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Where Spy Fiction Meets Afrofuturism

Imraan Coovadia on Africa, Spies, and Time Traveling While Black

By  (via

In A Spy in Time, South African writer Imraan Coovadia delves into the under-explored premise of “time traveling while Black.”  A crime thriller with an Afrofuturist twist, the narrative zooms from 23rd-century Johannesburg to 1950s Marrakesh within the first ten pages. The inexperienced Enver Eleven, a junior case officer for a mysterious organization known only as the Agency, serves as the primary lens through which the reader acclimates to a seemingly utopian future where white supremacy has been eradicated. Yet even then, it remains a precarious status quo. As Enver’s mentor Shunami Six reminds him: “You must remember, Agent Eleven, that this world, our world with its philosophy of humanity, with its attempt to care about every man, woman, and child, every last black-skinner fellow—and even the tragic albinos amongst us—is a recent construction. It is not so long ago that simply being born in a skin like ours would have been considered a crime.” With his elegant prose, Coovadia folds in to the absorbing spy novel a nuanced interrogation concerning race, identity, and humanity.

Mimi Wong: What was the initial inspiration for writing something like this?

Imraan Coovadia: It was more of a solution to a whole bunch of stuff I’ve been thinking about. First of all, I admired my friends who write detective novels or thrillers or whatever it was because I thought there’s something really pure about writing a story simply for the desire to hold someone’s attention. I’d always wanted to do that as a writer, so I thought I’d better get around to doing it. So that was part of it. And the time travel—I guess, you know, all novels are kind of time travel novels—around memories and time periods. Time travel gives you a way to carry out that kind of movement. And then I was interested in the political questions our country is in turmoil around—race, colonialism, and what it meant to be black and white. But I also knew there was nothing new I could say about it in a direct way that would be useful. So I thought, sometimes you look at things through the angle of fiction, and it allows you a more interesting point of view.

MW: I like this line near the beginning where you say, “The past is a foreign country and it is a country of the imagination.” I saw the use of time travel as a way to raise questions about what do we do with our history. In particular, what do we do with atrocities like slavery and genocide that have occurred in our past? How do we go about moving on from that? What was almost radical, sadly, was that the novel acknowledges that these things happen because so often in our national histories certain traumas get erased.

IC: America is a stronger country than South Africa, and so it can have a much more optimistic version of the past. Whereas—I think it’s true of Africa as a whole—we have a huge number of catastrophes and disasters that make up our past, and make us who we are. In a way, there isn’t a very positive way that we can use the past without acknowledging that it’s full of all those kinds of terrors. And not just for some people but for almost everybody. And I think it means that time traveling while Black is a fundamentally different experience than if you were on Star Trek or whatever. The past is a really different place depending on who you are. Time travel writers, I’m not sure that they really exploited or looked into that problem as much as they could have.


MW: I thought it was really interesting the way you approached writing about race in the novel. On the one hand, the narrative is very explicit about making clear that the protagonist is dark-skinned, that the people working in the Agency have black skin. You describe the “albinos” and the refugees, who are “pale-faced.” But then on the other hand, it’s also left kind of vague in terms of their origins or their more detailed ethnic make-up. I was wondering what your thinking was behind that.

IC: Look, it’s partly that I’m South African. As a country, we have this obsession with skin. It’s not just color. Oddly enough, my mother was a dermatologist, still is actually. And so, she saw the day-to-day ways in which people had very complicated relationship to their own skin. It’s literally not just a black and white issue. It ranges across all kinds of behaviors and conducts. One example is a character in this novel uses skin-darkening cream. South Africa has this whole horrifying tradition of skin-lightening creams and people using them actually destroying their complexions because they left marks on them. Many people in the country made fortunes from selling these creams. When we talk about being comfortable in our skins or easy in our skins, it’s almost not a metaphor. It’s like a physical surface for the world. I wanted to turn that inside out. I wanted to imagine what it felt like to go from a place where the protagonist is quite comfortable. He’s young, but he’s quite comfortable in his own century and his own time. And he has to travel to these places where he’s clearly out of place, and he has to learn to be out of place. I thought it was an interesting problem for him to have.

