THE SEM10TIC STANDARD

Speculative Fiction. Art. The In-between.

The Collective: Bringing books to film

Hosted by Andrea Johnson, The Collective is a round table involving editors, authors, publishers, reviewers, and other members of the speculative fiction community who share their take on questions ranging from the jovial to the serious, the interesting to the bizarre. Have an idea for a roundtable? Tweet us @BastionSF, send us a message on Facebook, or drop us a note to editor@semioticstandard.com. Go ahead though, and read on. We know you couldn't stop if you wanted to. Resistance is futile.

How many of these books have you seen the movie or TV version of? The Martian, Game of Thrones, The BFG, Divergent, Shannara, The Expanse, Harry Potter, and who knows how many more recent page-to-films I missed. Telling story through visuals is completely different than telling story through prose on a page. There are things you can do with cinematography and movie special effects that could be difficult to explain in a book. Books let you really get into a characters mind, and understand their internal monologue. That can be difficult to do for television or a movie. With that in mind, I asked our Collective panelists the following question:

Which Scifi/Fantasy book would you most love to see as a movie? What scene are you most looking forward to seeing on the big screen?


Here's what they said:

Rob H. Bedford lives in NJ with his wife and dog. You can find his reviews at SFFWorldSF Signal, Tor.com, and his blog. If you want to read random thoughts about genre or the beer he’s drinking, you can follow him on Twitter @RobHBedford

There are quite a few books I’ve read over the years that seem to be perfectly made for film. On recent book is Naomi Novik’s award-winning Uprooted. It is a fantastically drawn novel that echoes Fairy Tales of old balanced with a powerful narrative and marvelous protagonist. With the trend of films like Snow White and the Huntsman and the popularity of a show like Once Upon a Time, Uprooted seems a smart choice to capitalize on a market for such tales. There’s a confrontation near the end with the antagonistic forest that would be great on film. 
     Another book I’d love to see filmed is Matthew Stover’s Heroes Die, one of my favorite books of all time. I’ve re-read it a few times and love it as much or more every time. Published nearly twenty years ago now, it tackles themes that are somewhat prescient. The story (and first of a four book series) is set in a twenty-third century dystopia where corporations rule the world through a caste-based system. It focuses on protagonist Hari Michaelson, the actor in the employ of Adventures Unlimited, who portrays the assassin Caine, the most popular Adventurer in Overworld, a fantasyland in a parallel dimension which is exploited as the ultimate reality television experience.
     People can experience Hari’s adventures as Caine. Overworld (specifically Ankhana where much of the action takes place) lies in a parallel dimension that has echoes of Middle Earth, Fritz Leiber’s Lankhmar, Robert E. Howard’s Aquilonia and Cynosure/Munden’s Bar from John Ostrander/Tim Truman’s comic GrimJack. The technology—Winston Transfer—which allows this experience is far beyond today’s means so that, coupled with the caste-based future dystopia, gives the feel of a hard science fictional setting. The Actor, after sufficient training on and about Overworld, is given implants which allow the full sensory input to be transferred back to Earth as a virtual reality experience everybody can enjoy.
     This book has an incredible antagonist, Ma’elKoth, who has an awesome confrontation with Hari at the conclusion of the novel which is preceded by a really fantastic reveal. The two characters find themselves in opposition and their conflict can almost be seen as ‘dueling protagonists’ for Stover takes the 'Villain as the Hero of His Own Story' up to the proverbial eleven with Ma’elKoth.

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Jennifer Brozek is a Hugo Award nominated editor and a Bram Stoker nominated author. She has worked in the publishing industry since 2004. With the number of different projects she juggles at one time, Jennifer is often considered a Renaissance woman, but prefers to be known as a wordslinger and optimist. Read more about her at her website or follow her on Twitter at @JenniferBrozek.

