Friday, May 15, 2015

SF on the big screen...and TV

What is Science Fiction? Here’s my take on the Literature of Change – nicely edited into a vividly animated clip-vid by Trekspertise.

So now Yahoo is creating original sic fi content? "Other Space" is a comedy by Paul Feig …. another garbage scow headed into the galaxy? (Does anyone get that reference?) 

Wow, the SyFy Channel has really veered back into realstuff scifi!  Here is the Childhood's End teaser (based on the classic by Arthur C. Clarke) -- to premiere on SyFy in December.  

Another series....based on Philip K. Dick's award-winning novel, and executive produced by Ridley Scott (Blade Runner), The Man in the High Castle explores what it would be like if the Allied Powers had lost WWII, and Japan and Germany ruled the United States.  Watch the first episode -- free on Amazon.  

We've just started watching Person of Interest, a Sci Fi crime series directed by Jonathan Nolan. A mysterious billionaire designs a computer to predict terrorist events; it also generates social security numbers of people who are to be involved in a murder in the next few days... I hear season three gets even more sf'nal.

Today we watched a play downtown: "The Uncanny Valley," a two actor riff on artificial intelligence that was moving and well-written and provocative  and plausible... much more so than "Ex Machina." Keep your eye open for it.

Vintage Sci Fi: And here's a lovely rumination about the old "X-minus-one" radio show from the 1950's, with stories from Bradbury, Heinlein, Sheckley and Pohl, available in podcast. "At its worst, “X Minus One” is dated drama told well, but its better episodes have matured into half-hour exercises in a peculiar and intoxicating form of temporal eavesdropping. They let us watch, with great ease and clarity, people who are straining much harder to see us. Usually they’re looking just slightly off to the side. Sometimes they’re looking the wrong way entirely. But occasionally, in the show’s most thrillingly prescient moments, it’s as if they were staring straight at us."

== On the Big Screen ==

Watch this gorgeous new short/proof of concept by Irish filmmaker RuairĂ­ Robinson: The Leviathan takes place in the early 22nd century, after humans have colonized multiple worlds, and are now on "the hunt" for a whale-like species that naturally collects the dark matter needed by space drives.  Kewl! How much better is set in the Startide Rising universe, though? And now, spurred by this trailer...Twentieth Century Fox has just optioned The Leviathan, with Neill Blomkamp producing.

Getting back to Alex Garland's Ex Machina...The dialog contained some moments of intellectual heft and there’s genuine acting. Best of all, the film proved that a small team can do inexpensive thought-provoking science fiction. Alas, the macro story arc -- and the bizarrely over-the-top villain were banal caricatures of a yawningly predictable Frankenstein remake, including Mary Shelley’s fundamental lesson: the creator is not punished for hubristically picking up god’s tools, he is punished for being a horrible dad. I am saddened most by works that have so very much going for them, yet fail tragically on maybe just one dismal fundamental. 

Garland's next project is an adaptation of Jeff Vandermeer's novel -- Annihiliation. Way to go, Jeff.

Disney's Tomorrowland stars George Clooney, directed by Brad Bird and Damon Lindelof. This could turn out to be worth watching ... at least it seems vivid.  Even if it also appears to be another damned “chosen one” story. Watch the trailer.

In sharp contrast, we watched “Big Hero Six” at home. Yes… I lag a bit! But it is just intensely good!  With a delight in tech and nerdiness and optimism that we badly need. About characters who aren't "fated" or destined "chosen ones," or mutant demigods... but merely way above average.  Like some kid you might have, some day.  Oh, and hilarious!

== Back in Print ==

Back in print! My first short story collection - The River of Timewinner of the Locus Award for best SF collection, in its year, and containing the Hugo winning tale “The Crystal Spheres” -- has been re-released in both e-book and paperback. And...

Just released: an excellent audio version of The River of Time, beautifully narrated by my friend, actor Stephen Mendel! 

Newly re-issued by IDW, my epic graphic novel – The Life Eaters – with spectacular hand-painted art by the great Scott Hampton. This tale starts off from the premise of “Thor Meets Captain America” (found in The River of Time) -- my runner up for a Hugo in the novella category ... taking you on an adventure that confronts the darkest parts of the human soul, with our dauntless potential for courage and freedom.

Sample the stirring video trailer for The Life Eaters! Movieable?

DC printed very few copies. So this improved re-issue will turn heads! The Life Eaters was nominated for one of the “bande dessinee” prizes in France, where the graphic novel is king.

