[By mutual agreement, until recently the ordering of the authors’ names differed according to the place of publication, Gaiman’s first in North America, Pratchett’s in the UK and elsewhere. Those marked with an asterisk have Neil Gaiman’s name first.]
There are two main versions of the text: the Gollancz and the American/Corgi. After the Gollancz edition was set, revisions were made to the text for the Workman edition to make some of the references and humour comprehensible to the American reader and, in TP’s words, ‘here and there we just sharpened things up a little’. The latter version was also used, with a few further minor changes, for the Corgi edition. The German translation uses the Gollancz version, the other overseas publishers use the American/Corgi one.
Because of staff turnover at Gollancz, new members of the editorial department were unaware that the Gollancz hardcover edition contained an earlier version to that published by Corgi. Those I had told of the different versions had died or left the company. In 2009 I asked them why they hadn’t taken the opportunity to publish the more recent text used in the 1991 Corgi edition for their new edition, and it was only then that the present editorial department became aware the texts were different. Gollancz first published an edition containing the Corgi text in 2014, so for 23 years the two companies published different texts.
UK hbk: Gollancz (jacket illus. Chris Moore), 17,700 copies on 10 May 1990 (0-575-04800-X)
Book proof: exists, but no knowledge of quantity, ? less than 100 copies.
46 pp. Sampler. No firm information as to quantity produced but probably about 300-400 copies
New edition with additional material: Gollancz, 2009 (978-0-575-08048-5) This uses Gollancz’s original text, with the additional material.
New edition containing the Corgi text, the first time Gollancz have made use of this, with wood engraving on cover by Joe McLaren. 13 March 2014 (978-1-4732-0085-2)
*Alternative binding, cover design and illustrations by Patrick Insole, with Neil Gaiman’s name preceding TP’s on cover, title and copyright pages, 29 October 2015 (978-1-473-21471-2) Fans were invited to choose their preferred design from one of three. Voting opened online on 23 July and closed on 3 August 2015.
The following edition features a new revised text, approved by Neil Gaiman and the Pratchett Estate, which clears up many typos and errors from previous editions. It also features twelve full-colour illustrations from Paul Kidby and further pencil drawings.
The Illustrated Good Omens, illustrated by Paul Kidby, standard edition, with black cover: Gollancz, 23 May 2019 (978-1-473-22783-5)
Ltd edition, signed by the artist, numbered and slipcased, with white cover: Gollancz, 1,500 copies on 23 May 2019 (978-1-473-22782-8)
The Definitive Good Omens, illustrated by Paul Kidby, Special editions, all published by Dunmanifestin:
1. Occult (1,655 numbered copies on 1 July 2019, signed by the artist on a tipped-in page, clam-shelled box, all edges crimson foil (978-1-9998081-4-3)),
2. Ineffable Edition: signed by Neil Gaiman and Paul Kidby, lavish binding, all edges gilt, in a lavish box within a slip-case, with an envelope of ephemera and at the bottom of the box a copy of William – The Antichrist, by Neil Gaiman, 32pp. bound in red cloth with grey-black end-papers, some copies of which have a copyright notice label pasted to the front free end-paper, 666 numbered copies on 4 July 2019 (978-1-9998081-3-6)
3. Celestial (24 copies, publication date and specifications to be confirmed)
Pbk: Corgi (cover illus. Graham Ward), 169,000 copies on 23 May 1991 (0-552-13703-0)
The first printing had Pratchett’s name first on the cover, and Gaiman’s second, but the reverse order on the title page. The title page was corrected in subsequent printings. The cover design was changed in 2006 and on other occasions. The 43rd reprint was put on sale on 11 March 2019.
Black/gold B format: Corgi, 2011 (978-0-552-15984-5)
A special printing of 25,000 copies with this ISBN was issued for World Book Night, given out on 23 April 2012 by volunteers across the UK, with details about Book Night, the authors, their books, and an unique identifying number.
