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Which Science Fiction Stories Would Make Good Films?

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First, a bit of back story:
I received a very interesting email today. It was from a film director who is looking for stories that would make good short films, and he wondered if I had any ideas:

This is an odd question, but I am a film maker looking for just the right material to make into a ground breaking short film. Perhaps I might be able to get your input and thoughts?

Oh yeah baby! My dreams of becoming a SciFi consultant were staring me in the face… but before I spewed out the names of all the short stories I thought would make wonderful films I asked him for some clarification.  Here is the reply:

In short, I am looking for a short story that I adopt for a 10-15 minute short film. Although the film would be visually-driven, the story must have very strong and dramatic dialogue between two or more (real) characters.

The setting needs to futuristic. For example, as if it were taking place within a Syd Mead painting. Perhaps it can be so futuristic that it even references past architectural styles, customs, etc.

The style of the story is less important than its message and dramatic appeal.

The story could be adapted from a longer novella or novel, but the work would have to available for optioning.

What I need from you:
Given his requirements I have narrowed down my list a bit, but I thought this would make an interesting topic of discussion for this site. I am interested in what other SF readers (aka – you) think would make a good short film, so I am asking for your input.

What do you think?

You can list specific story titles if you want, or you can generalize and tell us what elements you think would need to be present in a story for it to be a good film.

Who is Syd Mead anyway?
If you are wondering what a Syd Mead painting looks like then take a look at some examples of his work at The Gnomon Workshop, or this small gallery.

Help me help Hollywood:
So please, do your part to increase awareness of great science fiction short stories by leaving a comment and letting us know which ones would make good short films. And remember – you’re suggestion could very well be taken to heart and really made into a movie! How cool would that be!

15 thoughts to “Which Science Fiction Stories Would Make Good Films?”

  1. The first story that comes to mind is “The Menace From Earth” by Robert A. Heinlein. The story has a cliche human nature story wrapped inside of a far out science fiction story, so they contrast wonderfully. The action is set on the Moon, and the main character is a teenage girl, Holly, who gives tours to tourists from Earth, and thus the menace from Earth is a hot older women that snags the attention of Holly’s boyfriend.

    The gimmick of the story is people can fly like birds on the Moon because of the low gravity and air density. People strap on wings and fly in giant underground air storage tanks. Heinlein throws in dozens of side issues so casually that he draws a wonderful picture of living on the Moon.

    I think this would make a wonderful film, but I don’t know if the whole story could be told in 15-20 minutes. Maybe. It could be cut down. It could be made to look very futuristic, plus I think it resonates with a secret desire to fly that many of us had as kids.

  2. “We See Things Differently” by Bruce Sterling.

    It’s near-future SF with a post-collapse America and (interestingly, given that it was written in 1990’s) an emerging Islamic superpower bloc. Story is about a secret agent coming to America to meet with the [literally] rock-star leader of a political movement aimed at reunifying America’s fractious politics. Go read it. You’ll see.

  3. My first thought upon reading “the story must have very strong and dramatic dialogue between two or more (real) characters” is certainly Tom Godwin’s excellent short story, The Cold Equations. You would only need the 2 actors plus a couple of off screen voices to represent the person back at the base and the brother, and perhaps a few other minor parts. That would be a fabulous piece with a real strong emotional component.

    The Menace From Earth by Robert Heinlein would probably be too long for a 15 minute short, but if you adapted the story a bit and concentrated on only certain sections of it then it might work. As far as futuristic design, the setting of the story lends itself to some great sets.

    The Game of Rat and Dragon by Cordwainer Smith! Small cast, brilliant story. If a person was looking to do some futuristic space ship settings and perhaps some ‘ships in space’ visuals, this would be an interesting story. Who wouldn’t want to see this?

    Exhalation by Ted Chiang would be brilliant to see, especially if done with retro-futuristic robots like those painted by Brian Despain.

    Ass-Hat Magic Spider by Scott Westerfield is one I would like to see done as a short film. As a reader I just loved that story. The setting had the flavor of a Heinlein juvenile to me.

    If you were looking for something futuristic with a more comic flavor, again involving just a small cast, any of the AAA Ace series of short stories by Robert Sheckley would be fun to do. I also cannot help thinking of some of the I, Robot stories in this because the two characters, Donovan and Powell, remind me of a slightly more crotchety version of Sheckley’s characters. “Reason” would be a good one featuring Donovan and Powell as it could certainly be played up for its more terrifying elements.

    “Robbie” would be another good one from the I,Robot collection to see a short film of.

    If the person was wanting to do something with a futuristic bar setting…sort of in the Mos Eisley vein, many of the stories in Larry Niven’s Draco Tavern series might be interesting to do, especially if one wanted to do a bunch of crazy looking aliens.

    I would love to see Neil Gaiman’s short story, “We Can Get Them For You Wholesale” done as a short. The setting isn’t necessarily futuristic, but it could be changed to reflect something more along the lines of the dystopian future of films like Minority Report, etc.

    I have to laugh, I just read the comments above and see that Jim recommended Menace from Earth as well. I was thinking of the flying scene as well.

    Nine Billion Names of God might also be really fun.

  4. I think this is going to sound crazy, but I actually have a great sci/fi story that fits this bill perfectly. If you want, email me and I’ll send a copy to you for perusal.

  5. After actually looking at the syd links… The scenes in Rescue Party really lend themselves to that type of art. The planet is empty, and one of the large plot points is an empty communications facility.

  6. BestScienceFictionStories’s own “The Cube Game” would be brilliant as a short feature.

    Then again, if you want short, futuristic, and rather absurd, then any story from Jeff Noon’s “Pixel Juice” collection would suit you(they’re all good).

    Though something I’d really like to see, if you want as far out as possible, would be Clifford D. Simak’s “The Creator”; I know its quite long, but if you cut out most of the beginning, it could work well as a short film.

    Some others(most can be found online):
    Hero by Scott Sigler
    Little Worker by Paul Di Filippo
    A Green Thumb or Resistance by Tobias S. Buckell
    When We Went to See the End of the World by Robert Silverberg
    Authorwerx or Show and Tell by Greg van Eekhout
    Friction by Will McIntosh
    Beans and Marbles by Floris M. Kleijne
    Anomalies by Gregory Benford
    They’re Made Out of Meat by Terry Bisson

  7. Sorry Rusty – forgot about this till I saw your today’s post.

    I’ll pitch for L Sprague de Camp’s funny “The Blue Giraffe”. Several reasons:
    – Clearly science fiction without being geeky. Read wide audience, including outside core sf world.
    – Opportunity for great visuals & dialogs.
    – Funny light read. Read wider audience. I know people who shun dark stories, but not many who shun well done funny ones.
    – Universal theme – so worldwide audience.
    – Suitable across age groups – kids to greatgrandparents.

  8. I forgot too. I think All You Zombies by Heinlein would make a really cool, gritty, noir, action packed short story. What with all the time travel in the closed box, and the twist at the end, and especially the gender issues, I think it would fantastic.

  9. “Mirror Image” by Nancy Kress. It has fast-paced dialogue, startling imagery, high-tech, and is far-future.

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