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Adult life, with all its schedules and responsibilities, can turn into a kind of library of locked boxes. The ones we open every day sit on a shelf at eye level, their keys clipped to a carabiner at our waist: Set the alarm. Pack a gym bag. Pick up milk for the kids. 

But on the lower shelves and in the dusty back rooms there’s an ominous jumble of odd-shaped containers. They hold the stories that don’t fit so neatly into the skin we’ve decided to live in. Maybe we’ve misplaced the keys, or maybe we’ve deliberately lost them. 

My guest today keeps all the keys close at hand. In his stories and graphic novels worlds collide and, as the fairy Ariel puts it in Shakespeare’s Tempest, they “suffer a sea change, into something rich and strange”. The walls of reality are permeable, and dangerous magic is always seeping through. 

Neil Gaiman is the author of the Sandman graphic novels, The Graveyard Book, Coraline, American Gods, and many other wonderful things. His latest is a marvelous retelling of Norse Mythology, with most of the nasty bits left in. 

Surprise conversation-starter clips in this episode

Barbara Oakley on learning speeds and styles

Neil Gaiman Quote: [Loki] begins the [Norse myths] as a kind of a sit-com character. In the sit-com of the Gods, Loki’s the one who says “hey guys, why don’t we do this?” And all the gods go: “That is a stupid idea. That would get us into trouble.” And Loki goes: “No, it won’t get us into trouble, because I have a foolproof plan!” And then when it all goes wrong, they go: “Whose idea was this?” And Loki goes: “Wasn’t me!” And they go: “Actually it was you, and we’re gonna kill you painfully unless you get us out of this.” And so he gets them into trouble and he gets them out of trouble. And it’s great fun. And then it gets darker.

About Think Again - A Big Think Podcast: Since 2008, Big Think has been sharing big ideas from creative and curious minds. Since 2015, the Think Again podcast has been taking us out of our comfort zone, surprising our guests and Jason Gots, your host, with unexpected conversation starters from Big Think’s interview archives.

You've got 10 minutes with Einstein. What do you talk about? Black holes? Time travel? Why not gambling? The Art of War? Contemporary parenting? Some of the best conversations happen when we're pushed outside of our comfort zones. Each week on Think Again, we surprise smart people you may have heard of with short clips from Big Think's interview archives on every imaginable subject. These conversations could, and do, go anywhere.

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