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'Stranger In a Strange Land' Coming To TV (ew.com) 227

HughPickens.com writes: EW reports that Paramount TV and Universal Cable Productions are teaming up to develop Robert A. Heinlein's classic 'Stranger in a Strange Land' into a TV series on Syfy. The 1961 sci-fi book, set in the aftermath of a third world war, centers on Valentine Michael Smith, a human born on Mars and raised by Martians, who, as a young adult, has returned to Earth. The true driving forces of the novel are religion and sex, which Heinlein's publisher at the time wanted him to cut out. But as the author noted to his literary agent, if religion and sex were removed from the text, what remained would be the equivalent of a "nonalcoholic martini." "From my point of view, Stranger in a Strange Land isn't just a science fiction masterpiece [...] it also happens to be one of my favorite books ever!" says NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment Chairman Bonnie Hammer. "The story is timeless and resonates more than ever in today's world. As a fan, I can't wait to see it come to life as a world-class television event." A previous attempt at adapting Heinlein's novel came in 1995, when Batman Returns' Dan Waters penned a script designed for Tom Hanks and Sean Connery.
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'Stranger In a Strange Land' Coming To TV

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  • by OpenSourced ( 323149 ) on Wednesday November 16, 2016 @08:18AM (#53295707) Journal

    Stranger in a Strange Land is really like two novels. The first part is good, classical Heinlein. The second part is some kind of rambling political pamphlet that always manages to bore me. I read somewhere that they were written with several years difference, and it shows.

    I hope they base it in the first part, really. Well, probably, if it's a typical TV product, they will take the basic idea and massacre all else, so why do I care?

    • I'll just leave this here:

      “Thinking doesn't pay. Just makes you discontented with what you see around you.”

    • by jandrese ( 485 )
      Somehow I don't think the telekinetic sex cult chapters are going to translate well to TV. I also thought it was amusing that the writeup called the novel timeless when my thought while reading it was that it was a product of its era, the 1960s. At least for the second half of the book. The first half should be no trouble to translate to TV, but I really do wonder where they are going to end it.
    • by mu22le ( 766735 )

      Stranger in a Strange Land is really like two novels. The first part is good, classical Heinlein. The second part is some kind of rambling political pamphlet that always manages to bore me. I read somewhere that they were written with several years difference, and it shows.

      I hope they base it in the first part, really. Well, probably, if it's a typical TV product, they will take the basic idea and massacre all else, so why do I care?

      "Rambling political pamphlet" pretty much describes most of the Heinlein production :)

      I think you consider the first part of Stranger in a Strange Land as "good Heinlein" just because you happen to be familiar with the ideas presented.

    • I completely agree. The religious stuff got so bizarre and obsessed towards the end that I simply could not force myself to finish it. It's like the author had a minor stroke while writing it.
      • I completely agree. The religious stuff got so bizarre and obsessed towards the end that I simply could not force myself to finish it. It's like the author had a minor stroke while writing it.

        It's been a long time since I've read it but it seemed a pretty standard story: guy comes to Earth with a message that people should love one another and the people kill him for it.

  • Oh great. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Jethro ( 14165 ) on Wednesday November 16, 2016 @08:22AM (#53295733) Homepage

    I'm going to assume this is going to be a "Based On The Novel By" kind of thing, where they basically have a couple of plot elements from the book and nothing more. I'm not saying I didn't enjoy the book, nor that it's not an important book in science fiction history, but I'm not really sure the story holds up for the 21st century. Some of the themes that were controversial at the time, and which I'm sure Heinlein thought that by now would be the norm, kind of went the other direction, too.

    It's one of those times where they should just call it something else rather than name it after a famous work.

    • by houghi ( 78078 )

      It's one of those times where they should just call it something else rather than name it after a famous work.

      They should have done that with "I am legend". They took it, burned the story and then raped the corpse.
      The only thing that aws left was the title that they used as a trophy to show their power over copyright.

