Thursday 11 February 2016

The SF and Fantasy novels currently being developed for the screen

After a glut of recent news, here's a list of all the science fiction and fantasy novels, short stories and novellas which are currently being developed for the screen. Natalie Zutter's article for from last year was a helpful reference point for this post. Please follow after the break (this is a very long article).

Filming/Ready to Air
These projects are filming right now, or are in post-production and waiting to go on screen.

11.22.63 by Stephen King
Based on 11/22/63 (2011) • TV Mini-Series • 15 February 2016 • Airing on Hulu

This is an eight-part "even" mini-series debuting on Hulu next week. Based on Stephen King's novel, the story revolves around a young man who finds a portal leading to 1960. He has three years to prevent the assassination of John F. Kennedy, but finds that every attempt to change the future results in catastrophic results.

Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer
Based on The Southern Reach Trilogy (2014) • Film • 2017 • Directed by Alex Garland

This film is based on the first book in Jeff VanderMeer's Southern Reach Trilogy, detailing an expedition into the mysterious "Area X" where the team encounters bizarre fauna. Frequent Danny Boyle writer and collaborator Alex Garland strikes out on his own here with only his second directed movie (his first was the very-well-received Ex Machina). Filming is underway now starring Natalie Portman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tessa Thompson and Gina Rodriguez. Although Garland only plans the one movie, it's possible we may see the sequels Authority and Acceptance filmed if the film is successful.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by J.K. Rowling
Based on Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2001) Film • 18 November 2016 • Directed by David Yates

Rowling returns to the Harry Potter universe (again, after the Harry Potter and the Cursed Child stage play project) for the first of a prequel trilogy. This film is set in 1926 and followers Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne), an English wizard and magical creature expert who visits New York City only to inadvertently release his menagerie on the city. This causes tensions between the American magical community and the "No-Maj" American government, not to mention the New Salem witch-hunters who want to wipe out magic in North America. 

High Rise by J.G. Ballard
Based on High Rise (1975) • Film • 18 March 2016 • Directed by Ben Wheatley

J.G. Ballard's 1975 novel about people living in a luxury, high-rise building who form their own society and become cut off from the outside world is regarded as an SF classic. Wheatley's film, cleverly, is set in an alternate version of the 1970s and features a killer cast headed by Tom Hiddleston. Jeremy Irons, Sienna Miller, Keeley Hawes, James Purefoy and Luke Evans also feature, with a soundtrack by the always-fascinating Clint Mansell. Preview screenings at film festivals have already highly praised the film.

How to Talk to Girls at Parties by Neil Gaiman
Based on "How to Talk to Girls at Parties" in Fragile Things (2006) Film • 2016 • Directed by John Cameron Mitchell

The first of numerous Neil Gaiman projects on this list, How to Talk to Girls at Parties is based on a short story from his 2006 collection, Fragile Things, about a bunch of lads who go to a party to pick up girls only to get in over their heads when the girls turn out to be not exactly what they were expecting. Filming commenced in November 2015, starring Nicole Kidman and Matt Lucas.


Hunters by Whitley Streiber
Based on Alien Hunter (2013) • TV Series • 11 April 2016 • Airing on SyFy

A new TV show based on the novels Alien Hunter (2013) and Underworld (2014) by long-term SF and horror author Whitley Streiber (The Hunger, Communion). The story begins with the disappearance of an FBI agent's wife and his discovery that rogue aliens are living in secret among us. He joins a unit of special cops who have to flush them out of hiding, aided by "friendly" aliens.

Likely Stories by Neil Gaiman
Based on four undisclosed short stories • TV Series • 2016 • Airing on Sky Arts

A slightly odd TV series concept, this will draw on four short stories by Neil Gaiman, "Foreign Parts", "Feeders and Eaters", "Closing Time" and "Looking for the Girl". The stories will be rejigged to feature a recurring cast. Filming reportedly began in November 2015 and UK channel Sky Arts will show the series later this year. Pulp frontman Jarvis Cocker is providing the score. Neil Gaiman himself will appear "in some way". Intriguingly mysterious.

Luke Cage
Based on the Marvel Comics character (1972-present) • TV Series • 2016 • Airing on Netflix

The third of five (and potentially now six) Netflix TV series set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The Luke Cage character, played by Mike Colter, was already introduced through the Jessica Jones series last year and filming is apparently wrapping up on the series. The TV show will apparently be mostly set shortly after the events of Jessica Jones Season 1 but will also feature flashbacks to Cage's earlier life. The series is set in Harlem (unlike Jones and Daredevil, which are set in Hell's Kitchen) and also stars Alfre Woodward and Mahershala Ali. Rosario Dawson will reprise her role as Claire Temple (Nightnurse), who will link the various Netflix series together.

Preacher by Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon
Based on Preacher (1995-2000) • TV Series • Mid-2016 • Airing on AMC

Based on the popular Preacher comic series, this TV show will focus on Jesse Custer (Dominic Cooper), a preacher who is not afraid to use violence to further his ends and becomes embroiled in a battle involving undead vampires, angels and a guy called Arseface. The comics are hugely profane and controversial and people doubted that justice could be done to the series (which even HBO backed out on). However, Ennis recently saw the first episode and praised it effusively. The trailer looks very promising.

She Who Brings Gifts by Mike Carey
Based on The Girl with All the Gifts (2014) • Film • 2016 • Directed by Colm McCarthy

Mike Carey himself wrote the film script for the movie based on The Girl with All the Gifts, despite a slightly baffling title change. Gemma Arterton, Glenn Close and Paddy Considine star in this near future, dystopia tale set after a zombie apocalypse has devastated humanity. The twist in this story is that the zombies are not necessarily all unintelligent, which sparks ethical concerns over whether they should be wiped out or not.

Story of Your Life by Ted Chiang
Based on "Stories of Your Life" in Starlight 2 (1998) • Film • 2016 • Directed by Denis Villeneuve

This film is based on the short story by Ted Chiang. It opens with enigmatic alien spacecraft landing all over the planet and linguistics experts desperately trying to communicate with them to determine if they are friendly or not. Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner and Forest Whitaker star.

