One of the longest-running and most beloved series of genre novels ever could finally get the movie treatment.
Deadline reports that Warner Bros. has just optioned the entire Dragonriders of Pern series from the estate of author Anne McCaffrey, with the hope that it will become a major new genre franchise for the studio to follow the likes of Harry Potter and The Hobbit. Beginning in 1968, McCaffrey published 22 Pern novels and two volumes of short fiction set in the world, collaborating in her later years with her son, Todd. McCaffrey died in November 2011 at the age of 85, but Todd McCaffrey has already completed one Pern novel following his mother's death, and is reportedly working to finish another, which would be the 24th novel in the series. The series has grown to cover more than two thousand years of Pern's history, so there's a lot of material to work with here.
Though it is often thought of as fantasy due to the technological level of the Pern society and, of course, the titular Dragonriders and their dragons, Pern is actually a science fiction series. Pern is not a fantasy realm like Narnia or Middle-earth, but a planet colonized by the Pernese people, and the dragons were genetically engineered by them. The Dragonriders themselves are the protectors of Pern and must use their dragons, and the telepathic bond they share with the creatures, to battle Thread, a destructive spore that consumes any living thing in its path when it rains down from the nearby Red Star. Though the Dragonriders are the conceptual hook of the series, the books also chronicle many other facets of life on Pern, including exploration of the planet, advancement of Pernese technology and the adventures of non-Dragonrider characters like musicians and nobles.
Though the series has long fostered a devoted and very involved fan community and has spawned several companion books, games and a graphic novel adaptation, film adaptations have always been just out of reach for Pern. One of the most promising adaptation attempts came in the early 2000s, when Ronald D. Moore was developing the books as a television drama for what was then The WB network. Moore's pilot script was reportedly reworked by the studio to the point where it barely resembled Pern anymore, so he backed out and went on to give us Battlestar Galactica instead.
Now, after the dragon-heavy The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug has pulled in nearly $1 billion for the studio (and hey, seeing DreamWorks rake in a bunch of cash with the How to Train Your Dragon franchise probably didn't hurt either), and with the Hobbit franchise winding down later this year, Warners is back to try and make box-office gold from McCaffrey's universe. No writer or potential release date has been announced yet, but in the coming years we could be seeing a lot more dragons on our movie screens.
What do you think? Will Pern make it through the adaptation process this time?
(Above image: Cover art to Dragonflight by Michael Whelan)