OMW Movie News Addendum

Some quick followups and thoughts concerning yesterday’s movie news:

1. First, thank you to everyone who sent along congratulations and happy notes. They really did make my day. I’m glad you are all as excited out there as I am about this thing. It’s neat.

2. But if you ask me what my primary emotion was yesterday, I would have told you that it was relief. This has been in process for a while now, so it’s nice to be able to tell people about it, finally. The not telling was necessary, to be sure. I’m glad it’s done now.

3. I would again remind folks we’re in early days yet. We’re in a very good position of having a great producer, director and screenwriter working on the thing, and things so far are coming along nicely. But speaking as someone who has been following films professionally for two decades now, until filming actually starts (and sometimes even then), anything could happen. Anything.

This is the nature of creative stuff anyway. I mean, think about Old Man’s War the book: I wrote it in 2001, let it sit in a computer file for more than a year because I was doing other stuff, put it up on the site in December 2002, sold it when Patrick Nielsen Hayden of Tor read it off the site and made an offer, and then had to wait until January 2005 for it be professionally published, because of scheduling and strategy (which, you know, paid off). And a book is a simple thing, relative to a film.

This is to say that the easiest part of the film making process — the part where they want to use my book as the basis for a film, and I agree with them — is done, and now we get to all the hard parts, which are considerable. So: Early days. Lots could happen, including nothing. Be patient. Cultivate your zen.

4. That said, for those of you who just can’t wait, Tor.com has a thread for people who want to talk about who they should cast in the movie. Go and knock yourselves out.

5. Some of you have been quietly asking if having a movie deal now means I’m stinkin’ rich. Well, I have very smart agents and I’m also not bad on the financial stuff myself, so I’ve done fine on the option front, and if the movie goes into production I’ll do even better. But because among other things I live under the philosophy that money isn’t real until the check clears, I’ve got a novel under construction now and some more in the pipeline and I’m still doing all the other stuff that I do. In other words, I still gotta work, folks.

6. I know that some of you are worried about how the movie folks will change the book, which is why I snuck in that note yesterday reminding all and sundry that the movie is going to be an adaptation, not the book itself. To expand on that a bit, I’ll note that in fact the movie will do nothing to change the actual book — the book is done, and is out there, and I own the rights to it, and I’m not inclined to fiddle with it. So that’s settled.

The movie will not be the book; it can’t be and shouldn’t be, because the act of reading and the act of watching a film are two separate experiences. What works in words doesn’t always translate into sound and vision. Beyond this, if indeed Paramount is eyeing OMW as a tentpole film, then they’re going to build it with the intent of bringing in as many popcorn-munching people as possible, which has its own dynamic. I think as a book OMW is probably better adaptable to this than many — all those years of watching movies professionally and critically has sunk into my storytelling, and you may have noticed OMW has the classic three-act structure that movies love so well — but in the end it’s still going to be fiddled with.

As I noted before, I knew this going in, which why when people started asking about the book, we waited for people we felt would treat OMW seriously — and part of that seriously is “to adapt the book to its best advantage onscreen.” And once you do that, you let them do the work, because that’s their job.

This is the long way of saying that don’t worry that they’ll mess up the book. The book is untouchable. You might worry that they’ll mess up the movie, based on the book. But I have some fairly high confidence in these folks — studio, producer, director and screenwriter — and I’m very interested to see what the OMW port into film form will look like. It’s exciting stuff.

 

117 thoughts on “OMW Movie News Addendum

  1. Terry Pratchett has a lot of amusing stories about attempts to make his books into films to where he’s got to the point where he won’t believe it until it is actually in the Cinema (or broadcast).

  2. I am thrilled that you shared your excitement. That makes it better for me, for sure. Don’t give up writing even when the check clears! The mass hysteria is not something I want to experience….Thanks, John – for this and the other fine work you have done and are doing.

  3. Congratulations again, first of all!
    Here’s to Hollywood doing an adaptation worthy of the novel, John. I lift my mug to you in anticipation of standing in line waiting to buy a ticket. :-D

    And I second Laurie’s comment above. It ain’t real until it’s cash in hand.
    ;-)

  4. I’ve never understood the idea that a story in one medium can wreck previous versions of that story in other media — or, for that matter, the SAME medium. One of the biggest challenges of remaking something is NOT slavishly following what went before, because if you do that, why bother? (Look at Gus van Sant’s PSYCHO for an example of managing to tell less story with exactly the same plot and dialog.)

    One of the most brilliant parts of Abrams’ STAR TREK was that it didn’t even remotely try to tell the same story; it went off in its own direction and in doing so shucked itself of its own history before the credits rolled. (Which was easy, since its credits were at the end of the movie.)

    I’m pretty sure that FUZZY NATION is going to be another example . . . which should, one hopes, give pause to the people worrying that someone else might wreck your story.

  5. Congrats again, John. We certainly could use more good old fashioned mil sci-fi on the big screen. The last mil sf movie I saw besides Avatar was… Soldier? Has it been that long, or do I just need to get out more?

  6. Congratulations! I am one of those people who says, “I don’t like science fiction, except the really good stuff,” and I liked OMW a lot. I’m so happy for you. :-)

  7. In other words, I still gotta work, folks.

    I don’t doubt that a bit. As you’ve explained before, you don’t write just for the money, you write because it’s what you like to do. (Forgive me if I’m a little loose with the paraphrasing, but that’s the impression I came away with.)

