Bob Calhoun

Bob Calhoun
Pacifica, California, USA
June 18
Bob Calhoun is a regular contributor to Film Salon and observer of offbeat media. His 2008 punk-wrestling memoir "Beer, Blood and Cornmeal: Seven Years of Incredibly Strange Wrestling" (ECW Press) has spent one entire week on the San Francisco Chronicle's Bay Area bestseller list.

Editor’s Pick
MARCH 10, 2011 4:13AM

The Science Fiction & Horror Stories That Need Adapting

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science fiction paperbacks
A whole pile of science fiction, horror and fantasy paperbacks that have gone untouched by Hollywood producers (pulled from the author's shelves and piled on his bed).

Remakes. Reboots. Re-imaginings. Prequels. Prequels to remakes. That's what 2011 is going to remembered for—the year of the prequels to remakes. We've got three of them coming out this year ("Death Race 2," "Untitled Thing Prequel," and "Rise of the Apes"). I'd say this could start a trend, but it already is one. Meanwhile, Alcon Entertainment has announced that it's going to produce a sequel or prequel to "Blade Runner," it doesn't know which. Last year's "Tron Legacy" was a sequel that was widely referred to as a remake. It's getting so the critics and the producers themselves can't tell what's what anymore.

There was a glimmer of hope offered by Guillermo Del Toro's $150 million version of H. P. Lovecraft's "At the Mountains of Madness," but Universal has dropped this project like it was an awful (and costly) squid-head with writhing feelers and the stench of a thousand opened graves. With the idea in mind that there may be some sentient life in Hollywood, I asked the authors, journalists, bloggers, filmmakers and artists in my inner circle (i.e. Facebook) what science fiction, horror,  fantasy or just plain weird novels or short stories they thought should be made into movies. Hopefully this list will help remedy the film industry's current touch of remake-prequelitis. To be fair (and to jumble things up a bit), I've alphabetized the responses by the authors of the works being suggested for adaptation.

I hope to see further suggestions in the comments, making this the unkillable eldritch creeping horror of blog posts. With all of the great responses, I'm still not seeing anything by Asimov, Fritz Leiber, Harlan Ellison, Larry Niven (etc. etc.) on this list. (Warning: Beware of the spoilers in Arturo R. García's entry.)

Alan Black (Author of "Kick the Balls: An Offensive Suburban Odyssey;" web): "Wasp Factory" is so twisted you wish at times that you had not unscrewed the cap on Iain Bank's first literary shake. Explosively remote, imagine a fantasy of murders executed by the clear eyes of a young nutjob screwing you tighter into his wicked ways. Not to be read in the dark.

Rafael Navarro (Graphic illustrator and creator of El Sonambulo; web): The works of Alfred Bester have influenced the sci fi community for years. From space travel, telepathy, to teleportation and the earliest fundamentals of what eventually became the cyberpunk movement. Two noted works, "The Demolished Man," and my personal favorite, "The Stars My Destination" are stories that are just DYING to be made into film. Sad to say, they have not! "Demolished Man" has all the traits of a great film noir/murder mystery but involving government controlled mind readers or “peepers” if you will. It follows Ben Reich, an industrialist giant caught in an intergalactic web of intrigue, deceit and murder all leading to a spiraling brainwashing conclusion! "The Stars My Destination" is an absolute masterpiece! It tells the tale of Gully Foyle, a survivor of a space wreckage left for dead, who, like the Count of Monte Cristo and even Travis Bickle, decides to go on a vendetta kick against those that wronged him and feed the angry inner demon from within.

Daniel Boyd (Writer/director "Chillers" and "Invasion of the Space Preachers;" Professor of Communications; independent pro wrestler; web): A Russian novel I've always wanted to adapt (science fiction in the way "Frankenstein" is); "Heart of a Dog" by Mikhail Bulgakov.