      • by Jethro ( 14165 )

        They should've done it with lots of things. This is not even the first time a Heinlein book has got this treatment - remember Starship Troopers?

      • I get the three adaptations of that book mixed up, but from what I recall the most recent one was fairly faithful for about the first half, missed out some of the worst bits of the book, and then jammed on a terrible ending that completely missed the point of the novel and killed the story.
    • In SyFy's *slight* defense, they have done some decent things recently.

      I rather enjoyed the Childhood's End mini-series: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

      Was it 100% like the book? No. But it was pretty dang close. The acting was decent. The special effects were decent. I certainly didn't feel like my time had been wasted.

      So I'm tentatively hopeful for this as well.

      • by Jethro ( 14165 )

        I lost all respect for "SyFy" when they changed their name to that "to appeal to women".

        Also when they cancelled Farscape to churn out crappy movie after crappy movie.

        That said, I did enjoy Childhood's End, but to call it "pretty dang close" to the book is pretty far off. "Inspired by", maybe. "Kind of similar", perhaps. "Shares some plot-points", definitely. But it also varies immensely from it, and while some of the story might be the same, it tells a completely different narrative.

        • I lost all respect for "SyFy" when they changed their name to that "to appeal to women".

          They may have made that claim, I don't know. But the real reason they changed the name was because the trademark for "SciFi" was rejected. SyFy is now a trademark.

          Also when they cancelled Farscape

          They cancelled a lot of decent stuff when the program director changed. It was a mistake to take off in that direction. But I think they have learned *some* lessons from it as evidenced by The Expanse, The Magicians, and even Killjoys is a decent effort. I've even been surprised by 12 Monkeys. I couldn't imagine trying to do that story line as

          • by Jethro ( 14165 )

            I couldn't get into The Expanse and never even tried The Magicians. Killjoys is fun, but honestly the SyFy Low Effort is visible in it. I think the only way these shows are at all decent is the cheapo CG they use has finally got to the point where it looks decent.

        • by Opyros ( 1153335 )

          they changed their name to that "to appeal to women".

          I'm surprised they didn't change their name to "OMG Ponies".

      • Not a book adaptation, but Dark Matter is a show I liked way more than I thought I would, and enjoyed a lot more than "The Expanse" (also produced by SyFy I think?).

        Someone at SyFy seems to have figured out how to have them produce decent shows again. I think the free reign Netflix has been giving their own productions and the rewards they've reaped as a result, are affecting productions from other companies now...

    • I'm going to assume this is going to be a "Based On The Novel By" kind of thing, where they basically have a couple of plot elements from the book and nothing more.

      You'll be lucky to get that much. (I say "you" because I don't have cable.) Unlike the other responder, I think the telekinetic sex cult chapters translate fine to TV. HBO though, not a basic cable channel. So they won't. This is going to be one of those adaptations where they keep some of the character names, and basically none of the plot. And they'll introduce spurious characters demanded by marketing. And the named characters will not resemble the book characters either physically or behaviorally

  • Never Got It (Score:4, Informative)

    by wisnoskij ( 1206448 ) on Wednesday November 16, 2016 @08:44AM (#53295827) Homepage

    Never got Stranger. For me it is possibly not the worst Heinlein novel, but it far from being worth the read and has the biggest hype to quality ratio.

    Other than it being edgy for its time, I cannot see any reason to enjoy it. Personally, I think it was more of a big F*** Y** to his past editors for censoring him than an actual novel.

    And I do not see how you will adapt it to the screen. Like Heinlein said the novel is just religion and sex. You could adapt it to a porn film, but there is just not really a storyline. The biggest drama is a legal battle and the only choice any of the characters ever make is "Will I have sex with everyone, or nah?" and spoiler alert they all have sex with everyone.

    • Never got Stranger.

      I never understood the fascination with Heinlein. There are so many sci-fi writers I'd like to see adapted to the screen before him. Joe Haldeman and James Tiptree Jr come to mind, but there are many more.

