer, but is it possible to download them podcast style?

Yes.
posted by Zed at 9:11 PM on December 23, 2014


Thanks! I'm out of town without a computer right now, but I'll check that out later.
posted by hydropsyche at 7:00 AM on December 24, 2014


hydropsyche: Here's an easy-to-use app in case you prefer that to a script: Get iPlayer Automator.
posted by amf at 1:16 AM on December 25, 2014


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