There seems to be a never-ending supply of news stories about science fiction books that are being optioned for TV and film. And why not? Science fiction is a fantastic forum for portraying issues about the human condition and where humanity's future may be heading. Of course, being optioned just means that some film producers have purchased the film and/or TV rights to tell the story, it doesn't guarantee that a show or film will actually get made. But it's a start, and it gives us readers a chance to take notice of books we may have otherwise missed.
Here's the latest roundup of science fiction books that have been optioned for TV and Film...
Awakened James S. Murray and Darren Wearmouth
Awakened was one of the surprise hits of my summer reading this year. Few novels actually earn the accolade of "page-turning." This was one of them. In this thriller, a new subway line is excavated underneath the Hudson River, complete with a visitors' pavilion that is to host the new line's grand opening ceremony. In attendance are major dignitaries like New York City's Mayor and the President of the United States. The ceremony takes a serious left turn right at the start when the first train rolls in empty and with its interior drenched in blood. Thus begins the horror that includes a previously unknown threat to humanity and a riveting story of danger and heroes.
This taut thrill ride caught the attention of Hollywood even before its release. (It's not uncommon that books are shopped around ahead of a book's release date, but it is uncommon that film studios take interest.) IDW Entertainment intends to turn this novel into a science fiction television series. Producers of the project include IDW executives and author James S. Murray who currently appears on the television show Impractical Jokers.
The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
Even mainstream readers have heard of this accessible science fiction novel, a time-travel romance debut that became a bestseller. The protagonists are Henry, a librarian who has a rare genetic condition that causes him to become repeatedly, if inadvertently, misplaced in time under conditions of stress; and Clare, an artist who encounters Henry throughout various points in her life. They meet and fall in love, but the time displacement, accompanied by Henry's true lack of control over it, makes that relationship all but impossible.
A film adaptation starring Eric Bana and Rachel McAdams came out in 2009, but HBO snagged television rights to the popular book with writer-producer Steven Moffat (Doctor Who, Sherlock) attached. Moffat wrote the 2006 Doctor Who episode titled "The Girl In The Fireplace" as a direct response to reading Niffenegger's novel. Now he has a chance to work on the very story that inspired him.
The Swarm by Frank Schätzing
Talk about eco-apocalypse! In Schätzing's 2004 global environment thriller, whales begin sinking ships, eyeless crabs poison Long Island's water supply, and the North Sea shelf collapses, killing thousands across Europe. The ocean has taken an unexpected revenge against mankind. Attempting to get to the bottom of things, scientists discover a strange, intelligent life force called the Yrr that takes form in marine animals, which then exact revenge on humans.
The Swarm is a gripping, present-day thriller that was a bestselling novel in Germany before being translated for American audiences in 2006. Now the story is being adapted by Game of Thrones exec producer Frank Doelger into an English-language TV drama—specifically as an eight-part big-budget series for a German broadcaster—for an international market.
The Time Machineby H.G. Wells
H.G. Wells' classic time travel novella was as much science fiction adventure as it was a statement on current politics of his day. In it, an unnamed inventor recounts his adventure of traveling into the far future of 802,701 A.D., where he encounters the destiny of humanity. There are two classes of human society: the Eloi, who lead a decadent and carefree lifestyle in the sun; and the ape-like Morlocks, who toil in the dark underground to maintain the lives of the Eloi. Wells imaginative story was a clear social commentary on the disparate economic classes.
The Time Machine has been adapted numerous times before for film, television and radio, probably the most famous being the 1960 version directed by George Pal. After a mostly forgettable 2002 remake, it looks like the sf classic is again making its way to the screen. Twice! First, the BBC Worldwide-backed production company Sky has announced it will adapt Wells' 1895 novella as a television series. Second, Warner Bros, Paramount Pictures, and Appian Way have launched a new remake project with It: Chapter 2 director Andy Muschietti and producers Jennifer Davisson and Leonardo DiCaprio. A tip for Sky and Warner Bros: If it does well and you would like to work on a sequel project, I recommend 1995's The Time Ships by Stephen Baxter, which captured the flavor of the original perfectly.
War of The Worlds by H.G. Wells
Another one by Wells! This one's an alien invasion story written in 1899 (and which I finally read 118 years later). Wells' narrator (again unnamed) presents a first-person account of what happens after several cylinders fall across England's countryside. What happens is that the Martians emerge in mighty machines that wreak havoc. Their powerful heat ray weapon immediately atomizes anything it touches and their deadly chemical weapons kill humans on contact. Wells is once again in social commentary mode here, this time regarding colonialism.
And just like The Time Machine, War of the Worlds has also seen its fair share of adaptations. Most notably are the infamous 1938 radio broadcast directed and narrated by Orson Welles; the classic 1953 theatrical film produced by George Pal; and the 2005 Steven Spielberg blockbuster starring Tom Cruise. Now a new television series is in the works by French production company Canal Plus and Fox's Europe and Africa arm. The new adaptation, to be set in present day, is being written by Howard Overman. An once again, a tip for the filmmakers: If you want to adapt a fantastic sequel true to the original's style, check out the The Massacre of Mankind by Stephen Baxter.