In Pre-Production
These projects are currently being prepped. Casting is taking place, the script is being finalised etc. Whilst it's possible for a project to be cancelled in pre-production, it's extremely rare.

American Gods by Neil Gaiman
Based on American Gods (2001) • TV Series • 2016 or 2017 • Airing on Starz

The American Gods TV series has been in development for some time, but is now ploughing ahead with Bryan Fuller and Michael Green as producers. Fuller is dividing his time between Gods and the new Star Trek series for CBS, so Green is expected to bear the brunt of showrunning duties. Ricky Whittle (The 100) was recently cast in the key, leading role of Shadow. Production is anticipated to begin in March or April 2016.

The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger by Stephen King
Based on The Gunslinger (1982) • Film • 2017 • Directed by Nikolaj Arcel

After a nightmarish, decade-long struggle to bring The Dark Tower series to the screen as films, a TV series or some hybrid of the two, Sony have finally greenlit the first film in the series. They are trying to woo Idris Elba to play the role of Roland of Deschain, with Matthew McConaughey the preferred choice to play the Man in Black. They need to lock that down quickly, with filming anticipated to begin in the spring. Sony have already inked in a January 2017 release date, but that seems rather ambitious right now. A slip to late in ther year looks highly likely.

Fortunately, the Milk by Neil Gaiman
Based on Fortunately, the Milk (2013) • Film • 2017 • Directed by Edgar Wright

Neil Gaiman's whimsical children's book, which features a father who goes out for a pint of milk and ends up embroiled in a plot involving aliens, time-travelling dinosaurs and vampires, has attracted some top-tier talent. Edgar Wright, director of Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, The World's End and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, is tapped to direct and Johnny Depp is currently in negotiations to play the central role. Brett McKenzie (Flight of the Conchords) has written the script.

Iron Fist
Based on the Marvel Comics character (1974-present) • TV series • 2016 or 2017 • Airing on Netflix

The fourth of five (possibly now six) Netflix TV shows based in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, this series will focus on the character of Danny Rand, an ordinary kid who gains amazing martial arts powers after his father is killed on a visit to a mysterious, mystical city. He returns to New York seeking vengeance on those who destroyed his family, teaming up with Luke Cage on the way. Scott Buck will produce the show, which is expected to enter production later this year.

Midnight, Texas by Charlaine Harris
Based on the Midnight, Texas novels (2013-present) • TV series • Autumn 2016 • Airing on NBC

Ex-phone psychic Manfred Bernardo relocates to the town of Midnight, Texas, where the supernatural coexist with ordinary people, and ends up embroiled in a spate of murders in the town. The series is expected to begin production in the next few months to debut in the autumn. David Janollari, a producer on Six Feet Under alongside Alan Ball (who produced the first five seasons of True Blood for HBO, based on Harris's Sookie Stackhouse novels), will run the new series.

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
Based on Ready Player One (2011) • Film • 30 March 2018 • Directed by Steven Spielberg

Due to start shooting in a few weeks, although a cast hasn't yet been announced. Spielberg's next project is based on Ernest Cline's novel, which is set in 2044 and features an "Easter Egg" hunt by both individual geeks and massive corporate powers through a huge VR world, in search of a prize that could change the world.

These projects have been formally greenlit and are about to go into pre-production. Whilst it's possible for a project to be cancelled after being greenlit, it's quite rare, so these will probably happen.

100 Bullets by Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso
Based on 100 Bullets (1999-2009) • Film • 2017/18 • Produced by Tom Hardy for New Line

This high-concept story features an enigmatic man, Agent Graves, who gives people who have been wronged a handgun, one hundred bullets and total immunity from prosecution by law enforcement. Some of the people he tries to "help" reject his offer on moral grounds, but others enthusiastically accept. Eventually it is revealed that Graves has a much broader, and far older, agenda. Tom Hardy is planning to produce this film for New Line and may star. However, it has still to find a director.

Altered Carbon by Richard Morgan
Based on the Takeshi Kovacs novels (2002-05) • TV Series • 2017/18 • Airing on Netflix

Netflix and producer Laeta Kaolgridis (Avatar, Shutter Island) are teaming up for a TV series based on Richard Morgan's violent, visceral cyberpunk trilogy featuring the character of Takeshi Kovacs. Set in the 25th Century, the story revolves around people who can "resleeve" themselves in different bodies for interstellar travel and infiltration missions. Kovacs sets out to investigate a murder and winds up wreaking bloody vengeance after he is targeted for assassination. The TV series will apparently adapt all three novels (Altered Carbon, Broken Angels and Woken Furies), as well as introducing new stories set between the books. The Land Fit For Heroes fantasy trilogy, set in the same universe (or at least multiverse), is apparently not included in the deal.

The City and The City by China Mieville
Based on The City and The City (2009) • TV Series • 2017 • Airing on the BBC

The BBC are producing an adaptation of China Mieville's bizarre crime novel about two cities, Beszel and Ul Quoma, which coexist at the same point in space and time. Tony Grisoni, the co-writer of Tideland, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and the TV series Red Riding, is developing the script.

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis
Based on The Silver Chair (1953) • Film • 2017/18 • No director confirmed

After the disappointing performance of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader in 2010 it was assumed this movie series was dead in the water, with neither Disney nor 20th Century Fox interested in continuing the franchise. Instead, the C.S. Lewis Company and the Mark Gordon Company are apparently pressing ahead by themselves with an adaptation of The Silver Chair. Confusingly, the project has been described as a reboot despite picking up after the three previous films.

His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman
Based on the His Dark Materials Trilogy (1995-2001) • TV series • 2017-21 • Airing on the BBC

New Line's previous attempt to develop Pullman's YA novel trilogy as a movie series fell afoul of the American religious lobby and the disappointing performance of the Golden Compass movie. This new attempt sees New Line partnering with Bad Wolf Productions and the BBC for an ambitious five-season, 40-episode series based on all of the books in the trilogy. Bad Wolf's development deal with HBO suggests that they may also come on board, at least to distribute the series in the United States. 

