My top 10 SF and fantasy picks for the big-screen treatment

Credit: Lizard Brain /
Credit: Lizard Brain /

Science fiction and fantasy are taking over the realm of the Hollywood summer blockbuster, no question about it. Marvel Studios is gearing up to launch the Avengers franchise into space with the forthcoming Guardians of the Galaxy film, Neill Blomkamp’s about to wow audiences with his sophomore full-length feature, Elysium, and Christopher Nolan’s next movie is reportedly a high-concept SF epic called Interstellar. Roboticist-cum-novelist Daniel H. Wilson’s works seem more or less destined for film. And let’s not forget about Ernest Cline’s nostalgia-heavy Ready Player One.

We here at Amazing Stories have a lot to look forward to. Between the Ender’s Game film adaptation, slated to be released this November, and that of Cherie Priest’s alternate-history, zombie steampunk novel Boneshaker, I think it’s safe to say we’ll all have plenty to geek out about in the coming months—and years.

So: what other science-fiction and fantasy novels deserve the movie treatment?

Here are some of my own ideas about what stories might look great (and benefit the field by broadening its audience) on the silver screen. Add your own suggestions in the comments section below, and let’s get a discussion started.

Minor spoilers ahead!

1. Leviathan Wakes (The Expanse) by James S. A. Corey

This one’s got a cast of characters you can’t help but love—the Rocinante has just the sort of memorable crew that belongs in a space opera tale of this scale, and even the bit players along the way seem to live and breathe the processed air of this richly-drawn world coauthors Abraham and Franck have dubbed “The Expanse.” Not to mention the diabolical alien presence that reveals itself about halfway into the story. If some studio goon actually greenlit the Battleship movie, why can’t we have Leviathan Wakes? Give it to Oblivion director Joseph Kosinski. Or Ridley Scott, James Cameron, really any of the usual suspects.

2. Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor

Okorafor manages to believably bridge the two most polarized elements of speculative film: a plausible future world, and magic. The author does so by drawing no clear distinction between spirituality and metaphysics, nor between primitive technology and sorcery. It’s all in how the reader chooses to explain the narrator’s harrowing story—and that’s half the fun. The mysticism feels authentic. But it’d be significantly darker than pretty much anything in its genre, given its subject matter. Harry Potter it ain’t. David Fincher could make it into the film of his career.

3. Crystal Rain (The Xenowealth Saga) by Tobias S. Buckell

I don’t know who would be the ideal director for Buckell’s Xenowealth novels (Crystal Rain, Ragamuffin, Sly Mongoose, and The Apocalypse Ocean)—anybody from Kathryn Bigelow (Zero Dark Thirty) to Anthony Hemingway (Red Tails) could do artistic justice to this fun postcolonial universe, which is equal parts steampunk and galaxy-spanning space opera.

4. Arctic Rising by Tobias S. Buckell

Another one by Buckell—this one far more timely and realistic. I could see this ecological technothriller becoming a kind of zeitgeist work, in which the line between industry and government becomes further blurred by the boom in new resources, and new ways to go about getting them. And it’d be really nice to see a story about climate change and technology that’s not entirely apocalyptic in nature.

5. Mainspring (The Clockwork Earth) by Jay Lake

I enjoyed this idiosyncratic steampunk (clockpunk?) novel for its confidence and unique vision. The tale of a young apprentice going out on a quest to save the world isn’t exactly groundbreaking stuff—but it’s a mythic story that includes clockwork angels, an Earth whose axis winds and ticks like the movement of a clock, and dirigibles. Somebody like David Fincher or Martin Scorsese could turn this already beautiful novel into a visual masterpiece.

6. Old Man’s War by John Scalzi

According to the author’s Whatever blog, this one’s already in development. Wolfgang Petersen’s name was attached as a likely director at one point, but the author reports that the script is being rewritten as we speak, so that leaves open the possibility of someone else taking the helm of this one, depending on what happens through the rest of pre-production. Anybody who’s read the book knows this one is tailored to fit the mold of big-screen cinema, and I think it’ll be loads of fun.

7. Fuzzy Nation by John Scalzi

But this one could be even better. I like Redshirts a great deal, as well, but Scalzi’s touching homage to golden-age SF author H. Beam Piper reads like a far superior version of James Cameron’s Avatar, on a more intimate, more believable scale. And there isn’t a single character in the novel who wouldn’t blow audiences away, given a few solid casting choices. The novel brings the pop-culture cousinhood of the Fuzzys and the Ewoks full circle with a little tongue-in-cheek reference to Return of the Jedi, and in today’s very postmodern, somewhat jaded entertainment world . . . honestly, I think this courtroom drama in space would kill at the box office.

8. The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi

Hard to think of a more memorable vision of the future than Bacigalupi’s debut novel. His young adult works may be more likely to receive the eventual big-screen treatment, but there’s something deeply profound about the story of Emiko the windup, a genetically engineered sex slave in a world ravaged by rampant “genehacking” and various resultant foodborne plagues. Either the Wachowskis or Danny Boyle could turn this haunting vision into a believable reality. Who knows—it just might happen someday.

9. Deathless by Catherynne M. Valente

Here’s a beautiful mythpunk fairy tale that begs for the animated treatment. Try and imagine the folks behind stop-motion masterpieces like Coraline or Frankenweenie bringing this book to life. Or Hayao Miyazaki, who did the sublime animated adaptation of Howl’s Moving Castle. Not that this book couldn’t be filmed; I just think that its marvelous witches and spirits, and all the shapeshifting that goes on in the novel, would look stunning in mostly grayscale, old-school animation.

10. Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett

This is the book I’m reading right now, and I can’t believe it’s been out for so long without being adapted into some form of visual medium. It’s an inevitability, I think—but let’s hope like Hell it gets the witty, literate treatment it truly deserves. Before the End Times come and wipe our slate clean, we should all be so lucky to see so many angels and demons working in harmony to bring about Armageddon. Maybe Gaiman could collaborate with Kevin Smith on the script, and then get Todd Phillips to direct? I don’t know. Who could do a masterwork like this one justice?

Sound off in the comments section below. I’m dying to hear what you guys are hoping to see in theaters as the field of fantasy and science fiction continues its global invasion of the multiplex.

Credit: Tom Edwards
Credit: Tom Edwards
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