Reissue (with red circular ‘label’ on front cover, with white lettering ‘AS HEARD ON RADIO 4’): Corgi, 11 December 2014 (978-0-552-17189-2)
Reissue, with new cover and ‘NOW A PRIME ORIGINAL AND BBC SERIES’: Corgi, 1 May 2019 (978-0-552-17645-3)
Special Waterstones edition with different cover, black, with flaps and label, ‘Exclusively designed for Waterstones’: Corgi, 1 May 2019 (978-0-552-17672-9)
Book club: [BCA] Guild Publishing, c. 1991, 12,000 copies (CN 6407)
Fantasy & SF Book Club: 25th Birthday Library Collection, with new intro. by authors, 2003 (CN 114844)
*USA hbk: 1) Workman (jacket illus. David Frampton, design Charles Kreloff), According to Workman royalty statement August 1990, but possibly September (0-89480-853-2)
*Book proofs: Type 1. xii, 324pp. 21.0 x 14.7 cm. in red paper covers. Contains the unrevised Gollancz text.
Type 2. xvi, 354pp., 23.0 x 15.3 cm. with red card covers, specially printed dustjacket. Contains the Gollancz text with the revisions for the American market.
Keepsake hardcover: HarperCollins/Morrow, March 2006 (0-06-085396-4)
This edition has two different covers, TP’s name being first on one and second on the other.
*US book club: Science Fiction Book Club Selection, November 1990 (jacket illustration as hbk), ?October 1990 (17631)
Hbk 2): William Morrow, 1 January 2006 (0-06-085396-4)
Available in two different jackets, black on white, with Crowley illustrated on the front cover and Gaiman’s name first on it, and white on black, with Aziraphale and Pratchett’s name first, with, at the foot of the front cover of the former, in red, ‘THE NICE AND ACCURATE PROPH” and of the latter “ECIES OF AGNES NUTTER WITCH”. The images appear in reverse order on the end-papers. Added to this edition is a Foreword, and at the end, ‘Good Omens, the Facts’ and two essays, one by each author, about the other.
*US book club: SFBC 50th Anniversary Collection, no.30, March 2006 (978-0-7394-7414-3; 1206514) although the printed information in the book gives the publication date as September 2006.
*Pbk Trade: Berkley, March 1992 (0-425-13215-3)
*Mass-market pbk: Ace, May 1996 (0-441-00325-7)
*Reissue: Ace, 2001 (0-441-00861-5)
HarperTorch, 28 November 2006 (0-06-085398-0) Issued in similar double-version covers to the Morrow hardcover edition, but with the complete subtitle at the foot of each version of the cover, and they have the same contents as the Morrow edition.
B-format pbk: Harper 2007 (978-0-06-085397-6) two versions, as before.
*USA talking book: recorded by the American Printing House. Performed by Martin Jarvis, Harperaudio, 2009 (978-0-06-173581-3). Released by Audible.com on 20 December 2018 (ASIN B07L9F6877), when it goes to no.11 in the New York Times Audio Fiction bestseller list (December 2018)
Bahasa Indonesian: Good Omens / Pertanda-Pertanda Baik, trs. Lulu Wijaya, Penerbit PT Gramedia Pustaka Utama, April 2010 (978-979-22-5622-2)
*Brazilian Portugues: Belas Maldições, trs. Fábio Fernandes, Bertrand Brasil, 1998 (85-286-0662-7) [licence signed in 1991 ? earlier edition?]
Bulgarian: Добри Поличби, trs. Svetlana Komogorova, Prozoretz, using the Kirby illustration for Wyrd Sisters, 2002 (954-733-130-2) 2nd edition: Prozoretz, 2017 (978-954-733-902-6)
Chinese (Taiwan) (complex) 好預兆 : 1) Muses, June 2008 (987-986-6665-04-2) (with transparent stickers) The cover has NG’s name first, the title TP’s
*2) (new translation): Ecus, December 2017 (978-986-359-408-6)
TV tie-edition: Ecus, 2019 (not yet seen)
Chinese (mainland)(simplified): 好兆頭 1) Science Fiction World, not yet seen
2) Dook Books, October 2018 (978-7-5594-1836-4)
Croatian: 1) Dobri Presdznaci, trs. Marko Fančović, in Monolith 003, Zagrebacka Naklada, 2000 (953-6234-65-3), pp. 10-236.
