Big Little Lies, Game of Thrones, A Series of Unfortunate Events and soon The Wheel of Time. It’s no small task turning books into television, but movies sometimes cannot do lengthy series justice. Today, the gang pitches what they think are great properties to get the small screen treatment.

"Transmetropolitan" cover.

Yonah Walter:

Transmetropolitan is a top-to-bottom savaging of American society— politics, entertainment, social classes, media, and religion— as relayed through the eyes of the World’s Top Cynic, Spider “I Hate it Here” Jerusalem. Warren Ellis and Darick Robertson’s universe is not only vividly rendered, but immersive in its portrayals of consumerism, sexual politics, cults-of-personality, and a kind of general venality that runs rampant through this technological society with no guiding star beyond hedonism. The Beast/Smiler election, originally written during the Gore/Bush fight, has its echoes in more recent contests, and there are more parallels in the scandalous fall-outs from those campaigns. No matter the viewer’s politics however, the visceral disgust Jerusalem has for his world and everything in it can find purchase. Transmet leads the viewer through its misanthropic depths while still providing those brief moments of optimism (like Bill’s monologue in #40) to remind us that Spider still has a heart.

As a TV (or streaming) series, Spider Jerusalem and his Filthy Assistants could extend beyond the main story arcs established in the 60-issue run (though the end is kind of a fixed point); or as Seth Rogen and team have done with Preacher, rewrite the story as needed to fit the medium. The source material presents rich characters and themes, a fertile soil to grow a new following.

"The Night's Dawn Trilogy" cover.

Jonathan Ward:

It’s safe to say I’ve read a lot of books, as anyone who has seen my creaking bookcase can confirm. Despite that, deciding which would make a good television series was surprisingly easy. I actually came up with several different options, but in order to avoid being yelled at I’ve settled for just one: the Night’s Dawn trilogy by Peter F. Hamilton.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with him, Peter F. Hamilton is a British sci-fi author whose books are renowned for their detailed world-building, as well as their considerable length and even greater commercial success.

The Night’s Dawn trilogy was released in the late nineties and consists of The Reality Dysfunction, The Neutronium Alchemist and The Naked God.

In the 27th Century humankind, though united as part of the Confederation, has split into two factions: the Adamists and the Edenists. The first book starts out as standard sci-fi fare but takes an abrupt and unexpected turn when the dead begin returning and possessing the bodies of the living. Chaos swiftly erupts as entire systems are overrun by the possessed, and the Adamists and Edenists alike scramble both to understand what is going on and to find a way to check the advance of the dead.

So why would this trilogy make a good TV series? It has a bit of everything, really. Nanotech, biotech, alien races who have had encounters with their own dead and either found a way to survive or been destroyed as a consequence. The possessed are not mindless zombies or anything like that: they are people, with their own hopes and dreams, rivalries and fears. They will do anything to avoid going back to the “beyond” where they have been confined, and have a host of abilities to manipulate the world around them, one of which is throwing balls of white fire that are almost impossible to extinguish.

Battles for survival across a galaxy, political intrigue, an incredibly diverse range of characters with their own agendas. Alien races, living ships, ancient artefacts: this trilogy has it all. Hamilton weaves together a host of plotlines: some of which are bleak and downright depressing, others that are more optimistic as the human race fights for not only its survival but quite literally for its collective soul. It would be a massive undertaking, and the CGI costs alone would probably exceed the GDP of a small country but the finished product… that would be spectacular.

Come on, Netflix. Get on it.

"His Last Command" cover.

James Fadeley:

Man, I feel like an idiot. I’m the one who originally suggested this topic, but I really struggled to decide on a good answer. At first, I was tempted to say Marvel’s Moon Knight, but that seems almost a given. The catch is whether Marvel will handle him as a TV series or a movie. Regardless, it seems to be happening one way or the other, so that’s cheating. I heard Judge Dredd is under similar considerations.

So, I decided to take a large risk and say Dan Abnett’s Gaunt’s Ghosts series, currently spanning 15 novels.

The series takes place in the greater Warhammer 40,000 universe, in a galaxy filled with perpetual war. Main character Colonel-Commissar Ibram Gaunt takes charge of a single surviving regiment of men from the planet Tanith. Gaunt leads his homeless men through battlefield after battlefield, hoping to someday settle them on a new planet. The series is utterly packed with great moments and heartfelt loss, roguish deeds and amazing war stories. My favorite of the series, Necropolis, would probably be the most difficult to translate. But would undoubtedly be worth it.

The problem generally lies in Warhammer 40k’s biggest gaming appeal: Space Marines. The fans love these superhero soldiers, at least in the same sense that they might worship strength. However, authors struggle with developing the loyalist versions of these characters into anything meaningful. Although intriguing, the twisted Chaos Marines risk not being fully understood without addressing their pure counterparts. Gaunt’s Ghosts bypasses these issues and brings mainstream appeal by focusing on the human element. From there, the interest in Space Marines can be gauged from audience reactions.

"The Blade Itself" cover.Andrew Aston:

A prime candidate for TV adaptation is Joe Abercrombie’s The First Law series. The series really focuses on its strong, morally myopic but always enjoyable characters, and has some excellent dialogue which would translate to screen very well. The series has a similar feel to Game of Thrones, in that it is set in a low fantasy world with very occasional and shocking moments of magic, which would favour a TV budget. It also challenges a lot of the traditional tropes of fantasy in interesting ways, and has plenty of twists and revelations to make a TV audience gasp.

