Recently we’ve seen a rise in television adaptations of speculative fiction, sparked by HBO’s popular Game of Thrones and continuing with such shows as Penny Dreadful, The Expanse, Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, The Magicians, and The Shannara Chronicles, not to mention shows based on graphic novels and superhero lore like The Walking Dead, iZombie, Gotham, Arrow, The Flash, Legends of Tomorrow, and my own unquestioned favorite, Supergirl. All this has me convinced that many of the novels I’d love to see adapted to a visual medium would fare far better on television, where the limited-series format would give them room to breathe, than on the Big Screen. Here, just for fun, are a few titles I daydream of seeing Coming Soon to HBO, Showtime, Amazon, or Netflix:
The Witches of Eileanan. Kate Forsyth’s epic fantasy series has magic in abundance, evil plotting sea-creatures, mystical elvish beings, tree shifters, powerful animals, and landscapes ranging from jagged mountains to dangerously misty swamps to lush forests. With the right budget, it would be a visual feast. Then of course we have a plentiful cast of characters, all with their own intriguing struggles; anyone who has succeeded in keeping the dramatis personae of Game of Thrones straight should have no trouble here. My dream cast: Eleanor Tomlinson, on whom I girl-crushed as I watched the new BBC adaptation of Poldark last year, has the beauty and intelligence and spirit to carry off the dual role of twins Isabeau and Iseult, the saga’s prime heroic movers; Morena Baccarin could play the villainous Maya the Unknown with soft-spoken, seductive venom; and Dame Judi Dench, who has yet to win the awards she so richly deserves, would be sublime as Meghan of the Beasts.
The Stormlight Archive. Sooner or later Brandon Sanderson’s work has to reach the Small Screen, and this work could more than match Game of Thrones in terms of epic grandeur. Those enjoying the current spate of superhero shows would find in this story plenty of heroics to relish, and filmed properly, a raging highstorm or an attack of a monstrous, bloodthirsty chasmfiend could leave a TV audience breathless. My dream cast: Another Poldark star, Aidan Turner, could bring the haunted Kaladin Stormblessed to smoldering, charismatic life. (Twenty years ago, Colin Firth would have been ideal for this role.) Rose Leslie, lately of Downton Abbey and Game of Thrones, is the very image of Shallan. And I would kill to see Timothy Dalton, in all his grizzled handsomeness, embody the aging but still powerful Brightlord Dalinar Kholin.
The Shadow Campaigns. Battle scenes offer abundant opportunities for dazzling visual storytelling, and this series has military action aplenty, not to mention the combat that takes place on the mean streets of Vordan’s capitol city. With good location scouting, the world of Vordan in the late eighteenth century, with its palaces and political halls, ballrooms and barrooms, could be brought to vivid life. My dream cast: frankly, I’d rather see Henry Cavill as the imperfect but solidly decent Marcus D’Ivoire than as gloomy-gus Superman, and while Saoirse Ronan may not match the physical description author Django Wexler gives Winter Ihernglass, her performances in Hanna and Brooklyn convince me she has more than the necessary intensity and intelligence to pull off the journey this complex heroine makes.
The Sevenwaters Trilogy. Juliet Marillier’s lushly romantic historical fantasy series would give some wise director and visual designer a chance to put the world of ancient Celtic folklore on screen. My dream cast: if Saoirse Ronan isn’t too busy playing Winter Ihernglass, she would absolutely kill it as Sorcha in Season 1, “Daughter of the Forest”; since the character spends a substantial portion of the book not speaking, but it’s imperative that we get some sort of feel for what she’s thinking, her expressive eyes would serve an eloquent purpose here. Jessica Brown Findlay, the big-hearted, rebellious Lady Sybil of Downton Abbey, would more than adequately fill the role of Sorcha’s outspoken daughter, Liadan, in Season 2, “Son of the Shadows.”
Forthcoming: Movie Adaptations I’d Love to See.