2) Pirated by Stilos Izdavastvo.[not seen]
3) Dobri Presdznaci, trs. Marko Fančović, Zagrebačka Naklada 2010 (978-953-252-084-2)
TV tie-in edition, 2019
Czech: Dobrá Znamení, trs. Jan Kantůrek, Talpress, 3000 copies in September 1997 (80-7197-099-9)
Dutch: Hoge Omens, trs. Venugopalan Ittekot (pseud. of Ruurd Groot), 4,000 copies in 1994, Het Spectrum, (90-274-2907-3)
*New edition: Mynx, 2010 (978-90-225-5501-9) The names have been reversed on this edition, so that Gaiman’s appears first.
TV tie-in edition: Meulenhoff Boekerij 2019 (not yet seen)
Estonian: Head ended, trs. Tiina Randus, Tänapäev, 2001 (998-5620-29-1) (published and reprinted, but copies never sent by publishers in spite of repeated requests)
Finnish: Hyviä Enteitä, trs. Marja Sinkkonen, Kustannus Oy Jalava, July 1992 (951-8954-84-4)
French: 1) De Bons Présages, trs. Patrick Marcel ‘From the American’, cover illus. Rowena Morrill, J’ai Lu, 16 February 1995 or 15 March 1995 (2-277-23892-9)
New cover, by Eikasia, J’Ai Lu, 20 July 2010 (978-2-290-315586-6)
2) cover design: rampazzo.com, Image/Rétrospective, Au Diable Vauvert, 1 February 2002 (92-84626-021-4)
Pbk: Cover Studio J’Ai Lu, Editions J’Ai Lu, 11 May 2014 (978-2-290-08840-1)
TV tie-in edition: Editions J’Ai Lu, with Au Diable Vauvert, 2019 (not yet seen)
J’Ai Lu has pbk rights and Au Diable Vauvert hbk.
German: Ein Gutes Omen, trs. Andreas Brandhorst, Rogner & Bernhard, January 1991 (3-8077-0247-4)
Pbk: Heyne, 1 April 1997 (06/5894 and 3-453-12677-7)
Reissue: Piper, May 2005 (3-492-28505-8)
Complete edition: Piper, 2 May 2018 (978-3-492-28166-9)
To be relaunched in Spring 2020 with a revised translation by Andrea Brandhorst
Greek: ?published? 2016 (978-618-504-948-5)
*Hebrew : 1) בשורות טובות, Opus Press, 1993 (348-251, and the US ISBN)
2) New translation by Ben Aharon, Armchair books, expected 2020 or 2021
Hungarian: 1) Elveszett próféciák, trs. Norbert Horváth, Beneficium, 1999 (978-963-859-145-6) [Expected in April 1999, published but never seen. Publisher no longer exists]
2) Agave, 2010 (978-963-986-893-9)
Indonesian: see Bahasa Indonesian
Italian: Buona Apocalisse a tutti!, trs. Luca Fusari, Strade blu/Mondadori, 29 May 2007 (978-88-04-54462-3)
Pbk: Piccola Biblioteca/Oscar Mondadori, 12 June 2012 (978-88-04-57991-5)
TV tie-in: Oscar Fantascia, 2019 (not yet seen)
Japanese: [Guddo Omenzu], trs. Mizhhito Kanehara and Fumiko Ishida, Kadokawa Shoten, 2 vols, 5,000 copies on 31 May 2007 (978-4-04-791541-1 and 542-8)
Renewed and relaunched 2019 (not yet seen)
Korean: Sigong-sa 2003. Publisher said sent copies, but none received. Out of print
New printing Sigongsa, 2015 (978-89-527-3378-8)
Latvian: Labas Zīmes (by Nīls Geimens and Terijs Prečets), trs. Vanda Romaševiča, Zvaigzne 2,000 copies on 5 March 2014 (978-9934-0-3877-8)
Lithuanian: Gera Lemiantys Ženklai, trs. Adas Macevičius and Elena Macevičiūtė, Bonus Animus, 2016 (978-9955-754-45-9)
Norwegian: Goda Varsler, trs. Stian Omland, Vigmostad & Bjorke, 2018 (978-88-241-91582-6) (not yet seen)
TV tie-in edition: 2019 (not yet seen)
Polish 1): Dobry Omen, trs. Jacek Gałązka and Juliusz Garztecki, CIA Books-SVARO, 1992 (83-85100-63-6). Before going bankrupt CIA had also acquired the licence to publish Eric and for that reason this edition contains an 8pp. extract from that book at the end.
