The new Star Trek movie comes out to mass audiences tomorrow. I’m not terribly optimistic, although I do hear that a big budget for effects has been engaged. Do the producers behind this effort realize a good story will bring people to enjoy their product? Good science fiction filmmaking doesn’t absolve the creators from things like plot, character development, good acting, effective directing, and the lot. In a way, it can be more demanding because a certain consistency in science and logic is required.
Filmmakers adapt award-winning books. They also nab best-sellers when they feel timid. Why are so few award-winning sf stories and novels made for big screen or small?
What science fiction and fantasy books would make good movies or television series? It’s a question the world’s moviemakers and tv networks don’t seem to want to touch. I’m sure movie rights are owned and toughly negotiated by some authors. So I make this list completely independently of the legal issues of authors and their estates. I’ll concede that some great stories won’t work for television because the effects budget would be too darn high. Off the top of my head, here’s what I’d consider good to excellent possibilities, in no particular order:
Greg Bear’s Eon already has this trailer and others for an imaginary movie. It would make a great tv series, I think. The trilogy of novels based on an asteroid 300 kilometers long on the outside, but infinite on the inside, that has lots of potential for additional stories.
I’ve said before that either of two stories from Tolkien’s Silmarillion epic (please, not the whole thing!), the tales of Turin or of Beren and Luthien, would make outstanding movies. But not both together. It’s a mystery to me why a serious filmmaker would turn to the Hobbit before these two great tales.
I enjoy David Brin’s Uplift universe. The special effects needed for convincing dolphins, chimps, and gorillas would be a challenge, and I don’t see the point of filming an Uplift novel without them. That said, Startide Rising is well-plotted and contains one very cool space battle. It would be interesting to have a tv series based on the Uplift universe, perhaps based on the explorations of Helene Alvarez and her ship–that would be early in the Uplift sequence as published by Brin, in between books one and two.
I like Jack McDevitt‘s novels which are only getting better as they move along. Ditto the military sf series by Elizabeth Moon focused on Ky Vatta, which has five nice novels with good characters and action.
Isaac Asimov is possibly the most-recognized name within and outside of sf fandom, and though his books do get pretty wordy, I always thought a series based on his 48th century detective Elijah Baley (left) and robot partner R. Daneel Olivaw would be cool.
The libertarians among us might enjoy something of Robert Heinlein’s a little deeper that squashing bugs, something like The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress.
Short stories and novellas would be better fare for possible film, mainly because it’s easier to expand a good concept to film length than trim down a good story satisfactorily.
I’m not sure if I’m going to see the new movie. I’m reading another one of Greg Bear’s good books right now, and I’m enjoying it more than any fiction read I’ve had in the past year. Why see a movie when my imagination can click in so vividly at home. Or follow the exploits of present-day space explorers.