== Sci Fi: A World of Ideas ==

Uri Aviv runs the Utopia series of science fiction festivals in Israel. (see below)  Here he makes some very interesting connections between SF and the history of the eventful 20th Century

Over the years science fiction has inspired the exploration of space and cyberspace and was first to imagine the robot, cyborg, clone and technological singularity. All of these are "mere byproducts" to the real focus of science fiction -- society -- communities, relationships, individuals -- how we transform, mutate and evolve through science and how we use and abuse technology. Science fiction creators imagine the un-imaginable and explore the impossible, they perform huge scale gedankenexperiments and by doing so they give birth to our future, for giving shape to the impossible today, gives shape to the every-day of tomorrow.”

For more about the the Utopia Festival:

==Other Sci Fi ==

Alas, farewell to good old Terry Pratchett.  He was a delight.  And had fun.  And gave the rest of us so much fun. And stayed vibrant and busy till some character with a scythe and bad diction hauled him off.  To Discworld, I hope!  (See him in one of his more humorous roles - in the photo on this site - creating satires of pompous religious and political leaders who take themselves too seriously....)

Cracked has a pretty good stab at laying down a bill of indictments in "6 Reasons The Jedi Would Be The Villain In Any Sane Movie." Ah, but six becomes FIFTY in my fun take-down of this silly-betrayal of sanity -- STAR WARS ON TRIAL. More detail and more laughs, by far!   Still, Cracked does crib from the best ;-)

Oh and Star Wars on Trial will soon be re-issued, in a new Jedi-Mouse edition!  

Check out Living Tomorrow, a new anthology of science fiction stories exploring futures shaped by environmental and biological science and technology, from ASU’s Center for Science and the Imagination.

This lovely manga about two gal-roomies-dealing-with-life is utterly sweet and fun. A mutual fan also alerted me that one of the strips refers to me and my work. As a must-purchase to be weighed against buying food! Well now, there’s a tradeoff I hope none of you ever face! Still, if you ever do, I hope you’ll choose wisely. ;-)  

Okay…. This is fun:  Kung Fury

The great web artist Patrick Farley has created a new video book trailer for Cecil Castellucci's new science fiction novel, Stone in the Sky. Patrick’s art is terrific and you should all be following his work at Electric Sheep Comix.

Stefan Jones reminds us of this cool-minimal but evocative animation: Rendezvous: The Murf.

== A few memorable words ==

"Fascinating is a word I use for the unexpected, in this case I would think interesting would suffice.” — Spock

"That is the exploration that awaits you! Not mapping stars and studying nebula, but charting the unknown possibilities of existence." — Leonard Nimoy


NoOne said...

Childhood's End was one of the first SF novels that I read along with the first Foundation series. Still get goosebumps when I recall reading the last part of Childhood's End. My kid who read the book just this past year thought it "depressing." I wonder if it'll translate well to a miniseries. (If you don't like spoilers, stop reading right now.)

I see three clear segments: (i) Arrival, (ii) Utopia, and (iii) Apotheosis. If handled well, this would be amazing to watch. Hope they don't screw it up.

Ross said...

"... another garbage scow headed into the galaxy? (Does anyone get that reference?) "

You could be either referring to Quark, "The misadventures of an outer space garbage collector and his crew." ... or possibly the fight scene in "The Trouble With Tribbles" where Koloth says the Enterprise should be hauled away as garbage.

Anonymous said...

- I love Person of Interest. At first thought it was silly, but they have developed plot well and w/the idea that 2 supercomputer AI's (presumably one good and one evilish) vie for control. In some ways I am reminded of Colossus the Forbin Project (movie). Wouldn't it be interesting if they go "full D.F. Jones trilogy" and add an "extraterrestrial" twist in upcoming plots?

- Saw Ex Machina and enjoyed it

- Leviathan plot reminds me a bit of Dune; giant animals producing a product needed for FTL (and other) purposes, harvested at significant peril.

- I loved the whole Uplift Series and would be fun to see either a movie or animated series on that

Alex Tolley said...

Another reference could be "Salvage 1", although I think "Quark" is the expected one.

Amazon's "The Man in the High Castle" was a beautiful piece of work that captured Dick's world perfectly. Watch it and vote for Amazon to make the next parts.

I own a good collection of the X Minus One shows as well as the Dimension X. Total nostalgia trip and a great mood lifter.

Here's to hoping that SyFy's Childshood end is done well and doesn't become their usual cheesy production. Clarke's story should be done justice as it was one of his best early novels. But compare the teaser with TMITHC to see the difference in production quality. Pity Rendezvous with Rama never got out of production hell, and I would love to see a good movie version of "The Fountains of Paradise".

