Halloween is just around the corner, so this rundown of stories that have been optioned for television shows and films includes only horror stories, all of which will give you the shivers...
Cabal (Nightbreed) by Clive Barker
Horror master Clive Barker's short novel Cabal is a story that took on a life of its own. First published in 1988 (along with several unrelated short stories), Cabal is the story of Boone, a tortured soul who has no memory of the murders that his psychiatrist tells him he has committed. Boone seeks refuge in Midian, a semi-mythical world (conveniently located underneath a cemetery) that Boone sees in his dreams. Midian is the home of the Nightbreed, a race of shapeshifting monsters. It's up to Boone to discover his connection with Midian and save them from extinction by outside forces. You may have seen this story played out in the 1990 dark fantasy film Nightbreed, which Barker himself wrote and directed and in which famed horror film director David Cronenberg played Boone's psychiatrist. Over the years, the story was also turned into several comic book series, two videogames and also spawned the anthology Midian Unmade: Tales of Clive Barker's Nightbreed edited by Joseph Nassise and Del Howison. And still it's not done yet! Now, thirty years after it was first published, word comes that Cabal will find new life as a television series. The project, being developed by SyFy, is called Nightbreed, capitalizing of the cult status of the 1990 film and subsequent comics and videogames. The television series will explore race relations, specifically between humans and the half-human/half-monster beings who are now looking for a new home after theirs was destroyed.
"The Lottery" by Shirley Jackson
I first encountered Shirley Jackson's excellent short story "The Lottery" in a high school English class. I don't recall if we read the short story or saw a black-and-white film adaptation first, but I do recall being shocked and unsettled by the grim setting. "The Lottery" takes place in a small American town that holds a most bizarre annual ritual. The mundane descriptions of small-town America are in stark contrast to the horrifying events that unfold before the reader. It's yet another example of the power of short fiction. Despite the fact that it's already been adapted before (there's a 1951 radio version, a 1969 short film and a 1996 television adaptation) Jackson's classic story is finally getting a feature film treatment from Paramount Pictures. Jake Wade Wall, screenwriter for the 2007 film The Hitcher, is writing the screenplay for the film and Jackson's son Laurence Hyman will serve as an executive producer on the project. If you haven't already read this story, do it now. It's really, really good.
A People's History of the Vampire Uprising by Raymond A. Villareal
Did you land on this book when you spun The Wheel of Science Fiction and Fantasy in June? If so, you're ahead of the game! In Villareal's debut, a virus turns people into something more than human. (Spoiler alert: It's vampires!) This is how it's discovered: Several human bodies with solidified blood begin turning up at the morgue…only to disappear days later. It isn't long that the reality of the situation dawns on a CDC virologist/investigator: it's an epidemic of vampirism that will sweep first the United States and then the world. The infected live for centuries, thus making them a new (and perhaps superior) race. Villareal's social commentary was the subject of a bidding war long before it was even published. 20th Century Fox and 21 Laps bought the rights to turn the novel into a film. As excited as everyone seems to be about the project, little more is known at this time.
V-WARS by Jonathan Maberry
If it's vampires and other supernatural creatures you like, you'll also want to know about V-Wars. V-Wars started life as an anthology edited by Jonathan Maberry. However, unlike most anthologies, which offer unrelated stories by multiple authors, this one offers a continuous, threaded narrative. In it, mankind is quietly infected by an ancient bacterium that was unknowingly exhumed by a scientific expedition in Antarctica. When the dormant virus becomes activated, people are transformed into vampires, werewolves and other supernatural creatures. The episodic nature of the book is what might have made it a no-brainer for Netflix to purchase television rights. They will produce 10 episodes of an hour-long series starring Ian Somerhalder as Dr. Luther Swann, who encounters the virus firsthand when his best friend is transformed into a murderous predator who feeds on other humans.
Dead Jack and the Pandemonium Device by James Aquilone
Are you looking for a "lighter" horror story? In the more-fun-than-scary novel Dead Jack and the Pandemonium Device, the protagonist Dead Jack is a zombie, a drug addict, and a detective. With his shape-shifting homunculus frenemy, he solves crimes and battles bad guys in a hellish alternate version of New York City in the 1940s. The wisecracking Dead Jack lends humor to the story's fast pace while the spectacle of the wild setting begs to be seen on screen. That may not be far off, as Aquilone’s noir dark fantasy has been optioned for film. Tony Eldridge, producer of the Denzel Washington Equalizer films, is attached to the project.
Someone Like Me by M. R. Carey
Last up, an adaptation for a book that's not even out yet! Next month, M. R. Carey, who has already published a book that was adapted to film (The Girl with All the Gifts), will see his new horror/thriller book, Someone Like Me, hit bookstore shelves. The book was shopped around to production studios before it was even released, and has been optioned for television. It's rare that a production company will spend money for film or television rights before they can even gauge its popularity in the market, but it happens! Someone Like Me offers thrill-seekers a new, modern twist of the classic Jekyll and Hyde story. It's the story of Liz, a kind, warm person and a good mother to her two children. But, as the book's tagline promises, there are two sides to every story. Another Liz is much, much darker and closer to anyone's definition of evil and she'll stop at nothing to get what she wants, no matter how extreme it may be.