Thursday, 23 June 2011

Reasons Why Malazan Could Never Be A TV Series

With the success of A Game of Thrones by HBO, and the sign-up of American Gods by the same, there is now plenty of discussion as to which other fantasy series would make for good television.

At first I loved the idea of a Malazan series - those dragons brought to life, the sweeping epic battles, the magic, the tremendous characters. Plus the series is actually complete (a big plus over A Song of Ice and Fire *snickers*) But then I really started to think about it and realised that I would NEVER want Malazan to be optioned for TV. Here are my reasons....

1) There are lots (and lots and lots and lots and lots) of characters... In Dust of Dreams there are two hundred and forty four characters listed! Some might say that you could excise minor characters, but then you start to wonder exactly which characters could be removed? I mean, you need all the gods for a start, the ascendants are important, maybe the odd Bridgeburner here or there could go, but, truly, Erikson always gives his characters plenty of screentime and/or reason for being there.

2) The ten novels of the main Malazan Book of the Fallen are entirely interlinked. As I know from the Tor readalong, the veterans, who have read the series many times between them, are constantly saying things like 'wow, that scene totally foreshadows what happens in book seven!' when we touch on something in book two. Imagine if HBO picked up the series, but then only made Gardens of the Moon because of ratings - there would be so much that people would miss out on that had already been hinted at.

3) Malazan is not for the casual reader, so a TV series would either have to dumb it down enormously (and then what is the point?) or would have to rely on viewers to pay attention to the extreme. Malazan would be like Lost - except one hundred times more complicated, and look at how people complained about that!

4) I honestly don't think that TV budgets could handle Malazan. Unlike A Song of Ice and Fire (where the dragons and the Others are pretty much the limit of otherworldliness), with Malazan there are full on mage battles; there is a gigantic floating rock; there are multiple shapeshifters; there would need to be some representation of Warrens; there are Elf-like beings in the form of the Tiste.... I could go on!

5) Anyone can die. I mean, we know this from A Game of Thrones as well, but, honestly, I have never been so devastated by character death as when reading the Malazan novels (and I'm only up to the third!) Not just major characters, but minor deaths rend the heart, and I think a casual TV audience would find that enormously difficult to take. In addition to this, Hood is doing an abysmal job in keeping the dead or almost-dead dead, since we keep seeing people we presume dead come back to life.

6) In order to take on Malazan, I presume HBO would need to negotiate contracts not just with Erikson, but with Esslemont as well, since it is a shared world. That adds extra complication and expense. In addition, if they are to become advisors on the series, it would result in trying to fit into the calenders of two busy authors.

7) People in the series have multiple names and titles, which would just cause unnecessary confusion. Some people take on the bodies or forms of other characters. Some characters come back as different characters. I have the capacity to become confused while reading the series and have to skim backwards and forwards - I can't imagine how a TV series would cope.

8) To do the books justice, you would need to commit to AT LEAST ten series. What TV executive would take that chance, knowing how complicated Malazan is?

9) For whatever reason, Malazan is just not as popular as A Song of Ice and Fire (probably because of that habit Erikson has for dropping his readers into the centre of events with no hand-holding). Even non-genre friends of mine were muzzily aware of GRRM and his series as it was being signed up by HBO. NONE of them had heard of Malazan before I mentioned it.

10) My last reason is way more personal and selfish. These characters, these places, live in my head. I have pictures of what they look like. I can't imagine actors taking on these roles. Ask me who should play Anomander Rake, from actors performing today, and I could not think of ANYONE who would do the role justice. Let alone Quick Ben! And Kruppe.... Gosh, I'm not even touching the surface and I'm already lost as to who could play these characters.

So, HBO - and any other TV station - leave Malazan Book of the Fallen well alone! I'm not sure Erikson and his publishers etc would thank me for this, but I firmly believe that this series is one that should NEVER be made into a series.

Pitch in, people! Tell me why I am right or wrong! Do you have actors in mind who could play these characters? How would you get round the issues mentioned above?


  1. I read somewhere that Erikson had originally written a screenplay for Gardens of the Moon before turning it into a novel. If he wrote the screenplay, then I'd definitely want to watch the film.

  2. I think it would be difficult and probably a stretch with today's tech. Maybe in another 10 years or so special effects will catch up with what would be needed.
    As an example, in The Game of Thrones miniseries, they kind of skipped over the battle parts. I'm sure this was a cost thing and in GoT wasn't that big a deal. Skipping over the battle parts in Malazan would be bad--very bad.

  3. I believe the screenplay mostly featured the Phoenix Inn regulars during the Malazan takeover attempt, so the resulting novel is (I imagine) quite a different animal.

    Erikson once said (on the forums, I believe) that he knew exactly how to adapt the books for the big screen, but until someone sat and wrote him a check, he was keeping his lips sealed.

