10 classic sci-fi novels that would make great TV or movies right now

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Dec 1, 2015, 10:13 AM EST (Updated)

On December 14, Syfy (Blastr's corporate parent - Ed.) will kick off its TV adaptation of Childhood's End, the classic sci-fi novel by Arthur C. Clarke about a seemingly benevolent alien invasion of Earth that may or may not be more than it appears. It's a tribute to the timelessness of Clarke's tale that its themes of humanity "saved" from itself by alien intervention still resonate today, and it'll be interesting to see what a modern take on this long thought unadaptable story looks like.

That's one of the great things about reading science fiction. Because writers of the genre are so interested in looking to the future, their ideas very often find their way into relevance years after they're published. Arthur C. Clarke famously predicted the rise of the personal computer, and when PCs found their way into pretty much every home in America, his remarks took on a powerful new quality. So, when thinking of Clarke's predictions, we decided to take a look at a few other classic sci-fi novels whose times have come. The 10 books below all represent some combination of ideas and themes that are very much a part of our world right now, and if someone were to come along and bring them to the screen in the very near future, they could have a remarkable impact.

The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin


Le Guin has long been considered the source of many of science fiction literature's biggest ideas, but in an age when LGBT awareness is at an all-time high, and people who identify across the gender and sexuality spectrums are fighting for recognition and acceptance, The Left Hand of Darkness means even more. It's set on a planet where the inhabitants only identify as male or female during a very specific monthly fertility period, and they choose based on the context of their lives at the time. It was a radical idea in 1969, has illuminated countless readers in the decades since and would no doubt be just as provocative and enlightening if adapted for the screen now.


Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson


Neal Stephenson is certainly not the only author who ever predicted the astonishing impact computers and the Internet would have on our lives, but Snow Crash, in particular, takes on a greater meaning, because Stephenson wove elements of Sumerian mythology into its framework. In the world of this novel, programming languages and viruses are written by gods, and drugs that work online also work in real life. It all combines to become an astonishing metaphor for our addictive and often worshipful relationship to the web.


Dhalgren by Samuel R. Delany


Of all the books on this list, Dhalgren might be the hardest to adapt by far, but it's also one of the most interesting. The book drew controversy because of its reference to homosexuality and bisexuality, which certainly makes it timely enough, but the appeal of the book goes well beyond that. The book is full of nonlinear exploration, stream-of-consciousness writing, deep-seeded metaphors, and narratives and themes that seem to go in a circle. Many sci-fi readers find it utterly infuriating, but, in the right hands, an adaptation could be an intoxicating journey.


Foundation by Isaac Asimov


Foundation is developing right now as a possible series, and we hope it makes it, because Isaac Asimov's masterpiece is an excellent exploration of that portion of our culture that's obsessed with figuring out when our world is going to end and just what we can do about it. Just as Asimov's psychohistorians work to prevent future catastrophes in their world, so too do our pundits, statisticians, scientists and, yes, ministers work to convince us all that they know what's coming, and that if we just make the right move at the right time, we can bring ourselves back from oblivion.


The Fountains of Paradise by Arthur C. Clarke


As we witness the dawn of a new kind of space race, in which billionaires try to perfect their own spacecraft, we're also living in an age when geniuses everywhere are trying to get their own alternative methods of future transport off the ground. The "space elevator" is one of those new methods, but it's not so new: Arthur C. Clarke explored it in great detail in this novel, which intersects the space elevator idea with explorations of terraforming, faith and the end of life on Earth as we know it.


The Drowned World by J.G. Ballard


Like Snow Crash, the initial relevance of The Drowned World is relatively obvious. It's the story of a world ravaged by global warming, and as we continue to talk about climate change on a national and international level, there's an obvious appeal to that kind of story. Ballard didn't stop there, though. There are deep subtexts running through this novel. It's a story in which the devastated landscape works to mirror the minds of the characters, and that sets the stage for a stunning work that presents all kinds of interesting performance opportunities for a cast.


The Forever War by Joe Haldeman


Haldeman's work in The Forever War and other novels was deeply influenced by his own service in the Vietnam War, and while that might sound dated to you, consider this: We are, right now, living in a world full of veterans who've returned home at loose ends, suffering from mental illness and other traumas and often struggling to get the care they need. In the right hands, this classic story of soldiers suffering from a very literal future shock could be one of the most powerful military science fiction adaptations ever.


Kindred by Octavia E. Butler


Right now, in the United States and beyond, we are having a very large conversation about race, and about the systemic oppression that's been built into society in all manner of ways since the age of slavery. It's a very, very divisive issue for many people, and Butler's novel is a reminder of just how long even science fiction has been concerned with it. It's the story of a modern woman transported back to the time of slaves, and the fight she must undergo to preserve her present, her past and her soul. I don't know that there's ever been a better time for a screen version of this story and its many illuminating truths.

How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe by Charles Yu

When it comes to modern sci-fi classics, few are more exciting. For the past several years, we've watched TV writers like Dan Harmon, Aaron Sorkin and even the crew behind Saturday Night Live embrace metafiction in fascinating ways. So many of us can't get enough of watching Abed Nadir break down his life as though it's a TV show even as Community's Danny Pudi is actually performing on a TV show, and Yu's wildly entertaining book is an even more ambitious breakdown of that kind of story. It wouldn't be easy, but the right adaptation would be dazzling.



The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury


Yeah, this series of loosely linked Bradbury stories has been adapted before, but that was decades ago, and it's high time we revisited it. Right now, viewers everywhere are becoming obsessed with The Martian, a film adaptation of Andy Weir's novel, but that's the story of a single astronaut's fight for survival. What Bradbury did in this landmark book was take the story of a developing Mars in many directions all at once, and the right television series could give all of those directions the right amount of time and attention.

That's our list! What classic sci-fi would you like to see adapted for the modern viewer? Let us know in the comments!