Big budget sci-fi and fantasy events are always quick to pull audiences in with their mysterious new worlds and impressive special effects. But all this visual spectacle will only serve to distract if the story feels secondary and the characters aren’t worth caring about. It’s no coincidence that some of the best sci-fi and fantasy available today (Game of Thrones, The Man in the High Castle, etc.) is based on critically acclaimed books from renowned authors. The good news is that there’s certainly no shortage of fantastical novels left to draw from.
One of the biggest fantasy events of this year is bound to be the adaptation of Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series, which will feature Idris Elba as the Gunslinger and Matthew McConaughey as the infamous Man in Black. Even though we’re still months away from the film’s release, a follow-up TV series is already in the works for 2018. Luckily, there are plenty of other beloved sci-fi and fantasy books that are being turned into feature films and TV series in the (hopefully) near future.
So look no further book-worms! Here are 15 Sci-Fi And Fantasy Books You Didn’t Know Were Becoming Movies And TV Shows.
15 The Kingkiller Chronicle
Similar to Thrones fans eagerly awaiting The Winds of Winter’s release, fans of The King Chronicle are also waiting with bated breath for the third and final installment of Patrick Rothfuss’s fantasy epic to hit book shelves. The first two novels in the series, The Name of the Wind and The Wise Man’s Fear, follow Kvothe, a disheartened innkeeper who recounts his adolescence spent studying magic at The University and embarking on fantastical adventures. With The Doors of Stone, Rothfuss promises to finish the story of Kvothe and explore how the character came to live a shameful life of secrecy at the Waystone Inn.
Back in 2013, Twentieth Century Fox was developing a Kingkiller TV series, but when their option expired in 2015, Lionsgate snatched up the rights with plans to turn the series into a movie, TV series, and even a video game. Adapting the tale of Kvothe has its fair share of challenges, as most of the scenes revolve around a single adolescent boy, and the struggle to master sympathy (the story’s form of magic) largely takes place within the character's mind.
However, Kvothe is also a renowned singer and lute player, and with Hamiton’s Lin-Manuel Miranda serving as the film’s producer, the music from the books could truly spring to life in a live-action adaptation.
14 Stranger in a Strange Land
Despite receiving mixed reviews and being mired iny controversy after its release, the 1961 novel Stranger in a Strange Land has continued to be highly influential within science fiction circles, and it was even named one of the Books that Shaped America by the Library of Congress. The novel was written by Robert A. Heinlein, who also wrote Starship Troopers and the short story All You Zombies (which the 2014 film Predestination was based upon). Now, over 50 years after its release, it looks like Stranger in a Strange Land will finally get a live-action adaptation as well.
Syfy has optioned the book to make a TV series with Scott Rudin (No Country For Old Men), and James Vanderbilt (The Amazing Spider-Man) serving as producers. The series will tell the story of Valentine Michael Smith, a man who returns to Earth after being born and raised on Mars. The book initially raised eyebrows for its excessive sex scenes and the way it preached about “free love,” which eventually became a mantra of ’60s hippy culture. Though not much is known about the series as of yet, it will be interesting to see if the Syfy adaptation will push the boundaries of contemporary audiences.
13 Watership Down
If you’re in the mood for an adult bedtime story, look no further than Richard Adams’ 1972 novel Watership Down. (And if you don’t believe us, we’ll have you know that Watership Down was even one of the novels that Sawyer often carried around on Lost.)
The story follows a group of rabbits who join their leader, Hazel-Rah, in the search for a new utopia following the destruction of their warren. On their journey, the group encounter a number of other rabbit civilizations — and while some colonies become allies, others seek to thwart Hazel’s plan of inhabiting Watership Down. While many insist that the 400-page fantasy is an allegory about contrasting governments, cultures, and religions, Adams maintains that he never intended the book to be more than an adventure filled with talking rabbits.
