A Note on Recent Adaptations

I previously posted about a few film and television adaptations I was excited to see that were all based on books I had read. I wanted to follow up about those adaptations and have a little discussion about adaptations in general from a the viewpoint of a fan of the original work.

DuneFirst, I absolutely enjoyed the film adaptation of Dune. I thought the film followed the book pretty well even though it has been a few years since I had read it. I am excited for the second movie that should wrap up the content of the first book. I hear rumors that there may even be a chance for a third movie that I assume would delve into a few of the sequels. I am okay with that of course. The story, and the adaptation, is great and having to wait an additional year to see it was worth it in my opinion.

Next, The Wheel of Time as adapted into a television series by Amazon. I read this series a few years ago. It is a huge series at 15 books (including the prequel) with an average book length of approximately 800 pages. It is one of the longest series I have read and I enjoyed it immensely.

Wheel of Time' Recap Season 1 Episode 3 — Questing Party Splits Up | TVLineThe fans are split on this one and reasonably so. The television series finished the first season in December and it consisted of 8 episodes. Those 8 episodes covered a lot of ground but changed nearly all aspects of the story aside from the characters themselves and the core story meaning the general events are in the show but the details are altered or omitted entirely which I think is what many hardcore fans dislike. I understand the issues they take with the adaptation, but I stand more in agreement with the same hardcore fans who are simply thrilled to see their favorite series on screen. Am I bothered by the many changes and implicit disregard for detail? Of course, but not to the extent that I would review-bomb the show or hope that they cancel it altogether. I think that is ridiculous. You don’t have to continue watching a show if you don’t like it, but why would you go out of your way to complain or bash a show that others do enjoy. Especially at the very beginning of the series.

I’ll admit, the changes and progression of the story did seem lacking to me, but I still want to watch it. I may be less excited to watch it, but the production is top-notch and seeing some of the cities and monsters and magic that are within this story is simply awesome.

Netflix's live-action Cowboy Bebop is canceled - The VergeFans getting upset and throwing tantrums like spoiled children is always a bad look. Which brings me to the next adaptation I want to discuss: Cowboy BebopThis series, produced by Netflix, is a live-action adaptation of an anime that first released in the 1990s. I am a fan of the original series and must admit that I loved the adaptation. Yes, the adaptation is almost entirely different from the original series, but I think it works for a variety of reasons. The first being that the original series is almost more of an anthology than a story-driven series, meaning each episode was it’s own mini-story that involved our main characters. I think the live-action kept (almost) all the characters true to their original personas. It includes a lot of similar mini-plots while alluding to others from the original series. We get more backstory on a few major characters which I liked too. The graphics were top-notch and some of the fight scenes were incredible.

However, so many so-called fans were upset and disliked the show enough that season two was cancelled. There is a petition by fans to have the second season made, and I hope it does get made. I would like to see more. One last note on this one: nearly all live-action adaptations of anime shows have been treated harshly (many for good reason), and this show may be the best live-action adaptation out there.

There are a few more adaptations that I am looking forward to or need to catch up on. For example, I need to watch season two of The Witcher and I am looking forward to watching Amazon’s new show The Rings of Power which is a Lord of the Rings show that will take place presumably well before the original story. Some “fans” have already bashed the show simply because of the title. They know nothing else about it but are already mad simply because of the title. I mean….really?

I guess my main point of this post is that there are too many people complaining about an adaptation not following the source material verbatim or that it is taking too many liberties or isn’t what they wanted and therefore are complaining like they were entitled to get their version of it. Even if it is a quality show on its own. Fandoms can be toxic and can bleed into any medium. All I’m saying is let things be, especially if other fans do enjoy the adaptations. Re-read the book or simply watch the original show again.

Every reader envisions the story, or a character, a bit differently. They make it their own. That is what is great about books. They are a personal experience. If an adaptation doesn’t live up to your specific vision or experience, then let it go and move on. Let the people who do like it enjoy it.

