…does not sound any better than the original. Anyway:
Five Things that they haven’t filmed yet, but should
Not necessarily Things from this year, admittedly, and my heart has been gladdened by news that Lauren Beukes’ Zoo City is actually getting attention in this way, as is Clarke’s Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell (and supposedly the rights to that other great Napoleonic fantasy, Novak’s Temeraire went a while back, but no movement on that front that I’m aware.) However, why not:
Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch
Ben is, after all, a TV writer amongst his other talents, and the current vogue for cop shows and urban fantasy surely meets up nicely in this one. This first in the series was one of the biggest sensations of last year, and deservedly so. Preferred format: BBC 6-parter. Come on, now. In all honesty, of the items on this list, this is the one I’d put money on their being some sort of negotiations already in place over.
Embedded by Dan Abnett
This is one of the best pieces of military SF I’ve read, and it has a whole toolkit of interesting stuff beyond the usual ‘band of brothers’ business, not least having a lead who, rather than a squaddie, is a war reporter. The book manages to be both cynical, gritty, inspiring and with a true sense of wonder, whilst dealing with concepts immediately accessible to most viewers. Preferred format: intelligently-handled action movie.
Top Ten by Moore, Ha and Cannon
Alan Moore is renowned for many things, including his utter indifference (verging on hostility) to those of his creations that get filmed. This, though, is my personal favourite of his works – not Watchmen or League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, excellent as they are, but another cop show – this time a US precinct drama, save that the cops, and everyone else in the whole city, have superpowers. But it’s not a stock superhero comic romp that ensures, rather a down-to-earth, seedy, often uncomfortable examination of real crime and human nature, seen through the distorting lens of the superpowered world. Preferred format: I guess this would probably have to be animated, to get it all in. Also, it would likely lose a lot of the sly references in translationn, sadly.
The Court of the Air by Stephen Hunt
The concept of steampunk, that not long ago was fringe even for genre readers, now seems to be virtually a mainstream phenomenon (witness the way it gets shoehorned into all sorts of movie properties these days, like the recent Musketeers business). Hunt’s Jackelian series, of which this is the first, would be a more challenging pitch to bring to the big screen in that – in much the same way as Shadows of the Apt – it has a higher concept bar, being set on another world entirely (or, well, probably…). However there are enough echoes of history to carry an audience through the journey of discovery they’d need to make, and the books are excellent. Preferred format: A decent budget TV 2-parter (in the same way that the Sci Fi channel did Dune way back when) might have the time to do it justice. Alternatively, it would make a great anime.
Declare by Tim Powers
Ah, Tim Powers, one of the most skilled and elegant people in the business. I was heartbroken when On Stranger Tides basically got hit by the intellectual property equivalent of organ thieves for a quick back-street titlectomy, because it would have made a great supernatural pirate film in its own right, and now it never will be. Other Powers properties are also sitting there Not Being Filmed, including what is perhaps still his most well known piece, The Anubis Gates (1). However, my favourite Powers of all time is also probably the most filmable. It’s a thriller, a spy story set during WWII and the cold war, dealing with real, documented history in Powers’ inimitable way, by weaving a subtle, detailed and utterly convincing supernatural web that sits just below the surface, tying it all together. Preferred format: Big budget supernatural spy thriller.
So… and yet we’re missing something, surely? Where’s the epic heroic fantasy entry? No, this isn’t an attempt to get my own trumpet out and wave it around (2). Well, I seriously thought we were set, a decade ago, for a renaissance of… well, actually no, cos there was never a golden age in the first place in all honesty. For a First Age of good fantasy films, then. After all, Jackson’s Lord of the Rings was so good and did so well and, crucially, made everyone concerned so much money(3). But no, a few desultory and unmeritorious efforts, then silence. And of course this year cinema had two goes at bringing the pulp fantasies to life, and neither seemed to work. Right now, of course, we have the glory that is HBO’s Game of Thrones trying out the same game in a different medium, and I would be delighted to see someone else step up to the plate and try, for example, Brett’s The Painted Man, or maybe some Rothfuss or Erikson (4), but if someone is eyeing Game of Thrones’ ratings figures, or maybe paying attention to The Hobbit’s box office takings… please, take the time to do it well. Don’t just do that thing where the only thought is “this has a shallow and passing similarity to the successful X and ticks at least 3 out of the 7 boxes we the committee imagine are important. Let’s do a half assed job.”
(1) which as, as a key plot element, major characters changing bodies, which would be a challenge for any film-maker – although I reckon Terry Gilliam might be up to it.
(2) I am seriously giving up this figure of speech for the new year. It gets less savoury every time.
(3) Which, in a manner very similar to the dwarves, elves and men in the Hobbit, they then almost came to blows over.
(4) Yes, yes, or me! I admit it! Despite all the high concept difficulties and general arachnophobia issues and all. *parp!* There, the trumpet is blown.