We seem to be in the middle of a golden age of science fiction and fantasy book adaptations, where producers are turning to the pages of speculative fiction looking for their next big hit. That's good news for readers who want to see their favorite stories get their due attention. It's also a way for readers to find new material that may soon be the talk around their local watercooler. Here's another roundup of speculative fiction books that should be coming soon to a screen near you…
One of science fiction's most beloved stories is 1992's Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson. It's not just because of the killer opening scene of a mafia-sponsored pizza delivery, nor the stark depiction of its gripping near-future; it's that both of these things and a whole lot more are wrapped up into a solid bundle of rewarding entertainment. The book’s hero protagonist—literally named Hiro Protagonist—is by day a pizza delivery man for the Mafia. At night, he's a sword-wielding hacker who is a freelance information collector for the Central Intelligence Corporation. In the virtual reality world called the Metaverse, Hiro witnesses a friend being infected with "snow crash," a virus that's powerful enough to harm the person in the real world. In his quest to uncover the truth about the virus, he comes up against powerful corporations that control the city-states. Hiro has many action-packed encounters and, as if to lean into that, Amazon has optioned the novel as a 1-hour drama series. I like this plan. It gives us more hours to spend in Stephenson's well-imagined corporate-run future.
Another imaginative world can be found in Adrian Tchaikovsky's Children of Time. This novel depicts the last remnants of the human race fleeing a dying Earth trying to survive on a terraformed planet. However, instead of the pristine paradise that they expected, the descendants of humanity find a nightmarish world overrun with evolved spiders uplifted by human scientists. What really stands out is how the parts of the story told from the point-of-view of the spiders is so engaging. Film rights to this Arthur C. Clarke Award-winning novel were optioned by Peter Kang, president of production at Summit Entertainment and Lionsgate pictures. Expect this to be a big-budget SciFi film that's equal parts action and futuristic adventure.
Roger Zelazny's Lord of Light was specifically written to be a story that can be seen as either science fiction or fantasy, depending on how you squint at it. It's set in the far future, where the crew of a human spaceship lands on a strange world surrounded by its hostile indigenous natives. Through the use of their advanced technology, the human survivors are able to portray themselves as immortals to the less-advanced aliens. They establish a Hindu-like caste system with themselves at the top, assuming the role of gods, while they keep the native society from advancing technologically. One of their number, however, believes the technology should be shared by all and assumes the role of Siddhartha Gautama/Buddha and to topple the caste system through the introduction of Buddhism. Zelazny's science fantasy novel will be adapted as a television series by Gale Anne Hurd (the Terminator trilogy) and Valhalla Entertainment.
Holly Black's new young adult novel The Cruel Prince is the start of a new series called Folk of the Air about a mortal girl who suddenly finds herself caught in a web of royal faerie intrigue. (You did read this as part of January's best picks, right?) Jude has been an orphan since she was seven years old. Her parents were murdered and she and her two sisters were taken away to be raised in the High Court of Faerie. Now a seventeen-year-old outsider trying to find her place in the world, she must defy the prince and face the consequences. This story has the makings of fantasy blockbuster all over it. Hollywood thinks so to. Film rights have been scooped up by Michael De Luca Productions.
If urban fantasy is your cup of tea, then you'll be pleased to know that Shadowshaper by Daniel José Older has been optioned for both TV and film rights. Shadowshaper is the first book in The Shadowshaper Cypher series. (The second is Shadowhouse Fall.) It's about a young girl named Sierra Santiago who lives in Brooklyn and discovers a magic called shadowshaping, which infuses ancestral spirits into paintings, music, and stories. The bad news is that someone is killing the shadowshapers and Sierra must uncover her family's mysterious past to protect herself because the killers think Sierra is hiding their greatest secret.
Another story that focuses on New York magic, yet wrapped in an atmosphere entirely its own, is The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValle, one of the best stories of 2016 and winner of the Shirley Jackson Award and British Fantasy Award. In this novella, Tommy Tester is a street musician and hustler in jazz age New York. He works odd jobs to make enough money to keep food on the table and a roof over his father's head. When Tom delivers an occult tome to a reclusive sorceress living in the heart of Queens, he opens a doorway into a much deeper realm of magic. He also earns the attention of things best left sleeping. This magic-infused urban fantasy will find a home on the small screen as part of AMC's "scripts-to-series" project.
Sword and sorcery fans have surely heard of Andrzej Sapkowski's Witcher Saga, a series of novels and story collections about a the "witcher" Geralt of Rivia, an assassin monster hunter who fights the bad guys using his supernatural abilities. (The book to start with, The Last Wish, is actually a collection of short stories.) The Witcher stories are known for being engrossing adventure stories with a dash of humor to add to the fun. It's already been adapted into a series of popular video games, and there was plans to adapt the series to film, but now the production company has partnered with Netflix to adapting the books as a Netflix television series.
Yes, indeed. It's a golden age for science fiction and fantasy book adaptations.