Fight Club

Fight ClubFight Club by Chuck Palahnuik was first published in 1996 and the film of the novel came out in 1999. I picked up the novel at a used book store a few years ago and randomly decided to read it only recently. I had seen the movie a long time ago, so having known the “twist” I wasn’t really expecting any surprises.

I must admit that the film does an excellent job adapting the story. There are a few differences but the overall story is pretty much the same with of course a few underlying elements you get more of in the book such as the reasoning behind the main character’s mental instability. If you haven’t seen the movie, I may recommend reading the book first. If you have seen the movie, you likely won’t get too much more from the book, but it may be a fun way to experience the story again if you’re in the mood. This is definitely a story that you need to be either in the mood for or open to the craziness that is involved.

The book was a really quick and easy read at around 200 pages. I read it in about two days and probably could have read it in one sitting if I had the time or wanted to. This is the first book by Palahnuik I’ve read but I know he has a reputation for not holding anything back in regards to language, imagery, etc., and I think that is what draws people to his work. He won’t sugar-coat anything and no topic is off-limits. This is also the draw to Fight Club itself. The story centers around the down-trodden, middle-to-low class, working stiffs of the world which every society depends upon but doesn’t care to fully appreciate. This is also known as the majority of the population in every period of civilization.

The story is oddly liberating. I think we can all relate to hating a job and feeling stuck by paying bills and having to do things we would prefer to avoid, or we feel compelled or encouraged to follow a cookie-cutter path that is expected of us though these expectations change from generation to generation. Go to school, then go to college, then maybe get an even higher degree so you can get a good paying job though by the time you do all this the world has changed and that degree doesn’t get you as far as it used to and now you have to work that job in order to pay for the debt you took on for said degree because the cost of the education has increased eight-fold in 40 years while your salary is the same it would have been in 1950. There is no doubt that the world changes quite quickly and by the time you follow one recommended path, the theme park you were promised has been shut down.

What I’m trying to say is that despite the fact this book was written when the world was a much different place, despite being less than 25 years old, many of the same concerns remain. This book was written before 9/11 and the smartphone and it is therefore dated, but it touches on themes that have persisted. Get a job and buy a house and fill the house with things and that help you forget that the world is a messed up place. The book explores who we are when all these things are taken away. It delves into a primal notion to explore what it means to be human in the (recently) modern world. It is a reminder that we don’t have to follow the rushing current of societal expectations and perhaps we have an obligation to resist that current a little bit so we don’t lose ourselves in it.

Therefore, I think this book is a refreshing reminder despite its “taboo” or “uncivilized” subject matter. It is a reminder that sometimes we should re-evaluate where we stand in today’s world. However, I don’t think anyone needs to go join or start an actual fight club and try to destroy anything though apparently these did happen shortly after the book was released. Apparently people thought much of the book was based on factual events. It is entirely fiction, but fiction can have a big influence on human behavior. Chuck Palahnuik has a nice little essay at the end of the novel (the edition I have at least) that talks about how Fight Club had become a pop-culture sensation and how it started as a short story and he wrote it around the simple rules that are used when talking about Fight Club. The rules were meant to keep the story going and allow transitions that reader would accept without additional information. Therefore, the story was really based on a writing experiment. He goes on to talk about how it didn’t really need to be “Fight” Club per se and could have been anything, but Fight Club was definitely an area of interest for a lot of people. As he states, “It could have been ‘Barn-Raising Club’ or ‘Golf Club’…”

I’m curious if the sensationalism about this story has persisted. You don’t really hear much about Fight Club anymore (yes, I’m aware of the joke involving the first rule), but that doesn’t necessarily mean it still isn’t an influence. I think the sensationalism has faded, but the story will persist at a certain level. Hell, I just read it for the first time which is some sort of proof. I’ll likely watch the movie again sometime in the future, but I don’t imagine a new generation will pick it up as a doctrine.