Crissy Calhoun (Author of "Love You to Death: The Unofficial Companion to The Vampire Diaries;" web): Gail Carriger’s "Parasol Protectorate" series ("Soulless," "Changeless," "Blameless," and the forthcoming "Heartless" and "Timeless"). Set in an alt-world Victorian London with “out” vampires and werewolves, the books are "New York Times" bestsellers and with good reason. Heroine Alexia Tarabotti, a woman without a soul, is clever, hilarious, and often in the middle of a misadventure featuring dirigibles, parasols, and steampunky science. With writing that's been favorably compared to P.G. Wodehouse and Jane Austen, Carriger has created a world that begs to be adapted for the screen. We may be overrun by vamps and wolves these days, but the "Parasol Protectorate" series is an entirely new, and wicked, twist that crosses genres.

Chris Morley (Visual Effects Supervisor, Tippett Studio; imdb): "House of Leaves" by Mark Z. Danielewski. An attempt at this would be purely insane, which is the greatest reason it SHOULD be done. If executed in a beautifully stylized way my faith in Hollywood would be one step closer to climbing out of the void.

Floyd Webb (Documentary filmmaker currently working on "The Search for Count Dante;" web): Great sci-fi stories for film are space Operas like Sam Delany's "Nova." Set in a world of cyborg machine-human interface tech where decisions are made by tarot card in a metaphorical Moby Dick-like tale in which one noble family is pitted against another. The Ahab character is a half Senegalese-half Swede on a great quest to turn the economic tide of energy dominance against his super rich nemesis, a plot that's even more relevant now than it was when the book came out in 1968.

Andre Perkowski (Writer/director of zero-budget film versions of the Ed Wood novel "Devil Girls" and William S. Burroughs' "Nova Express;" youtube): It's impossible not to daydream about doing Philip K. Dick justice on the screen as so many of his quirky works lend themselves to flickerin' pictures despite the mostly grim track record of extant adaptations. If somebody dumped a sizable sack of cash in front of me, I'd love to tear into "Ubik" -- his corrosive, hysterical novel that flips upside down and rots from within, playing with time and tepid SF tropes, mutating them into his own gorgeous personal stew of personal problems and bureaucratic annoyance. You get crunchy satire about life and death and a spritz of salvation in spray can form -- what's not to love? I hope someone does it right but I'll always snarl and do an Elvis lipcurl knowing I could've done it better with ten times the power -- oh, and without stupid Super Mario sequences of CGI platform-jumping too. Consider this your final warning, motion picture business.

Jackie Kashian (Comedian; host of the podcast "Dork Forest;" web): I picked randomly from the bookshelf behind me, "When Gravity Fails" by George Alec Effinger from 1988. Here’s why it needs to be a movie (and please don’t ruin it. Daredevil I’m talking to you). • It’s Islamic Cyberpunk, set in a futuristic Dubai. (That should sell it.) • People get surgical ports into their heads so that they can “chip in” with flash cards with different personality “mods” (endless porn-y possibility should sell it). • Our hero is a lapsed Muslim in the red-light district who doesn’t want the technology himself (i.e. “you can get an iPad, I don’t need an iPad”). • There’s a serial killer using illegal “mods” to simulate different killers from history on a killing spree. (Jack the Ripper, James Bond, etc.) • The “Godfather” character insists our hero gets “mods” to out “mod” the bad guy. (Which is just awesome and you should already be looking for directors). • I checked to see if it had ever been adapted and couldn’t find anything but a reference to a computer game called Circuit's Edge which I may have to get now that I know it exists.