The novel has already been adapted for the screen twice; once in 1978, when it was made into an animated film; and again in 1999, with a TV series that ran for 39 episodes. Now, the BBC has partnered with Netflix to produce a new animated mini-series that is expected to run a total of four hours in length. James McAvoy (Split) is expected to voice Hazel, while John Boyega (Star Wars: The Force Awakens), Ben Kingsley (Shutter Island), and Gemma Arterton (Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters) will voice other members of the adventurous warren.
12 War of the Worlds
The War of the Worlds has certainly seen its fair share of adaptations. From the infamous 1938 Orson Wells radio play, which left some of its gullible listeners in hysterics, all the way to the 2005 Steven Spielberg/Tom Cruise feature film, which transported the story into a modern setting. This H.G. Wells classic was so groundbreaking that it would be near impossible to measure its cultural significance.
For starters, War of the Worlds was one of the first published stories to explore a battle between humans and creatures from outer space, and the novel even inspired scientists to create a liquid-powered rocket — which would eventually allow mankind to travel to the moon!
It’s no wonder that people continue to have such reverence for the 1897 novel, and it looks like we’ll be treated to a War of the Worlds TV show in the near future. MTV is currently developing the series with Teen Wolf creator and writers Jeff Davis and Andrew Cochran. Though a cast hasn’t been announced for the series yet, it looks like MTV is still striving for a 2017 debut.
Although a classic retelling of Well’s Martian invasion would certainly be a compelling watch, we’re betting that just like the 2005 film, MTV plans on once again resetting the story for modern audience.
11 Time After Time
Speaking of H.G. Wells, the 1979 science fiction novel Time After Time casts the author as the story’s protagonist and wonders what would have happened had Wells actually created the device from his 1895 novel, The Time Machine. The story was written by Karl Alexander, who speculates that Wells would have used the machine to stop the murdering spree of Jack the Ripper.
The novel has already been adapted into a film and a stage play, but it will be brought to the the small screen later this year as a weekly series on ABC. The show was created by Kevin Williamson, who also adapted The Vampire Diaries for television audiences. Freddie Stroma (13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi) will portray H.G. Wells, who ends up chasing Jack the Ripper into the present day, where he must stop him before he’s able to kill again.
Time After Time will premier on March 5, 2017 on ABC.
10 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
It feels like 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea has been stuck in development hell for ages now. For years, David Fincher (Gone Girl) was rumored to be spearheading the film, and we can’t help but think that the director’s dreary and eerily precise style of filmmaking could’ve been the perfect fit for a story about a perilous underwater adventure. But with Fincher presently developing Mindhunter, a new Netflix series, director Bryan Singer has since taken up the task of retelling the classic tale.
The novel was published back in 1870 by science fiction novelist Jules Verne, who also penned epic adventures Around the World in Eighty Days and Journey to the Center of the Earth. The story follows three explorers who travel out to sea to kill a mysterious sea monster, but soon discover that the monster is in fact a highly advanced submarine that was created and piloted by the eccentric Captain Nemo.
Singer has said the novel was one of his favorite childhood stories, and that bringing it to life will be a dream come true. Hopefully, that means that the film will be full-speed ahead into production very soon.
9 The Forest of Hands and Teeth
The Forest of Hands and Teeth was released in 2009 by first-time author Carrie Ryan. The young adult novel is set in a zombie-infested post-apocalyptic world where a group of survivors are both protected and imprisoned by the wall that surrounds them. The novel is part of a trilogy, and is followed by The Dead-Tossed Waves and The Dark and Hollow Places, which were all met with positive reviews from critics and audiences alike.
Though the project has yet to be greenlit, a book-to-film adaptation has been in the works for The Forest of Hands and Teeth with first-time director Kate Maberly attached to bring the story to life. Before her interest in directing, Maberly starred in a number of films, including Finding Neverland and the 1993 adaptation of The Secret Garden. Actress Maisie Williams, who is best known for playing Arya Stark on HBO’s Game of Thrones, is already attached to play the film’s protagonist, Mary; a teenager who dreams of venturing through the zombie-infested forest in the hopes of one day seeing the ocean.