Then again, we have had a lot of protesting this year and the world is a fairly uncertain place at the moment, so perhaps this story seems a bit out of place right now. Who knows if it will maintain it’s current meaning ten years from now. The world may be much different than as it is today. We can only hope it is for the better. I think reading, and reading widely, best prepares us to help steer our future to a better place. Perhaps this may be one of those books you read at the right time. Maybe you’re not quite ready for it. Maybe you’ve already read it and loved it or you hated it but still got something from it. Maybe you need to read it again. Only you can determine that.

Happy Reading.

Dune Looks Beautiful

DuneTitleI found out they were filming a new Dune movie when I was reading the book for the first time about two years ago. The movie is slated to release at the end of this year on December 18th. A few images were released just today and I must admit that I am very much looking forward to this movie adaptation.

I knew the cast was filled with talented actors when the film was first announced. I had finished the book by the time they began gradually announcing casting decisions so luckily my interpretation of the characters were not influenced by the film choices (which has happened in other occasions but few and far between). Below is the majority of the main character castings.

Dune Cast

I must admit that I am very interested to see how they transform Stellan Skarsgard into Baron Harkonnen, but I have no doubt that he will portray the character well. A beardless Jason Momoa is interesting but he will likely do well as Duncan Idaho (which I always thought was a strange name). I love Rebecca Ferguson as Lady Jessica and Oscar Isaac as Duke Leto Atreides. DuneI haven’t seen too many films with Timothee Chalamet, but I understand he is an excellent actor who has already established himself in Hollywood, so I am looking forward to seeing his portray of Paul. I love all the other choices. My only reservation is that movies that have this many stars tend to struggle with sharing screen-time of characters. I think this movie is currently planned as two parts so I hope that will help with this concern. I also think that all the characters are distinct enough that it shouldn’t be an issue.

If you haven’t read Dune, then I recommend that you read it before this movie comes out, and I am excited for you to experience this story. I consider it one of the best science fiction novels of the past century as do many others. I hope you take the opportunity to read it. You’ll likely then join me in the excitement to see a modern adaptation. If you’ve already read it, you’re probably already hyped.

Dune

From the few glimpses we are given in the pictures, alongside knowing the cast, I am already impressed. Of course I am trying not to get my hopes up too high, but there is plenty of time to let the excitement settle and better prepare for the film. Going in with too high of expectations always hinders the enjoyment of a movie.

I can already see from the few stills that their portrayal of the desert planet Arrakis is going to be great. I think splitting it into two parts is a wise decision considering the length of the book and the accumulation of events that take place. Doing so will help prevent trying to cram the entirety of the story in one film which has hurt other films in the past. Though I don’t think they will have much room to do so, I am curious if they will include any original concepts that were not in the book. This is always tricky to do but some films pull this off well. I’m not sure what they would even add if they did do this as I think there is plenty already.

Many films also change some things to better adapt it for the screen. It usually works best when the change is necessary to make it presentable in the new medium. Some things just don’t translate well onto the screen. One thing that comes to mind for this film is how they will portray Paul’s growth of mental acuity through the Bene Gesserit training.

Regardless of how they do things, I hope this film adaptation turns out well and does the story justice. I’m happy it will bring the story to a wider audience and even get more people interested in reading the book.

Dune2

 

2001: A Space Odyssey

2001-a-space-odyssey2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke was published only a few months after the movie released in 1968. The introduction to the copy I have states, by Clarke himself, that Stanley Kubrick commissioned the novel because he wanted a genuine story for his movie. Clarke and Kubrick thus worked on the screenplay together while Clarke was writing the book. I had no idea that this story was developed this way and thought it was an interesting and likely isolated case as most movies are based off of books, or a novelization of a movie is released after the movie screening. One precedes the other. This one was more of collaboration or joint production.

I have known of this book for a long time but only recently read it. I knew of the movie but have still not seen it. They are, to me, quite older works (they were released more than two decades before my birth and only seven years after my father was born; also the actual year 2001 was 19 years ago now). I of course have read much older works, but this one came to be placed on my TBR pile after I read an introduction to another novel which claimed that there are six novels that have proved to be the most influential to the development of science fiction. Naturally, I was curious. I had only read one of the six listed and I respect the author of that introduction. I also greatly enjoy science fiction so I made it a goal to read every book on this list.

