So, a while ago — like a year and a half ago — I made up this list of ten books that I would like to see adapted into movies.
Well, I’ve read a little more since then, so I made another list. I have a feeling this pattern might repeat itself for, oh, the rest of my life.
1. Territory – Emma Bull
Plot Summary: An alternative history fantasy western: Territory tells us about the events that led up to the O.K. Corral — except, this time, with more magicians.
Why I’m Interested: Because while western isn’t always my go-to genre of choice, there are a lot of elements in the genre that naturally appeal to me — and mixing those elements with hexes and blood magic is simply never going to hurt. This book was a lot of fun to read with a wide cast of interesting characters, and there are some scenes — like the one where a magician unwittingly buries himself alive — that I would love to see on the big screen.
Concerns: Probably that it would be too campy and ridiculous. Territory is a hell of a fun ride, but it’s not particularly silly, and I’m not sure the filmmakers would make a distinction between the two.
Casting Possibilities: While I primarily know her for comedic roles, I kind of like the idea of Alison Brie as young widow and headstrong typist/reporter Mildred Benjamin.
2. Old Man’s War – John Scalzi
Plot Summary: At the age of 75, John Perry joins the army. The Colonial Defense Force has been in a brutal war with several different alien races for decades, and they want soldiers with actual life experience, not young kids who don’t know anything about the world. If Perry survives his two year contract on the front lines, he’ll get to retire in one of the colonies. If he survives.
Why I’m Interested: Because I’m hard-pressed to think of anything quite like it when it comes to science-fiction movies today. You get space battle movies, sure, but they’re often cheesy as hell with wooden acting and terrible, terrible scripts. Old Man’s War has all the action and humor a summer blockbuster requires, but it’s also very grim in many ways and has a wonderfully original premise.
Concerns: Mostly that Hollywood would strip it of its depth and just make it a shitty, CGI blow-em-up story.
Casting Possibilites: Mek likes the idea of John Perry being played by James Garner. I have no particular problem with this.
3. The Last Policeman – Ben H. Winters
Plot Summary: An asteroid is going to destroy Earth in six months. There’s no stopping it. Everyone is basically doomed. But Detective Henry Palace is still at work, trying to solve a murder that everyone else has dismissed as just another suicide.
Why I’m Interested: Apocalyptic noir? I’m in. Actually, Palace isn’t much like a typical noir detective — he’s extremely by-the-book, rarely varies from his routines, and never swears — but he’s also not a whiny whiner who whines, and that only makes him a more compelling protagonist. And the book asks interesting questions about what matters when the world is going to hell. What do you do when you and everyone around you is scheduled to kick the bucket?
I’ve read some talk about this being made into a TV show, which I totally wouldn’t say no to. But I actually think the story would make for a good detective film. A trilogy, probably, considering that this is the first of three books.
Concerns: One, that Palace will become a whiny whiner who whines due to bad acting. Two, that producers who are worried about depressing endings will swoop in with some kind of poorly written Armageddon oil-drillers save the day bullshit. Admittedly, I don’t know where the trilogy will end up, but if the asteroid doesn’t hit the world . . . well, it’s pretty hard to see how that wouldn’t be a cheat.
Casting Possibilities: I’m not sure. I had Aaron Staton in my head the whole time I was reading, but that’s clearly because I played L.A. Noire last year.
4. Ready Player One – Ernest Cline
Plot Summary: In a dystopian future, the Internet and basically every gaming system ever has evolved into something much bigger, the OASIS (Ontologically Anthropocentric Sensory Immersive Simulation), created by James Halliday and Ogden Morrow. In Halliday’s will, he states that any player who finds these three particular keys and completes his 80’s-fueled nostalgia quest inside the OASIS will receive his fortune and control the future of OASIS. No one’s ever had any luck . . . until Wade Watts, a poor teenager, discovers the first key, and then the race is on.
