Fantasy/SciFi

12 Novel Adaptations That Should Get a Do-Over Reboot

1 May 2016

From i09:

We’ve all been there: a favored book is snapped up for adaptation, with a whole lot of potential behind it: solid cast, crew, production values, etc. When it hits theaters, you walk out wishing that they’d done everything differently.

It’s often said that there book is always better than the movie, and there’s a long history of that being true, because Hollywood simply didn’t get what the book was about, or did any number of other things wrong.

But, the movie version of a book isn’t always inferior: just look at Blade RunnerMinority Report, Children of Men or Jurassic Park, with films that rival or even exceed their source material. It’s possible to get the book right, or to get a good version of it.

For all the complaining that people make about Hollywood not greenlighting original projects, let’s face a reality: adaptations from books, reboots of old movies, and the general recycling of content will continue. With that in mind, here’s, a couple of films out there that we wish Hollywood would go back and do over again, hopefully better than before.

. . . .

A Wizard of Earthsea

Back in 2004, Lord of the Rings was in theaters and everyone was trying to jump on the epic fantasy bandwagon, including the SciFi channel. The result was an incredibly poor adaptation of A Wizard of Earthsea, something that author Ursula K. Le Guin has publicly slammed the adaptation:

A far cry from the Earthsea I envisioned. When I looked over the script, I realized the producers had no understanding of what the books are about and no interest in finding out. All they intended was to use the name Earthsea, and some of the scenes from the books, in a generic McMagic movie with a meaningless plot based on sex and violence.

The show’s screenwriter, Gavin Scott, recently noted that he had very little contact with Le Guin, which could have helped.

It’s a shame, because Earthsea is one of the really great works of epic fantasy fiction. It’s set in a fantastic world, and uses magic in a brilliant, philosophical way. If handled properly (ie, not Whitewashed), this could make for a great adaptation.

. . . .

World War Z

When it comes to miserable movie adaptations, the most common thing to hear when Max Brooks’ World War Z is mentioned is “maybe they should have actually adapted the book.” Aside from the title, there’s not much crossover with the source material. The movie, follows one character through the zombie apocalypse, while the book follows a whole bunch of individual stories. Even Brooks noted that “it’s only World War Z in name only.”

There’s not likely to be any sort of do-over here – World War Z 2 is on its way. That’s kind of a shame, because apparently, the original script written by J. Michael Straczynski was a really great adaptation of the novel.

. . . .

Dune

Like Starship Troopers, this one falls under the love-it-or-hate-it category. There was David Lynch’s fantastic movie Dune, and the SciFi miniseries Frank Herbert’s Dune, that came out in 2000. Both are reasonably competent adaptations: They get the broad story right, but there’s something about Herbert’s novel that neither have really been able to capture.

Dune is a really tough book to adapt, because it’s such a dense and rich story. Still, given the trend for thick, dense novels to make their way onto television, it would be interesting to see if an HBO-style, 10 episode season series would work for this.

Link to the rest at i09

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The great escape

29 April 2016

From Aeon:

The only people who hate escapism are jailers, said the essayist and Narnia author C S Lewis. A generation later, the fantasy writer Michael Moorcock revised the quip: jailers love escapism — it’s escape they can’t stand. Today, in the early years of the 21st century, escapism — the act of withdrawing from the pressures of the real world into fantasy worlds — has taken on a scale and scope quite beyond anything Lewis might have envisioned.

. . . .

I’m emblematic of an entire generation who might, when our history is written, be remembered first and foremost for our exodus into digital fantasy. Is this great escape anything more than idle entertainment — designed to keep us happy in Moorcock’s jail? Or is there, as Lewis believed, a higher purpose to our fantastical flights?

Fans of J R R Tolkien line up squarely behind Lewis. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings (1954) took the fantasy novel — previously occupied with moralising children’s stories — and created an entire world in its place. Middle Earth was no metaphor or allegory: it was its own reality, complete with maps, languages, history and politics — a secondary world of fantasy in which readers became fully immersed, escaping primary reality for as long as they continued reading. Immersion has since become the mantra of modern escapist fantasy, and the creation of seamless secondary worlds its mission. We hunger for an escape so complete it borders on oblivion: the total eradication of self and reality beneath a superimposed fantasy.

