10 Sci-Fi & Fantasy TV Adaptations We Hope Are Rescued from Development Hell

Joe Hill’s brilliantly twisted horror mystery graphic novel series Locke & Key almost made it to TV in 2011, but despite a well-received pilot, Fox picked up J.J. Abrams one-season dud Alcatraz instead.

Then in 2013, Universal made plans for a film trilogy…that also fell through. These days, of course, no good idea ever truly dies.

Yesterday, we learned Locke & Key might finally be coming to television after all—on Hulu this time. Finally, we should have a chance to further explore the story of a family’s return to their family home in Lovecraft, Maine, following the brutal murder of their father, and all the ghostly madness that ensues: magical keys, powerful magic, and vengeful spirits lurking in the shadows. [April 2018 update: This one is still all locked up: Hulu passed on the pilot.]

On the same day, we also learned Sony is moving ahead with a TV adaptation of Robert Jordan’s 14-volume Wheel of Time series. That road to the screen was even more winding, involving lawsuits and a (probably) unauthorized pilot that aired as paid programming in the middle of the night a couple of years ago. We’ll what happens. [April 2018 update: A showrunner has been hired, but nothing else has been announced.]

Still, these surprise resurrections got us thinking about other long-gestating SFF series that we hope to see revived. Some of them are more likely to make it to TV than others, given the vagaries of cost, legalities, and dumb luck, but we’ll watch any and all of them that do.

If you happen to be someone who makes TV shows, take notes, please: we’d watch the hell out of any (or all) of these other eight shows.

Ancillary Justice
Ann Leckie’s groundbreaking, multi-award-winning space opera is set thousands of years in the future and involves the machinations of the expansionist Radch empire. Human bodies called “ancillaries” are controlled by artificial intelligence and used as soldiers. The story begins with the destruction of a massive starship that leaves behind a single ancillary looking for answers and, ultimately, revenge. An adaptation would doubtless require a significant budget, and Anne Leckie herself expressed both excitement and a bit of reticence given that the book’s characters are generally dark-skinned and don’t distinguish binary gender. But done right, a show would be a game-changer.

Latest news: The book was optioned by Fox Television in 2014, but that’s the last we’ve heard. [April 2018 update: Despite movement on properties like The Three-Body Problem and The Culture novels, nothing more has been announced on this one.]

Dragonriders of Pern
Anne McCaffrey’s venerable, beloved series consists of over 20 books and counting, having survived even the 2011 death of the author, passing into the hands of her son. The series is set on the pre-industrial fantasy world of Pern, peopled by telepathic individuals capable of riding and controlling fire breathing dragons; they use the ability to fight a spaceborne spore called the Thread. The books cover roughly 2,500 years in the land’s history, so there would be a lot for a long-form TV show to pick and choose from. There have been many attempts to bring this one to film or television, with the most serious efforts kicking off in the mid-1990s before the project landed in the hands of Battlestar Galactica’s Ronald D. Moore in 2002 and came very, very close to airing on The WB. After that project fell apart (largely because studio-mandated changes left Moore cold), Hollywood again came calling, but given the long-form nature and elaborate structure of the book series, TV sounds like a much more promising home. Plus, dragons are cool.

Latest news: As a TV series, nothing since 2002. As a film series, Warner Brothers hired a writer for a potential film series in late 2014, with no updates since. [April 2018 update: Surprisingly, nothing has happened with this one, despite intense interest in finding the next big thing in fantasy TV. Someone get Ronald D. Moore on the horn.]

Foundation
One of my personal favorites from the golden age of science fiction, Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series involves the collapse of a future human empire and the “psychohistorians” who try to mitigate the damage by mathematically predicting the future. New Line Cinema, the company behind the Lord of the Rings movies, tried for years to develop a film franchise before HBO picked up the rights in 2014. That network would be an interesting home for the series: Asimov’s stories can hardly be described as sexy, or even particularly action-packed, in the style of many HBO shows, but they do have a maturity that might benefit from the network’s grown-up aesthetic.

