After Hours

Four geeky book series that need to be on TV, now

Four genre book series -- either comics or prose -- most ripe for conversion to an ongoing small screen franchise.

In the recent Geekend preview of 2011's new nerd-worthy TV shows, I wondered aloud why Bill Willingham's excellent Fables comics series hadn't been adapted for television in lieu of the strangely similar new Once Upon A Time concept from ABC. This got me thinking about which genre book series -- either comics or prose -- are most ripe for conversion to an ongoing small screen franchise.

Take note: I'm nominating book series that would convert well to ongoing, open-ended television series. That does not mean the 10-episodes-per-book HBO adaptation a la Game of Thrones -- our friends at SF Signal have already done that list quite well -- but conversion into more conventional series like FlashForward, True Blood, and the The Walking Dead.

So here we go:

Ex Machina by Bryan K. Vaughan and Tony Harris

This comic series follows the adventures of Mitchell Hundred, a former superhero who hung up his tights after 9/11 and decided to make a "real difference" as the mayor of New York City. The source material is surprisingly grounded, complex, and mature. Hundred confronts political corruption and voter cynicism as often as supervillains, and the lines between good and evil are always blurry.

If properly adapted, Ex Machina could be every bit the allegorical meditation on modern society that the rebooted Battlestar Galactica was, combining the best elements of The West Wing and Heroes. Moreover, the series has 60 issues to mine episodes from, and it still left a great deal unsaid and unresolved. That's a giant playground for TV writers to explore for as many seasons as they can muster. Ex Machina is a TV home run waiting to happen.

The Laundry by Charles Stross

Stross's novels of a British supernatural intelligence agency are a conscious crossover of James Bond spy-fi and H.P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu mythos, with a hard sci-fi twist. Or, in TV parlance, think Dr. Who meets The Office by way of Numb3rs. Basically, performing certain higher math functions "echoes" into dimensions we can't see, making software engineers and mathematicians unwitting demonologists. And like any hacker who proves too adept, prodigies are co-opted into government service -- with all that it implies.

Protagonist Bob Howard is an affable everyman hacker who fears bureaucratic red tape far more than nameless horrors from the great beyond, and he has the requisite superhot girlfriend-slash-partner, Mo, who plays a chillingly hilarious demon-killing violin. Any show where an iPhone can be tweaked into a ghostbusting device has to perk up Hollywood's ears, though the copious use of complex math and blood sacrifice may turn off a lot of people, too. It's a bit quirky from a TV exec's perspective, and runs the risk of being mainstreamed beyond recognition, but the premise is so tantalizing it can't be ignored.

Coyote by Allen Steele Perhaps the most intelligent and longrunning hard sci-fi planetary colonization book series on the market today, the Coyote novels are ripe for a longform TV adaptation. It's Lost meets Star Trek -- tell me that doesn't get a TV exec's attention. Besides the general sensawunda of planetary colonization, the Coyote series has a lot to recommend it to television.

Most of the action takes place after the colonists have arrived on the habitable moon Coyote in the 47 Ursae Majoris system, so your need for large set pieces and effects are minimal. It's also a largely open-ended human drama with a twist: The protagonists stole the world's first colony ship, the URSS Alabama, to flee from a right wing fascist regime. In the centuries of sleep it took them to reach Coyote, faster starships were built, and soon after landing our heroes were met by colonists from a more advanced left-wing fascist regime, with whom they must battle for control of Coyote.

Oh, and did we mention the main character of the ensemble is teenage explorer and rebel fighter Carlos Montero? Family drama, combat, politics, betrayal, and just enough sci-fi to make serious statements about modern life "safe" -- you have to think this would be a no-brainer for highbrow TV.

1632 by Eric Flint

The perfect setting to examine first world versus third world conflict, the premise of 1632 is endlessly intriguing: Grantville, a small West Virginia mining town from the year 2000, is inexplicably transported to 1632 Germany -- in the middle of the Thirty Years War. Modern American technology and, perhaps more importantly, modern political ideals of equality and self-determination make Grantville a dangerous and powerful force in 17th century Europe. It's Jericho meets The Tudors, but with plenty of allegory to US conflicts in the Middle East today.

