People often talk about which science fiction books would make good movies. But which movies would make for excellent novels? And who should write them, in an ideal world?
Of course, plenty of original movies do get turned into books - but they're usually rushed novelizations, written in a month by someone who's juggling ten other deadlines and adding speech tags to the movie script. If you're lucky, you get a few extra insights into the characters and one or two scenes that the adapter added, or which were cut from the movie before or after filming. Plus, of course, the movies that get their own book adaptations aren't usually ones which could benefit from a really smart dose of storytelling. Movie adaptations of books, meanwhile, are usually disappointing for a whole different set of reasons.
But every now and then, a movie comes along down the pike that actually cries out for a smart, interesting book that brings out the ideas simmering below the surface. Here are ten movies that I'd love to see a really smart book version of, and the authors who would write them in my fondest dreams.
Twelve Monkeys. Cole (Bruce Willis) travels back in time from a plague-ravaged future to try and discover the source of the virus, but he ends up tangling with his own past in unpredictable ways. I was torn between listing this one and director Terry Gilliam's other dystopian epic, Brazil. But of the two movies, I think I'm more desperate to read a really thoughtful novel of Monkeys, preferably written by someone who watched the film with Gilliam a few times. There's so much confusing stuff in this movie, especially Cole's causal loop - is he creating his own dystopian future, or is he simply trapped in the logic of already-existing events? Did the scientists send Cole back on purpose to make sure their plague-ridden timeline "happens," as some have suggested? (In which case, why would they be worried about that, given that it's already happened?)
Who should write it: Marge Piercy, author of Woman On The Edge Of Time. She knows all about time travel, madness and the long reach of dystopia.
The Fountain. Meredith suggested this one - there's already a graphic novel adaptation of Darren Aronofsky's original screenplay, the one he never got to film. But there's no prose novelization of the actual movie, which I found to be a huge let-down despite its sprawling, ambitious plot. Judging from the results of our recent poll, many of you consider The Fountain an underrated masterpiece. Maybe a book could flesh out some of the confusing stuff about the present-day cancer cure and just what's going on with that weird tree-in-space sequence.
Who should write it: I'm going to go with Jonathan Lethem, author of Motherless Brooklyn. He might be able to ground the present day stuff and add some life to those lifeless characters, and when he's channeling Philip K. Dick, he does weird-and-fantastical quite well. Maybe it would all feel epic and personal, the way I think the film was supposed to.
The Brother From Another Planet. John Sayles' story of an escaped slave with weird feet who lands up in present-day New York is one of my favorite films, although I haven't seen it all the way through in a decade. Joe Morton is fantastic as the mute escapee, who has a strangely close relationship with technology.
Who should write it: Tobias Buckell, author of Sly Mongoose, has dealt with themes of slavery and alien cultures in a lot of his writing.
Sleeper. Wikipedia claims this film is loosely based on the H.G. Wells novel The Sleeper Awakes, but I would say "loosely" is the operative word. And this is such a crazy slapsticky subversive novel, complete with humans impersonating robots, Orgasmotrons, a fake utopia and nose-cloning. And so much more.
Who should write it: Douglas Adams, if he was still alive? Actually, I'm going to go with io9 contributor Austin Grossman (Soon I Will Be Invincible), just because I think he could nail the neurotic Woody Allen tone, while doing a lot to flesh out the absurdity of this freaky dystopia.
Possible Worlds This little-known film stars Tom McCamus as a man who keeps journeying through different alternate universes and having a relationship with the same woman (Tilda Swinton), which always seems to end badly. And then there's a twist, which I won't reveal here but which we gave away in a found footage.
Who should write it: Audrey Niffenegger, author of The Time Traveler's Wife.
S1m0ne. Andrew Niccol's most disappointing film totally deserves a novel told from the point of view of Al Pacino's character, a third-rate movie director who creates a virtual actress to save his troubled movie - and then has to deal with her becoming a superstar. A novel might be able to make the movie's premise more believable and dispense with some of the VFX problems that dog the movie, and a tight focus on Pacino's POV would allow us to probe the psychology of a man who brings to life an irresistible virtual avatar, in a cross between Pygmalion and Cage Aux Folles.
Who should write it: Amy Thompson, author of Virtual Girl, who manages to make that novel's skeezy programmer who creates a gynoid and then tries to enslave her actually sympathetic.
The Matrix Trilogy. No, not just the first movie. I want to see the whole trilogy as one sprawling, insane novel about cyber-avatars. I want all of the lame discussions about free will in the second movie and all of the lame everything in the third movie to be beaten into submission, and the whole disappointing mess transformed into a seamless whole, the story of humans trapped in a virtual world rising up against their machine overlords, while a virtual man-in-black becomes a megalomaniac.
Who should write it: That's the hard part. There are so many cyberpunk authors I'd like to see try their hand at it. But in the end, I'm thinking Charles Stross.
He does sprawling post-human stories really amazingly well, and might add a whole extra conceptual layer to the Wachowskis' somewhat facile world-building.
Primer. This knotty time-travel movie actually stands on its own remarkably well, but I'd still like to see a smart, thoughtful novel that deals with all the of the intersecting timelines and unraveling protagonists.
Who should write it: David Gerrold, author of The Man Who Folded Himself, still possibly the weirdest time-travel novel of all time.
Slither. You might think this is just another over-the-top body horror movie, about alien parasites who infect a town's residents. But this movie goes so much further, showing how a woman can't escape her abusive husband. The parasite infects her husband first, and then all of the people whom it infects afterwards speak with the husband's voice, so she's constantly trapped. It's up there with Society and Dead/Alive in the disturbing horrific social commentary sweepstakes.
Who should write it: The great d.g.k. goldberg, if she was still alive. Otherwise, I would say Nalo Hopkinson, author of Brown Girl In The Ring.
Sunshine. The screenplay is available in book form, but there's no novelization. I loved this film, but many people don't seem to agree, and maybe a really strong novelization could help win over the doubters, especially if it made the slasher-movie third act feel like it grew naturally out of the rest of the story.
Who should write it: I'm thinking maybe Stephen Baxter, who's shown a talent for writing madness as well as planetary disasters and space exploits.
Note: I was going to include Galaxy Quest on this list - but realized it already has a novelization, by Terry Bisson. Who, by amazing coincidence, is probably exactly who I would have chosen to novelize that movie. Has anyone read Bisson's Galaxy Quest novel, and is it as good as it ought to be? It's only one cent on Amazon (plus a few bucks' shipping, of course.) Also, did you know that Christopher "The Prestige" Priest has novelized David Cronenberg's Existenz?