The Defenders
Based on the Marvel Comics characters (1971-present) • TV series • 2017/18 • Airing on Netflix

The Defenders is a big-budget, eight-episode "event" mini-series airing on Netflix as part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It will unite the stars of the four preceding Netflix series - Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist - and team them up to face a mutual, over-arcing threat. A precise schedule for the series hasn't been worked out, especially since Daredevil and Jessica Jones did so well as solo series they have now both gotten multiple seasons, which wasn't part of the original plan. However, the series will definitely happen at some point in the next 2-3 years.

Forgotten Realms
Based on the Dungeons and Dragons campaign setting (1987-present) • Film • 2018/19 • No director confirmed

Hasbro had been fighting a legal battle with Sweetpea Entertainment for the past three years over who owns the movie and TV rights to the Dungeons and Dragons roleplaying game until, rather unexpectedly, they made peace through the medium of money and, mutually and swiftly, joined forces with Warner Brothers to develop a new film. This new movie will be set in the Forgotten Realms campaign setting (the most detailed fantasy world ever created) and is apparently being fast-tracked for release in the next three years. Hasbro and Warner Brothers hope to develop the Dungeons and Dragons name into a Marvel-style multiverse where many different films can coexist, so there's rather a lot riding on the film. It's unclear if this will be a totally new story with new characters, or will be a direct adaptation of one of the many bestselling novels in the setting (my vote would be for The Crystal Shard by R.A. Salvatore).

Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson
Based on The Mars Trilogy (1993-96) • TV Series • 2016/17 • Airing on Spike TV

With The Martian finally proving that it is possible to make a successful, hit movie about the Red Planet, Spike TV has fast-tracked their TV adaptation of Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars Trilogy. Spanning 200 years, the books chronicle the colonisation of Mars, its industrial exploitation and terraforming, and the dumping of millions of refugees in a futile attempt to relieve Earth's burgeoning overpopulation as the melting Antarctic ice cap threatens to swamp the planet. This leads to tensions and an attempted revolution that goes badly wrong. Spike TV is an unusual choice for this project, but, excitingly, they have tapped American SF scriptwriter J. Michael Straczynski (Babylon 5, Crusade, Jeremiah, Sense8) to adapt the novel. Straczynski previously developed a long, political subplot about Mars as part of Babylon 5, so is familiar with the Red Planet.

These books have had an option taken out on them by a studio or production company, meaning that the company has put a hold on the project and given the author some money whilst they consider the project further with potential writers or directors. Options can be anything from fairly speculative to very serious, "this is going to happen" developments. The majority of projects under option never reach the screen, but it's still an essential first step in that process.

Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman
Based on Anansi Boys (2005) • TV Series • Optioned by the BBC

Anansi Boys is a companion novel to American Gods, focusing on side-characters from that novel. The BBC optioned this in early 2014 but no further news has been revealed. More recently, it was confirmed that the American Gods TV series will use material from Anansi Boys, suggesting that the BBC adaptation may no longer be happening.

Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie
Based on the Imperial Radch Trilogy (2013-15) • TV Series • Optioned by Fox

Anne Leckie's trilogy of Ancillary Justice, Ancillary Sword and Ancillary Mercy has been the big breakout space opera of the past three years, so it's unsurprising that it's been picked up by Fox TV. However, the trilogy's unusual gender definitions may make for a tricky adaptation. Here's hoping Fox don't just ignore them. 

Darkover by Marion Zimmer Bradley
Based on the Darkover novels (1958-2013) • TV Series • Optioned by Amazon

Amazon TV are looking at developing a TV series based on the Darkover books by Marion Zimmer Bradley and several other authors. These books are set on an ice-gripped planet where there is only one small area of human habitation.

Discworld: The City Watch by Terry Pratchett
Based on Guards! Guards! (1989) and numerous sequels • TV Series • In development at Narrativia

The City Watch, or The Watch, is a proposed 13-episode TV series based on the Discworld novels by Terry Pratchett, specifically those dealing with the Ankh-Morpork City Watch under the command of Sam Vimes. The proposed TV series would apparently, over the course of several seasons, both adapt those books (Guards! Guards!, Men at Arms, Feet of Clay, Jingo, The Fifth Elephant, Night Watch, Thud! and Snuff, arguably also Monstrous Regiment) and slot in "crime of the week" one-off episodes as well. Narrativia, a production company set up by Terry Pratchett himself in 2011 and now run by his daughter Rihanna (a respected writer in her own right), is handling the adaptation. The BBC was reportedly interested before significant budget cuts at the corporation kicked in. Narrativia are apparently looking at other partners to handle the series, but there have been no firm developments for over a year now.

The Forever War by Joe Haldeman
Based on The Forever War (1974) • Film • In development at Warner Brothers

The Forever War is widely regarded as one of the greatest SF novels ever written, a story about a war being fought so far away that, due to relativistic effects, centuries have passed on Earth in the meantime. Joe Haldeman's allegory about the Vietnam War and the pointlessness of conflict remains powerful. After years in development hell, with Ridley Scott nearly coming on board before backing off to make Prometheus, the film rights were won by Warner Brothers. Warners are fast-tracking the film and are trying to woo the attention of an undisclosed big-name director. Channing Tatum is attached to star in the film, a controversial choice before his well-received role in Foxcatcher suggested he was capable of handling more challenging material.

Foundation by Isaac Asimov
Based on The Foundation Saga (1950-92) • TV Series • In development at HBO

HBO have optioned the rights to the seven novels in Isaac Asimov's Foundation series. Set 22,000 years in the future, the series chronicles the collapse of the vast Galactic Empire and its descent into barbarism. It falls to a scientific community, the Foundation, to help guide humanity through the chaos to the rise of a new golden age centuries hence. To help them achieve this, the scientist Hari Seldon has developed a statistical system called "psychohistory", which allows them to predict the future based on the mass movements of people. However, the system is unable to predict the rise of powerful, unexpected individuals with the ability to command the loyalty of billions. When such a warlord arises, the Foundation is threatened as never before.