MW: At the same time, there’s something uncomfortable about this future, even though it seems to be this future that has done away with racism. You talk about characters who are nostalgic for the past. I’m curious what that was about.

IC: Even when a majority group is happy, it’s always making life uncomfortable for some other group. I guess that’s just my theorem of politics. Even in the future that he lives in, where Africa is the center of things, there are people who are set on the margins. There are people who are treated in different ways. I think that’s just my experience of how people are. Also, when we all feel comfortable and we feel part of a majority, we feel like we have the right to behave in certain ways. We lose sight of what connects us to people who are powerless. For me, it was really interesting to explore that in the context of time travel and adventure. But it’s also an everyday thing for our country, probably to a certain extent for the United States, as well. You can’t always rely on people to be in the same place. Who has power changes over time. That in itself causes all of kinds of reactions in different ways. As a writer, it was quite a powerful tool to think about what emotions you have when you are placed under someone else’s authority, to recognize what it means when you own the future as opposed to the past, and all sorts of other similar paradoxes.

MW: Right. And even separate from the issue of race, there’s the question of Enver as an individual and him trying to come to terms with the fact he belongs to the Agency. And that’s almost like a universal problem.

IC: Absolutely. It’s a completely universal problem in all spy novels. Every kind of apprentice, every spy apprentice ends up getting betrayed in one way or another if you think about. In a sense, it’s like coming of age for spies. It turns out that all the authorities and institutions you trust turn out to betray you in one way or another. He definitely learns that part. He definitely learns to be an adult spy by the end of the book.

MW: The novel jumps around to different places and times. But it begins in Johannesburg, and that remains the central location that the protagonist returns to. Obviously, South Africa is your home. But I was wondering from a narrative standpoint, what compelled you to set it there?

IC: I live in Cape Town, which is the anomalous city in South Africa. It has the strangest demographics. It used to be the most liberal city and now it’s probably the most conservative one. It’s not a typical African city in any way. Whereas Johannesburg is the center of business and change, and it’s clearly an African city. If it’s going to interest you, it’ll interest you in that way. That’s what it has to offer. It has all kinds of migrants from different parts of Africa. It just has a kind of excitement and intensity that very few places on the continent have because it has so much economic activity. I was thinking of that idea of Joburg as the capital of the future in a way that New York has always been a capital of the future. I think Joburg has a smaller claim, but it has some claim to be that kind of city.

MW: It makes a lot of sense in this world where Black people are no longer oppressed or enslaved. There are constant references to them being the sons and daughters of the continent. So it seems very fitting that in this world it would come back to Africa and not be set elsewhere, like in London or New York or another Western city.

IC: That was definitely central to my thinking. There’s a lot of excitement about Africa, a lot of cultural excitement, obviously lots of interesting novels. Recently, lots of amazing science fiction novels have been set in Africa. And I think we have to get used to the idea that we’re not just defined in relationship to someone else, that we should have some kind of independence in who we are. That’s a very interesting place to be in as a writer.

MW: In general, there’s a been a hunger for speculative fiction, and especially Afrofuturistic fiction, because it’s been a way to be able to imagine ourselves in a future and in contrast with the present, where we have been marginalized. What do you see as the potential for this genre?

IC: I think like with most things, it’s one thing to think about it in an abstract way. I just read Tade Thompson’s book Rosewater. It’s this amazing science fiction novel set in Lagos. I think it’s the most exciting piece of African fiction I’ve read in years. Obviously, we had Black Pantherand all sorts of interesting pieces of writing. So almost independent of the need for it is all this really exciting fiction. I think one of the problems we have is that we still have very few readers—really, really few. I think in South Africa, we probably approach the same number of readers as writers. And it’s very hard to make your living as a writer. But the level of imaginativeness and creativity is amazing. It also means that you don’t have to replay the same kinds of themes about Africa that have been written about for the last 40 or 50 years. You also don’t have to write the novels of the European 1950s or 1920s in the African 21st century. I think Afrofuturism lets you short circuit a bunch of those fixed ways of thinking and to imagine something different.

