OMW TV Series Announcement Followup

Because there are a few things out there that people have asked me and are worth answering. What follows are paraphrased questions and my responses:

1. So when will the show be on? Dunno. We (and by we I mean Jake Thornton and Ben Lustig) still have to write the pilot script. Then we (and this we is Scott Stuber and Wolfgang Petersen and their people) have to get it approved, shoot a pilot and then get that approved. If everything aligns perfectly, maybe you’ll see it in 2016. If everything does not align perfectly, you might not see it at all. Also, be aware that even when a series is greenlit and in production that it can still be yanked. So nothing is 100% guaranteed. You’ll see the show (indeed, any show) when it is actually on the TV screen.

With that said, this much I know: I’m excited, the producers are excited and UCP and Syfy are excited. The team putting the show together is smart and committed. I feel pretty good about the idea you’ll see this sooner than later.

2. Noooooooo Syfy is terrible and runs wrestling and Sharknado whyyyyyyy? Speaking as someone whose previous television show got cancelled in part because Syfy bumped it for wrestling, you don’t have to tell me that the channel has some fairly egregious sins in its past. However, the execs who yanked it in the direction of wrestling are gone, and the execs who are there now seem to have this crazy idea that a channel devoted to science fiction ought to have science fiction on it. This, I assume, is why it bought OMW and is taking James S.A. Corey’s Expanse books straight to series, and otherwise doing a lot of shopping for good science fiction to turn into shows. I kind of think we should encourage this shocking turn of events. Maybe that’s just me.

I got nothing for you about the Sharknado films. Hey, something like five million people watched Sharknado 2 when it debuted. Don’t blame Syfy for that. Blame society. Or at least recognize that some of Syfy’s sweet, sweet Sharknado money is being poured into the development of the OMW series.

3. Who is going to be in the series? You should totally hire [X]! And maybe [Y]! Too early for casting yet. We’ll get there. I know it frustrates people when I say this, but aside from Jane Sagan, who I clearly modeled after my wife (and who, to be clear, is unlikely to play Jane in the series), I have never thought of who I would want to play any of the OMW characters. I understand that’s a little weird, but even so. Part of that is rooted in the fact that the characters in the book are all supposed to look very young (they look like they’re all 21 or so), so unless we cast a bunch of Nickelodeon/Disney Channel stars, it’s unlikely those actors would be well known anyway.

4. How much is going to change from the books? Based on the the discussions I had with the screenwriters: some. Some things in the book will be impractical to show onscreen, some things would be very expensive, and some things that work in  novel form won’t work on TV (and vice versa). Some changes are coming.

I’ve always tried to be clear to folks that any screen version of OMW is going to be an adaptation and not the books exactly. A TV series will be no different. What we want to do is make sure the changes a) are not arbitrary, b) serve the overall story of the series. But, yeah. The books are the books and will always be the books. The TV series will be based on the books, but will not be the books. It will still be, as far as can be managed, a very good story, worth your time.

5. Are you worried the TV show will overshadow the books? I assume it will, since it will (hopefully) be seen by millions of people weekly, so, no. One, I have smart agents who have gotten me a good deal on the series, so if the TV series does well I will profit handsomely. Two, if the show does well then the books in the series will likely sell like hotcakes — see George RR Martin’s book sales recently — so the books will do just fine. Plus then my profile as an author raises and it’s easier for me to sell my newer books, too. Three, a successful show will make it easier for me to sell other work to film/TV, which is also good for me.

So, yeah: Go, show. Fly and be successful.

6. Why are your books being made into TV series when better books like [X] and/or writers like [Y] are not? I don’t know. Maybe my books are better and you’re just wrong. Maybe my books are more commercially successful, which matters. Maybe my books are easier/cheaper/less confusing to adapt than [X]. Maybe the producer likes my book and not that other one. Maybe that author hates the idea of adapting her books into film/TV and won’t sell an option. Maybe the particular subject of one of my books is hot right now, and the subject of that other book is not. Maybe I have a better agent, who sells the hell out of my work. Maybe I’m more personable and/or not in a pain in the ass to work with. Maybe I’m just lucky. Maybe some combination of any or all of the above and/or some other “maybe” not explored here.

But look, in the end, it’s not complicated: What books/properties get optioned/made in film and television? The ones where a producer and studio says we can totally make money with that. Because that’s their job. Why is OMW being made into a series? Because Scott Stuber, Wolfgang Petersen, Universal Cable Productions and Syfy think they can make money off it. Aside from anything else, that’s the bottom line. We’ll find out whether they’re correct. I hope they are.