2). trs. Juliusz Wilczur Garztecki and Jacek Gałązka, Prószyński i S-ka, 7,800 copies on 27 February 1997 (83-7180-097-5)
pbk: Prószyński i S-ka, April 2004 (83-7255-785-3)
reissue 2011 (978-83-7648-114-2)
Reissue Prószyński i S-ka, (83-7469-272-3; 978-83-7469-272-4)
TV tie-in edition: 2019 (not yet seen)
*Portuguese: Bons Augürios, trs. Carlos Grifo Babo, Editorial Presença, no.25 in their Via Láctea series, November 2004 (972-23-3280-5)
Romanian: 1) Semme Bone, trs. Liviu Radu, Tritonic, 2008 (978-973-733-221-9) published but not seen
2) Grupul Editorial Art, expected 2019 or 2020
Russian: Благие Знамения, trs. Margarita Yurkan, Black Edition, Eksmo 2012 (978-5-699-59223-4)
Hbk, with TV series tie-in cover design: Eksmo, 2019 (978-5-04-100917-5)
Pbk, with TV series tie-in cover design: Pocketbook/Pocketmodern/Eksmo, 2019 (978-5-04-106485-3)
Illustrated by Paul Kidby: Eksmo, 2019 (978-5-04-105045-0)
Original translation (with Paul Kidby’s portrait of Crowley [David Tennant] on the cover): ДоБРые ПРеДзНаМеНоВаНuЯ Прекрасные и Точные Пророчества Агнессы Псих, ведьмы, trs. Vadim Filinnov, Fanzon/Ecksmo, 2020 (978-5-04-109092-0)
This is the original Russian translation, first published in Samizdat versions in about 1995. There were probably two editions, using the same translation, as the book was very popular, with a large following, and these were in print until Eksmo took action to stop their publication. When Eksmo were asked why they had not used the original translation, they decided to publish it as well as their own and, having discovered the original translator, bought the rights from him. Has anyone come across these early printings?
Serbian: Dobra predskazanja, trs. Dejan Papić, Laguna, 1,000 copies in 2001 (86-7436-017-3)
Slovak: Slovart, licenced 2019, expected 2020 or 2021
Slovenian: Dobra znamenja, trs. Boštjan Gorenc, Javna, 500 copies hbk, and 1500 copies pbk, 4 December 2010 (978-961-6767-80-4 hbk; -86-6 pbk)
Spanish: 1) Norma (published 1999, but not yet seen)
Norma, 2 May 2005 (978-8-479-04877-8)
2) Buenos Presagios, trs. María Ferrer, TimunMas/Scyla, 2009 (978-84-480-4025-3)
Massmarket format: Timun Mas, 8 November 2012 (978-84-480-0698-3)
Swedish: Goda Omen, trs. Peter Lindforss, Wahlström (jacket illus: Graham Ward), 5,000 copies on 5 September 2000 (91-32-32539-8)
Thai: อลหม่านโองการนรก, ClassAct Publishing, 2018 (not yet seen)
Turkish: Bir Kiyamet Komedisi, trs. Hande Przylinski, Salyangoz Yayinlari, August 2007 (978-975-6277-88-1)Ukrainian: KM Books, expected 2019
Vietnamese: Nha Nam Publishing, expected 2020
A stonking good read. Lenny Henry
The Apocalypse has never been funnier…. Mr Gaiman and Mr Pratchett are to be congratulated: their partnership has produced a riotous romp through Revelations, brimming with blissful daftness and wry one-liners. Clive Barker
Good Omens is an utter delight – fresh, exciting, uproariously funny, and yet with an underlying seriousness that makes it not farce but high comedy. Poul Anderson
A superbly funny book. Pratchett and Gaiman are the most hilariously sinister team since Jekyll and Hyde. If this is Armageddon, count me in. James Herbert
A badass delight… and one Hell of a funny book. Gene Wolfe
A gay, demented eschatological farce… dripping with silly allusions, throwaway footnotes, and broad swipes at the decline of the West. Hilariously naughty…. a best-seller in England and a book to watch here. Kirkus Reviews
It’s a wow. It leaves room in both the plot and the reader’s reactions for the characters to move around in and do unexpected but very human things.
