I remember a time when Hollywood would pump out so much cinematic sci-fi drivel that I couldn't keep up. The common suggestion, usually while walking out of the theater suffering from a sever case of disappointment, was for Hollywood to stop trying to be original and instead adapt some of the fine science fiction and fantasy books that have stood the test of time. Or heck, even ones that haven't yet stood the test of time had to be better than Ice Pirates.
Adaptations are not an immediate recipe for success, mind you. (See: Howard the Duck. Or better yet...don't.) Even so, I'm glad to see that the trend is a bit different these days: I can barely keep up with all the science fiction and fantasy film adaptations that are in the works. Here's another roundup of sf/f books that are in the early stages of development of being adapted to film and television.
The Expanse Series by James S.A. Corey
James S.A Corey is the pseudonym of the writing team of Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck, who have written a rousing space action/mystery series called The Expanse. Currently comprised of Leviathan Wakes, Caliban’s War, Abaddon’s Gate and the recently announced Cibola Burn (with two more novels already planned), the series explores mankind's travels through our solar system and ultimately beyond it. The books have been getting rave reviews for their engrossing plots and the interesting longer story arcs. The first novel, Leviathan Wakes, was also nominated for a Hugo Award.
Maybe that's why the novels are being adapted into a television series. The pilot episode of the television show called The Expanse is being written by Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby (Iron Man and Children of Men). It will be an hour-long sci-fi drama “with elements of a detective procedural, centering on a cover-up of the discovery of alien life.” Bring it on.
Chaos Walking Series by Patrick Ness
Books originally targeted at young adults (like Harry Potter and The Hunger Games series) have proven to be goldmine for Hollywood, so it shouldn't be a surprise when young adult books are optioned for film. That's what happened to the Chaos Walking series by Patrick Ness. The series is made up of three novels (The Knife of Never Letting Go, The Ask and the Answer and Monsters of Men) and is set on a dystopian world where all living beings can hear each other’s thoughts in a stream of images, words and sounds called Noise. The first book (and likely the adaptation) is about a young boy—Todd, the last boy on a planet where there are only men—who discovers something that puts him danger: a young girl named Viola.
Robert Zemeckis (Back to the Future, Forrest Gump) is the name being bandied about as the director of the film adaptation, titled Chaos Walking. Whoever it will ultimately be, let's hope that they keep one of the features that the series has been praised for: having the young protagonists deal with moral issues and with meaty themes of gender issues and the gray area between good and evil.
All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill
Time travel is not a new trope in fiction or Hollywood, but Cristin Terrill's All Our Yesterdays does what few of them manage to do: use time travel to good effect. The book, another one aimed at young adults, has two young main characters escaping from a totalitarian future by traveling back in time to assassinate a loved one whose death will prevent their oppressive future. This upends common young adult conventions by putting the protagonists in the role of hunters instead of prey, and also by showing a young girl who comes to appreciate herself through her own observations instead of those of others.
Not much is known about the film adaptation beyond the main stakeholders in the project, although Brian Miller, who scripted the film Apollo 18, is going to write it.
The Island of Dr. Moreau by H.G. Wells
Let's hear it for the classics! H.G. Wells wrote The Island of Dr. Moreau in 1896. The story concerns a shipwrecked man who is rescued and left on the island home of a curious individual: Doctor Moreau, a man who creates humanlike beings from animals via vivisection. Like many of Wells' novels, the books are metaphors for deeper themes, in this case moral responsibility, pain and cruelty, what it means to be human, and mankind's interference with nature.
This particular story is no stranger to film. It has already been adapted three times: in 1932 (as Island of Lost Souls starring Charles Laughton and Richard Arlen), in 1977 (with Burt Lancaster and Michael York), and a horrendous attempt in 1996 (with a clearly uninterested Marlon Brando and Val Kilmer). I'm crossing my fingers that writers Brian McGreevy and Lee Shipman (Hemlock) will do the weighty themes justice.