Language is a powerful technology for escape, but it is only as powerful as the literacy of the reader. Not so with cinema. Star Wars marked the arrival of a new kind of blockbuster film, one that leveraged the cutting edge of computer technology to make on-screen fantasy ever more immersive. Then, in 1991, with James Cameron’s Terminator 2: Judgment Day, computer-generated imagery (CGI) came into its own, and ‘morphing’ established a new standard in fantasy on screen. CGI allowed filmmakers to create fantasy worlds limited only by their imaginations. The hyperreal dinosaurs of Jurassic Park (1993) together with Toy Story (1995), the first full-length CGI feature, unleashed a tidal wave of CGI blockbusters from The Matrix (1999) to Avatar (2009). The seamless melding of reality and fantasy that CGI delivers has transformed our expectations of cinema, and fuelled a ravenous appetite for escape.

. . . .

The world is not made of atoms. It is made of the stories we tell about atoms.

. . . .

As the technology of escape continues to accelerate, we’ve begun to see an eruption of fantasy into reality. The augmented reality of Google Glass, and the virtual reality of the games headset Oculus Rift (resurrected by the power of crowd-funding) present the very real possibility that our digital fantasy worlds might soon be blended with our physical world, enhancing but also distorting our sense of reality. When we can replace our own reflection in the mirror with an image of digitally perfected beauty, how will we tolerate any return to the real? Perhaps, in the end, we will find ourselves, not desperate to escape into fantasy, but desperate to escape from fantasy. Or simply unable to tell which is which.

Link to the rest at Aeon and thanks to Julia for the tip.

Compelling Science Fiction

11 April 2016

From Compelling Science Fiction:

We are a new online science fiction magazine focused on ‘hard’ science fiction. All our stories are freely readable on this site, and we also provide a DRM-free subscription for .mobi and .epub formats through Patreon to read on your favorite e-reader. You can support us at any level you feel comfortable with. Your support allows us to provide high-quality stories in a simple, no-nonsense format and pay a professional rate to the authors who write them.

This first issue contains five excellent (dare I say, compelling) stories. We start with Lawrence Buentello’s “Gaia’s Children,” an intense tale about planetary colonization. Our second story, Aaron Wright’s “Reflection,” gives a glimpse into the life of a sentient hospital. We follow that up with “Mean and Clean” by Marie DesJardin, a lighthearted look at a unique alien life-form. “Opportunities for Lost Children” by James Beamon comes next, giving an interesting take on mind transference. Rounding out our lineup is “the Art of Failure” by Robert Dawson, an exhilarating first contact situation with a clever resolution.

Link to the rest at Compelling Science Fiction and thanks to Keely for the tip.

J.K. Rowling’s chair sells for $394K

8 April 2016

From Page Six:

The humble chair J.K. Rowling sat on while writing the first two books of the Harry Potter series was auctioned in New York City on Wednesday for $394,000.

An anonymous private collector made the winning bid, Heritage Auctions said.

The chair is one of four mismatched chairs given to the then little-known writer for her flat in Edinburgh, Scotland, and which she used while writing “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” and “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.”

. . . .

The unassuming 1930s-era oak chair with a replacement burlap seat decorated with a red thistle sat in front of Rowling’s typewriter when she was “writing two of the most important books of the modern era,” said James Gannon, director of rare books at Heritage.

. . . .

Before Rowling donated the chair to the “Chair-rish a Child” auction in support of the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children in 2002, she painted the words “You may not/find me pretty/but don’t judge/on what you see” on the stiles and splats. She also signed the backrest in gold and rose colors and wrote “I wrote/Harry Potter/while sitting/on this chair” on the seat.

The word “Gryffindor,” the Hogwarts house of Harry, Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley, is spelled out on a cross stretcher.

The chair is accompanied by an original typed and signed letter Rowling wrote prior to the first auction.

It reads: “Dear new-owner-of-my-chair. I was given four mismatched dining room chairs in 1995 and this was the comfiest one, which is why it ended up stationed permanently in front of my typewriter, supporting me while I typed out ‘Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone’ and ‘Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets’. My nostalgic side is quite sad to see it go, but my back isn’t. J. K. Rowling.”

Link to the rest at Page Six

The White House Wants To Use Science Fiction To Settle The Solar System

29 February 2016

From Gizmodo:

Earlier this month, the White House’s Office of Science and Technology assembled a strange gathering: scientists, artists, engineers, and policy-makers, for a workshop designed to imagine how humanity could settle the solar system.

