Herewith a quick top ten list of properties that if adopted by Hollywood, would make whoever holds their rights a million billion dollars. I apologize for this being a little sci-fi heavy, but that’s because I know the genre better than anybody who doesn’t still live with their mother.
10. “Seasons” — just the first thing on this list by the immortal Joe Haldeman, who wrote a property I’m quite sure you’re familiar with in “The Forever War”
and that other book I gave you which would make a hell of a TV show, “All My Sins Remembered.” I normally tell no one about this little-known novella that concerns a research team that interacts with a species of alien, but it may be the most intriguing “alien” story not yet told. From Haldeman’s collection “Dealing in Futures,” “Seasons” concerns a group of anthropologists who arrive on a planet to research a sentient species that they learn, far too late, has a “killing season.” Its action sequences are extremely visual, almost made for the movies, while its character work should translate well from the page. A classic before it’s even made.
9. “Hyperion” (Dan Simmons) — I hesitated to include Hyperion on the list for the simple reason that I believe someone owns the rights to it, but this four book cycle is so good it makes the Lord of the Rings look like “The Ten Commandments.” (I hate “The Ten Commandments.” ‘Hyperion’ is literally the name of the world that the book takes place on. I’d basically describe it as “Lost” meets “The Canterbury Tales” meets “Alien.” The book describes the journey of a group of pilgrims to a labyrinthine world know as Hyperion, which they wish to have their greatest sin or problem resolved by an omnipotent being known as the Shrike. A fearsome villain made for the movies, he’s on the book’s cover (just an artist’s representation) and scares the shit out of me. I mean, this guy has killing fields. The stories that surround this awesome journey to the Heart of Darkness are just as captivating, ranging in genre from a detective story to an incredibly powerful tale of a priest who comes to a group of androgynous, retarded creatures he spends the rest of his life trying to understand. This is just waiting for somebody to make a trillion dollars from it. I could shoot it right now in Vancouver for about 5 million if you are interested.
8. “The Street of Crocodiles” (Bruno Schulz). If you want somebody to win an Oscar (my suggestion would be an aging Gabriel Byrne) here’s your choice. Schulz was a Polish Jew killed by the Nazis. Before that happened he wrote this literary gem, a lightly veiled novel of Schulz’s Polish childhood, is basically a David Lynch movie waiting to happen, so I hope you have a deal with Lynch. This might not make anybody money, but it is a modern classic and you should read things that won’t make you money, in theory.
7. “This Can’t Be Happening at Macdonald Hall” — (Gordan Korman) — Going to the extreme other end of the ledger now, this series of books was a cult classic and probably has a bigger adult audience than kids now. The story is a tailor-made feature. The books were so awesome because they are basically the fun of college turned slightly more innocent and set in a boarding school. For kids, they exaggerate the fantasy of escape as well as the fear of being on your own. Basically Hogwarts if there was no magic. Some of these books are funny like Meatballs. If you cast Jack Black as the headmaster, you’d make a lot more money than they will in that fucking Nacho Libre bullshit. I mean, who is that supposed to appeal to…me?
Otherwise, if you animated this motherfucker, it might just surprise you and be twice as popular. It’s like they’re paying screenwriters to come up with that crap when it was already done, and better.
6. “Pale Fire” — (Vladimir Nabokov) — I know what you’re saying: “Alex, I’m getting the star of the f’ing O.C. to basically dress up like the motorcycle guy in the Village People and rub you until you purr like a kitten, and you’re telling me ‘Pale Fire’? Why don’t you tell me to adapt fucking ‘Finnegan’s Wake’?” And I know what you’re saying, but this could be fucking genius. An insane Johnny Depp — an energetic cast. I should actually write a treatment for this. Plus the book has really good name recognition, and what better way is there to get people to the theater than by implying that they will become smarter if they do? OK, cast no-names, film it for free, and basically buy a house for $30 million, because that’s how much you’re going to make.
5. Haldeman Effluvium — I don’t want to waste your time by rattling off a bunch of Haldeman novels and then putting my hand out and saying “Where’s Mischa?”, but the fact of the matter is this. “Forever Peace“, the sequel to “The Forever War”, is a totally different kind of ride in a different universe. I am literally dying to adapt this. Plus no aliens means you’re set. I’d worry it’s going to turn into ‘Mindhunters’ meets ‘Vanilla Sky’, but it is a solid property. For other good Haldeman, I mean, pick one. The guy is just never bad. “The Coming” sucks, but I think he just wrote that to finish out one of his contracts. He has this awesome one that almost nobody has ever read that concerns this guy who can read people’s thoughts, kind of like “The Sentinel” meats “What Women Want.” I loved it, and the thing is all dialogue. I mean, that’s just easy money.
4. “Books of Blood” (Clive Barker). With the legs of the current horror boom kinda fading out when somebody thought it was a good idea to release “Sliver,” Barker actually means to scare people. Just take the marketing campaign from the ring and you’re good here. This would really be best as a horror series, but when have we ever heard of a horror series? I mean, how well did the new Twilight Zone go? On the other hand, maybe people would be ready for it. I’d actually have to look at the book to say here, this is a great idea, but the one I’m thinking of concerns this creature in a small English town. Something “Rex” is in the title of it. The thing likes to eat children, which may be a little cliched, but if you did Remains of the Day meets that movie where the dude had those wings, I think we could probably recoup our budget and get a production deal at Disney. This series actually got going in production recently and I have no doubt they’ll fuck it up. Adapting ‘Pig Blood Blues’ is so wrong.
4a. Roald Dahl still has some properties that I’m sure someone has the rights to, but while Charlie and the Chocolate Factory didn’t do very well, somebody should do The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar at least as a TV movie.
3. “All My Friends are Going to Be Strangers” (Larry McMurtry). This made our top five books you should read right now back in this blog’s infancy. The classic novel of Texas, half-set in California. I don’t know if I ever made you read this one, but considering McMurtry should be hotter than ever, there’s no time like the present to remake this classic story about a writer who has trouble in his life with women. I could see it as the defining role for someone, I could also see it as “Winter Passing” without Zooey Deschanel’s pretty face. Either way, I’d go see it, but if it’s a crowd-pleaser you want, look no further than
2. “Microserfs” (Douglas Coupland.) Going for comedy this time (my command of different genres nearly takes my breath away), “Microserfs” is a can’t miss dissection of the dot-com boom in the middle 90s. It was actually written before that, but nearly all the jokes still apply, I assure you. You can pretty much just change the name of the companies. The only thing I would do it would be to add more sex to it. It’s basically a romantic comedy stretched into an appraisal of a culture and a time period. The question is, is this a period people want to relieve? My answer–give it a year. There’s going to be a whole revisiting of that period. This will be like “Wall Street” meets “Sleepless in Seattle,” plot-wise.
1. “The Empty Chair” (Jeffrey Deaver) — The only problem with this is, whoever made “The Bone Collector” bought the rights to this character, maybe? I dunno, but Denzel played Deaver’s famous wheelchair bound cop Lincoln Rhyme. While that had New York as a setting, TEC brings the action down to South Carolina (I think, could be North) and the story of a runaway killer searched for in a manhunt. It has a strong female lead, parallel stories, and some downright jaw-dropping moments. “The Bone Collector” did well, didn’t it? I dunno. He also has another one in this series that has a China angle, and you gotta figure if you turned that into a political point and timed it right, you could rake some dubloons. This stuff is thrill-a-minute awesomeness, with 24-like turns and awesome psychology, along with a whodunit feel that should give it some shelf-life.
“Annie Let’s Not Wait” — Guillemots (highest possible recommendation)