Africa is a very diverse, weird place. South Africa is a diverse, weird country. A city like Johannesburg or Cape Town, in five or ten minutes, you can go from one extremely strange experience to another that’s utterly different—a tiny different culture. So Afrofuturism lets you get a lot of the diversity of that experience. And I think that’s why it’s such an exciting genre to work with.

MW: I read that the character of Shanumi Six was originally written as a man, and that on the suggestion of your publisher you rewrote the character as a woman. What was the reason for that change? And in general, how did gender come into play in developing the character?

IC: [Robert Peterson of California Coldblood Books] is a very persuasive publisher and editor. I think what he reminded of is 19th-century adventure novels, and even up to the 20th century, they’re very male-centered. They’re not just sexist but they’re centered around men. It’s ridiculous because all women are kinds of femme fatales. Bob looked at the character who became Shanumi Six, who was a man, and he said, “You have an excess of men in this and you’re not making imaginative use of all the excitement you could have from having a woman who had that kind of strength and complexity.” I thought about it for a while, and I rewrote the character. I think she ended up much stronger as a result of having that kind of change. I think it made the mentor-protégé relationship that much more interesting because she’s a very strong woman who refuses to be a maternal woman. I think many women in leadership positions still have trouble because they’re being forced into roles they don’t want to be forced into. So I think it made her position more emotionally interesting that she had to be a woman to have that difficulty.

I don’t think it’s good to write thrillers with exactly the same gender conventions as there used to be. At the same time, as a writer you’re never totally in control of what your character desires, or what he imagines—or she imagines—or fantasizes, or what they find fascinating. I certainly asked myself questions: what is his relationship to these people? How is it replaying any problematic views? And so forth. I’m not sure I entirely succeeded, but I was certainly thinking about them. Especially finding out how interesting it could be to alter those things and how it made the story seem fresher.

Mimi Wong

Mimi Wong is a writer covering art, culture, and literature. Her work has appeared in Electric LiteratureHyperallergic, and ArtAsiaPacific, where she is a New York desk editor. She also serves as the Executive Editor of The Offing.

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Love Your Bookstore

Challenge Extended Through November 18
Challenge your friends and fans to visit their favorite bookstores!

Go into your local bookstore (any bookstore!) between November 10 and November 16 and take a picture of the book you are most excited to gift this holiday season!

​Post your photo to Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter sometime November 10 - 16 with the hashtag #loveyourbookstore and you’ll be entered to win awesome bookish prizes! When you post, challenge five friends to go love THEIR favorite bookstore too.

Here's how you can share

On Instagram? Use this:

I just completed the #loveyourbookstore challenge by visiting @thebookloftberkshires, my favorite bookstore. I challenge [tag 5 friends] to complete the #loveyourbookstore challenge, too. If you complete the challenge and post by 11/16, not only are you loving your bookstore, you'll be entered to win tons of great bookish prizes too - pass it on!

On Twitter? Use this:

Did the #loveyourbookstore challenge at @thebookloftGB. [Tag a friend], take a pic at your fav bookstore, post by 11/16 to win. You've been challenged!


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Going, Going, Gone - 5 Times Literary Works Disappeared

Banksy's painting self-destructed immediately after it sold at auction today. (Here's a CNN article link.) Banksy captioned his instagram photo with "Going, going, gone." That reminded us of the far worse ways that art can disappear, and not at the hands of its creator.

Ever wonder about literary theft?

Here's a summary of 5 times literary works were famously stolen...