    But it’s sure nice when something you do for fun pays off, isn’t it?

  8. @John: OK, this is speaking from fear and nothing concrete…can you speak to what happened to “Starship Troopers” as a movie and why the team adapting OMW won’t perpetrate something like that upon your adoring fans? *GRIN*

  9. Please please please consider J Michael Straczinsky for screenwriter. I am neither a relative nor friend of his, and only met him briefly once.

    He knows science fiction and understands what is important there, and won’t try to add cutesy or sexy or car crashes or otherwise crap it up.

  10. Actually, money isn’t real until it’s being spent, and then only very briefly. At all other times, it’s entirely symbolic at best.

    (But John’s attitude is generally a more useful one.)

  11. Meant to say congrats yesterday but the world got too crazy. CONGRATS, SCALZI. Very exciting. Especially w/ Petersen lined up to direct. Very cool.

  12. John, I’m happy for you and looking forward to the flick (with my usual book-to-film reservations).

    But I’m still rooting for you to write a SF-RomCom screenplay. That would be most awesome.

  13. As it happens I only recently became aware of OMW (sorry, I know I am a bit late to the party, I picked it up for my new Kindle before leaving on a cruise around NZ). I finished it enroute and liked it enough to spur me to buy both Ghost Brigades and Last Colony from the balcony of my cruise ship ;-). I’m still in the midst of reading The Last Colony even now (so no spoliers, please). Suffice it to say I really like your writing and have been searching out more of your stuff (which is how I found this blog). I’m jazzed that a movie version of something I’ve only just read might be coming out before I am old enough to join the CU (not that far off). Congratulations on the deal!

  14. Wow… what great news… The book is perfect for film adaptation and no matter how badly they butcher the original story I will show up on opening day to throw down my $45! (yes 12.50 per ticket with popcorn and soda for my wife not to mention any other bs charges the theaters can come up with). My only fear is that someone will try to make this in 3D and I will have to suffer through 2 hours of migraine inducing special effects.

    Congratulations… I remain optimistic that in the near future I will be standing in line of a friday night to see one of my favorite books made into a movie (and no matter how good the film is the book will always be better!)

    Rabid

  15. Congragulations sir. I hope the project doesn’t get stuck in development hell.

    And I encourage all of the readers in the blog to vote for John Scalzi to play Col. Michael Blauser in the film adaptation. By the time the third film gets released maybe he will get one of those lil Oscar thingies for his performance.

  16. My philosophy when dealing with long term, risky ventures is to celebrate early and often. If you open a bottle of champagne when you pass those early milestones, and things don’t go well later, at least you will have had some champagne! And since you don’t drink champagne, I’ll have yours. Cheers! *hic*

  17. More congratulations and total SQUEEEEEE!

    Since the premise of OMW could, potentially, be stated as “An old guy from Ohio learns that Heaven is an exceptionally large and high-stakes multi-player first person shooter game,” I totally look forward both to the movie and, with any luck, the game.

    Totally want to hear about you leveling up in your own universe and to see whether killing Consu is better than killing zombies.

    Yay OMW!

  18. I’m always very wary of contemporary book-to-film adaptations. So many studio heads/screenwriters/directors/producers seem to have this idea that “if it ain’t broke…we must fix it!” I remember seeing Relic, (very loosely) based on a novel of the same name by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child. They foolishly (Preston’s own words) chose to take a hands-off approach and ended up with a completely gutted version of the novel on the big screen–the studio literally omitted the central character holding all the plot threads together because “he was too difficult to cast”. A couple of years later I was in the theatre waiting to see a different movie, when they showed a trailer of another Preston/Child novel about to be made into a movie. The movie never happened. Maybe a year or two ago, I was at a Douglas Preston book signing when someone in the audience asked him what happened to Riptide (the second novel). He said that with Relic, he and Lincoln Child chose to take a “hands off” approach, since they assumed the screenwriter, et al knew best. They were so disgusted with Relic that, when the studios wanted to make Riptide, they insisted on complete creative control. The studio said “Nevermind”. Preston/Child said “Works for us!”, took their ball and went home.

    So I’m glad to read that you own all the rights to OMW. I hope you don’t have to experience the same thing Preston/Child went through. Best wishes, and I can’t wait to see the film!

  19. But if you ask me what my primary emotion was yesterday,

    Dr. Scott: Und I did.

    I would have told you that it was relief.

    Ah. Yeah, I could see that. Long, long process. Lots of nailbiting.

    What works in words doesn’t always translate into sound and vision.

    More fundamentally, a standard length novel probably has about an order of magnitude more information in it than a standard length film. Compression must happen somewhere or you end up with a 15 hour movie.

    I decided to try converting a 10k word short story I’d written into a screenplay and was flabergasted when doing a simple direct translation of dialogue into the screenplay format (and ignoring everything else, naratives, descriptions, explanations, whatever), ended up being half a movie.

    At that point, I suddenly became a lot more forgiving of movie versions of my favorite books not having all my favorite little tidbits from the novel.

    Cultivate your zen.

    Good advice under any circumstance

  20. I’m with #9, please tell me there are going to be at least SOME precautions to prevent another “starship troopers” incident. your financial streams aside, I for one would rather the OMW movie never came out then it to get the “starship troopers” treatment.

    @#29 thats not even funny…. okay maybe a little.

  21. Skip:

    A Disney treatment with an obnoxious wisecracking sidekick… wait, that’s also the SW: Ep1 treatment.