Robert "Uncle Bob" Martin (former editor of "Fangoria;" screenwriter of "Frankenhooker;" imdb): I read Daniel F. Galouye's "Simulacron-3" in 1966, while flying from a stay in San Francisco General's psychiatric ward [a stay brought about by ingestion of bad drugs and an accumulation of my own sorry shit], back to my family in New York. In the novel, the protagonist develops the thesis that he, and everyone he knows, exist only in a computer model of the world, maintained for the purpose of getting poll numbers without actually bothering anyone with polls. The climactic moment comes about when the protagonist chooses to test his theory by driving to the city's limits, where he finds finds himself staring into a void of electronic nullity at the edge of his world. For me, that moment came to represent the arbitrariness of all existence, not just for the poor souls in that fictional computer, but through all of time in all manifestations of being. I have often thought since what a problem it would be to bring that moment to film. I only recently learned that "Simulacron-3" has been adapted twice, in 1999 as "The Thirteenth Floor," and before that as "Welt am Draht" ("World on a Wire"), directed by Rainer Werner Fassbinder for German television in 1973. I'm afraid to see either of these.

Arturo R. García (Site Lead,; twitter): "Stranger In A Strange Land," by Robert Heinlein. Sci-fi fans like to think they're progressive? Let's see if they could deal with this plot played out in 3-D: nice-enough guy, raised on Mars, comes back to Earth, becomes a celeb, forms a polygamist cult, gets killed ... then gets made into soup by his buddies. Somebody get David Tennant on this, stat!

Steve Leialoha (Multi Eisner Award winning comic book artist of "Fables" and "Howard the Duck"; wikipedia): CGI animation has advanced to the point where I think it would be possible to do some sort of animated version of "The Bear Went Over the Mountain" by William Kotzwinkle. It's (kinda) the story of a bear that comes across a book manuscript in the forest, is subsequently assumed to be the author and becomes a media sensation. There's lots of other wackiness of course, but it has terrific potential in the right hands.

Mandy Keifetz (Journalist and author of the crime novel "Corrido"; twitter): I'd like to see H.P. Lovecraft's "The Horror at Red Hook" ("Weird Tales," 1927) made into a movie. The horror is inchoate and eterne - and I almost live there. It's ineffably creepy.

Dan Kelly (Journalist specializing in the weird, obscure, historic and religious; web): "Facts Concerning the Late Arthur Jermyn and His Family" by H.P. Lovecraft. Beginning with the totally emo quote, "Life is a hideous thing,” "Arthur Jermyn" is populated by a weirdo cast of anthropologists, archaeologists, aristocrats, gorilla trainers, showgirls, murderers, lunatics, and a lost tribe of white apes for good measure. It features no alien gods, dabbling instead in cursed bloodlines, Cronenbergian body horror, and, (SPOILER ALERT!) inter-species romance. Sadly, Lovecraft's penchant for racism is evident—the gentle and scholarly Arthur's simian appearance explained through the red herring of Portuguese and Romani ancestors, for example—and the twist ending is telegraphed early on. Still, the story is a blackly comedic romp. I picture Wes Anderson at the helm, with Alec Baldwin narrating passages like: "One morning in Chicago, as the gorilla and Alfred Jermyn were rehearsing an exceedingly clever boxing match, the former delivered a blow of more than the usual force... They did not expect to hear Sir Alfred Jermyn emit a shrill, inhuman scream, or to see him seize his clumsy antagonist with both hands, dash it to the floor of the cage, and bite fiendishly at its hairy throat."

David Henry Sterry (Author of several books ranging from "Chicken: Self-Portrait of a Young Man for Rent" to "The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published;" web): "Guts" by Chuck Palahniuk--it's a story about all these strange ways that people have of getting themselves off. The climax involves a swimming pool, lots of suction, and tons of unraveling intestines. It just begs to be made into some kind of sick creepy, fucked up movie.

Eugene Robinson (Punk singer, journalist, MMA fighter, author of "A Long Slow Screw;" web): Hmmm....well I would say the Thanos epic that was part of the "Captain Marvel" and "Warlock" series drawn by Jim Starlin... Jesus, I hate to even mention it on the outside chance someone else might read this and according to the same laws that had Hollywood destroy a great comic book like "Howard the Duck," completely ruin this by making it a simple expansion of the bar scene from Star Wars. But you have asked and so I have offered. So there. Now I have done it. It will now be ruined. All that's left is the crying....

