Neil's most recent book is of course his Norse Mythology, retelling some of the stories of the Norse gods, and Stephen, it appears, is in the process of writing a book retelling some of the Greek Myths (out in November).
He explained that when he was told Neil had a book of Norse Myths out his first thought was not the normal joy which one usually feels on learning that Neil has a new book out, but rather 'oh sod, is he doing series?' ..
Neil Gaiman and Stephen Fry
He explained that once reassured that Neil wouldn't be publishing a retelling of Greek Myths any time soon, he relaxed and enjoyed the book!
Neil talked a little about when and how he first fell in love with the Norse myths (comics first, then Roger Lancelyn Green). They agreed that it's best to tell the stories and not try to make explain them "If you try and explain them, they get less. They don't get more".
He also spoke about how different Norse myths are from Greek ones - how inhospitable the world in which the Norse gods live; 'No-one is hanging around wearning not very much and staring at their reflection in pools'
Neil read an extract of his story of Loki's children, about the binding of Fenrir.
And Stephen talked about the Greek Myths, and how her grew up on Robert Graves. There was a little discussion about how the ancient greek myths explain the creation of the world, (and how the Norsemen would have known how unscientific the Greeks were, in thinking the world came from chaos, when everyone knew everything was really licked into being by a giant cow...)
They agreed that the ancient Greeks, like the Norse, didn't trust the gods, they are treacherous and unreliable, and as wicked and capricious and lustful as humans!
After a slight delay (it would appear that not having yet published your book, makes it harder to actually read from your book.) Stephen read about King Midas, , ('rather a nice King. He loved his roses') who had asses ears, as a result of criticising Apollo's musical ability..
King Midas has Asses Ears
They talked about mining myths, how you can dig down into older versions, (with specific reference to versions of the Orpheus and Euridyce story), and also spoke briefly about 'American Gods'
Chris Riddell illustrated both of them. (It should be mentioned that as Chris's art was being projected onto a large screen at the back of the stage, we the audience could see what he was drawing, but Neil and Stephen couldn't, without turning round, which meant that from time to time their (relatively) serious conversation was interrupted by laughter from the audience!
Is Neil going to be writing a book of Welsh Myths, he was asked
As, for instance, when a member of the audience asked about whether Neil had any plans to use the Welsh Myths.. (Stephen did point out that, out of mercy to his spell-checker he probably shouldn't go from Norse to Welsh myths!)
Questions included Stephen's views on insulting gods He takes the view you can't insult what you don't believe in, but that if it turned out there was an omnipotent god and he met it, he'd be 'a bit cross' .
Neil was asked which of the Norse gods he most identified with (Kvasir, because he didn't to anything to dreadful, and because of the mead of poetry)
They were also asked about whether they felt like gods while writing. Neil admitted he did when he first got to write Doctor Who, and wrote 'TARDIS, Interior' and when he wrote Batman and realised that he could make Batman do anything!
Finally, Amanda Palmer came onstage to read Neil's poem, 'The Mushroom Hunters' which was new to me.
The BBC was recording the session and put the full thing online here. Watch and enjoy!
After the event, Neil did a signing, which was very generous of him. The tent in which the event was held seats around 1,700 and it seems as though most of us wanted to get stuff signed!
About an hour and a half into the queuing-for-the-signing part of the evening, Amanda and Patrick came to entertain us, (and to let anyone who didn't know, know that they had a gig later)
It was, as always, lovely to see Neil and say hello, but I can completely understand why he doesn't often do such big signings.
I had a long drive back home afterwards, so couldn't stay for Amanda's gig, but it was a lovely day!