It would make one hell of a movie.
Or a heavenly one. Take your pick.
That’s what the characters have to do. Washington Post
One of the funniest books to come along in a good while…. a comedic masterpiece. If you enjoy a good, irreverent laugh, don’t pass it up. Rochester Democrat and Chronicle (USA)
Offbeat and engaging…. Very irreverent and also very, very funny…. angelic wit and heavenly nonsense. North Shore Magazine
A bit of full-bore contemporary lunacy….a steamroller of silliness that made me giggle out loud. This is not, repeat not, recommended for use at your desk at your day job. San Diego Tribune
Irreverently funny and unexpectedly wise, this collaboration fuses fantasy and comedy into an untrammelled romp through the latter days. Highly recommended. Library Journal
Wickedly funny…. The theological debates top even Life of Brian. Good Omens is heaven to read and you’ll laugh like hell. Time Out
Hilarious Pratchett magic tempered by Neil Gaiman’s dark steely style; who could ask for a better combination? Fear
Not quite as sinister as the authors’ photo. The Times
Good Omens is frequently hilarious, littered with funny footnotes and eccentric characters. It’s also humane, intelligent, suspenseful, and fully equipped with a chorus of ‘Tibetans, Aliens, Americans, Atlanteans and other rare and strange creatures of the Last Days.’ If the end is near, Pratchett and Gaiman will take us there in style. Locus
This collaboration works very well, the humour of both authors meshes perfectly. The quirky asides that are typically Pratchett are there (the ones as footnotes work best being less intrusive) and there are marvellous snapshot images scattered through out (Gaiman’s comic-based influence perhaps) but otherwise it is impossible to identify particular creations with either author. They should do it again. Pauline Morgan
Next year, Good Omens turns 30. In those three decades, it has sold millions of copies around the world and been adapted for radio. Terry Gilliam once attempted to make a film of it and it is (probably) going to be a huge TV series later this year. Its authors, meanwhile, have both individually sold several million more books and had entire industries set up around them. But in the notes in the back of my copy of Good Omens, both Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett insist that writing the book “wasn’t a big deal”. The thing they say we should remember is that “in those days Neil Gaiman was barely Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett was only just Terry Pratchett”.
That’s not quite how I remember it. When I got hold of Good Omens, aged 14, I’d read just about everything Pratchett had published up to that point. The idea that he’d teamed up with a gothy longhair to write about the end of the world seemed about as big as book news got. By the time I realised the book existed in 1991, a year after it first came out, it was definitely a “big deal”. Unusually for a so-called fantasy book, it had received favourable reviews in the UK press (alongside the notice in The Times that generated the memorable cover quote, “not quite as sinister as the authors’ photo”) – and it was selling in huge quantities.
It had also launched in the US with considerable fanfare, and even more confusion. Publishers Weekly used the damning descriptor “zany”, while Joe Queenan in the New York Times seemed furious to be dealing with such an import. He first described the book as a cure for “the recurring disease of Anglophilia” – and then really put the boot in:
“Good Omens is a direct descendant of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, a vastly overpraised book or radio programme or industry or something that became quite popular in Britain a decade ago when it became apparent that Margaret Thatcher would be in office for some time and that laughs were going to be hard to come by.”
I quote at length in humble appreciation of just how wrong we critics can be. It got worse for Queenan, who complained about “an infuriating running gag about Queen, a vaudevillian rock group whose hits are buried far in the past and should have been buried sooner”. Ah yes, Queen. Who recalls them now?
But I shouldn’t mock. It’s actually quite a witty review – and time embarrasses every critic sooner or later. My sympathy has limits, however. It’s hard to feel anything but chagrin when Queenan writes: “Obviously, it would be difficult to write a 354-page satirical novel without getting off a few good lines. I counted four.”
Oh really? Here’s four from the first four chapters:
“God does not play dice with the universe; He plays an ineffable game of His own devising, which might be compared, from the perspective of any of the other players, to being involved in an obscure and complex version of poker in a pitch-dark room, with blank cards, for infinite stakes, with a Dealer who won’t tell you the rules, and who smiles all the time.”
“Even a casual observer could have seen that these [model aeroplanes] were made by someone who was both painstaking and very careful, and also no good at making model aeroplanes.”
