Lists

Sci-Fi and Fantasy Books Perfect for the Next Anthology TV Series

 

Photo by Ajeet Mestry on Unsplash

We all know the quality of television – both traditional and streaming – has been at a dizzying high for a while now. Networks like HBO and AMC, and streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu have been pushing the limits of what can be done in the television medium. It’s been a boon for quality adaptations, with series like “Game of Thrones” and “The Handmaid’s Tale” translating books to the screen. For me, one of the most intriguing trends – particularly in terms of what it could mean for adaptations – is the move toward anthology series.

While it certainly wasn’t the first to do it, Ryan Murphy’s “American Horror Story” is likely still the most famous, and divisive, of the current crop. But FX’s “Fargo” has become an awards season darling and Hulu’s “Castle Rock” was a haunting, slow-burn take on the expansive mythology of Stephen King. The basic formula is simple: each season – or in some cases, each episode – tells its own self-contained story, and the following season begins a completely different story with the cast taking on new roles, or with a new cast altogether. The obvious benefit here is that it allows viewers to get invested in a self-contained story with a definitive ending. As much as I love long-running, intricately plotted series, if the creators aren’t careful, it can be easy to get “Lost” in the weed and leave the wheels pointlessly spinning for a season or two. A well-done anthology series is, by design, all-killer and no-filler. With that in mind, here are few ideas for some great sci-fi and fantasy fiction that would be perfect for an anthology style TV treatment.

Editor’s note: all title summaries taken from copy provided by the publisher.


  • Welcome to Discworld

    The absurd, richly woven, satirical world of Terry Pratchett is a pitch-perfect wellspring for an anthology TV adaptation. Pratchett lovingly – and sometimes bitingly – skewered every fantasy trope imaginable creating a world that was a clever send-up of everything from Tolkien-style high fantasy to the occasional Lovecraftian horror. In the process, he also created one of the richest fantasy universes in literature. And with literally dozens of novels in the canon, there’s more than enough material to work with. For my money, though, the City Watch cycle is the place to start. Beginning with Guards, Guards! and on through to Night Watch, and Snuff, the cycle’s great ensemble cast – with a solid anchor point in Sam Vime – and some of Pratchett’s best writing make it the perfect place to dive into absurdity of Ankh-Morpork.

  • The cover of the book Guards! Guards!

    Guards! Guards!

    A Novel of Discworld

    Long believed extinct, a superb specimen of draco nobilis (“noble dragon” for those who don’t understand italics) has appeared in Discworld’s greatest city. Not only does this unwelcome visitor have a nasty habit of charbroiling everything in its path, in rather short order it is crowned King (it is a noble dragon, after all…). How did it get there? How is the Unique and Supreme Lodge of the Elucidated Brethren of the Ebon Night involved? Can the Ankh-Morpork City Watch restore order – and the Patrician of Ankh-Morpork to power?

    Magic, mayhem, and a marauding dragon…who could ask for anything more?

     
  • The cover of the book Night Watch

    Night Watch

    A Novel of Discworld

    One moment, Sir Sam Vimes is in his old patrolman form, chasing a sweet-talking psychopath across the rooftops of Ankh-Morpork. The next, he’s lying naked in the street, having been sent back thirty years courtesy of a group of time-manipulating monks who won’t leave well enough alone. This Discworld is a darker place that Vimes remembers too well, three decades before his title, fortune, beloved wife, and impending first child. Worse still, the murderer he’s pursuing has been transported back also. Worst of all, it’s the eve of a fabled street rebellion that needlessly destroyed more than a few good (and not so good) men. Sam Vimes knows his duty, and by changing history he might just save some worthwhile necks—though it could cost him his own personal future. Plus there’s a chance to steer a novice watchman straight and teach him a valuable thing or three about policing, an impressionable young copper named Sam Vimes.

     
  • The cover of the book Snuff

    Snuff

    A Novel of Discworld

    At long last, Lady Sybil has lured her husband, Sam Vimes, on a well-deserved holiday away from the crime and grime of Ankh-Morpork. But for the commander of the City Watch, a vacation in the country is anything but relaxing. The balls, the teas, the muck—not to mention all that fresh air and birdsong—are more than a bit taxing on a cynical city-born and -bred copper.

    Yet a policeman will find a crime anywhere if he decides to look hard enough, and it’s not long before a body is discovered, and Sam—out of his jurisdiction, out of his element, and out of bacon sandwiches (thanks to his well-meaning wife)—must rely on his instincts, guile, and street smarts to see justice done. As he sets off on the chase, though, he must remember to watch where he steps. . . . This is the countryside, after all, and the streets most definitely are not paved with gold.