For those who are curious, the list was:

  • 2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke
  • The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin
  • Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein
  • Dune by Frank Herbert
  • Neuromancer by William Gibson
  • The Once and Future King by T. H. White

Of these six, the only one I had read was Neuromancer. I am not sure why The Once and Future King would be considered science fiction as it centers on the Arthurian tales, but who am I to refute somewhat trivial genre categories.

I have now read all of these and agree that they were/are highly influential to science fiction as a genre. Most of them were written in the 1960’s or prior with the exception of Gibson’s novel. I loved a few and only liked others. As for Odyssey, I liked it and can see its merit but do not believe it would be a popular novel if written today. It was written at the peak of space exploration and public curiosity with the cosmos, which unfortunately has diminished. Not so much the curiosity, but we have stopped that fervent wish to explore beyond our planet. Probes are still sent out and they gather public interest momentarily (i.e. the Curiosity rover), but we no longer as a species desire to go beyond. We no longer care to have manned missions beyond orbit.

Odyssey is well written and is still interesting partly because we still have so little knowledge of what lies at the outer reaches of our solar system. We know a lot more than we did in 1968, but we no longer look out at the stars. We have reverted back to fighting each other and squabbling over idiotic disagreements or straight up greed. I’m sure anyone who lived in the 1960’s and watched the moon landings thought the year 2000 would be much different than what it turned out to be. Though I can probably say the same of what we believe 2050 will look like from today.

I wish we would return to the dreams of space exploration. This book was kind of a nostalgic reminder that the human race once had such dreams. However, I am recommending it much like it was recommended to me. I believe it was influential to the growth of science fiction and has influenced many stories since. I knew of HAL 9000 without having read or watched the movie, but he is just a minor part of this book. So, if you are a fan of science fiction or are interested space, then you will likely enjoy this book. I hope you maintain your curiosity and go look out at the stars every once in a while.

Happy Reading.

On J.K. Rowling

JKRowling_2016GalaJ.K. Rowling. One of the biggest literary success stories of the past 25 years if not of all time. I don’t think it is much of a surprise that she has been a big influence in my life since she has influenced hundreds of millions of people around the globe with her immensely popular series Harry Potter, but she is an inspiration beyond her writing as well. Before I get into the details of why and how she inspires me, let me herd an elephant (or two*) out of the room.

*(The second elephant regards her recent statements. I felt it was necessary to discuss these statements in a separate post: Public Figures, Bias, and Open Debate)

I think there is a cliche response associated with aspiring writers that has been based on J.K. Rowling’s success. When someone says they are a writer, or want to be a writer, the response sometimes given is “So you want to become the next J.K. Rowling, huh?” I think this has become too common and is actually detrimental to many of these writers for several reasons. One, they probably don’t want to be the next J.K. Rowling because what they write is completely different and they want to carve their own path and be recognized for their own merits. Two, the question itself is often asked in a snarky way which shuts down any chance of the writer sharing their dreams, goals, and stories with those who ask it. They feel like that initial response tells them that they aren’t good enough because it is a direct comparison with one of the masters of the craft. If you have experienced this response before, I hope you read the rest of this post because I think it will enlighten some things about J.K. herself, help you no longer consider that question an apathetic response to your dreams, and possibly provide the perfect response to such questions.

