Filmmakers are always looking for the Next Big Thing, but sometimes the Next Big Thing is something that's been around for decades. Here's a roundup of classic science fiction books that have been optioned for filming rights and will hopefully find their way to film and television.
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Although Ray Bradbury, arguably one of literature's greatest writers, wrote in multiple literary genres, his best-known work is the iconic 1953 dystopian novel Fahrenheit 451. This dark future America is a hedonistic illiterate society where citizens are often glued to their interactive entertainment devices. Books are, in fact, outlawed and it's the job of firemen to burn them out of existence wherever they turn up. Bradbury's use of the controversial topic of book burning confused many people for years about what statement the book was trying to make. Long thought to be about censorship, Bradbury eventually revealed that Fahrenheit 451 was about the negative impact that television had on the consumption of literature. Ironically, television is where viewers will get to see Bradbury's classic play out. HBO Films will be adapting the Fahrenheit 451 and have signed actors Michael B. Jordan to play fireman Guy Montag, who wonders about the meaning of his life; Oscar-nominated Michael Shannon who will play his mentor Captain Beatty; and Sofia Boutella, who plays the role of Clarisse, a "subversive" who dares to question their bookless way of life. This would be the second film adaptation of the book; In 1966, François Truffaut wrote and directed a film version of Bradbury's book starring Oskar Werner and Julie Christie.
The Left Hand of Darknessby Ursula K. Le Guin
Speaking of literature's treasures, I recently wrote about Ursula K. Le Guin's boxed collection of Hainish Cycle novels and stories. Among them was the 1969 novel The Left Hand of Darkness, a forerunner of feminist science fiction. The protagonist of the novel is named Genly Ai, a male Earth-born ethnologist and envoy tasked with traveling to wintery planet Gethen to facilitate Gethen's inclusion into the Ekumen, a growing intergalactic civilization. Not much is known about Gethen culture. The androgynous people of Gethen are unique in that their gender is fluid; they become either male or female at the peak of their sexual cycle. Le Guin's thoughtful exploration of gender politics challenged readers to examine their own assumptions about gender roles and for that it deservedly won multiple awards. An adaptation of this classic was long overdue. But now, the production company Critical Content purchased the rights to adapt The Left Hand of Darkness as a limited series. Good news for fans of faithful adaptations: Le Guin will serve as consulting producer for the project.
Hello America by J.G. Ballard
In Ballard's 1981 novel, an energy crisis in the twentieth century led to ecological collapse and America being abandoned by most of its residents. More than a century later, an expedition is launched from Europe to America to investigate the cause of increased radioactive fallout in England. The book traces the path of the expedition voyage in this "New World" of ecological ruin. A proposed television adaptation, however, trades in the ecological collapse of America for an economic one. Netflix bought the rights to produce Ballard's classic through Ridley Scott's production company Scott Free. No stars are attached the production yet, but keep this voyage of rediscovery on your radar.
Foundation by Isaac Asimov
Isaac Asimov's sprawling Robots and Foundation series started with his classic novel Foundation, the start of a seven book cycle that was a science-fictional retelling of the decline and fall of the Roman Empire. Foundation revolved around the work of mathematician Hari Seldon who developed a new branch of mathematics known as psychohistory, which could be used to generally predict the future path of society. Seldon's psychohistory predicts the inevitable fall of the great Galactic Empire, but hopes to shrink the predicted dark age of thirty millennia to a mere thousand years. It seems like a thousand years since fans have been waiting to see this classic adapted to the screen, but the wait may be over. The production company Skydance is seeking to produce a television series based on the first three books of Asimov's Foundation (1951's Foundation, 1952's Foundation and Empire and 1953's Second Foundation). David S. Goyer (writer of Christopher Nolan's Batman films) and Josh Friedman (writer behind Steven Spielberg's War of the Worlds adaptation) are attached to the project.
Neuromancerby William Gibson
The "newest" sf classic novel in this roundup of classics is William Gibson's 1984 debut: the cyberpunk novel Neuromancer. It introduced the cyberspace "Matrix" concept as it was the stomping grounds of data thief and Hacker cowboy Henry Dorsett Case. Case unfortunately steals data from his employers, prompting them to take revenge by crippling his nervous system. Nevertheless, a new mysterious employer hires Case and fixes him up (with conditions) for a secret mission targeting an artificial intelligence orbiting Earth that services a nefarious business clan. Should he fail the mission, he dies. If this sounds like something made for film, your suspicions will be confirmed. Deadpool's Tim Miller is helming a film adaptation of Neuromancer for Fox studios. The project is still in development, but this is another story that fans have been waiting a long time to see.