Why Robert J. Sawyer praises Flash Forward TV adaptation

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Dec 14, 2012, 3:54 PM EST

SF author Robert J. Sawyer praised the producers of Flash Forward, an ABC sci-fi pilot drama based on Sawyer's 1999 novel, for being thorough as they adapted his work, changing things along the way, and added that he'll be penning an episode himself.

"I had a wonderful meeting in Los Angeles with [executive producers] David Goyer, Brannon Braga and Jessika Goyer early on in 2007, where we talked about what should be retained, what should be dropped, what should be changed," Sawyer said in an exclusive telephone interview with SCI FI Wire. "The plan is for the series to run five years of 22 episodes. And Brannon and David and, to a much lesser extent, I as a consultant have brainstormed all the myriad ways that the story will be developed."

Flash Forward—which stars Jack Davenport, Joseph Fiennes, John Cho, Sonya Walger and Courtney B. Vance—follows a group of characters around the world who have to deal with the consequences of a 2-minute, 17-second glimpse into their futures. The show is envisioned as a companion to ABC's other sci-fi series, Lost. "The difference between Lost and Flash Forward is this: Lost is constrained to the 40 people who crash-landed on the island," Sawyer said. "Flash Forward is constrained to the 6 billion people who live on planet Earth."

But Flash Forward is similar to Lost in its complexity, Sawyer added. "I've had very fascinating conversations with David about things that we're putting in the pilot that we hope most people won't notice, but are there so that when we play that card 10 episodes or five seasons down the road, nobody will be able to go back and say, 'That wasn't set up properly,'" Sawyer said. "That's the level at which this show is being thought out."

Sawyer will also write an episode during the first season, though he can't reveal what it's about. "Brannon and David will probably write the first half dozen themselves, to set the tone and flavor that they want," he said. "Sometime in the next block I will be doing my episode. David and I talked about what should I write, and we quickly converged on where in the overall arc of the series my talents might best be put to use. It's an interesting experience, because I'll be coming back to material that originated with me, but at that point will have six or more hours of adaptation under its belt. I'm feeling very positive about writing dialogue for Courtney B. Vance and Sonya Walger and Jack Davenport and Joseph Fiennes and the others, for the characters that they are creating in collaboration with Brannon and David, rather than writing all the characters from my book, who I already wrote plenty of dialogue for."

Though Sawyer set his novel in the near future, the series takes place in the present day and has much more action. "David is an action-oriented director, and television is an action-oriented [medium]," Sawyer said. "I wrote a book that has a lot of talking heads. I thought they were saying fascinating things and sometimes quite funny things. And David has a lot of people saying fascinating and funny things while they're running, or jumping up and down or being shot at, without ever losing sight of the fact that this is meant to be a thinking person's show." The Flash Forward pilot is currently in post-production. If picked up by ABC, the series will premiere in the fall.