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The Game of Thrones book series is nihilistic nonsensical bilge. But it makes for “good” television because that sort of mess seems to be popular in today’s culture, what with all the sex, sorcery, and savagery. As an actual story though? It’s terrible. Which is probably why George R.R. Martin could never finish it – it had no real logical “out”, no escape from its cycles of violence and revenge, save what the HBO writers could force together. Until HBO picked it up, though, it was unlikely fare for Hollywood treatment – Hollywood typically shies away from overly long fantasy cycles simply because such things are very expensive to cast and produce well, to say nothing of finding good writers to translate novels into scripts you can actually film. For all the awfulness of its story, I do give full credit to HBO for the solid work they put into the project over nearly a decade – one can deplore the story but still admire the brilliant and extremely skilled craftwork involved in telling it, and (more importantly) sticking with it at that high level for so long. Would that The Hobbit had been given that same dedication.
And now it seems we are to receive another attempt at telling the story of Dune. I am not excited at the prospect. The David Lynch film of the 80s was terrible. The SciFi Channel’s miniseries of 20 years ago was much better. But why Dune? Why yet another attempt? If Hollywood is looking for that next “big epic”, surely there are other and better stories to tell? Dune, the first book, is interesting, but has its weaknesses, while the rest of the series gets rather strange. Haven’t other authors written better and more compelling fantasy or science-fiction epics? Or must we continually return to just a few “classics”, like Amazon is trying to do with its pending Tolkien series? I would like to propose a few other authors and series that Hollywood should consider instead, and would invite you to make your own suggestions as well.
Jack Vance – Lyonesse – You have all the vying factions and warring kingdoms, spies, betrayals, magic, pending doom, adventures, and quests that people loved in GoT, but series is more tightly told, not predicated on the nonsense of centuries of cultural and technological stasis, and its story arcs and overall narrative have definite beginnings, middles, and ends. The characters are also far more human, and thus more clever, and more fallible at the same time. Vance is not afraid to kill off characters, but does not do so because the Plot Wheel® demands it. Vance’s other works, from his Dying Earth stories to his science fiction, would also make good candidates – they are character driven tales in vivid worlds, but the worlds are ultimately only backdrops for the people in them.
Susan Cooper – The Dark Is Rising – Yes this is a children’s series, and yes Hollywood did, in its Harry-Potter enthusiasms, already put out a film, but it was dreadful (almost Lynch-Dune dreadful at that), and we should put it aside and start over. The series is a modern blending with ancient Anglo-Celtic mythology, and as such is very richly told.
Cornelia Funke – Inkheart – Like with Susan Cooper, Hollywood tried this one and blew it once already, in no small part because they could not decide whether it was a children’s story with some mature hints, or a more mature story as witnessed by a child, and of course they Americanized it. Andrew Klavan’s Another Kingdom series deals with some similar concepts as Funke, so if you enjoyed Klavan you would find this series familiar in some respects. Inkheart is a story series about our own world intersecting with a very rich and complicated parallel magical world, through the eyes of a young woman growing up in both.
What would you like to see made? What authors or series have been either unfairly overlooked, or badly mangled and worth another shot?
Or are there series (say, like Dune) that you think ought to be put out to pasture just on principle at this point?Published in