Adam S. Cantwell (Emerging author of works of weird fiction; web): We all know that Hollywood won’t plumb the infinite wealth of imaginative fiction out there without some guaranteed cross-marketing payoff they can sell to the bankers. So why not just go for unfilmable, unsellable gold? I hereby challenge Tinseltown to bring Gene Wolfe’s protean science-fantasy epic "The Book of the New Sun" to the screen. Hypothetical 18-to-34-year-olds will (never) thrill to the exploits of the apprentice torturer Severian; nor will they shiver as the dread Alzabo, who absorbs the memories of its prey, prowls the night, nor gasp at mountain ranges carved in the likenesses of long-dead Autarchs of remote-future Urth; nor will they tremble as the mindless hordes of the dread sea monster Abaia march to battle to foil a last desperate plan to reignite the dying Sun... Wolfe’s masterpiece has all this plus aliens, time travel, romance, intrigue, and hidden destinies galore--actually, Hollywood, never mind, I’ll just read the books again.

Bob Calhoun is the author of  the bestselling punk-wrestling memoir, Beer, Blood and Cornmeal: Seven Years of Incredibly Strange Wrestling, which is available through You can follow him on Twitter @bob_calhoun.


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I for one always wanted to see someone tackle Asimov's "Foundation" series (and no, I Robot didnt quite do that) as well as Orson Scott Card's "Ender's Game."
You given me some more books to hunt and for that, thank you!
I've always thought Theodore Sturgeon's "More Than Human" would make a great movie.

As for more recent works, I'd like to see John Scalzi's "Old Man's War" adapted. Of course, it just occurs to me now that it might be considered a little too similar to "Avatar".
Magnificent recommendations! Thanks - now more money to drop on books that I don't have!!! How great to hear from Steve Leialoha, who's art on X-Men, New Mutants and Spider-Woman I fondly remember.

It's clear people are hungry for Lovecraft adaptations although I'd argue that we've had some interesting ones in "Dagon," "In the Mouth of Madness" and yes even the latest remake of "King Kong." As far as Philip K. Dick goes, we need a definitive and subtle version of "The Man in the High Castle" (subtle as in NO car chases and explosions starring Leo DiCaprio and Matt Damon). Finally, as far as fantasy goes, Patricia A. McKillip's early work is highly underrated and stands up to Tolkien and Narnia. An animated version of "The Forgotten Beasts of Eld" would be fantastic (especially by Hayao Miyazaki - and I'm hardly an anime fan).
@Tim4Change: My personal Asimov pick is "Caves of Steel." It has robots wrapped in a tight detective story.

@Donald: One of the books pictured above is Sturgeon's "Some of Your Blood."
You say no mentions of writers like Ellison and Niven? Allow me to rectify.

Ellison: "I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream" would make the "Saw" franchise an amusement park. "'Repent, Harlequin!' Said the Ticktockman" is as relevant as ever in terms of the glorification of mediocrity. Both would need to be expanded from short story length to fit a typical theater running time.

Niven: The "Ringworld" series would be a great place for those who get their jollies from special effects. "The Integral Trees" would be interesting to see. One of his stories from the Man-Kzin wars was used as a plot for the animated Star Trek series. This would still be a ripe venue for exploration. (Aside - I would love to see what George Lucas could do with Bandersnatchii or Puppeteers.) Of course, no mention of Niven would be complete without considering the Draco Tavern or "The Magic Goes Away."

Bonus selection: Spider Robinson's tales of Callahan's Crosstime Saloon.

Bonus selection 2: Connie Willis's "Doomsday Book" and/or "To Say Nothing of the Dog."