Why I’m Interested: Despite some misgivings I had with the writing, this was a hugely entertaining and wildly original story, and I think it would make one hell of a fun ride for nerds at the movie theaters, especially for nerds who were raised in the 80’s. Which doesn’t, actually, include me — I’m much more up on my 90’s references, having been born in ’85 — but I had a good time anyway. Although, apparently, I really have to watch War Games sometime.
Concerns: COPYRIGHTS. Oh. My. God. The book doesn’t just have allusions to basically every geeky movie, television show, or video game you can think of. There are actually highly plot-relevant scenes in here that are literally taken from movies, TV shows, and video games. Legalese is not anywhere near my native tongue, but I imagine this would be a very expensive movie to make.
Casting Ideas: Not entirely sure about the actors, but this movie needs to be directed by Edgar Wright.
5. Dark Harvest – Norman Partridge
Plot Summary: Every Halloween in a small Midwestern town, teenage boys have to complete the Run: a quest to kill the October Boy, a pumpkinhead monster who comes out of the cornfields and murders anyone who gets in his way. The boy who wins gets a big fortune for his family and a future outside of their little podunk town. This year, it’s Pete McCormick’s turn to try.
Why I’m Interested: I’m attracted to horror in small town stories, probably because I grew up in a very small town — though admittedly, mine came with more cows and deer than cornfields and pumpkinheads. Still. I like meta horror, and this one does some really interesting things with various scary story tropes. In a way, it’s a very simple tale and seems like it would translate to film fairly easily. Also, they could improve on Kelly, the love interest. Cause yeah. Kelly needs some serious improving.
Concerns: Well. The pumpkinhead monster needs to actually be scary, which is easier to do in prose than on film.
Casting Possibilities: Honestly, I’ve got nothing.
6. The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making – Catherynne M. Valente
Plot Summary: September, an intelligent and plucky twelve-year old girl from Omaha, travels with the Green Wind to Fairyland, which is being stripped of much of its wildness and wonder by the bureaucratic and dangerous Marquess.
Why I’m Interested: This book is like this generation’s version of Alice in Wonderland. It’s exactly the kind of story I imagine reading to my own kids — assuming I eventually have some — and September is probably one of my favorite literary heroines ever. Seeing Fairyland brought to life on a big screen, whether animated or live-action, would be amazing.
Concerns: Mostly that Tim Burton would direct it. Which isn’t fair — I haven’t even seen his Alice in Wonderland. Still. No Burton.
Casting Possibilities: Unfortunately, all the really good child actors I knew have grown up into teenagers. As far as directing goes . . . Matthew Vaughn maybe? Or Juan Antonio Bayona?
7. Feed – Mira Grant
Plot Summary: In a post-zombie-apocalyptic world, Georgia Mason and her news team of bloggers are selected to report on a presidential election campaign. But the campaign trail has been fraught with a string of fatal incidents, leading Georgia to believe there is a conspiracy behind them.
Why I’m Interested: Well, a lot of reasons. This would be a very different type of zombie movie and a very different type of political thriller, and I like the idea of seeing more genre-mishmashing in film. Also, Georgia’s a great heroine who has an actual biological reason for always wearing sunglasses — not just because they make her look badass — and I really like her relationship with her brother. And, and? No love interest! A female POV story without a love interest. Does that even happen?
Concerns: They’ll create a love interest. Seriously, this will only take time away from Georgia and Shaun’s awesome sibling relationship. Also, that all the painstaking world-building of the novel will lead to a massively annoying and/or inflectionless voiceover.
Casting Possibilities: Mary Elizabeth Winstead is kind of my go-to girl, I know, but I think she could be a good Georgia. Also, I’ve started to like Scarlett Johansson a lot more since watching her in The Avengers. She’s a possibility.
8. The Night Circus – Erin Morgenstern
Plot Summary: The Night Circus is full of spectacle and wonder, and it appears when and where it wants without warning. Everyone knows it’s something special, but only a few know that it’s also the stage for two rivaling magicians who start to fall in love with one another, even as they compete in a game they don’t fully understand
Why I’m Interested: If done well, this movie would be a visual feast. The set direction, cinematography, costuming . . . it could and should all be magnificent. I’d really love to see all the magic I read about brought to life on the big screen. Also, I actually think that a movie might be able to improve on the one aspect of the novel I felt was lacking: Celia and Marco’s relationship. In the book, I often felt very distant from them. This is an epic love story, and I wanted to feel a bit more passion between the two, which I think would be an easy fix if actors with strong chemistry were cast in the lead roles.
