Monday, 6 November 2017

The SF and Fantasy novels currently being developed for the screen (updated)

Back in February 2016, I looked at all of the science fiction and fantasy novels headed for the screen (some of which have now aired). I thought it would be useful to update the list and take a look at the status of some of these projects and some new ones that have entered the development slate since then.

Filming/Ready to Air

Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer
Based on The Southern Reach Trilogy (2014) • Film • 23 February 2018 • 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). The movie stars 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. 

How to Talk to Girls at Parties by Neil Gaiman
Based on "How to Talk to Girls at Parties" in Fragile Things (2006) • Film • 11 May 2018 • 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. 

The Punisher
Based on The Punisher from Marvel Comics (1974-present) • TV series • 17 November 2017 • Airing on Netflix

Jon Bernthal reprises his role as Marvel’s titular, violent vigilante from the second season of Daredevil.

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

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. Tye Sheridan and Olivia Cooke are the young stars whilst Ben Mendelsohn, Mark Rylance, Simon Pegg and T.J. Miller provide support.

Altered Carbon by Richard Morgan
Based on the Takeshi Kovacs novels (2002-05) • TV Series • February 2018 • Airing on Netflix

Netflix and producer Laeta Kaolgridis (Avatar, Shutter Island) have 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. Joel Kinnaman, James Purefoy, Martha Higareda, Renee Goldsberry and Dichen Lachman star.

The City and The City by China Mieville
Based on The City and The City (2009) • TV Series • 2018 • Airing on the BBC

The BBC have produced 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 TidelandFear and Loathing in Las Vegas and the TV series Red Riding, has written the script. David Morrissey stars as Tyador Borlu. Filming was completed in August and the project is likely to air in the first half of 2018.

Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
Based on Good Omens (1993) • TV Series • To air on the BBC and Amazon

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 was also a massive fan of the novel and was also involved in writing scripts and proposals. However, galvanised by the recent passing of Terry Pratchett, the project is now filming at the BBC, with Neil Gaiman writing and producing, along with Pratchett’s Narrativia company. David Tennant and Michael Sheen star.

Watership Down by Richard Adams
Based on Watership Down (1972) • TV Series • To air on Netflix in 2018 or 2019

Netflix is deep in production on a new animated version of Richard Adams’ classic children’s novel, previously filmed in 1978. Voice recording for the series is complete, but the late 2017 release date has been moved back and – oddly – the Netflix website page for the show has been taken down, suggesting they foresee a lengthy delay as they complete the animation. James McAvoy, Ben Kingsley, Gemma Arterton, Olivia Coleman, Anne-Marie Duff, Nicholas Hoult and John Boyega are providing the vocal talent.


The Chronicles of Narnia: The Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis
Based on The Silver Chair (1953) • Film • 2019/20 • Joe Johnston

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. Joe Johnston has confirmed that he will direct and it will also be his final film before he retires.

Dune by Frank Herbert
Based on Dune (1965) • Film • 2020/21 • Denis Villeneuve

Denis Villeneuve is slow, thoughtful SF's bright new hope, having pulled off a massive one-two punch with Arrival (2016) and Blade Runner 2049 (2017), the two smartest and most interesting SF movies of recent years. Legendary Pictures have tapped him to direct a new version of Frank Herbert's Dune, potentially as a two-movie project. However, Villeneuve has indicated he may need to take a break first, so this film might be more 3-4 years away.

His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman
Based on the His Dark Materials Trilogy (1995-2001) • TV series • 2019/20 • 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 in 2007. 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 project was delayed but is now in pre-production. Interest in the franchise has been reinvigorated by Philip Pullman publishing the first in a new sequel trilogy (The Book of Dust), La Belle Sauvage.

Forgotten Realms
Based on the Dungeons and Dragons campaign setting (1987-present) • Film • 2019/20• Rob Letterman

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 few 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. David Leslie Johnson is writing the script, Rob Letterman is directing and Ansel Elgort (Baby Driver) has been courted to star.

Game of Thrones Prequel Project by George R.R. Martin
Based on A Song of Ice and Fire (1996-present) • TV • In development at HBO

With Game of Thrones itself wrapping up in 2018 or 2019, HBO are pressing forwards with an idea for a prequel show. Five different ideas are being developed by writers including Bryan Cogman and Jane Goldman with one or two expected to be greenlit as pilots and one show picked out from them to debut in 2020.

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

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, to be scripted by Lindsey Beer, and a spin-off prequel TV series. The TV series has been greenlit at Showtime, with Lin Manuel Miranda (Hamilton) producing and providing music.

