When book and movie worlds collide! The steampunk author discusses the route from page to screen
This is a guest blog by author Stephen Hunt...
I came fairly close to achieving this goal in the great apple-bobbing sideshow fair that is the publishing/movie-TV world conjunction. My first novel, The Court Of The Air , was voted Best-Book-To-Be-Turned-Into-A-Movie by the judging panel of the world’s largest film festival, the Berlinale . The Judges had beatifically smiled upon me. The big studios were circling like hungry sharks. There was a deal to be done. There was blood in the water. Sadly, it was all mine. The post- Lord Of The Rings "give me a fantasy movie, any goddamn fantasy movie" bubble popped with the unexpected box-office failure of The Golden Compass , and suddenly every hot property fit to be made into a fantasy film was taken off the slate and junked. Joined, shortly after, by the world economy. Investment bank mortgage derivatives weren't an endless gravy train? Sheesh. Who knew?
If you don’t think you understand credit derivatives, then the process by which movies get made can’t be far behind it. Hollywood... pah? Who has the money? Who has the power? Who has the creative juice? I have read books on the subject and talked to people in the business, and I still don’t understand word one of it. Nobody knows anything. But I know what a SFF paperback writer who actually has a movie in production wants. They want it to be a successful movie.
They want Lord Of The Rings . They want The Hobbit . They want little more than a 90-page novella they once wrote dragged out into three movies and that guy from Sherlock playing the dragon. For if there is terrible arcane sorcery in the mystical process of how a movie gets converted from an author’s pitiful dreams of paying off the mortgage early into JK Rowling’s grand Scottish castle, there is even more sorcery in what makes a successful book-to-movie-adaptation.
Now, I don’t have any real answers here. If I was the guy who could look at the bones of a script and movie pre-production slate and predict with 100% certainty which one was going to be The Hunger Games and which one was going to be John Carter , then I wouldn’t be a fantasy author. I’d be living it large in Hollywood and demanding that Angelina Jolie massage my weary feet just for the change of starring in that sure thing mega-blockbuster I had picked from the slush pile with my god-like powers.
I have the same super-power as everyone else. I can sit down and look at a completed movie made from a book and walk out dazed into the light afterwards saying either (a) "That’s ruddy brilliant!" or (b) "The last time I saw a tank as big as that was a Panzer in the Imperial War Museum." Of course, by the time the film has been made, it’s rather too late. Kind of like when I hand in a finished book. The exact same feeling.
So I’m going to settle for ending this piece with two short lists. Happy authors with coins jingling in their pockets and a song in their hearts and... everyone else.
JRR Tolkien (and estate) with the various tomes of Middle-earth.
Suzanne Collins and The Hunger Games .
Stephenie Meyer and Twilight .
JK Rowling and Harry Potter.
George RR Martin and Game Of Thrones .
Philip K Dick and Blade Runner ( Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep ). Well, it came good in the end, right? Financially, I mean. Creatively speaking it was always genius.
Christopher Paolini’s Eragon . Where do I even begin with this film?
Philip Pullman’s The Golden Compass . The sum is less than the parts and they couldn't even get the title right.
Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game . It was always going to end badly, wasn't it?
Douglas Adams’ Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy . Hey, at least it had Martin Freeman in it.
Edgar Rice Burroughs’ John Carter . It wasn't that bad, but the budgets, man... the budgets.
Pittacus Lore’s I Am Number Four . No, you were more like number 104 at the week’s box office.
Jeanne DuPrau’s City Of Ember . This one failed to catch light. Maybe it was the giant mole what done it?
This list could undoubtedly be ten times longer. Feel free to fill it out further in the comments below.
Actually, there’s a third list, which is the Lost in Production Hell/Couldn't Agree Options list. I think we’re possibly less smiley than just everyone else. And, as a club, a lot more inclusive. Want to be a member? Just write your first novel... come on, you know you want to.
Stephen Hunt has a new fantasy book out, In Dark Service . It’s the first in his Far-called series. Will it be made into a movie? Would that film ever be successful? He’s busy sacrificing a chicken in the offices of Gollancz to find out. You can get it as an e-book for the time-limited and amazingly reasonable price of £1.99 . The book is reviewed in the next issue of SFX .