Neil Gaiman has made a career of turning mythology on its head. Whether dealing with abstractions like Time and Death in The Sandman, unpacking what we really worship in modern civilization in American Gods, or rewriting the legend of Beowulf to make Grendel’s mother an ambiguous hero, Gaiman’s unique perspective comes through in his writing. He’s currently on a whirlwind tour for his latest book entitled Norse Mythology, but during an interview with The Wall Street Journal, the conversation turned to his other project: adapting American Gods for Starz with showrunner Bryan Fuller.
Written in 2001, American Gods is the story of ex-convict Shadow. Released from prison several days early due to his wife’s untimely demise, a “chance” encounter with Odin sends Shadow careening into a war between the gods of the old world (such as those found in mythology) and the new gods — like Media and Technical Boy — that are elbowing them out and usurping their worshipers. The novel won both a Hugo and a Nebula and has sold over a million copies in 22 languages. But as a single novel, one might wonder if there’s enough material for a television series. Not to worry, Gaiman has plenty of ideas that had to be left on the editing floor. One of the most interesting? The story of Laura Moon, Shadow’s deceased wife. From the WSJ Cafe interview:
“Part of the fun right now is the first season is just eight episodes long and it doesn’t get us a third of the way through the book. What we’ve done is — because this is TV — in the novel you are basically following the point of view of our hero, Shadow. [On television] we don’t have to just follow Shadow’s story. So lots of things that are implied or hinted at in the book now get entire episodes. Episode four is all about Shadow’s dead wife Laura, from four years before they ever met and follow[ing] the course of their relationship. You get to find out what happened to her and what she’s doing in the story.”
When dealing with gods, something like a slight case of death isn’t going to slow anyone down. Throughout the novel, Laura Moon appears several times to both beg forgiveness of her husband and rescue him in times of trouble. However, since American Gods is Shadow’s story, readers don’t get much information about what Laura is up to between her visits. Now it seems the former Mrs. Moon will be more than just a plot device to drive Shadow forward, essentially pulling her out of the fridge trope and giving her a modicum of agency. With Gaiman confirming an entire episode of the Starz show will be dedicated to her life — including before Shadow was part of it — it may be that Laura knew more about the world of the supernatural then she let on to her mysterious husband. Even if that’s not the case, fleshing out Laura’s background can only make her post-mortem conversations with Shadow more meaningful as the audience will have a better grasp on the dynamic of their marriage.