Author Neil Gaiman said he'd never work on a Good Omens adaptation without his late friend and collaborator Sir Terry Pratchett, but at a memorial event yesterday evening, he described what changed his mind — and revealed the existence of an upcoming six-part television series based on the satirical apocalyptic novel.
Good Omens is a 1990 novel written collaboratively by Gaiman and Pratchett about the coming of the Anti-Christ, the accidental baby-swap that leads to him being raised by middle-class parents in an unassuming English town, and the wrench that throws in God's ineffable plan for the End Times. (Or the wrench that it doesn't throw — that's the thing about ineffability, after all.)
Part parody of the 1976 film The Omen, part deconstruction of faith, part Discworld book, part send-up of New Age trends and all-parts funny, Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophesies of Agnes Nutter, Witch — to use its full title — was something neither writer could have created on their own. Gaiman and Pratchett have spoken before about how there are parts of the book that neither of them remembered writing. As reported by The Guardian, at last night's memorial event held in Pratchett's honor at the Barbican in London, Gaiman described his reaction to the idea of working on a Good Omens adaptation without his friend of thirty years, who died last year at the age of 66.
"Absolutely not... Terry and I had a deal that we would only work on Good Omens things together. Everything that was ever written — bookmarks and tiny little things — we would always collaborate, everything was a collaboration. So, obviously, no."
He changed his mind after Rob Wilkins, Pratchett's close friend and assistant, showed him a letter that Prachett had left for him to read after his death, that asked Gaiman to write an adaptation himself, with his collaborator's blessing.
"At that point," Gaiman recalled, "I think I said, ‘You bastard, yes.'" Good Omens has been adapted into a radio play for the BBC and a stage play. Film versions of the book have drifted in and out of pre-production and pre-pre-production here and there, sometimes with names like Terry Gilliam, Johnny Depp and Robin Williams attached, but none have made it to screen yet. Gaiman was able to reveal that this current adaptation would take the form of a six-part television series, but nothing else.
The events of the memorial gathering included the reveal or confirmation of several other long-gestating Pratchett adaptations, including a Wee Free Men feature film from writer Rhianna Pratchett, the author's daughter; The Watch, a fantasy-world-set police procedural based on characters from Pratchett's Discworld series; a fan-funded adaptation of Pratchett's short story Troll Bridge; and a feature film based on Mort, Pratchett's Discworld book about the Grim Reaper taking on a human apprentice.
Like Good Omens, Mort might have also never been written without input from Gaiman. The inscription on the book reads, "To Neil Gaiman, in the hope that he won't tell everyone it was his idea." Reportedly, Gaiman casually suggested that Pratchett write his next Discworld book about the setting's strikingly emotive Grim Reaper figure. Pratchett called him a week later to say only, "You bastard, it's called Mort!" and hung up.