This planned adaptation has some heavyweight firepower behind it, with Jonathan Nolan (brother of Christopher) leading the project and HBO reportedly hoping this series will do for them and SF what Game of Thrones has done for epic fantasy. However, HBO has not commented on the project for over a year, suggesting it's on the backburner. Reportedly HBO spent a fortune to buy the rights from Sony (where Roland Emmerich was attached to direct), so it seems unlikely they'll let it languish away and go to another studio like they've done with so many recent projects (they've lost Dark Tower, American Gods and Preacher to Sony, Starz and AMC respectively, and may rue all three before long). That said, the books span over 500 years of history with no recurring characters throughout the whole series, which makes adapting them challenging.

Gateway by Frederik Pohl
Based on Gateway (1975) • TV series • In development at SyFy

Frederik Pohl's classic SF novel about alien contact and exploitation has been optioned by David Eick, who helped bring Battlestar Galactica back to the screeen. It was optioned at the same time as The Expanse and Childhood's End, which have both already aired, so this looks to have been moved to the backburner for now. 

Horrorstör by Grady Hendrix
Based on Horrorstör (2014) • TV series • In development at Fox

Five employees at the ORSK furniture superstore decide to camp overnight in the store to find out who or what is damaging the place overnight. Shenanigans ensue. Fox snapped up the rights last year but has yet to move forward with it.

The House With a Clock in its Walls by Jonathan Bellairs
Based on The House with a Clock in its Walls (1973) • Film • In development at Mythology Entertainment

Mythology started developing a movie series about warlock Jonathan Barnavelt and his nephew four years ago alongside Supernatural Eric Kripke. Kripke's commitment to several other TV shows (including a new project called Time) is probably what's resulted in this being moved onto the backburner.

Hyperion by Dan Simmons
Based on The Hyperion Cantos (1989-90) • TV mini-series • In development at SyFy

Actor and producer Bradley Cooper (yes, that one) has been trying to get this made for years and finally gave up on a film series. It's now in development at SyFy instead, who are eyeing an event mini-series based on Hyperion and The Fall of Hyperion (the Endymion sequel novels seem to have been left out, at least for now). The series, a far-future take on The Canterbury Tales, charts the journey of several pilgrims to the planet Hyperion where they plan to confront the Shrike, an enigmatic, bizarre alien entity. In the background, galactic war threatens.

These are two undisputed classics of the SF genre and an adaptation is certainly way past times, but the books explore bizarre themes, have some weird obsessions (like the poet Keats turning up as an android) and structural tics that will make turning them into a compelling TV series interesting.

In the Lost Lands by George R.R. Martin
Based on "In the Lost Lands", "Bitterblooms" and "The Lonely Songs of Laren Dorr" • Film • In development at Myriad Pictures

Myriad Pictures have optioned three short stories by George R.R. Martin and are planning to combine them into one movie. Milla Jovovich has already been tapped to play Gray Alys and Justin Chatwin is also likely to star.

The Kingkiller Chronicle by Patrick Rothfuss
Based on The Kingkiller Chronicle Trilogy (2007-present) • TV and film • In development at Lionsgate

Patrick Rothfuss's The Kingkiller Chronicle, comprising The Name of the Wind (2007), The Wise Man's Fear (2011) and The Doors of Stone (forthcoming), is the biggest and most successful debut epic fantasy series this century so far, so it's unsurprising that when it was optioned, it was optioned big. Lionsgate plan a trilogy of films directly based on the novels and a spin-off TV series focusing on other elements and characters. They also have the video game rights, and are looking at producing some tie-in games with Rothfuss's involvement. The scope of the project is impressive, but also imposing; it's unclear if a movie studio or TV company will be willing to take on a project of this scale. It may also be overambitious: if The Dark Tower, with almost four times the sales of Kingkiller, struggled to get on the screen, this package may be regarded as too expensive. However, I'd be shocked if we didn't have a Name of the Wind movie (if nothing else) on its way before too long.

The Last Policeman by Ben H. Winters
Based on The Last Policeman (2012) • TV series • In development at CBS

CBS optioned this novel shortly after publication, but have not yet moved forwards with it. The premise is interesting: it is discovered that a massive asteroid is six months from colliding with Earth and ending all life on the planet. As chaos erupts, one cop decides to stay honest and keep investigating murders. It's a nice idea, but potentially limited, and possibly a little too similar to the film Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, which debuted shortly after the option was taken out.

Lock In by John Scalzi
Based on Lock In (2014) • TV Series • In development at Legendary Television

John Scalzi is one of the most prominent SF authors around at the moment, and unsurprisingly he has several books in development. The premise of Lock In is that five million people suffer from a virus which paralyses them, but leaves their intellects intact. When one of the paralysed is murdered, an investigation is launched.

Luna by Ian McDonald
Based on Luna: New Moon (2015) • TV Series • In development at CBS

CBS, somewhat surprisingly, won a fierce bidding war for this novel (the first of a duology) last year before it was even published. The book features five powerful families battling for control of resources on the Moon some 100 years in the future. The almost inevitable tagline will be, "Game of Thrones on the Moon". Given the money CBS shelled out, it's likely that this will move forwards further. This is also a great deal for McDonald, the much-acclaimed Northern Irish author of numerous hard SF novels (such as River of Gods, itself optioned in the past).

MaddAddam by Margaret Atwood
Based on the MaddAddam trilogy (2003-13) • TV Series • In development at HBO

The author who once angrily rejected being an SF writer because her books didn't feature any "talking squids" has been rehabilitated in recent years, particularly through public debates with authors such as Ursula K. Le Guin on the merits and limitations of genre fiction. She now seems more comfortable with the label, which is handy as producer (and possibly director) Darren Aronofsky is developing a TV series with HBO based on the post-apocalyptic novels Oryx and Crake, The Year of the Flood and MaddAddam, which are set in a world where most of humanity has been wiped out by a pandemic and the survivors struggle to find meaning and purpose.

