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Studio President For A Day, Part 1

I think it’s a given that most people, including us, would say that SF, either in TV of film form is, currently, lackluster at best. Sure there are a few good SF shows/films, but the majority is mostly worthless tripe. In fact, one of SFSignal’s favorite actors, Bruce Campbell, agrees in a couple of articles (warning! crappy free pass required. Is there a greasemonkey script for that yet?), basically saying that most SF today is crap, aside from being sarcastically funny, which is why he is an icon here. But I digress (hi John!). So, thought experiement time for the teeming masses of SFSignal readers.

Let’s say you have become, through fair means or foul, the president, CEO, or Big Cheese at your friendly neighborhood entertainment company. You want to educate the masses about what good SF really is, be it in movie, mini-series, or series form. What book/short story would you choose to adapt and why? I’ll list mine in order of type.

  • Books
    • Use of Weapons, Iain M. Banks – Great story and storytelling, inticately plotted (how this would be filmed I don’t know, but as the President, that’s not my job, I delegate…), strong characters, cool locations. It’s got it all and is probably his strongest novel.
    • Consider Phlebas, Iain M. Banks – Yes, another Banks novel. His Culture books take place in a great setting and these two novels, for me, achieve the holy grail of SF. This one has interesting, if not sympathetic characters, exciting action sequences (especially the ending set piece) and extremely cool settings. Banks has said he would want this one to be set on film for the fight scene underneath the hovercraft alone.
    • Singularity, Bill DeSmedt – Starts off as a mostly conventional techno-thriller, then cranks up the SF to 11 for the climax. One of the best books I’ve read recently, and John agrees. I think this could be a cool mini-series.
    • Darwinia, Robert Charles Wilson – An alternate history, Victorian-era anthropological mystery that slowly climbs its way to a mind expanding, and potentially very depressing, ending. Another book where the SF elements are cranked up as the book moves along. Its got all kinds of cool SF stuff in it. The only thing that might need changing for mainstream acceptance is the ending.
  • Short Stories
    • Cookie Monster, Vernor Vinge – An office mystery that turns into something much more. I believe today’s post-Matrix audience would accept this story. Thoughtful and interesting with a neat twist. I’m not sure if the linked story is the full story or not but I don’t think it is. You’ll have to look for it in an anthology.
    • A Colder War, Charlie Stross – An alternate history tale with a unique twist on the Cold War. This would make a great one off movie, and would fit right in with SciFi’s belief in ‘creature feature’ movies, although we never really see the ‘creatures’, because, well, that would be telling. Read it and find out for yourself.
    • Antibodies, Charlie Stross – What if creating an AI actually turns out to be easy? What if they turn out not to be friendly? What counter-measures could humanity take? Find out in this excellent short story. May be a bit technical for lay people, what with all the talk about NP-complete problems, but still, it’s quite an interesting story.
  • Anime
    • Ghost in the Shell, Stand Alone Complex – I know, anime. But, this series, with the appropriate massaging of the jargon, could be a great live action TV show. Set in the near future where technology and biological sciences are merging, it details the happenings of an elite crime fighting force with the Japanese police department. Part police drama, part character drama, and part SF, its all good, and could bring a lot of people into the SF fold.

I could go on, but I’ll stop here. The question is now up to you. What SF programs would you green light if you were the Big Cheese?

About JP Frantz (2323 Articles)
Has nothing interesting to say so in the interest of time, will get on with not saying it.

2 Comments on Studio President For A Day, Part 1

  1. Well, I might be out of date here as far as current sf goes, but the core themes of a lot of sf, current and older, are still relevent.

    1) Rendevous With Rama (Arthur C. Clarke)

    2) Neuromancer (William Gibson): an adaptation incorporating current hot topics such as the Singularity (see: Vernor Vinge)

    3) Gridlinked (Neal Asher):cause it’d be loads of fun and has mass appeal. A little more than say, the Rama books.

    4) The Conquerors Trilogy(Tim Zahn): for all the Clancy/24 fans that can be swayed over to SF.

    5) The Scar : Sf channel or horror channel. Take your pick. (we got a horror channel in Canada, I’m assuming there’s one in the USA too. Sorry for the ignorance.)

    Now, I’m no expert, but having written a pair of screenplays, and having seen books turned into movies, I’d prefer to see mini series adaptations as opposed to films. The only thing that makes me cringe at that, is….well, as this all started; tv is kinda crap. I’d strongly prefer The Scar, Conquerors and Neuromancer as mini series on tv.

  2. I agree with Dan on the mini-series thing.

    I’m not an Iain Banks fan, but it seems to me that any series, be it The Culture, Known Space, or Uplift, would benefit more from a mini-series format or, ideally, a 13 episode HBO season.

    I’ve always thought Rama as well as Ringworld would play well as a fake documentary like Alien Planet. Camera crew follows explorers to a strange habitat.

    As for properties:

    Queen of Angels/Slant by Greg Bear

    Metropolitan/City on Fire by Walter John Williams

    The Foundation series, provided the individual stories that make up the books were done as individual episodes. I, Claudius was a chatty piece that took place over many years, no reason this couldn’t work.

    Hyperion/Fall of Hyperion. Lots of flashbacks like Lost, and the Shrike wiping out an army. Too cool.

    Nightwings by Robert Silverberg.

    Lastly, The Golden Age trilogy by John C. Wright. This would be tough but do-able. It’s mostly set pieces, with a LOT of effects.

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