Hollywood’s messy love affair with science fiction is documented beautifully in this overview of SF movies which either made it to the screen only after great developmental strife (Dune, Spider-Man, The Fantastic Four) or never made it at all (The Tourist, The Stars My Destination, The Six Million Dollar Man). Hughes did his homework for every title listed here, and dug up some fairly astonishing revelations about the life, death, and sometimes rebirth of a broad range of projects: comic book adaptations (Silver Surfer), versions of popular SF novels that remain in limbo (John Carter of Mars), original projects that turned into dead ends or were mangled beyond recognition (Supernova).
In every case there’s examples galore of how the movie industry works as hard as it can at every stage to make things as inefficient and committee-driven as possible; the behind-the-scenes story of the rewrites that just about killed the Outer Limits film is exemplary. Alejandro Jodorowsky's ill-fated attempt to bring Dune to the screen, with H.R. Giger as the art director, remains a favorite of mine; Giger, himself no stranger to having been ripped off repeatedly by moviemakers, sticks in a amused foreword as well. I also read with incredulity the way Stars My Destination, a perennial favorite novel of SF fans (me included) for generations, almost ended up being adapted by a reclusive millionaire beachcomber with a distinctively broken typewriter.
One major omission in my eyes: why no discussion of the many, many attempts to bring to screen Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land? God knows there are stories to be told: in one of them, related via Harlan Ellison, David Gerrold was many of the screenwriters brought on board at various points in an attempt to “lick” the project, and Gerrold swears he was fired for doing it right.But what there is here is so good, so thorough and so heartbreaking in its documentation of disaster that any SF fan reading it might well find themselves pining.
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