With even Philip K. Dick’s discarded shopping lists optioned or in production in Hollywood, we were wondering when producers might look further afield into the archives of sci-fi fiction for new blockbusters…
[Many thanks to Bob Rickard for getting this list going and providing so many suggestions]
1o: Slan – A. E. Van Vogt
This was published as a serial in Astounding Science-Fiction in the autumn of 1940, going onto considerable success as a collated novel. Slan concerns a future society where the genetically-created telepathic race known as Slans – named after their inventor Samuel Lann – are hunted to extinction by the humans who lack their telepathic abilities. Kier Gray, the Saul-like nemesis of the Slans (himself a Slan) is opposed by the orphaned nine year-old Jommy Cross, determined to save his species from its persecutors.
9: War with the Newts – Karel Äapek
Czech author Äapek comes from the visionary strand of early 20th-century science-fiction writers concerned with broader visions of where humanity is heading, along with H.G. Wells and Aldous Huxley. War With The Newts is an epic tale about the discovery of an intelligent undersea race initially exploited by us land-dwellers, but that later rebels with the notion of redesigning Earth’s topography to create more of the coast-line that it needs to survive. The impetus of the story lies with the then-growing tensions in Europe and the world.
8: The Night’s Dawn Trilogy – Peter F. Hamilton
A huge ‘space opera’ with sentient artificial planets and a cosmic accident in which a door opens between our universe and another dimension through which hordes of souls return from the dead to possess the living.
This massive arc takes in the novels The Reality Dysfunction (1996), The Neutronium Alchemist (1997), The Naked God (1999) and the short-story collection A Second Chance at Eden, with documentary-style background from The Confederation Handbook.
7: The Last Legionary series – Douglas Hill
Arguably a potential SF cross between Harry Potter and Starship Troopers, as well as a juvenile-attracting alternative to the proposed E.E. Doc Smith Lensman movie/s, this action-packed series of teen novels follows the induction of twelve year-old protagonist Keill Randor into the Overseers, a galactic legionary force.
The novels are: Young Legionary, Planet of the Warlord, Day of the Starwind, Deathwing Over Veynaa and Galactic Warlord.
6: Desolation Road – Ian McDonald
Since this debut novel spans several generations of Martian colonists, focusing on a town growing beside the cross-planet railroad, I’m not sure how it would work. But the image of impossibly vast steampunkish trains hurtling across the boundless Martian desert, with whole families of engineers and drivers living and dying onboard, is too impressive to not want to see on the big screen. Perhaps the sequel, Ares Express, would work better as a film with a human narrative – but it might be best produced in Japan where the idea of reality being altered at the whim of godlike entities is less outré.
5: The Gap Cycle – Stephen Donaldson
Mankind is looking for new resources on the outskirts of space in Donaldson’s vision of the future; military police grunt Morn Hyland has to fight for survival after being captured a ‘marauder’ whilst more political battles are going on back at the United Mining Companies Police HQ. In the meantime, all these divided factions are threatened by insurgent alien race the Amnion, obviously familiar with both the Borg and The Thing as they use genetic mutation to assimilate and conquer. The ‘gap’ of the series title refers to a type of space-folding drive that allows almost instant interstellar travel.
Books in the series are: The Gap into Conflict: The Real Story (1991), The Gap into Vision: Forbidden Knowledge (1991), The Gap into Power: A Dark and Hungry God Arises (1993), The Gap into Madness: Chaos and Order (1994), The Gap into Ruin: This Day All Gods Die (1996).
4: Consider Phlebas – Ian M. Banks
The lyrical quote from Eliot’s The Waste Land which lends Banks’ early SF novel its title belies a muscular tale of intergalactic conflict between the Banks-created ‘Culture’ and the Idiran Empire. Consider Phlebas deals with the attempt by The Culture to retrieve a Culture Mind (one of the essential artificial intelligences behind the Culture’s post-scarcity society) from the Idirans. Phlebas is a sprawling tale taking in many new cultures and perilous situations – filmic gold, really.
3: Diamond Dogs – Alistair Reynolds
The ‘maze’ plot is a popular staple both of SF and horror, and Reynolds has created an astoundingly intricate tale set in (but largely unrelated to) his ‘Revelation Space’ universe. Diamond Dogs is actually a novella rather than a novel, but then Reynolds’s Inhibitor novels could never be filmed. They’re too big, too long, and too spread out in time as well as space. Diamond Dogs is constrained to a couple of settings, a small and disparate cast, and is built around an extremely cool concept that makes Cube look like a toddler playing with plastic shapes and holes.
2: The ‘Company’ novels – Kage Baker
Dr. Zeus Inc., aka ‘The Company’, is a mysterious and powerful organisation operating out of the 24th century but travelling back in time to exploit the resources of the past. The Company enfranchises certain inhabitants of past time to become cybernetic immortals and preserve artefacts of their era to be ‘rediscovered’ after millennia by The Company. Those chosen will arrive at the 24th century the ‘long route’, by living for hundreds or even thousands of years as custodians of future commerce. As the novels develop, the origins of The Company itself become more mysterious…
The novels to date are: In the Garden of Iden (1997), Sky Coyote (1999), Mendoza in Hollywood (2000), The Graveyard Game (2001), The Life of the World to Come (2004), The Children of the Company (2005), The Machine’s Child (2006), The Sons of Heaven (2007).
1: The Quantum Gravity series – Justina Robson
Launched as a new book series with Keeping It Real in 2006, the Quantum Gravity books are practically crying out to be filmed. A quantum bomb in 2015 creates an overlap between the worlds of Earth, the Fairies, and the Demons. These books are huge fun – sparkling, witty and with a sexy heroine secret agent cyborg who is a minder to an Elf rock star. And if that’s not enough, there’s also, in Robson’s own words: “…necromantic possession, doomed love, hot sex and friends who would sooner eat you than help you if you get them wet.”