Movie adaptations, for book lovers at least, simultaneously bring feelings of excitement and fear. Will the movie stay true to the book? Will it project off of the screen as it did when the words entered the mind? In many cases, adaptations fail, but to be fair, books have the freedom of having more time and space and than a two hour film to do the story justice. Literary novels tend to be harder to adapt with great success as readers are so in love with the beautifully style and artful pacing that these novels generally contain. With technology rapidly growing at an unprecedented pace combined with the general population becoming more accepting of "geek culture," Science Fiction and Fantasy novels are much more marketable and accessible. Major studios can be true to the fantastical and dystopian worlds that these types of books portray with much more ease than even just ten years ago without worrying about astronomical production costs since the audience is there. It should be noted that Young Adult adaptations have been prevalent ever since the likes of Harry Potter, Twilight, and more recently, The Hunger Games, and The Maze Runner due to the genre being accepted more as the normal with its core audience before adult interest followed the same path.
Movie adaptations of quality Science Fiction and Fantasy Novels are capable of bringing in new readers as well. Anyone with a pulse in America could tell you that they have at least heard of Game of Thrones. A lesser known fact is that George R. R. Martin released the first novel of the A Song of Ice and Fire series that shares the same name as the television adaptation in 1996 fifteen years before it first appeared on HBO and proceeded to break all time viewing records for the network. A Song of Ice and Fire was a best-selling, award winning fantasy series long before the show was even thought of by David Benioff and D. B. Weiss, but it persisted as a niche in the late nineties as mainstream culture still had a lingering stigma attached to the genre as a whole. With the unprecedented success of Game of Thrones, many more projects are in the works for adaptation within the genre to both small and big screens near you.
American culture is embracing the genre in such a tremendous way that books by some of the masters of the two genres that have previously been appreciated in most part by devoted and serious fans. Isaac Asimov's classic Science Fiction series, Foundation is being adapted by HBO, over seventy years after its original conception. Previously, even the great Stanley Kubrick could not get Arthur C. Clarke's Childhood's End into production. SyFy network is currently adapting it into a miniseries along with Clarke's 3001: A Space Odyssey . Popular Science Fiction writer John Scalzi has two of his works being adapted to television: Redshirts and Old Man's War. Sure, Philip K. Dick has been adapted successfully with commercial appeal when Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? was adapted by Ridley Scott into Blade Runner starring Harrison Ford in 1982. However, a fair number of liberties were taken with the film besides just the name change to garner widespread appeal. Amazon is currently trying to adapt The Man in High Castle which previously sputtered through two failed adaptation efforts.
On the Fantasy side of television adaptations, Terry Brooks's The Elfstones of Shannara is in the works to be adapted by Farah Films and appear on MTV. Brook's classic tale is the highest selling Fantasy series to not have an adaptation. Brooks and Dan Farah are slated to produce the series which will likely get the support of Game of Thrones viewers. Doors are being opened by authors and producers who are willing to go after a project like this, which years ago, would seem unthinkable due to a lack of a large audience and resources.
Unlike television adaptations, feature films in these genres have been more prevalent and successful in actually making it to opening night or the pilot episode. Advancements in technology have allowed these adaptations to really enter the fantastical world that the author created. Consider Andy Weir, a writer who originally self-published his incredibly well researched and detailed novel, The Martian, on Amazon's Kindle platform in 2011 with an asking price of just 99 cents. The novel skyrocketed up Amazon's charts and Weir was then approached by and agent who helped him sell the rights to Crown Publishing Group. The Wall Street Journal called it "the best pure sci-fi novel in years." Traditional Sci-fi novels do not normally represent what studios consider to be an adaptable book. Combined with a star cast including Matt Damon and Jessica Chasten and high production values thanks to the backing of Twentieth Century Fox, The Martian will likely be one of the highest grossing films of the year when it releases this fall. Hugh Howey's Wool followed a very similar path as The Martian on its way to becoming a Sci-Fi juggernaut that was picked up by Ridley Scott, and although the project seems to have stalled, Wool lends itself well for adaptation, so if and when it releases, it would likely be a huge hit. George Orwell's 1984 is currently being adapted for the third time, and its themes will assuredly touch more people in today's climate more than ever when it reaches theaters. Of course, Stephen King's The Stand, the mammoth, 1,153 page post-apocalyptic classic that many consider to be King's greatest novel, is one of the most anticipated and intriguing projects on the horizon within the genre.
How about books that are so unique to the genre that they almost seem too complicated to adapt? Enter Ernest Cline, a pioneer in the gaming subtype of the Sci-fi genre and the best selling novelist of Ready Player One and the upcoming Armada. Both are scheduled to be adapted to major motion pictures. Video games are a part of technology that have progressed out of the niche category to arguably the most popular form of entertainment. Ernie Cline's novels are unique in that they have mass appeal with young audiences as well as adults that experience nostalgic feelings from the nerdy 1970's and 80's popular culture references. Ready Player One takes place, for the most part, within a high tech video game simulation system which would have made it a complicated adaptation in the past. Thanks to advances in special effects, an increased interest in the subject matter by the general population, and the unwavering support of producers like the aforementioned Dan Farah, it is possible today. The adaptation will reportedly feature tie-in VR features that its director, Steven Spielberg, has a deep interest in. Cline's novel has brought Spielberg back to direct a Warner Bros. picture for the first time since, ironically enough, A.I. Artificial Intelligence, in 1991. With such big names attached to adaptations as complicated to relay on screen like Cline's works, anything seems possible in the world of adapting Science Fiction and Fantasy novels. The population as a whole has showed what they want to watch, and big names attached to large studios are starting to truly deliver in genres that were previously ignored to a certain extent for various reasons including financial implications, time, and viewer support. Novels in these genres, both old and new, can now flourish on screen. The realistic feeling of entering a fantastical world within the spine of a novel can now be accurately represented in form and appreciated by a large body of viewers. The future is here.
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