Now every studio in has its Sauron-like eye of fire out for the next fantasy series that can be turned into a lucrative, pop-culture-buzzy line of movies that will have devoted fans and new converts alike turning up in hordes at the box office every year.
And in case you haven’t heard, the Harry Potter movie franchise is coming to its epic, blockbuster conclusion this summer (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 is available on DVD and Blu-ray from redbox), while the Twilight films will reach their end next year.
Meanwhile, HBO’s complex and gratifyingly adult Game of Thrones is off to a fine start on premium cable, and casting for the film adaptation of The Hunger Games continues for a 2012 theatrical release. In the post-Avatar age, Anne McCaffrey’s classic ’70s Dragonriders of Pern books are finally being ushered toward the big screen. And of course Peter Jackson is at last hard at work down in New Zealand on the two-film adaptation of The Hobbit.
(Now before we get all quibbly about “fantasy” versus “science fiction,” yes The Hunger Games and Dragonriders of Pern are technically sci-fi, but for the sake of today’s trend-watching, let’s momentarily lump them under “fantasy.”)
So what classic or new, beloved or obscure fantasy books would you love to see Hollywood tackle next? Here are a few of my personal faves, mostly from the past couple decades:
Mieville’s imaginative steampunk “new weird” novels are set in Bas-Lag, an alternate world similar to a Victorian England laden with science-like magick. Every paragraph of Mieville’s writing is densely packed with a fertile-but-disciplined imagination that draws on Industrial Revolution politics, economics, and sociology, making the world feel both stranger and more familiar. Also the books describe a wild cavalcade of visual strangeness, otherworldly creatures and scientifically altered beings–bringing it all to the screen would certainly make any CGI effects department earn its pay.
- Perdido Street Station, The Scar, Iron Council
The very best of the recent “old-school epic” fantasy novels out there, Erikson’s (very hefty) series about the overthrow of a massive empire is full of sorcery and sword play and gritty and flawed heroes and heroines, but the unbelievably complex, interwoven plots and vast casts of characters feel more like a real-life history book. If you think HBO’s Game of Thrones is labyrinthine, check out the Malazan series–perhaps the best way to film it would be if you could have an interactive touch screen that constantly reminded you who’s who and what’s going on and why. Which is exactly why I love these books.
- Gardens of the Moon, Deadhouse Gates, Memories of Ice, House of Chains, Midnight Tides, The Bonehunters, Reaper’s Gale, Toll the Hounds, Dust of Dreams, The Crippled God
Powers is getting a long-deserved bump this summer, as elements of his Pirates, Zombies, and The Fountain of Youth novel On Stranger Tides are being used in the latest Pirates of the Caribbean movie. But all of Powers’ novels are smart, intricate mash-ups of history, science, and the supernatural and deserve to be filmed. Powers loves to roam sub-genres and historical settings: vampires, sorcerers, zombies, ghosts, witches and werewolves all pop up in his twisted “histories.” He doesn’t really have a running series, but his loosely connected “ghost trilogy” of books covers the 20th century and involves Vegas, poker, Tarot cards, Bugsy Seigel, The Fisher King, Harry Houdini, and Thomas Edison.
- The Drawing of the Dark, The Anubis Gates, On Stranger Tides, The Stress of Her Regard, Last Call, Expiration Date, Earthquake Weather, Declare, Three Days to Never
Card’s beloved sci-fi novel Ender’s Game has been slowly, slowly making its way toward the big screen for over a decade now, but I’d also like to see someone take a stab at adapting his Alvin Maker series. Set in the late 1700s of an alternate-history America, the books follow young Alvin as he comes to grips with his powerful “knack” (the books’ term for magic) while dealing with the all-too-real racial, religious, and political divisions between Europeans and Native Americans. The Alvin books are lower-key, not so action-packed, which is why I think a premium-cable series might be the better way to let their historical and cultural riches seep through.
- Seventh Son, Red Prophet, Prentice Alvin, Alvin Journeyman, Heartfire, The Crystal City
Newman imagines a Victorian England and Europe where Bram Stoker’s heroes failed to stop the arch vampire from taking control of Queen Victoria and turning England into his own kingdom of the Undead and their living minions. In later books, Dracula romps around in WWI-era Germany and then 1950s Italy at the height of the Cold War. (Neil Gaiman was instrumental in helping Newman shape the series.)
- Anno Dracula, The Bloody Red Baron, Dracula Cha Cha Cha
More steampunk science and magic set in an alternate Victorian England. (Are you starting to see a pattern in my personal tastes?) Dahlquist’s books feature an intrepid young society woman, Celeste Temple, and her unlikely but stalwart companions–an underworld rogue and an upright Swedish doctor–as they’re drawn into a sinister web of high adventure, devious mind-control conspiracies, and a Zeppelin battle. With Guy Ritchie and Robert Downey Jr’s Sherlock Holmes a rousing success, you’d think the time’s ripe for someone to give Dahlquist’s books a similarly energetic adaptation.
- The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters, The Dark Volume
Now let’s hear some of yours. Anyone want to put a word in for Michael Moorcock’s Elric of Melnibone? Stephen R. Donaldson’s Chronicles of Thomas Covenant? Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series? Or maybe you’ve discovered a newer (or older, lesser-known) series of novels you want to champion? Let’s hear ‘em in the comments!