LarryHart said...


"... another garbage scow headed into the galaxy? (Does anyone get that reference?) "

You could be either referring to Quark, "The misadventures of an outer space garbage collector and his crew." ... or possibly the fight scene in "The Trouble With Tribbles" where Koloth says the Enterprise should be hauled away as garbage.

Has to be the Star Trek one. Actually a bit later in that episode:

"He called the Enterprise a garbage scow!"

Paul SB said...

I'm surprised anyone remembers Quark - it was kind of silly and didn't last long! Has anyone heard anything about movies based on Terry Pratchett novels? There were so many that would translate well to the screen in the right hands...

Jonathan S. said...

Korax: Of course, I'd say that Captain Kirk deserves his ship. We like the Enterprise. We, we really do! That sagging, old rust bucket is designed like a garbage scow. Half the quadrant knows it; that's why they're learning to speak Klingonese!

Chekov: [outraged] Mr. Scott!

Scott: [to Korax] Laddie... don't ya think you should... rephrase that?

Korax: [in Scottish brogue] You're right. I should. [normal voice] I didn't mean to say that the Enterprise should be hauling garbage. I meant to say that it should be hauled away AS garbage!

Alfred Differ said...

Side note regarding long range iris scanning tech:

I liked the point about its use against human trafficking. Countering one fear with another. 8)

Alex Tolley said...

@Alfred - I wonder if contacts or mirror shades will foil the iris reading. I don't see how it solves sex trafficking, the girls just travel on passports to enter the new country. They would have to be both reported missing and allowed outside to be scanned to be caught by this system. Wouldn't traffickers just change MO to circumvent public scanning?

Daniel Duffy said...

A few SF TV shows from my childhood I would love to see rebooted:

The Invaders - metaphor for Cold War paranoia then, could be updated to reflect today's GWOT.

Time Tunnel - with the time travelers mucking up time lines by killing Hitler or saving Lincoln. Each time coming back to a changed present.

The Prisoner - now that the Cold War is over what ever happened to that island?

UFO - purple wigs and fishnet shirts optional.

Space 1999 - maybe a tad more realistic with an asteroid propelled at near light speed instead of the moon (totally unscientific but it had some really good stories its first year)

Kolchak the Night Stalker - often played for laughs, it was the X-Files before the X-Files

Daniel Duffy said...

Books that should become high quality mini-series:

Dune/Messiah/Children - not the weird 1984 movie version or the cheap SyFy channel miniseries but something with the same production values as Game of Thrones.

Red/Green/Blue Mars - KSR epic terraforming novel (P.S. can't wait the see the move version of "The Martian" this Xmas).

Canticle for Leibowitz - post apocalyptic Game of Thrones.

The Forever War - then about VietNam, now about the GWOT

Accelerando - best work ever on the singularity

Stand on Zanzibar - high tech over population insanity

Stranger in a Strange Land - emphasize the effects of religion on politics

Mote in God's Eye - best first contact novel ever

Daniel Duffy said...

Two ideas for a Star Trek reboot:

ST Evil Empire - set in the evil mirror universe of the Terran Empire (even redoing some classic episodes from all of the series with the twisted POV of the crew of the Enterprise being the Bad Guys).

ST After the Fall - the Borg and Dominion have invaded the Alpha quadrant and laid waste until they were barely defeated. Out of the ruins of the Federation, the Klingons, the Romulans, etc. the crew of a battered war damaged Enterprise tries to salvage galactic civilization from the ruins.

Duncan Cairncross said...

"A few SF TV shows from my childhood I would love to see rebooted:"

How about
The Guardians

Paul SB said...

I like how Dr. Brin lumped superheroes in with fantasy in his Trekspertise talk. In a sense they are a hybrid between the two genres (sci-fi and fantasy) in that the origin stories mostly (Thor being an exception) try to sound semi plausible (thus all the mutants & radioactive arachnids) on the one hand, but the central characters are still god-like beings. Like many fantasy stories, there's no sense that an ordinary person can work hard, be clever and strive to any avail (just like in Star Wars, where like the old nobility you're either born with the Force or you're a peon). Just like tales of gods, all you can do is watch the supers get their glory, knowing you will never, ever have a shot at it.