  22. STarship troopers was a terrible misuse of the name of a book, luckily not using any of the actual book to further hose things up.
    The Stand did ok, although their casting was both spot on and completely rediculously bad.

    I like OMW, Mr Scalzi, but luckily I have only read it once, so I dont feel alot of ownership that it appears ‘correctly’ onscreen. I am excited for you and cant wait for the pictures of you, your beloved wife and your dear daughter at the opening in some nice designer clothes looking sharp.

  23. Brad@30: I for one would rather the OMW movie never came out then it to get the “starship troopers” treatment.

    With all due and sincere respect, I for one can live with the most heinous load of crap ever defecated onto a roll of celluloid if our host gets to make a mortgage payment or two out of it. Or Athena gets a pony. Whatever works.

  24. “The movie will not be the book; it can’t be and shouldn’t be, because the act of reading and the act of watching a film are two separate experiences.”

    I can’t tell you in clear language how much I love this statement right here.

  25. #33 I’m with you. Worst case scenario – the studio drops a load of stinky poop into the theaters and everyone hates it. Who cares? John still gets paid; I don’t like the original book any less. Why get upset about it?

    It is different then getting upset about the Star Wars prequels. We didn’t have original books for Lucas to ruin. All we had were hopes, dreams and expectations, which he destroyed.

  26. @Blarkon 2. +1. I also like Stephen King’s attitude – when you sign the option, you cash the cheque and hope for the best, prepare for the worse (and there’s plenty of both where he’s concerned) and remember that, as John said, the books are untouchable. I’m not a fan of Kubrick’s loose adaptation of The Shining but the option didn’t include taking the superior novel out of circulation.

  27. I wonder if we will come full circle and get a novelization or the movie adaptation?

    I would be curious to see what Alan Dean Foster (AKA the patron saint of movie novelizations) would do with OMW. If they had made Revenge of the Sith the way he novelized it, that movie would have been EPIC.

  28. It doesn’t sound like there is even a screenplay yet. I did not see any mention of a screenwriter even being hired yet in the blurb. This looks like its basically an option to make your books into a movie at this point. The screenwriting process alone could take years even if it even goes forward. Especially since this would be a big budget movie. The studio would not want to move forward unless they really like the screenplay. My understanding is that the vast majority of book options do not get made into movies or TV shows and the options lapse.

    Good Luck with this John. It sounds like it is the very beginning of the process and it is a long way from becoming a movie.

  29. I didn’t see this until today. So, I’m posting congrats over here. I’m excited, so I can’t imagine how excited you were when you first found out. CONGRATS!!!!

  30. @ Matthew in Austin #35. Quite. And here’s another thought – Later in life, Patricia Highsmith wasn’t exactly shy about saying she hated Hitckcock’s adaptation of her first novel, Strangers on a Train. To put it mildly, Sir Alfred did not treat the source material for his films as holy writ. (The Birds and Rear Window are classics, but they’re pretty much unrecognisable in the stories by Daphne du Maurier & Cornell Woolrich they were very freely adapted from.)

    Still, it certainly didn’t do any harm to the reputation (or the pocketbook) of a young writer, or a novel that has initially been well-received but a very modest success.

  31. Our host writes: Be patient. Cultivate your zen.

    Breathe regularly, and if you chant while meditating, don’t try to pronounce the double-ewe after “Om.”

  32. OK now I am thinking about the merchandising. John and Jane action figures that turn from green to flesh tone in warm water. Mind Swap Play Set with the limited edition special “old John” figure. The possibilities are endless.

  33. John – I figure that if you’re happy with how the movie version eventually turns out….. I’m happy too! You should be your own worst critic in that area, I think, and I mean that in a good way :)

  34. I see Starship Troopers held up here as a primary example of how to ruin a movie adaptation of a beloved novel, but I don’t think you guys are giving the makers of that film enough credit.

    I suspect that this has mostly to do with the fact that Veerhoven, et al decided to ditch the power suits, and many fans of the story will say, “The power suits are EVERYTHING, you can’t just leave those out! You ruined the story!” Problem with this argument is that the power suits aren’t the story. Power suits are a fun detail in the story. The story is about about how a society chooses to face the threat of an external enemy without becoming just as bad as that enemy ourselves. In my opinion, the filmmakers updated and retained this message just fine. Not perfectly, but fine. Could they have done it with power suits, too? Maybe. But Veerhoven (or the studio) thought that message would be clearer with Beautiful People, who you can’t see through an armored helmet. A valid storytelling (and business) choice- just very unpopular with the fans. I realize that I’m oversimplifying here.

    An analogy to OMW: let’s say that the filmmakers decide that CDF forces will not be green. Why? Maybe Justin Bieber won’t wear green makeup. Maybe it looks stupid in the screen test. Maybe they don’t want to draw comparisons to Avatar. Who cares? Will CDF forces not being green really ruin the movie for you, if the story, dialog, and acting are good?

  35. There’s an old (and probably apocryphal) story about Raymond Chandler that applies here: At a dinner party, a guest asked Chandler how he felt about the movies ruining his books. Chandler led the guest into his library, pointed at the various copies of his novels on the shelves, and said: the movies didn’t ruin anything–my books are just fine.
    The question isn’t whether the movie will change things in the OMW story: the question is whether those changes work, and make for a stronger or weaker movie.

  36. I see Starship Troopers held up here as a primary example of how to ruin a movie adaptation of a beloved novel, but I don’t think you guys are giving the makers of that film enough credit.

