When I was younger, it was trendy to bash Hollywood for lack of originality. As avid readers, my circle of friends would always fall back on that old chestnut and ask "Why are they recycling ideas? Why doesn't Hollywood adapt an original story from an awesome book?" (Did I mention it was a circle of nerds?)
I want to say that our small nerd-herd was finally able to influence Hollywood, but I would only be feeding my already-inflated ego. Nevertheless, Hollywood has been relying much more heavily on the written word for TV and film ideas. As if this long-running series of adaptation articles weren't proof enough, here are five more science fiction, fantasy, and horror books that are finding their way to projector rooms and airwaves.
The Fireman by Joe Hill
The (pardon the pun) chilling premise of Joe Hill's end-of-the-world thriller The Fireman is that a plague of spontaneous human combustion spreads across mankind, threatening to render humans extinct. Hurting rather than helping matters are the vigilantes called Cremation Squads who perform their own executions of the infected under the guise of justice. Mankind's only hope may very well rest with a band of unlikely heroes led by an enigmatic man known as the Fireman. It is the Fireman that rescues nurse Harper Grayson from the clutches of her unhinged husband, Jakob. Harper and Jakob made a suicide pact that they would enact if they got infected. However, Harper has a change of heart when she becomes pregnant and tries to stay alive long enough to give birth.
Even before its release, the film rights of The Fireman were purchased by Fox studios. Director Louis Leterrier (Clash of the Titans, Now You See Me) is reportedly attached to the film. What makes studios jump on projects like this? Chalk this one up to the author himself. Hill is frequently noted as one of the best horror writers working today, proving that his success is not dependent on his literary lineage (Hill's father is Stephen King), but on the ability to write a damn fine novel.
A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab
Leveraging the time-honored trope of parallel worlds, V.E. Schwab kicks off a new fantasy series with A Darker Shade of Magic. It takes place across four parallel worlds, where there are four parallel Londons each ruled by different monarchies and where differing levels of magical powers exist. Once the worlds were connected and everyone could travel freely between them. Now, not so much. Kell is one of the last Traveler-magicians who possesses a rare ability to cross between the parallel universes, which are connected by one magical city: London. Kell is known as a messenger between worlds, but he is also secretly a smuggler, absconding any number of valuable artifacts from the various Londons. It's when one of his stolen artifacts is in turn confiscated from him when the adventure begins.
It's been reported that G-BASE productions has acquired television rights to produce this imaginative fantasy novel as a limited series. Helping to usher this series into the world is the author herself, who will be writing the pilot episode. Schwab knows a thing or two about adventure: she also the author of the superhero novel Vicious.
Dead Mann Walking by Stefan Petrucha
Have you had your fill of zombies yet? Your answer might be yes if you’re tired of the standard "escape from zombies" scenario. However, as noted in this space several years ago, zombie stories aren't always about escape. Dead Mann Walking by Stefan Petrucha posits an interesting scenario in which a poor soul named Hessius Mann is falsely accused of his wife's murder is convicted and executed. When the mistake is learned, modern science is used to resurrect him, adding him to the group of other people who have been resurrected for various reasons. The zombies aren't monsters, they are just a sub-group within society trying to make their way around. For former cop Hessius Mann, that means making a living as a private investigator and finding the identity of his wife's killer.
If you're tired of the "escape from zombies" scenario on TV (iZombie notwithstanding), you'll be interested to know that Dead Man Walking may be headed to CBS as a weekly television series. The police procedural will be written by Simon Barry, creator of the SyFy show Continuum. (Yes, this will be a futuristic police procedural, since modern medicine cannot yet resurrect the dead.) This project is still in the early stages, so not much more is known at this point.
Darkover by Marion Zimmer Bradley
The Darkover series (which first appeared in 1958, but chronologically begins with the 1972 novel Darkover Landfall) is a science-fantasy series comprised of several novels, short stories, and – thanks to it being opened up as a shared world – anthologies. The basic premise is that, near the end of the 21st century, Earth sends colony ships out to the stars, one of which becomes disabled and crash-lands on a planet named Darkover where a colony is thus established. Over the course of the series, the focus shifts a bit from the science fictional and the colony's attempts to resist indoctrination into the galactic empire, towards fantasy with the introduction and emphasis of psi powers. The Darkover series is considered one of the most significant planetary romance sequences in modern science fiction.
Darkover's decades-long story is too big for film. That's why Amazon has purchased the rights to adapt the stories as a series. Ilene Kahn Power and Elizabeth Stanley are listed as executive producers, but otherwise, it's still too early to know any of the juicy details tied to the project. One thing that can definitively be said is that the project is ambitious. It's currently made up of more than two dozen novels.
The War of The Worlds by H.G. Wells
The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells is a science fiction classic. Written in 1899, it was one of the first stories that depicted the inhabitants of Mars as the enemy. In it, England is attacked by martians hell-bent on Earth's destruction. The book has remained popular not only because it portrays a gripping alien invasion, but also because it serves as biting social commentary on British Imperialism and evolution.
As you may have already guessed, The War of the Worlds is no stranger to adaptation, spawning 3 well-known adaptations. First there was the infamous 1938 radio broadcast directed and narrated by Orson Welles that was so believable some listeners thought that Earth was really being invaded. There was also the classic 1953 theatrical film produced by George Pal and starring Gene Barry. And finally, there was the 2005 Steven Spielberg blockbuster starring Tom Cruise. Oh, War of the Worlds, Hollywood isn't done with you yet! Recent reports have revealed that U.K. production company Mammoth Screen has undertaken a project to bring about a War of the Worlds miniseries. It is supposed to be a more faithful adaptation, down to retaining the original setting and time period of the classic novel. Peter Harness, who wrote for another television adaptation (Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell), is attached as the projects screenwriter. I say, bring it!