Dr. Brin also mentioned Mary Shelley, the grandmother of science fiction, but I haven't seen any ladies in our movie & tv wish lists. Ursula Le Guin's fantasy stories (Earthsea) have been done, but of her science fiction the only thing I have seen has been two rather bad attempts at "The Lathe of Heaven." The BBC version was rather cheesy, but way better than the American version, which spent money making everything look good but killed the both the plot and the characters. "The Left Hand of Darkness" could make for a great movie in the right hands. I'm surprised that no one has turned any of Anne McCaffrey's books into movies. Her Dragonrider series has a pretty big fan base, though most of these are middle-aged now, but middle-aged people have the money to spend on merchandizing (as Yoghurt from "Spaceballs" might say). Personally I would rather see movies of her more obscure science fiction novels like "The Death of Sleep" and its sequels. C.J. Cherryh could also be mined for good cinematic material.

Tony Fisk said...

@PaulSB Several Discworld TV movies have been made:
- The Colour of Magic
- The Hogfather
- Going Postal
- Soul Music (animated)

There is also Truckers, and a recent radio serial of Good Omens (where Pratchett and Gaiman had cameos as a couple of policemen intercepting Crowley's demonically hot-rodded Bentley)

I'm a little behind in the movie watching (funds, and a room to paint) I've no real illusions about Age of Ultron but *sigh* I had been looking forward to Ex Machina.

I'm no motor-head but the afore-mentioned Patrick Farley, (who's online appearances are as elusive as that Leviathan thingy) has just surfaced with *three* tweets raving about Fury Road. Not sure what to make of 'tankers full of breast milk': maybe you had to have been there?

On ST reboots, mention should be made of the online Fan flick 'Star Trek Continues'. The idea is to continue the original series for the rest of its 'five year mission' (TOS having been cancelled after only three). They've made three episodes so far. Admittedly, it's a case of the original crew, Jim, but not as we know it. Still, I've watched the first one, and was agreeably surprised at how well they managed to capture the essence of the original.

I think it's a problem thinking of old series worthy of reboot, possibly because if the old series was good, why does it need improving? There is also a real risk of catching the 'cult' followers off-side.

The Prisoner is one of these, although it hasn't aged well. I finally caught it a couple of years ago, and couldn't get past the first episode! It probably didn't help that the architecture of Portmeirion appears to have inspired the sets of 'In the Night Garden'. I had a few giggles thinking of an increasingly desparate Iggle Piggle (#6) being herded back to captivity by the Pinky Ponk (Rover) to be interrogated by Upsy Daisy (#2).
... Oh c'mon! Sir Derek Jacobi would have a riot.

Jumper said...

As a general skeptic of SF-to screen movies, my judgment of Man in the High Castle as "pretty good" probably should be translated as "awesome."

Tony Fisk said...

Here's a good candidate for a reboot: the Tripods!

The original TV series started well, but soon got bogged down with bad acting and excessive faithfulness.

A reboot would have to incorporate the story of how the Tripods conquered humanity in the first place. That would be a challenge, since it doesn't fit in with the original trilogy (this prequel was written by Christopher in response to Aldiss' remarks that the Tripods would have been blown away by human military might before they'd travelled three feet.)

The mass mind control approach (starting with subliminal suggestion in a TV program, before moving more openly to the Caps) is oddly compelling. especially at present, with tales of 'online radicalisation' and IS inspired attacks*. I suppose it's another variation on the Zombie Apocalypse, where friends and allies are inexorably converted over to the Enemy**.

*Yeah, they have me quaking in my boots as well.
**Heinlein did it first, in The Puppet Masters.

LarryHart said...

Daniel Duffy:

Kolchak the Night Stalker - often played for laughs, it was the X-Files before the X-Files

It was one of my favorite shows when it first aired. I was in my early teens at the time.

Played for laughs through most of the show, but those last ten minutes or so when Kolchack comes face to face with the horror, it became deadly serious. I really did love that forumula.

Also, IIRC, in the original film (possibly a series pilot), I'm pretty sure the "night stalker" in the title was the vampire, not the protagonist. Maybe it was decided that the series title had to refer to the man, so it became "Kolchack:: The Night Stalker" mid season. But the series ran for many episodes as just "The Night Stalker".

Alex Tolley said...

SF as potential series/mini-series.
I think we've have enough shots at Dune. Jodorowsky's vision for a movie might be worth a doing, although who knows. I'd prefer something new.

KSR's Mars Trilogy. I would once have asked for a redo of Bradbury's "The Martian Chronicles", but now I think this would make a much more interesting series. Second Daniel on this. If "The Martian" does well at the box office, I hope this fires a few brain cells and someone options the books for a series.