  • 5. Last year, a short prequel to Harry Potter, handwritten by J.K. Rowling, was stolen during a home burglary.
  • 4. Ernest Hemingway's entire suitcase full of early manuscripts was stolen at a Parisian train station in 1922.
  • 3. Frantz Kafka died in 1924, but his notebooks and letters were later stolen by the Nazis from Dora Diamant's home in Berlin. In the 90s the Kafka Project was launched to search for any documents still missing. (For a deep-dive into this subject, read Ellyne's Staff Pick Kafka's Last Trial.)
  • 2. Walt Whitman's notebooks were stolen from the Library of Congress in 1942, when they were shipped away for safe-keeping during the war. 30 years later they turned up in an attempt to auction them at Sotheby's in New York.
  • 1. One of Shakespeare's First Folios was stolen in 1998 from a library in England. A decade later, a man named Raymond Scott brought an "old English book" to the Folger Shakespeare Library in D.C. for an appraisal. They immediately recognized it as the stolen work. In 2010 Scott was convicted of smuggling the Folio out of England.

For a better summary with a couple more books, check out the Mental Floss's article from last year:

Beyond the Ban - Banned Books Week 2018

by Cheri

Some of the greatest books of the 20th century were banned at one time.  In 2018, themes of racism (To Kill a Mockingbird, The Color Purple, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn), sexuality (Catcher in the Rye, The Great Gatsby) and non-conformist political views (1984, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest) are the norm, however 20+ years ago (and in some cases even more recently) these themes were sadly deemed inappropriate for younger readers and stricken from the syllabi of many schools.  It's clear looking at the list, as a society we were largely fearful and dubious of that which challenged the status quo and exposed man's inhumanity to man.

As a teenager, I remember being wowed in my English class by the colorful metaphors for money and love in The Great Gatsby, or the absolutely come-to-life character of Jim in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.  I, for one, did not think twice as I devoured the pages of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, anxiously rooting for McMurphy and Chief, hoping that Nurse Ratched would get her due in the end.  The story definitely did not incite this particular teenager to rebel against authority and raise riot in  school.  Even Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone has seen its share of woes, being deemed too heavy on themes of magic and witchcraft.  I would encourage people to read the books on the banned list -- even if just to have a laugh at what might once have been considered "taboo".  In my estimation, all of these books have important lessons woven into often profoundly beautiful language.


The Books Tayari Jones and Ann Patchett Say Remind Them of Fall

Plus 9 more authors share their picks

by Lena Felton (via

(Victoria Tentler-Krylov for The Lily)

This article is part of the Lily Lines newsletter. You can sign up here to get it delivered twice a week to your inbox.

“August rain: the best of the summer gone, and the new fall not yet born. The odd uneven time.” — Sylvia Plath, The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath

With August nearly over, fall is most definitely on its way. As students head back to school, we’re reminded of the rhythms and responsibilities of a new year; soon, the air will take on a chill and lazy evenings will be cut short, relegating summer trips and swimsuit tans to distant memory.

It’s an exciting time, too, though, full of promise. For me, nothing ushers in autumn like the memory of buying new school supplies. My childhood in California was devoid of changing leaves and apple-picking — so instead, fall meant freshly sharpened No. 7 pencils.

That’s why the essay “Street Haunting” by Virginia Woolf, published in 1930, will always remind me of this time of year. I read it for the first time during my freshman fall at college, when I was 3,000 miles from California and finally experiencing a proper September. But it’s also the essay’s framework that makes it feel undeniably autumnal, despite taking place in winter: In it, Woolf walks across London to buy a pencil. Upon returning home at the very end of the essay, she reflects that this, a lead pencil, is “the only spoil we have retrieved from all the treasures of the city.”

There’s probably a book — or an essay, or a poem — that reminds you of fall, too. That’s why, to ease us into the new season, we asked some of our favorite women authors to share theirs. For Homegoing author Yaa Gyasi, for example, it is L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables. Read on to find out why, and hear from 10 others.