The question above does give credence to J.K.’s success (J.K. Rowling’s full name is Joanne Rowling. She uses the “pen name” J.K. Rowling where the K is an honorific for her grandmother’s name Kathleen). I think her story of rags to riches has become fairly well known, but I’ll give a brief summary here just because it is insightful. J.K. was a single mother on welfare when she began writing Harry Potter. The book was rejected by 12 publishers before getting picked up and published. These books, along with the movies, made J.K. Rowling a billionaire. That’s right, with a B. She is also one of the few people, perhaps the only person, who has gone from billionaire status to millionaire status by charitable giving. Her recent “net worth” is just shy of one billion dollars. I remember hearing her story about how she started her charity, Lumos, to assist orphaned children. She was reading a paper and saw a story about orphaned children and thought, as many of us surely have, that someone should be helping these children. Where most of us would have left it at that and continued on with our lives, she had a second thought which was a realization that she was in a place that would let her personally offer help because she had the funds to make a big difference and help address the issue. This led to the creation of Lumos. I haven’t followed the charity too closely but I hear great things from time to time about what they are doing. I did buy a pair of shirts for myself and my wife for a Lumos fundraising event (I haven’t written my international bestseller yet, but every little bit helps). I just think it is fantastic that she has taken her success and used it to assist others. I think this shows more about her character than her writing ever could.

I read a brief biography on J.K. when I was maybe twelve years old and the only thing I really remember from it was that she was on a train headed somewhere and was looking out the window (maybe at some cows?) and the name Harry Potter simply popped into her head and she knew she had the character for her book. She had known a family with the last name of Potter earlier in her life but the name that has become infamous simply came out of the ether, as most ideas do, and simply struck her and inspired her to start writing his story. She wrote the name on a napkin if I remember correctly to make sure she remembered it.

I grew up with Harry Potter. Literally…okay not in the actual literal sense as I didn’t go to Hogwarts with him, but I grew up alongside him in a way that made it feel like I went to Hogwarts with him. I’ll date myself here, but I was six years old when the first book came out in 1997. One of the only memories I have of being read aloud to as a kid was my mom reading Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets to me and my siblings. I think my mom had won the book at a raffle or something because it was the first book in the series we had. I eventually got the first book and began reading through the series myself. I also had to wait for each book to come out because she was still working on them. The third book may have been out at that time because I remember waiting for the fourth. I ended up reading the first four books four times before the fifth book came out. I remember going to get the book when it came out too. We ended up getting it from Costco of all places and I remember there just being a pallet of books, a literal pallet full of just copies of the new Harry Potter book, sitting near the entrance for people to pick up and it seemed like everyone coming in was taking one. Then I waited for the sixth, which I read in three days, and then I waited for the seventh. Both of which were picked up from another pallet-full of copies. I remember I didn’t read the seventh right away for some reason, but I did read it not too long after it came out. Nearly ten years after the final book came out, they came out with a print edition of the Harry Potter and the Cursed Child play that had become a big success. So, in 2016, almost 20 years after the first book, I found myself going to a Barnes & Noble for a midnight release party of a Harry Potter book. I went by myself but ran into some friends. We bought copies and went home. I went to bed, but I woke up the next day and read the play straight through (plays are often much quicker reads than books) in a handful of hours. I met up with the same friends I ran into later that day and we talked about the book/play since they also read it straight through. We liked and didn’t like various things, but we mainly just happy to have more of the story we grew up with.

I remember waiting in line for the first Harry Potter movie. I was nine or ten years old. They would rope off an area and you could wait in line to get into the theater. This was before theaters had assigned seating or the ability to buy tickets online. We got there early and were one of the first in line for the opening night and it was a magical experience seeing it for the first time. They had started making the movies before the books were all released, but the movies did get released not long after the books were released. The last book came out in 2007 and the last movie came out in 2011.

I remember seeing the sixth movie when I was at college getting my undergraduate degree. I went to a decent sized university in a smaller town and they had a fairly new theater built which held a total of ten screens. Of course, me and some friends bought tickets for opening night. The theater was running the movie on all ten screens. I worked at a movie theater back home when I wasn’t at school so I knew a bit about how things worked, and I think I remember this theater saying they only had one copy of the film. This was when they had actual film, everything wasn’t all digital yet (do I sound old yet? haha), so they rigged it up, which they were actually outfitted to do so it wasn’t a questionable type of rigging, where the film would start on one projector and then go along pulleys to the next projector and so on and so forth until it went through all of them. The result being that one theater would start the movie and the tenth would start the movie only a mere few minutes later. It was crazy. So they had the film in all ten auditoriums so when you went in, they tore your ticket, and you could go to any of the auditoriums you wanted. It was a one night show of only Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Many of my friends had re-read the book prior to seeing the movie. I had not. They ended up not liking the movie much, because they had the book fresh in mind, but I enjoyed it quite a bit since I had decided to keep a little distance between the adaptation and original content.

