Hollywood seems to be picking up television and film rights faster than I would have thought possible. Sure, purchasing the option to produce a television show or film of a book does not guarantee that the project will even begin, much less make it to screens…but it's nice to know that they keep dipping into the well of science fiction and fantasy books for good ideas. There are many to be had. Just check out this latest roundup of science fiction and fantasy books which have been picked up for TV or film adaptation…
Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
Vonnegut's satirical classic is about a U.S. Army chaplain's assistant named Billy Pilgrim who survives the World War II firebombing in Dresden but becomes "unstuck in time." The novel bounces around different points in Billy's life in a non-linear fashion as it tackles themes of fate and free will. The novel, which draws upon Vonnegut's own experiences in WWII, has long been on Hollywood's To-Be-Adapted pile. Several years ago, there was a film version in the works with Guillermo del Toro (The Shape of Water) signed on to direct and Charlie Kaufmann (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) tasked with writing it. That film adaptation—exposing the tentative nature of studios purchasing book rights—didn't come to pass. But the project is not dead! When that adaptation's rights recently lapsed, Universal Cable productions swooped in and picked them up for a television series designed to expand the world of Vonnegut's novel. Maybe del Toro didn't lose the rights so much as they jumped in time ahead to today.
The Lost by Sarah Beth Durst
Lauren Chase has taken a wrong turn in more ways than one. When she takes a brief detour to a town on the edge of the desert, it turns out to be for a much longer stay. Lauren finds that all of her attempts to leave the town called Lost are thwarted, mostly by the ever-present dust storms that seem to surround the place. Stuck in this city of misfits, Lauren learns that Lost is where all lost things end up. She must learn about herself—what's she's running from and what she's missing—before she can escape. Rights for The Lost were purchased by Selma Blair and her production company, Sainted Productions. It is not known yet whether this will be developed as a film of TV series. Blair is probably known to genre fans as the actress who played the romantic lead in Hellboy.
Landscape with Invisible Hand by M.T. Anderson
In Anderson's social satire, Earth undergoes an alien invasion of an unexpected kind. Instead of bringing wanton destruction, the vuuv bring advanced technology and medicine to humanity. But even those seemingly benevolent gifts come at a cost; the new technology causes the job market to collapse and initiates an economic crisis. Two romantically-involved teenagers hope to alleviate the financial pressure when they decide to leverage the vuuv's love of 1950s Earth culture by broadcasting their dating life to the enthralled aliens. Unfortunately, as told in the novel's series of vignettes, their relationship sours as time goes on and ending the show is not an option as it will bankrupt their families. The rights for Landscape with Invisible Hand were picked up by Brad Pitt's production company, Plan B. No word yet on what the adaptation plans are.
Old Man's War by John Scalzi
The military science fiction novel Old Man's War is another book that was already on the adaptation trail but got sidetracked. Previously being worked into a television series for SyFy, the project has since found a new home on Netflix as an original film. Old Man's Warfollows septuagenarian John Perry, who enlists into the Colonial Defense Force, is rejuvenated into a younger body, and helps fight a centuries-long war for mankind's expansion into space. Scalzi's science fiction is some of the most accessible that the field has to offer. It wouldn't surprise me if the film also appealed to mainstream audiences. Let's finally get this made!
Lord of The Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
I can hear you already: "Wasn't this already adapted by Peter Jackson?" Well, yes, it was. However, the news here that a new adaptation is on the horizon and furthermore it will be a television series, not another film. The order was picked up by Amazon to produce the series and it's said to be one of the most expensive ones ever. No doubt a large majority of the budget will go into making lifelike renderings of Tolkien's fantastic creatures as they try to thwart a fellowship of hobbits, elves, dwarves and humans who undertake a quest to destroy a very powerful magic ring.
Coldfire Trilogy by C.S. Friedman
The Coldfire Trilogy (comprised of 1991's Black Sun Rising, 1993's When True Night Falls and 1995's Crown of Shadows) is a series of far-future fantasy novels that take place on the planet Erna, twelve hundred years after it was colonized by humans. The planet is surrounded in an energy field called the Fae which is sensitive to the human psyche. Thus, dreams becoming a horrible reality and the colonists performing the so-called Great Sacrifice: the purging of all technology and knowledge to help them deal with the Fae. The result is a story that reads like fantasy and one that's ripe territory for an adaptation. Sure enough, the author herself confirmed that her books were optioned for television. More details will hopefully emerge soon.
The Electric State by Simon Stålenhag
With all the book adaptation projects still pending, it's a wonder that filmmakers are looking at books that haven't even been released yet. But they are. Simon Stålenhag's illustrated novel The Electric State has been picked up for film adaptation and the book's not coming out until September. Artist/Author Stålenhag is known for depicting imaginative visions of dystopia. The Electric State, described as "Stranger Things meets On the Road", is about a girl named Michelle who sets out with her toy robot, Skip, across the western United States in a stolen car to find her missing brother. Rights were scooped up by Russo Brothers' production company, which also produced Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Captain America: Civil War.
The Plot Against America by Philip Roth
In Pulitzer Prize–winner Roth's alternate history, aviation hero and rabid isolationist Charles Lindbergh defeated Franklin Roosevelt by a landslide in the 1940 presidential election. Jewish families now live in fear as antisemitism and persecution becomes more accepted in American culture. The novel follows the trials of the Roth family under this new push towards isolationism by Lindbergh, a man who praised Adolf Hitler's style of government and joined the America First party. Roth's 2004 novel is being developed as a six-part mini-series by David Simon, writer and producer of the series Homicide: Life on the Street and The Wire.
The Fionavar Tapestry by Guy Gavriel Kay
The Fionavar Tapestry is a trilogy of high fantasy novels (comprised of The Summer Tree, The Wandering Fire, and The Darkest Road) first released in the 1980s. The series is about five contemporary university students on our world who enter a realm of wizards, warriors and mythical creatures. The mage Loren Silvercloak takes them to Fionavar, known as the first of all worlds. Each of the students must face his or her own destiny in the epic battle between good and evil, the outcome of which could affect our own world. Sounds like an interesting setting, right? The production company behind Orphan Black and Killjoys thought so, too. They've acquired television rights to the classic trilogy.
Gork, The Teenage Dragon by Gabe Hudson
In this coming-of-age fantasy novel, a teenage boy-dragon must overcome the ordinary difficulties of military school, like name-calling, bullying and, er, dealing with mutants. With his gigantic heart and two-inch horns, he tries to muster up enough courage to ask a girl-dragon to be his queen. If she accepts, they'll go off to conquer a foreign planet together. If she declines, poor Gabe will become a slave. Aimed squarely at teens (but enjoyable for adults, too), the book manages to be both humorous and heartwarming. Here's hoping that the Gotham Group, the production company that has optioned the television rights for the novel, will maintain that air of humor and good-naturedness.