    Veerhoven essentially bragged about not having even read the book, so no, I don’t think we’re failing to give him proper credit. That film was a piece of crap, pure and simple.

  37. The story is about about how a society chooses to face the threat of an external enemy without becoming just as bad as that enemy ourselves.

    Having only seen the movie, I could be wrong here, but… didn’t they?
    I couldn’t even tell who started the war, and wasn’t sure if I missed something or if the movie was purposely being ambiguous about it. I admit I sort of glazed over at some point during the cheesiness. I think that point was having watched all these good loooking white people prance around in the sun, I assumed they were in California somewhere. And then we find out they’re all living in Beunos Aires, and I think I may have said out loud “you have got to be kidding me”.

    That plus the military as presented in the movie was just redonkulous.

    But Veerhoven (or the studio) thought that message would be clearer with Beautiful People, who you can’t see through an armored helmet.

    I dunno, I’m guessing that at least some of it has to do with the fact that faking powered armor was a whole lot harder back then. Now we’ve got CGI Ironman running around, cutting to shots of Robert Downy Jr inside the helmet, as an example of how it can be done. And Avatar was another option, though it was more like small mechs rather than powered armor. (i.e. use big windows the camera can see through).

    What’s kind of funny is that by the time we have Old Man’s War level technology, there will likely not be very many combat humans on the front lines. Smart or semi smart robots with remote control will likely completely rewrite what war looks like.

    But a story about a guy in a control room driving a remote control car isn’t as sexy as Rambo running through the jungle with an m60.

    Hollywood hasn’t reimagined what automated high tech war would look like. That was pretty clear with StarWars and the first question that never gets asked is “why doesn’t the war consist of a whole bunch of C3P0 units running around with guns?” (or why doesn’t the rebellion use fourth generation tactics? Or how does the rebellion afford their own military R&D contractors?) And it hasn’t changed with today’s movies.

  38. John, I am constantly impressed by the level head you have when it comes to these things, the business of writing and all that it entails. Congratulations on the option. I hope that it all pulls together, not just because I loved the book, but mostly because I like you and the “movie money” will be good for you and your family.

    I just wanted to thank you for how helpful and transparent you are on the Whatever. It has helped me as I navigate my fiction writing and freelancing careers. I was lucky and smart enough to purchase one of the signed copies of “You’re Not Fooling Anyone…”. And, yes, I am, in fact, at this very moment, using my laptop at a coffee shop. I’m here almost everyday. Again, Thank you.

  39. “I’ve never understood the idea that a story in one medium can wreck previous versions of that story in other media — or, for that matter, the SAME medium.”

    I think that some people worry that their imagined version of the novel will get replaced in their minds with the movie. LotR is the quintessential example here. A lot of people had constructed that world in their heads through reading and rereading the book. It’s hard now, if you’ve seen the movies, for the movie version of a scene not to intrude on your thoughts when you talk about that scene.

    There’s not a way to avoid this aside from not seeing the movie, so people want the movie to match their internal vision. Of course, we all have different internal visions of a book so that’s impossible. Hence, even if the movie of OMW gets made, is a close adaptation of the book and really rocks some will STILL complain.

  40. @44 – I agree with you. And Starship Troopers wasn’t a horrible movie. It actually managed to convey a subtle political message in a non-overbearing way. A tough trick for an action movie. And, it was a memorable movie to boot.

    The main haters on ST are the ones complaining about loyalty to source material. And I think that is John’s point here – don’t get hung up on loyalty to source material. If the OMW movie sucks because they actors can’t act, the CGI is crummy, the plot is full of wholes and the ending makes no sense, then the OMW movie sucks. But if the acting is good, the effects are dazzling, the plot flows well and it has a good ending, then we should consider it a good movie even if it departs from his book.

    Life it too short to get all indignant about nit-picky stuff. This is all science FICTION – you gotta roll with it!

  41. It’s Verhoeven. You don’t get to criticize someone if you can’t spell their name right.

    Looking forward to what they do with the spelling of Scalzi.

  42. Rick @50: One reason “It’s hard now, if you’ve seen the [Lord of the Rings] movies, for the movie version of a scene not to intrude on your thoughts when you talk about that scene” is because the filmmakers hired Alan Lee and John Howe–both well-known for their Tolkien illustrations–as “conceptual designers”, thereby drawing upon imagery that was already in the back of many Tolkien fans’ minds.

  43. @44 – I agree with you. And Starship Troopers wasn’t a horrible movie. It actually managed to convey a subtle political message in a non-overbearing way. A tough trick for an action movie. And, it was a memorable movie to boot.

    The main haters on ST are the ones complaining about loyalty to source material.

    Um…not so much. Any movie that shows trained soldiers using fully automatic weapons standing around in a circle all firing at something in the middle just plain fails. Trading on the name of the book while crapping all over it was only the beginning. There was nothing clever or subtle about it, it was just dreck. It makes SyFy’s Saturday Night Special’s look like high art.

  44. Congrats again, Scalzi!

    I’ve got a question about the process from your angle: In your post yesterday, you mentioned that you had chose to be picky about the people who adapted your work. Can you talk anymore about that? How much of a hand did you you have in selecting/okaying the director, producer, and screenwriter, or was it just the studio option, or some combination? How much of it is just holding out?