Now, this doesn’t speak to whether that other book [X] or author [Y] might not also make them (or whomever) money. But it doesn’t have to. It’s not actually important for what they’re doing with my work.

7. Yes yes yes. Just tell me when the next Old Man’s War book will be, please? I’m writing it now. It’ll be out next year. And it will be pretty good, if I can pull off all the things I’m planning. Stay tuned.

67 Comments on “OMW TV Series Announcement Followup”

  1. I haven’t read the book yet (bad Kat! Bad!), so is it odd if I’m pumped for the TV series?

  2. I have kidded you (hopefully good naturally) on Twitter about many of those questions. Frankly I have no worries about either show – as long as they keep you int he loop creatively – you invented the universe they are playing in. Good luck and thanks for being honest with your fans.

  3. So what you’re saying is that there is definitely a major role waiting for a fat balding 40 year old who has never acted and isn’t auditioning and lives (I assume) thousands of miles from wherever the show ends up filming. Thanks John!

  4. Spectacular news. Though I realize it might not translate well to the screen and have to go to a more subtle marker, I hope the green skin stays for the CDF.

    A video game tie-in would be nice too. The new wave of 3d rigs like the Oculus Rift seem perfect for imitating CDF augmented perspectives. At least until a Brain-Pal kickstarter comes along.

  5. If/when it gets to the screen, I’ll have to get my mother to watch it. She likes SF and fantasy shows, especially serials, but doesn’t have the time or inclination to do much reading except at the beach.

  6. Congrats on the series. I was looking forward to the big event feel of a movie, seeing the trailer and then settling in a dark theater with bucket of popcorn in front of the big screen. But, a tv series could be much more satisfying in the long run. So much more time to use all of the source material and explore the things that happened off stage in the books. Even if I don’t like the series for some reason, it doesn’t change the books.

    I am also excited to see SyFy involved. They may have wandered away for a while but they seem to be coming back. Maybe the shows in development will all suck but at least they are trying.

  7. I’m writing it now. It’ll be out next year. And it will be pretty good, if I can pull off all the things I’m planning. Stay tuned.

    Woo-hoo! Write like the wind, John Scalzi!

  8. Here’s one: is the series content limited to the scope of the book? Is there the option of, um, option-ing other titles in the series? If the series is successful and gets greenlit for 3rd, 4th seasons etc. can they pull a Fullmetal Alchemist (the first run) and go, “welp, out of material but we have a bajillionty-eight episodes to fill. Let’s make things up!”

  9. I am looking forward to the scene when the CDF is losing a battle for a planet and all of sudden there is a battle montage with Kermit singing “It’s Not Easy Being Green” in the background.

  10. I’m pretty much 100% confident the CDF won’t be green. It’s a quick throwaway that works in a novel but would suck to spray paint every. single. actor. every single scene.

    Also, you failed to address the fact that your show was made because you are a goddamn alien lizard pinko librul and/or scientologist pawn. Please expand your FAQ to encompass that…

    :) If it needs to be said.

  11. I was unaware of the shift at SyFy channel. That is good to know and exciting. As big as science fiction movies are right now you would think a science fiction network would show science fiction. I stopped watching that network years ago.

  12. Sharkado 2 took, like, 2 weeks to get written filmed and released. Why do we have to wait 2+ years for The Ghost Brigades!! Life is so not fair.

  13. @Ozzie – have you seen Sharknado 2? I’m assuming that OMW will have slightly better production values…

    At least, I hope so.

  14. Green makeup is unlikely unless they’ve developed a usable makeup that allows the skin to breathe. Virginia Hey describing her brain problems when playing Zhan (sp?) on Farscape is *scary* and she’s not the only one.

  15. Any chance you could convince them to change back to SciFi and not the travesty that their station is named now?

    Also, I’m going to be pissed at you and James SA Corey for making me watch TV again. Bastards.

  16. What about: ‘Syfy doesn’t have subtitles so many deaf people will be excluded’?

  17. VERY excited to hear that this is being developed into a series! Can’t wait to see it! Speaking about the former SyFy’s priorities being shifted…do you foresee any chance of your other show ever coming back? Or has that ship already sailed?

  18. For making movies/tv series out of books, the examples I look to you are two John Irving novels, The World According to Garp and The Hotel New Hampshire. I liked the book Hotel New Hampshire alot more than I liked World According to Garp (5 stars vs. 3.5 stars). Garp changed quite a few things in transitioning from the book to the movie, but, managed to capture the spirit of the book. The Hotel made very few changes, but, fell flat and simply didn’t capture the spirit of the book. I did not enjoy the movie, even though I liked the book alot, and liked many of the actors that played parts in the movie.