A wide ensemble cast from the novel may need to be trimmed to a mere nine or ten, but there's plenty of space for spectacular recurring characters including Galileo, Cardinal Richelieu, and Oliver Cromwell. The Grantville sets would be cheap, though some of the vintage European landmarks of later novels might get expensive. Nonetheless, in the right hands this show could have both action and substance, which is very rare indeed these days.

No doubt your own bookshelf is ripe with novels waiting for decent small screen adaptions. Well, don't just stand there, make your nominations in the comment section!

About

Jay Garmon has a vast and terrifying knowledge of all things obscure, obtuse, and irrelevant. One day, he hopes to write science fiction, but for now he'll settle for something stranger -- amusing and abusing IT pros. Read his full profile. You can a...

41 comments
OurITLady
OurITLady

Spider Robinson's Callahan's bar or Marion Zimmer Bradley's Darkover. Callahan's is crazy enough that even once the short stories had been done you could keep it going for ages, MZBs Darkover has the mix of technology and mental powers that make for an interesting contrast. I'd also watch almost anything they decided to do based on Heinlein's work - as long as they promised not to wreck it this time..........

Brian.Buydens
Brian.Buydens

I know this is changing the topic but I would like to see Sabriel turned into a movie. If it is a success they could also do Lirael and Abhorsen. Also, perhaps Garth Nix could write a tv series based on the Old Kingdom?

rbig
rbig

Any Stainless Steel Rat or Bolo would work real well

LouCed
LouCed

Could be run like the old "Sunday Night Mysteries" NBC had in the 70s, that way you can keep all the characters. One Week it's Mike, the other week is Gretchen, etc. This way a book can last a whole TV season.

Kmtedder
Kmtedder

Isaac Asimov's "Foundation Trilogy", it's prequel and the additional books. I believe the prequel would/could take at least one season.

d_tisdal
d_tisdal

I know this thread is about books but I think the IT Crowd would make people laugh their arses off when they see this British series about what many perceive the IT world to be. It's Hilarious!

Robiisan
Robiisan

The Dorsai stories could provide serialization fodder for years! It would have to be a one-hour show (at least) to do it justice, though. While it might not make a good series for TV, a mini-series on James P. Hogan's Giants quadrology (Inherit the Stars, The Gentle Giants of Ganymede, Entoverse, and Giant's Star) would be awesome. I'd also like to see a good feature film on his "The Proteus Operation."

APitchford
APitchford

...just to find out what a left-wing fascist regime looks like. Sounds interesting.

rolltop
rolltop

A genuine space opera.

BFilmFan
BFilmFan

While I am a devoted fan of the series and have the collected graphic novel series, I am not sure the ending of Ex Machina (and no I am not going to give it away) would play well with the audience. I would like to see 100 Bullets as an HBO series. You would never be able to get the required level of violence, sex and deprivation past broadcast television standards and practices censors due to FCC regulations.

1munki1
1munki1

sooo many good series. Aldis's Helliconia. maybe too wide span, no? Tad Williams Otherworld, maybe same. But boy, what TV!!!

rossd
rossd

Even though the last and final book isn't due to be in print by March 2012, the first 13 books can get a TV Series into the fourth season easily! There is some talk of the making of the first book into a movie already, but it is unclear if that is actually happening. Also, Terry Brooks Landover (Magic Kingdom for Sale). Terry has tried to make deals with both Warner and Universal for movies of Shannara and Landover, but nothing has come of it yet.

1munki1
1munki1

...KS Robinson's 'Mars' trilogy. Lotsa episodes over lotsa years. Fantastico!!!!

erikholsen
erikholsen

Flint's series is AWESOME and gets my vote hands down.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

David Weber's 'Honor Harrington' Another 'Trek'. I'd like to see Niven and Barnes' 'Dream Park' adapted, but it would probably end up as a high-tech 'Fantasy Island'. It's actually more of a police procedural, kind of a 'CSI: DisneyWorld' crossbred with 'Survivor: Cosplayers Edition'. Edited: Migawd! As I was researching this, I learned a fourth 'Dream Park' book was added this summer, nine years after the last one, thirty years after the first. The original introduced role playing game concepts commonplace now, and technology similar to a holodeck years before ST:TNG. If you an MMORPGer or Renaissance Faire-phile, I can't over-recommend reading 'Dream Park'. Amazon, here I come.