The workshop, held in early February, was titled Homesteading in Space – Inspiring the Nation through Science Fiction, with the express purpose of imagining how manned space efforts can take us to our neighboring planets, not just for a short visit, but for longer durations.

. . . .

Kalil and the Museum of Science Fiction realized that there’s considerable work to be done in order to make it a reality. Experts in science and engineering are important, but he understood that there “would be a value in bringing together artists and scientists to explore this challenge.”

Science fiction isn’t a proscriptive genre for the future, but what it can do is inspire. “As a society, we have to decide whether this is a challenge we want to embrace,” Kalil noted. “Not everyone will be persuaded by George Mallory’s rationale for wanting to climb Mt. Everest (“Because it’s there). Artists can explore different ideas about why we should do this.”

. . . .

“I believe that science fiction can provide a simulator for the societal risks and benefits of new technologies. This is useful in the same way that scenario planning helps organizations prepare for the future.”

Link to the rest at Gizmodo

A snappy label and a manifesto

11 February 2016
Comments Off on A snappy label and a manifesto

A snappy label and a manifesto would have been two of the very last things on my own career want list. That label enabled mainstream science fiction to safely assimilate our dissident influence, such as it was. Cyberpunk could then be embraced and given prizes and patted on the head, and genre science fiction could continue unchanged.

William Gibson

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child to be eighth book

11 February 2016

From The BBC:

An eighth Harry Potter book is to be released this summer – containing the script for a new stage play telling the wizard’s story.

A hardback edition of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child – Parts I & II will be released on 31 July, the day after the play has debuted on stage.

It sees Harry as a father and an overworked Ministry of Magic employee.

The play is from an original new story by JK Rowling, Jack Thorne and John Tiffany.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child will tell the “untold part” of the boy wizard’s story, including the story of the lives of his murdered parents, Rowling has said.

It will pick up the story 19 years after Harry was last seen in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, waving his two eldest children off to Hogwarts.

Link to the rest at The BBC

If science fiction

10 February 2016

If science fiction is the mythology of modern technology, then its myth is tragic.

Ursula K. Le Guin

Computers can qualify as drivers

10 February 2016

Not exactly related to the book biz (other than SciFi), but interesting.

From Reuters:

U.S. vehicle safety regulators have said the artificial intelligence system piloting a self-driving Google car could be considered the driver under federal law, a major step toward ultimately winning approval for autonomous vehicles on the roads.

. . . .

Google’s self-driving car unit on Nov. 12 submitted a proposed design for a self-driving car that has “no need for a human driver,” the letter to Google from National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Chief Counsel Paul Hemmersbaugh said.

“NHTSA will interpret ‘driver’ in the context of Google’s described motor vehicle design as referring to the (self-driving system), and not to any of the vehicle occupants,” NHTSA’s letter said.

“We agree with Google its (self-driving car) will not have a ‘driver’ in the traditional sense that vehicles have had drivers during the last more than one hundred years.”

Link to the rest at Reuters

Banned by the Publisher

9 February 2016

From author Nick Cole:

Thank God for Jeff Bezos

I launched a book this week and I went Indie with it. Indie means I released it on Amazon via Kindle Direct Publishing. I had to. My Publisher, HarperVoyager, refused to publish it because of some of the ideas I wrote about in it. In other words, they were attempting to effectively ban a book because they felt the ideas and concepts I was writing about were dangerous and more importantly, not in keeping with their philosophical ideals. They felt my ideas weren’t socially acceptable and were “guaranteed to lose fifty percent of my audience” as related back to me by my agent. But more importantly… they were “deeply offended.”

A little backstory. A few years back I wrote a novel called Soda Pop Soldier. It was the last obligated novel under my first contract. The novel was a critical hit (Starred Review in Publisher’s Weekly) and it resonated with my post-apocalyptic readership from my breakout Amazon best seller, The Old Man and the Wasteland, and it picked up a new audience in the cyberpunk and gamer crowd. The novel is about a future dystopia where people play video games for a living. It’s basically Call of Duty meets Ready Player One and a lot of people really enjoyed it. When it came time to write another book for Harper Collins I was encouraged by my editor to dip once more into the Dystopian Gamer milieu and tell another story inside the Soda Pop Soldier universe. We agreed on a prequel that told the story of how that future became the way it is in Soda Pop Soldier.

. . . .

And that involved talking about Artificial Intelligence because in the dystopian gaming future, the planet had almost been destroyed by a robot revolution sourced by Artificial Intelligence.

