If film and television adaptations of books are becoming the new norm, then it stands to reason that filmmakers will want to ensure their success with tried-and-true material. In the world of adaptations, that means adapting classic works of fiction. Within the genre of speculative fiction, that means science fiction, fantasy and horror readers can look forward to lots of their favorite stories hitting screens soon.
Here's a look at classic science fiction, fantasy and horror stories that are in the process of being made into television shows and films....
Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell
George Orwell's classic novel is required reading in high schools, and with good reason. Its dystopian story about ubiquitous government surveillance and rebellion is both perennially relevant and ever-increasingly prescient, despite the fact that it was first published in 1949. The book struck such a chord with readers that its thought-provoking concepts became part of our culture. Is Big Brother watching you? Are you guilty of thoughtcrimes? Those terms originated in Orwell's classic novel. Orwell himself has become popularized in our language: totalitarian manipulation and surveillance by governments is said to be "Orwellian."
Nineteen Eighty-Four (or just 1984 as it is sometimes written), like several of the classics discussed here, was adapted before. Twice, in this case. In 1956, Michael Anderson directed Edmond O'Brien (as protagonist Winston Smith), Jan Sterling (as Julia, a covert rebel and Winston's lover) and Michael Redgrave (as the Inner Party member out to capture them both) in the first adaptation. Not surprisingly, there was a second adaptation that appeared in 1984. It was directed by Michael Radford and starred John Hurt, Suzanna Hamilton, and Richard Burton in the same respective roles. The new adaptation, for better or worse, is being sold as a "romantic re-imagining" where emotions have been eradicated. It even comes with a new name: Equals. The story will focus on the relationship between Winston and Julia. Twilight star Kristin Stewart, Warm Bodies star Nicholas Hoult, and Iron Man 3's Guy Pearce have been named for the lead roles. The script is being written by Nathan Parker, whose previous credentials include the impressive sci-fi drama Moon. The film is set for a 2015 release.
Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury
Ray Bradbury is not just one of speculative fiction's most celebrated authors, he's a celebrated author in all literature. His stylistic prose appeals to readers of all kinds, as evidenced by his classic, still-printed 1962 novel Something Wicked This Way Comes. The book combines elements of both fantasy and horror as it tells the story of two 14-year-old boys who visit a traveling carnival that is more than it appears. The carnival itself is run by the evil "Mr. Dark," a mysterious figure who trades dreams for souls. Mr. Dark sports a tattoo for every person who has been lured to the park by the exciting possibility of living out their secret fantasies, only to subsequently become bound to the carnival's diabolical purposes.
This title is another remake. Disney first produced a 1983 film version that starred Jason Robards as Charles Halloway (one of the boys' father), Jonathan Pryce as Mr. Dark, and Diane Ladd as Mrs. Nightshade. Now Disney is producing the upcoming remake, which is expected to release before the end of this year, though information is flowing out slowly enough to make me dubious of that deadline. This new version reportedly will more closely follow Bradbury's story. The hopefully darker fantasy version is being written by Seth Grahame-Smith, an author whose writing credits include the novels Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (itself a book that Grahame-Smith adapted to film in 2012), as well as being the screenwriter for the upcoming Tim Burton Beetlejuice sequel.
Fantastic Voyage by Isaac Asimov
There's an interesting story behind Isaac Asimov's 1966 book Fantastic Voyage that seems to have been lost to time. It's not an original novel at all. It's an adaptation of the screenplay for the 1966 film Fantastic Voyage. The film starred Rachel Welch, Stephen Boyd, Edmond O’Brien and Donald Pleasence as a team of specialists who are placed in a submarinelike craft, miniaturized down to microbe size, and injected into the comatose body of the scientist who invented the technology and discovered a breakthrough that would allow the miniaturization to last indefinitely. The film was written by Harry Kleiner and based on a story by Otto Klement and Jerome Bixby. Isaac Asimov was hired to write the book adaptation of that screenplay, but his book was released six months before the film and thus people came to believe that this was a book-to-film adaptation and not the other way around. Be that as it may, Asimov is often seen as the originator of the story so we'll cheat here and call the upcoming film an adaptation. (For what its worth, Asimov, unhappy that he was unable to change the questionable science in the original treatment, went on to write a similar story, Fantastic Voyage II: Destination Brain, which ignores the film and its adaptation completely in favor of the general idea of miniaturizing a team of scientists and injecting them into a human body.)
Like the original 1966 film, the remake of Fantastic Voyage uses the miniaturization premise to tell a suspenseful story. David Goyer, the writer behind the Batman film Dark Knight and Superman film Man of Steel, has been tapped to write the screenplay. Avatar producer/director James Cameron is producing the project for Twentieth-Century Fox with no expected release date set as of yet.
"How It Was When the Past Went Away" by Robert Silverberg
Perhaps not as well-known as the other titles discussed here is Robert Silverberg's 1969 short story "How It Was When the Past Went Away." It's about what happens when the residents of a city suffer as mass amnesia. In the story, a criminal taints San Francisco’s water supply with amnesia-inducing drugs and people begin forgetting who they are and all the details of their lives. It follows multiple characters, each of whom is affected differently, through what reads like a disaster movie. The story was most recently anthologized in The Collected Stories of Robert Silverberg, Volume Two: To the Dark Star: 1962-69.
Silverberg's affecting story was optioned for film by Focus Features. The producers will be Wyck Godfrey and Marty Bowen of Temple Hill Entertainment, who also produced Twilight. The screenplay will be written by brothers David and Alex Pastor. It sounds interesting. I hope I remember to see it.