  45. An analogy to OMW: let’s say that the filmmakers decide that CDF forces will not be green. Why? Maybe Justin Bieber won’t wear green makeup. Maybe it looks stupid in the screen test. Maybe they don’t want to draw comparisons to Avatar. Who cares? Will CDF forces not being green really ruin the movie for you, if the story, dialog, and acting are good?

    Nope. Me, having read the book, would blink if they weren’t green, but it’s not the end of the world, nor the ruination of the story. There’s a certain amount of source loyalty I expect, but it’s more about getting to the core of the story, and not nailing every single detail and nuance. Anyway, if the boss is happy with the crew assembled, that’s good enough for me.

  46. #54 – the subtleties I was referring to was not in the way the movie approached the action scenes, but in the way the movie showed the citizens embracing fascism, war and propaganda. I think the filmmakers were brave and clever in how they delivered the message.

  47. Alternative Eric @52:

    While I am slightly embarrassed that I didn’t check the spelling of Verhoeven before I posted, in my defense I wasn’t really criticizing him.

    Scalzi should be easier, as it’s totally phonetic.

  48. Also, You’re now in the proud company of other Ohio writers such as the Russo brothers & Joe Eszterhas.

    Well, 2 out of 3, anyway.

    Never go full Eszterhas.

  49. #54 – the subtleties I was referring to was not in the way the movie approached the action scenes, but in the way the movie showed the citizens embracing fascism, war and propaganda. I think the filmmakers were brave and clever in how they delivered the message.

    Given that this is nowhere NEAR the message of the novel, I’m not sure if the filmmakers were being particularly brave OR clever.

  50. Many congratulations, Mr Scalzi!

    So, I wonder if you could post some stats about
    a) What percentage of optioned books (esp. popular sci-fi books) actually make to to the silver screen?
    and
    b) On average, how long does that take?

    With some opinion added, that could almost be a filmcritic column…

  51. #61 yeah, that was what was so subversive about it. They took a pro-military book, and made an anti-military movie.

  52. rochrist:trained soldiers using fully automatic weapons standing around in a circle all firing at something in the middle just plain fails.

    *snort*, yeah that was bad.

    Ever so slightly more subtle issues: where the fuck was the armor? The tanks? The APCs? The buffalos? Where was tactical air support? Helicopters? Jets? Predator drones? Where was indirect fire support? Artillery? Rockets? Jeebus. Every scene in the movie was played out with WW1 tactics for fucks sake. Oh, sure, there were space ships and drop ships that played the part of the navy, but the guys on the ground? They might as well have been running trench warfare tactics. That entire scene towards the end where they find the base that got overrun and its actually a trap and its about to get overrun again, was like a futuristic version of the Maginot line.

    You can build spaceships and drop ships but can’t even build a fricken jeep? It’s like they were mechanized infantry, but someone forgot the “mechanized” part.

    Mathew: the subtleties I was referring to was not in the way the movie approached the action scenes, but in the way the movie showed the citizens embracing fascism, war and propaganda

    I don’t understand. There was nothing subtle about it that I saw in the movie. It was pretty blatant I thought.

    That’s part of the reason I kept thinking that the movie would end with it being revealed that Earth actually started the war. Earth was shown to be totally fascist. Everything we knew about the history of the war was what we saw through the propaganda clips. It would have been totally consistent to find out that a fascist militant Earth had instigated the war. It also would have fit in with the Hollywood “gotcha” they sometimes try to put at the end of a movie, like “bruce willis was a ghost” or “the planet of the apes was actually earth of the future” or whatever.

  53. #64 “I don’t understand. There was nothing subtle about it that I saw in the movie. It was pretty blatant I thought.”
    You would be surprised how many people viewed ST purely as a popcorn flick and completed missed the anti-fascist message.

    But enough about Starship Troopers – this thread is supposed to be about the badass Old Man’s War news, and I’m sorry for helping drag it off topic! My bad.

  54. IN some ways, ST is precisely what I don’t want to see happen to OMW not for any of the reasons stated above but because I dislike movies that bear NO resemblance to the book. Altering things is fine… as John’s noted, they’re different mediums. inevitably that will mean dropping a scene that someone feels is important. But completely altering the storyline and the point of the story isn’t OK and that’s what ST did. There was no resemblance between the book and the movie. You could change the movie title and it wouldn’t matter in the least.

    For an outside of SFF example, look at the Bourne movies. They’re broadly similar to the book and Bourne as a character struggles with amnesia as in the book, but the storyline was altered a lot as were some of the characters like Conklin. Yet the movies did a good job of adapting the essence of the book – a man struggling with discovering who he is and realizing that who he was and who he wants to be aren’t necessarily the same.

  55. They took a pro-military book, and made an anti-military movie.

    The movie wasn’t anti-military. All the main characters in the military (Rico and his friends) are shown to be good and brave and trying to do what’s right. When any of Rico’s friends are killed, they all die bravely. The platoon sergeant was jaded, but good and brave and dies without showing cowardice as well. The only military characters we see in the movie that are bad was the coward of a general at the overrun military base (who was hiding in a cabinet and who then dies a coward) and possibly a little bit of Dougie Howser’s character since he knowingly sends good people to their deaths and has to lie to his friends about it for at least a little while.

    The movie may be anti-war, showing society becoming fascist during war, but it wasn’t anti-military.

  56. I’m just surprised that it took 170 comments to mention Starship Troopers, and that the argument did not start until the second comment thread on the topic.