“Milton Keynes is a new city approximately halfway between London and Birmingham. It was built to be modern, efficient, healthy, and, all in all, a pleasant place to live. Many Britons find this amusing.”
“There are some dogs which, when you meet them, remind you that, despite thousands of years of manmade evolution, every dog is still only two meals away from being a wolf. These dogs advance deliberately, purposefully, the wilderness made flesh, their teeth yellow, their breath astink, while in the distance their owners witter, ‘He’s an old soppy really, just poke him if he’s a nuisance,’ and in the green of their eyes the red campfires of the Pleistocene gleam and flicker.”
There are plenty more where those came from, as well as some fine running gags, quick (but wonderful) jokes about Welsh TV and several long and beautiful set-ups that only work within the context of the book. I almost pulled a muscle when I got to the end of the long sequence ending “I’ll call him dog” – but you have to be there. And I hope you do get there, because this is a funny book, no matter what Queenan says. Here’s a fifth “good line”:
“It may help to understand human affairs to be clear that most of the great triumphs and tragedies of history are caused, not by people being fundamentally good or fundamentally bad, but by people being fundamentally people.”
That isn’t just amusing – it is quietly profound. Which is the other big deal about Good Omens. Perhaps people bought it for the jokes, but my suspicion is that the novel’s gentle humanism and determined irreverence resonate with readers just as much as the one-liners. Pratchett and Gaiman are both capable of good writing – but more on that next week. For now, please feel free to continue to prove poor old Queenan wrong by posting more of your favourite lines from the book. I don’t think there’ll be any shortage. Sam Jordison, The Guardian, 15 January 2019
Is Good Omens one of the best collaborative novels ever written?
Novelists rarely collaborate successfully, but the stars aligned when Terry Pratchett rang Neil Gaiman back to discuss the idea of Just William as the Antichrist
Is it hyperbole to call Good Omens one of the most successful collaborative novels of all time? Certainly, it’s a success: it’s clever, funny and has stayed in print – and stayed relevant – for almost three decades. More than that, it is deeply beloved. When we chose it for the reading group this month, I knew the book mattered to a huge number of people (myself included) – but all this happy month we’ve had huge numbers of people visiting for the first time, to share their love for the book.
It’s hard to think of any other collaborative novels that have been so successful. There’s George and Weedon Grossmith’s The Diary of a Nobody, which gave us the concept of “Pooterism” and has been haunting the aspirational middle classes since 1892. More recently, you could argue for The Difference Engine by William Gibson and Bruce Sterling, which has come to define an entire genre (steampunk) and won great praise and awards, as well as legions of fans. There’s also Rama II, which Arthur C Clarke wrote with Gentry Lee; it is good, but not quite as good as Clarke’s Rendezvous With Rama.
Otherwise, I’m struggling. If you want to be cheeky, you could include the Bible, which has also sold quite a few copies and had some influence. If you want to stretch the definition of collaboration you could also consider the work of hands-on editors: Gordon Lish and Raymond Carver, or Max Perkins with Thomas Wolfe and F Scott Fitzgerald.
Most collaborations have not been career highlights. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the (relatively) recent release of And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks by Jack Kerouac and William Burroughs – but no one is going to remember that instead of On the Road or Naked Lunch. Meanwhile, did you even know that Joseph Conrad and Ford Madox Ford joined their considerable forces together to try to write a science fiction novel? The resultant book – The Inheritors – is enjoyable, but it isn’t exactly Heart of Darkness or The Good Soldier. Nor did it score with readers; like And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks and so many other collaborations, it was conceived primarily as a money-making scheme. When Ford and Conrad started plotting together at the turn of the 20th century, both were facing numerous financial embarrassments; Conrad was even contemplating taking up his old life as a sailor. Their idea was that they’d cash in on the success of writers such as HG Wells by producing a scientific romance certain to set tills ringing. The public rewarded their cynicism by condemning the book to the obscurity it has lived in ever since.
The contrast with Good Omens is obvious. While both Pratchett and Gaiman’s humour is often sarcastic, the book is anything but cynical. It’s warm and human, full of rage and righteous indignation, as well as delight in well-told jokes and well-placed silliness. “We didn’t do it for the money,” Pratchett once said. “It was done by two guys who didn’t have anything to lose by having fun.” (Although he also enjoyed noting: “But, as it turned out, we got a lot of money.”)