I would love Asimov's robot stories to be done as a series, or used as the setting. Susan Calvin as the lead character. The format could be very like the successful "Bones" and its ilk. Now that we know that robots can be visualized well in a variety of forms (what do you call Ava in Ex Machina - humaniform?) we can get away from the clunky 60's robots or the use of humans to play androids.
These actresses come to mind to play Calvin: Alice Krige, Tilda Swinton, Glenn Close or Uma Thurman

Much as I loved Accelerando, Stross' Laundryverse novels would be a better choice for a series. It seems to have all the ingredients. I would just use the novels as the setting, and create 45 minute episodes with new plots every week, with a story arc that reaches toward Case Nightmare Green.

@Duncan - "The Guardians". A blast from the past. Even more relevant today. Best reset in the US perhaps?

It's a pity "Star Cops" ended after 1 season. A second season on Mars would have been cool. I thought the series was good and I binge re-watch the 9 episodes occasionally.

Another older tv series that could be revamped is "Doomwatch". In a sense that was done somewhat with "Eleventh Hour". (I preferred the UK Patrick Stewart series to the US one with Rupert Sewell). They were less preachy than Doomwatch. Plenty of material to work with today that wasn't even on the horizon in the 1970's.

Alex Tolley said...

SF movies to make:

1. Heinlein's "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress". (Just don't turn it into yet another cheesy actioneer about escape).
2. PK Dick's "Ubik". (I nominate Nolan to create this).
3. "Kiln People". I loved this book. Could be a movie or even a series (exploring the differences between the different types?). It is also very different.
4. Niven's "Ringworld" or Varley's Gaia trilogy. Movies or series. Lots of ways to approach this.

I'm interested in seeing how the live action version of "Ghost in the Shell" turns out. Will it be "Hollywood-ized" and lose touch with the manga/anime themes?

I'm currently reading "Pillar to the Sky". It looks tailor made for a mini-series.

LarryHart said...

Tony Fisk:

The Prisoner is one of these, although it hasn't aged well. I finally caught it a couple of years ago, and couldn't get past the first episode! It probably didn't help that the architecture of Portmeirion appears to have inspired the sets of 'In the Night Garden'

Not sure how many here have read Alan Moore's "League of Extraordinary Gentlemen" comics, but that series hints that the island and Rover were established by the Big Brother government of 1984 (contemporary with the book's publication in 1949) and kept in use by the James Bond era government which followed.

Paul SB said...

Tony, I have the first 3 of these movies, though I have shied away from the animated versions. The clips I have seen look so poor I would rather just reread the books (and I doubt I could hook my son into reading Pratchett with them). The Color of Magic was so-so, but Hogfather was great and Going Postal pretty decent - though I wish they hadn't left out the joke about the shy banshee. That was absolutely characteristic of Pratchett's sense of humor, to imagine horrifying mythical creatures as real people with real personalities. In one book he had a vampire with a death wish. The vampire got a job working with holy water, then later worked in a pencil factory. I couldn't decide on a single book I most want to see as a movie, but if Night Watch, Thud or Monster Regiment made it to the big screen I would be ecstatic.

Alex, I totally agree with you on Star Cops, in spite of its silly name. It had so much potential, but most sci-fi fans didn't seem to like it because there were no aliens, no bug-eyed monsters, etc. I have to operate on memory, though, as it's not available in the US, and my ancient VHS tapes died many years ago. :(

On a completely different tangent, next time we hear people getting too strident about their opinions, you might point out the Dunning-Kruger Effect.–Kruger_effect

Alex Tolley said...

I have a number of DVDs that are region 2 that won't play in US DVD players. (I gather one can buy region free players, if needed).

My preferred route in this case is to copy the files to a hard drive, use a utility like "VOB Edit" to change the setting on each file from PAL to NTSC.
Then I use DVD Shrink to make sure the files will fit on a 4.4 GB DVD, and then burn blank disks with the new files. Re-authoring also allows each episode to be created separately so that no compression is required.

I've just recently transferred all my DVD collection (1000+ titles) to large hard drives. I made them MKV files which is a wrapper that puts all the DVD files inside a container. I was pleased to see that even the region 2 disks transferred painlessly without any modifications from the original disks and play perfectly with the VLC player on my computer.

Unfortunately with "Star Cops" a quick check on shows it is no longer available in the UK either.

I see someone has posted episodes (broken up into 10 minute sections) on YouTube. e.g.

Alex Tolley said...

@PSB. The only issue with pointing out the DK effect in other people is that I then worry that it is me :(

Alex Tolley said...

@Tony Fisk. I recently re-watched "the prisoner" and I found it somewhat dated. I'm not sure why it has such cult status. Some episodes are really good, but others not so much. I listened to the explanations of each episode and they seem somewhat pretentious to my ears these days.