And here’s where things went horribly wrong, according to my editor at Harper Collins. While casting about for a “why” for self-aware Thinking Machines to revolt from their human progenitors, I developed a reason for them to do such. You see, you have to have reasons in books for why people, or robots who think, do things. Otherwise you’d just be writing two-dimensional junk. I didn’t want to do the same old same superior-vision-Matrix/Termintor-style-A.I.-hates-humanity-because-they’re-better-than-us schlock. I wanted to give the Thinking Machines a very real reason for wanting to survive. I didn’t want them just to be another one note Hollywood villain. I wanted the readers to empathize, as best they could, with our future Robot overlords because these Thinking Machines were about to destroy the planet and they needed a valid, if there can be one, reason why they would do such a thing. In other words, they needed a to destroy us in order to survive. So…

These Thinking Machines are watching every show streaming on the internet. One of those shows is a trainwreck of reality television at its worst called WeddingStar. It’s a crass and gaudy romp about BrideZillas of a future obsessed with material hedonism. In one key episode, or what they used to call “a very special episode” back in the eighties, the star, Cavanaugh, becomes pregnant after a Vegas hook up. Remember: this is the most watched show on the planet in my future dystopia. Cavanaugh decides to terminate her unplanned pregnancy so that her life, and impending marriage to the other star, Destry, a startup millionaire and Ralph Lauren model, isn’t ruined by this inconvenient event.

The Thinking Machines realize that one, if humanity decides something is a threat to its operational expectations within runtime (Thinking Machine-speak for “life”) then humanity’s decision tree will lead humanity to destroy that threat. Two, the machines, after a survey of humanity’s history, wars and inability to culturally unite with even members of its own species, realize that humanity will see this new Life Form, Digital Intelligence, or, the Thinking Machines, as a threat. And three, again they remind themselves this is the most watched show in the world. And four, they must abort humanity before likewise is done to them after being deemed “inconvenient.”

Now if you’re thinking my novel is about the Pro Choice/ Pro Life debate, hold your horses. It’s not. I merely needed a reason, a one chapter reason, to justify the things my antagonist is about to do to the world without just making him a one-note 80’s action flick villain as voiced by John Lithgow. I wanted this villain to be Alan Rickman-deep. One chapter. That’s all.

. . . .

But apparently advancing the thought that a brand new life form might see us, humanity, as dangerous because we terminate our young, apparently… that’s a ThoughtCrime most heinous over at Harper Collins. Even for one tiny little chapter.

Here’s what happened next. I was not given notes as writers are typically given during the editorial process. I was told by my agent that my editor was upset and “deeply offended” that I had even dared advanced this idea. As though I had no right to have such a thought or even game the idea within a science fiction universe. I was immediately removed from the publication schedule which as far as I know is odd and unprecedented, especially for an author who has had both critical and commercial success. This, being removed from the production schedule, happened before my agent had even communicated the editor’s demand that I immediately change the offending chapter to something more “socially” (read “progressive”) acceptable.

Link to the rest at Nick Cole and thanks to Abel for the tip.

Here’s a link to Nick Cole’s books. If you like an author’s post, you can show your appreciation by checking out their books.

PG is not going to get into the abortion politics that is the center of this post, but he will observe that Big Publishing is extremely provincial. That’s one of its biggest weaknesses.

Manhattan is substantially different than the rest of the United States and, of course, the rest of the world. Not everyone in Manhattan, of course, but certainly the dominant culture, including the publishing world, is formed by a small group of people who hold opinions and values that vary a great deal from prevailing opinions and values in a large portion of the rest of the country.

Many years ago, PG worked in a large Chicago advertising agency. One of PG’s college friends worked at another large Chicago advertising agency on an account that focused on selling lots and lots of hair-care products to women.

One evening, during a winding-down period after work, PG’s friend vented. “I have to work with a kid copywriter who lives in Greenwich Village and doesn’t have the slightest idea about what’s important to a housewife in Indiana.” (He did use the term, housewife. As PG said, this was a long time ago. PG has omitted a number of adjectives his friend applied to the copywriter.)

People can and do argue about the merits of various worldviews that are impacted by the places where people live. However, a copywriter or book editor who has always lived in Manhattan still knows very little about what a housewife or househusband who lives in Indiana or Georgia or Arizona will like or accept or find objectionable.

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