The story of Gaiman and Pratchett’s collaboration has been told often, partly because it was such so unusually successful. From the very beginning they realised, as Gaiman once told Michael Chabon (in an interview that is worth enjoying in full) that the “Venn diagrams” of their minds overlapped. They shared “headspace”. And so when Gaiman sent Pratchett the first 25 pages of a book he’d written about Just William as the Antichrist, Pratchett called him to say: “Tell you what, either sell me the idea and that opening, or we can write it together because I want to find out what happens next.”
“And,” Gaiman continues, “I said, we are going to write it together, because I am not stupid … It was like Michelangelo phoning and asking if you want to paint a ceiling together.”
Pratchett, meanwhile, had the patience to work around both Gaiman’s busy schedule writing The Sandman comic series, as well as his younger friend’s nocturnal nature, even if the answerphone messages he left him most mornings generally began: “Get up, you bastard.” They shared plot ideas over the phone and sent each other floppy discs in the post, competing to get to the best scenes first, footnoting each other’s copy and swapping characters and rewrites until neither was sure who wrote what and where the jokes came from.
And so here we are. When she wrote about Good Omens in 2015, Justine Jordan said: “In retrospect, it seems amazing that two such singular and prolific creative energies could share the writing of a novel: an extraordinary congruence of hard work, good timing and readerly luck.” If it weren’t for the novel’s subject matter, I’d be tempted to call it a miracle.
Sam Jordison, The Guardian, 29 January 2019
The TV series Amazon Prime/BBC TV
Six episodes, released 31 May 2019
UK: Blu-ray and DVD: BBC, 28 October 2019 (DVD: BBCDVD4393 (5051561043932); Blu-Ray: BBCBD0473 (5051561004735); Limited edition metal box: BBCBD0485 (5051561004858)
US: Blu-ray and DVD: 5 November 2019
The Nice and Accurate Good Omens TV Companion
with contributions by Neil Gaiman and Rob Wilkins
UK hbk: Headline, 21 May 2019 (978-1-4722-5829-6)
US hbk: William Morrow, 21 May 2019 (978-0-06-289835-7)
The Quite Nice and Fairly Accurate Good Omens Script Book
UK hbk: Headline, 21 May 2019 (978-1-4722-6125-0)
Waterstones special, with an extra deleted scene (10 pages) and signed by NG: 21 May 2019 (978-1-4722-6523-4), unsigned copies with -6125-0 ISBN on the jacket, but including the extra 10 pages, also exist
Ltd edition, white cloth boards, extra deleted material, 1,000 signed copies: Headline, 21 May 2019 (978-1-4722-6522-7)
Pbk: Headline, 21 May 2019 (978-1-4722-6126-7)
Draft/ proof? almost black cover with the same design as the limited edition, lettering reversed out in white and the word DRAFT over bottom right corner: Headline, 2019 (978-1-4722-6126-7)
US hbk: Headline, 21 May 2019 (978-1-4722-6125-0)
Pbk: William Morrow Paperbacks, 11 June 2019 (978-0-06-289690-2)
Neil Gaiman: On winning the Hugo for Good Omens
You know, having seen the list of the other nominees, I find it very difficult to believe that Good Omens has won the Hugo Award for 2020. I made Good Omens because Terry Pratchett asked me to. I didn’t want to.
I had absolutely no intention of spending years of my life writing and then showrunning a television series, but Terry asked. And I owed him that. And I did. I had lots of collaborators, hundreds of collaborators, making this: all the amazing people on our cast and crew. I particularly want to thank the indomitable Douglas Mackinnon, our director, and Michael Sheen and David Tennant, our angel and our demon.
But the most important collaborator, for me, wasn’t there. He was there in my imagination, looking over my shoulder at everything I wrote, everything we shot, and telling me exactly what he thought of it – often in no uncertain terms.
Terry never won a Hugo, the only time he was nominated for a Hugo Award, he actually withdrew the novel from consideration, telling people that if he had a book nominated for a Hugo it would ruin his WorldCon worrying.
It wasn’t that he didn’t care. It was that he cared too much.