     

  • The Worlds of Grady Hendrix

    Horrorstor is one of my favorite recent horror novels; I blew through it in a weekend. I couldn’t put it down. It has a deceptively clever premise (a haunted IKEA-style big box store) that’s also legitimately scary and has a fair amount of fun with the genre. There’s a distinct “Evil Dead 2″/”Shaun of the Dead” vibe. Fortunately, his follow-up, My Best Friend’s Exorcism, is equally as entertaining. It’s a nostalgia-soaked, unnerving possession story that’s intelligent, surprising, and most importantly, terrifying. When you throw in Hendrix’s latest, We Sold our Souls, you end up with three brilliant, horrifying seasons of great TV.

  • The cover of the book Horrorstor

    Horrorstor

    A Novel

    Something strange is happening at the Orsk furniture superstore in Cleveland, Ohio. Every morning, employees arrive to find broken Kjerring bookshelves, shattered Glans water goblets, and smashed Liripip wardrobes. Sales are down, security cameras reveal nothing, and store managers are panicking.

     
  • The cover of the book My Best Friend's Exorcism

    My Best Friend's Exorcism

    A Novel

    The year is 1988. High school sophomores Abby and Gretchen have been best friends since fourth grade. But after an evening of skinny-dipping goes disastrously wrong, Gretchen begins to act…different. She’s moody. She’s irritable. And bizarre incidents keep happening whenever she’s nearby. Abby’s investigation leads her to some startling discoveries—and by the time their story reaches its terrifying conclusion, the fate of Abby and Gretchen will be determined by a single question: Is their friendship powerful enough to beat the devil?

     
  • The cover of the book We Sold Our Souls

    We Sold Our Souls

    A Novel

    In the 1990s, heavy metal band Dürt Würk was poised for breakout success—but then lead singer Terry Hunt embarked on a solo career and rocketed to stardom as Koffin, leaving his fellow bandmates to rot in obscurity.

    Two decades later, former guitarist Kris Pulaski works as the night manager of a Best Western—she’s tired, broke, and unhappy. Everything changes when a shocking act of violence turns her life upside down, and she begins to suspect that Terry sabotaged more than just the band.

    Kris hits the road, hoping to reunite with the rest of her bandmates and confront the man who ruined her life. It’s a journey that will take her from the Pennsylvania rust belt to a celebrity rehab center to a music festival from hell. A furious power ballad about never giving up, even in the face of overwhelming odds, We Sold Our Souls is an epic journey into the heart of a conspiracy-crazed, pill-popping, paranoid country that seems to have lost its very soul…where only a lone girl with a guitar can save us all.

     

  • Speculating with Margaret Atwood

    Margaret Atwood is obviously seeing an impressive surge in adaptation interest in the moment. The success of both “The Handmaid’s Tale” and “Alias Grace” proves that audiences are absolutely into Atwood’s brand of complex, thought-provoking, and sometimes painful speculative fiction. As good as The Handmaid’s Tale and Alias Grace are, they’re just tip of a mind-altering iceberg. You could build a pretty amazing season of TV out of Stone Mattresses alone. When you consider titles like The Blind Assassin ­and its genre-bending story-within-a-story-within-a-story, or the disturbingly plausible dystopia of The Heart Goes Last, and the Shakespearean vengeance at the heart of Hag Seed, it’s easy to imagine a hit Atwood-inspired anthology.

  • The cover of the book Stone Mattress

    Stone Mattress

    Nine Wicked Tales

    In this extraordinary collection, Margaret Atwood gives us nine unforgettable tales that reveal the grotesque, delightfully wicked facets of humanity. “Alphinland,” the first of three loosely linked tales, introduces us to a fantasy writer who is guided through a stormy winter evening by the voice of her late husband. In “Lusus Naturae,” a young woman, monstrously transformed by a genetic defect, is mistaken for a vampire. And in the title story, a woman who has killed four husbands discovers an opportunity to exact vengeance on the first man who ever wronged her.

     
  • The cover of the book The Blind Assassin

    The Blind Assassin

    A Novel

     
  • The cover of the book The Heart Goes Last

    The Heart Goes Last

    A Novel

    Stan and Charmaine, a young urban couple, have been hit by job loss and bankruptcy in the midst of a nationwide economic collapse. Forced to live in their third-hand Honda, where they are vulnerable to roving gangs, they think the gated community of Consilience may be the answer to their prayers. If they sign a life contract, they’ll get a job and a lovely house . . . for six months out of the year. On alternating months, residents must leave their homes and serve as inmates in the Positron prison system. At first, this seems worth it: they will have a roof over their heads and food on the table. But when a series of troubling events unfolds, Positron begins to look less like a prayer answered and more like a chilling prophecy fulfilled. The Heart Goes Last is a vivid, urgent vision of development and decay, freedom and surveillance, struggle and hope—and the timeless workings of the human heart.