Hollywood loves to bet on a sure thing. And what's more of a sure thing than basing a film or a television series on a classic book or short story?
Here's Part 2 of a look at classic science fiction, fantasy and horror stories that are in the process of being made into television shows and films. (See also: Part 1.)
The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick
Speaking of sure things, if you want to increase your chances of a successful adaptation, pick an author who's had more than a few stories adapted, and successfully at that. In the world of adaptations, Philip K. Dick is science fiction's Stephen King. His most popular adaptations are Blade Runner, Total Recall and The Minority Report—all of which are based on his mind-bending stories. The newest one on the horizon is based on Dick's famous alternate history novel The Man in the High Castle. First published in 1962 (and winning the Hugo Award the following year), the story asks: "What if Germany won World War II and now occupies the United States?"
Amazon, who is currently in the process of ramping up their original programming offered through their online streaming services, ordered a pilot episode for a new drama series based on The Man in the High Castle. The order went to Ridley Scott’s production company Scott Free, who owns the rights. The only other thing that is known at this point is that the script is being written by former X-Files writer Frank Spotnitz. This is not the first news of this particular title being adapted. Back in 2013, it was reported that the SyFy channel was interested in adapting the series, but that apparently went nowhere. Time will tell if Amazon's plans pan out.
Gateway by Frederik Pohl
Frederik Pohl is perhaps best known for his book series called The Heechee Saga, which tracks humanity’s exploration of the galaxy using artifacts left behind by enigmatic aliens known as the Heechee. Gateway, the first novel in the series (which appeared in 1977 and is one of my favorite science fiction reading memories), is set on one of these abandoned artifacts: a space station named Gateway that’s carved out of an asteroid. Gateway is home to numerous portals that allow faster-than-light spaceships to travel to seemingly random destinations around the galaxy. But using this advanced technology is extremely dangerous, mainly because humans don't understand how to work it. However, Robinette Broadhead is one of the few prospectors who’s gotten lucky at piloting ships through the gateways. The bad news is: good luck eventually runs out.
It's been reported that Gateway is the new project of Entertainment One Television and De Laurentiis Company. No writer has been named yet, but the producers, who had been pursuing this project for years, have always envisioned it as a television series. This sounds like good news, since television provides a larger storytelling canvas and more room to continue the The Heechee Saga should the need (i.e. ratings and time) allow.
The BFG by Roald Dahl
You perhaps best know Roald Dahl for his children's book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, which was adapted not once, but twice: In 1971 as Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, starring the quirky but lovable Gene Wilder; and again in 2005 in Tim Burton's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, which starred Johnny Depp as the quirky candy maker. One of Dahl's other children's books, 1982's The BFG,is also heading for the big screen. (The BFG is actually an extension of an in-story story told in an earlier Dahl book, Danny, the Champion of the World.) The BFG is about a young girl named Sophie who sees a giant late one night when she’s having trouble falling asleep. The "B.F.G." (Big Friendly Giant) carries Sophie to his home in Giant Country and reveals that, of all the giants, he is the only good one, and he secretly collects good dreams and distributes them to children.
Sounds like it might be a fun and heartwarming family film, right? Something along the lines of E.T. perhaps? Well, I have some good news. Steven Spielberg will be directing the film adaptation and he's hired Melissa Mathison to write the screenplay. Speilberg and Mathison have worked together before...as the director and writer for E.T. Here's hoping they recapture some of that magic. The film likely won't hit theaters until 2016.
" 'Repent Harlequin!' Said the Ticktockman" by Harlan Ellison
Harlan Ellison is one of science fiction's most infamous and prolific short fiction writers. One of his most famous stories—a winner of both the Hugo and Nebula Awards—is also one of the most reprinted ones. " 'Repent Harlequin!' Said the Ticktockman" (1965) is about a future society that has become overly punctual, one that has traded freedom for conformance. Keeping people in line (and more importantly, on time) is the renowned Ticktockman, who gets more than he bargained for when ordinary man Everett C. Marm disguises himself as the chaotic Harlequin and goes around causing disruption and disorder.
It's been reported that Ellison's whipsmart story (which appears in the e-book collection Troublemakers and the upcoming collection The Top of the Volcano: the Award-Winning Stories of Harlan Ellison) is being adapted by none other than J. Michael Straczynski, the creative talent behind Babylon 5. Straczynski sees Ellison’s cautionary tale as “especially relevant in a post–Arab Spring and Occupy Wall Street environment, or even Edward Snowden, in a story of a man who goes against the system and must pay the price for his actions.” OK, I'll buy that...as long as the end result is as fantastic as Ellison's story.John DeNardo is the editor of SF Signal, the Hugo Award-winning group science-fiction and fantasy blog featuring news, reviews and interviews. You can follow him on Twitter as @sfsignal.