      • I guess its a combination of media, and breaktrough.
        Some of the shorter stories feels like something out of a Light Novel, or reading a better paced comic(i.e Donald Pocket). And I don't mean anything by that: The pacing is just pretty high, and things happen at a radical rate.

        A lot of the short stories is 20-30 pages. In contrast, a lot of books quickly use 200-400 pages to do the same thing.
        The general formula for the more sci fi stuff seem to be:
        1. Some introduction page
        2. Something AMAZING HAPPENS
        3. Bac

      • There are so many sci-fi writers I'd like to see adapted to the screen before him. Joe Haldeman and James Tiptree Jr come to mind, but there are many more.

        My two favorites for this are Walter Jon Williams and Neal Stephenson, because I read fast and their books almost feel like movies to me anyway. I almost cannot believe that WJW's Hardwired has not been made into a movie yet, and Aristoi would be an absolute science fiction epic. The names of Stephenson's applicable works scarcely require repetition here — it is essentially everything he has ever written except for The Big U. I'd start with Zodiac because it would be cheap and it's environmentalist wh

        • I'd call for James P. Hogan on the one hand, for good SF with a strong human element, and Keith Laumer's "Bolo" series for machine intelligence / war stories, and also Keith Laumer's "Galactic Odyssey" for the best... well, galactic odyssey story.

          For fantasy, I think I'd like to see Naiomi Novak's Temeraire books, and/or anything by Robin Hobb.

          For simple awesomeness, I'd like to see John Birmingham's "Weapons of Choice" series done.

          The problem, as has been observed, is that generally speaking Hollywood make

      • If you're going to criticize Heinlein or Stranger, you should do it in comparison to authors and works available at that time. That eliminates both Haldeman and Tiptree, and I've only seen her works in Ace doubles which is hardly a recommendation.

        By 1961, Heinlein's reputation was largely built on his juveniles and short stories. When the restrictions placed on his juvenile works by his publisher made him decide to stop making juveniles, he brought along his maturing audience to his more adult works. He was

        • If you're going to criticize Heinlein or Stranger, you should do it in comparison to authors and works available at that time.

          Holy shit, lad. I didn't 'criticize" Heinlein, I just said I didn't get his popularity. I suppose I can understand how he might be popular with the young adult market from the 1960s.

          That eliminates both Haldeman and Tiptree, and I've only seen her works in Ace doubles which is hardly a recommendation.

          If you've only seen Tiptree in Ace doubles, you are poorer for it. She's won Hugo

      • He defined and built the genre. He has some less than stellar novels. But most of his catalog was not only great in thier own right but inspired the next generation's greats, like Star Trek. If you enjoy Star Trek, it the novel that featured the federation that was adapted to Star Trek is a must. And the novel that features the plot of TNG pilot is great. And why not see where they got tribbles from as well.

        While Asimov was still saying that Scifi was a theme you could overlay onto any story, Heinlein was l

        • Neill Blomkamp's films are really interesting, because film critics always view them thorough their own leftist lenses, while he himself is not that at all.
          I forget the message behind D9, but Elysium, for example, was a warning about unrestrained immigration. The surface was literally his interpretation of what happens if Trump does not build The Wall.

        • He defined and built the genre.

          You meant to say he, "defined and built the genre" after Isaac Asimov had already defined and built the genre.

          • Asimov did not write scifi. He wrote pulp fantasy set in worlds with robots, lasers, and space ships instead of knights, swords, and horses.
            "illustrates an idea Asimov advocated, that science fiction is a flavor that can be applied to any literary genre, rather than a limited genre itself." - Wikipedia on The Caves of Steel

    • by Quirkz ( 1206400 )

      the only choice any of the characters ever make is "Will I have sex with everyone, or nah?" and spoiler alert they all have sex with everyone.

      My first thought was they were looking for a lite Game of Thrones, but with some martians to make it a little more sciencey.

    • because you mentally turned yourself off after seeing moral/philosophical points that you disagree with. It's okay, this happens.

