Stories that Need “Good” TV Adaptations 

We are nothing short in consuming visual content. The gloves are off, premium cable channels and streaming services are gambling on developing series after series, hoping to forge a new blockbuster binge-hit. Now, with HBO’s Game of Thrones ending in possibly two years from now, networks are scrambling to get the next new thing to bank on audiences’ fantasy withdrawal.
The echoes that Game of Thrones will be leaving behind is going to have a ripple effect, networks are bracing for it. It’s an opportunity ripe for the picking. Networks don’t even need to gather creative writers and lock them up in a room until they come up with something fresh. There are hundreds of stories out there scattered in different mediums that networks could license and adapt into a TV series. 

We’ve all heard that FX will be adapting Welcome to Night Vale podcast into a TV series. Showtime and Lionsgate, with Lin-Manuel Miranda, will be working on The Kingkiller Chronicles by bestselling (and sometimes Twitch streamer) author Patrick Rothfuss. Margaret Atwood’s 1985 dystopian novel, The Handmaid’s Tale is receiving praises all over. And Netflix is doing a series based on Richard K. Morgan’s science-fiction novel Altered Carbon, and former My Chemical Romance front man, Gerard Way’s Eisner Award-winning graphic novel, Umbrella Academy. A Song of Ice and Fire (Game of Thrones) author, George RR Martin, is producing a post-apocalyptic series, for HBO, that is based on the multi award-winning novel Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor.

That’s just the gist of things.

Earlier this this year Amazon has announced plans to adapt multiple science-fiction novels into TV series. These include Larry Niven’s Ringworld, Neal Stephenson’s cyberpunk Snow Crash, and Greg Rucka’s Lazarus.

This sounds great and all, until Amazon then announced they will also be working on a prequel series of The Lord of the Rings. This is where people started getting twitchy. As interesting as that sounds, it’s just as dismaying. LOTR may have a millennia-worth of content that can fulfill, maybe three billion seasons (an exaggeration), but we have Peter Jackson’s adaptations of both The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. Might be best to just leave Middle-earth alone, but we’ll hold off any real criticisms until we see the final product at hand.

Television viewing is fickle thing. It’s not as simple as flipping through pages of a book or listening to a podcast while on-the-road. In TV, there’s simpler pleasures of watching things unravel without concentration as deep as reading or listening. If networks would want to play it safe, then what better way than pick up established titles that already has the much needed fan base? It then becomes a question in how to maintain that momentum and how to ensure the fans remain loyal to the series and keep on drawing in an even larger crowd.

This leads us, finally, to stories that need “good” television adaptations. Cause baby, there’s a lot out there.

 

Legion by Brandon Sanderson

Protagonist Stephen Leeds has what other people might call, multiple personality disorder. However, unlike the 2010 TV series Shattered, where the main character changes personality in order to adapt to his environment, Stephen Leeds’ multiple personalities manifest as different individuals that only he can interact with. He calls them aspects, and each aspect has a personality, ethnicity, specialty, gender, and one of them even has his own aspect. What’s crazier here is his aspects can interact with each other, two are even implied to be having sex whenever Leeds is not looking. It’s these aspects that Leeds manages to solve crimes and he can only bring a few aspects on each case. All this aspect business gets more complicated but there’s no doubt there’s a solid foundation for a police procedural series here.

 

The First Law by Joe Abercrombie

There is a lot to love in Joe Abercrombie’s grimdark fantasy trilogy, The First Law, which begins with The Blade Itself. There’s a lot of action, intriguing-but-not-so-likeable characters, politics, and a march to the north. There’s enough material here for at least three seasons, and if you include Abercrombie’s other standalone novels, Best Served Cold, Red Country, and the mighty impressive Heroes, the short story collection Sharp Ends, which all take place in the world of The First Law with some returning characters, this could stretch up to eight delightfully macabre seasons.