    Also, congrats John. I was first introduced to your work by a medical professional in Iraq. I then bought and read anything else you wrote that I could get my hands on. Your books killed quite a bit of time. So congrats, thank you, and will you be getting paid in cured or carbonated digestibles if this goes into production?

  57. John, you have a rather more detached view of the impending moviefication of your work than I suspect I would have. Perhaps I would feel differently if I wrote for a living.

    Never saw the Starship Troopers movie, was never tempted to.

    As far as Lord of the Rings is concerned, it was certainly flawed, but one of the things that impressed me was how well many of the visuals matched what I had imagined. I suppose that may have been partly because Tolkien illustrators were involved, but … wow. Breathtaking. And a little spooky, like they were projecting some of the scenes from my head.

  58. yeah, that was what was so subversive about it. They took a pro-military book, and made an anti-military movie.

    That’s still not anywhere close to what the book was saying.

    Given that, I find that approach in adaption not only not subtle, not clever and not smart, but exceedingly arrogant and exceedingly dumb. That’s not even going into thinking that what the filmmakers DID talk about was rather trite and actually contra-survival.

    I would hope any OLD MAN’S WAR adaption keep true thematically to the novel, at least.

  59. That’s still not anywhere close to what the book was saying.

    I haven’t read the book but even I am aware that there is, even decades after ST came out, a huge debate as to what the book is actually saying.

    Reading some Heinlein quotes here:

    http://homepage.eircom.net/~odyssey/Quotes/Popular/SciFi/Heinlein.html

    Reading through it, I don’t know if I would call heinlein a fascist. The pattern I keep seeing is that his characters keep espousing the position that, essentially, there is no such thing as society, that any society we see is an illusion. One of his characters says man is nothing more than an animal. His definition of morality appears to be nothing more than the desire to survive codified into right, and not surviving as wrong.

    One quote said something to the effect of “to force a man to pay for something he doesn’t want because you think it would be good for him is the utmost evil” is the rallying cry of libertarians and small-government conservatives. Both generally do not trust government, or anyone else to have any power over them, and neither would willingly acknowlege any benefit to teh existence of government except for some basic services such as police to keep the criminals in line.

    This fits the movie version of ST. Earth has become fascist, but that fascism is defended by all characters as what is needed to survive (and survival is morally right). I do not recall any character in the ST movie providing any serious challenge to the morality of the fascist government. Maybe there is in teh novel. Guess I’m going to have to read the damn thing.

  60. OK, if you think the film Starship Troopers sucked dick like a gay porn star after a Viagra OD, I’ll just agree to disagree because I’m obviously never going to change your mind. But I’m rather amused that folks call Verhoeven a fascist when it’s pretty hard to miss that his films take a rather jaundiced (and gleefully snarky) view of authority figures — political, military, religious, corporate, scientific. Whatever. I thought it worked splendidly as a pitch black and straight-faced piss take of every war movie cliché and trope you could imagine. YMMV, of course.

  61. OK, my partner and I have just finished ‘Agent to the Stars’ — we loved it. If OMW does well, think there’d be interest in the little book that won’t quit? Or would “comic science fiction” just confuse rather than excite the Hollywood powers that sign option contracts?

  62. Damn! I was hoping it was “Agent to the Stars”. The casting game was already under way for that one.

    Congratulations John. I am very happy for you.

  63. I remember there was lots of sex in the beginning of your book John, when they were trying out their new bodies. Think they’ll let the movie get dirty? Some hot green on green action?

  64. @76 “Let’s talk about MY book and movie instead.”

    Hey, this site already HAD a pimp thread a few days ago buddy! Whaddya thinks this is, YOUR si… oh. Plus you won’t play the casting game… and I think if you tried to play the casting couch game Krissy would kill you.

  65. John: Let’s talk about MY book and movie instead.

    Weird question, but was there any political reason that you wrote “Old Man’s War”? You say above that you first wrote it in 2001. Was it in any way in response to 9/11 or did you finish it before 9/11? Was it born out of any national event? Or influenced by such?

  66. It was 90% written before 9/11 and what was written afterward was not influenced by it at all. It also has no real world political agenda that I as the author am aware of.

  67. There’s an interview here from 2009 when asked about another book where you say “If I were to sell the movie rights, I might make a fifth book to coincide with the movie release because this would sell a ton of books and make Tor very happy. And I wouldn’t mind. But unless that happens, the next book would be in a new era and new arc”, any updates to that comment?

    I was actually skimming through it for any sort of mention of anything that might have sparked the story of OMW in your mind. Maybe you read about telomorase extensions in the news. Met an old guy who was off to climb everest? Or overheard someone talking about “past lives” and meeting their spouse in a previous life, and thought of sci-fi-ing the process into some technical explanation to give people a “new” life?

    Or maybe it occurs as something that feels like it was sourced entirely internally?

    This really isn’t a “where do you get your ideas?” question so much as it is a “Did you knowingly write the story in response to anything external at all (even if it was only part of the story) or did it feel like it came entirely from within?”

    I recall reading somewhere that one day Ernest Hemingway was out in his boat in the Gulf and happened upon an old man in a tiny boat, far, far from any land. He offered the man help and the man flat out refused any assistance. And it left Hemingway thinking “what kind of man would it take to do that?” and eventually lead to “The old man and the sea”. Sometimes its a tiny external influence, a single, short, chance meeting, but can lead to an amazing story.

    Some stories are written to give moral lessons. Aesop’s Fables.

