There used to be a time when science fiction and fantasy readers would ask why Hollywood wasn't getting their film ideas from the pages of books. Those days of bemoaning are long gone. Filmmakers are cutting deals with authors and publishers every week that pave the way for theatrical or television adaptations of their work. Optioning a book for adaptation is no guarantee the film or show will get made, of course, but it is the first major step in that direction. Even better; it gives readers a nudge to read the book before they see it on screen. Here's the latest roundup of book-to-film adaptations that science fiction and fantasy fans should be excited about.
George R.R. Martin's Wild Cards
With superhero films being as popular as they are, the only question about adapting George R.R. Martin's superhero series is how it wasn't scooped up sooner. Wild Cards is a short story, shared universe anthology edited by Martin which was first published in 1987. The premise of the series is that, shortly after World War II, an alien virus was unleased into New York City, killing ninety percent the world's population. The survivors were mutated into something more than human, creating a world of superheroes (called Aces) and super villains (called Jokers). The series has since spawned two dozen books and novels, most recently High Stakes.
Rights to adapt this alternate history shared universe have been acquired by Universal Cable Productions, the team behind the shows The Magicians and Mr. Robot. Although Martin himself won't be involved in the production, Wild Cards co-editor Melinda M. Snodgrass has been signed on as executive producer. Snodgrass herself is no stranger to television; she's worked on Star Trek: The Next Generation, The Outer Limits, and Sliders in various capacities as writer, story editor, and producer. This one has good prospects.
InterWorld by Neil Gaiman and Michael Reaves
Neil Gaiman is no stranger to TV and film adaptations, and with good reason. His storytelling acumen is outstanding. His co-writer for the 2007 young adult adventure InterWorld is no slouch either. In addition to being an accomplished author, Michael Reeves is known for being an Emmy award-winning scriptwriter and story editor for a number of animated television series. Interworld is a parallel world story in which average kid Joey Harker discovers that his Earth is just one out of a trillion. Some of the Earths are based in science, some in magic, but all of them are at war. Joey teams up with other versions of himself – all of whom have the ability to travel between dimensions – to fight evil magicians so that the existing precarious balance of power can be maintained.
Sounds like an exciting adventure, right? Jeffrey Seller, the producer of the Broadway smash Hamilton, and his producing partner Flody Suarez thought so, too. Universal Cable Productions secured rights to turn the novel into a television series and brought Seller and Suarez on board to run it. A very reasonable worry for fans of the novel is that Hollywood will twist and mash the story into something unrecognizable from the original material. They needn't worry here; authors Gaiman and Reeves will also be serving as executive producers of the project.
The Midnight, Texas Trilogy by Charlaine Harris
Bestselling author Charlaine Harris has struck Hollywood gold before. Her True Blood vampire novels were the basis for the popular HBO series of the same name. Her newest series, a set of supernatural novels that take place in the fictional town of Midnight, Texas, was also recently optioned by Universal Television and David Janollari Entertainment. The chances you will see this one air are almost certain: a television pilot was filmed and, based on that pilot, NBC has given the order to produce more episodes. The cast includes François Arnaud, Dylan Bruce, Parisa Fitz-Henley, Arielle Kebbel, Sarah Ramos, Peter Mensah, Yul Vazquez, and Sean Bridgers.
The remote town of Midnight, Texas was first introduced in the 2014 novel Midnight Crossroad. It's about what you'd expect from a small Midwestern town; few residents, lots of local gossip, and a single street light. The difference here is that nobody is what they appear to be. New resident Manfred Bernardo thinks he's found a quiet place to work and hide his own secrets, but he doesn't realize he's moved to a town of anything-but-normal strangers. The strangeness continues in sequels Day Shift (2015) and Night Shift (2016).
The Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett
Sir Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels are perennial favorites for readers looking to dabble on the lighter side of fantasy. The We Free Men, the thirtieth book in the series, is the first of a trilogy of books revolving around Tiffany Aching, a young witch. More accurately, she's a witch in training. Tiffany aims to prove herself by defending her hometown against the monsters of Fairyland…with a frying pan. Fortunately, she has help in the form of the Wee Free Men, described as "a clan of fierce, sheep-stealing, sword-wielding, six-inch-high blue men".
Adapting a fan favorite like Discworld is a tough job. It won't be easy to please skeptical fans. The promising news here is that the project is in good hands. The Jim Henson Company – a company that has successfully worked in this realm before – announced that they are developing Pratchett's witch-in-training story into a feature film. The film is being written by Pratchett's daughter, Rhianna, who is an award-winning scriptwriter for videogames, comics, film, and TV. Given that both parties are involved and invested, I have high hopes that the result will be true to the original.
Caves of Steel by Isaac Asimov
Isaac Asimov's Robot & Foundation stories are classics of science fiction. Caves of Steel is Asimov's first Robot novel and it's an entertaining science fiction mystery. It's set thousands of years into the future, where mankind has spread to the stars aided by humanoid robots which are powered by positronic brains. Those left behind on an overpopulated Earth have little love for the so-called Spacers and their robotic companions. Even so, New York City police detective Elijah Baley is partnered with a robot named R. Daneel Olivaw to solve the murder of a Spacer ambassador visiting Earth.
Talk about long overdue! Caves of Steel was first published in parts in Galaxy Magazine in 1953, then released as a novel in 1954. Asimov's classic is finally being turned into a feature film by Fox with Akiva Goldsman writing the screenplay. I must admit being a little leery here. Goldsman was the screenwriter of 2004's I, Robot starring Will Smith, which was supposedly based on Asimov's short story collection of the same name. That collection explored the limits of Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics, the rules that govern robots' behavior. While I, Robot was not a terrible movie, is had only tenuous ties with the original material. I'm hoping Caves of Steel proves to be a more solid film.