I was actually working, physically, at a movie theater when the last movie came out. I had recently won an “employee of the month” award or something similar and one of my rewards was to pick my schedule for two weeks. Luckily for me, the last day I was able to pick my schedule was the opening night of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2. I would have felt bad taking the whole day off since it was going to be insanely busy, so I set myself to work from 12pm to 8pm. I had bought my tickets for the midnight show, the earliest it was shown back then (I can hear my bones cracking in my old age). I came into work and there were people already lined up since 9am. They were seeing the special double feature of the sixth and seventh movies that would then show the new movie at midnight, but I was surprised to see people waiting in line that early. Anyway, I’ll avoid the hellish work day I had and just say that I made enough popcorn to feed a pod of whales for a year. I got of work at 8pm, ran home and showered in an attempt to remove the smell of popcorn from myself, and then went right back up to get in line and watch the final, amazing experience of a generation. I still remember hearing that line “Always” in the theater and feeling the entire audience’s reaction. It was simply incredible. Movies are somewhat heightened when in a packed theater full of dedicated fans. I was really into films back then and I do recall that J.K. had let Alan Rickman know about Snape’s relationship with Lily very early on in the film series. He was the only one who knew until that final scene so he could have a driving motivation for his character. He wrote a letter about it when the films were completed and you can find it online. It is quite touching and hints at J.K. fully understanding of the story even though only three books had been completed when she told him the little secret that would become a huge moment.

A few final things about Harry Potter before I move on to the real focus of this post, the one behind the stories. A study was done titled “The Greatest Magic of Harry Potter: Reducing Prejudice” which showed that reading Harry Potter actually makes people more empathetic. This is fantastic and shows how stories can influence people. Think of a few stories that have really gripped you. Can you imagine yourself without ever having experienced them?

There are theme parks entirely dedicated to bringing the world of Harry Potter to life. I still need to go to the bigger, more in-depth park in Florida, but I went to the one in Los Angeles a few years ago and had a blast. I bought a replica of Sirius Black’s wand since he is my favorite character in the series. I also bought a set of wizard robes. Ravenclaw robes since that is my “house.” A lot of people put a lot of emphasis on their sorted house. J.K. herself is a Hufflepuff.

Harry Potter was so successful that J.K. thought that anything she wrote afterwards would be impacted by simply having her name on the cover, that an expectation would be placed on the story before people even knew what it was, so she adopted an actual pen name of Robert Galbraith. She did publish a handful of books under J.K. Rowling, but she has a few successful series under her newer pen name, specifically the Cormoran Strike novels which are also now a TV series. I think the Robert Galbraith pen name was quickly found out to be J.K. Rowling, but she still uses the name today for some of her series. I think she has broken out of the shadow of her first success and continues to write new and interesting stories to find newer successes. She loves what she does and continues to find new audiences. She didn’t let herself get stuck in the expectations of others. She has always paved her own way. This is why I think she is a great role model.

I think her influence on me was not just the story that gripped the world, but the fact that it came into my life at the right time and has had a lasting impression. This is another aspiration I have with my own writing. To become a positive influence to a younger generation. To help kids experience stories that awe them and hopefully encourage them to become better people and believe in themselves. I’m not limiting that to those younger than me actually. I would love for everyone to have these reactions. I haven’t had the “so you want to be the next J.K. Rowling” response in a long time. I think I got it more when I was younger and the Harry Potter movies were still being released, but I’ve finally found an answer besides shutting down and thinking I could never be that successful, which then turns into believing I’ll never be successful with that comparison. My answer now is “No. I could never be J.K. Rowling. I don’t want to be. I’m going to be the first Ryan Yarber.”