Based on Neal Stephenson’s best-selling novel The Diamond Age: Or a Young Lady’s Illustrated Primer, this six-hour miniseries is executive produced by George Clooney and Grant Heslov of Smokehouse Productions. A prominent member of a conservative futuristic society grows concerned that the culture stifles creativity, and commissions a controversial interactive book for his daughter, which serves as her guide through a surreal alternate world. When the primer’s provocative technology, which adapts to the reader’s responses, falls into the hands of a young innocent, the girl’s life is accidentally reprogrammed with dangerous results. Neal Stephenson will adapt his own novel for this project, the first time the Hugo and Nebula winning author has written for the small screen.
I have mixed feelings about this. Stephenson is probably my favorite author, so I’m thrilled that his work is being adapted. However, adaptations are tricky, and I think part of the reason Stephenson’s books haven’t been adapted is that they’re probably more difficult than most. The choice of The Diamond Age is a baffling one, given that it’s universally seen as having an awfully abrubt ending (and has given the author an unfair reputation of writing bad endings). That it’s a Sci-Fi Channel original series isn’t exactly comforting either. They did a decent enough job with the Dune miniseries I guess, but honestly, this is that channel that brought us masterpieces like Man-Thing and Basilisk: The Serpent King (I’m serious, those two movies were both playing tonight.)
Stephenson’s involvement is somewhat heartening, but also a mixed blessing. For one thing, nothing guarantees that a great novel-writer will turn out to be a great screenwriter. It’s a different medium and, as such, different conventions and language apply. Given that we’re talking about a Sci-Fi Channel original, I’m sure his involvement won’t be a negative, but that leaves one other consideration: If he’s busy working on the screenplay for this series, he’s probably not working on his next book. Gah! It’s been a few years, and I want me some new Stephenson.
If it turns out good, I’ll be elated, but I’m wary. Think of this post as tempering my expecatations so that it can’t possibly be that much of a dissapointment. Incidentally, I just ran across Ben Thompson’s beautiful rant about Sci-Fi Channel Original Movies:
Nothing makes me happier when I’m flipping through the channels on a rainy Saturday afternoon than stumbling upon whatever god-awful original home-grown suckfest-and-craptasm movie is playing on the Sci-Fi Channel. Nowhere else can you find such a clusterfuck of horrible plot contrivances and ill-conceived premises careening face-first into a brick wall of one-dimensional cardboard characters and banal, inane, poorly-delivered dialogue. While most television stations and movie production houses out there are attempting to retain some shred of dignity or at least a modicum of credibility, it’s nice to know that the Sci-Fi Channel has no qualms whatsoever about brazenly showing twenty minute-long fight scenes involving computer-generated dinosaurs, dragons, insects, aliens, sea monsters and Gary Bussey all shooting laser beams at each other and battling for control of a planet-destroying starship as the self-destruct mechanism slowly ticks down and the fate of a thousand parallel universes hangs in the balance. You really have to give the execs at Sci-Fi credit for basically just throwing their hands up in the air and saying, “well let’s just take all this crazy shit and mash it together into one giant ridiculous mess”. Nothing is off-limits for those folks; if you want to see American troops in Iraq battle a giant man-eating Chimaera, you’ve got it. A genetically-altered Orca Whale the eats seamen and icebergs? Check. A plane full of mutated pissed-off killer bees carrying the Hanta Virus? Check.
Brilliant. Ironically, I’m more excited for The Diamond Age miniseries now that I read that. Something’s wrong with me.