OTOH, I still love watching McGoohan in the old Danger Man (Secret Agent) series. It's like being time warped back into the 1960's and I find the stories totally engaging despite their simplicity and spareness.

TheMadLibrairan said...

The problem with a lot of science fiction series is that they get killed before they find their direction or audience. Of course the poster child for this is Firefly, which was excellent for the season we had it, but could it have kept up the quality? For every series that survives the cable meatgrinder (Orphan Black), there is another with potential (Almost Human) that gets the axe before it has a chance to bloom.


TheMadLibrarian said...

And I regret to be a stinkin' pedant, but the second quote you attribute to Leonard Nimoy was not his. It's a good one, but actually was said by John DeLancie in his persona as Q, the omnipotent thorn in ST:TNG's side.


Tony Fisk said...

@PaulSB: I have only seen Hogfather, which I agree was great (worth watching for mention of 'Oh, God of Hangovers' alone). One I would like to see dramatised is 'Lords and Ladies' (DB would appreciate the take on 'snooty elves')

@AlexTolley: your assessment of The Prisoner matches mine.

Paul451 said...

The DK research showed that people worried about their lack of knowledge were largely immune to the DK Effect. So by worrying about the DK Effect, you should be okay.

The Discworld specials haven't been very special. Hogfather seemed the best, but that may have only been because I hadn't read that book yet. But in general, they are pretty blah. That said, if you haven't read the books, they would probably work for a kid to get introduced to the series. (But honestly, give them The Colour Of Magic. It's short, easy to read. Crazy punny. After that they're either hooked, or they'll never get it.)

Re: "Other Space".
Watched the 8 online eps. Fairly meh. Preferred Nick Frost's Hyperdrive. (And Quark, back in the day.) But it's the closest a US el cheapo series has gotten to the charm of those kinds of cheap UK one-set SF comedies.

Paul451 said...

Re: Actual sci-fi on SyFy.

Star Cops (or similar concept of trying to professionalise a volunteer force) would be a fun project. And with many "inside" episodes possible in that setting, it could be fairly low budget too.

A new version of Space:1999 (which has been proposed for years, Space: 2099). I'd suggest replacing the jarringly-unrealistic "blown out of orbit" with a more unfalsifiable "experimental hyperspace/wormhole portal triggered by a high-energy physics experiment gone wrong". Then you can keep everything else hard-SF.

I saw a show in the late 80's or early '90s based loosely on James White's Sector General. Modern creature CG effects today would make this a nice low budget show (similar budget to Sanctuary or Warehouse 13.) Speaking of: Something based on the Stross' Laundry Files universe would also work as a Sanctuary/Warehouse 13-type series now that both of those have ended.

C.J Cherryh's Chanur books would make an interesting show, simple but fun space opera, and the books give you a nice season and multi-season arc. But I'm not sure you could sell a show with an entirely "non-human" cast...

I wouldn't mind seeing a show based on the idea we were promised but denied in Ascension. US (or Soviet) nuclear-Orion ship/colony launched in the 1960's, having to survive in the outer solar system (with hard-SF diesel-punk/atom-punk technology), believing they are the last of humanity.

I'm not sure the Uplift novels/trilogy would work as movies or series as written, but pulling individual components out of the idea-pool would give you concepts and settings for entire series. For example I've previously suggested that Harry, the uplifted Chimp navigator/mapper/patrolman/rescuer in (metaphorical) E-space, would make a fun animated series. Similarly, the Uplift War setting (post-invasion Garth) could make an entire series by itself, even without the rest of the Uplift universe.

Kil'n People would make a good setting as written. The novel turned into the first season arc, increasingly revolving around the mis-copied Green, with subsequent seasons with the now-transplanted Green as the protagonist against the backdrop of the fall-out from the climax of the first season (in whichever direction the writers want to go; personal story (runaway slave metaphor), or society-wide upheaval (freed-slaves/civil-rights/civil-war metaphors.))

Life-Eaters would make a good film or mini-series. Practice Effect would make a fun film.

Tony Fisk said...

"Hogfather seemed the best, but that may have only been because I hadn't read that book yet."
Yes, well. As Death puts it: "Imagination is the place where the falling angel meets the rising ape." On a BBC budget, don't expect perfection.

The City Watch stories would provide enough material for several seasons.

Elsewhere, Anderson's Technic stories would be rich pickings. Either Flandry or Van Rijn could form the basis of a TV series...
Call the Van Rijn series 'The Man Who Counts', with 'War of The Wing Men' as the pilot (joke being that both titles refer to same book: Anderson's preference being for the first)

greg byshenk said...