“Probably because the majority of my life has revolved, and still revolves, around the school calendar, autumn always feels like the beginning of the year; an opportunity to analyze past actions; to decide to forge a new path. That duality, of being on a precipice where you can return or move forward, or do both at the same time, is most captured by Good Woman: Poems and a Memoir by Lucille Clifton. Clifton does not shy away from poetry that centers on womanhood and race, and her poems always feel like I’m being dropped into a conversation that’s been going on for years, but is still making fresh points.”

“This autumn I’ll be reading Charlotte Sometimes with my 11-year-old daughter: a gently unnerving English classic from 1969 by Penelope Farmer, about a girl who wakes up after her first night at boarding school to find that she’s time-slipped into the mind of another girl at the same school 40 years before.”

“Though first released 11 years ago, Caille Millner’s The Golden Road: Notes on My Gentrification is a memoir full of such urgent questions about identity, privilege and belonging that the book reads as though it could also have been published right about now. As Millner examines the difficulties and joys she encountered as a black girl, then woman, navigating spaces for herself in school in Silicon Valley and Harvard, and afterward, she brings to mind some of the contradictions I encountered when I went off to college.”

“Autumn makes me think of leaves, which makes me think of trees, which makes me think of The Overstory, the best novel ever written about trees, and really, just one of the best novels, period.”

“I spent a few weeks in Prince Edward Island this summer and decided to re-read L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables. What I noticed this time around that I hadn’t noticed when I was a young girl is how much careful attention Montgomery pays to the seasons — descriptions of the weather, the way the plants in Lovers Lane change. My favorite season in the book is fall, when school has begun for the children of Avonlea, and Anne, fierce, independent, brilliant Anne, breaks her slate over Gilbert’s head. It’s an iconic moment in a wonderful book.”

Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld is an easy choice because it’s a campus novel and all campus novels smack of autumn even if they’re set in the spring. Just thinking of it, I can picture the leaves falling, smell the social anxiety and hear the sound of lacrosse sticks whooshing through the air.”

“I love revisiting Donna Tartt’s The Secret History when days shorten and leaves change. It’s deliciously sinister and beautifully written and so, so, so other in the best way. It was all spectacularly exotic since I hadn’t grown up with apple cider donuts, wood-burning fireplaces or sumptuous, shrewdly tailored cashmere coats. It’s set at Hampden College, a fictional school in Vermont, a place I have never been and to this day I’m not entirely sure what a Lyceum even is. That the six main characters who are so East Coast as to be basically British were allowed to forego all other matriculation to study Greek was so decadent. So extravagantly white. No specific spoilers but that they were complicit in an evil deed without consequence only underscores this. I mean, Ms. Tartt is literally wearing a foulard in her author photo. It’s the best.”

“The titular story, set on Halloween, juxtaposes the playful representations of death and danger with the tragedy of the narrator’s sister falling dead while handing out candy. Just like falling leaves, this work is both memento mori and a celebration of life.”

“Though I’ve been out of school for a long time, I always snap to attention in September. A terrific school-related book that I hope to read again this fall is the classic 1961 Muriel Spark novel, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, about a hypnotically influential teacher at a girls’ school in Edinburgh in the 1930s and her group of students. It’s a sharp, thrilling novel.”

“‘There’s a certain Slant of light, / Winter Afternoons – / That oppresses, like the Heft / Of Cathedral Tunes –’ and yet Emily Dickinson has always felt like the goddess of the fall to me.”

“One of my favorite short stories is ‘Gold Coast’ from the collection Hue and Cry by James Alan McPherson, my once-upon-a-time teacher and the first black American to win the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. ‘Gold Coast’ explores what it means to be young, black and a writer. It begins in the spring, builds throughout the summer and ends in the fall, a transitional time for the narrator, and for me, too. Robert narrates, ‘In late September, the Cambridge police finally picked up the bearded pot-pusher in the Square. He had been in a restaurant all summer, at the same table, with the same customers flocking around him; but now that summer was over, they picked him up. The leaves were changing.’ I always think of fall as a time of possibility. Why do I do this? I consider and confront my bad habits. Perhaps it’s that hopefulness of a new school year — better grades! A higher social standing! A style upgrade! — that somehow I haven’t outgrown.”