The Last Policeman by Ben H. Winters
Based on The Last Policeman (2012) • TV series • Pilot greenlit at NBC

CBS optioned this novel shortly after publication, but did not move forward with it. The rights were later sold to NBC, who have ordered a pilot. 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.

Nightflyers by George R.R. Martin
Based on Nightflyers (1980) • TV Series • Pilot greenlit at SyFy

SyFy have ordered a pilot based on George R.R. Martin’s SF novella, previously filmed in 1987.

Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons
Based on Watchmen (1985) • TV Series • Pilot greenlit 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. HBO is now moving forwards with a fresh take on the series, greenlighting a pilot to be written by Lost and Leftovers writer David Lindelof. 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.

The Witcher by Andrzej Sapkowski
Based on the Witcher novels, short stories and video games (1991-present) • TV Series • Series greenlit at Netflix

A TV series based on Andrzej Sapkowski's Witcher stories has been greenlit by Netflix. Tomas Baginski, who directed the elaborate CGI mini-movies for the three video games, is producing and will direct one episode per season. It's believed his company will also provide the elaborate CGI that will be needed for the series. Sapkowski is serving as a creative consultant on the show. Sean Daniel and Jason Brown are also producing.


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

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 be using material from Anansi Boys in future seasons, 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 JusticeAncillary Sword and Ancillary Mercy has been the big breakout space opera of the past few 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. 

The Black Company by Glen Cook
Based on the Black Company novels (1984-present) • TV Series • Optioned by David Goyer

The Black Company series is one of the most influential fantasy series of all time, a dark and morally complex saga of a mercenary army fighting for an evil empire. Actress Eliza Dushku and writer David Goyer have picked up the rights with a view to making an ongoing television series based on the books, and have been trying to interest a studio in the project.

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. This project has been percolating on the back burner for a few years now, and it's unclear if it will move forwards.

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 ArmsFeet of ClayJingoThe Fifth ElephantNight WatchThud! 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, with the company instead focusing on the Good Omens TV show. This may re-enter development once that project is completed.

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 have been 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. Tatum's busy schedule has resulted in some delays to the project.

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

HBO previously 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 two years, suggesting it's on the backburner whilst Nolan focuses his time and energy on the highly successful Westworld. HBO spent a fortune to buy the rights from Sony (where Roland Emmerich was attached to direct), so it seemed 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), but Skydance Television has recently expressed an interest in buying the rights to develop elsewhere, with David Goyer potentially attached to write.

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 in 2015 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's 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. However, there has been no word on the project in two and a half years.

Lazarus by Greg Rucka
Based on Lazarus (2013-present) • TV series • In development at Amazon

Greg Rucka's cult comic book series, featuring powerful warriors fighting on behalf of the ruling families of a dystopian future Earth, is in the works at Amazon.

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. 

The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
Based on The Lord of the Rings (1954-55) • TV Series • In development at Warner Brothers, Amazon interested

Warner Brothers are developing a multi-season TV adaptation of Tolkien’s famous novel, effectively remaking Peter Jackson’s epic movie trilogy from 2001-03. This has led to a baffled reaction by both fans and Hollywood insiders, especially given WB’s immense asking fee ($250 million for limited rights with a guaranteed budget of $100-$150 million per season) and the critical failure of the Hobbit movie trilogy. Nevertheless, Amazon is very interesting in the project, with Jeff Bezos personally leading negotiations.

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). The future of this project may be related to how Star Trek: Discovery does on CBS All Access, as this could make a solid companion series or a show to air in Star Trek’s off-period.

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 CrakeThe 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. HBO seemed to move the project onto the backburner, but there may now be progress given the success of other Attwood adaptations The Handmaid’s Tale and Alias Grace.

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 project has been on hiatus for a couple of years due to Carell's other commitments.

Mistborn & Stormlight Archive by Brandon Sanderson
Based on the Mistborn novels (2006-present) and Stormlight Archive series (2010-present) • Film • Optioned by DMG Entertainment

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, DMG Entertainment picked up the rights to his entire Cosmere mega-series. F. Scott Frazier is writing the script for Mistborn: The Final Empire, whilst Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan are writing the script for The Stormlight Archive: The Way of Kings. DMG are looking for an American production partner for the series.

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 CyteenDownbelow Station or the lengthy Foreigner saga. There's been no news on this project in several years and it may be more aspirational than realistic.

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, but Tad Williams recently confirmed that there is interest in continuing the project (unlike Memory, Sorrow and Thorn, which is not under option at present). 

Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson
Based on The Mars Trilogy (1993-96) • TV Series • Optioned by Spike TV

With The Martian finally proving that it is possible to make a successful, hit movie about the Red Planet, Spike TV 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 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. Unfortunately, Straczynski departed the project to focus on Sense8 and it seems to have stalled as a result. With Sense8 drawing to a close, perhaps Straczynski will return or a new producer will step up.

