“The Walking Dead” is one of the most popular scripted shows on the air. “Game of Thrones” and “True Blood” are HBO’s next big franchise successes, pulling in viewers, Emmys, and DVD sales. It’s never been a better time to be a nerd and to enjoy TV. But that doesn’t mean there’s not room for improvement. Here are five novel series we’d like to see hit the small screen.
#5) Bill The Galactic Hero
“Starship Troopers” is a beloved SF novel. It was also written by Robert Heinlein, who flew a desk in World War II and never got near a fight. Harry Harrison, on the other hand, was a gunnery instructor and gunsight mechanic, actually saw war up close, and he thought “Starship Troopers” was a bunch of self-righteous garbage.
So he wrote a parody about a clueless farm boy suckered into a space army and faced with bureaucracy, incompetent higher-ups, and general stupidity. And it kind of took on a life of its own, especially since it’s an extremely popular book in the Armed Forces, and Harrison crammed it to the brim with political gags.
In other words, it’s ideal for a half-hour, blackly cynical sitcom like the BBC used to do before they realized there was more money selling Doctor Who toys to Americans. In fact, we think this would work pretty well for the BBC; they can comment on world events through a more subtle lens, and not have to hear Fox News whine about it as much.
#4) Bio of A Space Tyrant
Piers Anthony, as a writer, has all the subtlety of a brick through a window; witness the name of the character in this series, Hope Hubris.
Anyway, it’s ridiculous space opera as only the ’80s could produce: all the countries have grabbed one planet or another as a direct analogy, and despite the fact that we’ve gotten off this rock, all the political situations and tensions remain; Israel and Palestine are still fighting each other, for example.
Here’s the thing: yes, it’s broad, unsubtle, and silly. But that’s what SF does best. Nothing Anthony wrote would be remotely out of place on, say, “Star Trek: The Next Generation”. Networks love sprawling, soapy drama, and this really is as good as it gets in the form.
Although they’d probably have to edit out most of the sex, considering so little of it is plot-relevant and a lot of it is actually fairly skeevy. But, hey, it’s Piers Anthony: skeevy sex is part of the package.
#3) The Codex Alera
Jim Butcher is, of course, famous for the Harry Dresden novels, and if he happens to be speaking anywhere, do what you need to see him, because it’s literally like meeting Harry Dresden. Anyway, “The Dresden Files” already got a shot at the air, the result of a thankfully aborted attempt to make a big-budget Hollywood movie starring…Nicolas Cage.
But the Codex Alera, which came about because Butcher wanted to prove a good story trumps a terrible idea, not only mixes Pokemon and the Roman Lost Legion, it actually works.
It’s also pretty much every SF and fantasy trope put in a blender and with the frappe button held down; there are zombie saber-toothed tigers, Zergs, freaky ninja elves, and one kid at the center of it all who happens to have absolutely no magic abilities but does happen to have, unlike almost everybody else, a working brain.
It also has a lot of what makes high fantasy compelling: political intrigue, civil wars, and backstabbing out the wazoo. Butcher spends a lot of time on the world but unlike most fantasy authors, he’s smart enough to realize that we don’t really care about the intricate details of his D&D campaign and gets right to the story.
Also, any novel series that features zombie saber-toothed tigers should automatically be made into a TV show. That should be a law.
#2) “Bloodsucking Fiends”
Well before vampires boning became a major pop cultural concern, Christopher Moore was not only doing it, he was doing it right.
“Bloodsucking Fiends” has a big leg up on both “Twilight” and “True Blood” in the sense that it’s deliberately funny. In fact, the books read more like romantic comedies than they do like action novels, although a buddy-cop duo features prominently.
There’s also a larger universe to mine, as Moore has all of his books interconnected in various ways, and a lot of them take place in San Francisco. You’ve got Native American tricksters, Celtic death spirits, and angels accidentally unleashing zombies on small towns.
Seriously, if you can’t make a TV show out of that, Hollywood, it’s time to pack it in.
#1) The Dryco Cycle
Written by Jack Womack, of all the books this is the one most likely to hit screens at some point.
Partially because it’s as bleak as all get-out.
Imagine the future depicted in “A Clockwork Orange” crossed with the corporate dystopia of “Blade Runner”. Now imagine Jack the Ripper is running everything. That’s pretty much what life is like in future New York.
Oh, also, the biggest religion literally centers around Elvis.
The Dryco cycle is bleak, but it’s carefully constructed and sometimes out-of-left-field wacky. In other words, ideal for premium cable to take a shot at.
How about you? What novel series do you want to see on TV?