    Some are written as cautionary tales. Scientists dabbling with things they don’t understand fully, end of the world ensues.

    Sometimes its just a story generated internally. Maybe the unconscious thesis, antithesis, synthesis of a lifetime of experiences leading to zeitgeist that is a new story no one has ever seen/read before.

    Just wondering where you would put OMW on that spectrum of possibilities.

  68. Missed the squee bandwagon last two days… but … SQUEEE.

    In your considered veteran film critic opinion, how long could it be before it hit the screens? (I don’t think i’ve seen that question before in the thread. Apologies if it’s a repeat)?

  69. John,
    I am a bit late to the party in offering my congratulations, but congrats to the the selling of the option and netting a capable creative team to boot! OMW – as I told you in an email – is very near and dear to my heart – it sticks with me unlike so many novels I’ve read. Here’s to hoping that OMW makes it to the screen with as much of its soul intact as possible and doesn’t just become another excuse for rolling more endless CGI eye candy across the screen.

  70. I’d love to add my congratulations, and an additional hope: whenever possible/allowed, could you post the ins-and-outs of your involvement in the process of turning a book into a film? I’d love to read your take on it–I love to read your take on most things, because you so often put into words thoughts that I myself never seem able to.

    Anyway, congratulations!

  71. Sincere congratulations John. I’ve read everything you’ve published and applaud success in convincing someone in Hollywood that an original idea is still worth a look. OMW remains one of the few that gets better with each re-reading. Wolfgang doesn’t fill me with hope, but the glass is certainly half full and I’ll raise it to you and John Perry.

  72. A good movie that invites repeated viewings for decades to come might be the happy result of this news. But as our host notes above, “Lots could happen, including nothing.”

    Last year there was an announcement of a film to be made of Heinlein’s Have Space Suit – Will Travel; a few years ago, casting was reported to be under way for an adaptation of Silverberg’s The Book of Skulls. The former is listed in IMDB as merely “in development,” whereas the entry for the latter is long gone.

    At the other end of the scale, some novels are repeatedly adapted without completely satisfactory results – my favorite example is Lolita, which became first a 1962 Kubrick film (i.e., not a very faithful adaptation); then a 1971 musical (Lolita My Love by John Barry and Alan Jay Lerner) that closed in Boston; then a straight play (Lolita by Edward Albee, a famous New York flop in 1981), then another film adaptation in 1997 that couldn’t even find a U.S. distributor and premiered on cable TV. (Not to mention a 1990s opera in Swedish, performed in Stockholm, as well as Leonard Bernstein’s proposed opera adaptation in the 1970s.)

    I do have a reason for mentioning this particular example with respect to OMW: A first-person narrative is difficult to finesse in any sort of stage or film adaptation. The recent True Grit used occasional narration well but had the advantage of a framing device (distant memory of a grown woman). In other contexts, first-person narration can be painfully bad (i.e., Blade Runner in its initial, not too successful, theatrical presentation). And not using a narrator has its own pitfalls.

    I am not saying, of course, that this is the key impediment to the making of Have Space Suit – Will Travel or The Book of Skulls (although in the latter case I have no idea what solution was intended, given that there are four intercut first-person narratives). It’s just an extra degree of difficulty that, for example, an adaptation of The Ghost Brigades wouldn’t (or, kineahora, won’t) encounter.

    (I am ignoring Starship Troopers here, although its source was also first-person. In my opinion Verhoeven has made many movies that do, however, deserve attention, starting with Soldier of Orange and including Robocop and about five minutes of Total Recall.)

  73. Oh, I know you still gotta work. In fact, I strongly suspect that, as Heinlein stated in a couple of contexts, even if you were so filthy stinkin’ rich that you didn’t need to write, that you would still have to write…because it would hurt less than not writing.

    Meanwhile, I will keep looking forward to the day when I can walk into the Colorado Center AMC IMAX theater, put on my 3-D glasses, and see fully-rendered CGI Consu before me…

  74. “Let’s talk about MY book and movie instead.”

    Sorry, I’m going to completely ignore this and ask instead: what is the wisest way to handle an adaptation for a work with no three act structure, and that in fact seems incredibly hard if not impossible to adapt? I’m thinking of two properties in particular: Watchmen, which was a pretty decent stab at something that probably shouldn’t have been adapted; and Shadow of the Colossus, a game that was announced for adaptation (by the author of Legend of Chun-Li, no less) and was universally condemned by the built-in ‘audience’ (and appears to have been wisely shelved since then).

    If you’re a creator that writes something you think is too hard to easily adapt (say, House of Leaves), how do you approach the adaptation process? (I’ve heard that you negotiate the option because it’s free money, but you try and wangle it in such a way that you have the right of refusal if someone tries.)

  75. Congratulations, John. I’m glad you’re relaxed about what happens to the movie; I’m pretty sure a lot of what *I* remember best about the book won’t make it into a movie…

  76. John, in the same interview in #84, you said: “The Ghost Brigades were thrust into functionality without any sort of emotional training. They come across similar to people with Asperger’s.”

    Then, later on, the interviewer says: “The Obin …have intelligence but no consciousness”, and you describe the Obin thusly: “Individually, they don’t have the consciousness but get them all together and they have an awareness”.