 

The Broken Empire by Mark Lawrence

The Broken Empire is unique in two ways. It’s set in a fantasy world and as we ride farther into mythos, we begin to realize through subtle hints that this isn’t the case. Refer to this to get a clue, though mild spoilers. The trilogy is also unique because, the first book Prince of Thorns, introduces the series protagonist, Jorg, who at the ripe age of 14 has done every unspeakable acts against humanity. Yes, every single one you can ever think of. He’s only 14, if I forgot to type that in. Yet, despite being the devil that he is, Lawrence manages to craft a sympathetic and complex character. The series progress as Jorg reaches adulthood, ascending the throne that he reclaimed by spilling blood with swords and literally nuking an entire castle.

 

The Prince of Nothing by R. Scott Bakker

Alright, I’ll admit to being one of those who couldn’t stand the books. Author Bakker couldn’t describe a rock being just a rock and has to point out that a rock is made up of microscopic minerals super condensed over eons perhaps since before the Apocalypse. I’m not even exaggerating. However, the world Bakker has created makes for excellent TV material, something more suited for Netflix than HBO. It focuses on deep philosophical questions, complex cultures, and elaborate histories. It’s also gritty and full of stabbing.

 

The Fifth Season by NK Jemisin

Until writing this article, I hadn’t learned that this award-winning novel, The Fifth Season is now actually being optioned for a TV show. The Fifth Season is a story about how the apocalypse is a normal recurring thing, and actually the least interesting thing happening in the books. Also, Jemisin has a Twitch channel.

 

S-Town podcast

One of the most delightful podcasts I have listened to in the year. As a limited series, this can become one of those gems that really shine. It’s non-fiction, a reporter gets a tip about a murder in an Alabama town and the alleged murderer gets to brag about it without repercussions. The reporter and narrator of the podcast, Brian Reed, goes to investigate, records his conversations with the people of “Shit Town” and gets a little involved in matters better left alone. Things begin to escalate in ways you think would only happen in fiction stories.

 

Alice Isn’t Dead podcast

If you don’t know, the Night Vale podcast has a spinoff, sort off. Alice Isn’t Dead is a serial fiction podcast about a woman searching for her wife, who may or may not be dead. The woman encounters serial murderers and finds towns literally lost in time. She unfolds conspiracies and survive horror stories. It’s a thing of beauty.

 

Orbiting Human Circus (Of the Air) podcast

As part of the Night Vale Presents network, the Orbiting Human Circus is about stage performers. It’s full of whimsical fun and heartfelt moments from stories shared by the show’s guests. But the main attraction, is Julian, the janitor, and his subconscious, with their comic adventures. It’s weird, it’s funny, it’s sad. It’s everything you would feel if you were part of the circus audience.

 

Worm by Windbow aka John McCrae

What started out as fiction published in WordPress has turned into something that created a massive fan base. It’s a superhero story, and, according to a Google search, has about 7,000 words. What McCrae did here, is create his own superhero universe that rivals both Marvel and DC.

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One hell of a concert

A week ago I learned that Paramore will have a concert, five minutes from where I live, in February next year. I have stated, time and again, I’m a huge Hayley Williams fan. Damn it, my background photo in Twitter is Hayley Williams during a concert in Hamburg. The tickets, are only about 200 USD, and I can stand in front of the crowd and enjoy my first live band experience. And yes, also to weep and scream in front of Hayley.

However, my wife is due with our first child in late May or early June next year. That means serious belt tightening, because, come on, once the baby comes out, it’s all expenses until he/she gets their college degree.

Also, we missed out on Bruno Mars and Coldplay concerts, which, I had promised my wife that we would watch – I had, at that time, been trying to win some points so that the wife won’t ever raise concerns when I insist on going to a Paramore concert- which is actually happening in a few months damn it. Alas, fucking hoarders took all the tickets and will be selling them x6 of the actual ticket prices. Come on, we know that’s true.

In any case, I won’t be experiencing Paramore. I won’t ever get to see Hayley Williams and head bang on “That’s What You Get” and “Brick by Boring Brick” and of course, “Pressure.” But oh well.

At least I got to experience Nicholas Eames’ “Kings of the Wyld.”