8 American Gods
American Gods was released in 2001 to such critical acclaim that it’s a miracle it’s taken over 15 years for a live-action adaptation to get going. The novel was written by Neil Gaiman, who also penned The Sandman comic series, as well as the dark children’s novella Caroline.
American Gods revolves around ancient and new gods who are given life by the population’s collective belief in them. The story beings with Shadow Moon being released from prison following his wife’s death, only to become entangled in a mission with the mysterious Mr. Wednesday, who wants to align the Old Gods in a battle against the new ones. The novel was a New York Times Best Seller, and even went on to win both the Nebula Award, and the prestigious Hugo Award for Best Novel of 2002.
The show was developed by Bryan Fuller and Micheal Green, who have both written for a number of massively popular movies and TV series, inclusive Heroes, Hannibal, and even the forthcoming Alien: Covenant and Blade Runner 2049. The lead character, Shadow Moon, will be portrayed by Ricky Whittle (best known for playing Lincoln on the CW show The 100) while Ian McShane (Deadwood) will play the elusive Mr. Wednesday.
Luckily, fans of the novel won’t have to wait that much longer, as American Gods is set to debut on Starz in April of this year.
7 Good Omens
It turns out American Gods isn’t the only novel by Neil Gaiman that will be coming to the small screen. His 1990 novel that he co-wrote with Terry Pratchett, titled Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch, is currently being developed as a six-part series that will be released on the BBC and Amazon Prime. Talks of a Good Omens movie or TV adaptation have been in the works for years, but following Pratchett’s death in 2015, Gaiman has taken up the task of adapting the fantasy into a mini-series per Pratchett’s request.
The story is set during the beginning of the End Times, and involves the angel Aziraphale and the demon Crowley trying to postpone the apocalypse since they have both taken a liking to their cozy lives on earth. The only problem is that the child they think is the Anti-Christ was accidentally swapped out at the hospital by mistake, and they end up watching over a completely harmless child instead.
Though the cast is still unknown at this time, the series creators are hoping for a release sometime in 2018.
6 Midnight, Texas
The Midnight, Texas book series is written by author Charlaine Harris, best known for penning The Southern Vampire Mysteries series which went on to be adapted into HBO’s True Blood. Her latest series consists of three novels to date: Midnight Crossroads, Day Shift, and Night Shift — which were all released within the past three years. The series is another urban fantasy set in the fictional Texan town of Midnight, where outsiders threaten the safety of the town’s supernatural inhabitants.
The series was optioned by NBC, which will ensure a much lighter tone for this Harris adaptation in comparison to the extremely erotic True Blood. The series is set to begin an 11-episode run this spring, and will feature Francois Arnaud (The Borgias, Blindspot) in the lead role of Manfred Bernardo. Manfred is a psychic who relocates to the town of Midnight, Texas to meet his new neighbors, consisting of vampires, witches, were-tigers, and the occasional citizen who doesn’t seem to stay dead.
Midnight, Texas will premier on April 30, 2017.
5 3001: The Final Odyssey
Back in the early 2000s, Tom Hanks was actually discussing the possibility of adapting the final two books of Arthur C. Clarke’s Space Odyssey series. Hanks would have played Dr. Frank Poole, one of the main astronauts who appeared in Stanley Kubrick’s massively ambitious adaptation of 2001: A Space Odyssey. However, the plan never came to fruition, and now the final book of the series, 3001: The Final Odyssey, is being developed as a mini-series for the Syfy channel.
The sci-fi novels, which were written by Clarke over the course of nearly 20 years, explore subjects such as the origin of life, the immortality of consciousness, and the possibility of alternate realities. Suffice it so say, these are stories for true science nerds. So luckily a number of science nerds/ filmmakers have signed on to develop the show, including director Ridley Scott (Alien: Covenant) and producer David W. Zucker (The Andromeda Strain).
Though little is known about the project at this time, as of last year it was still considered “in-development” for the Syfy Network.