Mister Rogers & Simple Kindness

Mister Rogers is certainly having a moment these days. For those of you keeping score at home, here's the summary: There was a documentary film that came out in June. A biography is out now. And a big-budget Tom Hanks movie is on its way next year. To top it all off, you can now find any number of fun sweater- and trolley-themed gift items. (And we've got some here at The Bookloft – see below.) Cue the cheers from Generation X as one of their soft-spoken heroes gets a pop-culture encore.

But why is this happening all of a sudden?

The timing of all this is noteworthy. Fred Rogers' message of simple kindness and Just-The-Way-You-Are acceptance is clearly resonating in American culture right now. If you saw the excellent documentary Won't You Be My Neighbor, you were most likely struck by one of the film's most powerful scenes: Fred Rogers goes to Washington to testify before a Senate subcommittee on behalf of PBS. It's 1969 and committee chairman/curmudgeon Sen. John Pastore is ready for a fight in an attempt to decimate PBS' funding. But what you see in the archival footage is shocking. Even the meanest political ogre is visibly shaken by the gentle goodness that Rogers displays. That scene alone from the documentary shows with emotional clarity how our world craves the simplest acts of love and kindness.

(Watch the archival footage on Youtube here.)

(Watch the "Won't You Be My Neighbor" trailer.)


Marielle Heller, director of next year's film You Are My Friend starring Tom Hanks as Rogers, says “It’s a story for our times, a story about kindness and family connection and trying to tap into our better self. God knows we need that right now!”


The Good Neighbor by Maxwell King (out September 4th) is the first full-length biography of Fred Rogers, and tries to convey why he has become such an enduring American icon. You can order it now. The audiobook version is read by Reading Rainbow's LeVar Burton (nostalgia high-five!) and is hosting an audiobook giveaway that you can enter.


Fred Rogers had said that “love is at the root of or the lack of it.” It's easy to see both sides of that equation in America today. And if there's an upside to the landscape of unkindness all around us, it's that the simplest act of love, gentleness, and compassion stands out like a light in the darkness. Right now is a perfect time to remember Mister Rogers' mission "to make goodness attractive." The host of a bygone era's children's television show succeeded at that, and reminds each of us that we can succeed at that, too.

"There are three ways to ultimate success," Mister Rogers said. "The first way is to be kind. The second way is to be kind. The third way is to be kind."

Love and acceptance truly do make a beautiful day in any neighborhood.

Get your Neighborhood Goodies!

Five Books that Would Have Made Oscar-Worthy Films

by Will McIntosh (Via

Hyperion cover art by Gary Ruddell

You often see speculation about the next SF/F book series Hollywood should make into a trilogy of big-budget films. That’s understandable, since spec fic is rife with action-packed series played out against visually impressive backdrops. But there are others SF/F novels out there. Some are beautiful, lyrical novels that aren’t suitable for blockbuster trilogies, but would make the sort of film that takes home Academy Awards. Where has Hollywood missed out on SF/F novels with emotionally powerful, memorable stories that might have merited a Best Picture Oscar? I’m going to consider only older books—pre-2000—because it’s always possible newer books are currently in development as films.

Doomsday Book by Connie Willis (Bantam, 1992)


How is this book not a movie? Not only is Doomsday Book an emotionally wrenching and unforgettable story, it has something else Hollywood loves: a premise that can be summarized in one line. A time-traveling researcher who is sent back to the Middle Ages is accidentally dropped into the middle of the Black Death pandemic. It’s a bleak novel, and it would make for a bleak film, but with all of the films out there about theoretical pandemics of apocalyptic proportion, isn’t it time for a film exploring the actual pandemic of apocalyptic proportions humanity survived?