    For me, the biggest thing I look for in a movie/tv version of a book is that does the movie/tv show captures the spirit of the book. I hope the tv series is successful and encourages people to go read your book.

  19. Something tells me they’re going to have to censor/edit out the conversations that your characters have with their BrainPals. (you really should have patented that idea… Bet someone’s working on it now.)

  20. Patrick:

    “Syfy” is trademarkable, so they are unlikely to change it back.


    To the extent I am able, I will get them to include closed captioning.

    NTR Chris S:

    It’s all true: I am a politically correct Scientologist!

    (Note: Not true)

    John Nemesh:

    I wouldn’t stay up nights waiting for SG:U to come back, no.

  21. Please don’t let them represent BrainPal communications with 500 lines of rapidly scrolling BASIC. Please, I beg!

  22. It’s too bad everyone has to look 21. That probably puts the kibosh on grabbing the entire cast of Firefly and transplanting them into OMW. Jewel Staite would be an awesome Jane.

  23. Green makeup like zhaan is unlikely, i think it is more likely that they will do some trickery with the camera filters so that anything flesh toned would come through green, that way its more tinted green rather than painted, or digitally altering the colour would be really easy, might even be cheaper what with all the money you would spend on the paint.

  24. Since special forces soldiers can be bioengineered to many different bodies and environments there should be no problem having a Ghost Sharknado Brigade.

    On second though; I am sorry i mentioned it.

  25. Best of luck. I will definitely watch the show, if and when it airs.

    But Hollywood is a dark and scary place…we can’t hold our collective breaths….

    And, yes, I am a gloomy, unpleasant person. Sorry.

  26. I’d bet they can pretty easily achieve green skin digitally these days. I think I remember hearing years ago that in the old silent film days, the actors wore green makeup because it looked better on the black and white film of the day.

  27. “Maybe I have a better agent, who sells the hell out of my work.” — don’t you just hate it when those no-value-added leeches put in an incredible amount of effort to marketing you and your work to make you even more money than you could on your own? Next you’re going to tell me that publishers earn their keep through editorial judgement and cpoyedditing and advertising and distribution channels.
    “if I can pull off all the things I’m planning.” — ooh, what’s your special effects budget for Human Division 2? :)

  28. John are you going to cameo in the shows at all or just stick to production? You were saying it was too early for casting, but I was just wondering of you had an interest in it.

  29. Are SyFy making Redshirts? If so then hold onto your hats for the ‘Ice Sharknado’ tie-in!

  30. Sharknado was pure, unadulterated brilliance, folks. It’s a tornado! And it’s full of sharks!

    Any talk otherwise is just plain old silly. It was the best thing Sci-Fi has done in years.

  31. I am sorta miffed! I wanted to get here & point out that we alllllll *know* exactly why _your_ stuff is getting the star treatment while brand X is not,but I got beaten to it. I should have known it was the obvious joke.

    I have high hopes for you and SlyFry. You because your work deserves and SlyFry because it would be nice to have actual quality SF/F stuff on TV & an SyFy network.

    PS – I’m going with damianmorris92’s lead & suggest you at least do a walk-on, extra shot at least once just so we can all point & laugh. Plus you could add a SAG card to your CV!

  32. John, I gotta ask you.

    I get that #6 is a reference to your protracted Twitter go-round with ClarkHat. (This coming from someone who doesn’t have a Twitter account and found himself following it for its “jeebus, does it ever end?” quality.) For someone who usually pays no mind to critics of this sort, why did he earn so much bandwidth?

  33. One unpredictable aspect of the transition of OMW from theatrical to TV adaptation is: How will this material fare when it has to be adapted to the demands of frequent commercial breaks, each on the order of three minutes in length? (A good example of shaping a novel into chunks suitable for interruption by commercial breaks might be Lonesome Dove, although that was 25 years ago and such breaks were less frequent and usually shorter.)

  34. Sooz: Every Syfy show I’ve seen recently has closed captioning–that seems to be the norm now. (Good thing, as my partner’s too deaf to watch them without subtitles.)

  35. Hamletsshrink:

    Clarkhat’s not the only one who has commented in such a manner, so no, not just about him. I was poking him because he’s fun to poke, and unlike many of the people who are crabby at my success, he’s not a complete shithole of a human. I knew he could take it, give good conversation, and wouldn’t get too spun up about it. I assume he knows likewise about me.