Annihilation is the first book of The Southern Reach trilogy, which was released in 2014 and written by Jeff VanderMeer. The story follows the expedition of an all-female team — consisting of a biologist, an anthropologist, a psychologist, and a surveyor — who travel into Area X, an inhabited area where the laws of nature seem to have little bearing. The group is the 12th team that has journeyed into Area X, and it is revealed that the biologist’s husband was part of the previous expedition-- before he mysteriously died of cancer, along with the rest of his group. The trilogy was well-received by readers and critics alike, and Annihilation even won the Nebula Award for Best Novel in 2014.
Director Alex Garland, who wrote and directed 2015's Ex Machina, will be bringing Annihilation to the silver screen sometime this year, though a release date has yet to be set. The film will star Natalie Portman as The Biologist, and Jennifer Jason Leigh as The Psychologist. Oscar Isaac will also team back up with Garland following Ex Machina, playing the Biologist's husband.
Though Annihilation is only the first part of a larger story, Garland said that he won’t be covering the events of Authority and Acceptance, which always leaves room for two possible film sequels in order to complete The Southern Reach trilogy.
3 The Circle
This 2013 novel by David Eggers revolves around an all-powerful tech company known as The Circle, which strives to exterminate privacy from the human experience. The story follows Mae Holland, who lands a job at the tech firm thanks to her friend, Annie, a rising star within The Circle. The company is lead by “Three Wise Men” who preach that “sharing is caring” and “secrets are lies.” Mae quickly becomes ensconced in her new tech-savvy life, and even agrees to “go transparent” by participating in SeeChange - a program that allows followers to watch Mae’s life in real time. While many classic sci-fi novels, such as 1984, warn of the government spying on its citizens, The Circle argues that social media will be the ultimate undoing of privacy.
The film adaptation, which is set to be released on April 28, 2017, will feature Emma Watson in the lead role of Mae, while Karen Gillan (Oculus) will portray her best friend, Annie. Tom Hanks is set to play Eamon Bailey, the most charismatic “Wise Man,” who acts as the face of the company and encourages Mae to submit to the ideals of transparency. The story was adapted and directed by James Ponsoldt, who also directed The Spectacular Now and The End of the Tour.
2 The Handmaid’s Tale
Though it was published over 30 years ago, Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale may be more relevant now than ever. The story takes place in a dystopian future where Christian extremists have overthrown the government and completely stripped women of their rights. The novel’s protagonist, Offred, is a handmaid who is sent to live with a Commander and his wife, where she is expected to bear them a child. Since its debut in 1985, The Handmaid’s Tale has never gone out of print and it has been awarded numerous honors, including the very first Arthur C. Clarke Award.
The first trailer for the Hulu series was released earlier this month, and featured Elizabeth Moss (Mad Men) in the lead role of Offred. Joseph Fiennes (Shakespeare in Love) will play the Commander Fred Waterford, while Yvonne Strahovski (Dexter) will play his wife, Serena Joy. The renowned novel has already seen its fair share of adaptations, both on the stage and screen, but with Atwood serving as a consulting producer and Golden Globe-winning actress Moss spearheading the cast, this incarnation of The Handmaid’s Tale is turning into a must-watch.
The series will be available to stream on April 26, 2017.
1 Ready Player One
Steven Spielberg has a history of breathing life into a number of sci-fi and fantasy novels, including Minority Report, War of the Worlds and The BFG. So it’s no mistake that he landed the gig of directing the upcoming sci-fi flick Ready Player One, despite interest from a number of other successful directors to adapt the novel. The bad news is that the movie isn’t expected to hit theaters until 2018. The good news is that the film’s been fully cast and already has a release date (March 30th), meaning that it’s definitely going to happen.
The story takes place in 2044, where the only escape from a world ravaged by global warming and economic turmoil is an alternate reality known as OASIS. But when the game creator dies, he leaves clues to an Easter egg within OASIS that will grant his fortune to whoever discovers it first. Tye Sheridan (Mud, X-Men: Apocalypse) has been cast to play Wade Owen Watts, an impoverished teenager with a brain full of '80s trivia, who sets out to find the Easter egg and become the new leader of OASIS.
So which book-to-screen adaptation are you most looking forward to? Be sure to let us know!