Magic Kingom of Landover by Terry Brooks
Based on the Magic Kingdom of Landover series (1986-2009) • Film series • In development at Warner Brothers

With Shannara doing well for MTV, Warner Brothers have optioned and developed Terry Brooks's other big fantasy series, this one more of a comedy. Several writers have taken a stab at a script, but the project has stepped up a notch since Steve Carell was attached to produce and possibly star as the hapless American everyguy who inadvertently buys an entire magical kingdom. There are six books in the series, so there is plenty of sequel potential.

The Morgaine Cycle by C.J. Cherryh
Based on The Morgaine Cycle (1976-88) • Film • In development

Producer Aaron Magnani and scripwriter Peter Arneson are independently developing a multi-film franchise based on C.J. Cherryh's four-novel series about a time-travelling heroine which mixes hard SF with elements of sword and sorcery. It's an interesting idea, if a slightly baffling choice of project given Cherryh's enormous number of much more well-known works, such as Cyteen, Downbelow Station or the lengthy Foreigner saga.

Old Man's War/The Ghost Brigades by John Scalzi
Based on the Old Man's War books (2005-present) • TV Series • In development at SyFy

The Old Man's War universe is one of the more successful space opera series of the past decade, so it's no surprise that it would be under option (although the series is likely to be called The Ghost Brigades, according to Scalzi, as it scans better). SyFy have been working on an adaptation to be helmed by Wolfgang Petersen, the director of Das Boot. Progress has been slow, possibly due to a large number of projects making their way through the system at SyFy.

Otherland by Tad Williams
Based on the Otherland quartet (1996-2001) • Film • In development at Warner Brothers

Warner Brothers optioned the Otherland SF/fantasy hybrid series back in 2012 as a potential movie franchise, but has not moved forwards with the project so far. It's possible that the length of the series may have them rethinking their options.

The Punisher 
Based on the Marvel Comics character (1974-present) • TV Series • In development at Netflix

The Punisher, Marvel's most controversial character, has had a spotty history with several film adaptations coming close to nailing the character but not quite delivering. A new way of developing the character was discovered when the producers of Daredevil came up with the idea of using him in the second season of that series in a supporting role. Ex-Walking Dead actor Jon Bernthal was cast as Frank Castle, earning enormous approval from fans who noted his physical resemblance to the character as well as his attitude. With Netflix apparently impressed by Bernthal's performance, they are now in talks with Marvel about expanding the character into his own TV series. Given the enormous success of the other Marvel/Netflix collaborations, we can assume this is pretty likely to happen. A more open question is if the project will also dovetail into The Defenders mini-series or will remain a totally separate series.

Red Rising by Pierce Brown
Based on the Red Rising Trilogy (2014-16) • Film • In development at Universal

Universal are looking at a potential franchise based on Pierce Brown's Red Rising novels (an initial trilogy and a future planned sequel trilogy) which are set on a dystopian, future Mars colony. Marc Forster is in talks to direct.  

Redshirts by John Scalzi
Based on Redshirts (2012) • TV Series • In development at FX

This affectionate homage to Star Trek has been in development for the FX channel for a little while, although there has been a lack of forward movement. It's possible that Amazon's Galaxy Quest TV series (based on the very well-known 1999 movie) may have made this project feel redundant, or the absence of a Star Trek TV series for over a decade also made it a bit pointless. Or they just haven't put together the right team yet.

Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch
Based on the Peter Grant series (2011-present) • TV Series • In development at Feel Films

The Peter Grant magical detective series was optioned by Feel Films in 2013, with some talk of the books being made into a TV series for the BBC. However, the BBC faced subsequent budget cuts. Feel did co-produce the Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell mini-series for the BBC, so it's possible this series may move ahead given the success of that project.

Robopocalypse by Daniel H. Wilson
Based on Robopocalypse (2011) • Film In development by Steven Spielberg

This novel about the robot uprising/Singularity has been an enormous success and Spielberg has been working on it for a long time now. However, he keeps pushing it back to worth on other things (most recently Ready Player One). Apparently the plan is for this to still happen, but it's on the backburner for a while.

Sandman by Neil Gaiman
Based on the Sandman comic series (1987-96) • Film • In development at Warner Brothers

Given that apparently everything ever written by Neil Gaiman is currently in development, it's unsurprising to see the work that brought him to international acclaim has also been optioned. Warner Brothers are planning a series of films based on the graphic novels, bith Joseph Gordon-Levitt attached to produce and perhaps star. Encouragingly, the actor has spoken about how the films will not be effects-packed action movies but will try to keep the thoughtful tone and restrained pace of the graphic novels. Jack Thorne and David Goyer are also on board as writers.

Six Months, Three Days by Charlie Jane Anders
Based on Six Months, Three Days (2011) • TV Series • In development at NBC

This Hugo Award-winning novelette features a man who can see "the" future and a woman who can see many possible futures. The TV version apparently recasts them as bickering private investigators who know they will fall in love, but also that the man will be murdered six months and three days after they meet. A potential high concept (and a meta-aware knowing take on the "will they, won't they" dynamic), but NBC hasn't made any announcements about the project since 2013.

The Skin Trade by George R.R. Martin
Based on The Skin Trade (1989) • TV Series • In development at Cinemax

Given the enormous success of Game of Thrones, it's unsurprising the rest of George R.R. Martin's oeuvre has been raided for ideas. Cinemax has ordered a pilot based on this World Fantasy Award-winning novella about a private detective pulled into the shadowy underworld of werewolves in contemporary America. Martin once planned a whole series of stories set in this world, so there's certainly scope for more adventures beyond the original novella.

