What Fantasy Books Should Hollywood Adapt Next?

by | May 9th, 2011 | 6:54PM | Filed under: In My Humble Opinion, Movies

A decade ago The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter pumped fresh life into the idea of adapting beloved fantasy novels into long-running film franchises or cable series.

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.

The latest Narnia movie, The Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader, is available now on DVD and Blu-ray from redbox.

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:

China Mieville’s Bas-Lag Books

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

Steven Erikson’s Malazan Books of the Fallen

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

Tim Powers’ Novels

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

Orson Scott Card’s Tales of Alvin Maker

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

Kim Newman’s Anno Dracula Series

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

Gordon Dahlquist’s Glass Books of the Dream Eaters

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!

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43 Responses to “What Fantasy Books Should Hollywood Adapt Next?”

  1. Maria
    Posted on May 17, 2011 at 9:27 am

    Xanth series/Incarnations of Immortality (Piers Anthony)
    Shannara series (Terry Brooks)
    Riftwar/Empire sagas (Raymond E. Feist/Janny Wurts)
    Chronicles of Amber (Roger Zelazny)
    Belgariad series (David Eddings)

  2. G. Rick
    Posted on May 17, 2011 at 9:31 am

    Although it would likely call for some grandiose production along the lines of Lord of the Rings, I think it would be interesting to see a big-screen adaptation of The Dragonlance Chronicles – or at least the first three books that Weis and Hickman wrote (Dragons of Autumn Twilight, Dragons of Spring Dawning, etc..). There was a brief miniseries adaptation of Wheel of Time that probably could have been expanded upon. And some of the Phillip Jose Farmer books would make for an interesting movie in mu humble opinion.

  3. Jon Y.
    Posted on May 17, 2011 at 10:37 am

    Since they mentioned some other sci-fi lumped into “fantasy”, I would say I have being really wanting someone to do a film adaptation of C. S. Lewis’ Space Trilogy (Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra, That Hideous Strength). They are not as widely known in popular literature as The Chronicles of Narnia but in my opinion make an awesome story that is ripe for film especially in a post-Avatar world.

  4. Brian
    Posted on May 17, 2011 at 1:28 pm

    I think that they should do Orson Scott Cards “Enders Game” saga everyone loves a story that takes place in space with other worldly beings and to top it all off its a young generation that get thrown in to do the space training and butt whoopin

  5. Dawn
    Posted on May 17, 2011 at 2:08 pm

    Yeah, if you are going to do anything by OSC, do enders game. Every thing else is way too preachy. Blackout and All Clear are both up for hugo’s, and they would be wonderful, cross genre movies. Something fun would be good too. A Dirty Job?

  6. Kainoa
    Posted on May 17, 2011 at 4:19 pm

    I think the Elfquest series by Wendy and Richard Pini would be the ultimate challenge to bring to the big screen. If you’ve never read the comics or haven’t read it for some time, by all means go to http://www.elfquest. com and re-familiarize yourself with Cutter and the Wolfriders. The graphics are absolutely fabulous! I have never seen a movie that came as close to being a true representation of a fantasy adaptation as “The Black Crystal” and would love to see it happen with this series. Please, please, please seriously consider doing this!

  7. Harry
    Posted on May 17, 2011 at 7:00 pm

    Edgar Rice Burroughs’ “John Carter of Mars” series, Frank L Baum’s “Oz” series, Arthur C. Clarke’s “Foundation” series, Isaac Asimov’s Robot stories, and although its not a series per-se, (IE: no continuing characters) I would Love to see filmic adaptations of Robert A. Heinlein’s “Juveniles”, like “Have Spacesuit, Will Travel”, “Red Planet”, “Citizen of the Galaxy”, “Between Planets”, etc.

  8. kaylasmom
    Posted on May 18, 2011 at 6:18 pm

    I would love to see the Fabelhaven books by Brandon Mull made into movies. They were great fun to read with my kids and would make a wonderful family movie series.

  9. Cheryl
    Posted on May 19, 2011 at 8:46 pm

    I vote for “Distant Waves: A Novel of the Titanic” by Suzanne Weyn. This is a brand new spin on the sinking of the Titanic.

  10. Lise
    Posted on May 30, 2011 at 3:34 am

    The Death Gate Cycle (Weis/Hickman)
    Incarnations of Immortality (Anthony)
    Temeraire (Novik) – Peter Jackson already has the rights to this but keeps procrastinating on the project. :( Boo to The Lovely Bones.
    Codex Alera (Butcher)
    The Banned and the Banished (Clemens)
    The Warded Man (Brett)
    The Magic Kingdom of Landover (Brooks)

  11. Tammy Franz
    Posted on June 9, 2011 at 9:53 am

    Many years ago when the book “Piercing The Darkness” by Frank Peretti came out it was rumored that Steven Spielberg was looking to put it on the big screen. Unfortunately he did not, and I believe that it would be amazing and be fanastic to see the details of this book in theaters!

  12. Randy Mac Kay
    Posted on June 9, 2011 at 10:01 am

    I would add, any of Moorcock’s Eternal Champion books (particularly Elric, Corum or Hawkmoon (for a touch of steampunk-ish fantasy)).

    Also, Patricia McKillip’s Forgotten Beasts of Eld

  13. Sparrow
    Posted on June 9, 2011 at 11:18 am

    YES! I VOTE FOR XANTH by Piers Anthony. I am waiting on the edge of my seat for at least one of the first three to be made into a movie!

  14. chuck bates
    Posted on June 9, 2011 at 11:52 am

    I definitely would love to see Raistlin(I think that guy from terminator, ya know the liquid metal terminator would be a good raistlin) on the big screen. I think a big production of Dragonlancethe chroncles set would be great. Also R.A. Salvatore’s Dark Elf trilogy would be equally awesome. I could see that guy that played darth maul(just a suggestion) weilding twin scimitars.

  15. NT
    Posted on September 13, 2011 at 12:56 pm

    I would want to see The Death Gate Cycle by weis/hickman
    Film is about visually making stories alive, and this series has striking worlds to visit.
    Erikson’s Malazan Books of the Fallen might be easier to portray as an anime film, rather than a live action film.

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