In Which I Read Something Well In Advance and Then Tease You With It

Don’t ask me how (but know that many Bothans died to get me the information), but I laid my hands upon the spec script for The Magicians, the proposed television series based on Lev Grossman’s “Magicians” series of books. What’s more, I read it. And without revealing anything about it, because I don’t believe in spoilers and also I don’t want the horrible Television Ninjas to come for me in the night, I can say the following:

1. I would totally watch the hell out of this show;

2. I have a strong suspicion I wouldn’t be the only one.

Beyond that, and as someone who currently has a book being toiled on by a screenwriter, it was fascinating to get a look at how someone else’s book is being adapted into another medium entirely (in this case television). It’s a simple fact that you can’t just film a book — in order to make it work things have to be changed: some things condensed, some expanded, some things chopped out and other things dropped in. It’s never the same thing once it’s been adapted. If you’re lucky, you get a good adaptation that shows the bone structure of the original material. So far, at least, Lev (and his readers) are pretty lucky. His screenwriters know what they’re doing.

And that’s enough taunting the rest of you for the day. I’m looking forward to seeing this show; I hope it doesn’t take too long for us to get to watch it.

29 Comments on “In Which I Read Something Well In Advance and Then Tease You With It”

  1. I talked with Lev at Comicon this year.

    Me: “I really liked your book, but damn, man, it is so depressing.”
    Lev: “Yeah, I was in a dark place.”

    I also jokingly asked him if he hated CS Lewis (based on what he did in the Magicians), but he laughed and said, no, he was one of his favorite authors, and that The Magician King would be less depressing. (It was.)

    Both books are quite good, in sort of a Catcher in the Rye Narnia Edition ™ sort of way.

  2. I really liked the books. Really liked both of them. I will watch the show, unless they stick it on some channel I don’t get.

  3. I second that. Both books are really good, in a grown-up Narnia/Harry Potter kind of way.

  4. Gah! Another book to the top of the must read list… My kindle wish list is getting LOOOOOONG… :P

    At least I never lack for good reading material. Yay for living in the future!

  5. This is certainly one of those books that should be a series instead of a movie.There is definitely a lot of story to tell and characters to tell it.

  6. Ooo! That’s exciting news! I would also watch the hell out of that show. I loved the books, and think Lev is awesome. It would absolutely improve the world to have “The Magicians” as TV.

    Fingers crossed!

  7. How does this work? Is it going to diverge from the main story at some point or does it have the characters and broad concept, but nothing much of the plot(for example, MASH) or is this a close ended series that will end when the novel(s) do (Game of Thrones)?

    I mean, yeah, I think I’d watch the heck out of this regardless; I’m just wondering what out of the heck I’d be watching.

  8. A decent short story, maybe twenty thousand words, would probably take an hour and a half to show in movie format without any cutting or rearranging. When you look at what it takes to cut a novel down to movie length, its amazing anyone ever likes any adaptation, ever.

  9. Looking forward to this. Bought The Magicians because of the Big Idea piece. Bought TMK when it came. If there are further sequels I’ll likely read them too!

    Now “Go away or I shall taunt you another time!”

  10. I should have read hugh57 @ 6:07 before I posted my second paragraph!

    Glad I wasn’t the only person who got that vibe from John’s post…

  11. Taunting… Not going to work. Aside from Game of Thrones on HBO (which is far from perfect), I have NEVER seen a TV adaptation worth watching more than 5 minutes (Dresden Files, Earthsea, Riverworld, etc.). In fact, I painstakingly worked my way from the awful writing in the first Dresden book to the much improved writing of number 13 (I promised a friend I would finish, and I liked Codex), only to have the first 10 minutes of the TV series absolutely disgust me with the series all over again (sorry, can’t help it; mental connection between TV and book series is now locked in). I will do Grossman the courtesy of not watching the TV series. Movies do a slightly better job, but I still feel, well, nervous, as OMW draws near.

  12. I felt Grossman’s books were very cinematic almost as soon as I started reading them. I just wonder how faithful the series will be. As a number of folks have said, most treatments of science fiction or fantasy works have been sadly wanting. There are obvious exceptions but, Earthsea anyone?

  13. encouraging signs = screeplay writers worked on Thor. Grossman says he laughed and that “they got it.” … i think what has helped me (and it was a hard lesson learned, after seven years of failed Harry Potter adaptations) is that bring a novel to film isn’t an attempt at re-creating a book, but rather a way to bring the ideas of the book to a new medium…the story remains the same at its core, but it really is a different beast, and should be viewed as such. i enjoyed the world grossman creates with The Magicians, and that’s what the show will give me.

    @keith…it’s going to be on FOX. you should get it!

  14. I bought this and read maybe half of it.. I just couldn’t get over how totally unredeemable and irritating the charaters are. They’re supposed to be friends but for the most part they’re all assholes to each other, and it’s not even in a tragic well meaning way, they’re spiteful to each other.

    Do they get better later on?

  15. @Dave, you might want to try the Audible version. I kept thinking the same thing but couldn’t stop listening anyway. Jeanne’s right though, it gets better.

  16. Funny, because what I heard is that the second book was even worse than the first. And that was from someone who LIKED them.

  17. @Theophylact Never even heard of it; however, to be fair, I watch very little TV (too many books out there for that). Thanks for the recommend, though.

  18. Kris, I’m sorry you haven’t seen adequately done novel adaptations in series form. I have and I quite enjoy the format. In fact, the video store I frequent has labeled their television series section, Vid-Crack, because of how addicting those series can be. I’ve found myself up at 3 AM judging how much time one more episode will take and is it worth it.

    Dexter, Justified, Little House on the Prairie, The Paper Chase, and Perry Mason are some of my all time favorite novels-to-the-small-screen works. It can be done and done well. I like GOT thus far and I have high hopes for American Gods and for The Magicians.

  19. Dave, it was irritating, but it was so true to real life. If you’ve spent any amount of time around teenagers who have reasons to be full of themselves, that is exactly how they act.

    That is what I loved about it. We can see Quentin making all of these stupid decisions, but he is too busy being an adolescent to realize what he is doing.

  20. Mike V.–really? I can see disliking HP1 & 2, and 4 and 5 cut a lot out, but “Prisoner of Azkaban” is seen by most people, including me, as perfectly capturing the tone of the book, and that the shifts they made (more contemporary feel) are improvements. The dementors were great. And “Half-Blood Prince” has one of the only moments in the series that chokes me up… more so than the book.

    Kris–in addition to Dexter, Friday Night Lights was an adaptation of a book and I thought they did a fantastic job with everything except season 2. The truth is, TV-as-an-art-form has only *really* have had the freedom to adapt novels for the past 11-13 years (post-Sopranos), so it’s an incredibly new sub-medium. And while “The Wire” is not, in fact, a novel, it’s written by a bunch of novelists (George Pellecanos, Richard Price, etc.) and is frequently described as “novelistic.” Give “Magicians” a shot.

  21. The fact that a couple of up and coming hollywood screenwriters who are fans have gotten the chance to adapt it makes me want to see it. The duo (Zack and Ash) got their start working for Robert H. Wolf on Andromeda back in the scifi syndication heyday.

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