  36. I know it’s too early to say, but please keep us updated on any international deals. Syfy doesn’t air here, so if one of our other channels like Space or Showcase doesn’t pick it up, we won’t get a chance to see it.

  37. I was following that Twitter duel and I kept thinking “JS must know that guy personally because he’s really interacting a lot with someone who appears to be a total douche nozzle!” I had that ‘Not Sure If Serious’ meme pop up in my head each time ClarkHat would take a potshot…

  38. If somebody told you 2016, ask them why – my knowledge of TV Development* tells me that if the ‘deal to write a script’ comes in the mid-summer (like this), it’s generally targeted for the Traditional Fall Season of next year, so if it’s not September 2015, I’ll be mildly surprised.

    *knowledge mostly from ex-MASH/Cheers Producer/Writer Ken Levine’s almost-as-good-as-yours blog. BTW, if you want to bring out the comedy in “Redshirts”, you should really have that guy on your team… and if he suggests making any of the characters “more like Frasier Crane or Major Winchester”, let him.

  39. First of all, congrats on the series. Second, I’m not worried about the green skin, it’s not a deal breaker. Third, I am eager to see BrainPal technology finally developed and expect to be able to get one grafted on in the next year or so.

  40. At the end of The Last Colony, Jane was pregnant, will we see her child in the series, or the human division for that matter? You kind of left some of us hanging on that one. Give!

  41. You left out one thing… Will you do a cameo and get killed like peter Jackson does? You would be perfect for that asshole executive who gets eaten by an alien.

    Grate john. Really hope syfy doesn’t screw this or the expanse up.

  42. Personally I’d think they’ll have to entirely ditch the brainpal thing in terms of ‘showing’ it much. Otherwise it’d be too much like those dreadful scenes from the theater version of Dune — long pointless scenes of actors whispering at you about not much anything. Brainpal works well in a written form but how in the world do you do it well in a visual medium without either completely befuddeling or boring (which is far worse) your audience?

    And personally I hope they deal with the actor-age thing by establishing on 1st episode that everyone’s in a cloned replacement body but some people just aren’t comfortable *looking* like they’re 20.

  43. Late followup: Thank you for clarifying that. Without that context, it came across completely different.

    Meanwhile, count me in the “I’ll consider signing up for cable to get SyFy to get Ghost Brigades” camp. Hell, I won’t even do that for Game of Thrones. I must like you or something.

  44. I am very happy for you, they chose OMW for a regular show. Sometimes those TV guys do not seem to know the difference between a and b. SyFy did have some decent shows. And a lot of crap, especially lately. They of course ran the BSG reboot, which in the end might just have been an accident. But kudos anyway.

    Hope all goes well, and greets from poor old Greece.

  45. I always thought the green skin was kind of silly. The amount of energy you’d gain from photosynthesis across the surface area of an adult human body is pretty insignificant. It works for plants because plants don’t move, they just sit there. They also don’t have CNS’s to run or much of anything else. Their energy requirements are orders of magnitude lower than ours.

  46. MrManny, I suppose you could do away with the green skin makeup problem and explain the source of higher energy production by instead implanting into every CDF soldier a patented RTGeethatshot thermoelectric device.

  47. Oh, hi Mr. Scalzi, I am a software engineer, and I have a program for you to run

    a) discover production team behind the Earthsea miniseries from 2004. Some of these people might still be alive.
    b) cross-check Earthsea production team against names of producton team for the OMW Syfy show
    c) if any of the names match, cancel project right now

    I’m assuming you’ve already done this. I really really hope you’ve already done this.

  48. Having young 20something actors would help keep costs down. When the show is a success and they start demanding more money you just whip out the 90% casualty rate.

  49. Back in the days of black and white television, standard makeup gave everyone a greenish appearance. It was done so the skin tones wouldn’t look odd in b&w. Making someone green is about as easy as it gets.

  50. OMW on TV?
    Does that mean 21 year old, fantastic looking girls fighting with big guns? Explosions? Splatter? Dead aliens? Jokes for men? Like Crank 2 in Sci-Fi? Woooohhaaaa….
    Personally I would like a less greener skin than in the books! Perhaps you can tell this to the writers.


    (“Hey Ben, Jake. A totally anonymous guy from the internet asked that you reduce the green skin color!” “Ok boss. We already planned this to reduce costs for makeup, but you can tell him, that we did it just because he said so! For sure he will buy more* books of you!”)

    *Sorry, but I already have all and you are too slow in writing! Why do authors write slower than I read their stuff? Damn you Scalzi! Damn you Suarez!

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