With some networks offering mixed signals about their futures with science fiction, we may increasingly rely on cable for compelling television about the future. Fortunately, HBO is stepping up, developing two new science fiction series with X-Files alum Frank Spotnitz.
According to Variety, HBO executives approached Spotnitz some time about the possibility of developing a medical thriller. Given that Spotnitz spent eight years writing for The X-Files, it's not terribly surprising that he gave the idea a near-futuristic twist. Humanitas takes place in a future more medically advanced than our own, where doctors are able to manipulate genes and create viruses, resulting in a host of ethical dilemmas and general anxiety that a pandemic is imminent.
Spotnitz's second project with HBO is flung much farther into the future. He is looking to adapt The World Inside, Robert Silverberg's novel about humanity in the year 2381. The human population has exploded thanks to a strictly enforced culture of free love and uncontrolled reproduction, and most of the world's population lives inside vast, sprawling buildings and never go outside. It's an apparently utopian society of unfettered sex, happiness drugs, and mutual reliance, where everyone lives in harmony. But it's also a closely monitored and regulated society with no privacy or individuality, and deviation from the social norms can be punished by death. But a computer engineer in one city finds he has perverse thoughts of leaving the building and exploring the world outside.
Of course, there's no guarantee that either show will get picked up, but it's encouraging to see HBO, a channel whose recent speculative offerings have tended more toward modern fantasy, take an interest in shows with a scientific and futuristic bent.