It is, of course, an absolute cheat to say that I’d most love to see my Bram Stoker nominated YA novel,  Never Let Me Sleep, as a movie. So, I won’t. I’ll say that’s my second place. My first place and true love is The Dark Tower by Stephen King and that is coming true. At least a version of it. I’m so excited! I’ve wanted to see this novel/series as a movie/TV series ever since I read and re-read it as a teen. It is one of my all time favorites. 
     The scene I’m most looking forward to is the "let there be light" scene between the man in black and the gunslinger where the discussion of size ends upon a single blade of purple grass. I remember the first time I read this scene I was stunned by the enormity of the concept of size as explained between the two characters. The next scene I'm most looking forward to is how they handle the "Go then, there are other worlds than these," scene.
     All I can think is "please don’t suck" (like the butchering they gave to The Dark Rising by Susan Cooper). With the caliber of the actors, I think it will be good. I will go see it no matter what the reviews say.

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By day, Joe Frazier works in IT within an insurance company (this sounds boring, but he loves it) and by night, he's a semi-voracious reader and more-tepid-than-he-likes blogger. He's been blogging for about three years, mostly at Joe’s Geek Fest. It started as a more formal way to share recommendations about technology and books requested by friends and family. It has blossomed into a focus on books while also writing on music, movies, technology and culture. Rather than simply being a stomping ground to express opinion, the blog is typically a place to provide, through such evidence as passages, clips and video, a basis for readers to reach their own conclusions. Book reviews typically include reviews of the audio book format as well. 

The book I would love to see made into a movie is the Mote In God’s Eye by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle. The book encapsulates both an overarching epic story as well as several intertwined more intimate stories. The authors paint a terrific picture of different cultures both amongst the humans and those with whom they have first contact. There are some starkly different biological limitations on both sides as well as development along different lines. In all, it paints an interesting picture with enough action to transfer to the screen.
     The scene I would love to see most is when the humans realize they need to get away from the aliens and the aliens are making this challenging; they are, in fact, trying to stop them from escaping. There’s various interesting moments (generically referenced to avoid spoilers) where the humans fully realize the desperate nature of their situation. So, from the point where the humans are aware of their need to escape up to the actual execution of the escape is the scene I would be most interested seeing portrayed.

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Michael J. Martinez is the author of MJ-12: Inception, the first in a series of paranormal Cold War spy thrillers from Night Shade Books, coming out in Hardcover in September. He’s also the author of the Daedalus trilogy of Napoleonic Era space opera novels—which, truth be told, would make excellent films but would probably blow through a studio’s CGI budget pretty quickly. You can find him online at http://www.michaeljmartinez.net and on Twitter at @mikemartinez72.

If you Google “steampunk movies,” you really don’t get a heap of films that had a huge impact. Yes, you get 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and Hugo, which are decent. You also end up with Wild Wild West, Van Helsing and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, all of which need an unhealthy amount of booze to sit through.
     We need a great steampunk film, something that captures everything awesome about this particular subgenre without utterly devolving into camp and triteness. It’s a tall order, I’ll grant you—steampunk has more than a whiff of camp about it. But if you do it right, it could be epic.
     The best steampunk book I’ve read of late was Breath of Earth by the incomparable Beth Cato. (You haven’t read it yet, most likely, because it’s not out until next month. Not that I’m bragging.) It’s a great story about the San Francisco earthquake of 1906 that includes airships and other glittering steampunk bits, but also geomancy and some Asian cultural notes that you don’t always get in the genre. Plus, in protagonist Ingrid Carmichael, you get a really excellent POC heroine who carries the day with skill and daring, and there’s a budding romance that’ll do your heart good.
     As for the scene I’d most want to see on the big screen? Aside from the big finale, which I won’t spoil here, I think the earthquake itself would be pretty amazing. Think of a 1906 steampunk San Francisco with all kinds of chaos brewing, plus airships and earth magic. Again, I’d say more, but I don’t want to ruin it for you.
     Beth wrote an excellent steampunk novel, and I think the big screen would most certainly do it justice.