  4. I could see it as an epic adult Animated series.

  5. You are right, no question. The longer the series, the more unlikely it could - or would - be done justice.

  6. I would, however, go on to say that there is a part of me that feels this series is very special to me. It came along at a very needed time in my life (the breakup of a previous long relationship, this would be back when MoI had only just hit paperback) and I disappeared into it. It's currently the gold that sits on my shelf. My favourite completed series and I will be doing a full series re-read later this summer.

    I guess my point is that it's almost like the source material has become so sacrosanct to me that I would be EVEN pickier with how it might be represented in another media, and most likely would wish it not to be made. In other words, I think you're totally right Amanda. One of the best fantasy series that should stay as books...and safely tucked away inside my head. A pure treasure.

  7. Oh, and to add China Mieville I think said it best at his signing here in Toronto: (paraphrasing)

    "There is some ludicrous common held notion that if your book is very good and behaves itself, it will grow up to be movie or a tv show. Why can't a book just be a book?"

  8. Ha... I was thinking about this the other day. I think the series, on the whole, is waaaaaaaaaaaaaaay too broad scoped and complex for it to ever work on TV. That's fine with me, though. I like it better in my head rather than on a screen.

  9. You are bang on Amanda! Having just finished GotM, it would be mind boggling how a producer would even go about adapting such a meaty piece into bite sized chunks. Perhaps a five part film, like a three part LOTR or six part Stat Wars? Dunno...a big part of me feels that this series should stay in written form glowing on our shelves.

    I have alot of respect for SE and what he (and IE) have done with this. Plus, they're both from Winnipeg (where I grew up) so you know it's good :)

    Book, not TV!


  10. Well, to me it seems most of your arguments are more or less personal :) I happen to agree with quite a few of them at least a little bit but that doesn't mean I wouldn't like to see a Malazan TV series or a film. And like Steven Erikson himself said many times he wouldn't mind seeing it on screen, probably big instead od small :) but still.

    I must admit I used to share the opinion that some of the books should be just books but after some of the films and series I changed it. The series doesn't need to follow the books blindly or at all sometimes. It could be just situated in the same setting (and we all know there's enough things happening here on the fringes of the main story for a dozen more novels or TV series). TV and film are a totally different narrative mediums than books and that difference should be a good thing...we should embrace the diversity instead of moaning how this or that doesn't fit what it said on pages 5 through 75 or that they added new characters (e.g. The Hobbit...that news still rankles a bit though :P ). To be perfectly honest watching something that is completely true to the printed version would bore me half to death...Shhhh, I know what happens next ;)

    but that's just my opinion :)


  11. Scott: Great idea. the anime format too would be very nice knowing there are anime that run for dozens of episodes (people who know what shonen is will get what i'm talking about).

  12. I think most of these are reasons why it would be *difficult* to make MBotF into a quality TV series, but not reasons why it shouldn't be done.

    Personally, I would love to see it as a TV series, and I think it could be done with very little quality lost (nothing can be quite as good as the imagination, alas).

    But not now. As someone said, the technology just isn't there to make it possible budget-wise. But it is catching up rapidly, and who knows where we'll be in another few years.

  13. This is something which my friends and I have discussed on occasion (what series would make good movies/tv/etc), and it was actually surprising how unanimous opinion on Malazan was. It's too broad in scope to fit a live action series for the reasons you've listed above, and far too complex to reasonably condense into movie format - with one or two notable exceptions. There are a few relatively isolated storylines which could be made into fantastic movies, the most notable of which is the Chain of Dogs.

    It can be taken in isolation from the rest of the storylines in that book, as it doesn't really interweave with Kalam, Fiddler, Mappo and Icarium, Duiker and Felisin, or any of the other players in the novel. There would be a few other minor modifications needed (Kulp could be removed and Duiker could have a different reason to be missing early on - or better yet, be there from the start, there would need to be a different reason for the arrival of the Trygalle Trade Guild, or a different means for the goods to arrive, those sorts of things), but they would be relatively minor details to quibble over in the big picture of the story, and its ending could prove to be one of those moments which manages to bridge the gap in the minds of moviegoers of fantasy as simple escapism into something compelling.

    That being said, for the entire series as a whole, as Scott said, consensus was that it could make an excellent animated series - easier to digest in the 30 minute timeslot, seasons are composed of a much larger number of episodes (counts of which are more flexible), and the difficulty with CG and other aspects of race/how to depict Ascendants and Gods/etc become much more minor due to the flexibility which the format of animation allows. That being said, there's still quite the learning curve for new viewers, and the problem of which venue/channel would be willing to tackle a series of this magnitude in that sort of format, so it's likely a pipedream.

  14. The best medium for a Malazan adaptation is an anime series. In fact, it already has a lot of anime characteristics.

  15. Technology isn't an issue, it's just the cost of it that would be exorbitant. Same issue with animation (see the Dragonlance feature length film).
    The issue is so much of the series is internal dialogue. That doesn't translate easily to film.

  16. The books are the story. there's no need for an adaptation.