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How the fuck did we get from Paramore to this? I don’t know. I don’t give a shit. All I know “Kings of the Wyld” is fucking awesome. I laughed out loud as the characters engaged in the most hilarious banters and scenarios, I wept with them, and I was head banging all throughout the epic action scenes.

Look, “Kings of the Wyld” is inspired by heavy metal rock stars. It’s a world where, mercenaries, called “Bands” are worshiped as one might Black Sabbath, Metallica, DragonForce, Iron Maiden, you know the who they are. I think I also KISS in there somewhere, maybe also The Runaways. Oh, and Elvis is in it too, at least mentioned.

Do you guys know that scene from “Guardians of the Galaxy”?

I’m talking about this.

 

Yeah, there’s something like that in the book. And you know what? It’s freaking awesome.

“Kings of the Wyld” has druins. Basically, elves with Playboy bunny ears. Dragons. Manticores. Basilisks. Golems. You name it. It’s “Warcraft” where everything and anything is in there. And you know? It’s freaking awesome.

I’ve read epics, “A Song of Ice and Fire,” “Malazan Book of the Fallen,” partially “Wheel of Time,” “Mistborn,” “The Dark Tower,” you know, the usual stuff, and often these books are massive with complex stories and sinister plot twists. “Kings of the Wyld” does not have any of that. It’s a straightforward, sword and sorcery adventure. And you know what? Damn right you do. It’s freaking awesome.

It’s about a retired band, who’s getting back together for one last gig, which is to rescue the frontman’s (yes, they literally call him the “frontman” of the band) daughter, who is trapped in a city, under siege by all things nasty, led by a druin (technically elves with Playboy bunny ears). This is, by all means, not save the damsel kind of thing. The daughter happens to be a warrior herself who can butcher monsters that come her way.

The entire journey consists of the band getting back together and going through the Wyld – the forest where all things nasty live – in order to reach the city. And look, there’s not much action until the second half of the book, and you know what? That’s just fine. The characters are what makes the story come alive.

Imagine Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Motorhead, or whoever the hell from the ’70s, coming back to the world and then surrounded by the likes of One Direction. Yeah, it’s that kind of surreal experience, where undergarments are flung and taverns set on fire.

Look, the book is awesome and fun.

Now I take my leave and sulk over missing out on this.

Stranger Things 2 is a remake of the first season

Yes, there will be spoilers for both seasons of “Stranger Things.”

“Stranger Things” is a period piece set in the ’80s, a throwback from how technology and culture leaped and bounded forward. Now, we can agree to disagree that, “Stranger Things” season one felt whole. You had a beginning, middle, and an epic end. It told a well-paced and heartwarming story, one that became a phenomenon without resorting to graphic violence or nudity.

It resolved every important plot thread there was. Will Byers is back. The demigorgon is gone. Most of the bad guys are dead. What’s there left to talk about? Jonathan and Nancy’s sexual tension? Look, they’re teenagers, young and indecisive, there is a glimmer of hope in there left for the audience’s imagination to develop their own fan-fiction how that story can go. Besides, Steve proved himself as an awesome fellow after all. Then, can we talk about what happened to Eleven, instead? Of course. That’s the fun part. That’s where the beauty of the entire season also lies. No matter what we speculate, we will never know what happened to Eleven. Things that weren’t meant to exist, stopped existing. Even Eleven, as harsh as that sounds.

But, there’s one more thing: The slug that Will retched out of his stomach? Look, horror has a way of terrorizing its viewers/readers down to the last minute. The slug scene tells us that it’s not over for Will. And yes, it hints a second season, but it didn’t have to be. It only tells us that the nightmare is far from over and the future becomes uncertain.

“Stranger Things” was perfect. It works as an eight-episode show and it could work as a two-hour movie, with some minor plot elements cut off. What kicked me in the balls was Jim Hopper leaving Eggos in the middle of nowhere. If anything, that was the scream for Season 2.

