Hollywood continues to mine the rich field of science fiction and fantasy literature for television and film ideas. Here's the latest roundup of speculative fiction books that have been optioned for adaptation.
Dawn by Octavia Butler
In Dawn, mankind has rendered planet Earth uninhabitable through the use of nuclear weapons. On the brink of extinction, a select few humans are saved by a race of aliens called the Oankali. One of the survivors is a woman named Lilith, who awakens centuries after Earth’s demise and learns that the Oankali have three genders: male, female, and ooloi. The ooloi have the unique ability among the Oankali to manipulate genetic material, which they eventually do to form Oankali/human hybrids…specifically for the purpose of repopulating the now-inhabitable Earth.
Dawn is the first novel in Octavia Butler's Xenogenesis series, which is noted for exploring themes of gender, sexuality, and race. Rights to bring Dawn to television have been optioned by Bainframe, with Allen Bain, Gary Pearl, Thomas Carter, and Teddy Smith acting as executive co-producers. Television provides a much larger canvas on which to tell a textured story like Dawn. One has to imagine that if successful, Dawn's sequels—Adulthood Rites and Imago—will also be tapped for adaptation.
Little Brother by Cory Doctorow
Little Brother follows a tech-savvy teenage hacker named Marcus Yallow who takes on the Department of Homeland Security after being falsely connected with terrorism. Marcus and his friends are picked up by authorities after a terrorist attack on the Bay Bridge. The teens are subsequently imprisoned, treated like criminals, and eventually let go, but Marcus takes it upon himself to take down the DHS using current and near-future technology.
Film rights to Cory Doctorow's "hactivist" story were recently acquired by Paramount Pictures, who sees Marcus as an Edward Snowden–type character. Producers attached to the project include Don Murphy (Transformers) and Susan Montford. The plan is to make Little Brother a young adult franchise, no doubt tapping into the book’s follow-up, Homeland, and its forthcoming sequels.
Roadside Picnic by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky
The 1972 novel Roadside Picnic,writtenby Russian brothers Arkady and Boris Strugatsky, examines what happens when mankind comes into contact with advanced alien technology it is ill-equipped to handle. The premise is that aliens had visited Earth and left behind advanced (to us) technology. But travel into the so-called "zones" is forbidden because unexplainable and seemingly supernatural things happen there. However, alien tech sells for high dollar on the black market, which is why "stalker" Red Schuhart, despite the danger, ventures into the zone to look for a valuable alien artifact.
Adaptation rights to Roadside Picnic were snapped up by WGN America, who is developing a television series based on the science-fiction classic. Jack Paglen, screenwriter for the Johnny Depp sci-fi vehicle Transcendence, was brought on to write it. Terminator Genisys and Game of Thrones helmer Alan Taylor is also on board to direct.
Black Moon by Kenneth Calhoun
Black Moon is just one of several science-fiction books that deal with insomnia and sleep. In it, insomnia has become a worldwide epidemic where the sleepless roam the streets looking for a cure that doesn't exist. Panic escalates to the point where the people who cannot sleep begin to attack those who can. Against this slow-boil apocalyptic scenario, the book shows us the lives of several different interconnected characters and how they are coping with new way of the world.
Rights to film Black Moon as a television series were picked up by streaming service Hulu. Mike Cahill (Another Earth) will write and direct the adaptation. They are dropping the name "Black Moon" and calling the series Sleepless instead. The entire project is being envisioned as a 10-episode series, which should allow a sufficient time to really explore the multiple storylines.
Pennsylvania by Michael Bunker
To the best of my knowledge, there's not a whole lot of Amish sci-fi out there...but that didn't stop Hollywood from taking notice of Michael Bunker's space colonization story Pennsylvania. It's the story of a young Amish man named Jedidiah Troyer who signs up for an emigration program to colonize the planet New Pennsylvania. Jedidiah is looking to establish a farm and homestead on affordable land in a new Amish community, but gets a lot more than he bargained for: he arrives at the new planet in the middle of a rebel uprising.
Film rights to Pennsylvania were picked up by Jorgensen Pictures, who brought Stacy Jorgensen (Grey Skies) on as producer. Not much more is known since this project is still very much in the early developmental stages. But that shouldn't stop you from picking up this or any of the above books.