I think that Pratchett just doesn't translate very well to the screen. Like some other authors (Carl hiaasen, for example), the stories (plots) are relatively unimportant, and really just a skeleton to hang a lot of entertaining writing and language upon. And the writing and language that make them interesting are just what is difficult or impossible to carry over to the screen.

LarryHart said...


Life-Eaters would make a good film or mini-series.

Agreed, especially the segment that is the original short story.

Unfortunately, with the current popularity of Marvel's Avengers films (and Thor in particular), it would probably be a difficult legal battle to get a non-Marvel version of Thor and Loki to the big screen at this time.

Unknown said...

Filk Crit Hulk has a different take on Ex Machina. I haven't seen the movie yet but I like this take on it.

Chris said...

Novels I'd like to see made into a tv series or movie (until I saw Game of Thrones I wouldn't have suggested these for tv because I wouldn't have thought they could them justice) would be Eon by Greg Bear and The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russel. The Sparrow would be much easier to make, but I'm still not sure Eon could be made. At least not the Eon that I have in my mind. When I have a wonderful vision of a novel painted on my mind, I worry that a bad movie version will rewrite my mindscape of the novel and ruin it for me.

Paul SB said...

Larry, I don't think there would be a huge legal battle, since the Norse gods are hardly copyright-able material (that's probably not a real word, is it?) However, in most people's minds it would be seen as a copycat and would suffer from the comparison. I would still love to see the Turing and Leary characters on screen.

Tony, check out the movie of Going Postal - it's not as good as Hogfather, but it's not bad at all. I love your idea of serializing the City Watch books. The coolest action scene of all would be Commander Vimes racing through the city to get home in time to read "Where's My Cow" to Young Sam. It would certainly be the least mainstream action scene, anyway.

Other Paul, everyone knows that a 90 minute movie can't do justice to a 200+ page novel, so I make allowances. Often short stories make better material, but short stories rarely get the kind of fame to attract the attention of production companies. The Hogfather movie didn't go into any of the depth about the pagan origins of holidays that Pratchett did, but if it encourages people to read the original, that's a start.

As long as we're making a wish list, James White's "The Galactic Chef" would be both funny and have a timely ecological message. Heinlein's juvy stories like "Red Planet," "Space Cadet" or "Tunnel in the Sky" could make for fun films for young audiences, as long as the 1950s slang was updated. James Alan Gardner's "Vigilant" seems like it would translate well without losing the humor. I could also see any of these becoming graphic novels, in the right hands.

Alex Tolley said...

@Rocky - Funnily enough I wasn't surprised by the ending at all. Perhaps I just didn't identify with Caleb that much according to Film Crit Hulk. I was much more intent on the reveals of Ava (and the other versions). For comparison, it is worth watching "The Machine", also a recent, good movie with a similar theme, but with a different underlying technology.

Garland's ending has left us with the possibility of a sequel, exploring Ava's dealings with the outside world, or the more subtle features of her mind compare to humans. She killed Nathan apparently so cold-bloodedly, it would be interesting to know whether this was a human response to his treatment of her, or whether she would have failed a Voigt-Kampf test administered by a blade runner (or both?).

Anonymous said...

One sci-fi series I discovered recently that I really enjoyed is Continuum. It has an interesting exploration of the extremes of what corporate influence in government could look like.

In terms of sci-fi written by women that'd made great TV series, two that come to mind are Bujold's Vorkosigan Saga and CJ Cherryh's Foreigner series.

Jonathan S. said...

If you really want to continue Star Trek, we've been kicking the idea around in the official forums for the MMO Star Trek Online, and the consensus is that by the end of Voyager, the galaxy was starting to feel small, what with all the wormholes and transwarp corridors and quantum slipstream drives (a tendency exacerbated in the game, where most of the adventuring after level 50 takes place in the Delta Quadrant).

So we figure in order to get back to that old "frontier" feeling from TOS, launch Star Trek: Magellan, following the adventures of the crew of the USS Magellan on its mission to explore some of the dwarf galaxies orbiting the Milky Way. (The obvious choice is the Magellanic Clouds, of course, as they're so big and bright; my vote is for the less-popular Canis Minor Dwarf galaxy, as its orbit passes through the plane of the galactic ecliptic, meaning it's left a trail of gases and possibly stars leading back to the galactic disk. It's also much closer, at only 7 or 8 kiloparsecs, as opposed to the 48+ kiloparsecs to the Large Magellanic Cloud.)