    Is this lack of consciousness, lack of individual awareness, lack of emotional awareness, a theme you consider integral to the stories? Do you feel you could rewrite the Obin to be, conscious, aware, emotionally aware, as developed as the most emotionally developed human you could find, and the story would still work? Or was the choice to make the Obin the way they were integral to a larger theme of the texts? Was the lack of awareness of the Obin something you intentionally contrasted against another character in the text who *was* aware, emotionally developed, capable of introspection, and so on? Or perhaps the lack of awareness in the Obin and the lack of emotional awareness in the special forces was intended to show potential similarties? Or, again, were these choices individual choices you made as a writer and you feel you could rewrite the Obin to be conscious and emotionally aware, and rewrite the special forces to be emotionally aware, and could still tell the same fundamental story?

    Perhaps to put it a different way: is there any character in the stories who you intentionally put into the story to be the antithesis of the lack of awareness of teh Obin and the lack of emotional training of the special forces? Someone who demonstrated not only consciousness adn emotional awareness, but who went beyond that and showed a well developed capacity for introspection and empathy?

  77. yeah, ok, try to keep it concise:

    #84 is basically: Was there any external inspiration for any part of OMW (like Hemingway meeting the old man) or did it feel like it was purely internally generated?

    #95 is basically: Was the lack of consciousness and lack of emotional awareness part of a theme you felt was important to the bones of the story (and if so was there any character you put in as a contrast who had lots of awareness and empathy), or were they more “tactical” choices you made as a writer?

    I’m sure that could be shortened more, but that’s the best I can do this morning. I also just noticed how much I hate trying to put life into multiple choice or yes/no questions. It’s rubbing me the wrong way.

  78. I think losing the green skin would be a perfect example of a good choice in adapting the book to the screen. In the book, the green skin is one of a variety of interesting modifications to the soldiers’ new bodies and it is mentioned from time to time, but it is rarely in one’s mind as you read. But if you use it in the movie then there will be green people in every frame (and not aliens, al a Avatar, but our heroes who are just like us but have been placed in extraordinary circumstances and with whom we should hopefully identify). OMW would become a movie about green people.

  79. As far as whether the green skin should stay green despite the risk of comparisons to Avatar, and especially in reply to #99 above: Just give them, for example, green fingernails instead.

  80. I didn’t mean to help start the hijacking of the thread earlier about the “other” movie. I have that worry about all my favorite books when they get adapted. regardless, I am very excited about the possibility of this coming to the big screen.

    I think for the green skin/cat eyes/19-20 age look questions people have to remember that they are most likely going to fit in not only what will work the narratives of the movie but also the budget. I mean, if they get told “well we can make everyone green but it’s going to cost 200 million more to make”, normal human colors it is! Of course because of the strength of the story I don’t think the story would lose anything from these tweaks. Just expect them and don’t worry about them.

  81. Agreed with the no-green-skin crowd. The green skin & cat eyes are not really germane to the plot. The R&D/SFX dollars would be better spent on a cool way of portraying BrainPals. I can’t really think of a more creative way to do it than shots from a CDS soldier’s perspective overlaid with a HUD and an androgynous voice making wisecracks, so I’m looking forward to seeing how they handle that in a movie

  82. Greg:

    The external impetus for the book was coming up with a concept that was salable. As for the rest, it all came as part of the writing; I didn’t think about it ahead of time.

  83. I don’t think that OMW is as vulnerable to screwing up as some other novels. The characters are strong and well drawn and lend themselves well to straight forward dramatization. The premise of rejuvenation (in the purer sense of that word) is fairly easy to portray dramatically, without huge CGI. The plot is also quite cinematic in its action and and character interaction.

    To me, there are two ways that books can be wrecked when made into movies;

    1) Inadvertent or deliberate misunderstanding of key characters or plot devices. Viz. the weirding way in the Lynch/DeLaurentis “Dune”.

    2) Frank perversion of the book’s themes, characters and meaning. The most egregious example of this is SyFy’s version of Ursula K. LeGuin’s “Wizard of Earthsea”.

    I don’t think either of those (and, I’m sure there are other routes to screwing a novel) can be easily applied to “Old Man’s War”. I posted my thoughts on casting at Tor.

  84. Agreed with the no-green-skin crowd. The green skin & cat eyes are not really germane to the plot.

    We’re going to have to agree to disagree on that — thematically, it’s not only germane but fundamental how separated they are from the human race, and as it turns out how profoundly deceptive and manipulative the CDF have been towards everyone on Earth (for their own good, of course). Still, if I was the writer or director it’s not something I’d die in a ditch over.

  85. JOHN I have been living under a rock of billable hours for the past couple of weeks and just saw this over in Patrick’s sidelights thingie at Making Light. THIS IS GREAT!

    Congratulations! I’m very happy for you.

    Also, you should know (or maybe you shouldn’t, but I’m telling you anyway) that my betrothed, who doesn’t know you except as “one of those author-slash-bloggers my gf likes” had a dream last night that we (being you and me, not him and me) attempted to crash a Making Light convention in Atlanta by floating in on a platform held up with balloons, because you wanted to make an entrance. I was your navigator and was apparently very, very bad at it. He has no idea what you look like, so in his dream you looked like Wolfgang Puck or someone.

    Dude, you are that level of pretty famous: the creepy level where you figure prominently in the weird-ass dreams of people who don’t even really know who you are.

  86. I really hope that the nano-tech MP-35 makes it to the screen along with the great scenes with John and the Drill Instructor.
    This could finally be one of the great Military sci-fi movies, since it is one of the best MSF novels of all time!

  87. John, did you do any military related research prior to writing the book? Or have some military advisers give you feedback on early drafts?

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