Brittle Innings by Michael Bishop (Bantam, 1994)


In Bishop’s gorgeous baseball period piece, young shortstop Danny Boles leaves home to play minor league baseball in the deep south during World War II. His roommate is the well-read and articulate Henry Clerval, who is seven feet tall and hideous. Brittle Innings came very, very close to getting the big-screen treatment. So close, in fact, that the cover of some editions includes a Soon to Be a Major Motion Picture tagline. The film was set to star Arnold Schwarzenegger as the eloquent giant Henry Clerval. And then, as so often happens in Hollywood, things fell apart, and the film was never made. It’s a shame, because it’s a wonderful story with a brilliant twist.

The Moon and the Sun by Vonda McIntyre (Pocket Books, 1997)

[Currently out-of-print.]

A sentient sea monster is captured and placed in the fountain at Versailles during the reign of Louis XIV, and a woman at the court forms a deep emotional bond with the creature. The plot is reminiscent of The Shape of the Water, although The Moon and the Sun was published twenty years before Guillermo del Toro’s Oscar-winning film. For my money, The Moon and the Sun is the richer of the two stories, and the critical success of The Shape of the Water hints at how The Moon and the Sun might be received if it ever reached the big screen. This one is an odd case, because as it turns out, The Moon and the Sun has actually been filmed! It was set for release in 2015, then just three weeks before it was to come out, Paramount cancelled the release. The film was then retitled The King’s Daughter, and here we are, three years later, with no release date set.

Hyperion by Dan Simmons (Doubleday, 1989)


Hyperion follows seven pilgrims, each of whom tells their story as they travel to the time tombs to encounter the mysterious shrike. This would be a challenging novel to adapt, and veers closer to big-budget Hollywood blockbuster territory than the others, but if it were well-executed a Hyperion adaptation might look something like Cloud AtlasHyperion has been almost continuously optioned for film since its publication, but evidently no one was able to create a satisfactory screenplay. The entire Hyperion Cantos series is now in production as a TV miniseries, slated to air on SyFy. Perhaps a TV series is a better medium for such an ambitious novel, although it would have made quite a film.

The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell (Villard, 1996)


Powerful and gut-wrenching, delving into questions of theology and ethics, The Sparrow recounts the story of a Jesuit Priest’s experiences on a planet that is home to two distinct sentient species. Not one, but two attempts have been made to bring The Sparrow to the big screen, the last with Brad Pitt slated to play the lead role of Father Emilio Sandoz. On her blog, Ms. Russell wrote that neither screenplay had much in common with her novel. She has since revoked all film rights, and co-wrote her own screen adaptation. Evidently that version hasn’t gotten much traction. Sigh.

When I compiled this list, all I knew for sure was that none of these novels had been released as a Hollywood film. A little research revealed that film adaptations have been extensively pursued for at least four of the five, and I’d wager a first edition of Doomsday Book that there’s an extensive film option history behind it as well. It just goes to show, Hollywood will break your heart.

Will McIntosh is a Hugo award winner and finalist for the Nebula and twelve other SF/F awards. His novels include Faller (Tor Books), Love Minus Eighty (Orbit) and Soft Apocalypse (Night Shade), and three of his novels are currently optioned for film or Television. His newest book, young adult novel The Future Will Be BS Free, came out July 24 from Penguin Random House. Will was a psychology professor before turning to writing full-time. He lives in Williamsburg with his wife and their twins. You can follow him on Twitter @willmcintoshSF, or on his website.

Children's Summer Reading Bingo

This summer we've merged our Children's Summer Reading Challenge with Reading Without Walls' Bingo!

Will you meet the challenge?

Come in to get a Bingo sheet (or print one by downloading it here) to get started. Then, get reading and start winning!

Complete as many rows as you want (diagonals included!) and win a prize for each one. Multiple Bingos are allowed. Complete the whole card to get an extra special prize! Please bring your card in by September 1st to claim prizes.

Plus, get 15% OFF any five books that you buy here at The Bookloft that let you complete a row for Bingo!