Thursday, 11 April 2013

Hollywood Babble On & On #1009: SyFy Wants To Do Sci-Fi?

After a couple of years of trying to get away from being the "Science Fiction Channel" to the point of changing their name to the nonsensical SyFy, it looks like they're trying to embrace science fiction again. They're developing new shows with outer space settings, and are looking at miniseries adaptations of the classic science fiction novels Ringworld by Larry Niven, and Childhood's End by Arthur C. Clarke.

Science fiction fans are both excited and worried about these developments. They're excited because it's been a while since there's been a new show set in outer space, and they'd love to see adaptations of their favourite novels, but they're worried because SyFy's record is not all that hot, especially with adaptations which is the main thrust of this post.

The channel twice tried to adapt Phillip Jose Farmer's beloved series of Bangsian science fiction novels Riverworld, and both attempts were considered failures by non-science fiction fans, and complete artistic abortions by fans of the source material. 

The channel's poor record with adaptations extends to popular fantasy novels as well. The channel's attempt to cash in on the popularity of Lord of the Rings led them to attempt to adapt Ursula K. LeGuin's Earthsea novels as a miniseries. Like their two attempts at sailing through Riverworld, it bored non-fans and repulsed fans of the source material.

I now have to wonder what SyFy is going to do with these adaptations. Is it possible for them to learn from their past mistakes? There are examples out there for them to follow, but the question is, will they follow, or just lead themselves down into disaster... again.


SyFy operates on the assumption that people who watch TV adaptations of novels have not read the novels, and that the people who have read the novels don't watch television adaptions.

That's insanity.

They appeared to have treated the source material like they were spec-scripts written by first time unknown authors who didn't have a single fan in the world. They looked like they ground them through machinations of so-called "experts" and market research focus groups trying desperately to find some sort of magic bullet to create the perfect television show.

How about being at least slightly respectful of the source material to win over the material's core fans.

What those focus group gurus don't tell you is that if the source material's fans are flooding the internet with what a big steaming pile of shit you've put on the air, the other key demographics won't tune in no matter how homogenized and hip-chasing you make the show.

If the core fans like the show and see that it's at least respectful to the source material, they will let the world know via social networks and the viewership will spread to people who aren't familiar with the source material.

That helped make Game of Thrones a hit, and Walking Dead a sensation. Science fiction is loaded with books and book series that could be adapted for television, and a quick flip around the dial would tell you that you can make successful TV out of books. 

So why not SyFy? 

The biggest problem is that the channel seems to be run according to a corporate culture that doesn't seem to understand how to properly connect with hard-core science fiction and fantasy fans because they're not "hip" enough for Hollywood and seem genuinely baffled when people watch a decent science fiction or fantasy show.


  1. Robert the Wise12/4/13 3:03 am

    Fantastic news!

    "Ringworld" and "Childhood's End" are great novels. Two of my favorites. I can't wait for Sy-Fy to ruin them!

    I hope they screw up "Rendezvous with Rama" next!

  2. Syfy could f-up a wet dream. They have managed a minor miracle in making every show terrible enough to drive more viewers away than the last.

    You can't watch Syfy and not hate it. Mrs Giant and I occasionlly watch the show we think will stink hardest to mock it but you can only riff on painted cardboard sets and porn quality acting as a once a month thing. It's too depressing otherwise.

    Rainforest Giant