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DJ runs the SF/F book blog MyLifeMyBooksMyEscape, where he co-hosts The Time Traveler’s Almanac Group Read, review books and comics, and conducts author interviews and guest posts. DJ is also a very soon to be (about one month) medical student, and has started a new feature, From DJ to MD, where he will be writing about his experiences at medical school. You can DJ find at MyLifeMyBooksMyEscape, on Twitter @LifeBooksEsacpe, and on Facebook

There are two books, that when I read them, I couldn’t help but think, dream, and wish would make it to the big screen! One of them for its plot; the other is for its world.
     The first book that I feel is meant to be made into a movie is Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson. Before I even finished it, all I could think was that this needs to be made into a movie; this story is perfect for a movie adaptation. Our entertainment media, in its many forms, is already saturated with countless superhero adaptations and originals. One might think that another superhero movie is not what we need. But one would be wrong. Steelheart would be different. 
     While Steelheart is a story that contains people with super powers, it is actually about normal people who come together to form a group, The Reckoners, whose goal is to go out and kill all the Epics! Why kill the Epics? Because all of the Epics are bad guys! The more they use their powers, the more evil and corrupt they become, and now the whole world is essentially ruled by theses minor and major Epics. The plot is amazing (I mean, it is a Sanderson story we’re talking about) and there is this one battle at the end, between the Reckoners and an Epic, and it is . . . well, it’s pretty epic!
     The second book—series, I guess—that I desperately want to be turned into a movie is The Gentlemen Bastards Sequence by Scott Lynch. 
     Have you read The Lies of Locke Lamora? Scott Lynch easily has some of the best prose that I have ever read! I don’t even know how to describe how well this man describes the settings in his story. Some of scenes he wrote about, dealing with the architecture of Camorr, left me speechless! After, I would close my eyes and just imagine what it would look like if it were real.
What Camorr would look like, with its labyrinths of Elderglass towers and bridges; what the Five Towers would look like, as light shines through their Eldgerglas; what Edlerglass itself would look like! To be actually be able to see the Shifting Market, with all its floating vendors, shouting and fighting with each other; to see the Shifting Revel, where men and women battle the beasts from the water below on floating planks! The one place I want to see most of all though, is at the top of the House of Glass Roses: The Garden Without Fragrance.
     The Garden Without Fragrance is a hedge maze where everything is made out of Elderglass. If you were to even graze your skin on a leaf or thorn, they are sharp enough to draw blood, and will then absorb that blood, into their branches and stems, and all the way to center of the hedge . . . Image what it would be like to see that?

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Tammy Sparks is a life-time reader and book collector who has been blogging about SFF books at Books, Bones & Buffy since 2011 and can be found on Twitter at @tammy_sparks. If it weren’t for that pesky day job, she would have much better control over her teetering TBR pile.

Because my reading and blogging focuses mainly on new releases, I’m going with a fairly recent read, a book from 2014 called Afterparty by Darryl Gregory. (And if you haven’t read this book, then please stop what you’re doing right now and go get a copy!) Gregory has become one of my favorite authors, and in my opinion, his books all have a wonderful cinematic quality to them. In my review of Afterparty, I said “If Pulp Fiction and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest went to church and got pregnant, Afterparty would be their crazy, drug-soaked baby.” See there, I’ve already referenced two popular movies!
     The story takes place in a future where drugs are rampant and can easily be downloaded from the Internet and printed on devices called chemjets. When a group of scientists develops a drug called Numinous that they hope will cure schizophrenia, things go disastrously wrong after they accidentally overdose on the drug. Lyda Rose, the neuroscientist of the group, now has her own personal angel named Dr. Gloria, an angel that no one can see except Lyda. When news of Numinous hitting the streets gets out, Lyda knows she must try to stop the spread of the drug before anyone else gets hurt.
     Besides a plot full of high octane action, a perilous road trip, and enough violence to satisfy your average action movie junkie, Afterparty has a wonderfully quirky cast of characters that I think would come to life on the big screen. As for the scene I’d love to see most, that’s a tough question, there are so many crazy and wonderful scenes. But I would be so curious to see Vinnie’s house/farm where he raises his tiny buffalo. Yes, you read that right: tiny buffalo. Plus, Vinnie’s a great character who has his own mental health issues, but he fits in perfectly with this crazy, drugged-out story. Gregory’s next book Spoonbenders has been optioned for television, so folks in the entertainment world have already discovered the cinematic possibilities of this very talented author.