      I know some people who are quite intelligent and big SF fans who never got why Dune is so popular. Precisely for the same reason.

      Personally, I hated the movie District 9. I thought it was very shallow, just a not-so-subtle vehicle for the writer/director to push his leftist views. Super intelligent alien beings that have interstellar spaceships and artificial gravity, and yet act

      • I posted this to the wrong reply originally:

        Neill Blomkamp's films are really interesting, because film critics always view them thorough their own leftist lenses, while he himself is not that at all.
        I forget the message behind D9, but Elysium, for example, was a warning about unrestrained immigration. The surface was literally his interpretation of what happens if Trump does not build The Wall.

      • by Whorhay ( 1319089 ) on Wednesday November 16, 2016 @03:12PM (#53299129)

        If I recall properly the aliens in District 9 were from a slave caste. The ruling caste of aliens which were presumably smarter, had all died through some catastrophe. The surviving aliens were locked out through genetics and couldn't make use of the technology to escape or exert power over the humans. The plot revolved around a human character that stumbled upon and was accidentally exposed to a fix. The fix starts changing him into an alien of the ruling caste which elicits fear and greed among various parties leading to the action scenes.

        I believe District 9 was meant as a commentary on Apartheid. The aliens are treated as sub humans that have to be contained, controlled, and exploited. The main character starts out as a member of the empowered group, and transitions into being part of the oppressed group. In the end even though the main character is an alien to all outward appearances he retains his humanity as demonstrated by leaving gifts for his estranged human wife.

      • by smugfunt ( 8972 )

        Super intelligent alien beings that have interstellar spaceships and artificial gravity, and yet act like idiots? Really?

        You've never run into naval ratings on shore leave from their nuclear powered aircraft carrier, I presume.

    • So you didn't....grok it? ;)

    • by Daetrin ( 576516 )
      I agree 100%. I'm a huge fan of Heinlein's early period books and some of his middle period books. However Stranger in a Strange Land is, to me, exactly the point at which the quality of his books started to go down. Combine that with it also being the most hyped of all his books definitely left me with a bad taste in my mouth. (Insert jokes about cannibalism here.)

      He produced a couple good books after that (most notable the Moon is Harsh Mistress) but far too much of the time took a couple good ideas and
  • I'm sure it'll be as true to the novel as Starship Troopers was!

    • If you don't think what Verhoeven did with ST was deliberate, then you didn't really get the point. The novel puts a positive-ish spin on society adopting fascist concepts, the movie is a primer of why that's a bad idea.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        The movie is a left wing cartoon. The book is only considered fascist by people who don't believe that citizens have a responsibility to serve their country and the common good. It is quite obvious that no one involved with the movie have any idea of what it is like to be in a military organization, how armies actually fight, what kind of tactics a real military uses, or any of that. TO them a military is basically a bunch of people running around in a mob doing violent things.
        Like I said a left wing cartoo

  • I get the feeling from SyFy in the last few years, particularly with 12 Monkeys, that they seem to focus on using "safe" formulas for their shows, they try appeal to science fiction fans with the core premise of the show, but also try to keep the show appealing enough for more mainstream viewers.

    10 years ago when we had the Stargate franchise and Battelstar Galactica, things were pretty cool on SciFi, but they followed those up with Warehouse 13 and then later 12 Monkeys which are entertaining enough, but
  • If they grok the memes in the original.
  • by rocket rancher ( 447670 ) <themovingfinger@gmail.com> on Wednesday November 16, 2016 @08:58AM (#53295907)
    ...they grok it rightly. SyFy can do justice to classic SF, if their Dune miniseries, which was surprisingly good, is any indicator. I remember reading twenty years ago, in alt.fan.heinlein, may it rest in peace along with the rest of USENET, that Tom Hanks had acquired the rights to both SiaSL and TMiaHM. Several current and future members of the board of the Heinlein Foundation were regulars in the group, along with Heinlein's wife Virginia, Heinlein's biographer Bill Patterson, and Heinlein's chief fan and fellow SF author Spider Robinson, who all independently confirmed the transfer of rights. The rumors never reached the level of casting a movie, though one thread was devoted to endless speculation about potential actors and actresses. I hope like hell SyFy repeats Dune's success with SiaSL; I think their decision with Dune to go with unknowns in the major roles (less money for acting => more money for writing, directing, costumes and scenery) was spot on and I hope they follow a similar decision process with SiaSL.
  • I don't know how Heinlen gets so much credit for this book...it's was a rambling, shambolic pulp thing with sex and politics wedged into it at every opportunity in a vain attempt to perk it up a bit. It's not a book that has "stood the test of time" at all. If there's money for classic SciFi, we need someone to get off their butts and make "RingWorld". It's time.

