Friday, August 1, 2014

Highly Adaptable

Hello, I'm Susan. I'll be covering adaptations. While the blog's focus is novels (because we're all authors and we're obsessed) I will not just be talking about works based on novels, but also plays (because you can't talk about adaptations without talking about Shakespeare) and comic books (because they are some of my favorite stories in the universe).

In thinking about how to introduce myself, while also sticking to my chosen subject, I decided the best thing to do would be to let you in on my fantasies. So here is a list of the best literary adaptations that only exist in my mind—so far.

1) The Ocean At The End Of Lane by Neil Gaiman as adapted by Studio Ghibli

It's no secret that I'm a huge Neil Gaiman fan. There have been some excellent adaptations of his previous works and some that never got off the ground. I've liked pretty much all of them, but none, except the Neverwhere BBC Radio play starring James McAvoy, Natalie Dormer, and Benedict Cumberbatch, completely lived up to the books they were based on.

His most recent novel, The Ocean At The End Of The Lane, has already been optioned and is set to be directed by Joe Wright. I like Wright, but when I read it there was only one person I could see as the director Hayao Miyazaki. Miyazaki is the director behind anime classics like My Neighbor Totoro and Spirited Away. The book is told from the perspective of a seven-year-old boy (though it isn't a kid's book and shouldn't become a kid's movie). The nameless narrator, based on Gaiman as a child, inadvertently releases a malevolent being that wrecks havoc on his family. Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli, the animation studio he founded, specializes in original plots that feel both totally fresh and like ancient legend. And usually feature a child at the center. I couldn't help visualizing everything, from the enormous creature made of saggy, billowing canvas, to the reality devouring birds of prey, to the trio of archetypical witches, as drawn by Miyazaki.

2) Goblin Secrets by William Alexander as adapted by the Jim Henson Company.

Goblin Secrets is the story of a city where acting and plays are forbidden. And of a boy who falls in with a renegade band of traveling players, who happen to be goblins.

I have loved the Jim Henson company for as long as I can remember. While the Muppets have had a recent resurgence under the Disney umbrella, the Henson company has been flying under the radar. They've been focusing on educational programming. Which is great and in line with their history. But there's an aspect of the company's legacy that has fallen by the wayside, the creation of completely realized fantasy worlds, such as the Dark Crystal, Labyrinth, and the Storyteller series. It's been a decade since their amazing scifi series Farscape went off the air. It's time  they waded into that pool again.

There is a lot in Goblin Secrets for Henson to sink their teeth into. A crone with mechanical chicken legs, masks that come to life, and the goblins themselves. Maybe if I wish hard enough it'll happen.

3) Anything by Daniel Pinkwater as adapted by Spike Jonze.

Daniel Pinkwater is a bit hard for me to describe. He's a children's author from Chicago (my home town). Reading Pinkwater has always felt like stepping into the mind of someone not from this reality, but from somewhere sort of similar. His settings are very grounded and real, but the characters and the plots are delightfully absurd.

If I had to choose one of his stories to adapt, I'll go with the one that introduced me to him, Lizard Music. In which a kid watching tv late at night stumbles upon a rock band made entirely of lizards. The book follows him trying to find out what they are and where they came from.

Spike Jonze was behind one of my favorite movies ever in Being John Malkovich, as well as a brilliant adaptation of a classic children's book in Where The Wild Things Are. He's the only person I can think of who could capture Pinkwater's skewed worldview. He knows how to create worlds that look like our own, but follow completely alien rules.

Side note: Fat Men From Outer Space would make a fantastic Pixar short.

4) Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell as adapted by Jane Espenson

I read Fangirl earlier this year, and nothing I've read since has stuck with me as much. It's the story of Cath, a college freshman with high social anxiety. She also happens to be a wildly popular fanfic author. She's spent most of her adolescence writing a novel length  slash fic based on the Harry Potter-esque Simon Snow series.

I first became aware of Jane Espenson as a writer on one of my all time favorite tv shows, Buffy The Vampire Slayer. Since then she's written for such varied series as Gilmore Girls, Battlestar Galactica, and Game Of Thrones. I know she'd be equally good at capturing Cath's awkwardness and insecurities, as she would be at bringing the snippets of Simon Snow's fantasy world sprinkled throughout the book to life. I don't know if she's interested in  directing, but she's more than qualified to write the screenplay.

5) Anything by Jonathan Carroll as adapted by Guillermo Del Toro

In some ways, I think of Jonathan Carroll as the adult version of Daniel Pinkwater. They both trade in the surreal hidden in plain sight. And the both should be better known than they are. The big difference is that where Pinkwater's brand of bizarre is hilarious, Carroll's is creepy as Hell!

Guillermo Del Toro has spent the couple of last decade creating beautiful nightmare's. Sleeping In Flame, Carroll's haunting take on Rumpelstiltskin would make an excellent film. Honestly, it's a crime that none of his books have made it to the screen yet.

So there you go, my fantasies lean toward the dark and strange. Good to meet you!


  1. Love this, especially your pick for Fangirl.

  2. Cool post! I think the makers of Coraline conveyed Gaiman's complex creepiness pretty well, too.