Concerns: Mostly, I just worry that the movie wouldn’t be enchanting enough. This isn’t a story where you can skimp on spectacle. You need to draw the audience in with it and make each and every one of them long to visit Le Cirque des Rêves for real.
Casting Possibilities: I’m not sure about Celia and Marco, but I kind of had Jason Isaacs in mind for Alexander while I was reading. And maybe . . . oh, Hugh Laurie for Hector? I think I just want these two in a scene together. Kenneth Branagh is another possible choice for Hector. (I actually don’t remember where these guys are supposed to be from, or if it’s ever even explicitly stated. I just gravitate towards British accents when magic is involved, apparently.)
9. The Last Final Girl – Stephen Graham Jones
Plot Summary: In the kind of small, idyllic town that slashers love to haunt, homecoming queen-to-be Lindsay has only just escaped death (while bra-less) at the hands of Billie Jean, a serial killer in a Michael Jackson mask. Billie Jean is supposed to be dead, and it’s all supposed to be over — which doesn’t really explain why Lindsay has decided to replace her entire Homecoming court with virgins and misfits and other final girls just like her.
Why I’m Interested: This is a very sharp, very funny take on slashers, and I’m always up for watching a clever deconstruction of the horror genre. I desperately want to see the scene where Lindsey is saved by her horse on a cliff. Also, the scene where everyone comes out in their Homecoming dresses. I want to see Izzy’s dress, in particular. And the whole novel is written like it’s a screenplay, so for instance:
“Slow pan on that longsword in the trophy case, kind of catching it from all angles.
Dim in the glass reflection — sunlight all behind, so it’s as much shadow and reflection — is a body to attach this POV to, neither male nor female, and so faceless it might as well be wearing a fencing mask, or liquor store pantyhose.
Still we get it: somebody’s eyeballing that sword.
Thinking certain things.”
With a setup like this, translating from scene to page really shouldn’t be that hard.
Concerns: Except that the scene I just mentioned is funny to read but isn’t actually funny to watch. I’m worried that we’ll lose a lot of the humor inherent in the book if the movie only translates the events and not what the prose is actually poking fun at. This is one of those rare times where I think a VO of the stage directions — preferably spoken by an unrelated narrator — would actually be helpful. That way, we could actually have this one dude power-walking and hear the narrator say, “One of the twin coaches, just walking. But with purpose. With Terminator intent.”
Seriously, this is like my favorite line ever.
Casting Possibilities: I don’t have anyone in mind for the girls, but I’d love the narrator (that I’ve made up) to be a horror legend of some kind. I’d nominate Tony Todd because his voice is amazing, but he and Robert Englund are already spoken for. (They have cameos.) Hm. Sigourney Weaver, perhaps? Jamie Lee Curtis? Heh, Bruce Campbell?
10. The Ocean at the End of the Lane – Neil Gaiman
Plot Summary: A middle-aged man goes back home for a funeral and finds himself visiting a farm where his old childhood friend, Lettie Hempstock, used to live. While sitting there at the pond — which Lettie always called an ocean — he begins to remember the extraordinary things that happened to him as a little boy.
Why I’m Interested: Maybe it’s because I read this book a day or two after rewatching Spirited Away, but I feel like this story is tailor-made to be a Miyazaki film, particularly the scene where we first meet our canvas tent monster. This is the rare story that I actually want to be made into an animated film.
Concerns: Honestly, not a lot.
Casting Possibilites: Not sure about the kids, but maybe Diana Rigg as Old Mrs. Hempstock? Man, I like her on Game of Thrones.
That’s it for now, folks. But never fear: there will always be more lists. In fact, I’m thinking about making a Books to Adapt into TV Shows list at some point too, for those stories that will never fit into a two hour movie.