    • by dwywit ( 1109409 )

      There are so many "known space" stories, they'd keep lots of cast and crew employed for years. Who's got the rights to Ringworld?

  • Should be on HBO as SCIFI will cut the sex

    • If you cut the sex, it's going to be a really short series. If you cut the trademark Heinlein sophomore political commentary as well then there's nothing left other than introducing the word 'grok'. Which is probably for the best.

  • Iconic (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Curunir_wolf ( 588405 ) on Wednesday November 16, 2016 @09:46AM (#53296155) Homepage Journal

    Surprised to see all the hate (or lukewarm meh-ness) for Stranger in a Strange Land on here. Maybe it's younger folks that never understood the social shifts and conflicts occurring at the time, I don't know. But the novel actually had a major affect on culture when it came out. I found it to be incredibly insightful.

    Updating it for current times might be a good idea for the series. Someone from Mars with no contact with human culture comes to earth. Religion has taken a backseat and sex has exploded into polyamorous and fluid gender orgies, with more labels than species of frogs. And group politics has divided humans into pools vying for elevated victimhood status while countries with world-ending nuclear arsenals fight proxy wars over energy pipelines. Could be quite entertaining.

  • Hey, don't knock nonalcoholic martinis. That's just a pile of olives, and it's one of my favorite things. No, it won't get you drunk, but it's got a satisfaction of its own.

  • by RogueWarrior65 ( 678876 ) on Wednesday November 16, 2016 @10:09AM (#53296263)

    "Hollywood to completely rewrite Robert Heinlein's Stranger In A Strange Land because they don't like most of the ideas put forth by the original author."
    There, fixed that headline for you.

  • They were strangers in a strange land.
    No longer at ease,

  • by Locke2005 ( 849178 ) on Wednesday November 16, 2016 @10:55AM (#53296529)
    However, most of Heinlein's fiction could best be classified as "Young adult" fiction. The Moon is a Harsh Mistress was also good. His last books, like The Cat Who Walks Through Walls, were kind of incoherent, and apparently finished by someone else.
  • The book is way too R/X rated in parts to make a good Syfy movie, Childhoods End was reasonably good but this won't translate well to a PG/PG-17 movie but if it was done by HBO / Showtime / Cinemax it could be good.

  • SIASL was fine as a stand-alone work of fiction; it had a point to make about human nature and human culture and society, and it accomplished that. I see no reason why, or even how it could be a weekly series.

    You want to do something with a Heinlein novel? Make The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress into a feature-length film!

  • ... but expecting the worst. Since this is on a non-premium channel, the abundant sex and nudity will have to be watered down, and since that's one of the central themes (the other being religion), I fear a bland, pale shadow of a sci-fi masterpiece. This concern is made greater by the fact that they're planning a "series," rather than a movie or miniseries. Stranger is a big book, and I could see source material for 6-8 episodes, but moving beyond that will be difficult without going on tangents or "extend

  • It's a satire of the hippy movement. That is, the author is making fun of anyone who could find any deep meaning in the ridiculous views and obvious Christlike suffering of the protagonist. The smile at the end? Ah, I guess some people don't get it. Heinlein was laughing all the way to the grave with this one.

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