Authors on Adaptations: The Supernatural Edition

Today, I’m throwing out another really neat list of articles where authors talk about the pleasures and pitfalls of having their work jump off the page, right into the cogs of the Hollywood machine.

All these authors’ works are fiction, with a fantastic element. It is my personal belief that genres like sci-fi, high fantasy, horror fantasy, and magic realism are all much more difficult to put onscreen. As opposed to dramas or romance stories, the imagery they play with are more distinct and reliant on readers imaginations. Thus, the risk of alienating audiences is twice as high, and the compromise between production goals and author vision twice as tenuous.

Sometimes, the author comes out of it jaded and swearing to high heaven they’ll never do it again. Sometimes, the author can’t wait for their next work to be put onscreen. One’s thing for sure, these authors are just as articulate in expressing their opinions as they are in creating worlds to escape to.

‘Stardust’ Author Neil Gaiman Tells Why He Turns Down Most Adaptations — But Not This One

– MTV News

Neil Gaiman is pretty much a living legend for fans of graphic novels and dark fantasy. His graphic novel series “The Sandman” turned the comics world on its’ head as to what kind of narratives could be commercially successul, and his written fiction and short stories are consistent bestsellers until today.

Gaiman has dabbled a lot with TV (see Neverwhere and American Gods), but not so much with film. In this 2007 interview about the film “Stardust” starring Claire Danes, he talks about what attracted him to this particular adaptation production, what had led him to be wary, and how he can contrast his attitude about the whole process to his friend’s, Alan Moore. Speaking of which…

Alan Moore: why I turned my back on Hollywood

– The Guardian

Alan Moore is untouchable in the graphic novel community. Among his many works, “Swamp Thing”, “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen”, “Watchmen”, “From Hell”, “Hellblazer”, and “V For Vendetta” are just some of the best examples of how he constantly pushes the boundaries of the visual and textual medium. There’s no better known master of blending together and subverting different writing styles and genres, incorporating references from all over history and fiction, and unsettling the expectations we would have from comics.

It is impossible to talk about how much Moore hates films based on his book. Suffice it to say he hates them A LOT. This article delves quite well into his history of both writing, his loathing for the films based on his work despite (even maybe BECAUSE of) their financial success, and why he’s writing for film on his own terms.

Ursula Le Guin talks Sci-fi Snobbery, Adaptations, & Troublemaking

– Den of Geek

Ursula Le Guin is another legend — this time in the world of High Fantasy. Le Guin has created whole other worlds for people to get lost in, with floating islands, wizards at war, and most importantly, dragons galore. I’ve already touched on Le Guin’s unhappiness with the Studio Ghibli adaptation of Tales From Earthsea, but this article goes a bit more in-depth, and also talks about her wonderful crusade on the importance of fantasy fiction.

In the latter half of this interview, Le Guin talks about her predominantly strange and negative experiences when it comes to adaptations. She discusses how different it was the first time, and what circumstances have led her to be more wary about the process nowadays. She also talks about the difference of adapting written stories into radio plays, and whether that works better.

The Legendary Ted Chiang on Seeing His Stories Adapted and the Ever-Expanding Popularity of SF


Having graduated with a Computer Science degree leads Ted Chiang to have a very unique perspective about the crossroads of humanity and the digital. His captivating science-fiction short stories have been awarded multiple times, and his work “Story of Your Life” became last year’s Oscar-nominated “Arrival”, starring Amy Adams

Chiang here talks about how different the film-industry storytelling is from his own experiences in writing, both in the priorities they assign to a narrative and to the sheer scope and breadth of production systems. He mentions that while “Arrival” was radically unfaithful to his text, he thought it stayed true to the spirit — something he had initially thought was either impossible or undesirable.

Clive Barker Speaks Out on Midnight Meat Train

Clive Barker specializes in Horror-fantasy fiction. His novels and short stories are chockfull of blood and guts and sex and monsters of all kind. While horrific, they are entirely unforgettable. You know Pinhead? Yeah, Pinhead is his. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg in terms of his wide and wonderful imagination.

Barker has been known to be very supportive of and involved with adaptations of his work. This article talks specifically about how he felt about “Midnight Meat Train” — a slasher story, with a more otherworldy undertone. It delves into his frustrations, not with how the film was done, but with what was done with the film. His issues with production are not one of narrative, but of promotion. Interestingly, and as opposed to many authors on this list, he remains optimistic about future projects.

Author of The Giver Talks About the Writing Process, Adaptations, Streep, and Bridges

– Huffington Post

Lois Lowry has written plenty, but her work “The Giver” has become iconic to a whole generation. Part drama, part fantasy, part sci-fi, part dystopia, the idea of it being adapted onscreen at the time had many scratching their heads as to how it would work.

The second half of this interview has Lowry discussing how she viewed the casting choices, and some character changes that were made in order for the film to work. While lacking an element of retrospection, it’s an enlightening read from the perspective of someone who was new to the movie-making industry, and who actually seemed eager for changes rather than being embittered by them.

Stephen King On What Hollywood Owes Authors When Their Books Become Films: Q&A

– Deadline

THE most adapted author on the face of the earth. I’ve already written a whole article on Stephen King adaptations, wherein I already referenced this article. Still, it is worth a read by itself.

King knows better than anyone, at this point, how an author can best reconcile themselves with the movie-making machine, while not being disillusioned by the possibility of story distortion or box-office failure. He talks about the whole span of his career as being the hand behind plenty of Hollywood films, taking risks, living with both the good and the bad films that get attached to your name, and how to reap maximum benefits and not feel like a sell-out.


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