I too loved "The Stars My Destination" and think it would make a great series (on AMC?). Thanks, Rafael, for recommending it - and thank you for the post.
Fantastic reporting here. I couldn't agree more about the paucity of original material produced in the film industry today. They the producers and we the consumers are clearly trapped in rehash mode. If they would only put on their thinking caps and make some of these unconventional narratives work...Your thoughtful overview has piqued some latent interests. Thanks for putting Gail Carriger's "Parasol Protectorate" on my radar...sounds delicious.

Oh, and I would love to see Octavia Butler's book, The Fledgling, adapted to film.
Looks like I have a lot of reading to do!

Amazing collection of thinkers, Bob. I can't get over the chewy goodness of Perkowski's prose. Gotta check out his films, but I think he needs to write.

And the screenwriter of Frankenhooker! Man, there's a classic.
I'm craving film versions of Samuel R. Delaney's early novels.
Actually, I hope that none of these recommended books are made into films, considering Hollywood's dismal track record adapting novels and stories of any kind for the screen. There have been very, very few good book-to-film sf adaptations.
Point well taken Peter. In the meantime, this does seem to be expanding a lot of peoples' reading lists.
What a great article! I wish I could rate this a thousand times! Excelent!
:) have never even heard of these books - but that's exciting - shall try to find them at the American Center library here - you make them sound as interesting as The House on the Strand by Daphne Du Maurier and some others that I have read. rated
I'm getting a little tired of seeing "science fiction" and "horror" lumped together in the unspoken assumption or belief that they're somehow innately similar. They're not. You can have mixing and crossovers, of course, but you can mix all the other genres as well, including romance, historical, whodunit, literary, erotica, etc. But if I want my SF routinely and unthinkingly lumped together with the vulgar, gory, juvenile, depressingly stupid crap that gets labelled "horror," I can just look at the Sci-Fi -- oops, excuse me, SyFy -- channel.

Other than that pet peeve, though, some of your ideas are interesting -- and of course Hollywood would never fail to fail at whichever ones they try to make. How about a Bollywood musical version of "The Stars My Destination?" At least your viewers would come to that not expecting anything plausible or serious...
What Tim4change said except I liked Card's "Alvin Maker" series way better.
And the only one in your list that I felt wasn't derivative was "Stranger in a Strange Land".
The seminal sci-fi writers suffered ignominy in the outside world for decades as lesser literary lights rewrote their ideas for mainstream media with impunity and to great profit.
@motherwell, my reason for lumping science fiction, horror and fantasy together was to make things easier on the people I invited to participate by giving them a wide open field to play with. Although most contributors stuck to science fiction, the liberal guidelines maximized participation and made the whole thing enjoyable for contributors and readers alike. Believe me, there's always a bit of panic when you go around asking people for anything resembling a book report. Thanks for reading.
Actually, I hope that none of these recommended books are made into films, considering Hollywood's dismal track record adapting novels and stories of any kind for the screen. There have been very, very few good book-to-film sf adaptations.
Almost all of Heinlein's novels have been optioned at one time or another, but it is very, very hard to deal with the estate on these matters. The last I heard, Tom Hanks owned the option on Stranger, but I just sent a query letter to the chairman of the Heinlein Society to find out if that were true or not.

Considering the hash that has been made of previous Heinlein novels in film - especially Starship Troopers - one feels that encouraging more of the same would be futile, if not contra-productive.

In my view the best science fiction novels don't convert well to the screen because they are primarily intellectual exercises.

The Foundation Trilogy would have been an incredible film series, except it's already been done. It was called Star Wars but it was essentially the same idea pattern, one of the greatest intellectual rips-off (the correct form of rip-offs) in film history.
Sorry to hear they pulled the plug on "The Mountain of Madness." Speaking of Lovecraft, I've always wanted to see an adaptation of "The Shadow over Innsmouth." I've also just finished reading "Pym," Mat Jonson's sequel to Poe's "Narrative of Arthur Pym." Maybe the time is ripe to explore the sensitive subject of racial anxiety in horror?