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. 

Ringworld by Larry Niven
Based on Ringworld (1970) • TV Series • In development at Amazon

The first novel in Larry Niven's Ringworld series of novels has been optioned by Amazon.

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. David Goyer is still attached to write. However, producer and potentiall star Joseph Gordon-Levitt has quit, along with writer Jack Thorne, citing differences between their vision for the films – which would have reflected the somewhat more thoughtful and intelligent tone of the graphic novels – and the studios’s insistence on action and special effects. The project now seems to be on the backburner whilst Warner Brothers look for an alternative team to take over.

Seveneves by Neal Stephenson
Based on Seveneves (2015) • Film • In development at Skydance

The same team behind Apollo 13 - director Ron Howard, writer Bill Broyles and producer Brian Grazer - are working on an adaptation of the Neal Stephenson novel. The project is on the back burner whilst Ron Howard finishes off the Star Wars movie Solo, and develops two movies based on the work of JP Delaney (The Girl Before and The Perfect Wife).

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 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. However, there has been no movement on the project in two years.

Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson
Based on Snow Crash (1991) • TV Series • In development at Amazon

Neal Stephenson's whimsical cyberpunk fable about Hiro Protagonist has been optioned by Amazon with a view to turning it into a TV show, although it's unclear if this will be an ongoing series or just a mini-series adapting the book.

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. The massive success of It and the failure of The Dark Tower movie seems to have caused confusion on how to handle future Stephen King adaptations.

Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein
Based on Stranger in a Strange Land (1961) • TV Series • In development at SyFy

SyFy picked up the rights to the Heinlein novel last autumn and are developing a TV project with Mythology Entertainment, Scott Rudin Productions and Vecchio Entertainment. Julia Gunn is attached as a producer. The head of NBC Cable (which owns SyFy), Bonnie Hammer, has taken a personal interest in the project as the novel is one of her favourites of all time.

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 (2015-16) • Film • In development by Michael Bay

Michael Bay had put this on the backburner for a while, but just last month it was confirmed that he would start working on the adaptation in 2018 for a likely 2019 or 2020 release.

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. There has been a lack of recent news on the project. 

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 still under development at Ridley Scott's film company. Alexander Felix has written a script, but the project has not moved forwards so far.

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). 

The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan (and Brandon Sanderson)
Based on The Wheel of Time (1990-2013) • TV Series • Optioned by 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, with Red Eagle retaining a production credit on future projects.

Sony Television Pictures (the company behind Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul) have picked up the television rights. 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. Rafe Judkins will write and produce.

Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor
Based on Who Fears Death (2010) • TV Series • Pilot greenlit at HBO

George R.R. Martin brought the attention of HBO to bear on Nnedi Okorafor's hard-hitting novel set in post-apocalyptic Sudan, who are now developing the project with Selwyn Seyfu Hinds as writer.

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 were allowed to lapse, but, surprisingly, SyFy re-optioned them as an ongoing television series, with Melinda Snodgrass involved in writing and producing.

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 ManSaga 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. 

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LeftHanded Matt said...

Really useful and very comprehensive, thank you. I'm quite excited at the prospect of Brandon Sanderson's books being adapted.

TerokNor said...

The options on both Old Man's War and Redshirts have recently expired.

Some others that come to mind:
A Dragonriders of Pern movie was announced as being in development in 2014.
Recently in the news: Denis Villeneuve's new Dune adaptation.
Andy Weir's Artemis has been in development since long before the book comes out next week. Lord & Miller are currently attached as directors.
Amazon is developing Ringworld and Snow Crash.
Ron Howard is currently attached to Seveneves.

Azimuth said...

Snow Crash too!

Not really pointing out an error to you, just doing my part to make this show happen, which includes subtle grass-roots promotion in the comments section of the best SFF blog out there. Also, it's the mandatory first step towards my dream- an HBO event series of Cryptonomicon.

Anonymous said...

Hi, Adam!
If I'm not mistaken, you forgot to mention Okorafor's "Who Fears Death" which is being developed by HBO with GRRM as producer.

Adam Whitehead said...

Cheers. A couple of these I 'd forgotten about.

Jussi said...

Don DeLillo's science fiction novel "Zero K" will be adapted as a limited series in FX:

Unknown said...

Another book series in development is The Chronicles of Amber by Zelazny.

Anonymous said...

How firm is the February date for Altered Carbon?

Adam Whitehead said...

It was provided by the producer on his Instagram account:

But I would have thought we'd have heard a bit more about it now if it is February. A late delay is possible.