Latest news: Jonathan Nolan, creator of Person of Interest and HBO’s Westworld (and brother of director Christopher), announced he’s attached to the project as of April 2015. Since then, of course, Westworld became a huge hit, so we’ll see how much time he has to start something new. [April 2018 update: HBO never ordered a pilot for the series, but it is now in development at Apple (shrug emoji) with David S. Goyer (writer of The Dark Knight) and Joshua Friedman (Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles).]

Luna: New Moon
Ian McDonald’s wonderfully multicultural Shakespearean drama about five families vying for control of the moon’s resources in the near-ish future has been spoken of in the same breath as Game of Thrones on any number of occasions. It’s a fair comparison. Even though McDonald is in no way aping George R.R. Martin, the in-the-works trilogy hits a lot of the same buttons for fans of intrigue and family drama that frequently turns violent. Television came calling even before the first book was released to the public, which has to be pretty cool call for a writer to get.

Latest news: Shane Brennan, of the NCIS franchise, expressed interest in heading up an adaption in late 2015. Things have been quiet since. [April 2018 update: The third and final book in the series is coming soon, but the possibility of this adaptation happening seems to be waning.]

October Daye
McGuire’s urban fantasy series following a badass fairy changeling living in the San Francisco Bay area seems perfectly suited to TV: it’s got a solid lead character and an elaborate mythology to pull from, even as it’s grounded in life in the (budget-friendly) streets of modern urban fantasy. There’s also a passionate fan base and 10 books (and counting) to draw from. The series was optioned for film in 2013, but with no movement on that front, might we hope October Daye finds a (more logical) home on television?

Latest news: TV writer Margaret Dunlap announced in March of last year that she was working on a TV adaption for the same company that bought the film rights, so this one may be in process. [April 2018 update: New news on this project seems lost in fairyland; latest word from Seanan is that the rights-holders are shopping it around.]

Six Months, Three Days
The novella (novelette, technically) from Charlie Jane Anders involves a pair of precognitive people in a doomed relationship…maybe. One sees the future, but the other can see a wide array of possible futures. One is a fatalist, the other an idealist. They each know that their relationship will blossom into love, though there’s every possibility that he’ll die before things can go much further: in six months and three days, specifically. NBC TV has been looking to develop the story into a crime procedural. Sure, why not?

Latest news: The last news saw NBC’s grabbing the rights in 2013, without many updates since. Dear television/movie people: If this one doesn’t go ahead, we’d be just as happy to see an adaptation of Charlie Jane’s All the Birds in the Sky. [April 2018 update: We can see all possible futures, and sadly, very few of them involve this adaptation moving forward.]

The Ghost Brigades
Around the time Syfy announced a recommitment to making science fiction shows instead of filling up its schedule with wrestling and reality shows, John Scalzi announced the network had designs to adapt his Old Man’s War novels into a series, beginning with the more immediately open-ended The Ghost Brigades, the second novel published. This was exciting for Scalzi’s legion of fans, already disappointed once when earlier plans to turn the first book into a film directed by Wolfgang Peterson went nowhere. Of course, these days Syfy is attracting acclaim for two other adaptations, The Expanse and The Magicians, so who’s to say if they have room (or the budget) for another?

Latest news: Not much has leaked out since 2014. Last we heard from Scalzi, a pilot script was being revised for Peterson to direct. We’ll call this one a long shot for now, unless Syfy decides it needs another space opera show to air after The Expanse. [April 2018 update: Looks like this one has been repositioned as a Netflix movie, with the first novel, Old Man’s War, serving as the source material again.]

Brave New World
Syfy’s track record on adaptations of SF classics has been…mixed. We’ll say mixed. But this one sounds interesting: originally announced in 2015 with Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Television involved, the network revealed late last year that both comic super-writer Grant Morrison and the co-director of Crank, Brian Taylor, are attached to the project. Not only is Huxley’s dystopian masterwork more timely than ever, but those two names suggest that his dark future will be anything but bland when and if it comes to television.

Latest news: August of 2016 was the last announcement, but that’s not long at all in TV development time. Fingers crossed, this one might actually go ahead. [April 2018 update: Nothing new. Pop another soma and keep waiting.]

What’s your dream SFF adaptation?

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