Why are certain Golden Age Sf authors filmed, and others not?

Dick, Bradbury, Heinlein, Asimov all have film legacies, even if not their major works (no Foundation or Caves of Steel movies that I know of, for instance) but not, say, Vance or Bester. Yet you’d think Demon Princes or The Stars My Destination would make excellent movies or TV series. Any particular reason why not?

It can’t be that revenge themes or antihero protagonists wouldn’t be acceptable. And they’re not unfilmable or needing huge amounts of CGI all the time - they have human(oid) casts. Any other theories?

I’ve never heard of those stories or authors. They’re not well-known enough to get people to come to the cinema based on brand recognition

How many people paid theater tickets or video rental fees for Blade Runner and Total Recall for the sake of P.K. Dick’s name, as opposed to Harrison Ford’s and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s? But they DID get made.

But yes, sometimes you wait until too long past the Golden Age. The people greenlighting movie projects are not classic written SF fans and may be in PSXer’s shoes and never have heard of these authors and works.

And come to think of it, that creates another problem – sometimes the film rights HAVE been optioned, but wind up sitting around for decades and you end up with someone using them just because it’s there, or not at all. Asimov and Heinlein each had one of his most popular titles posthumously slapped on a film that has little resemblance to the book or is at best a parody.

I’m still waiting for my Stainless Steel Rat movie, and I cannot see anything that wouldn’t be commercial about it.

Roger Zelazney isn’t Golden Age, but someone bought the rights to Lord of Light, my favorite of his novels and is sitting on it.

What! That’s disappointing. It’s my favorite Zelazny book, too. His Amber books would make a great TV series.

I liked the ones beginning with Nine Princes in Amber, but became uninterested in the ones with his son.

So many of them wrote stuff that just couldn’t be filmed during their heyday. They have the capability now, but Hollywood has become too risk-averse.

Cordwainer Smith is one who would work wonderfully on film who has never, as far as I know, been filmed.

I think that “The Stars My Destination” has been optioned for movies, so that’s not maybe the best example. Apparently it’s not an easy book to film.

Vance is one of those authors that would be enormously difficult to bring to film because the attraction of the books is mostly style – the somewhat florid descriptions and the weirdly formal ironic dialog. So I’d say that in some ways, the most filmable Golden Age authors were probably the ones that relied the least on style and the most on plot and ideas.

I read somewhere that Zelazny spiked any deals for movies based on his books because he was so disappointedin the movie that was made based on his book"Damnation Alley" which had nothing in common with the book except it’s title and its postapocalpytic setting. So that could be a reason right there.

Not sure where movie deals are now that Zelazny is dead, but damn, could you imagine the crew that makes “Game of Thrones” going to town on The Chronicles of Amber? It would be freaking awesome!

Lord yes, that was terrible.

I’ve always thought that Ringworld would make an excellent SF movie. Sadly no sign of it yet.

Ringworld would make a lousy movie, but a great mini-series. Also seconding EC’s comment about the GoTs crew doing Amber. Or maybe the crew that did Rome. Give them a firm 3 to 4 season deal, a buttload of cash and turn them loose.

I agree, the puzzling lack of adaptations of some of the most brilliant novels from the Golden Age and beyond while some author’s works are mined endlessly is extremely puzzling. Especially Philip K. Dick’s work. I understand why Hollywood likes Dick, it’s because his stories have that “is it reality or all in his mind?” thing going. Hollywood types find a story like that and they all cluster around it and their eyes get all glowy and happy like mentally arrested folks who have found something bright and shiny. It’s something they can understand because it has that whole Day for Night thing going. Woo-hoo!

Except, of course, that Dick isn’t one tenth the writer that many others are and his stories are all kind of repetitive and he SUCKS DAMMIT, he was a mentally disturbed man whose work JUST SUCKS!!!

There, I said it.

Now I do think Hollywood has done SOME mining of authors’ works without crediting them. For example, John Norman’s Gor novels’ success can reasonably be credited to his realization that Burroughs-style planetary romances and softcore slavegirl porn go together like hand and whip. And there WERE two movies made that were based on his books, unfortunately, both were complete failures in every respect – much like “Damnation Alley’s” creators, they ignored everything that had made the books successful and produced deeply subpar sword and sandal movies (though they did succeed in the Silly Hat arena).

NSFW review of “Gor” to prove my point:

However, two of the biggest sword and sandal movies of the 80s, “Deathstalker” and “Barbarian Queen” clearly understood the appeal of Norman’s work, because both had sexy female characters in bondage and slavegirls treated like sexual snack foods. Norman didn’t get any credit for the movies because the filmmakers didn’t have to give him credit, I’m not accusing the filmmakers of plagiarism here, I’m just accusing them of borrowing some nifty ideas from Norman and making them their own.

But still, filmmakers DO mine SF and fantasy writers’ works for ideas and use them, though most often, badly.

Random geek note: Roger Zelazny and George R.R. Martin used to play D&D and Call of Cthulhu together. Martin was usually GM.

First of all, Hollywood rarely adapts science fiction books; they’d much rather use original screenplays.

They avoided them pre-CGI because of the cost of the special effects.

Also, SF books were never popular enough (except for a short time in the 80s) for Hollywood to care: the audience who has read The Stars My Destination is tiny compared to the number of people who would need to see a movie for it to make money. Since your audience doesn’t know who Bester is, there’s no reason to adapt the novel when you could just as easily hire a writer to write an original screenplay.

Adaptation is also tricky, since you have to run the gamut of fans who want nothing changed and people who will nitpick you to death (“Teleportation? There’s no way you could do that. The movie sucks.”). In addition, you have to deal with the John Carter Syndrome, where Hollywood screenplays have been stealing from the original for years so people think the original is derivative.

But the biggest reason is money. There’s no financial reason for a producer to choose a book over an original screenplay. The authors that are filmed are those who have some sort of track record at the box office or who are known to the casual non-SF reader.

Oh, yes, Hollywood always prefers an original screenplay, that’s why they never do comic book movies, sequels of existing movies, movies based on television shows, or movies based on video games. It would probably be foolish to maintain that Hollywood has invested heavily in such stuff … wouldn’t it?

Plus of course, Hollywood will only take a chance on a property that is well known to the general public, that’s why they only invested $170 million in “Guardians of the Galaxy,” which of course EVERYBODY knew about prior to the movie … right? And which by the way is closing in on the one billion dollar mark in net revenue, if it hasn’t already passed it.

So, yah, a lot of unsupported and, I daresay, unsupportable assumptions in your post.

I’m still waiting for a Dhalgren movie…

Actually, the first book of the first sequence of five was the only one out of all ten that hangs together as a decent novel unto itself. The rest are a meandering mess through a fascinating universe. In other words, they would be PERFECT for a feature film (based on the first book) and then a TV series of indefinite length, based loosely on the other nine books. Or as much of it as they got to before it was canceled.

Interesting idea… I think I would have picked Cordwainer Smith as a writer whose work would be particularly difficult to translate to film. Sort of like making a film out of a Gertrude Stein poem.