Desert Rose
Desert Rose

The Tales of Alvin Maker. A very well thought out, intelligent representation of an alternate America.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

My picks would be Eric Frank Russels concept Wasp. Roger Zelazny's My Name is Legion. You could go very topical and near future with this. Richard Morgan's Takeshi Kovacs. Different Sleeve, different actor, get yourself an all star cast in one series. And for those with some real minerals. The one, the only, accept no substitutes. Elric

5lindorr
5lindorr

The "Dies the Fire" series would be awesome. Think The Postman meets Lord of the Rings. Post-apocalyptic, but with heart and character. Minimal sets, costuming, or special effects would be required. All around win!

technomom_z
technomom_z

I would love to see one or more of the Turtledove novels made for tv or movies. Particularly the "How Few Remain", Civil war won by the south series.

Jay Garmon
Jay Garmon

... was Global Frequency, based on the comic miniseries written by Warren Ellis. John "Survivor" Rogers filmed a pilot starring Michelle Forbes (which canny souls can track down online) that was somewhat OK, but the idea of a flash-mob of genius super-saviors was surprisingly awesome. Wish that one could have made the transition to series.

spdragoo
spdragoo

For my last job (over-the-phone technical support for Verizon FiOS), our trainer showed us a couple of the first episodes of that series when we had some free time. "Have you turned your computer off and on" should be the first question anyone in tech support asks.

mudpuppy1
mudpuppy1

has its roots in ancient Rome. It was a bundle of rods wrapped around an ax symbolizing authority (often brutal). In modern times, Mussolini appropriated the term for his party, but before him it was used by a group that fused extreme left-wing and right wing viewpoints. Minor differences aside, there is little practical difference between a left-wing and a right-wing dictatorship. The people are oppressed by both. Both imprison and murder their opponents. The term fascist, based upon the original Roman meaning can apply to both. It's just that modern historians have ascribed it to the dictatorships of Germany, Italy and Spain and not to the equally brutal dictatorships of Stalin, Mao and the smaller communist countries.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

or communist russia... Fascism is authoritarian.

seanferd
seanferd

Left wing authoritarian or left wing dictatorship would make sense. Although some people who lean right seem to think that fascism is a left-leaning political stance somehow.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

You'll be asking for David Eddings next. Shudder...

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

Standard corporate practice = racial suicide, they'll be queuing up to promote that idea... More chance of seeing the pope giving oral sex on Italiian Sunday morning tv, than that novel getting past the scriptwriters intact.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

I just can't get into it. That puts Robinson in the same category as Tolkien, so he's in good company.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

And if you wanted something a bit more arty a cerebral, you could go for Oath Of Fealty, and variouts stories out of the Box. And seeing as it's Niven, Ringworld might appeal, but how about Gil Hamlton and ARM Harrington, as a spinoff from a film franchise I can see, but some are going to have severe problems with the ideas behind the PRC. Maybe the brits should make it seeing as Queen Elizabeth is in charge, a somewajht nonwhite queen, might give some people I don't care for, a heart attack as well. :D

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

A period piece that would appeal to the 'Charmed' and 'Twilight' audience.

mudpuppy1
mudpuppy1

How about the "Worldwar" series? Turtledove is my favorite alternate history author. The "Crosstime" books would make interesting movies, particularly for the younger set. His characters come alive.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

is the most fun sumbich it has ever been my pleasure to read of. He's thoroughly despicable, but Turtledove builds the character so you understand how he could be the way he is. I looked forward to his every appearance. I don't know how well the series would adapt to TV, though.

jc2it
jc2it

It is not a linear scale. It is a circle. You go far enough in either direction and you remove enough freedoms to be just like the other. In other words, the end results of Fascism and Nazism are the same as Communism and Socialism. A government for the people and by the people is the only way to go.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

Might work for you as well. Never did figure out why he started Red Mars in the middle, not mad keen on that sort of pretentious twaddle myeslf. Best hard sci-fi I'd ever read though, by miles.

spdragoo
spdragoo

[having issues with the +/1 buttons. Wondering if it's script blocking by my employer...] Not to mention David Weber & John Ringo's "March" series (March Upcountry/to the Sea/to the Star/We Few).

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

I had to allow scripts from every reference in the page to get it to work. Beginning to suspect a deliberate policy on TR's part and it's beginning to really p1ss me off.

sjdorst
sjdorst

Later series about the change from the point of view of those left behind. It's becoming almost Arthurian.

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