Beyond that Eggo scene, I will repeat once more, “Stranger Things” was perfect. It’s so perfect, instead of creating a head-on sequel, we got a Season 2 that is pretty much a remake of Season 1.

Season 2 followed every pattern of the Season 1 to the book.

  • Something happens to Will Byers
  • Strange things happen. People are going missing in S1. In S2, harvests are dying.
  • Discovery of someone/thing. Mike and Eleven in S1. Dustin and Dart in S2.
  • Kids get in some real nasty shit. In S1, the government was hot on their trails. In S2, it’s the, as Dustin calls them, demi-dogs, that almost got them.
  • The Byers house is renovated.
  • Bully-issue.
  • The love triangle. Jonathan only looks on at Nancy with Steve. Now it’s Steven looking on at Nancy, knowing she’s with Jonathan now.
  • For a little stretch: We lost one strong supporting character each season. Barb and Bob. (Be wary of any future “good” support characters with B)
  • The stand in the Byers house.
  • They get Will back.
  • Eleven saves the day.

Season 2 makes sure that you can watch it without watching Season 1. It answered all basic questions. Why was Jim Hopper so attached to Eleven? Where did Eleven come from? Why is Will called Zombie Boy? All of those are answered in Season 2, making it more than capable of standing on its own without prior viewing of the first season.

I think this was intentional. Unlike Season 1 that felt complete. Season 2 felt like it needed a sequel. There’s an eerie sense that this cannot be the end. It’s not because it had a campy ending with everyone laughing and smiling. But it’s how everything was setup! Damn it I’m bad at this. Anyhow, seasons one and two of “Stranger Things” were too much alike. I’m not complaining. I love every bit of it. Now, I’m excited how Season 3 will turn up and I know deep in my bones that things will be totally different.

Thor: Ragnarok was great, but…

Spoilers for Thor: Ragnarok

I love “Thor: Ragnarok.” It was the most delightful Marvel movie I’ve watched probably since “Iron Man.” Straightforward and fun. I feel the chemistry between Thor and Loki was spot on, and so much better than any of previous movies. Cate Blanchett, as Hela, was damn impressive and scary. The way she slayed everything with her infinity blades was jaw-dropping.

However, I say these with a heavy heart, that there are a few things I didn’t like about the movie.

First among all: Jeff Goldblum. Yes, the dude from “The Fly,” or the doctor from “Jurassic Park” who spent most of his time on his butt from some injury, or that nerdy guy who managed to upload a ’90s era computer virus to shutdown an alien mothership from “Independence Day.” The problem was with Jeff Goldblum played the Grandmaster so well. Too well that it foreshadowed Hela as the main antagonist. You spend plenty of time in Sakaar, where Thor is hanging out for a bit and trying to assemble his “Revengers” that you sometimes forget that Hela is on the background, terrorizing Asgard, and we get this facade that the Grandmaster is the main villain.

Oh, Hela’s character is well developed, I think. She is excited to give just anyone a history lesson about who she is and what she had done for Asgard and Odin. I suppose, what I’m after here, is more engagement between Thor, Loki, and Hela, seeing as they all had daddy issues, being siblings, and whatnot. Ragnarok felt like a setup, should a fourth Thor movie be made. Though with a return of Hela, may be impossible, considering how it all turned out. So, I’m betting Doctor Strange will somehow mess with the timeline.

The second thing I disliked in the movie was Thor’s lack of concern for his friends – primarily the Warriors Three, getting butchered by Hela, just like that, as if they were throwaway characters. Well, actually, in a way they were? They played solid roles in the first half of the first Thor movie, then diminished in the second. I’m not asking for total character arcs, I’m just saying, even Heimdall mentioning about it to Thor and he’d just make a one second reaction about it.  Sif is not around either, so that’s a big question to me, and the only thing I can think of is Marvel thought that Sif and Valkyrie were too alike, which sounds rubbish.