For all the wards that he got, for call the acclamation, for all the honors and the love heaped upon Terry during his lifetime, the one he reallt cared about was the Hugo Award. And he would grumble about it to me, pointing out that he was never going to get one, because they were never going to give a Hugo Award to anything funny.
Thank you, all of you, for giving Terry Pratchett his Hugo Award. — Neil Gaiman, 2020
Thanks to social media, a filmmaker can keep sneaking you on the set of their latest project without begging for Entertainment Tonight to give them the time. They can easily post updates in casting, photos of actors in costume and even teaser clips to get an audience eager for the finished movie. If you’ve followed the writer Neil Gaiman’s Twitter feed over the last few years, you’ve been staring over his shoulder while he committed to the Herculean task of adapting Good Omens to the screen. He didn’t merely write the script adaptation of the novel he co-wrote with Sir Terry Pratchett back in 1990. Nearly three decades later Gaiman produced the film and acted as the showrunner producer and not merely the producer who shows up on the set for a few publicity photos. He teamed up with director Douglas Mackinnon (Jekyll and Doctor Who) to finally bring the novel to life. Instead of trying to cram the 298 pages into two hours, Good Omens was allowed to breath as a six part miniseries. Now the fruit of Gaiman’s labours has arrived on Blu-ray to show all the care and detail that went into the production.
Since God created Adam and Eve, the angel Aziraphale (Underworld: Rise of the Lycans‘s Michael Sheen) and the demon Crowley (Doctor Who‘s Michael Tennant) have been with people. Of course they’ve been on different sides of humanity. Crowley was the serpent that tempted Eve to eat and share the forbidden fruit with Adam. Aziraphale had given the couple a forbidden device when they were sent into exile from Eden. These two were there for everything. While they were working for two different sides, both the angel and the devil created a forbidden friendship. The two have learned to enjoy what the humans create. They don’t feel stuck on Earth. This is why both of them aren’t too happy when word comes down that Antichrist is being born and Armageddon will commence with the ultimate battle between angels and devils. The antichrist is supposed to be swapped with the baby of the American ambassador to the United Kingdom (Nick Offerman) at an out of the way religious hospital run by the Sisters of the Chattering Order. They are secretly Satanic. But the plan goes off the rails when a local couple has to use the hospital to deliver their own baby that same night. A switch up occurs and the Young family goes home with the Antichrist while everyone thinks the ambassador has the child that might bring about the end of the world. While the angel and devil try to influence the ambassador’s son to not want to destroy the world, the Young’s son discovers his powers. The only person who seem to have a clue about the real antichrist is Anathema Device (Adria Arjona) because she is descended from occultist Agnes Nutter who predicted it all. Can the world be saved from the desires of Heaven and Hell?
The production has a high level cast including Miranda Richardson, Jon Hamm, Frances McDormand and Jack Whitehall. Michael McKean will astonish those who only know him from Laverne and Shirley. He is Witchfinder Sargent Shadwell who gets tangled up in the spiritual mystery while doing his job. McKean imbues the character with an accent that makes him sound like a former member of The Fall that was fired by Mark E. Smith in 1987. This might be the greatest performance as an Englishman by an American actor. The special effects truly give a sense of otherworldliness. You can visually believe Crowley drives a flaming Rolls Royce while blasting Queen. And that’s a big thing, the soundtrack features real songs from Queen. After following Gaiman’s Tweets, there was a fear that this can’t be as cool as the snippets from the set appeared. But it is.
Good Omens is one of the finest miniseries ever adapted from a novel. It’d be easy to put it up with Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Universe. But this production is so magnificent that it rates up there with the finest of British television such as I, Claudius and Brideshead Revisted. Neil Gaiman could have just signed away his film rights to Hollywood for a fat paycheck. But he wanted to create a production that would make the late Terry Pratchett proud. Good Omens is delivers on all the humour from the novel and fulfils the promise of seeing the end of the world on the screen.
Inside Pulse, Blu-Ray Review, 5 November 2019
of related interest
On Our Own Side: Portraits, Studies and Illustrations
A collection of art inspired by Sir Terry Pratchett’s and Neil Gaiman’s “Good Omens”
self-published by Andrea C . White
48pp. A4 casebound. Bar codes 0022015037 and 336660_002
Background image © Josh Kirby Estate, All Rights Reserved