Spin by Rober Charles Wilson
Based on The Spin Trilogy (2005-11) • TV mini-series • In development at SyFy

The Spin Trilogy (inevitably and affectionately also known as The Spin Cycle) sees the Earth enveloped by an energy field that speeds up time in the outside universe: for every second that passes on Earth, three years pass in the exterior universe. This allows humanity to do some incredible things, like remotely terraforming Mars in a few months, but also threatens the planet with destruction, as the Sun's lifespan is now only measured in decades rather than billions of years. It's a high concept idea. SyFy was developing an adaptation of the first novel, Spin, as an event mini-series but it looks like it's been pushed onto the backburner for now.

The Stand by Stephen King
Based on The Stand (1978) • TV Series and Film • In development at Warner Brothers

The Stand is widely regarded as Stephen King's best novel, as well as his most famous. It depicts the collapse of civilisation after a "superflu" virus wipes out most of the human race. The survivors are divided into forces of good and evil who are then brought together for a final confrontation to determine the fate of the human race. As well as an epic story in its own right, The Stand dovetails into the Dark Tower series of novels, where it is presented as an alternative reality version of the "normal" Stephen King universe. ABC aired a mini-series based on the novel in 1994 starring Gary Sinise and Molly Ringwald. Warner Brothers has been developing this project for years, going from one massive three-hour movie to a trilogy to four separate films. The idea currently floating is for an eight-part mini-series which will lead into a feature film (directed by Josh Boone) to conclude the story. Matthew McConaughey was being considered for the role of Stu Redman, with Christian Bale being touted as Randall Flagg. However, until it is formally greenlit the project remains in gestation. Boone has recently been looking at adapting King's more modest, short novel Revival in the meantime.

Temeraire by Naomi Novik
Based on the Temeraire series (2006-16) • Film or TV Series • In development by Peter Jackson

Peter Jackson optioned Naomi Novik's Temeraire novels - featuring an alternate history Napoleonic Wars fought with dragons - shortly after the first three were published in 2006. Jackson had planned to film them himself, but these plans were interrupted when he had to work on the Hobbit trilogy (and its own dragon) instead. More recently Jackson has supported switching the adaptation to a TV series, to make sure all nine novels are adapted faithfully.

Time Salvager by Wesley Chu
Based on the Time Trilogy (2015-present) • Film • In development by Michael Bay

Time Salvager was released by Wesley Chu just last year, with Time Siege to follow this year. Surprisingly, Michael Bay developed an interest in the novel and snapped up the film rights with a view to directing personally. However, he has since switched to directing the fifth Transformers movie, pushing this onto the backburner for a while.

Uprooted by Naomi Novik
Based on Uprooted (2015) • Film • In development by Ellen DeGeneres and Warner Brothers

Novik's Temeraire series may be more high-concept, but her recent novel Uprooted garnered immense critical acclaim upon release and is now being developed at Warner Brothers, with talk show host and actress Ellen DeGeneres producing.

Vicious by V.E. Schwab
Based on Vicious (2013) • Film • In development at Scott Free

V.E. Schwab's 2013 stand-alone novel, about rival college students who develop superpowers, is under development at Ridley Scott's film company.  

The Warlord Chronicles by Bernard Cornwell
Based on The Warlord Chronicles (1995-97) • TV Series • In development by Bad Wolf Productions

Cornwell's gritty, realistic take on the legend of Arthur is the best thing he's ever written, featuring epic battles, personal betrayals and a clash of religion and culture playing out in the ashes of the fallen Roman province of Britannia. Although only marginally fantasy, it's a hugely popular series amongst genre readers. Bad Wolf Productions have optioned the series, potentially for development either with the BBC or HBO (or both).

Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons
Based on Watchmen (1985) • TV Series • In development at HBO

Zack Snyder directed a faithful movie version of Alan Moore's seminal graphic novel in 2009. It had a mixed reaction, some praising it for his faithfulness to the novel and others lambasting it for being too faithful, resulting in pacing issues. Oddly, Snyder is having another tilt at the windmill, entering discussions with HBO to produce a TV version of the graphic novel instead. It's unclear if this will simply adapt the novel again, taking advantage of a longer running time to explore the graphic novel's backstory in greater detail, or if it will draw on DC's controversial Before Watchmen project for additional material.

Y: The Last Man by Bryan Vaughan
Based on Y: The Last Man (2002-08) • TV Series • In development at FX

Bryan Vaughan has hit it big in television, working on shows such as Lost and Under the Dome, but his origins were in comics, particularly the crazy space opera Saga and the classic Y: The Last Man. Saga is unlikely ever to be adapted (with Vaughan apparently refusing to sell the rights), but Y: The Last Man is being developed at FX by Nina Jacobson, the producer of the Hunger Games movies. The comic is set in a world where all male mammals have been wiped out apart from one man and one monkey. They find themselves trying to survive in a world where they are a prize and a target.

In Development
Technically all screen projects are "in development" from the moment the earliest conversations happen to the thing actually going before the cameras. However, I'm putting projects here where there is interest and things are happening, but a formal option has not been taken out or announced yet. This isn't quite the same as a mere rumour, there's something concrete going on here, but it's still very early days and may not pan out.

A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab
Based on the Shades of Magic series (2015-present) • Film • Interest at Lin Productions

The opening novel in V.E. Schwab's latest series is being shopped around by Lin Productions to potential studio partners, but no option has yet been bought.

Bone Street Rumba by Daniel Jose Older
Based on Half-Resurrection Blues (2015) and forthcoming sequels • TV series

Daniel Jose Older is a new author but one who's made a name for himself already by campaigning to get the World Fantasy Award changed from a bust of H.P. Lovecraft (and succeeding) and by declaring that his books are here to "f*** things up". Actress Anika Noni Rose is interesting in bringing the books to the screen.

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Based on Brave New World (1932) • TV Mini-Series • In development at SyFy

Originally announced last year as a project for Steven Spielberg and Amblin Entertainment, this will be the latest of many attempts to tackle Huxley's classic novel.

