'Good Omens' author and showrunner Neil Gaiman explains why TV's fantasy and sci-fi 'gold rush' is just getting started


Neil Gaiman

  • Companies like Amazon, HBO, and Netflix have been throwing money at big science-fiction and fantasy TV series, in the hopes of finding the next “Game of Thrones.”
  • Fantasy author Neil Gaiman, who created Amazon’s “Good Omens,” told Business Insider that the “gold rush” in sci-fi and fantasy TV may just be getting started.
  • “The technology is cheap enough and good enough that we can put anything you can imagine onto the screen,” Gaiman said.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Science-fiction and fantasy series are having a “small golden age” on TV, fantasy author Neil Gaiman told Business Insider. And it may only be getting started.

After TV shows like “Game of Thrones” and “Stranger Things” hit big with audiences, media companies like HBO, Netflix, Disney, and Amazon have been throwing money at sci-fi and fantasy series.

Netflix has a new season of “Stranger Things” and “The Witcher” due out this year. HBO has “Westworld” and is planning at least one prequel in the “Game of Thrones” universe. Disney Plus is launching with shows like the Star Wars series, “The Mandalorian.” And Amazon has “The Expanse” and an ultra-expensive “The Lord of the Rings” TV show in the works.

Gaiman thinks there will be more to come in the sci-fi and fantasy space. He told Business Insider that TV creators are just now getting the opportunity to make shows they could only imagine five or 10 years ago.

“Right now, we’re in a special place making TV,” Gaiman said, who has also written and produced shows. “The technology is cheap enough and good enough that we can put anything you can imagine onto the screen. People want that and there is funding for it.”

Gaiman, for instance, had been trying to make a TV show of his 1990 novel, “Good Omens,” co-authored with the late Terry Pratchett, for years. The project — in which heaven and hell lose the anti-Christ on Earth ahead of the apocalypse — had been bounced around in development since at least 2011. It wasn’t until 2017, after Gaiman committed to making the series in the late Pratchett’s honor and wrote the scripts, that Amazon and BBC Studios announced they would coproduce the project.

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Other works from the author have also recently made their way to the small screen, including Netflix’s “Lucifer,” based on characters Gaiman created, and Starz’s “American Gods,” an adaptation of a Gaiman novel. Gaiman has an overall deal with Amazon Studios to produce other projects, as well.

“It’s a small golden age,” Gaiman said, “and also a small gold rush happening.”

“Good Omens” features flying saucers from outer space, the mythical Kraken, and the lost city of Atlantis — elements that appear only briefly in the show, but might have been too expensive to include had the technology and budget afforded by Amazon and BBC not made it possible.

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The opening sequence, which takes place in the Garden of Eden, has more than 50 CGI shots alone. By comparison, the show’s director, Douglas Mackinnon, told Business Insider that the first episode he directed of the time-traveling BBC series, “Doctor Who,” in 2008 had about five CGI shots in the entire episode.

Meanwhile, in the final season of “Game of Thrones,” estimated to cost $90 million, two of the main characters soared and battled on the backs of dragons. Apple is working with famed filmmaker Steven Spielberg on a TV reboot of “Amazing Stories,” which will reportedly cost more than $5 million per episode. And Disney’s “The Mandalorian” is reportedly using some of the same technology that was used to make blockbuster films with massive budgets like “Avatar.” 

In the midst of the small gold rush that Gaiman described, a class of TV creators is emerging who understand what the technology can do, what its limitations are, and how to write for it, said Mackinnon, who has also been behind the camera on shows like “Sherlock” and “Outlander.” He puts Noah Hawley, who created “Legion,” and Steven Moffat, one of the creators and writers of “Sherlock,” in that camp. Moffat is now at work on a “Dracula” series, and Hawley is developing a TV adaptation of Kurt Vonnegut’s satirical sci-fi novel, “Cat’s Cradle,” among other projects.

“We’re not at the end of something,” Mackinnon said. “We’re at a brand new bit of storytelling.”

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