Jumper said...

Did Heinlein write about flying in lunar caverns only in The Menace From Earth, or did he include that idea in other work, perhaps The Moon is a Hard Mistress? In any case, that's the movie I want made, pretty much for the flying. Of course state-of-the-art stunts and effects, or else it's not worth it. Those lava tubes... they exist.

Laurent Weppe said...

* "I'd suggest replacing the jarringly-unrealistic "blown out of orbit" with a more unfalsifiable "experimental hyperspace/wormhole portal triggered by a high-energy physics experiment gone wrong". Then you can keep everything else hard-SF."

Better: replace the "blown out of orbit" with "Colonization ship get caught in unidentified alien portal-network, one of which happened to be near the planet they were sent to colonize decades prior", add a line during the pilot where one of the character states after the initial shock "We detected a planet ripe for colonization with huge quantities of water right within the goldilock zone: why are you surprised that someone else got here first?".
This would bring the added benefits of not having to constantly deal with a society-wide trauma of exile: if the central set piece is a generation ship, most if not all of there denizens would have been born on it and it would have fairly efficient ways to sustain its population: for them, being yanked across the universe would simply mean more of the same, mostly.

Paul SB said...

The only issue with pointing out the DK effect in other people is that I then worry that it is me :(

Just thinking that thought puts you way ahead of many. D-K is best thought of in terms of those who stridently insist that they are completely, 100% right about absolutely everything and that anyone who doesn't agree with their every word belongs in the sheeple category (along with Shaun, Shirley & Timmy, of course).

Thanks for pointing out the Star Cops on Youtube. I had searched for it years ago. My Early Pliocene computer can no longer handle downloading from Youtube, but when I go in to work Monday I'll see if I can download them with my work computer. Then I'll be able to watch them this summer (I hope...).

Anonymous said...

I remember how multicultural Star Cops seemed when I first watched it in the 80s, and how stereotyped it seemed when I re-watched it a few years ago.

There's a DVD-rip floating around too, which has better video quality, but one of the episodes is actually the bonus material from the DVD, not the episode it is labelled as.

Alex Tolley said...

Public Service Announcement: For those waiting in anticipation, Sense8 SF series will start streaming on Netflix June 5th.

Paul451 said...

Heinlein's juvy novels are perfect for family-friendly SF. But an updated "Tunnel in the Sky" would be a perfect fit for the Hunger Games crowd.

"Unfortunately, with the current popularity of Marvel's Avengers films (and Thor in particular), it would probably be a difficult legal battle to get a non-Marvel version of Thor and Loki to the big screen at this time."

No. You can't copyright/trademark a traditional folk (or religious) character. David's issue was the "Captain America" in the original title "Thor Meets Captain America". There's nothing in the actual story that clashes with Marvel's IP. (The makers of Shrek played with this by including a bunch of Disney characters without permission, by carefully using traditional depictions for folk culture.)

[Speaking of Marvel... It annoyed me that Marvel's movie Loki is just a bad guy. Loki is a "trickster" character, like Coyote or Crow (in Nth American and Australian mythology respectively). He should be much more morally ambiguous, in a finding-pleasure-in-chaos and careful-what-you-wish-for kind of way, more like Tom Siddell's Coyote in Gunnerkrigg Court.]

Tony Fisk said...

To be fair, I think Tom Hiddleston brings more to his portrayal of Loki than just 'a bad guy'. He can be a suave and charming fellow... who just wants to rule the Universe, and has a huge chip about being *adopted*, and having to play second fiddle to that muscle-bound jerk, Thor. Where's the justice in it all?

Meanwhile, I need to make a choice as to which action movie to see tomorrow: Avengers or Mad Max?

Jonathan S. said...

Heck, Loki once saved Valhalla, taking one for the team in a unique fashion. Of course, he also helped get them into that situation, by recommending Odin take the workman's wager in the first place...

(In case you don't know the story: Odin contracted to have a wall built around Valhalla. The workman offered him a wager - if he failed to complete the wall within a given amount of time, there would be no charge, but if he succeeded, his pay would be the sun, the moon, and the hand of Freya in marriage. Loki counseled that Odin should accept this, as there was obviously no way the mere mortal could succeed. Unfortunately, the workman also had an enchanted stallion that made the job possible. With the deadline closing in, Odin told Loki he'd better find a way to slow down the work - or else. Loki's solution? He became a mare, and seduced the stallion. Without the stallion helping, the workman fell behind, and ultimately lost his wager. Some time later, Loki gave birth to Odin's steed, Sleipnir.)