Tag Archives: zen cho

5 SFF Adaptations That Would Greatly Improve Genre Diversity in TV and Film

Another day, another list of upcoming SFF adaptations that is a big, depressing sausage fest.

I feel like the common wisdom on the issue of diversity in media is that things are improving, but it’s very telling when just a quick count of the properties listed on this list of upcoming or possibly upcoming book-to-film/television adaptations shows forty based on work by men, but only five based on work by women. It probably goes without saying, but there are also only a couple of people of color on the list.

Moving on to the subjects of the projects, things are somewhat better, but not much. A full half of the projects focus on men’s stories, more if you count ensemble projects whose main characters are men. Only two projects are primarily about women. It’s a depressing toll, especially when we’d all like to believe that television and film are improving in diversity. If this list represents any improvement at all, it’s not good enough.

I don’t pretend to know exactly what would be good enough, but there are numerous books and comics that I think would improve the film and television landscape. Certainly, any of these would be significantly more interesting than another crop of shows starring square-jawed white dudes.

  1. The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers
    Space opera has gotten popular again, and this one is very good. I’d love to see it as an ongoing television series, though that would require some expansion upon the source material. However, the novel itself is very episodic in nature, being told as a sequence of vignettes, each one focusing on a different character. This would lend itself well to being adapted as a miniseries or as a short series on a digital platform such as Netflix or Amazon, or it could be easily streamlined into a long film. The major downside of this book is that the high number of alien characters would require expensive special effects to produce, but the right production company could create something really wonderful if they were willing to spend the money on it.
  2. Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor
    This book just begs to be made into a big summer blockbuster a la Independence Day. I want to see it at the drive-in.
  3. Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho
    Like Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, but more fun. Either film the book as it is for a delightful miniseries, or start where the book ends and continue the adventures of Prunella and Zacharias. Or both. Both would be good.
  4. God’s War by Kameron Hurley
    While I’m not often a fan of just lifting characters from a book and writing all new stories around them for television, Kameron Hurley’s Beldame Apocrypha would be perfect for that treatment. Nyx is an amazing character of a type that doesn’t often get to be female, and her shifting crew of associates would make great fodder for a gritty sci-fi bounty hunter sort of thing. The world and characters Hurley created in this series are more than strong enough to carry a long-running television show, which would allow some of the bigger plots of the books to be explored at leisure.
  5. The Just City by Jo Walton
    The goddess Athena gathers thinkers and dreamers from all ends of history in order to build Plato’s Republic. Apollo decides to become human so he can grow up as a child in the Just City. There are robots. And Socrates. And philosophical debates out the wazoo. I would watch this on TV, and I think I’m not the only one.

Obviously, I’m not saying no more square-jawed white dudes, ever, but all of these suggestions would make for a very nice change in the current landscape of entertainment. They would be even better if we could get more diversity behind the camera and in writing rooms for them as well.

The truth is that every time there are new surveys of the industry, it’s proven over and over again that the needle of diversity hasn’t moved much in thirty years. While there have been somewhat more actors of color in highly visible roles, it’s simply not true that things have really improved that much overall. The same can be said for the presence of women in cinema, and those who don’t fit neatly into the gender binary fare even worse.

Any (but preferably all) of the five works I suggest here would be a step in a better direction.

Book Review: Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho

[This review is based on an advance copy of the book obtained through NetGalley.]

If you loved Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, you owe it to yourself to read Zen Cho’s Sorcerer to the Crown. At the same time, though, I’m not sure I’d compare it to Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell if I hadn’t just recently read the older novel.

Sorcerer to the Crown really has much more in common with the works of Jane Austen in both style and tone. While Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell is a broad-ranging pastiche that pays tribute to many genres while being very much its own thing, Sorcerer to the Crown is something simpler and purer–more earnest in its adherence to old-fashioned language and storytelling conventions. That said, Sorcerer to the Crown is a wildly original and deeply unconventional twenty-first century novel and a great deal of fun.

The book opens with a very young black boy named Zacharias being shown off to a bunch of white men to prove his (and his race’s) magical capabilities. While the ominous tone of the prologue is somewhat at odds with much of what follows in the novel, I think it’s a pretty excellent way of infusing the rest of the book–which would not be inaccurately described as a “romp”–with an undercurrent of darkness that keeps things grounded and provides a sort of baseline for the exploration of POC experiences in the rest of the story. It’s a prologue that shows the reader immediately what kind of book this is, which is the perfect sort of prologue if an author really must include one.

The rest of the story takes place after Zacharias has managed to find himself in the position of being the most eminent sorcerer in England. We quickly learn that his high office has earned Zacharias no shortage of enemies and is more a nuisance than anything else. He’s not even certain he wants the office at all, but there’s no way for him to give it up. Instead, he determines to make the best of it and try and enact what change and bring what progress he can while he still has time. To that end, Zacharias has to deal with magical school girls, Malaysian vampires. scheming racists, and angry dragons.

It’s a wild ride.

The characters in Sorcerer to the Crown can all be a little one-dimensional at times, and I didn’t always find Zacharias to be particularly likable, although I absolutely loved Prunella. Some things seemed a little too tidy at the end, and I’m not sure I entirely buy the romance, which was so restrained as to be almost nonexistent. Although it is kind of refreshing that the book isn’t overly focused on the romance, I would have preferred a more gradual growth of affection over time. As it was, the resolution of the romance felt somewhat tacked on and less earned than it could have been.

Still, Sorcerer to the Crown is a thoroughly enjoyable read. From beginning to end, it hits all the right notes that I look for in a book. It’s a very different perspective than we’re usually offered in Regency-set fantasies. It’s fast-paced and interesting enough that even though a great deal happens it never feels overstuffed or overlong. It’s whimsical without being precious and clever without being pretentious. Best of all, it’s a downright funny book, and I found myself chuckling aloud more than once. Definitely in my top ten books of the year so far.