Fevre Dream by George R.R. Martin
Based on Fevre Dream (1982) • Film • Previously optioned by Disney

George R.R. Martin's classic 1982 book about vampires on the Mississippi was his most successful novel before A Game of Thrones was published and is a classic of the genre. It has a few famous fans, with Guillermo Del Toro recently Tweeting his appreciation of the book. The movie has been optioned several times (once by Disney) and Martin himself, who worked for many years in Hollywood, has written a script in the past. At the moment the project seems to be on the backburner and it's unclear who has the rights, but it's definitely way past time that we saw Abner Marsh and his steamship Fevre Dream on screen.

Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
Based on Good Omens (1993) • Film • Previously optioned by Terry Gilliam

Pratchett and Gaiman's collaboration about the end of the world, competing angels and the horsemen of the apocalypse is both funny and profound. Terry Gilliam was attached for many years and came close to making the film in 2002, but couldn't quite close the funding deal. His Monty Python collaborator Terry Jones is also a massive fan of the novel and has also been involving in writing scripts and proposals. The current status is that Narrativia (the production company set up by Pratchett in 2011) is looking into a TV mini-series adaptation, possibly with the BBC. This follows a very successful and popular radio play based on the novel, which was transmitted at the end of 2014.

A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms by George R.R. Martin
Based on the Dunk & Egg stories (1998-present) • TV Series • Potential interest at HBO

Given the immense success of Game of Thrones for HBO, it's unsurprising that the cable company and George R.R. Martin might be looking into ways of continuing their fruitful partnership, particularly if it involves the Seven Kingdoms. Whilst Martin has explicitly ruled out any prequel film or TV series based on Robert's Rebellion, he has commented that his prequel novellas, The Hedge Knight (1998), The Sworn Sword (2002) and The Mystery Knight (2010) may make for good TV movies or an ongoing series. These stories chart the adventures of Ser Duncan the Tall and his unusual squire, Egg, as they travel the Seven Kingdoms in the days of the peaceful (and not-so-peaceful) rule of the Targaryens, eighty-nine years before the events of the novels and TV series. Ser Duncan the Tall has also been mentioned several times in the Game of Thrones TV show, further strengthening the idea that HBO may be doing some scene-setting here. It'd also be easy for HBO to expand Dunk and Egg's adventures into an ongoing TV series lasting several seasons, with new material and possibly new stories from Martin himself.

Whatever the case, I suspect we will not see further developments on this front until after Game of Thrones' expected conclusion in 2018.

The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch
Based on the Gentleman Bastard novels (2006-present) • TV Series • Speculative pilot script written
• Previously optioned by Warner Brothers

The excellent Lies of Locke Lamora was optioned before it was even published, with Warner Brothers developing several scripts before eventually passing. The rights reverted to Lynch. Last year scriptwriter Ryan Condal confirmed he had penned a pilot script and this was now doing the rounds in Hollywood.

Little Brother by Cory Doctorow
Based on Little Brother (2008) • Film • Speculative option

Cory Doctorow's angry novel about ssurveillance, terrorism and tyranny has turned out to be rather prescient, so it's no surprise that a film version could happen. An independent company has been developing an adaptation for the past couple of years.

Memory, Sorrow and Thorn by Tad Williams
Based on the Memory, Sorrow and Thorn trilogy (1988-93) • Film or TV • Possible interest

Tad Williams's epic trilogy was one of the defining works of modern epic fantasy and the series that inspired George R.R. Martin to write A Game of Thrones, so it's unsurprising that there's always been some interest in the work. However, it's massively daunting size has always been an issue. With the same author's cyberspace epic Otherland in development at Warner Brothers and with Williams poised to release no less than five new novels set in the Memory, Sorrow and Thorn world (The Last King of Osten Ard trilogy and two stand-alones) over the next few years, there's been rumours of renewed interest from Hollywood. Williams has been a little cagey over how serious this is. Hopefully more news soon.

Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson
Based on the Mistborn novels (2006-present) • Film • Previously optioned by Paloppa Pictures

After Patrick Rothfuss, Brandon Sanderson is the biggest new epic fantasy author of the last decade, so it's unsurprising that his works have picked up the interest of Hollywood. Paloppa Pictures spent several years developing a film series based on Sanderson's first Mistborn trilogy, but this option expired in 2014. Since then, and with Sanderson's success vastly greater than during the previous option, there has apparently been renewed interest from larger studios, but no formal announcements have been made.

Revival by Stephen King
Based on Revival (2013) • Film • Possible interest from Universal

Director Josh Boone (The Fault in Our Stars) is discussing a possible movie based on King's novel Revival, whilst he is waiting for the go-ahead to proceed with a more ambitious adaptation of The Stand.  

The Riftwar Saga by Raymond E. Feist
Based on Magician (1981) and numerous sequels (1985-2013) • Film or TV • Possible interest in Magician

Magician, the debut novel by Raymond E. Feist, is one of the biggest-selling individual fantasy novels of all time and is noteworthy due to its very unusual structure and expectation-defying narrative. Although the viability of the rest of the Riftwar novels as films or a TV show is questionable, certainly Magician could be made into a very interesting TV series or a movie trilogy. Feist has said that there has been "constant" interest in the book since its original publication, and renewed interest since Game of Thrones debuted and the entire series was completed a couple of years ago.

Tuf Voyaging by George R.R. Martin
Based on Tuf Voyaging and its collected stories (1976-1986) • TV Series • Possible interest at HBO

George R.R. Martin entered into a development deal with HBO a couple of years ago to discuss bringing some of his other works to the screen. The Dunk & Egg stories are believed to have been discussed as a potential Game of Thrones spin-off series, but the only other work that Martin himself confirmed had been talked about was this 1987 novel, itself a fix-up of several short stories. In this series the portly, bald Haviland Tuf comes into possession of a massive space ark capable of repairing ecological damage on various planets and goes about fixing problems and sometimes causing some of his own.