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An ex-pat New Yorker living in Minnesota, Paul Weimer has been reading sci-fi and fantasy for over thirty years. An avid and enthusiastic amateur photographer, blogger and podcaster, Paul primarily contributes to the Skiffy and Fanty Show as blogger and podcaster, and the SFF Audio podcast. If you’ve spent any time reading about SFF online, you’ve probably read one of his blog comments or tweets (he’s @PrinceJvstin).

Tough question, since it implies you just want one. In this day and age of better CGI, better budgets, better effects, a lot of the classic SF that only was amenable to the imagination is now within visual reach. The question, asking about the scene, seems to almost demand something in the way of spectacle. A small character moment on a big screen does work of course, like, say, Casablanca, but that's again denying the power of SF on the big screen. When you want SF on the big screen, you want to take advantage of the medium, the format.
     I am running rings around this question, and that's because my ultimate answer to this is Larry Niven's Ringworld. We finally have the budgets, the technology, the capacity to show the original, and possibly best “BDO” (Big Dumb Object) on the wide screen. The Ringworld as an object is a megastructure thousands of miles wide, and with a circumference that is equal to the orbit of the Earth. The living space on the Ringworld is millions of times the size of the Earth, with a limitless diversity of peoples, creatures and things to be found on it.
     The story of the Ringworld is a story of exploration and adventure. Louis Wu, human space pilot and adventurer, is hired by an alien, along with a couple of others to investigate and explore the newly found Ringworld. A series of adventures has the group temporarily stranded on the amazing structure, and getting off of it is the driving force of the novel. In the climax of the book, Louis uses a floating police station to tow the ship up to the top of a mountain . . . a very strange and special mountain that is actually a meteor impact crater. Seeing the Lying Bastard being towed up Fist of God mountain, in preparation to being launched and sent to freedom, and the sight of the Ringworld as they fly down and away, would blow away any and all viewers. I want to see that translated from the page and my imagination, to the big screen. And I think movie viewers would, too.

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Bradley P. Beaulieu is the award-winning author of the critically acclaimed epic fantasy series, The Lays of Anuskaya, a series that has garnered many accolades, including a Top Ten Book and Debut of the Year for 2011 from Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist for The Winds of Khalakovo. Twelve Kings in Sharakhai, the first book in his new epic fantasy series, was released in 2015 and was featured in more than twenty end-of-year “best of” lists. The next book in the series, Of Sand and Malice Made, will be released in September. Brad continues to work on his next projects, including The Days of Dust and Ash, a sci-fi thriller set in a plague-ridden, post-holocaust Earth. 

I’d love to see Jason Hough’s The Darwin Elevator—and really, the whole Dire Earth Cycle—brought to the big screen. The series is a really great mashup of a first contact story played against a post-holocaust Earth. Add in a touch plague-zombies for good measure, and you wind up with a wonderful sensawunda feeling that, as a (ahem) somewhat seasoned reader, I’ve come to treasure in new books.
     The characters are inclusive and varied, and they each stand out in their own ways. There’s Skyler, the grizzled scavenger team captain who doesn’t always relish his role in the new world order. There’s Tania, the brilliant young scientist who finds more responsibility resting upon her shoulders than she ever imagined. And surrounding them is a great accompanying cast, some helpful to the cause of saving humanity; some less so.
     And beneath all the great personal dynamics is the mystery of the alien race known as the Builders. We don’t know why they sent the space elevator to Earth, or why the plague that nearly destroyed humanity followed years later, and we certainly don’t know what’s coming next. But we know humanity is in serious trouble. It’s a deliciously complex mix, and always had me on the edge of my seat.
     As for which scene I’d like most to see, I’ll have to admit it’s a series of scenes. The true purpose of the Builders is what drives this story, so the scenes where we start to see glimmers of their plans for Earth (which may represent the end game for humans) were for this reader the most interesting. If teased out properly, those scenes would play out beautifully on the big screen.