Books and their movies

First, a confession. I have not read A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle. There, I’ve said it. I’m not proud of this, but it is what it is. Why haven’t I read this book? Especially when I also write MG SciFi? Well, maybe because I’m a slow reader, and there are so many other more current titles I want to tackle. Or maybe …

Well, let’s put that aside as my reading speed or choices is not the topic of this posting. Rather it’s what hapoens when someone gets the bright idea to turn a popular MG book into a movie.

This thought popped into my mind after having watched, last night, an adaption of L’Engle’s book. I watched it on Netflix. Anyway, the production was fairly good, the effects more than passable, but it made me feel like I was missing so much. Various motifs were repeated over and over, and character depth was something distinctly lacking.

Which makes me recall a saying I’d heard, many, many years ago, that the best movies come from short stories, that novels are better suited to something like a TV mini-series. And I agree. There have ben very few book adaptions I have bern satisfied with, mostly because in trying to be faithfull to “the book”, the movie folk had to slice and dice the book’s story into something of a reasonable film length.

A good, recent example of this is the Harry Potter series. In my opinion, the first two movies did not work as well a they could because the filmmakers decided to be true to the original text. I can only assume they were fearful of making Potter fans angry. Then the third movie came out, and I was pleasantly pleased at how good it was. Why? Well, first off, the filmmakers realized they were making a film that was based on a book. There were scenes from the book that did not appear in the film and vice versa. They made a film, not simply an adaptation.

Maybe that’s what bothered me most about A Wrinkle in Time. It felt like an adaptation rather than a true film.

Nuff said!


Is dystopian future fiction also science fiction?

The question I’d like to address is whether or not all dystopian future novels also fall under the umbrella of science fiction. So, let’s cut to the chase … No.

There, all done, simple as pie. But, have you ever tried to make a really good pie. It’s not that easy, and neither is answering this question. Take, for example, The Hunger Games trilogy, by Suzanne Collins. This takes place in a post-apocalyptic world, far enough into the future that it might fall into science fiction. Then again, not all books set in the future are necessarily SF.

The premise of these wonderful books is that a massive war occured, in the past, and we are dealing with the aftermath. Psychological? Yes, most definitely. Social issues? Of course. Science fiction? Well … ?

What precisely was the cause of the apocalypse? Did a mad scientist release a nasty virus that wiped out almost the entire population? Did some government lab create a weapon more deadly than any atomic bomb so far?

In fact, exactly what the nature of the apocalyptic event was is never fully revealed. So, in my very humble opinion, given that science is not specified as either the cause of this specific dystopian future, nor is it shown as a way to improve this future, this book cannot be called science fiction.

BTW, I know full well that The Hunger Games is YA, and not MG, but it serves my purpose in this post.

When it comes to dystopian MG that is science fiction, a recent classic comes to mind: The Ear, the Eye and the Arm, by Nancy Farmer.

This novel takes place in a future, after some apocalypse, where some individuals have mutated, slightly, to acquire special powers. Without getting into specific plot points, it is the enhanced senses of three mutated individuals who help rescue three kidnapped children. Science, the science of how people can mutate, is at the heart of bringing the plot to a climax. This is therefore, by definition, both dystopian future and science fiction.

Now, why did I bring up this issue at all? Well, it’s because over time I have watched the umbrella if science fiction stretch and stretch, to include so many sub-genres, until the fabric of the definition has grown thin and fragile. I, for one, would entertain more genres than simply extending existing categories. Then again, this is just my very humble opinion.

Nuff said!

I heard that …

Recently, on twitter, I heard that editors and agents who handle mid-grade novels are looking for … wait for it …

Science Fiction!

Oh, how my heart jumped when I read that. Why? Well, besides the fact that this is what I mostly write, I’m glad that the wheel has turned, once again, away from sparkly vampires, and towards the kind of work I love. Also, it means that there will hopefully be some new books I’ll actually want to read.

I’m not saying that paranormal fantasies are bad. On the contrary. What I am saying is that it’s way past time that bookshelves get re-energized. And I, for one, cannot think of a better genre to do that than good old science fiction.

Of course, what science fiction is, how it’s interpreted, has grown over the years. Instead of just SciFi, we now have …

  • Hard SF, strong on facts and real science, mostly the big three of biology, chemistry and physics.
  • Soft SF, dealing more with the human condition, pyschology, the impact of science on people. Ray Bradbury was a master if this type; check out Martian Chronicles.
  • Alternate Histories, more speculative fiction than true SF.
  • Steampunk, where electronics are supplanted by steam power.
  • Cyberpunk, an offshoot of Hard SF, where man and machine meld together, literally.
  • Space Opera, where science is there, but takes a backseat to an old fashioned good versus evil yarn. Think Star Wars!

… and the list goes on.

So yes, I am excited, but also a tad fearful that some of these books for kids/teens may get usurped by adults. That is, that booksellers may see them as adult books instead of MG or YA. I’m mostly concerned about YA.

I’m also hoping that once the SciFi bug takes hold, that editors and agents do not latch onto the first successful trend and beat it to death. Did I mention vampires? Science Fiction is a broad enough genre that many, many rich veins of ideas can be mined, beyond creating one new universe after another. In fact, many of my favorites look at our world and wonder what might be around the corner, timewise. 1984, before it was 1984, was a book that made you think. So was 2001: A Space Odyssey.

So, if you hear about a good SF book, drop me a Tweet (aniprof) and maybe I’ll add it to future posting.

Nuff said!