And that is all my tiny nitpicks about “Thor: Ragnarok.” We got a quick glimpse of a big-ass ship during the mid-credits scene, and that can only be Thanos’, arriving to extract the Infinity Stone from the Tesseract – which Loki, no doubt, has taken. It should also be pointed out, that during the D23 trailer of “Infinity War” (We’ve all scene it, OK?), Thanos is wearing the Infinity Gauntlet with a single gem (fine, Stone) embedded on it. And I’m guessing that’s the Space Stone.

In any case, that’s the end of my senseless ramble. I could come up with a thought piece about how “Thor: Ragnarok” is a reflection of immigration, but what’s the end game? Read this instead, since it shares pretty much the same idea. We ride onward to Valhalla!

Red Whale: Quick Update

On Reddit Fantasy a topic about National Novel Writing Month emerged. Writers everywhere started posting stuff about their work-in-progress. I’m still waiting what exactly comes out of the blender out of all the random stuff I put in the Red Whale. Yet, I gave in, and posted something real quick about the “Year of the Red Whale.” Might as well update it here too for the world to see.

Tyrant emperor turned beggar turned criminal thug, burns empire that starts a world war but he doesn’t give a damn cause he’s busy squaring off against necromancers, witches, and basically everyone else he pissed off while he was the emperor.

That’s a mouthful. I probably could have come up with something better, but I didn’t want to write a sales pitch, just to bring out an idea into the open. My original thought for this novel was to set it at 120K words, then it got reduced to 80K. Having recently scraped much of the material, I feel the sweet spot is going to be between 90-100K. This is, if the plot went out of its way again to complicate things. I could revert back to 80K if I manage to control everything and keep the plot simple.

Now, with this shenanigans over, I’m off back to writing.

By the way, this is Ryukahr, my favorite Super Mario YouTuber/Twitch streamer. Give him some love, will yah?

On a side note, here’s Hayley Williams of Paramore doing a cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Everywhere”

Red Whale: Year One Draft

I started writing “Year of the Red Whale” around October, to participate in NaNoWriMo. I made it to 40K words before the month ended, progress that I’m proud of. Since then I barely made it past the 50K-mark, getting stuck on multiple dead ends. The plot thickened to a messy pile of goo. Then all sorts of ugly things started spawning from said goo after trying to patch things up.

I didn’t think much of it until January. The Red Whale was a NaNoWriMo project, not the main WIP, but still it had ended up as my top priority novel to work on. I kept putting deadlines for myself to complete the draft, after all as a journalist I’m trained to submit on time, but I keep letting myself down. The solution was to get back to the main WIP, Project Ashes, but I couldn’t just let go of the Red Whale and busied myself over it.

Now, a year later, I’m still stuck, making no decent progress whatsoever. I had renovated a lot of scenes and redone several chapters. Nothing helped.

Finally, the nuclear option: Change the entire plot. Keep some scenes, some chapters, some characters, but turn things around. It worked. The pace changed, a lot, and I had to remodel my writing style. I had to cut down some action scenes and then add more action scenes. It feels like a brand new work-in-progress at this point, really. My only issue is, should I add more POV characters? There’s a lot going on, but the only thing that matters comes from the protagonists. So there is that to consider.

My final deadline, I hope, is on December.

Since it’s November and it’s a season for Stranger Things, here’s a Alice Cooper “No More Mr. Nice Guy.” I’d put “The Man Behind the Mask” instead, but, meh.

Sea of Rust

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“Sea of Rust” felt like reading a “Mad Max 2” and “Mad Max: Fury Road” novel.

One of the best books I’ve read all year. It’s fast paced, full of well-written action. It has the flow of a film, likely because of C. Robert Cargill’s experience as a screenwriter. There’s enough excitement and backstory to keep readers entertained.

The characters are fun with just enough development. Well, each character gets a page or a chapter of development. And it served its purpose enough to get us, rather, me, interested or like them.

It’s Brittle, the main protagonist, our first-person narrator we get to spend much of our time with. She’s probably the most reliable-unreliable narrator I’ve encountered in first-person perspectives. We see the world how she describes it and understand the history as she knows it. Also, that ending was terrific and emotional in every possible way.