The rest of this post contains some spoilers for The First Law series.

Adapting the series would be rather easy for the first few books, as they are already a linked trilogy, and you could roughly have the three books equate to roughly 3 seasons. I might include some of the secondary characters from Sharp Ends, as some of those stories occur concurrently with the main plot and allow us to expand the role of characters who will become a focus in later.

It is probably around the season 4-5 mark, if the series really took off, that we’d have to be careful. Abercrombie’s subsequent books in the series, Best Served Cold, The Heroes and Red Country, are technically sequels but they occur years after the trilogy, and often the main characters are secondary characters from the previous stories. Whilst this works in the books, in a show it is difficult to have a main character simply fall to the wayside for a few seasons. Can you imagine if Daenerys simply vanishes from the narrative after season 2, and doesn’t appear again until she comes roaring to Westeros on dragonback? The audience may feel cheated. * This is why I would expand those secondary characters’ roles in the initial seasons, so that when the focus shifts to them, it feels less jarring for an audience.

An expanded Best Served Cold is closest in time to the main trilogy, and feels most like a sequel. It follows Caul Shivers and a new POV, Murcatto the Serpent of Talins, as Murcatto recruits a band of villains from across the land of Stygia to help her get revenge on Duke Orso who killed her brother. Whilst this is an excellent and exciting story of dark intrigue and battles, it risks being perceived like the Dornish sub-plot of Thrones. This could be remedied by strengthening the connective tissue between this story and the original trilogy. Two main characters from the trilogy feature in the book; Jezal gets a cameo after going south from the union to visit Stygia, whilst Glotka doesn’t appear but gets ominous references by several characters as a figure to fear. I’d expand this part as a sub-plot, where we see Glotka and we are shown his machinations and interactions with Jezal which gets him sent to Stygia. This is similar to how Littlefinger and Varys in Thrones are given expanded roles, where you peek “behind the veil” as it were. An expanded Best Served Cold could easily fit two seasons of TV, as there is just so much plot, especially if we’re going beyond just Murcatto and Shivers’ viewpoints.

The Heroes and Red Country would be a lot trickier to adapt however. The Heroes would have quite a significant time-skip, and also it has a very narrow narrative focus; that of a single huge battle in the north over a set of standing stones on a hill. Whilst it is a beautiful war novel, I do not think it would work as a season within this The First Law series. However, it would work as maybe a 2 or 3-part finale to a season. This story refers in veiled terms to events occurring just “off-screen” as it were in the lead-up to this novel; the Union at war with Stygia, the rise of Shivers to legendary henchmen of Black Dow, more of the Dogman’s exploits, the fall of Bremer Dan Gorst, and the adventures of Curden Craw and his close-knit band of warriors.

In order for The Heroes to work, all this stuff would need to be shown in some way, which is why I think it would be imperative that Joe Abercrombie himself would have to be actively involved in the making of this series, as he has knowledge of the events which bring everyone to that grim and bloody battlefield, and if the adaptation was faithful to his work, I would hope he’d be amenable to writing for the series, as GRRM did for Game of Thrones. As of Sharp Ends, we know Abercrombie is not opposed to telling tales between the main trilogy and The Heroes, and I personally want more Whirrun of Bligh in my life, as he’s brilliant.

Red Country I think would make for a good finale series. For this one, I’d keep the time skip this time, going into a more sombre and slightly quieter final season. In HBO’s Boardwalk Empire, they did something similar, doing a time skip for the finale, showing how characters turned out, and giving us a sort of bittersweet ending. It would be a fitting conclusion, and gives us a satisfying end to Logen’s tale, and the series in general. ** This novel is essentially the Unforgiven of The First Law series. The final scene with Shivers is close to perfect an ending for me; the theme of vengeance as a self-consuming cycle of destruction is strong in Abercrombie’s other books, and that one final, quiet moment in defiance of this is beautiful.

*(There is a caveat to this, as that is precisely what happened to favourite the hound, as he was gone for a good few seasons before returning, and there was much rejoicing.)

**(The only way it could be better is if somehow that massive piece of crap Bayaz got killed in a really banal way, like some random mook puts an axe in his head, unaware of the dark majesty behind the arch-villain of The First Law series. Alas, Bayaz isn’t in that novel… unless you included Bayaz in the Union group who arrive with the inquisitor towards the end… just saying…)

About Yonah Walter

Yonah’s interests range from bass playing to random geekery to comic book movies (and even some of the books, thanks to James). A resident of New Jersey, he hopes to one day encounter Toxie. Yonah can be followed on Twitter: @politicsWookiee

Jonathan Ward photo.

About Jonathan Ward

Jonathan Ward is a science-fiction, horror and fantasy author from Bedford, who has been writing since the age of eight. He’s had a number of short stories published with more to come in 2021 along with two novels. He is sarcastic on Twitter @WrittenWard

James Fadeley photo.

About James Fadeley

James is a short story author and novelist who spends way too much time playing video games. His first novel, The Gift of Hadrborg is based on The Banner Saga universe. If you think yourself insane, he can be followed on Twitter @JamesFadeley.

About Andrew R. Aston

A novelist and a resident reviewer for Tbird, A.R Aston hails from deepest, darkest England. From his rain-drenched lair, he has had several short stories published in anthologies, such as Wicked Women from Fox Spirit Books and Outliers Saga. His debut novel, The Hobgoblin’s Herald, is due for release 2017.