The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan (and Brandon Sanderson)
Based on The Wheel of Time (1990-2013) • TV Series • Previously optioned by NBC and Universal Pictures • Interest from Sony Television

The biggest-selling work of epic fantasy since The Lord of the Rings, it's somewhat mind-boggling that this series hasn't already been made, let alone seriously developed. NBC held an option at the turn of the century and Universal Pictures developed a movie script a few years ago, but ran into structural issues with getting the entire 14-volume story into a reasonable number of movies. Jordan himself rejected a proposed anime project from a Japanese studio in the early 2000s, as they only wanted to adapt the first three books and round the story off there. Red Eagle Productions has held the film and TV rights since 2004, but Jordan was unhappy with their progress. The film and TV rights reverted to the Jordan Estate a year ago, but Red Eagle self-produced an infomercial based on the opening prologue to The Eye of the World (the first novel in the series) in an attempt to forestall this. Legal action resulted. Recently Red Eagle backed down from their side of the legal action, suggesting that a resolution may be imminent.

Sony Television Pictures (the company behind Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul) developed an apparently serious interest in the project as a TV series in 2014. Given their pre-existing relationship with AMC (who would likely love to have a potential Game of Thrones-beater on their hands), it's possible that we could see a Wheel of Time TV series taking shape through that partnership. However, others have suggested Amazon or Netflix as a more logical home for a massive, ambitious project that will take serious commitment and budget to see through to its end.

Wild Cards by George R.R. Martin, Melinda Snodgress & many others
Based on Wild Cards (1987-present) • TV Series or Film • Previously optioned by SyFy

Long before he wrote A Game of Thrones, George R.R. Martin was best known for creating the shared-world superhero series known as Wild Cards. Along with other authors - two dozen of them at last count - he developed a series of anthologies. The twenty-third anthology in the series comes out this year. Wild Cards is set in an alternate timeline where an alien race attacked New York City with a virus in 1947. This virus killed 90% of the people it infected, turned another 9% into mutated freaks and 1% into superheroes. An alternate history of the 20th Century unfolds in light of this development. Writers for the series have included Melinda Snodgrass (herself a veteran of television), Paul Cornell, David Anthony Durham, Pat Cadigan, Chris Claremont and Roger Zelazny.

SyFy previously optioned Wild Cards as a series of movies, but the people at SyFy keen on the project subsequently left. The rights are expected to revert to Martin imminently. Given the current appetite for edgy, "adult" superhero material and shared world stuff, I would expect there to be further interest. Of course, the natural partnership would be with HBO who have their development deal with Martin and may be looking to "do" superheroes the HBO way as they've "done" epic fantasy, crime drama and vampires the HBO way in the past. This may be dependent on whether they decide to proceed with the Watchmen project with Zack Snyder or not.


Rick Robinson said...

Wow. Has there ever been this much interest in SFF in film? Looking through the list, it seems it's good to be Neil Gaiman! I'd think that, in spite of interest, the cost of making many of the films, and the danger of low reviews or ratings cutting them off before completion of a series, would make this all pretty dangerous ground.

Jens said...

Terry Brooks' Landover series has also been optioned by Warner Brothers and may get a green light soon:

Meanwhile, over at Warner Brothers, Magic Kingdom remains alive and well as a potential movie project. After years of false starts, we think we finally have a writer who understands and can adapt a fantasy fable that walks the line between funny and dramatic. A final script should materialize sometime in the next two months, and if WB and Steve Carell and a few others deeply involved in this project approve, we might yet see that movie come to life.


Finally, there is the question of what will happen if Warner Brothers green lights Magic Kingdom for Sale to be a movie with Steve Carell.

(excerpts of TB's YEAR END REVIEW & WHAT LIES AHEAD, put up just a week ago; cf. and

Kate Elliott said...

Thanks for this comprehensive list.

Ghost said...

I didn't know they are going a series on Midnight, Texas? I guess we'll be seeing more of Sookie on TV. They are after all set in the same world. Also "Tuf Voyaging" by George R.R. Martin need to go through. It's a great series of short stories.

Larry Nolen said...

You missed one: Jeff VanderMeer's Annihilation is in pre-production, with some of the cast already announced. 2017 scheduled release date. IMDB page.

Unknown said...

while not a story per se -


just sayin

Tudor said...

Where is Annihilation?

Adam Whitehead said...

Yeah, I'll add the VanderMeer when I get back from my trip this weekend. Also AMAZING STORIES.

MF said...

This made me look up the status of the Marid Audran film that was in development when I last looked at the Wiki page, but that seems to be dead again now.

Sarah Lynn said...

You're missing VE Schwab's titles that have been optioned, she's writing the pilot script for A Darker Shade of Magic

TerokNor said...

Minor correction: J. Michael Straczynski was involved with Jeremiah, not Jericho.

Jens said...

There's also "In the Lost Lands", a movie based on three of George RR Martin's short stories:
Not sure what the status is but since Milla Jovovich has apparently been cast it seems to be more than just an option.

King's The Stand has been shifted back:
It has been officially announced that director Josh Boone has put plans to film The Stand on hold to take on the production for Revival, possibly this year.

I was also thinking of another project the other day but can't remember it now...

Anyway, an amazing list. I was unaware of a good number of these projects. It's great to see so many (potential) genre productions in the pipeline. Hopefully, they are executed well as far too often adaptations turn out to be underwhelming.

Craig Ballew said...

The John Grimes sagas seem perfect for Amazon/Netflix show. Short self contained stories that could benefit from good screen writing.

Ja D said...

Sweet. Hoping for the warlord chronicles.

Darkstar said...

Great blog article.

I am missing the plans for Anne McCaffreys PERN as well as the possible DARKOVER TV series based on Marion Zimmer Bradleys books, which have been optioned / in development by AMAZON:


Dan said...

Another addition: I'm not sure what stage it is at, but a movie based on "Red Rising" by Pierce Brown is also in development.